Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Where We're All Going

Tonight Susan and I went to a wake service for an old and dear friend named Carl Amend. He died in his sleep of a massive stroke a few days ago. Carl and I go back a long way here in Oklahoma. We first met him and his wife Sharan during our Marriage Encounter phase, an experience that led both Carl and I into the diaconate for the Church. We were in the same formation class. We spent a lot of time together. We were in the same tutor group, spent 10 days during the summers for three years at intensive training. It was not long after ordination, about 6 months to a year, as I recall, that Carl had to move because of his job, off to St Louis, New Jersey, and then the somewhere in Texas. I think it might've been Austin. He moved back to Oklahoma City just a few years ago, and one of the last "official" duties as I did as a deacon was to bless his house, his new house.

Carl and I were always simpatico. We thought a lot alike in the spiritual realm, and he was a guy you could always count on. I could always count on Carl to be there if I needed him. He had a big rollicking laugh, and he loved to drink beer, two traits that are going to endear me to just about anybody. But he was generous, funny, unassuming, loyal, and dedicated to his family. It's ironic, I think, that here I am retired from the permanent diaconate and active ministry after 25 years, while Carl after he left Oklahoma City right after ordination never again practiced active ministry. I'm not sure why. We talked about it, but it was never really clear to me. Sharan told me this morning that she wants to talk to me about the diaconate, about Carl's choices. I'm looking forward to the conversation. (By the way, I don't miss the deacon ministry very much, but during these "family" times – funerals, baptisms, marriages – I feel the loss of my ministry most acutely.)

But in the meantime I mourn another of my friends who's gone. In addition to only other woeful results of getting older among the worst is this one: friends die. To me, it's one of the worst aspects of what is admittedly pretty bad deal. I loved Carl. I will miss him.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

It's Time

It's quite a liberation to reach the point in your mind and your life where the sacred and the profane are no longer two separate worlds. I'm not completely there yet, but it's the direction I've been pulled in for several years now. I've been thinking about going over to Santa Fe for one of Richard Rohr's conferences for quite awhile. I think at this point in my spiritual development, it's time.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Can't Let It Go

Still can't get the Colorado killings out of my mind. This blog post by a similarly outraged citizen, one Paul Constant from the great state of Maine, caught my eye. This guy is just as mad but considerably more profane than I. I really couldn't agree more:

I hate this. I hate all of this. I hate what happened. I hate that the perpetrator's face is plastered all over every website I go to like some sort of celebrity. I hate that news outlets don't have anything to report but they're still reporting on it anyway. I hate that movie theaters will be prone to these sorts of Age-of-Terror overreactions for months to come. And I hate that this will happen all over again at some point in the future, when another person who's slipped through the cracks legally buys a bunch of guns and decides to force his will on the world. I hate that the safety net is in tatters. And I hate that President Obama's statement after the shooting dared to use the word "shocked." 
Of course he was "saddened." We were all saddened. But can you even say you're "shocked" anymore in America when a young man murders and injures dozens of people in a matter of minutes? We've all lived through this before, dozens of times. The scale is always different, but the crime is the exact same. There's nothing shocking about it anymore. I bet you the cable news networks have protocols and procedures written out in memos for this sort of thing happening. Because it happens all the fucking time. That's the opposite of shocking. It's a recurring problem. And rather than try to come up with solutions to this recurring problem, we mutter and mumble about being shocked and saddened, and we accuse each other of politicizing a tragic event.
As usual, The Onion gets things exactly right. I strongly endorse the article listed below.


Thursday, July 26, 2012

Sign of the Times

Maybe it's a sign for all times, but I read today that a British hotel in the Lake District is replacing the ubiquitous Gideon bible with the so-called "mommy porn" novel Fifty Shades of Grey. My wife, who never reads books, or I should say hardly ever, tore through all three of the novels in the saga. She even took one of them on vacation with us to Canada! The series prompted some bizarre questions from her to me.

But I'm getting sidetracked. Don't know about you, but this strikes me as perverse at the least. One of my regular correspondents applauded the move saying that there were many religions, so why should hotels have the book of only one. Fair enough. But replace bibles with a pornographic novel? Really?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Baring the TSA

Score one for emphatic free speech. A judge in Oregon has upheld the right of an (obviously) outraged patron of airline services at the Portland International Airport to remove all of his clothes before going through the TSA checkpoint. This has been done before, but I don't remember a court ruling on the matter till now. "Judge David Rees said nudity laws don’t apply when it comes to protest. 'It is the speech itself that the state is seeking to punish, and that it cannot do.'"

