Saturday, December 18, 2010

Amy Grant, Be Far Away From Me

Not long ago, Mike Keeton and I had another one of our impassioned discussions, this one about Amy Grant.  Normally, I don't focus much on the lives of music/Hollywood stars, but Grant unfortunately led a life of being such a billboard for the Christian way of life . . . and then decided to say, "Do as I sing and not as I do" in her personal life.

In Lamb of God days, Amy Grant was all but required listening.  The community would have a frequent "coffeehouse" on Saturday nights, and the woman who started it off would almost always sing a Karaoke version of Grant's "Angels" with its false ending, "Stay For Awhile", or something else.  Grant definitely made LOG's unwritten list of approved music for personal listening.  (Aside: I got hold of a Patrick O'Hearn tape and was playing it in one of the households in which I was living.  The guy who "ran" the house asked me what that music was, and whether it was Christian.  I replied, "Does it have to be?"  He didn't answer.)

I had bought Grant's 1987 release Lead Me On, and enjoyed it, mainly because most of the songs had good instrumentation on them.  Of course, I wanted to be a Good Boy and do what was right.  So, apparently, did Grant, with lyrics like these from "Faithless Heart":

At times the woman deep inside me
Wanders far from home,
And in my mind I live a life
That chills me to the bone.
A heart, running for arms out of reach,
But who is the stranger my longing seeks?
I don't know.
But it scares me through and through,
'Cause I've a man at home
Who needs me to be true.
Oh, faithless heart,
Be far away from me.
Playing games inside my head
That no one else can see.
Oh, faithless heart,
You tempt me to the core,
But you can't have a hold on me,
So don't come around anymore.

Grant co-wrote that with Michael W. Smith, and the song was apparently more autobiographical than it appeared, as she was apparently fighting off feelings for him.  She succeeded there, but didn't hold out for much longer.

Yesterday, while waiting for an MRI, I saw there was a copy of Good Housekeeping with a cover article on Grant and Vince Gill.  Now I certainly don't make a habit of reading GH, but I wanted to see what they had to say about how they left their respective spouses for each other.  According to the GH article (emphasis mine):
When their paths crossed in 1993, both were married (Gill to country singer Janis Oliver; Grant to Christian musician Gary Chapman) with children. They met at a taping for Gill's Christmas TV special, on which Grant was a guest performer. "The connection there [between us], that was kind of rare," Gill told Larry King in 2003. "The hang was easy. The conversation was easy." The Christmas shows became a yearly collaboration, and the backdrop for a growing friendship. "November would roll around and I'd go, Hey, we're doing that Christmas show again," Grant told King. "In my mind, I justified it: He can be my friend."

Though they have always maintained that there was no infidelity (during Gill's divorce, he and Grant were reportedly prepared to sign affidavits saying so), there was no hiding their emotional connection, both onstage and offstage. Gossip columnists noticed it; so did both of their spouses. Gill's ex-wife, Janis, reportedly told her sister that she initially tolerated the close friendship he struck up with Grant. But, Janis said, when she found a handwritten note from Grant saying, "I love you...Amy," in her husband's golf bag, she unsuccessfully asked Gill to cut his ties with Grant.

In 1997, the Gills divorced. "There was never like a magic plan — 'I'm going to go do this, and a couple years later, you [Amy] go do this,'" Gill told King. "I got a divorce, and said, Well, I think she'll probably stay [in her marriage]. I really did."

Grant, who learned of Gill's divorce by reading about it in the newspaper, was in the midst of her own marital woes. "The real pain of it is trying to take the high road," Grant told King. "But when you have such an easy rapport with another person, what it really does is it highlights where you don't have as easy a rapport."

Now, I readily admit Grant is hardly the first to go through this sort of thing.  Recall, for example, how Billy Joel wrote "Just The Way You Are" for his first wife, and then "Uptown Girl" for Christie Brinkley, and has divorced and remarried since.  But Joel never asserted Christian virtues through his music, either.  Also, I can't vote for Senator John Ensign, a champion of social conservatism who allowed himself to fall into emotional, then sexual infidelity.  That's a breach of trust.  But not many people are giving Ensign the pass that has inexplicably been afforded to Grant.

Grant was absolutely right back in 1987 to write about emotional infidelity; it can ruin marriages so easily, and perhaps more so than sexual infidelity.  But her subsequent wilting into the arms of Gill just makes her all the more a hypocrite: 

There were four kids in tow — Gill's daughter, Jenny, then 17; and Grant's three children, Matthew, Millie, and Sarah, who ranged in age from 12 to 7. "It was a long haul to feel like a family again," says Grant. "The parents have made a choice, but none of the kids have made the choice. And wherever it's going to wind up, you're not going to get there quickly. You just have to give people their space."

Translation: Deal with it, kids.  Our libido is what's really important, not giving you anything like a stable family.

And here's the final selfish insult:
Today, she speaks thoughtfully and evenly about the media firestorm that swirled around her in those days. As pundits weighed in on the sanctity of marriage, Grant recalls, she had starker worries. "I don't mean this in a flippant way, but I was so unconcerned by what somebody who I would never meet wrote in a rag," she says. "I felt like I had flipped a car over three medians and I was trying to figure out if my children — if we all — still had a pulse. I could not imagine going through life not by Vince's side. [Then I'd] hear people saying, 'I heard so-and-so say they're not playing your records anymore.' I had to trust that eventually everything was going to be OK."
What arrogance to make herself out to be a victim.  It was Grant and not ex-husband Gary Chapman who made the decision to leave.  It was a conscious decision to go against her marital vows and bring upheval into the life of her children.  And it's a lousy witness to a world in which marriage becomes more meaningless by the day.

