Saturday, December 31, 2005

Lighting A Candle

It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.
~ Chinese proverb

What would happen if all news media decided to publish a list of the most positive events of the past year? I know, it's kind of beyond imagining. But wait, we can make our own list. It's New Year's Eve, time to have a little fun. Grab a paper and pencil, think back over 2005, and write down only good news. Don't stop until you have ten feel-good news items.

It's not that difficult. Here are my choices:

1. U.S. response to the tsunami relief efforts is overwhelmingly generous.
2. First Iraqi vote is a huge success.
3. Pope Benedict XVI is elected to succeed John Paul II.
4. U.S. response to Hurricane Katrina is overwhelmingly generous.
5. U.S. response to Hurricane Rita is overwhelmingly generous.
6. Second Iraq vote is a huge success.
7. President Bush comes out swinging on national security issues.
8. Third Iraqi vote is a huge success.
9. The U.S. continues to be safe from terrorist attacks since 9/11/01.
10. Our military stationed in Afghanistan and Iraq continues to do our nation proud.

There. That didn't take very long. Despite the doomsaying of MSM reporters, 2005 was a remarkably hopeful year. Maybe they should write that down.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

King Long

Since I have a week off from work, I found time today to go see "King Kong." It's no Chronicles of Narnia, that's for sure.

First of all, I should say up front that I'm a huge fan of the original 1933 film version. I don't know how many times I've seen it, but it's safe to say that at least one of my brothers has seen it even more often than I. Often enough to have memorized the native chief's speech atop the wall prior to Kong's arrival. But, like a Peter Jackson movie, I digress.

This newest King Kong is at least 45 minutes too long. If Jackson had just eased off on the lingering, dewy-eyed closeups of Naomi Watts (Ann Darrow), he could have saved 20 minutes right there. The dinosaur stampede--you read that right--was several frames too incredible. The spider pit scene was an "Aliens" wannabe, and it was hard to keep track of which ghastly fate was befalling whom in the many murder-and-mayhem sequences on Skull Island.

As for the climactic scene atop the Empire State Building, again five minutes too long, I was enjoying the show quite well until Ann Darrow started climbing the iron ladders--in high heels and evening gown, no less--to reach Kong as he was under gunfire attack from the airplanes. Whoa, sweetheart! Excuse me! Isn't the old movie "dumb blonde" now considered to be sexist stereotyping? I guess not when you're recreating the 1930's.

And to give credit where it is due, the digitally recreated Manhattan of 1933 was a wondrous sight to behold. Also on the plus side, King Kong has quite a bit of personality in this modern rendering of his tale. But the whole "love story" angle with Ann Darrow didn't quite work for me. I thought the original version, portraying Kong's unrequited love for Ann, was more moving and effective. In 1933's King Kong, Fay Wray screamed blue murder with blood-chilling realism at the slightest sign of the smitten Kong, which to me made a whole lot more sense.

At least this latest Kong had the satisfaction of knowing that his cherished Ann loved him, too. As Kong bids Ann his (very lengthy) farewell and plunges from the building's pinnacle, their mutual affection threw a pinch of sweet into the bitter ending.

But I still have two questions for director Peter Jackson.

First: Why did we need so many long, plot-stopping closeups of Ann Darrow?

Second: What were you thinking with that ice skating scene?

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Christmas Vacation

My company shuts down for this week between Christmas Day and New Year's Day. I don't have to go back to work until January 3, 2006.

It's intoxicating to have an entire week-plus off work, all to myself. The feeling is akin to that euphoria of long ago, when the last day of school ushered in a summer that seemed endless in its length and possibilities.

Of course, each year that we grow older, we realize how much faster time seems to pass. Ten days off work is hardly the blink of a working gal's eye, but it is a luxurious change of pace. It's a chance to step out of the hamster wheel of routine, sit back, smell the pine boughs, and take stock of the year gone by. It's a golden opportunity to spend more time with family, catch up with old friends, and treat ourselves to some precious free time.