The TSA, damn them, cannot be happy about this. Just think if they had to deal with naked people all the time . . . I do dearly wish that some mass way of protesting the indignity of TSA procedures getting on airplanes could be devised. But, then again, the vast majority of the people in this country are such sheep, it would never work even on the unlikely chance it did happen. In this particular incident, the TSA clowns harassed a passenger, John Brennan, at a scanner beyond the bounds of his patience. He had refused the scanner and the pat-down resulted in some nitrate residue on his clothes. So he stripped off all his clothes to go through the checkpoint. At which point he was arrested, naturally. What else would you expect? (Source)

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

What We Hate about the Net

This is pretty accurate for me. I've gotten a lot better about wasting my time on the Internet. Don't spend nearly the time that I used to, although you probably couldn't get my spouse to agree with you.You can really piss away a lot worthy time in front of computer screens, as I'm sure you know. Remember when the Internet was first around. In those first few years, we were reading a lot of stuff about "Internet addiction." And self-help pieces about how to avoid getting hooked. Well, I don't think we succeeded very well, do you? Look out in a crowd sometimes and see how many people are messing with their smart phones. All that is Internet, except for the very few who are actually involved in phone calls.

I find it encouraging that the number one complaint is "untrustworthy information." But I wonder where all of these citizens for accurate information are? I haven't met many of them. The last four reasons at the end of the graphic are interesting. The last two are obviously porn-related. But I wonder about "damage to credibility." Are we talking about people publicly citing the Net with some of that untrustworthy information? And I have to confess I'm a bit baffled by the "unfamiliar forums." Anybody have any idea what that means? Obviously, there are going to be forums that aren't familiar . . . . but why should that be a complaint for almost half the people?

Monday, July 23, 2012

Gun Nut Logic

Here, brothers and sisters, is the impeccable logic of the gun-crazed nimwits, who parrot whatever absurd flights of intellectual fantasy the NRA is using this month to justify flooding the country with as many firearms as possible, including automatic weapons. The insanity that rules over the past few years is that the more people who walked around armed, the safer we are all going to be. Put out a fire by pouring gasoline on it. Same thing. I really don't know when the people of this country lost their collective mind . . . maybe it was ever so.

Here's the word. This is "Purdue student and Young America's Foundation [so-called] Intern Scholar Hillary Cherry":
I cannot help but think, if one person in that audience was carrying a gun with them, that person could have saved lives. Unfortunately - despite what some of the Left have said - this tragedy is an example of the importance of our Second Amendment Rights.

Mass shootings can be stopped. People need to arm themselves with the facts (and with weapons). If one law-abiding person in the theater had been carrying a gun, lives could have been saved. (Source)

For a map showing the 50 mass murders in the U.S. over the past 30 years, see the map accompanying this article. It will stun you.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

We're Number One!

The shooting in Aurora, Colorado, has prompted an outpouring of commentary in the webosphere. The graphic above comes from an interesting blog I check out occasionally called "Crooked Timber."* This chart depicts the number of deaths per 100,000 population attributable to violence. It doesn't take a college degree to understand just how far out of whack this country is compared to the rest of the world when it comes to visiting mayhem and hurt on fellow citizens. We're number one, baby! It's not even close.

Best of All: Louisiana, My Ancestral Home
Even more disconcerting is this chart. Louisiana, by far, is the worst in the country for violence. By far, far. This will not surprise many of my relatives and Susan's who still live there. Their complaints about how awful the violence and killings are in their own backyard are constant.

Just some cheery info for you to think about in the wake of the mass murder in Aurora. Already I've read about three articles saying that nothing whatever is going to be done to curb the insane arms sales and possession in this country.

*The full title of the blog is interesting: "Out of the Crooked Timber of Humanity, No Straight Thing was Ever Made."

