Monday, August 31, 2009

Athletics or Blood Lust?

A genre of supposed sports which has been growing in recent years involves, basically, guys beating the devil out of each other inside cages. It goes by several names, such as the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) and under the umbrella of mixed martial arts. But however your view them, we can be sure of two things: that they are not true sports, and that they are immoral.

I will go a step further and add prize fight boxing into the mix. We cannot call any athletic effort in which the primary aim is to hurt a human being a sport. Intending to harm someone, as fighting until someone can continue no further is surely meant to do nothing save cause injury, is always wrong. Calling it a sport in an attempt at legitimacy is nothing less than an insult to our intelligence. We must see these things for what they are: gory rituals of false bravado.

There's no point defending them on the grounds that no one forces these guys to fight. People at one time regularly agreed to duels and we put a stop to that inane practice for the very reason that it was wrong. Agreement between two or more folks on a plan of action cannot make that action moral. What we do must be moral in and of itself to have any decent bearing at all.

If we are not careful we will devolve into a nation which likes blood and harm for its own sake. We must remember that sports are intended for recreation, for fans and players alike. If all we want is blood, we may as well live in a slaughterhouse. Yet that will be thought insane.

Events which intend to inflict real physical harm are not sports. We need to rise above our animal lusts and see athletics in their best light: ultimately meaningless contests which allow us a respite from the daily grind. Anything more than that and we simply go beyond their scope.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

So Much Straw

Panis angelicus, fit panis hominum
-St. Thomas Aquinas

If you are Catholic, perhaps at this moment the tune of that great hymn from the Angelic Doctor is wafting gently through your mind right now. I rather hope that it is; it is one of the most beautiful tunes I know, one of the few with that genuine ethereal standing which makes many of us fall victim to what C. S. Lewis calls that 'inconsolable longing'. It is like, for myself anyway, Beethoven's Ode to Joy or Schubert's Ave Maria.

And yet it is only so much straw.

How can that be? How can such wondrous and glorious tunes be nothing more than cattle feed? Yet we have it on the word of St. Thomas himself that that is precisely the case. For he said, after a Beatific vision, a view of Christ and Heaven which he was granted about six months before he died, "All my works seem like straw after what I have seen". The greatest mind in all of human history, the man, the philosopher, the theologian beyond measure, and what he did is meaningless compared to what is really real.

Only so much straw.

Can we feel anything but humility at such a fantastic attitude? Can we even actually grasp the meaning of what Aquinas says? Nothing here, not the most important things we can say, things we can see, things we might touch and hear and smell, is worth the time of day when set next to the greatest things.

Only so much straw.

There is a lesson in that.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Must Things Always Balance?

My wife and I were fortunate enough to score free tickets to last night's Tiger game. Then our car wouldn't start when we left the stadium to go home.

Why do things always seem to happen that way? You get a break, and it gets taken from you in a different manner.

Or maybe not...our daughter was going to take the car on about a 105 mile round trip today, and may not be able to if we can't get it fixed. So I'm left to wonder if I've actually been done a favor.

I would rather deal with a broken down car two miles from home than 52 and a half. It may just be for the best after all.

Friday, August 28, 2009

The Real Problem with Katrina

As many of you know by this time, the movie industry is making in a film in my neighborhood. The story is set in post-Katrina New Orleans, and watching the gyrations of Hollywood has been fascinating and fun.

Yet as much of an exciting personal event as this has become, it is difficult to avoid thinking about the real thing. Especially as, among the debris currently strewn up and down my block, there sits a refrigerator emblazoned with the sarcastic graffiti, 'Thank you W'.

Seeing as the tragic result of the storm was a lack of foresight on the part of state and local officials, the snide remark, though perhaps historically significant in light of actual events, seems greatly out of place. To be sure, I hold no grudge against the movie people for this, although I would not be shocked to discover that it reflects the general feeling of filmmakers towards our recent President. Just the same, the comments reflect nothing short of a knee jerk and indeed ungrounded attitude towards the federal establishment.

George W. Bush called a state of emergency a full two days before the hurricane made landfall. Why did the local officials, led by the almost comically inept Mayor of New Orleans, Ray Nagin, not begin evacuation preparations then? Why did the State of Louisiana and the City of New Orleans not fire up their emergency plans at that point? Washington was ready; why weren't they?

Further, the local officials had not for years allowed the Army Corps of Engineers to install flood gates at the mouth of the New Orleans levees, gates wanted precisely to allow overflow waters to be released into Lake Ponchartrain and thereby spare the city.