Today I met a good friend for lunch, someone with whom I rarely get to spend time. Yesterday I went to see "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire," which I've been meaning to do for weeks. My January bills are paid, laundry is done, the next Soldier's Angel care package is ready to fly. I'm deciding which of my Christmas DVDs I'd like to watch after dinner tonight, and which Christmas gift book I'll start reading before bedtime.

Time off from work during the Christmas season is one of the best gifts of all.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

O Holy Night

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us...
~ John 1:14

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Christmas and Church

I would be in an alternate universe if my church wasn't going to hold services on Christmas Day due to its falling on a Sunday. That's because I'm Catholic, and Christmas is a Holy Day of Obligation. The official name of the holiday is Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord.

This means that, regardless of what day of the week Christmas falls upon, Catholics are expected to attend Mass. I don't remember a Christmas that I didn't go to church. Before we packed up the car for Grandma's, everyone in the family had "heard Mass." Granted, ever since I was a teeny-bopper, I've attended the Christmas Eve Vigil Mass rather than Christmas Day services. But Christmas Day in every Catholic Church always has a full schedule of Masses, just as any Sunday does, and even today those Masses are all packed to the rafters.

The argument that Christmas is a family day is certainly valid. But where did our family come from? And have we ever received a more precious gift than our loved ones? The more I think about it, the more I think that Christmas Day is the perfect day to stop by church and pray our thanks.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Patriot Game

We're covered for another six months. That's a small Christmas gift from the begruding Democratic senators to the American people, but it's a whole lot better than allowing the Patriot Act to expire.

As for the "American citizens" being spied upon, relax. Unless we're chatting with terrorists on our cell phones or in e-mail, there's not much to worry about. I doubt the government has either the time or the interest to monitor me recounting my quest for a parking space at the mall to my best friend.

When my kids were growing up, I used to tell them that "Common sense isn't." Unfortunately, it's still true that common sense is a rare virtue. Let's hope and pray that wiser heads will prevail in six months to renew the Patriot Act for a reasonable length of time.

UPDATE: The Patriot Act has been shortchanged to extend only to February 3, thanks to Rep. No-Common-Sensenbrenner. He didn't want the 6-month expiration date to ruin the Independence Day holiday. Enjoy your 4th of July, Congressman. Have a beer at the picnic for the troops who are fighting to protect your sorry, spoiled, misguided butt--without the benefit of a holiday weekend.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Unimpeachable Evidence

Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former. ~ Albert Einstein

So how come wiretaps without warrants didn't matter so much in these particular cases? Perchance the magnanimous tolerance of "unchecked" electronic surveillance in past administrations was related to a certain political persuasion?

Of course, the current set of circumstances is not to be tolerated under a GOP president. Barbara Boxer, D-California (heaven help us out here), announced in a letter that she is "expecting a full airing of this matter by the Senate in the very near future.”

Please, do air it out quickly. The hypocrisy positively stinks to high heaven.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Remember Our Troops

May no soldier go unloved.
May no soldier walk alone.
May no soldier be forgotten,
Until they all come home.

~ Soldiers' Angels

Heartfelt appreciation to all of our U.S. armed services who have contributed their efforts so valiantly to make possible the successful Iraqi election last week. Without the hard work and dedication of our military, it would not have happened.

If you would like to express your personal thanks to our troops, please visit Soldiers' Angels and learn how you can adopt a service man or woman. It's a labor of love, a truly rewarding task that allows American civilians to make a positive difference in the lives of our troops.

I'm proud to have my Soldiers' Angel wings.

UPDATE 12/19: Read the words of a proud father, written about his fallen hero son. Keep the tissue box close at hand. (HT:HH)

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Going Ahab

...I'll chase him round Good Hope, and round the horn, and round the norway maelstrom, and round perdition's flames before I give him up. ~ Captain Ahab, Moby Dick

Why hasn't anyone thought of this brilliant analogy before? It's so obvious that maybe it's natural that the comparison has been overlooked. Overlooked until yesterday, when a very insightful caller to Hugh Hewitt's show and did a dramatic recitation of Ahab's impassioned vow to destroy the white whale to express his reaction to the Senate's defeat of the Patriot Act renewal.