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Infographic on Civil War Battles

This is a nice summation of information about Civil War battles. It's too big for me to post here . . . at least in a size that is readable to you, but this is really a good aid to understanding very quickly what a horrifying loss of life it entailed. A couple of things recommend this graphic: it clearly graphs the battles by name and casualties. Plus it's got a lot of other information jammed into a little space.

Sorry if this is not your thing. It's mine, and I'm always pointing out to people just how far superior we are at killing each other than we ever have been with external enemies.

On a related subject: I've just discovered Pinterest. Actually, I had discovered it before, but it never took just how useful it could be. For example, a place to stash all the graphics, maps, and photos I use for my historical work. A place to put all of the visual stuff that I put up here on the blog. (Yes, I really wish I could remember where I put that stuff, because I do indeed go looking for it again on occasion. And a place to stash all the interesting illustrations, pieces of art, photos of anything and everything that strikes my fancy. Some day down the line, I'll point you to my Pinterest site, but there's no point in your going there now because there's hardly anything on it.

Friday, July 20, 2012


"Tragedy." That's the standard issue word for mass murder in the United States. It applies to situations where usually more than two people (could be family members or total strangers) on up get murdered by some nut with a gun who takes it into his or her mind to just kill a bunch of strangers. In this latest case we have some asshole armed with an AR-15, which is an assault weapon, a .40mm Glock, and a 12-gauge shotgun who walks into a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, and kills 12 people and wounds 60 more.* Within in minutes he is apprehended by the cops behind the theater. No further information at this time. Nothing but the standard guy-who-knows-him comment. You know this one: never said anything to anybody, quiet, kept to himself.

And all over they're lamenting the latest "tragedy." The whole thing makes me frigging crazy. Obama and Romney both mouthed the proper platitudes we're all familiar with invoking God, of course, and talking about how such events help teach us what's "important" . . . but nary a word about what can be done to attack this problem of assholes with guns blowing people away every few weeks in this country. What can be done of course is perfectly obvious. Pass laws to control the sale of guns, the possession of guns. Pass laws to restrict both. Severely restrict both. But in this country, you might as well be advocating the ritual sacrifice of babies. In fact, that proposal would probably have a better chance of passage than laws that would keep guns out of the hands of assholes, nutcases, and pathological killers.

Neither of the parties in this country have the balls to deal with this question of gun-toting killers plying their trade on innocent people every few weeks. They are too afraid of the NRA lobby. In different ways. The Republicans are afraid because they are ideologically owned by the NRA. They are totally sold by the notion that gun ownership is connected with "freedom" as closely as umbilicals connect navels to mamas. It's a crock, of course, but "freedom" is a magic word in the US of A. We will kill anybody for "freedom" at the drop of a hat. Republicans are too afraid to admit they preach a crock of nonsense every time they open their yaps about guns and "freedom." There are numerous other nations on earth who have freedoms galore while also living with laws that control the possession and ownership of guns. This is a despicable attitude of course.

But the craven terror of the Democrats to confront the issue, although it screams in their faces, because they would as soon upset the NRA as swallow razor blades . . . well, this is more despicable. Democrats will not stand up for what is right because they are terrified of the gun lobby's political heft. The Democrats stand around and let these murders go on and on, and they don't lift their voices or fingers to do anything about it. A pox on these people. Really. What a sorry bunch of cowards.

So we have a bunch of dead bodies in movie theater in Colorado. Tragedy. Don't worry. Soon as we get these cleaned up and buried, some nut job will produce another collection of dead bodies somewhere else. Another tragedy.

*Latest reports say 58 were injured, 11 are critical.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Canada Trip

I wrote a lengthy trip report of Susan and my trip to the Canadian Rockies last week. Here it is, exactly as I wrote in response to another email, interspersed with some photos I took, if I did not email it to you. It was really a great trip.
This started out to be a reply to George's [a grad school bud whom I've been in regular contact with since we got out of school in 1978] account of his recent trip, and then before I knew it, it got to be a pretty long response. So lo, here is the trip report of Susan and my trip to the Canadian Rockies. We got back Sunday. Glad to be home, but a great and memorable trip.


Great pic of the eagle, bro.

