Monday, May 29, 2006

The Code of Slowness

I just got back from seeing "The Da Vinci Code." It wasn't a terrible movie. But, to put it as kindly as possible and still remain honest, it wasn't fascinating. Or fast-paced. There was way too much talking by good guys and bad guys alike. At times, it was downright boring. In fact, I spent the last twenty minutes waiting for it to end at any second. Please, please end at any second.

It will take me a while to return to a state of full consciousness, so I'm directing interested readers to Mark D. Roberts' excellent internet series on the film and its numerous theological issues. Excuse me while I go wake up with a cup of coffee.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Honoring Our Heroes

Visit One Marine's View for much more on Memorial Day.

The upcoming holiday weekend was meant for much more than beer and burgers. We forget that fact in our busy lives of comfort, convenience and plenty.

At the very least, fly your U.S. flags on Monday in honor of the military men and women who have died to ensure our freedom to enjoy the good life we Americans have.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

How WWII Would Play Today

Read Victor Davis Hanson's imaginary "op ed" on World War II as viewed with today's journalistic approach. I can't decide if it's more amusing or tragic, but I'm certain VDH is not far off the mark.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Time of Remembrance

There was a special ceremony for the children of fallen heroes, both military and civilian, a "Time of Remembrance," on May 21, 2006. It was held near the Washington Monument in our nation's Capitol. The medals these children are wearing were designed specially for them.

The enormity and nobility of the sacrifices of our men and women in Iraq and Afghanistan often become obscured in the heat of political rhetoric. These young faces remind us of the imponderable price of freedom.

Memorial Day is next weekend. Remember the men and women of our armed forces overseas. Say a prayer for those who, because they were called to serve a great cause, can not be here to help their children grow up.

Support our troops. We owe them far more than a grateful nation can ever repay.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

The Da Vinci Dud

Holy controversy, it's...underwhelming!
~ E! Online Movie Reviews

Ouch. Those reviews are going to leave a mark, worse than the self-inflicted flagellations that bad guy Silas endures. From most critical accounts, it's easy for movie fans to decipher the fact that "The Da Vinci Code" is a yawn of a film.

However, I plan to see it next weekend and blog my reaction (if I don't fall asleep). At the rate that ho-hum viewer summations are piling up, I think I may have avoided the crowds.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

The Lesson of Good Neighbors

Mending Wall
~ Robert Frost, 1914

Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun;
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hunters is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on a stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there.
I let my neighbour know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
"Stay where you are until our backs are turned!"
We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
Oh, just another kind of out-door game,
One on a side. It comes to little more:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, "Good fences make good neighbours."
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
"Why do they make good neighbours? Isn't it
Where there are cows? But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That wants it down." I could say "Elves" to him,
But it's not elves exactly, and I'd rather
He said it for himself. I see him there
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me,
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father's saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, "Good fences make good neighbours."

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Fenced Off

I am starting to feel as The Anchoress does...totally burned out on writing about politics. I mean, what's the point? The circus we call the U.S. Congress never seems to get it right. Voter/citizens are sick and weary of trying to make their voices heard over the din of explosive senatorial rhetoric and militant illegal immigrants, not to mention those disapproving Mexican officials we suddenly seem expected to mollify.

And then, we see a glimmer of hope in today's Senate vote. Do they mean it this time? Or will the fence be whittled down to playpen size before we're done? I doubt a positive outcome, but stay tuned. Life is full of surprises. Congress actually doing something substantive about illegal immigration may yet be one of them.

While we're waiting, make a note of the 16 fools who voted against the fence:

Akaka (D-HI)
Bingaman (D-NM)
Cantwell (D-WA)
Dodd (D-CT)
Durbin (D-IL)
Feingold (D-WI)
Inouye (D-HI)
Jeffords (I-VT)
Kennedy (D-MA)
Lautenberg (D-NJ)
Lieberman (D-CT)
Menendez (D-NJ)
Murray (D-WA)
Obama (D-IL)
Reed (D-RI)
Sarbanes (D-MD)
(HT: Hugh Hewitt)

Regardless of today's vote, I think I'll take a political break for a while. Check back for Kathy's Poetry Corner, maybe. A couple of interesting saints have feast days coming up on the Catholic calendar, which always provides me with the opportunity for a refreshing change of pace. And there's always the topic-rich "Da Vinci Code," which I'll be seeing and reviewing before the month's end.