Love is not a feeling.  Love is a decision.  My parents have been married for 51 years, and my in-laws for 50.  They've done it not based on their feelings, but on the seriousness of their commitment to each other.  They loved each other even when they Didn't Always Feel Like It, and they didn't seek out relationships that were New, Better, and Different.  They avoided the near occasions of sin.

"Nature . . . is what we are put in this world to rise above."  --Rose, The African Queen

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

So Long, Old House

As I write, my mom and dad are "camping out" in their new home, a condo in Ellicott City, MD.  They have installed a phone line, but they can't yet unpack because the condo -- a short sale -- hasn't been settled on yet.

I guess it still hasn't hit me that I won't be seeing the old house or neighborhood in Baltimore anytime soon.  I paid a last visit in October to the house . . . and, of course, to Mom and Dad, which I certainly hope won't be my last visit to them!

Now this is neither the house nor the neighborhood I grew up in.  The six of us (excluding my two older siblings)  moved to Westgate-Ten Hills in West Baltimore in 1984 from Belair-Edison in East Baltimore to be closer to members of the Lamb of God Community.  I have written extensively on this blog (although not extensively enough) about the problems with LOG, but residents were actually glad we LOG members were there, as our increased presence stabilized the neighborhood and helped bolster property values for many years.

Although not a huge house, it had a lot of character, and even more so after Mom and Dad used massive amounts of elbow grease to strip and stain the woodwork.  I remember helping Dad build what would be my basement bedroom for four years, although we would later learn it was illegal because there was no way to get outside other than the stairs.  I know I would never have gotten through the small transom-type windows, and that was when I weighed a lot less than I do now!  The bathroom underneath the front porch had a shower, but it was always susceptible to mold and eventually wasn't used.  The hot water faucet on the sink never worked.  When it rained any appreciable amount, the bathroom would flood; before the remnants of Hurricane Gloria passed through in 1985, we just picked up the carpet in advance.

I cannot count how many times I hit my head on the basement ceiling as I came up the stairs toward the kitchen.  Otherwise, I might be 6'2" today.

I recall many a summer afternoon on the side porch falling asleep on our old wood-frame sofa while watching baseball or golf.  The azaleas around the porch were especially colorful in spring.

I was the lawn mower during my time at the house, as my brothers weren't yet big enough to do so.  The yard was a decent but manageable size, but what I had to watch out for was underground bee hives.  I can't count how many times I got stung in the leg or ankle as a result.

The only thing I didn't like about the kitchen was its size; it was a mob scene when we were all trying to clean up after a family dinner.  That's when we guys would sneak out and watch football.

We had a huge attic that was perfect for storing all sorts of stuff, although negotiating it up the foldaway stairs wasn't easy.  That's where my old varsity jacket, my bowling trophies, and 8mm movies resided for many years, even after I moved out.  Many of those movies were of the "magic act" variety, inspired by my cousin Steve who did those with his high school friends long before video cameras were commonplace.

I'm surprised my mom and dad were able to negotiate the stairs for as long as they did; they were quite steep.  They won't have to worry about that now in their new condo.

I only lived there for four years before moving out on my own, but it was the site of many family dinners for birthdays and holidays.  Thanks for the memories.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

My Favorite Things

From the indispensable Fr. Z and with apologies to R&H:

Dalmatics on deacons and cassocks on priests,
habits on nuns and immovable feasts,
bishops in soutanes with big, gaudy rings -
these are a few of my favorite things.

Devotions to Mary, novenas and stations,
fasting and penance on Days of Rogation,
High Mass and Low Mass and papal blessings –
these are a few of my favorite things.

Rosaries and incense and fiddleback vestments,
BINGO on Mondays with homemade refreshments,
statues of angels with halos and wings –
these are a few of my favorite things.

When RENEW strikes! [1]
When the rail’s gone!
When I’m feeling sad,
I simply pop into a Solemn High Mass
and then I don’t feel so baaaaaad!

[1] Or, "Why Catholic?", the worst. apologetics course. ever.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Negative Campaigning

"Sharron Angle would force rape victims to have the baby"
--Harry Reid campaign ad

"Harry Reid wants to kill innocent babies"
--A surprisingly nonexistent Sharron Angle campaign ad

Friday, September 10, 2010

Let's All Concelebrate, Shall We?

From Northern Nevada Catholic comes this disquieting piece of liturgical abuse from a place that ought to know, Our Lady of the Snows (emphasis added):

This year the seventh grade received a gift from the religious in our community.  Clearly, they stand firmly as guideposts of the Catholic faith. Father Tony, our pastor, and Father Mike, our associate pastor, make attending school Masses relevant through their authentic connection with the students. Students eagerly await the Masses over which Monsignor Leo McFadden presides, hoping to be the ones to hear their magic number called which allows them the honor of sitting around Monsignor at the altar.
"Authentic connection"?  How about some "authentic liturgy"?  How about some awe, respect, and reverence for the Blessed Sacrament?  No one belongs on the altar but the priests and the altar boys girls.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Cygnus vs. The Cartoon Laws Of Physics

I'll probably remember many incidents like this, and I've already listed a few in "Learn From My Fail."

While watching America's Funniest Home Videos, I saw a girl in a bathroom misjudge where the sink was and bang her head on the counter.  Well, I can't laugh too loudly.

In January 1992, I had just moved in with the last roommates I would have before my wife.  My old roommate Pat had bought a house and needed help with the mortgage, so two of us occupied his two other bedrooms.  I would move out only five months later into my own apartment as Pat and I had a friendly parting of the ways, nothing like what you see on Judge Judy.  In short, I felt like I couldn't live as I wanted there, and he suggested I might be better off in my own place.  He was right.