Of course! George W. Bush is the white whale who has wounded the Democrats, and their loyal MSM mouthpieces, and thus far eluded their vengeance. None of them will be content until Bush has been brought to ruin, no matter what the cost is to the country. Bringing down Bush is the only priority. Everything and everyone else is totally expendable.

The Senate has "gone Ahab," and it's a grudge of selfish, obsessive luxury that Americans can ill afford at this point in time. The Islamo-terrorists are certainly rejoicing as U.S. Senators steer our ship of state into unfathomable danger.

Contact your state's Senators and tell them to rack their harpoons while we're still above water.

Freedom's Ring

Congratulations to the Iraqi people on the success of the December 15 elections. Check Iraq The Model for amazing coverage of the marvelous current events in Iraq.

People of all ages walking miles, standing in line, waiting for hours to vote, and at a turnout of 70%, should be an inspiring sight for all Americans. That's a higher percentage of voters than we get in a presidential election year. Recently I've heard and read whinings about how inconvenient a Tuesday election is, we should maybe move it to Saturday to make it easier. Try telling that to the Iraqi voters.

Sometimes freedom rings with bells. Last week it rang as it encircled the hopeful fingertips of brave Iraqi citizens with purple ink.

Monday, December 12, 2005

A Place Beyond Time

“There was a time when meadow, grove and stream
The earth, and every common sight,
To me did seem
Apparelled in celestial light,
The glory and the freshness of a dream.”

~ Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood

William Wordsworth would have loved The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

For all of us today who also look back wistfully upon the wonder and excitement of childhood imagination, wishing that somehow we might recapture that sense of awe, there is a special gift this Christmas season. The land of Narnia provides an enchanted pathway back into that magical realm.

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is a beautiful and completely captivating film. Perhaps it can’t compete on a technical level with such a masterpiece as the Lord of the Rings trilogy. But any competition is irrelevant. This movie stands comfortably on its own remarkable lion’s legs.

Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy are four charming siblings who discover the kingdom of Narnia behind an attic wardrobe. They enter a world of cold beauty, dark danger, and brave promise. The eternal battle of good vs. evil, embodied in the formidable forms of Aslan the Lion and the White Witch, weaves its dramatic thread throughout the film, creating a vibrant tapestry of conflict, temptation, failure, forgiveness, and triumph.

The children perform well in their respective roles as the “two sons of Adam and two daughters of Eve” foretold by Narnian prophecy as those who would save the kingdom from the Witch’s brutal grip. Georgie Henly is especially endearing as the winsome little Lucy. The many mythical creatures and special effects are both enchanting and frightening, each as intended. The Witch’s sneering wolves are vividly chilling, and the great lion Aslan, given voice by Liam Neeson, is a magnificently epic creature. Aslan’s poignant scenes of sacrificial agony and subsequent victory over death bear very moving similarities to Christ’s Passion and Resurrection, prompting the tiresome media fuss about this being a “Christian” movie. The author, C.S. Lewis, was certainly a Christian, but such ideological mind-bending obscures the message of enduring values inherent in this timeless tale. Regardless of one’s theological conviction, anyone who understands the difference between right and wrong, truth and deceit, or love and hate can enjoy and be enriched by this lovely film.

Give yourself, and your family, the gift of childhood wonder for a couple of hours this Christmas time. Lay down the weight of your adult’s armor at the movie ticket booth, and settle into any darkened theater showing The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. You will be delighted to discover that “the glory and the freshness of a dream” are indeed still yours to savor when you step through that mystical wardrobe with Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy.

UPDATE 12/15: You may vote upon the best blogged review of Narnia at

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Christmas History

"The first evidence of the feast is from Egypt. About A.D. 200...From the fourth century every Western calendar assigns it to 25 December. At Rome, then, the Nativity was celebrated on 25 December before 354; in the East, at Constantinople, not before 379..." ~ New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia

Despite the current secular theory of a devious conspiracy among Christians to foist Christmas upon a fiercely resistant populace, Christmas is not a modern fad dreamed up to further a neo-con agenda. It is an ancient holy day, reaching back through the millennia to the beginnings of the Christian church in the early centuries following Christ's birth.