To blame W for the disaster is thus nothing less than hubris. It is interesting to note that soon enough after Hurricane Katrina the city of Denver faced a like crisis with an approaching blizzard, and acted accordingly right down to individual citizens. No one was harmed or displaced.

What Hurricane Katrina teaches us is that we need to look to as local of a level of government as possible, and right down to ourselves, for help when there is danger. We avoid our very duty to our family and our neighbors when we look beyond ourselves when threats are presented. Because, in the end, we will not be asked what others did for us. We will be asked what we did for ourselves.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Buy My Books

As part of the reason (okay, perhaps the reason) for my blogging is nothing more than sheer self promotion, I'm going to take the opportunity again today to ask everyone to buy my books. Why hide from shameless hawking when that's what put me here in the first place?

A Subtle Armageddon: an intense little novel about the last man on Earth, inspired by The Abolition of Man by C. S. Lewis. Lewis' book is perhaps the best nonfiction book out there, and I took the liberty of fictionalizing it (is fictionalizing a word? Call that artistic license).

Michael's Story
: a prequel ASA, where I experiment with actual dialogue. The point was to make ASA more directly related to individual human experience.

David Gideon: a populist libertarian conservative from Michigan becomes President. Call him the anti-Obama, perhaps: a President who respects the rights of the people.

Triumph of the Ignorant: Why Our Schools Can't Teach, is about my experience with Education classes in a major university. You want to why we can't teach? It's all in the philosophy behind modern education.

Order them from Amazon or at you favorite bookstore. Hopefully you'll enjoy them but if I've provoked you somehow, well, that can't happen until you've read them, and think of the great discussions which will follow.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Ted Kennedy

Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy, the last of the political dynasty from Boston, has died at 77 after a year long battle with cancer. It is right and fitting that we should pray for him and his family at this time, that his soul be saved and that God's comfort be upon those he left behind.

It would be easy to be critical of the man, something I am fighting to avoid as I write this note. He certainly was not without his flaws, the human failings with which we are all afflicted. But death does not seem the time for concern with such things. The critical issue now is the state of his soul, and for that we must pray. We are called to do that when one of our brethren falls. We must do that for Senator Kennedy.

History shall tend to his legacy and we may in time say our piece about that. Yet today that is not important. We do our creed a disservice to make that judgment at this hour. We do the late public official no good to lament errors he may have made at this point. This morning our obligation to him is born of a much higher source, a much more significant calling: the proper concern for his eternal fate.

Ted Kennedy, rest in peace, and may God be with you.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Watching People Make Movies

Talk about the best seat in the house: as they are filming the movie Little Murder in my neighborhood and as yesterday's shoot was around and in my next door neighbor's house, my wife and I got to sit on our front porch and take it all in. The crew had taken over our lawn anyway, but as we lived there and so long as we stayed quiet when quiet was called for, we saw everything up close and in person.

The quiet was amazing, eerie, and nearly comical all at once. Someone would shout, 'quiet', then 'rolling', then, 'action'. Then then entire crew would go almost totally silent; you could nearly, somewhat ironically, hear the crickets. The shooting would go on for six or eight minutes before several voices would shout 'cut', and the reaction was like air letting out of a tire. One huge collective breath of relief, everyone thankful that their burp or sigh didn't cause a problem.

We saw them shoot one scene about ten times, generally from different angles, focusing on one actor rather than another, or employing close-ups, for whatever effect they sought. I imagine they do it that way and mix it all up as they edit. Any film buffs out there who know the answer?

Filming lasted until after 3AM. Especially as I watched the action (action? There was an awful lot of hurry up and wait) until about midnight then listened to it in fits and spurts until they called it a night, I had trouble sleeping. I'm pleased and shocked that I'm awake in time to post this before I go to work. Still, it was fascinating to watch, and I'm looking forward to the next two days filming.

I can catch up on my rest Thursday anyway.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Movie Mania Hits Avery Avenue.

Today is the day, after a couple of weeks of pre-production work, that the film people actually begin shooting their independent thriller, Little Murder, here in my Woodbridge Historic District in Detroit. Though it has not been without unfortunate instances, and even as it will result in certain inconveniences for we locals, I am excited at the prospect of the event taking place literally right next door.

For the next ten days we cannot park our cars on the street, and we must enter and exit our homes through back doors and make our way in a roundabout manner as we venture about our daily activities so as not to interfere with the filming. But we can live with that for the sake of the possible exposure our little corner of the world might grab.