Anyway, I had just moved in, and as part of the deal, Eric, the other roommate, was helping Pat repaint the bathroom.  I did my share by cleaning up after them; besides, I wanted to take a bath.  So I was cleaning the bathtub.  At one point, I was trying to get the dirt at the bottom of the bathtub on the side closest to me.  To reach it, I had one arm all the way down, and the other arm was supporting my weight on the side of the tub.

That was the arm that slipped.

All of a sudden, everything went in slow motion.  I felt like Wile E. Coyote obeying the Cartoon Laws of Physics, especially the one that says gravity only takes hold when the character realizes it.  From that point, it seemed to take about five seconds for my forehead to plow straight into the side of the tub.  I knew it was going to happen, but I also knew I couldn't do anything to stop it; neither arm was braced to do so.

I'm glad to have escaped with a welt on my head and a slight headache.  I guess being hard headed has its advantages.

And I still do all the bathroom cleaning.

Friday, August 13, 2010

We Really Used To Sing This, Exhibit 2

Perpetrated (again) by Tom Parker, 1968 (also responsible for Exhibit 1)

Come Before The Table

REFRAIN: Come before the table of the Lord of hosts with all your lives in your hands.  (How many people's lives do I have to carry in MY hands?  Hope the table is big enough!)

(Like with the other song, Parker tends to cram too many words into certain lines, here the third line of each verse.)

1.  Come now with hope and with gladness
Friends of the risen Christ all signed with his name
We've heard [H]is word and we know that it's joyful news (Parker may have capitalized the pronouns for the Almighty; it just doesn't appear that way in the copy I have.)
Now let us all draw near to share in [H]is food.  (How Parker, Miffleton, the St. Louis Jesuits, Haugen/Haas, et al. got this whole idea from Vatican II that the Eucharist was nothing more that "sharing a meal" is a mystery to me.  But a lot more Catholics born after VII got that idea than that of the Sacrifice of the Mass.  Small wonder nearly 2/3 of Catholics (!) do not believe the Eucharist is the Real Presence of Jesus.  I blame lyrics like these in part.)

2.  Come then and sing with your neighbors (Even if they're not Catholic?)
Men near and far all share your hope and your song
Song for the Son of God [W]ho lives in our midst today
Hope in the Lord [W]ho can save all men.  (Okay, I know the anti-sexism revisions didn't start until the late 70s/early 80s.  I can sort of see the point of getting rid of references like that.  What went too far was removing all references to God the Father as male.  And even in "Be Not Afraid" by Bob Dufford, the lyrics don't even say "wicked men" anymore.  Sheesh.  Also, is Parker saying the song -- his song -- is more important than the Eucharist?  For more such self-referentialism, see Haugen's "Gather Us In.")

3. Come then and bring [H]im your dancing  (Not during the Liturgy, thank you.)
Music and laughter and love, songs of love (What, is this a Bacchanalia?)
Your Lord is glad when his people are filled with joy (only then?)
Your Father smiles when his sons are in love.  (But He cries when He hears music like this.)

4. Come then and bring [H]im your sorrows
Life is a road clogged with trouble and pain (Ever think of trying Liquid-Plumr?)
Jesus was man, man [W]ho died but Lord [W]ho rose again (No.  Re-read the first chapter of John's Gospel.  This line implies Jesus wasn't divine until His Resurrection, which is heresy.)
Join in [H]is saving meal and hope in [H]is name.  (Again, no Sacrifice of the Mass.)

5. Come then and sing [H]im your love songs (John Wimber, front and center!)
Life without loving is a land without rain (Oooo-kayyyy . . .)
God sent [H]is son so [H]is children could love with joy (This whole verse reeks of the spirit of 1968.)
God rained [H]is blood so love might spring from the earth.  (Oh, really?  I'll allow artistic license for the "rained His blood" part, but that's hardly the only reason.  Now if you'll pass me my tie-dye shirt . . .)

6. Come then with food for [H]is table
Bread for [H]is banquet and wine for [H]is guests
Our Lord will share with us this food blessed by victory
Joined in this human meal we touch our God. (On one hand, this is the least objectionable verse, but still, it so minimizes the Eucharist, leading the people to think it's nothing more than a Really Nice Dinner.  The Sacrifice may employ human bread and wine, but they are transsubstantiated into the Body and Blood during the Eucharistic Prayer.  I bet Parker could have worked "transsubstantiation" into a line if he'd wanted to.)

7. (whew . . . seven?) Come then and learn how to praise [H]im (But not through songs like this!)
Hear what your [F]ather did to make us live ("Make us live"?  What does Parker mean by that?)
He sent [H]is only [S]on to teach us to come to [H]im (Yes, and . . . ?)
Surely it's right for us to join in [H]is praise.  (Yes, dignum et justum est.  And don't call me Shirley.)

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Remember When . . .

(another pseudo-tribute to the Czabe)

 . . . guys actually dressed as well as the girls did when going on dates, unlike now when the girls still doll themselves up, but the guys look like they just rolled out of bed, or out of a hip-hop video?

. . . MTV showed music videos?

. . . the only people who had tattoos were those who had served in the military?

. . . outside a pool or beach, you never saw another woman's navel?

. . . a boombox was something you carried on your shoulder?

. . . scoreboards at ball games didn't have to prompt you to make noise?

. . . baseball players didn't have "walk-up music"?

. . . Saturday morning cartoons were neither educational nor informational (E/I)?

. . . cars had cassette tape decks?

. . . writers would proofread their work, or had someone do it for them?  (Being a blogger apparently means never having to edit.)

. . . TV coverage of sports events didn't include little music videos when coming back from a commercial?