We never got that close to one to get such a good shot, but we did indeed encounter eagles on the trip. Generally our Canadian wildlife sitings were pretty impressive: 4 bear--all black, no grizzlies; elk, white-tailed and mule deer, Canadian geese, bald eagles, osprey, mountain goats, martin, and magpies, a kind of bird I had never seen before, although I was told they are ubiquitous and rather despicable because they bully other birds out of the way and take over. Our tour guide/driver was really knowledgeable about the wildlife. And the botany. And the geography. And other stuff. We learned all kinds of interesting stuff about these things. Habits of bears, Canadian weather, lumbering, the building of the railroads, salmon, Canadian environmental laws, tons of geography facts. One of the really interesting things to me was we lucked into a train that was going through a series of so-called "spiral tunnels" at Kicking Horse Pass above Banff. Our driver turned around and we drove back to the viewpoint to watch this huge train--more than 200 cars and over a mile long--go through these tunnels. At one point--I have pictures--the train is going in three different directions.
Butchart Gardens, Victoria, BC
 Soon as I get through with captions, I'm going to be putting all the pix we took on the trip up on the Net. I have attached one of a black bear that was munching on insects from under a log beside the bus one day. I don't have to tell you that the sights were breath-taking, awesome, gorgeous. You will see. I could easily live in Canada, I discovered . . . well, I didn't just discover, let's say reaffirmed. (I mean, how hard would it be, except for missing Tanya, Mitch, TJ, and Lib, not to live in Oklahoma?) Cold weather has never been such a big deal to me. It was about 80, and people up around Jasper were complaining about the heat. I have to say though, that I would probably not be a great fit with the relentless outdoor-ism of these people. I would see long, cold winters as excellent times to cozy up with big wood fires--btw, several places we saw had fires going in the middle of July! ("people like the way they look," we were told)--drink hot coffee & chocolate, and read, do baseball research, write, etc. Sorta like extended periods in ski lodge. In other words, I'd carry out my normal activities except this time in a country that: a) is crazy about the environment; b) is unrelentingly polite & helpful; c) has drastically fewer right-wing lunatics and handguns per capita; d) has single-payer health insurance; e) enthusiastically embraces diversity; f) is not involved in a state of perpetual warfare; and g) has perfectly bearable weather in the summer, albeit with decidedly higher prices for food, especially out in the hinterlands. They told us that winter in Jasper is six months long. We were told over and over that western Canada had a really cold snowy winter and that it rained the entire month of June. All the rivers and streams were much higher than normal. The salmon, which are normally up in their spawning grounds by now, are being held up by the high water. We were also reminded several times that the weather we enjoyed was just ideal. The mountains are not visible many days out of the year normally because of clouds and fog, weather we remember very well from Germany. But we had not a single instance of bad weather the entire time. No rain. No cold.

Here's a map that shows the whole route. (You will have to use the slider to zoom out from the town of Jasper.) We flew into Calgary on Saturday, the 7th,  and then were on the bus from there to Jasper till Wednesday, 11th. Two days on the train to Vancouver, which is a huge city. 3 million people, and, get this, the majority of them are of Oriental extraction. Chinese came over to build the western railroads, just as they did in US. Also there was a huge influx of Chinese with British passports that came over when PRC took over Hong Kong. But we also met people who came over from Hawaii, various former British protectorates in the Pacific, as well as Korea, Vietnam, and Japan. Vancouver is a huge mixing bowl. A lot of Middle Eastern people there, too: Lebanese, Syrians, Saudis, others. People from all over. It wasn't till we got here that we even laid eyes on a cop. We saw some on the "party" street about a block from our hotel the last night we were there.

The Rocky Mountaineer Train - Picture Postcard at Every Turn
Although there had to have been some political nut cases on this trip among our companions, I wasn't actively aware of any. Indeed, the Americans we had conversations with and all the Canadians, were decidedly of the liberal persuasion, including a sociologist from Dallas who taught at UT-D--I mean what are the odds on on the stern of an industrial-sized ferry on its way to Victoria Island (where we saw the amazing Butchart Gardens) that you're going to run into somebody perfectly politically simpatico? It happened on a chance conversation that I found such a person--and a couple from California who could not get over the political "insanity" of our times? The Victoria trip was the last day in Canada for us, and probably the one we could have skipped. Most of the day we spent going and coming. The city of Victoria at the southern tip of the island appeared to us to be a wonderful place worth exploring, but we hardly had more than 90 minutes there. It was a beautiful sunny day and there were hordes of people out and about. The weather in that place is amazing. We're told that it hardly ever snows there, and doesn't get real cold in winter or real hot in summer. Something to do with a Pacific Ocean current, forget what it's called, that go by there.
The Empress Hotel, Victoria, BC