The transformation from inner city Detroit to a post-Katrina New Orleans has been fascinating to watch. Several homes have had their exteriors altered to fit the scene, and two even have had their interiors changed to fit the characters who will use them. Then, in the next few days, garbage and debris will be strewn about to reconstruct the actual residue from the hurricane. From my front porch you can see several huge dumpsters filled with what will become the flotsam and jetsam of weather driven wreckage. I'm actually interested to see exactly how the movie makers will place the debris to make it appear scattered and random; how do you make a randomness by design?

Please refrain from the obvious jokes about the trashing of Detroit and revel with myself and my neighbors as this activity unfolds. Maybe one day we'll get together at a theater and enjoy the finished product. Yet be that as it may, I hope and pray for a successful project and a good movie. Detroit needs good news which might just wash away so much of the bad we've had to deal with lately.

Woodbridge is ready for her close up, Mr. DeMille.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Little Orange Cards

For the third time in the last year I have purchased a cell phone. Consequently, for the third time I have received an orange debit card after a wait of eight weeks. You see, A.T. and T. has this annoying habit of giving $50 dollar rebates on their phones. I have determined that, as much as I like to save money, I do not like the practice.

Why must I loan them fifty dollars for the pleasure of buying something from them? They must be using that money somehow or in some way as I wait two months to get it back. In the meantime, I can't use it. If it's truly my money, then the system just ain't right on that count alone.

Why can't they simply knock a Grant off the price and sell it to me outright? If the phone is worth $39.95 why not sell it to me for that rather than $89.95? They make enough off me with five phones on my plan; why must I get played over a new phone?

Why must I then get my 'cash' back in a debit card which can be traced according to my purchases? Unless they're in cahoots with someone, which I have to assume they are, I ought to be able to spend my money in cash where I want. Where, yes, it can't be so easily traced, because it's no one's damned business where I spend my money unless you have reasonable suspicions an illegality is involved.

Further insult to injury lies in the fact that I pay sales tax on the $89.95 because that's technically what I paid for the unit. Is the State of Michigan in on this scam too? That's an extra three bucks, which makes my fifty dollar loan in actuality a forty seven dollar one.

Someone ought to make a comedy skit out of this. Customer: "So you're telling me that if I loan you fifty dollars for eight weeks I earn the privilege to buy this great phone?"

"Yes, sir!" replies the salesperson proudly.

Customer, thinking hard, "Well, then, get me two."

We would laugh at the absurdity of the situation, never thinking that the joke is on us.

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Right Stuff

Never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was legal. Never forget that everything the Founding Fathers did was not.

-Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Much hay is made over the idea that legality equals morality. Yet one moment's reflection by any person of serious thought can demonstrate that such is not necessarily the case.

We must be very careful with any premise which asserts that simply because the leaders of any given nation at any given time or in any given place say something is okay that it is in fact okay. The supporters of atrocities such as abortion regularly and flippantly assert that as it is legal it is moral. Well, as the old saw goes, slavery was once legal. Does that mean slavery, when legal, is moral?

Of course not. Only a fool would build a system of right and wrong on such an axiom. It would result in nothing short of an ethical house of cards, subject to the violence of the summer breeze and the whims of the short sighted and thoughtless soul.

Still, we have essentially done just that in the United States today. The issues involved are not even so heinous as abortion or national health care, either: it is patently immoral to take one man's money to give to another man so that that man can buy a car. Period.

The problem is that when we stray in one area it is too easy to stray in another. To avoid this, we must begin doing what is right because it is right and avoiding wrong because it is wrong. Until we can make that distinction and act properly, we are on the high road to political and social extinction.

The first step in recognizing that is accepting that the best laws are in fact also moral. The first step away is thinking that the legal changes the moral. That is nothing less than Orwellian, and marks nothing less than our doom.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Death Becomes Us?

There is an issue which is vaguely tied into the raging health care debate yet has not been seen as such to date. It is the question of the falsely labeled 'right' to die, and it will eventually become part of any health care plans formulated and, if you'll excuse the term, executed by the government.

The question is often dismissed as a merely religious one by those in favor or it. Yet as with a similar moral issue, abortion, it really is not a wholly religious position if it is even particularly religious at all. It is a philosophical question at heart, perhaps, yes, with religious implications, but grounded in philosophy nonetheless. Simply put, if you had no say in being born, on what grounds can you assert, outside of truly heroic situations, a right to determine when you leave?

But however true that rings it is on a bit of a tangent with regard to the politics of the issue and national health care. If the proponents of euthanasia are ever successful in securing a right to die the next step is as obvious as it is ominous: the right to die will become an obligation to die.