. . . the "collision avoidance light" in car rear windows was a Big Deal?

. . . David Letterman was fresh and funny?  (Now he's just "fresh," iykwim.)

. . . local TV stations had their own programming that wasn't news related, and no one knew what an "info-mercial" was?

. . . your radio or TV had to "warm up"?

. . . Benny Hill pushed the boundaries of good taste?  (He looks quaint today by comparison.)

. . . cable TV meant having a rotary knob on a remote that was hard-wired to the TV?

. . . rock radio stations played Tears for Fears, Phil Collins, Prince, and other artists they'd never touch today?

. . . "Beautiful music" was the dominant radio format?

. . . newspapers printed morning and evening editions?

. . . kids delivered newspapers?

. . . kids could ride their bikes for miles from their neighborhood, and no one worried?

. . . video game arcades sprung up on many street corners, then disappeared just as quickly?

. . . (speaking of which) the Atari 2600 was the state of the art in video games?

. . . a whole family could fit in a sedan instead of a minivan or SUV?

. . . you could spend a whole day exploring a department store, or the stores on The Avenue?

. . . you had to go to the library to do research?

. . . photocopies were smelly and had smears all over them?

. . . you could get soft pretzels at school?

. . . it was a treat to get sliced cheese, ham, or baloney from the corner store?

. . . baseball cards were flipped, traded, and put between spokes of bike wheels?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Las Vegas July 2010 Trip Report

Although Las Vegas wasn’t our first choice for going on vacation, we couldn’t pass up the room rates at the Orleans.  Located off the Strip, the Orleans may well be our favorite Vegas hotel.  In addition to the Obligatory Nevada Tax Revenue Collection Station (a.k.a. the casino), the Orleans has several nice restaurants, a bowling alley, a movie complex, and a huge pool and Jacuzzi.

So on Monday the 5th, we tidied up the house, cut the lawn, packed, and got Teh Kittehs, Basil and Gregory, ready for our departure.  On the way, I got my new shoes’ inserts properly adjusted; thanks, A Proper Fit!  Minor inconvenience: after going through security, I discovered I didn’t have my mp3 player!  No one had turned it in to the TSA.  Turns out I left it on my bed, and it was under the sheets after I made said bed.

Our flight was delayed slightly because of congestion at McCarran Airport in Vegas, probably with a large number of people heading home from the 4th weekend.  The flight, landing, and rental car pickup all went smoothly.  We rented a Chevy Aveo that did the job, but I kept hitting my head on the grab bar above the door.  Without the mp3 player, we had to content ourselves with the radio.  I love how so many stations advertise “no-repeat work days,” but they don’t tell you they repeat every song the next day, and often in the same order!

But we weren’t there for that.  After we got settled in the room, we partook of the pool, which was most refreshing despite the 104-degree temperature.  The hot wind warmed us up rather quickly once we were in the lounge chairs.  After dinner and some contributions to the Nevada tax base, we went to bed.

Come Tuesday morning, we decided to try out the buffet.  So, however, was everyone else, because Tuesday was a discount day for seniors.  We waited in line with a couple ladies who had gotten their coupons, then one of them gave us hers.  How sweet was that?  We passed the blessing along to our server.

After watching the first World Cup semi-final game, Sandy suggested we head out west to Pahrump, where she had once seen a patient.  The ride through the Red Rock Mountains was impressive, and then we came to Pahrump, a town spread over many square miles.  It’s probably best known for giving the world the enigmatic late-night talk show host Art Bell, who now calls Manila home.  According to Sandy’s patient, Pahrumpians (?) get tired of being asked about him.

I saw on a map that there was a small portion of Death Valley National Park that was located near Pahrump.  We didn’t find that (turns out it was located within a wildlife refuge), but we decided to continue into California and visit the park itself.  The rock formations were impressive, as were the salty floors of what had been an inland sea.  Deeper into the valley we descended until we reached sea level, then found the Furnace Creek Resort and the nearby Visitor Center at 190 feet below.  The temperature was a mere 120 degrees.  Sandy got us some water, which served one important function; it was wet.  Warm, but wet.  Time prevented us from seeing Badwater Basin, the lowest surface point in the Western Hemisphere at -282 feet.  Maybe next time we’ll come in winter, and allow ourselves more time!  On the way back, I fear I ran over a lizard on the highway.

Not surprisingly, when we got back to the hotel, we jumped in the pool again, even though 120 makes 105 feel cool by comparison!  But for reasons that were not disclosed, the pool was closed only moments after we entered.  Drat.  We contented ourselves with Fuddruckers for dinner.

The next day, we watched the other World Cup semi-final, and then headed northeast toward the Valley of Fire, a state park near the northernmost arm of Lake Mead.  About as seemingly remote as Death Valley, the VoF has been used as a setting for numerous movies.  It features all sorts of unusual red rock formations, many with holes in them etched by wind and sand.

I took a short hike through one canyon.  The sand was a bright orange and seemed to have the consistency of soft clay.  And then, on the cliffs amid what appeared to be tar, I saw the petroglyphs.  To this day, it’s not exactly certain what the Indians of that era were trying to communicate.  The other fascinating thing about the canyon was the absolutely dead silence.  There aren’t many places in the world that quiet.

As we continued through the park, more incredible scenes unveiled themselves around every curve and following every dip, such as Elephant Rock and the Seven Sisters.  I wanted to drive back to Vegas along Lake Mead, but the road was being extensively rebuilt, and a long portion was nothing but gravel.  So we turned around, backtracked through the park, and headed down I-15.  That night we had what may have been our best dinner of the trip, at Don Miguel’s in the hotel.