Best part of traveling is a meeting all kinds of specimens from the diverse, far-flung human tribe from all over the world. In the hotel in Vancouver, we encountered a couple of Nick Saban, Bama-hating Auburn fans whom we thoroughly enjoyed. On the tour with us were two pair of Brits, a couple from Ireland, South Africa, two couples from Australia. Had a long and fascinating discussion with the people from Durban, South Africa, about what it's like to be white in that country now (as you might suspect, they did not care for it much). He is an interior designer, she an accountant. One night in Banff we sat at restaurant next to a couple and their three kids and son-in-law from New Zealand. He was in the dairy business. We learned an awful lot about the earthquake damage there . . . although they live on the northern of the two islands that make up the country. I didn't even know NZ had two islands. One day on the train, we had lunch with a couple of newly-weds from Japan, Yo and Tomoko. They have been married 90 days, and their English is pretty damn good, if you ask me, although they were not fluent. He had this little electronic translator that he would type words into for her on occasion. He does something with computers, she does graphic design. They were both 32 years old. When I was that age, I was at LSU studying history, but there's no way I could have even contemplated such a trip from the fiduciary standpoint. No way. We spent a good deal of time talking on the ferry with a 19-year-old student from Saudi Arabia who was studying English. He is in his second year of two, and he was perfectly conversational. He's studying for a test in English proficiency that will allow him to go to university in Canada which requires a higher score in English than does USA. Susan immediately donned her teacher's hat and launched into a lesson on how to write an essay. I thought he was more interested in the discussion I was trying to have with him about all the expressions in English there are for being drunk and various idiomatic expressions that he had never heard like "shoo-in" and "beating a dead horse." On the way back to Vancouver on the ferry we sat a table with a guy from northwest Germany (up near the Ruhr valley, forget where) who emigrated to Alberta in 2003. He owns a trucking company--4 trucks--and is involved in moving a lot of oil/gas field equipment between the northern Alberta oil fields and Houston. He has been to Oklahoma bunches of times. We learned a lot about the trucking business. I didn't realize that trucks pay fuel taxes in every state over and above the taxes that are included in the fuel they put into their tanks. He reinforced what we had been hearing throughout the trip: that private housing in Canada is very expensive. We saw what we would describe as small houses (1200-1700 sq ft) with nothing fancy about them in Banff, Jasper, and other places that cost well over half a million dollars. And in both places, if you own a house, you don't own the land it's on because you are in the confines of a national park. The towns are both in their respective parks.
Just another day in the Canadian Rockies

This was a great trip. We both had too many cool-weather clothes. Generally the accommodations were just fine. The Fairmont Hotel in Lake Louise was palatial . . . and would have been out of reach for us, but touring put us there. Unfortunately the village of Lake Louise was virtually inaccessible unless you wanted to hoof it up and down a mountain, so you were stuck eating there and paying dearly for the privilege. It was the one place, also, where the room temp was not ideal. No A/C in our room. Just a ceiling fan and a space fan. It cooled down in the evening, but it wasn't comfortable when we first arrived. Worst place we were was a grim little train stop place at Kamloops. Turns out the place is not small, about I think we were there because it was about the only place of any size about halfway to Vancouver where the train could stop. We did not sleep on the train, but got off and got back on in the morning. The spectacular sights did not relent until we were a couple of hours out of Vancouver. We came out of the Thompson River valley and the landscape broadened and flattened out. The 90 minutes into the city was your standard issue urban/industrial ugly. We stayed two nights in the downtown Holiday Inn. It was quite nice. And are you ready for this? Our first night in, I was just in time to catch the Rangers-Mariners game on TV. (Rangers won, but they almost blew the damn game in the 9th.) So I even managed to get a baseball fix on the trip. BTW, the Toronto Blue Jays, the only team Canada can claim in MLB, were a presence in the ads we saw.