You don't think so? Imagine in the near future an 85 year old with severe health problems. He's 85 anyway, so how much longer may he hang on regardless? He will be asked, after that, how much of a burden do you really want to be on your family? Your friends? Society? Do you honestly believe that you should tie up limited resources when they may be used on someone who may actually be helped by them to a greater degree more than you? Should you burden everyone by making them watch you die slowly, watch you wither away despite everyone's best efforts? Save us the trouble, save you the trauma; take the shot and it will all be over quickly and peacefully.

It won't happen? When health care is rationed, it absolutely won't happen? When bureaucrats control who gets what treatments, it cannot happen? Do you really want to take the chance that someday it won't be made to appear selfish that you simply want to live?

Mull that over, and then let me know what you think.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Free Speech

The First Amendment, we are so regularly told, protects our freedom of speech. This is of course generally a good thing, and without doubt one of the reasons behind the strength of our Republic. Still, can it really mean the right to say anything we want to at any time we choose?

Before going any further I am not about to advocate any kind of abridgment of such an important constitutional right. I merely intend to briefly explore the more philosophical ramifications of speech. The question I want to address is: should we feel free to speak freely at all times and in all places?

It strikes me that decorum and consideration of our surroundings ought to play some role in our talk, and that such ideas deserve their day. Does anyone really want to insult friends when the situation simply does not require the full expression of our thoughts? Perhaps we become nothing more than busybodies when we comment on things which may not be any of our business.

Yet even in political discourse I believe that a line may be crossed. Portraying Barack Obama as Hitler is as unfair as portraying George W. Bush as Hitler, and ultimately nothing more than inflammatory. It cannot help forward political debate; consequently, is it truly wise to use such divisive imagery even if within one's rights to do so?

Yet it happens all the time on both sides of the aisle. It has indeed happened across the political spectrum since the dawn of our nation. That we have survived it so far cannot truly justify such talk, innuendo, and outright insult.

Just something that, I think, we need to consider as debate rages on in the political and personal arenas of our lives.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Older, Wiser, More Philosophical

My wife and I returned yesterday afternoon from a trip up north, to Hessel in the Upper Peninsula of the glorious State of Michigan. We were invited by a couple who are great friends, and although it came together suddenly it was a wonderful time. Especially as I rarely care to do things on short notice (my entire family will testify that I am not, by nature, one to do things on the spur of the moment) it was a good and relaxing weekend.

You know that it's a good time when the four of us were sitting in a bar in the wee hours of Monday morning, our drinks long consumed, as no one wanted to leave. No one cared to make that first move to admit that it was time, the weekend was over, our real lives beckoned back at home and work. We probably sat there for over an hour before finally giving up the ghost. I think the bartender was the only one truly happy at that moment; she closed the instant we left. But it was only 12:45. She still got a break.

In times gone by I would have been genuinely sad this morning. In all honesty I am, to a point, but not like I used to be. I find myself wistful but not truly sad. At one time in my life I would pine for a return to yesterday, do anything I could to squeeze another moment out of the weekend or vacation or whatever I had been on. Yet nowadays I find it easier to let go.

Perhaps it is because we begin to realize that each good time we have is a gift itself, and there's no point but to embrace it while it's there and remember it fondly when it's gone. Take it for what it is, be thankful, and move on. Then, too, it isn't like it will not or cannot happen again. As a child I regretted vacation ending because it would be a whole year before we could do it again. Now the years move so quickly that it will be July 10th next year before I know it anyway and we will see our friends again. This realization comes before the knowledge that we may actually have other weekends like the last if our schedules allow, and the good Lord willing and the creek don't rise. Even should we never have that chance again, we need to accept that sometimes that's just how it goes, and again be grateful for what we had.

We need to remember that our happy times here on earth are glimpses of Heaven, tastes of what the true Reality beyond this one holds. If the small doses here are so very good, then we can hardly imagine what life will be like when every day is a vacation and every dinner with friends eternal. Perhaps, in the end, we are given these respites as reminders that so much more waits for us in the long run.

Perhaps the real lesson in life is that it goes on. If it seems broken up here, it is only because our view is fractured. On the day of awakening we will see life in full, and be thankful all the more for these occasional peeks into the next.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Words of Wisdom: Bishop Fulton Sheen.

How about a bit of the great Archbishop Fulton Sheen today? It seems well and proper for a Sunday.