After all that gallivanting, we decided to chill out on Thursday.  We ventured out of the hotel for both breakfast (at the Black Bear Diner, where just about every jukebox song I selected skipped) and dinner (at Marie Callender’s).  But we did partake of Toy Story 3 in 3-D.  Very enjoyable, and I was a bit verklempt at the end.

On our final day together, we checked out of the Orleans and headed to Lake Mead National Recreation Area near Boulder City.  After having lunch at the restaurant on the floating docks, we boarded the Desert Princess and tooled around the lake, including almost up to Hoover Dam.  Lake Mead is well below normal levels because of ongoing droughts in Colorado and Utah, but it’s not at a record low . . . yet.  Unfortunately, the breeze was hot, so the air-conditioned interior of the Desert Princess felt good.

After we killed a bit of time and got dinner, Sandy dropped me off at McCarran.  My flight was delayed about 30 minutes because of equipment problems; some of the seats in the rear needed to be replaced, as did one of the landing lights.  Time seemed to pass a lot slower without my mp3 player.  The flight was smooth, and I spent most of it talking with a bubbly young couple across the aisle.  I soon learned they were so bubbly because they were drunk.  They were headed from San Diego to Reno for a 70th birthday party for the guy’s dad.

Sandy stayed behind to learn about creating a pregnancy center, based on one already up and running in Las Vegas.  So Teh Kittehs and I are bachin’ it for a few days.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

We'll Teach That Rapist A Lesson By Killing A Baby

The Democratic Party shows yet again why it has no room whatsoever for pro-lifers.  Can someone explain to me how killing an innocent baby undoes the wrong of a terrible crime like rape?  Sharron Angle: No Woman's Right To Choose, Even In Cases Of Rape Or Incest  (which, by the way, may account for one percent of the abortions in the U.S.)

Also, someone needs to inform Phoebe Sour Sweet that a majority of Americans identify themselves as pro-life, so it is she and her pro-death cronies who are out of the mainstream and not Sharron Angle or the Catholic Church.

Friday, July 02, 2010

The Kiss

Having taken three years of Latin in high school, I opted to continue studying it in college.  However, my school didn't offer it at the time, but the girls' college next door did.  Turns out there were several of us from my college who were there, including a high school classmate who also took as much Latin as I did.

If I remember correctly, this was my first college class ever.  We primarily studied the writings of Catullus and Ovid, and were taught by one of the few remaining nuns.  But I had no time to hang around after class because I had an economics class back on my campus to get to.

As I did throughout my college years, I had hyperactive hormones and was sizing up the girls in the Latin class, but any interest I showed was unrequited (as usual, and probably to our mutual benefit).  One of the ladies was a senior named Betsy.  She wasn't drop-dead gorgeous, but she wasn't unattractive either, and I didn't think much of her at the time.  We related no more or less than two students in a small class would.

Well, after our last class of the semester, I turned to go as usual and was heading down a back staircase that I discovered got me out of the building faster.  Behind me came Betsy, who wanted to say goodbye.

And in the stairwell, the way she chose to do so was with a long, passionate kiss.  Needless to say, I was shocked, but I admit I liked it too.  What guy wouldn't?

Why did she do that?  I have no idea.  I could understand a hug, but a kiss?  She hardly knew me.  Was I the only guy from the class she did that to?  Also no idea. 

Naturally, I never saw or heard from her again.  I would have many other unusual experiences to come in my pursuit of the Fairer Sex in college, but that was one of the strangest of my entire life.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Learn From My Fail

Based on the site of the same name, from the popular Cheezburger family.

Some Fails I have learned from over the years, in no particular order:

  • A sink disposal is not a good place to get rid of flour.  Or rice.  Or, especially, both simultaneously.
  • When playing touch football in a park with strangers many years older than you, do not run with the ball near a sidewalk.  The ball can bounce off it.  Your head, not so much.
  • When about to walk out on stage, make sure you have all your props, especially the mouse with which to scare your fellow thespian.  Or the cowboy boots your exhausted wife had to drive half an hour to bring to you.
  • When using your brother's car after he just joined the Air Force, it's a good idea to check the oil on occasion, preferably well before the engine throws a rod.
  • When with a mixed group of college guys and girls from University Christian Outreach, and when you're trying to "act holy" around the girls, don't make references to the "toe cleavage" of one of the guys.
  • Don't assume just because the girl across the aisle from you in college American Government class talked to you, she wants to go out with you.  (I blame going to an all-boys' high school.  Ironically, she was dating, and wound up marrying, one of my HS classmates.)
  • When the plastic guard comes loose from your electric weed trimmer, don't keep using it.  Otherwise, you could lose the glass in your front storm door.
  • After your top bunk collapses and falls on top of your brother in the middle of the night, don't run to get your parents first.  Get the bedding off of him.
  • Don't make sharp turns in a golf cart.  Believe it or not, I had to jump out for my safety before it hit a tree.
  • When leading worship on guitar, don't modulate to another chord when no one else knows you've done so, including and especially the other musicians.
  • Don't walk backwards down your concrete steps when heading to work.  I'm lucky I didn't seriously injure my head or back when my foot missed the first step.
  • Along those lines, don't return from the hospital in a huff because you forgot your pillow and a couple other things . . . only to trip over the curb in front of your house and injure your wrists and right elbow that only required three operations to (sort of) fix.
  • Never tell your mom, a la Bob and Doug Mackenzie, to "get out."
  • Don't fall in love with a Vietnamese girl who only wanted a relationship so she could avoid deportation.  (Actually, that only lasted 24 hours.)
  • Don't pass up marrying the girl of your dreams.  (Actually, that's a fail that never happened. :-))

Monday, May 31, 2010

Freezing Ass River

(Pardon the title: it came from a co-worker who was talking about her need to jump in a Nevada or California river, never mind that it just stopped snowing.)