Only drawback on the whole trip was concern about pre-op health issues for my 91-year-old mom. But everything turned out fine there, too. She was operated on yesterday, and the procedure was quite successful. So all is good!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

A Fatuous, Unoriginal Hack . . . a Genuinely Repugnant Human Being, a Grasping Corporate Hypocrite

Wow. That's some indictment. I would have never put it that way, but I wish I could have. This is Matt Taibbi talking about our friend Mitt Romney, who you may have heard, is running for president of the USA. Personally I don't think it will make the slightest bit of difference who gets elected in November if we're thinking about arresting this country's slide into terminal irrelevance and ugly decline. It's just a matter of the speed with which this will happen.

Like me, Taibbi was baffled by Romney's appearance before the NAACP convention, especially since the man had nothing whatever new or healing to say, plus he appeared and sounded even more calculating and boring than usual, and that's saying something. "He came out with the same half-assed, platitude-filled stump speech he usually doles out at campaign stops, literally the same exact speech, only he added quotes from Frederick Douglass, Benjamin Hooks, and Dr. King." Read the Taibbi piece. It won't matter, really, if you don't, but this is just more evidence of what a two-faced, evil charlatan this guy really is.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Friday, July 6, 2012

An Almost Overlooked Gem

Don't know how you handle your email box, but it's typical for me to have stuff in there that goes back a ways. I'm sure a lot of other people do what I do with some stuff that arrives . . . you glance at it, see it's something you want to read, but simply don't have the time at the moment. So you just leave it where it is. And there it may sit for some time. A friend sent me this piece about two months ago. And I finally got around to reading it today, part of my program to clear out the mail as much as possible before Susan and I take off for vacation to the Canadian Rockies for a week tomorrow.* More on that in a moment. But just for teaser's sake, here's the title of the piece in question: "Capitalists and Other Psychopaths." What great stuff. Want a few nibbles?
  • Enron, BP, Goldman, Philip Morris, G.E., Merck, etc., etc. Accounting fraud, tax evasion, toxic dumping, product safety violations, bid rigging, overbilling, perjury. The Walmart bribery scandal, the News Corp. hacking scandal — just open up the business section on an average day. Shafting your workers, hurting your customers, destroying the land. Leaving the public to pick up the tab. These aren’t anomalies; this is how the system works: you get away with what you can and try to weasel out when you get caught. 
  • There are ethical corporations, yes, and ethical businesspeople, but ethics in capitalism is purely optional, purely extrinsic. To expect morality in the market is to commit a category error. Capitalist values are antithetical to Christian ones. (How the loudest Christians in our public life can also be the most bellicose proponents of an unbridled free market is a matter for their own consciences.) Capitalist values are also antithetical to democratic ones. Like Christian ethics, the principles of republican government require us to consider the interests of others. Capitalism, which entails the single-minded pursuit of profit, would have us believe that it’s every man for himself. 
And so forth . . . I'm glad I saved this article. I have an affection for writers who don't bite their tongues.

On the trip, best thing will be getting away from the news for a week. I don't intend to check on anything political while I'm gone. I told Susan just the other day that I'm thoroughly sick already of the presidential campaign and its vapid mindlessness. Plus, I'm an absolute fatalist about the results. No matter who wins, Wall Street wins and the rest of us lose. 

I'll see you all in about a week. Stay cool.

*Yes, I am going to be gone for the next week, so no blogging. I trust you'll hook up with me when I get back, and I promise to post some nice pictures of the trip.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Fab Two

This from the Writer's Almanac of today:
It was on this date in 1957 that Paul McCartney and John Lennon met for the first time, at the Woolton Village Fete in Liverpool, England. John Lennon was almost 17, and Paul McCartney had just turned 15. Lennon had formed a band called the Quarrymen, although he had trouble remembering lyrics and didn't know proper guitar chords, because he'd learned how to play on a banjo. Paul met the band when they played a gig at St. Peter's Church. He told them that he could tune and play a guitar, and since no one in the band could tune their own guitars, they were impressed. Paul then knocked the socks off Lennon when he performed "Twenty Flight Rock," by Eddie Cochran, and didn't forget a single word of the lyrics. Lennon asked McCartney to join the band a week later.
I have a great big fat collective bio of the Beatles by Bob Spitz reposing unread on my bookshelf, and I've told myself a bunch of times how I really must read that book. The Beatles are a phenomenon that if you didn't live through it cannot possibly understand what it was. Books  have been written about them and their significance. People are still trying to figure it out. My thinking right now is more mundane. As I sit here today thinking about the Beatles, I'm just really sad that only half of them are still alive. And Lennon, the one I most identified with--don't ask me why--was a murder victim. In the US by a nut with a gun. Life is not fair.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

