Monday, June 30, 2008

Happy Birthday "Melanie"

Every child comes with the promise that God is not yet discouraged of men.
~ Anonymous

That's a photo of Gone With the Wind's Melanie Wilkes, aka the Oscar-winning actress Olivia de Havilland. I didn't think they allowed such skin-filled publicity shots in the 1930s, but there you have it. Wowza.

I've always admired de Havilland as an actress, starting with her role as Melanie in GWTW--one of my favorite books and movies of all time.

My brother was an Errol Flynn fan, so I also saw de Havilland co-star with Flynn in Robin Hood on TV reruns of classic movies during the olden days of my youth. In later years she made the campy films Lady in a Cage and Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte. But to me, she'll always be Melanie.

It's an odd irony of Hollywood history that Olivia de Havilland, the one principal cast member whose character dies in the final scenes of GWTW, has long outlived her fellow actors in that classic film. Leslie Howard died on a military air mission during WWII. Clark Gable died in 1960, and Vivien Leigh died in 1967. Yet tomorrow, July 1, Olivia de Havilland celebrates her 92nd birthday.

Another note of interest to me is the fact that she was born on the same day as my father. In world events on July 1, 1916, the Battle of the Somme commenced on the Western front. The battle raged for months, into November, with over one million total casualities. The Somme was called ‘The most gigantic, tenacious, grim, futile and bloody fight ever waged in the history of war’. To this day, July 1, 1916 holds the tragic distinction of being the bloodiest day in the history of the British Army.

A very somber day, yet also a day that brought at least two special souls into the world. Happy Birthday, Melanie. You're a classic.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Happy John's Day

In summer, the song sings itself.

Today, June 24, is the feast of St. John the Baptist, cousin of Our Lord and the courageous voice crying in the wilderness. John is a major heavyweight on the A-team of saints, right up there with Sts. Peter and Paul. Coincidentally or not, Peter and Paul share a feast day next Sunday, June 29.

All of these major league saints having feast days so close together has perpetuated the ancient custom of Midsummer celebrations throughout the ages. June 24 tends to be an international festival day right up to the present. There are all-night bonfires in many cultural celebrations around the world, including Latvia. June 24 is known as "Janis Dien"--John's Day.

I once read many years ago that one quarter of the world's male population is named some variation of the name John. I don't know if that still holds true today, although both my father and grandfather were named John. I have an Uncle John, a nephew John, and assorted cousins of various degrees, all named John. There could be some validity to that 25% theory.

I learned about John's Day early in my marriage. Pete's boss was a hyperkinetic Latvian named Janis who threw a wild party at his home every year on his name day. (My regular readers will remember that "name days" are far more important in the Latvian tradition than birthdays.) There was always unlimited vodka, lobster, caviar, and tons of other delicious food that I would be hard pressed to remember--after all, there was also unlimited drinking, dancing, and singing to be done.

To celebrate the longest day of the year, the John's Day party continued all night, ending with a breakfast feast. We never lasted quite that long, but many of John's guests did. In honor of the old midsummer night bonfires, Janis' house had torches burning outside the garage. It's a wonder any of us, let alone John's house, survived.

So enjoy yourself this midsummer's evening. Pop a cold one, light the patio firepit, and toast the season of long, warm sunny days. Laimigs Janis Dien--Happy John's Day.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

An Interesting Poll

Last week during a trim, I asked my hairdresser who she thinks will be the next president.

She answered, "I think the old man."

In view of all the polling data showing Obama ahead of McCain, I was surprised. My hair stylist is the owner of a busy, multicultural shop with nearly equal parts Asian, Hispanic, and Caucasian clientele--along with a smattering of African American customers.

When I asked her why she thought "the old man" would win, she answered, "My customers usually say they're voting for McCain."

I hope her prediction is correct. Whatever the outcome, this year's election should be, to borrow a word that Mr. Spock was fond of, fascinating.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Go, Green

It'd be absolutely an outrage that in an international agreement, in which it was clearly understood that everyone must ratify per their procedures, that any member state would be so bullied.
~ EU Commissioner Charlie McCreevy

It made my Irish eyes smile when Ireland stood up to the EU on the matter of the Lisbon treaty.

The Irish said no, EU, you can't take away our right to vote as stated in our national constitution. You can't tell us what our laws will be. You can't set the rules inside our borders. As one waving protestor's placard read, "No Foreign Rule!"

Ireland has had more than her share of foreign interference on her soil. She fought England for hundreds of grim and bloody years to win independence, so freedom is not something the Irish people would take lightly.

Most of us have heard of the famous potato famine of the mid-1800s that sparked a massive exodus out of Ireland to North America. Millions of Irish citizens immigrated to America, but an estimated three million others died. The sterile and tidy descriptions of the four-year famine never include the gruesome details. Cecil Woodham-Smith's masterpiece, The Great Hunger, is the definitive history of that time in Ireland.