There are 374 million Moslems in the world. These followers of Mohammed believe in God, but they do not believe in Christ as the Son of God. To them, Our Lord was only a prophet announcing Mohammed, as we believe Isaiah was only a prophet announcing Our Lord. For a Moslem to become a Christian is to him like a Christian becoming a Jew. For that reason, conversion of the Moslems is very slow and extremely difficult.

We have a theory about their conversion, and that is that the Revelations of Our Lady at Fatima portends the conversion of the Moslems. Here is the evidence.

1) The Moslems have a strong devotion to the Blessed Mother. As the Koran, which is the Bible of the Moslems, puts it: " O, Mary, Thou hast been chosen and purified and elected above all women of the world." They believe both in her Immaculate Conception and the Virgin Birth. She is the real Lady SAYYIDH of Paradise. Iranian women love to have a statue of her in their homes.

2) Mohammed had a daughter, Fatima, whom he intensely loved. After her death, Mohammed wrote these lines to her: "You will be the most blessed lady SAYYIDH of all women in Paradise, after Mary."

I believe the Blessed Virgin chose to be known as Our Lady of Fatima as a pledge and sign of hope to the Moslem people, and as an assurance that they, who show her so much respect, will one day accept her Divine Son. This explains why she chose the town of Fatima.

Supporting evidence for this view is the historical fact that the Moslems occupied Portugal for centuries. When they were finally driven out, the last chief in the locality where the appearance of Our Lady took place had a beautiful daughter by the name of Fatima.

A Catholic boy fell in love with her, and she not only stayed behind when the Moslems left, but embraced the Faith and became a Catholic.

Her young husband changed the name of the town where he married this last Moslem lady in Portugal, to Fatima. Thus, the very place where Our Lady of Fatima appeared in 1917 has an historical connection with Fatima, the daughter of Mohammed.

A final evidence of the relation of Fatima to the Moslems is the enthusiastic reception which the Moslems, in Africa and India and elsewhere, gave to the pilgrim statue of Our Lady of Fatima. Moslems attended church services in honor of Our Lady of Fatima; they allowed religious processions and even prayers before mosques. In Mozambique, the Moslems (who had been unconvertible) began to be Christian as soon as the Statue of Our Lady of Fatima was erected.

Missionaries in the future will more and more see that their apostolate among the Moslems will be successful in the measure that they give them Our Lady of Fatima.

Mary is the advent of Christ. She brings Christ to people before Christ is born, as she brought the unborn Christ to Elizabeth.

May our missionaries in the Moslem countries more and more see that if they can increase the Moslem devotion to Mary, then she will bring them to her Divine Son. We cannot bring them to Christ, but she can. Through Mary to Jesus...this is the key that can open Moslems' eyes to the fullness of the revelation of God in whom they already believe.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Woodbridge: Movie Mecca of Michigan?

As I write, there are actual movie folks out on mine and my neighbor's front lawns discussing angles, lighting, timing, and all sorts of other minutia as they prepare to film. They will actually film here in about ten days. It is, I believe, a murder mystery set in post-Katrina New Orleans.

It fascinates me that film producers could think of our little home area (the Woodbridge District of Detroit, MI) as a stand in for that now famous city down in Louisiana. As I said, it is to be set after the now infamous hurricane, so I understand that they are going to create garbage and place it around the neighborhood. Further, there will be several days when we cannot park our cars in the street. This will be a challenge as none of us have driveways and few have garages, but for the sake of getting our homes on film, and straight to DVD no doubt, we will tolerate these minor inconveniences.

This is not the first time there has been filming around these parts. Several years ago the movie Out of Sight, with George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez, had many scenes shot nearby. Close enough in fact that the back of my house is clearly in one shot, and side views appear in two other places.

Terrence Howard is supposed to be here for much of the shooting. I can't quite place him but I know I've heard the name. Be that as it may (I'll check out imdb eventually) it should be fun, even as I will have to sneak in and out of the back of my house while the work progresses. And maybe, just maybe, my 1898 Victorian will make her second appearance in films.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Is Marty Technologically Adept Enough For This?

To my great and wonderful surprise, my wife and I have been invited for a weekend up north. This means that, for the next four days (counting this one, if my nefarious plan works) I have to write my blogs early and schedule them to be posted one per day Friday until Monday. So, if this is Friday and you're reading it, I have some clue as to whether I have mastered the technology of writing, saving, and then scheduling a blog to be posted later.

Dare I ask? Did this post on Friday the 14th?

Good thing this isn't next year or it would be Friday the 13th, and who wants to risk experiments involving that day?