A Great Fourth

Susan and I and Prozac the Boston terrier had a great 4th of July. We all went over to some old, dear friends' house, drank some beer and/or wine, had dinner, floated around in their pool, and sat in the driveway after we ate and watched the city of Moore, Oklahoma's Fourth of July fireworks show. Then we came home, and stopped on the way to get some ice cream.

No parades. No military marching bands. No having to endure oratory about freedom and how the U.S. is the greatest country on the planet. No profusion of flags. Perfect.

Monday, July 2, 2012

So . . . No (An As-Promised Entry)

So, no, I don't like (a partial list):
  • Editing work from people who cannot follow directions about the correct footnote and bibliography form to follow for this or that publisher, people who often have advanced degrees and should know better
  • Sweet potatoes, turnips, broccoli, sushi, liver, lite beer
  • Getting behind on the blog
  • The New York Yankees and anything connected with them 
  • Emptying the sink of dirty dishes four or five times a day
  • Cleaning up vomit, human, canine, feline . . . any kind
  • Being so hopelessly behind on reading magazines that I will never catch up
  • Car troubles
  • Leaky fountain pens
  • Losing my glasses
  • Being ignored
  • Lame stream news channels, i.e., shallow, empty-headed, uncritical, and worthless
  • Answering the house phone after running through the house to catch it, and the caller rings off
  • Folding clothes
  • My own clumsiness--dropping stuff, etc.--another of the blessings of aging 
  • Religious zealots and self-righteous prigs
  • Empty TP rolls because the last person there didn't replenish
  • Calling Susan's cell phone when she's gone and hearing it ring in the house
  • Being told to hurry up when I'm going as fast as I can
  • Having no clue about what to write about when I sit down to blog
  • Lack of will power when it comes to pushing away from the table
  • Clutter and disorder just about anywhere in my house, including the garage, pantry, attic, and closets
  • Bullshitters, liars of all stripes, know-it-alls, bigots
  • Dancehall reggae
  • Militarism and spread-eagle "patriotism" (to include the increasingly para-military character of the police)
As was intimated at the beginning, I probably could list more, and will probably think of several more whenever I see this list.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Have to Share This

A few days ago, I blogged (angrily) at the "Fortnight of Freedom" initiated by the Catholic bishops. And today I discover my wonderful guide Richard Rohr on the same subject but oh, so much more charitably. Really, is there any better indication of how far I have to go spiritually than comparing my screed of a few days ago with the following? I have to share this whole thing with you. Nobody I know of could have put this in such the right perspective. This is how a real Christian sees it.
The Catholic Bishops of America have initiated a two week campaign to fight for religious freedom in America. It is called a “Fortnight for Freedom”. It strikes a large part of the population as crying wolf when there is no wolf. Probably no population in human history has had more religious freedom and more religious support than the present population of the USA. (I myself, as a Franciscan vowed to common purse, pay no taxes. Nor do our local parishes or institutions.) It feels like entitled people wanting more entitlement.

How different from the early Christian martyrs, whom we piously venerate, who became holy and courageous through the limitations imposed on them by empires and emperors. Too bad Sts. Perpetua and Felicity could not sponsor a fortnight for freedom from their prison cells. Now we suffer no limitations or constrants, refuse to dialogue fairly or up front, and just complain that “our freedoms are being taken away”. The final irony is this was initiated by an issue that 98% of Catholic women do not even believe in–contraception. It really feels like bishops are shooting themselves in the foot by trying to divert attention away from our own problems and sins. Christian spirituality has always first sought spiritual freedom, inner freedom, freedom from self, freedom for love, and never did we expect governments to supply our “freedom” by any political mandate whatsoever. Our dear bishops are beginning to look like “the Republican party at prayer” more than men of the Gospel of Jesus.
 Fr Rohr blogs regularly. Right here. You could do worse than read what he has to say sometimes.