LC and I made our first visit to Nevada in 1993.  As part of our exploration of the Sierras and the Lake Tahoe region, we drove up to Donner Lake.  It was early September, and we decided to take a dip.

I think that's the coldest body of water I've ever been in, including the Potomac River in Williamsport for the annual New Year's Day Polar Bear Plunge in 2003.  LC said she shivered all night, and she could feel the cold in her bones!  By comparison, Lake Tahoe the next couple days felt almost like bath water.  (Well, not quite, but it was quite a bit warmer.)

We haven't gone swimming in Tahoe, Pyramid Lake, or the Truckee River since we've moved here, but I'm sure it's just a matter of time.  I guess as a result of getting older, I'm not as much an aficionado of ignoring the temperature unless it's for something like a brief Polar Bear Plunge.

Sunday, May 23, 2010


Growing up in the inner city of Baltimore (mine was defined as an inner city neighborhood), we had to find different ways to keep ourselves occupied in the summertime.  Besides street football and bike riding, we would play stepball.

Stepball was generally a one-on-one game.  It was a derivative of baseball in which the "batter" would throw a baseball-sized rubber ball against the front or back steps to see how far it went before the fielder could get it.  Such balls were either bought at one of the corner stores for a quarter, or found floating in Herring Run after a rainstorm.

The best hits resulted from hitting the ball against the corner of a step, especially to get a nice line drive.  Here's how we scored it, depending on whether it was the front or back yard:

  • Single (Front or back): Ground ball that got past the fielder.
  • Double: Fly ball that (F) landed at least halfway across the street, or (B) in the front half of the alley.
  • Triple: Fly ball that (F) landed between the street and the far sidewalk, or (B) in the back half of the alley.
  • Home run: Fly ball that (F) reached the far sidewalk or further, or (B) the garage or yard across the alley.
  • Foul: Usually landing (F) outside the width of the yard where the steps were, or (B) in either of the adjacent yards.  Or, to the consternation of my mother, (F or B) any ball that hit the steps but bounced up onto the porch, often hitting the screen door.
Playing out front was more difficult because of the cars that would often be parked right in our field of play, not to mention the ones that dared interfere by driving through.  But we were less likely to hit the front door with a foul ball, thanks to the huge porch.  On occasion, we'd put a ball up atop the porch, but that takes skill.

A high school classmate of mine found stepball fascinating when he came to visit the summer between  freshman and sophomore years.  Of course, as the son of a bank executive, he'd never been in an inner city neighborhood.  He later showed me a version of baseball he'd invented on his tennis court.  (Other "rich kids" loved exploring my neighborhood.  One wanted to find rats along Herring Run and go walking through the sewers.)

Up at the nearby elementary school, kids often played "wallball", using similar principles for how far a ball would go for what kind of hit it was.  But the batter actually used a bat, standing in front of a rectangle painted on the building.  That way, the pitcher had his own strike zone, and the ball would come right back to him.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

We Really Used To Sing This, Exhibit 1

Written Perpetrated by Tom Parker, 1968  (In our critique of the St. Louis Jesuits, Haugen-Haas, Tom Conry, etc., we forget that Parker, Jack Miffleton, and Ray Repp -- with the complicity of WLP -- started this Spirit-of-Vatican-II descent into Liturgical Music Hades.)

Let All The Earth Sing His Praise

REFRAIN: Let all the earth sing his praise and joyful voices raise, for his mercy reaches out to ev'ry land.  (I used to think it was "BEFORE his mercy reaches out."  I wanted to make sure I raised my joyful voice in time!)

1. Sing, men, of distant China, tell of his worth
From Italy to the icy sea of the North.  (All those syllables were crammed in toward the end of the line.)
Men who ride on elephants and men who work in stores; (how sexist!)
Jesus is Lord of all the earth. (In other words, ignore those three previous lines.)

2. Come, dance, and run before him all you who can,
from Baltimore to the distant shore of Japan. (I think that's why our parish sung this so much; it mentioned good old Bawlamer.  But why?)
Men (again!) who plow the endless (?) plains your Savior is at hand: Jesus the hope of ev'ry land.  (Again, a mention of Jesus covers up everything else.)

3. Hear us men of France and Sweden, boys of Peru, (Did Parker influence Steely Dan to use a bunch of geographic references?)
all children of the sea, girls (finally) of Brittany, too. (Um, excuse me, but Brittany is in the aforementioned France.)
Babies who ride on camels trudging seas of sand: (Metrically, this line, and most of those in the verses, make no musical sense.)
Jesus, your brother's callin' you. ("Callin'" is how Parker wrote it.)

And this was called liturgical music.  I think I'd prefer "Headin' out to Eden, yea, brother . . ." from Star Trek.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Slots in Maryland: How's that working out?

Right now, it looks like Nevada gaming has nothing to worry about from Maryland.

November 2008: MD voters approve slot machine gambling, ostensibly to get the share of business states like WV, DE, and now PA are taking from MD coffers.

April 2010: Number of slot machines deployed and operating in MD so far -- ZERO.  And I sometimes wonder if it'll ever happen, because if there's one thing you can count on in MD, it's NIMBYs.

But at Arundel Mills Mall, they have a case: Plans for Arundel Mills Casino Come To Halt.  In its short history, Arundel Mills has become overcrowded, parking is a disaster, and the place is unsafe at night.  It's a lousy location, and there's not that much worth going to.  LC and I didn't feel safe when we were there just before moving out here.