Hopefully, then, see you tomorrow!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Health Care Debacle

There have been protests and outrage and packed town hall type meetings all over the place, at least here in Michigan, aimed at the looming and monstrous health care reform. Great fears have arisen that not everyone will be covered; this beyond legitimate fears that government health care will adversely affect the population because health care will (and I mean will) eventually be rationed. It has to be, in the long run. That's the only way bureaucrats will ever be able to keep up with costs.

We have been and will be told incessantly that that won't happen here. Safeguards will be written into the law. Well, that settles it, then. No future Congresses would ever change the laws, would they? No nameless, faceless man behind a desk will ever alter guidelines or policy, correct? No populist president with charm and guile will come from nowhere to assure the people that such things are necessary for our overall health as a nation, is that it?

It does not matter who says what today, if we give this kind of power to the government we are giving away the health care store. It does not matter whether the intentions of our current lawmakers are the best intentioned in our history (a dubious proposition, to say the least) their will cannot override the wills of future leaders. Government power rarely ebbs. But it surely flows, freely and swiftly, over any dam which has been breached.

They say we will be covered, but will the future 'theys' in power when we're forty years older feel the same obligation?

Don't trust them; our current leaders or our future politicos. Some decisions must be kept private. Health care is one of the premier among these. If you want your life in someone else's hand, at least let your hand be the one which chooses them.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Straight and Narrow

He who sets to work on a different strand destroys the whole fabric.
-Confucius, The Analects.

I spoke the other day about the TV show Family Guy and its use of the abortion issue in an episode the Fox network won't air. I said there that details of the episode were not important. I have decided that perhaps they are, for reasons not actually related to the tasteless series.

The short story is that family matriarch Lois Griffin agrees to have a child as a surrogate mother for an infertile couple. Yet by unhappy coincidence, or is anything a mere coincidence in a cartoon world where extremely poor behavior is an excuse to make an extremely poor point, the couple is killed in a car crash. Lois then has to decide whether to have the child or abort the baby.

The easy answer is of course that she must have the child. The bottom line is that a human baby is a human baby and must be respected as such. But there are other issues here which, though arguably less important under the circumstances of the episode, are nonetheless critical in the more general context of moral behavior. First among these is the idea that when you start from an illicit premise you are bound to create worse results as you work farther and farther away from it.

Lois, presumably, I'll concede, as I have not seen the show in question, has an abortion (who knew that was coming?) because, with the couple she was helping gone she was no longer under an obligation to have the child. This can be seen as nothing less than a wanton disregard for human life. Yet see where the entire issue began: as a bid to have a child for someone not you and your husband. As something outside the traditional parameters of family and essential morals. To wit, when you begin at a bad starting point, it is all the easier to commit a greater wrong precisely because you're already committed to wrongdoing. When your first choice is bad, it is too easy, now that you're comfortable with doing bad anyway, to do other bad things.

Human beings are creatures of habit. When you leave the straight and narrow it becomes easier to further bend the path as you go along. Once that process has begun, it can be difficult to retrace your steps and get back to what is good and proper for no other reason than your habits become ingrained and harden. Eventually they are not pliable but become set in stone. If we are to be people of value at all, we must ask ourselves what kind of statues we want to make of our lives and act accordingly.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Family Guy Redux

The Fox network, in what can best be seen as an amazing decision given their free for all approach to general subject matter, has opted not to show an episode of Family Guy in which one of the lead characters has an abortion. They didn't want the headache of potential troubles with advertisers, according to a spokesman for Fox. One would hope that at least part of their concern would be with viewer reaction, as well as with plain old decency. Yet those considerations appear to be a stretch on a corporate imagination not truly conducive to such otherwise natural sensitivity.

I do not see the need to get into the details of the episode, save to say (based on what I've read, and you can find the details if you like easily enough on the Internet if you so desire) that it almost surely is in poor taste. But that's a shame enough in itself, given that the show's creator, Seth MacFarlane, can actually be quite funny without resorting to the shock or toilet humor which he so often allows his shows to wallow in. The fact is, humor which relies on shock or can be heard from any sophomore at any two bit university is almost certainly the lowest form of comedy, to a great degree because anybody can do it. As such, it rarely is inventive enough to deserve the merit for innovation which it seems to be given in so many quarters of the media.

What does it say about us when we tolerate low brow comedy as high entertainment? Nothing good, when you think about it. At least the MacFarlanes of the world have something of an out: they're trying to make money and are simply, even though in a shallow and regrettable form, responding to a demand. We can perhaps quibble about the degree to which the purveyors of such drivel have in fact created the demand, but I doubt it would alter the main point here. We ought not seek and should not tolerate offensive material. That we do pretty much says it all about what currently passes for mainstream Americana.