So I'll just leave the fence issue on the back burner for now. Something tells me it's not going anywhere.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Charlie Daniels' Two Cents

Jack Kelly of Irish Pennants has posted Charlie Daniels' thoughts on the illegal immigration mess, and they are priceless.

I especially like: "if there were a half dozen pairs of gonads in Washington bigger than English peas" the immigration crisis wouldn't be happening.

If Charlie ran for office, I'd vote for him. And I think I'd have lots of company.

Note to Jack Kelly: since you've wisely decided to support Charlie's albums, you can't go wrong with "Full Moon."

About the President's Immigration Speech...

Therefore, I support a temporary worker program that would create a legal path for foreign workers to enter our country in an orderly way, for a limited period of time. This program would match willing foreign workers with willing American employers for jobs Americans are not doing. Every worker who applies for the program would be required to pass criminal background checks. And temporary workers must return to their home country at the conclusion of their stay.
~ President George W. Bush, May 15, 2006

Como se dice "B-A-L-O-N-E-Y" en Espanol?

Or maybe the word should be some variation of "B-U-L-L-O-N-E-Y"--in English.

National Guarding

President Vicente Fox of Mexico is very concerned about President Bush's speech on border security tonight. He's so worried, he even called the president to express his misgivings.

Can it possibly be true that the United States will begin insisting that people crossing our southern border are legitimate immigrants or visitors? U.S. National Guardsmen will protect our borders? What an outrage! Now, just where is Fox supposed to send all his poor citizens "seeking a better life," as we in the U.S. are so often reminded? Could it be that Fox might be expected to actually do something positive for his own native people, like making a tiny crack in the bursting Mexican coffers?

I, for one, am sick unto death of the South-of-the-Border-Guilt special. The U.S. had quite enough of its own problems without taking on Mexico's, too. Vicente Fox has no business expecting us to cater to his self-serving agenda. I hope President Bush told Fox "uno momento, por favor" and continues on with what's best for the U.S.A. for a change. Tune in the president's speech at 5:00PM Pacific, 8:00PM Eastern time to hear what happens next.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Weekend Reading

If you'd like a good belly laugh to start off your weekend, read James Lileks' "translation" of the Iranian president's letter to George W. Bush. Lileks must have had a lot of fun writing it. And I'll bet his highly amusing interpretation isn't too far off the mark, at least in spirit.

On another silly topic, we're now only days away from the arrival of "The Da Vinci Code" and all the weighty philosophical and theological debates the author likes to believe it presents. Mark Steyn wrote a customarily entertaining piece about the "Code," and he includes a truly funny analysis of the so-called "Gospel" of Judas.

The lingering judicial nominees, high gas prices, and illegal immigration will all still be around on Monday. For now, take a break and lighten up for the weekend.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Fuel for Thought

Let's calm down, everyone.

The predicament in which we find ourselves is of our own making. Over 30 years ago, in 1973-74, we hit our first snag with gasoline availability. It happened again in 1979. If we, as a nation, haven't acted on the red flags, is it really anyone's fault but our own?

There is plenty of insightful analysis available if anyone cares to read it. Records of what "Big Oil" pays in taxes are readily available.

And as the Business Week graph shows, there are several other industries more worthy of our wrath if profits and price increases are the target of our consumer outrage.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Thank a Teacher

It's National Teachers Day, the first Tuesday during the first full week of May. If you're reading blogs, books, or (gasp!) any print media, you have your teachers to thank.

We all remember our favorite teachers. In grade school, Sr. Mary Humbeline, second grade, was my favorite. She was a nun who could laugh, sing, and have fun. She would actually run in the schoolyard while playing with the kids. A fun nun on the run--definitely memorable.

In high school, Mr. Richard Conley, English teacher, stands out in memory. Mr. Conley had an intense, dramatic teaching style. He was very straightforward, openly chastising slackers and enthusiastically praising achievers. Mr. Conley always insisted, both in class and privately, that I should become a writer. Wherever he is, I hope he's happy with my progress.

In college, Professor Ray Berner was without equal. He taught 17th and 18th Century Literature and, as an English major, I was required to take both courses. I was dreading the slogs through Pope, Milton and Donne. But Mr. Berner had an easy-going, conversational teaching style, laced with wry humor, that made those often dry tomes and poems come alive with modern interest. I vividly remember long passages of his informal lectures, and I know I learned the most in his classes.