The book is not for the faint of heart. An Gorta Mór (Gaelic for the Great Hunger) makes the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina look like a trip to Disneyland. In the Ireland of 1846-49, thousands of entire families died of slow starvation, their mouths stained green from eating grass trying to survive. Enslaved within their own country by the British, they died by the roadside or in ditches because they had been turned out of their mud-hut homes and tiny plots of land by the foreign landlords who could not collect crops as rent payments.

The popular economic principle of laissez-faire was the prevailing philosophy of British Treasury Secretary Trevelyan, the English official appointed to oversee starving Ireland. Trevelyan stated that the great moral evil in Ireland was not the famine, but rather the "selfish, perverse and turbulent character of the people." In fact, Trevelyan refused expenditures on the problem, preferring to let the Irish starve to death; he believed the famine was a blessing in disguise to reduce the population of Ireland.

Not exactly the type of chap who would be directing Meals on Wheels. In the midst of the famine, Trevelyan was knighted for his work in Ireland. Times were quite different then.

It's a dramatic example from a century and a half ago, but national traumas of such magnitude leave their mark upon a native people's soul and identity (witness our U.S. Civil War and its lingering after-effects).

Good luck with your expanding-powers treaty, EU. Ireland has stood her dearly-won ground. Get used to it.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Pooh-Poohing Reality

Obama would bring us back to September 10th America. And September 10th is sure to be followed by September 11th .
~ Andrew C. McCarthy

After hearing Obama's presumed National Security Advisor cite Winnie the Pooh as his foreign policy guide, I realize there's not a moment to lose before the presidential election.

It's been far too long since I've linked to the wisdom of Victor Davis Hanson. In "Iraq in Review," VDH presents solid evidence to challenge the tired and familiar criticisms of the war in Iraq.

"Do the Right Thing--Start Drilling" delivers sane and common sense reasons for pursuing the only practical avenue open to America at present.

Andrew C. McCarthy, author of Willful Blindness: Memoir of the Jihad, in this article exposes the stunning impotency of applying the U.S. criminal justice system to international terrorism.

VDH and McCarthy--smart men, serious subjects, incisive logic, dangerous times. How frightening that the Obamaniacs don't realize Winnie the Pooh just won't cut it. You can't tickle a terrorist's tummy until he surrenders.

Do your homework, fellow American voters. We could well be voting for our lives.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Thoughts on Fathers

Only a dad, but the best of men.
~ Edgar Guest

There is a poignant irony in the death of Tim Russert at the start of Father's Day weekend. His best-selling book, Big Russ and Me, about his father is a celebration of the invaluable gift of having grown up with a good father.

His follow up book, Wisdom of our Fathers, is a compilation of the letters Russert received following the publication of Big Russ, from readers eager to share the special qualities instilled and lessons taught by their own fathers.

"The paths of glory lead but to the grave." With stunning simplicity, Thomas Gray sums up the harsh inevitability of the life cycle. Death is the ultimate equalizer. Regardless of achievement or wealth, we come to the same end. Tim Russert had reached the pinnacle of his profession and was famous for interrogating the most powerful political players from the midst of our nation's capitol city.

Russert had worldwide fame, great material success, and far-reaching influence over current events. My father, and my children's father, had none of those things. Yet they were at least as beloved by their families as Russert was by his. I think of the sad road suddenly smashed open before Russert's family, a lonely path my children and I look back on with full knowledge that there will always be much further to travel in learning to live without the central life figure of good father.

No matter the extent of worldy success a man may possess, his loss always boils to the same hard truth: a child must now live life without Dad, a woman must do so without her husband. Each individual must navigate the raw and jagged landscape of their own broken heart, fighting the dark depths and unexpected roadblocks as best they can, and for the rest of their lives.

Whenever he heard of a tragic, sudden death, my father (d. 1987) would always say, "we know not the day nor the hour." This was his iteration of Matthew 24:42, Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come. So when I heard the news about Tim Russert at the start of this Father's Day weekend, I immediately thought of my Dad.

My very next thought was how much Tim Russert would have liked that.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Dollars and Sense

No matter which of us wins in November, there will be change in Washington. The question is what kind of change?
~ John McCain

When Obama heralds "change we can believe in," I think he's referring to what will be left in our pockets when he's done redistributing the nation's wealth. Oh yes, I know, he's only going to "tax the rich"--but that's a highly elastic definition.

I think by 2010, in an Obama presidency, "the rich" would be pretty much anyone who holds a job. Anyone who has a bank account, a retirement account, or health insurance will be considered highly privileged. He will "demand" we change, as Michelle Obama has threatened--er, promised. He will "not allow" us to stay idle. If we have worked our way up to owning a "piece of the pie" we are going to be required to "give up a piece" so that "someone else can have more."

Slow down, Mrs. Marx. If I'm the one dragging my butt out of bed every day to work and earn my little mouthful of pie, why should someone else be entitled to it? What's my incentive to achieve anything of my own, if the Almighty Government is going to tell me I have to "give up" what I've earned?

Maybe I should stay home and relax, waiting for a piece of "someone else's" pie to be forked over to me, instead.