Sadly, in saying too little it says too much. In fact, it says it all. We are in danger of becoming a small minded people.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Writer's Block

The sermon at Mass this morning wasn't very interesting. But one should not complain about such things.

That doesn't count as a complaint does it?

Gonna be a hot one today. Yep; gonna be hot.

A real scorcher. 94 for a high, I think.

Yep. 94.

Been forty years since 1969. Forty years. Remember it like yesterday. Sort of.

Tigers lost 11-0 yesterday, but they're still in first.

Yep, yep, still in first.

Gotta get a cup of coffee. That might help.

No; no, apparently not.

I'm sorry, friends, I got nuthin' today. Just nuthin.

What? What do you mean by, how does that make today any different from any other day?

Just you wait. Tomorrow I'll be on my game and knock yer socks off.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

If I Had the Money and the Time.

I have lamented many times on the effort it seems to have become to get back into my own country when I am over in nearby Windsor, Ontario, Canada. If I had the time and the cash I would actually make it worse simply for the pleasure of tying up resources in a manner similar to how my own time is tied up when all I'm trying to do is get back into a country which I have a moral right to be in.

The border guards ask too many questions which, quite bluntly, are none of their damn business. How much money do you have on you, what do you do for a living, and what were you doing in Canada, are among them. And to each and every one of these the correct answer is, "None of your business."

If I have the documentation which proves I am a citizen, I have the right to return to my country unhassled and unharried. If it weren't for the worse trouble it would, I would tell them 'none of your business' every single time even if it meant hours delayed at customs, solely to make a point. That kind of questioning is nothing less than an unwarranted assault on our personal liberty.

If a guard has probable cause to think I'm up to no good, then he ought to have me pull over for a closer inspection. I can even accept the occasional random inspection in order to keep folks honest. But to have me sit for ten minutes asking about things which are none of his concern is simply wrong.

When we have to live that way, to adapt an old cliche, the terrorists have won anyway. There's no point then to even pretending we have the high moral ground on issues of freedom and liberty.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Fumbling Around on a Friday

Sonia Sotomayor has become the first Hispanic Justice on the United States Supreme Court. Just in case you missed it.

Of course, no one is surprised at the confirmation. But it sure would be nice if we could get away from all these firsts and simply raise the best judges to the high court.

Yeah, right. But as we haven't had our first Inuit cross dressing triathlete weathercaster in a position of power yet, that day is a long way off.

A mother, grandmother, and six month old were asked to leave a Burger King because the infant wasn't wearing shoes. It was a health matter, you understand. That kid might have trigger the virus which would have killed everyone there.

That's sarcasm, by the way. I should say that, before anyone accuses me of extremism, I am only trying to point out the absurdity of applying otherwise reasonable prohibitions in unreasonable situations. That baby was no health risk; the manager was not exactly using common sense in the matter. Lighten up, BK stooge.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Obama and the Joker

I don't know if you've seen it yet or not, but apparently there's a poster of President Obama done up as the Joker, as portrayed by Heath Ledger in the most recent Batman flick, making its way across the ether after appearing on telephone poles in and around Los Angeles. The word socialism appears below the face. Needless to say, the left has promptly informed us that it is racist.

You know, until everyone can be mocked equally we will have no real equality in this country. Especially as we saw then President Bush mocked as the very same character last year (in Vanity Fair, no less) and no similar hue and cry erupted from the scions of societal norms in the press; how very selective they can be in their choices of right and wrong. But the bottom line is this: Mr. Obama is President of the United States. He is subject to all the parody and ridicule which comes, unfortunately or not, to those who hold the position. He sought it knowing this, and to be fair to him I have heard no angst from him personally as of this writing. So maybe it's simply his media allies promoting the charge.

They need to chill out. Even if you accept that the poster is in bad taste, which I will entertain that it may be, you need to back off and accept that this sort of thing happens and is not automatically racist. Given that this particular Joker is indeed a very evil persona, at the least play fair and condemn the Bush imagery along with the very pointed jibe at Obama. Because neither man is truly evil; if the current Chief Executive merits defense on the matter on that point, so too does the former.

If it is fair to deride Bush as evil, then it is fair to let others view Obama the same way. If it is unfair to Obama, then it surely was unfair to Bush on similar grounds. The big difference, however, is that the major media were the purveyors of the slight against W.

Oh, what a tangled web we weave...