In other words, it's a holiday that has been reverently observed and joyfully celebrated for thousands of years, throughout the world. Why are we suddenly considered impolite or, heaven forbid, "uninclusive," if we wish each other a straightforward "Merry Christmas"?

My local newspaper had a section of letters on this subject. Most letter writers felt as I do. However, one dour character reviewed the history of the ancient Roman December festival of Saturnalia and chided those who believe "Jesus is the reason for the season" for forcing their dogma "down the throats" of those who don't agree.

Wow. Lighten up, buddy, nobody gets out alive. And after all, it's Saturnalia, a time to celebrate and be joyful. Right? Don't all the Saturnalians celebrate at this time of year? And personally, I wouldn't be offended if someone wished me a "Festive Saturnalia" (or whatever). If it's not my holiday, so what? In the spirit of the season, I would assume that the intention was positive.

Conversely, if I wish a Saturnalian a "Merry Christmas," where's the harm?

Please, go ahead and enjoy Saturnalia if you like, it's a free country. Pursuit of religious freedom was the reason the pilgrims came to America. But Jesus has been the reason for this season since the third century. The founders of the United States put words like "Creator," "Nature's God," "divine Providence" and "Year of our Lord" in our nation's founding documents. Christmas Day is a national holiday in the U.S.A. More than 75% of Americans are Christians.

These are facts, so deal with reality, all you Roman festival observers out there. And at the risk of falling into the category of those "with viewpoints too narrow":
Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Day of Infamy

It's been 64 years since the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor catapulted the U.S. into World War II. Eyewitness accounts always have the power to captivate me completely. The men and women who lived through that day, especially those who were there as active members of the military, have living history to teach us. We would all be wise to listen and learn.

Listen to the voices that explain the rightness of recognizing evil and standing to fight against it. Learn not to be afraid to call evil by its name. Remember that we were once a nation that did all those things, united in a common mission to keep our home our own. Remember that we succeeded.

Remember Pearl Harbor. Remember, especially, how timely are its lessons for today.

Update: One Marine's View has a military perspective on Pearl Harbor Day well worth reading.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

St. Nicholas Day

It's December 6, the feast day of St. Nicholas of Myra, better known as "Santa Claus." Kids in Germany, Switzerland, and the Netherlands get their gifts today.

Yet another reason to be grateful I'm living in the good old U.S.A., with 18 shopping days left on the calendar.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Christmas Angels

This photo was taken in early 2005. That's my son, Matt, on the left. I'm the short one. Daughter Kris is next to me, with Pete anchoring us on the right. We're all wearing our sporty Iraq tee-shirts we received from the Sarge; he was our first Soldiers' Angels assignment.

We're now supporting our third troop through Soldiers' Angels, and I enjoy recruiting new angels. So far I've notched a postal clerk who handled some of my care packages and a fellow pet owner from our neighborhood dog park. Also, when the Sarge got back to the U.S., he told me that he, too, had signed up to adopt a troop. The support from home had meant so much to him and his guys, he wanted to participate.

If you're wondering what you can do to help make the world a little bit brighter, a little less grim this Christmas season, I suggest that you link to Soldiers' Angels and see just how much opportunity awaits you. Opportunities not just to offer support and encouragement to our fighting men and women, but the gift of knowing you have contributed in a very real way to a good and noble cause.

I can't explain the feeling of contentment you receive when you send a care package off to one of our soldiers. Such a worthwhile sensation can only be experienced. So please give it some thought, and I hope you decide to treat yourself this Christmas season by "being an Angel."

Meanwhile, to the Sarge, Corporal Michael, and PFC Jimmy--Merry Christmas, and God bless you, one and all.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Remembering Why

Terrible days such as today, when our country suffers the loss of brave warriors, are times to pause and remember what these young heroes are fighting for.

The price of these precious lives lost is beyond calculation. The pain of their deaths is crushing. Let us never forget how blessed we are to have such men and women who willingly serve in foreign lands to safeguard Americans at home.

Let us always remember why they are there. Be they fighting or fallen, active or veteran, honor the service of our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines.

For today, especially honor our Marines. Semper Fi.