Mr. Berner (later on, Dr. Berner) died about ten years ago. He was barely in his sixties, a lifelong bachelor, dedicated fully to his students and his love of classical literature. He had lived a quiet, uneventful life of teaching in that tiny university in the Pennsylvania hills, as though understanding and accepting that "the paths of glory lead but to the grave." Over 30 years later, I remember him as my most outstanding teacher, and I know from reminiscing with college classmates that I am not alone.

Thank you to all the dedicated teachers who work to advance knowledge in our young people. It's good work that grows more valuable with the passing years.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Mary's Month

In the Catholic Church, the month of May is traditionally dedicated to Mary, Mother of Our Lord. Most parishes schedule recitation of the Rosary either before or after daily Mass during this month.

May 13 is the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima, which commemorates the appearances of Mary to the three shepherd children in Portugal in 1917. Pope John Paul II had a special reverence for the Blessed Mother and was convinced that Mary had intervened to save his life during the assassination attempt in 1981. Ironically, that attack occurred on May 13.

Shortly after Pete died, I read "Looking for Mary: Or, The Blessed Mother and Me" by Beverly Donofrio. It had been a Christmas gift from a dear friend. The book is a down-to-earth, modern day, personal account of how Mary quietly calls us to prayer and greater sanctitude. As Donofrio describes her, like any good Jewish mother, Mary never yields in trying to influence our hearts. She picks the right time to slip into our lives and draw us closer to Our Lord.

It was certainly a relevant time for me to be reading that book. After I finished it, I loaned it to my daughter. Now, we discover that we are both feeling compelled to pray the Rosary regularly, just as Mary requests.

As Our Lord discovered at Cana, it's tough to say "no" to the Blessed Mother.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

A Blogger's Prayer

Domine ut videum ~ Lord, that I may see

In honor of the National Day of Prayer, I note the Latin phrase that my father quoted often. This brief prayer, which Catholic school children wrote atop their exam papers in the days of the Latin Mass, is especially pertinent for 21st century bloggers. These few short words entreat God to grant us wise and honest insights into the world around us, to see clearly and understand the events of our time.

Amen and a hotlink to that concept.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

USS New York

Read Jack Kelly's marvelous May 2 post in "Irish Pennants," linked here, on the USS New York, a warship under construction and due for completion in 2007. The ship is being built with steel from the World Trade Center and is "designed for missions that include special operations against terrorists."

Now, that's poetry.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Out of Uniform

The Congress shall have Power...To establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization
~ United States Constitution, Article 1, Section 8

Well, Congress, to where has it disappeared? That "uniform Rule of Naturalization," specified in the Constitution, which you faithfully swore to uphold and defend in your oaths of office?

My husband was a naturalized citizen of the United States. As a teenager, Pete studied for his citizenship exam. It was a formal process, he told me, a very big deal to a youngster. He had to learn about the U.S.A.--the branches of U.S. government, their functions, some of our laws and history. He then had to pass a citizenship exam, which he did as soon as he came of age. Pete was 18 years old when he became a U.S. citizen. He told me that he took his exam in a roomful of foreign-born nationals of every age and race. After he and the other applicants who had achieved passing grades received their miniature American flags, they together pledged allegiance to the United States. It was quite a ceremony, Pete said. A very big deal.

Pete's citizenship certificate is a document that he had to keep handy throughout his life. He needed to produce it to get married, to obtain his license to teach school, to receive benefits when he was disabled.

Pete's high school photo is affixed to the left side, about halfway down, imprinted with the seal of the United States District Court that naturalized him. The top of the document contains a physical description of him, the blanks filled in with archaic typewritten text--hair and eye color, height, weight, marital status, and "Country of former nationality," typed in as Latvia. His signature appears on a line beneath, a spindly and tentative rendition of his bold adult scrawl.

Next to his photo, there is a long, formal paragraph of legal script that gives the date of his naturalization and his home address and reads, in part, that Pete:

...intends to reside permanently in the United States when so required by the Naturalization Laws of the United States, had in all other respects complied with the applicable provisions of such naturalization laws, and was entitled to be admitted to citizenship, thereupon...he was admitted as a citizen of the United States of America.

At the bottom, it is dated and signed by the U.S. District Court Clerk.

Quite serious, formal, official, and meaningful, don't you agree? Perhaps that is why Pete so appreciated his citizenship in this country. He understood that it was indeed a very big deal to be part of America. I wonder what he would think of today's illegal immigrant marchers, crashing the border, clogging the streets, waving their flags, and demanding their "rights"--in Spanish.

I think he might have a very short sentence for them--and for Congress, too. It would probably contain three words. And it certainly wouldn't be "si se puede."