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Enjoy the Ride

While at the Detroit Tigers game last night with friends, watching a perfectly dreadful loss, I was lamenting to one of the guys about how lucky we were to be in first place given the overall mediocre caliber of baseball the Tigers have played. Nick, one of our group and the one with perhaps the best approach to the issue, opined, "Why don't you just enjoy it?"

Well, why not? It makes perfect sense, especially given all the years in the 90's when the locals basically reeked. Now that they are contending in any manner should be a source of happiness and optimism rather than melancholy.

Thanks, Nick old friend. That put the right spin on it. Go Tigers!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Things Change

The United States Post Office is on the verge of closing 700 local outlets in a cost cutting measure. In the long run, it plans to limit deliveries to three of four times a week. So it goes.

This news goes hand in hand with the slow demise of the newspaper. As people have a wide variety of options in getting their personal news via e-mails and the amount of business which can be done online increases, so too with cable and satellite and the internet are our general news and views updates more readily available. Further, internet based news offers a greater variety of reporting and expression of viewpoints. To wit, we are exposed to the variety which is supposed to the spice of life, the grand diversity which is supposed to be our strength.

I do admit struggling with it. I miss a physical newspaper in he morning, and personal letters and cards through the mail have always been a treat. Yet time marches on, and any objective observer would have to admit that the direction we're headed is better than the funk we were in, especially with news items which were basically monopolized by a few. Faster, cheaper, better; the positive far outpaces the negative.

May as well embrace it. The world wide web isn't going away, and hey, less newsprint saves trees, right? It's a little sad that a bit of Americana is fading, but the future of communication appears bright from here. Things change. So long as there's no immorality or skullduggery involved, I can live with it.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Having Your Cake

"Innovation has been essential to our prosperity in the past, and it will be essential to our prosperity in the future,"

-President Barack Obama

As I believe that I am free to criticize our nation's leaders and leadership, I also feel it only fair to compliment them when they are deserving of it. The above statement, made by the President during his weekly radio talk yesterday, is such an example. American innovation has driven many of the projects which have made our country what she is today: a model for the rest of the world to, hopefully, emulate. Still, his words would resonate more deeply and profoundly if he would take the next necessary step: get Washington out of the way so that innovation may roam free in solving our problems.

"Necessity is the mother of invention," the great philosopher Plato, one of those dead white guys we hear so little about in our enlightened age, opined about 400 years before Christ. To wit, when something is needed, someone will find the thing to fill the void. If, that very big word, if the forces of human nature are allowed to find it.

"The greatest advances of civilization, whether in architecture or painting, in science and literature, in industry or agriculture, have never come from centralized government," the famed economist Milton Friedman has pointed out. The President seems to believe otherwise as he works incessantly to see that our federal government takes over the major industries of the United States. What possible freedom of movement, freedom to innovate, can come from a group of bureaucrats, who, no matter what the assure us, cannot know an industry like the people within it generally do?

I could go on, but I think the point is made. President Obama, so long as he continues down his current path, speaks with forked tongue. He cannot call for innovation and act towards centralization at the same and expect good results. The innovators will not trust him and the controllers will resent him. It is this type of thinking, a lack of philosophic understanding and commitment, which will doom him in the long run.

Sadly, he apparently means to take us down the path with him.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Obamabomb V

It's beer thirty at the White House! President Obama invited the participants in the now famous Cambridge melee to Washington. Police Sargent James Crowley and Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. went to the nation's capitol for a so-called 'beer summit' to discuss the altercation between the two a few weeks back. The White House is calling this an ongoing 'teachable moment'

Hopefully the primary student was the President himself. Perhaps due to sliding poll numbers, he saw fit to raise the spectre of racism rather than act presidential and allow local authorities to pursue a local matter unless and until it might become more significant. Sure, he's backed off and may be well on his way towards soothing the issues and egos involved. But it is fair to ask whether this is the right approach.

Why not offer a simple apology and let matters stand? White House summits every time a president commits a political faux pas, which we may be inviting with this sort of reaction, seem impractical, to say the least, but it's the type of liberal grandstanding which puts form ahead of substance. It says nothing while appearing to say everything; a moral dead end. Quite frankly, admitting that you acted stupidly followed by apologizing to the offended would mean more. But at this point, hey, let's not act rashly, right?

So have your meeting. And media, gush over it as you surely will. Personally, I think that the best result of the beerfest would have been for Crowley to ask for a Guinness Stout while the President and Professor Gates sip on a Rolling Rock Extra Pale Ale each. That's about the deepest symbolism you can have in such matters.