The article linked here, by economist Lawrence Kudlow, explains why McCain is by far the better financial choice in these wildly uncertain times. Read it if you're an American voter who would like to hold on to some vestige of your monetary assets in this brave new world of $4 gas and $6 milk.

Monday, June 09, 2008

The Humor Wars

Those of you who thought we had a Second Amendment to keep government from fixing your soul are so 20th century. Evolve already.
~ Jonah Goldberg, June 6 2008

It's turning into a tie: who's the most hilarious columnist on the right? Is it Mark Steyn or Jonah Goldberg?

They both make me *LOL* with equal enthusiasm, so I just can't choose. They are smack even in my book. Speaking of books, Mark Steyn's America Alone is out in paperback now. I read it twice, it was so informatively entertaining. After reading Goldberg's NRO article on the "Messiah in Our Midst," I'm adding his Liberal Facism to my list of must-read books.

We live in serious times, but that doesn't mean we can't laugh.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Congratulations, Laura Ingraham

"Stand up and fight!"
~ Laura Ingraham, to the Republican party

On the West coast, Laura Ingraham is on radio weekdays from 6:00-9:00 A.M. I listen to her while I'm eating breakfast, before leaving for work, and she's a better wake-up than a cup of coffee.

Some mornings she aggravates the sleep out of me, other days she makes me laugh out loud. Sarcastic, acerbic, brashly outspoken, often humorous, occasionally rude, one quality never wavers--she speaks her mind and her convictions. There is never any doubt where Laura stands on any issue, and that is a breath of fresh air.

It's no wonder that she has won the "Woman of the Year" award from Talkers magazine, what Greta Van Susteren of Fox News describes as "the preeminent magazine in all of Talk Radio"

Early in her career, Laura Ingraham was a Supreme Court law clerk, working for Associate Justice Clarence Thomas. She is a passionate conservative, standing farther to the right than I do. I don't always agree with her positions. But the lady's done her homework. She always defends her social and political philosophy with hard-hitting facts, and that makes for interesting, and informative, radio. When she gets off on a rant, or into an empassioned exchange with a guest or caller, it's better than a cold water splash in the face to get your day in motion.

So congratulations, Laura. You keep telling it like it is, and I'll keep listening.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Mere Bias or Pure B.S.?

Hmmm. I wonder.

If John McCain’s next-door neighbor, close friend, real estate partner and campaign financier had been convicted on 16 felony counts, do you think perhaps it would have gotten more than Charlie Gibson’s offhanded one-liner on the news last night?

Don’t you think that maybe such a juicy scoop on the Republican nominee might have been the lead story on all TV news broadcasts, above every front page fold? Oh, I definitely think so. I doubt that the New York Times would have buried the conviction of McCain’s buddy on page A-18.

A casual mention on the alphabet networks, an unobtrusive filler article in the back of the newspapers, and the Fourth Estate has done its job in shielding their chosen Messiah from harm. We can’t say MSM doesn’t report the news.

Last night, after interviewing Barack Obama for two segments of ABC Nightly News, Charlie Gibson promised that John McCain’s interview would air tonight. Is it just a coincidence that the ABC news broadcast was pre-empted on the West coast tonight to accommodate the NBA Finals?

The entire MSM is in the tank up to their collective eyeballs for Obama, and that’s only one reason why they can’t see straight. The print media seems to be in a frenzied competition to see how many uplifted Obama facial portraits--preferably surrounded by a halo of light--can be slapped onto news magazine covers between now and November.

It’s the wise voter who will do his or her own research in this election season. Please excuse me while I go hunt down tonight’s McCain interview on the internet.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

The Long Road Starts

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
~ Chinese proverb

Five months from today is the presidential election, and at last we have our nominees.

It's going to be a challenge. Pray for strength. Ours, not theirs. These two candidates are both flawed and formidable in very individualized ways.

The Democrats have got the powerfully resonant orator who morphs into Forrest Gump without his teleprompter. He's got all kinds of problematic personal connections that we won't go into just now. Let's pace ourselves.

The Republicans have got the highly honored Vietnam war hero who was fearless in the grip of his torturers but who seems to fall apart in front of a microphone. He's got his own set of issues, including the disgruntled GOP base (whoever they might be) and the infamous bad temper.

As I said to my son, we're the United States of America. Are these two candidates the best choices we can manage for the serious times in which we live? The political machines in both parties have spoken, and the final answer is yes, they are.

It's going to be a very long five months.

Monday, June 02, 2008

One Pearl of Great Price

John 15:12-13

Ever since the first war began, parents have had to face the painful emptiness left by a child who leaves home for the battlefield and never returns.

Ross A. McGinnis
was 17 years old when he enlisted in the U.S. Army, 19 when he sacrificed his life to save his friends. Today, at The White House, his parents received the nation's highest award for valor in combat in his honor.

There is not much more to say. There are some things for us to do--we should remember to be grateful for such inspiring heroes, remember to respect and honor their memory, remember that our many freedoms are pearls of great price. Ross McGinnis gave all to preserve that treasure for us. Remember, and give thanks.