I can't help watching how this long-awaited dream is taking forever to become reality.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Memo to Barbara McGuigan

Dear Barbara McGuigan of EWTN Radio:

Please stop sighing "Yes" every 5 seconds when you're interviewing someone.  It makes you sound like Rexella Van Impe.  I can't listen to you when you do that.  Thanks.

Every Light In The House Is On

Show the World Wrestling Federation World Wildlife Fund it couldn't be more wrong about "climate change" . . . and put all your lights ON at 8:30 tonight!

A great argument for why, from Canada's National Post.  (What, a conservative Can'tadian publication?  I'm sure thugs from the Human Rights Commissions are on their way to shut them down as I type.)

Sunday, March 21, 2010

One Of These Things Is Not Like The Other

The Easter Bunny


The Great Pumpkin

Pro-Life Democrats

Okay, so I lied.  None of them exist.

UPDATE: From Catholic Cartoon Blog:

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Lonely Again

I just wish there was someone I could call up to watch a game with, go bowling with, etc.  I haven't had anyone like that for way too long.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

It Was Fun While It Lasted

For the last several years, I've used a minidisc recorder like this one to record news stories and interviews, music, and even our cats.  Unfortunately, the third -- and likely last -- of these has given up the ghost.  Whereas I dropped the first two and thus destroyed their recording capability, this one died from too much wear on the mic input jack.  It would sound fine when I recorded on it in the house, but once I took it outside, the connection was fickle and unnecessary noise ensued, ruining more than one interview.

Minidisc players took off for a while in Asia and Europe.  They involved a disc slightly smaller than a diskette onto which sound was recorded . . . up to five hours worth.  The format never really caught on in the U.S., although radio newsrooms used them for quite a while because of their sound quality.  But the kind I had here was never really built for professional use.  Now, minidiscs have been left behind by iPods and mp3 players, as well as digital voice recorders that can record many more hours of sound.  And all without moving parts. 

So now I'm looking for a digital voice recorder.  Anyone want some minidiscs?

Friday, March 12, 2010

Stations of the Cross

For the first time in quite a while, I attended Stations of the Cross, at my home parish of Immaculate Conception.

On one hand, it was good to be reminded of what Jesus went through, and it was touching to sing the song of Mary after each station.  On the other hand, I was saddened to see the parish using a 1970 set of Stations that reeked of "Spirit of Vatican II", focusing on us more than Him.  Whoever wrote this did so in persona Christi, continually referring to the reader/supplicant as "My other."  The photos for the most part looked like they could have been used as Steely Dan album covers.  I guess a Nihil Obstat and an Imprimatur don't excuse everything.   (See also V for Victory's post.)

Turns out Father Z had a post about the Stations as well.  I wish we'd use St. Alphonsus Liguori's version.  Oh, well, after reading the comments, I should be grateful we have Stations at all.  And at least these didn't include the Resurrection as a Fifteenth Station, like we had when I was in Catholic elementary school.  Eeesh. 

I'm also enjoying listening to Catholic apologist Tim Staples' set of talks called "Sword of the Spirit."  That term has had a negative connotation to me ever since my days in the Lamb of God community in Baltimore, so it's nice to hear Staples redeem it for me.  Right now I'm listening to the talk on the Eucharist, focusing especially on the Bread of Life discourse in John 6.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Bumper sticker of the day

I usually ignore Pagan/Wiccan bumper stickers on vehicles (how often do you find just one, anyway?), but this one made me laugh:

Come to the Dark Side
We have cookies

Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Dusty Organ

Last September, just before the annual "Street Vibrations" rally in Reno, we got word of a motorcyclist being killed in a crash in Lemmon Valley.  Only later did we find out that was the only organist our parish had.  May he rest in peace.

I hate our organ not being used.  Instead, we have to put up with the "Tongan Choir," which is led by a guitarist and an obnoxious electronic keyboard.  It wouldn't be so bad if they could actually sing.

Sadly, many pipe organs at parishes are gathering dust.  Despite the entreaties of Sacrosanctum Consilium (1963) that (all emphasis mine)

[i]n the Latin Church the pipe organ is to be held in high esteem, for it is the traditional musical instrument which adds a wonderful splendor to the Church's ceremonies and powerfully lifts up man's mind to God and to higher things[,]
the organ is now seen as a quaint novelty, and many new churches are being built without one.  For example, look at St. Ignatius Loyola in Ijamsville, Maryland, which thought a grand piano would be more appropriate for its new sanctuary.

I think what happened in the "Spirit of Vatican II" was the next passage from Sacrosanctum Concilium was taken way out of context:
But other instruments also may be admitted for use in divine worship, with the knowledge and consent of the competent territorial authority, as laid down in Art. 22, 52, 37, and 40. This may be done, however, only on condition that the instruments are suitable, or can be made suitable, for sacred use, accord with the dignity of the temple, and truly contribute to the edification of the faithful.
And if we take a look back a few years at De musica sacra et sacra liturgia, we see how this got watered down:
Musical instruments which by common acception, and use are suitable only for secular music must be entirely excluded from all liturgical functions, and private devotions.
Now that you've read this, chances are you know more about Church teaching on sacred music than does your parish's music director, or perhaps even the one for your diocese or archdiocese.  And you also know how OCP and GIA's bread has gotten buttered since the late 60's.  Remember this the next time you have to suffer through "Gather Us In."

P.S.  I just became aware of this article from Adoremus that explores this topic further in depth.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

This Is Called Tolerance

Gay Mob Protests Wedding Vow Renewal at Chicago Cathedral

What, didn't Perky Award-Winning Journalist Katie Couric tell you about this?

Maybe the most disturbing part of the article:

The Chicago Municipal Code states that someone is punishable for disorderly conduct whenever he "pickets or demonstrates on a public way within 150 feet of any church, temple, synagogue or other place of worship while services are being conducted."

When Doherty asked an officer why they were permitting the protest to continue immediately outside the cathedral, she recounts, he "said that the organizer of the protest currently has 20 lawsuits pending against the city of Chicago and he tends to name officers personally as defendants in his civil suits."

But try to have a protest anywhere near a Chicago abortion clinic. Wow. Just wow.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Old Rugged Stadium (Not)

Are stadiums and arenas becoming the latest examples of Planned Obsolescence?  I cannot believe the increasingly short lifespans these (usually taxpayer funded) structures have.

As a Baltimore Colts fan, I'll never forget how that snake in the grass Bob Irsay snuck the team out to Indianapolis and their state-of-the-art Hoosier Dome (which, like just about every other stadium these days, went through a couple corporate name changes after that).  It opened in 1984.  Twenty-five years later, it's gone, replaced by LucasOil Stadium, which is -- you guessed it -- publicly financed.  Giants Stadium was just torn down at the ripe old age of 35.  The Pontiac Silverdome hosts a few conventions and expos, but that's about it.  Its punishment for being built in 1975?  Being sold for slightly more than an upper middle class home.

Down the road in Sacramento, Arco Arena opened in 1988.  Despite the fact that every Sacramento Kings game is sold out, there's talk about building a new arena on the site of the Cal Expo.  And note this inside the story of how the NCAA is no longer holding March Madness games at Arco:

The NCAA rejection message supports what the owners of ARCO Arena have been saying for a number of years. Built in 1988, ARCO is the oldest arena in the NBA.

There you have it.  A structure built in 1988 is now "old."  It's all about Not Being The Last Kid On Your Block To Have A New Building.  Or, it's a case of How Many Luxury Boxes Can We Squeeze In?  (Never mind that the recession has made many companies cut back on those expenses.)

Now I have not been to Arco personally, and I know some folks who have are less than happy with it.  But I can't imagine it's worse than Baltimore's First Mariner Arena, which is going on *50* years old and is woefully inadequate for everything.  Even in college, we called it the Baltimore "Urena." 

Fortunately, across the country, taxpayers have been increasingly saying "no" to publicly financed stadiums, especially when they don't need to be replaced for any other reason than to satisfy the whim of an owner.  And let's hear it for the San Francisco Giants' AT&T Park, which was compeletely financed through private funds.  That needs to be the rule, not the exception, in sports.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Nice Weekend

LC and I took advantage of a one-night-free special at the Grand Sierra Resort (formerly the Reno Hilton) and spent Friday and Saturday nights there.

The hotel was rather busy when we arrived; there was a scientific convention going on, plus many were arriving for either weekend skiing or the super middleweight boxing match between local boy Jesse Brinkley and Curtis Stevens.  We wound up watching the Brinkley-Stevens fight in our room while it was going on downstairs, with Brinkley pulling an upset victory by unanimous decision.  He knocked down Stevens in the 6th and 12th rounds, and Stevens should be thankful there wasn't a 13th round.  Neither of us are boxing aficionados, but we both concluded that was an enjoyable fight.

Both of us fared well gaming, with the Mystical Mermaid slot machine being especially generous to me.

Our room was as nice as just about any we've stayed in. The beds were ridiculously confortable, soft but not too soft.  The bathroom was huge and gorgeous; the only thing that would have made it better was if it had a bathtub instead of a shower (almost the size of our walk-in closet at home).  It also gave great views of downtown Reno.

On Saturday afternoon, we partook of the virtual golf facility on the lower level, playing the Kapalua Village course.  It's a good thing we did so virtually and not in reality; we both stunk up the joint.  We hit golf balls off a mat into a pad onto which the computer-generated course screen was projected, and the computer plotted where our shot wound up.  We also checked out the sports merchandise store (we were the second customers to ask about Ravens merchandise, which they didn't have any of) and the candy shop (they had Goetze's caramel creams!).

Only down side about the GSR: the service at their cafe left much to be desired, even when were were there after the virtual golf with hardly anyone else. 

And an oopsie on my part: I forgot to get my dirty clothes out of the closet!  Fortunately, they kept them for me and I picked them up the next day.

All in all, a nice time away with my sweetie . . . even if "away" translated to only 8 miles or so.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Don't Call It "Awareness"

Okay, so last week, women on Facebook gleefully posted colors as their statuses, counfounding the heck out of us guys for a while.  Turns out it was an "awareness" effort purportedly by the Susan G. Komen Foundation whereby women posted the colors of their bras.  But Komen says they didn't start it, although they were happy to take the credit.

All it made me aware of was how glad I am to be a man and don't have to worry about such things.  This "campaign" had as much to do about breast cancer "awareness" as a PETA protest has to do with actually saving animals.

Every October, we're besieged with Breast Cancer Awareness.  It's all over the NFL.  It's all over towns ("Paint The Town Pink").  And it's a guilt-ridden PR offensive that says If I Don't Wear Pink, I Must Be In Favor Of Breast Cancer.  All sorts of "stars" talk about it as well.  Only the most reclusive women couldn't be "aware" of breast cancer.  But "awareness" isn't the name of the game.  Funding is.

I'm not knocking breast cancer as a disease, and I'm well aware of the effects it can have on women and those around them.  I'm just saying, stop calling it "awareness."  We're aware, already!

P.S.  I'm still waiting for Komen to accept the link between abortion and breast cancer (not to mention abortion and contraception), and to sever its ties with Planned Parenthood.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Sorry, but . . .

I'm not going to shed any tears for a dead lab monkey as long as 4,000 children are "legally" murdered every day with no one shedding tears for them.