Thursday, March 31, 2016

Apparently I'm Scary

Yesterday I was called by a progressive friend, 'scary'. This after being told, when another friend heard I was voting in the recent Michigan Republican primary, that 'You people scare me'.

What's up with that? They've each known me for years, and to be fair to them I don't expect my relationships with either to change. They are each better than their recent speech, and I know it. I know too that there are (as in any group) Republicans and conservatives who might be labeled scary. But I would have thought that decency and charity would have prevented these friends from insulting me so directly.

It leads me ask, why should American conservatism seem scary? We right wingers are not the ones attempting to completely run the lives of others. As I've said before, outside of a handful of critical issues the right, by and large, is live and let live. It's the left who would not allow you to cut down a tree on your own property, to turn into boards to fix your own steps. It is the left who will not allow you the full use of your property if some part of it holds, to them, an environmental value. It is the left who wants to force you onto public transport because they feel it proper, and who want you to send your kids to inadequate public (read that government) schools or join a union merely because they see such things as laudable. Such attitudes do not support true human rights. At least when a Republican argues against abortion, there is arguably an actual human life at stake. To the left it's simply a matter of save the whales, but human beings don't have human children.

In short, I think they have more to fear from the progressives and socialists than from a truly conservative government. At that, I would never have told either that they scared me. But when your rival is a straw man and your goals of good intention, I suppose almost anything else will frighten you.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Detained at the Canadian border

Something happened to me last night that has never happened before. After curling in Canada for about 21 seasons now, I was subjected to a vehicular search as I entered that great nation. And I was not in the least bit perturbed by it.

Nations have the right to secure their borders. Part of that is ensuring that those who cross those borders pose no threat to the nation they are entering. And as I am not a Canadian citizen with a moral right to be in Canada, I have no trouble with even random searches of my vehicle when entering Canada. Canada has the right to know that those who are attempting to cross her boundaries are no threat.

I am not one of those who think that borders are artificial or arbitrary. They exist de facto (by the force of fact) or de jure (by the force of law) and as such have rightful moral existence. I would go so far as to argue that it is absurd, even comical, to believe otherwise.

Yes, I have gotten upset about border delays coming into my own country. That is because, as a citizen of the United States, I have the moral right to be in my own nation. I have no such right to be in Canada. There may well be solid philosophic arguments as to why Canada should let me enter, or even for relatively open borders generally. But I see no imperative that Canada or any other nation should allow me within their borders no questions asked.

I am happy that I was let in. Curling season is drawing to a close, and I want to finish it with my curling friends. Still, it is imperative upon me to recognize and accept the right of Canada to make sure I'm an okay guy who can be safely allowed in. I am at Her mercy in that regard, and that is how it should be.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Easter 2016

On this Easter morning, I am reminded that this great Holy Day seems to play second fiddle to the other greatest Christian feast, Christmas. Not that Christmas is a lowly event, either; far from it! Yet I cannot help but conclude, in reconciling the levels of attention paid to each, that we ought to focus more of our efforts, if even only slightly, on Easter.

I do not pretend to be a theologian, but as wonderful as December 25th is, it is something of a precursor to our salvation: Christ comes into the world as all the rest of us have, as a child. His is the promise: for God so loved the world that He sent His only Son for our redemption. Christmas is hope. The celebration of it demonstrates trust in the future which Our Lord has set before us.

Easter fulfills that hope and promise. Though we grieve so deeply and so rightly at the misery and death which Christ took upon Himself for us, it is not His Death but His glorious Resurrection which redeems us. Who else has come back from the dead? Who else has defeated that last obstacle to secure the possibility of our everlasting joy?

So while I attempt to tread lightly in making such comparisons I have to believe that Easter should be felt more profoundly than any other Christian celebration. He is Risen. Our Heavenly destiny is opened to us should we accept. Let us rise with Him to the level for which we were created, made possible by His love for us. Made possible through the Resurrection.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Good Friday 2016

Today is perhaps the day of greatest irony on our calendar. It is Good Friday, the day we Christians remember the crucifixion of our Lord Jesus Christ.

It doesn't seem that it should be called good. On the surface, the celebration (perhaps veneration is a better word) of someone's death, particularly a rather gruesome one, seems odd to say the least. Yet that is an interpretation based solely on earthly terms. When you consider that the great Divinity was involved, it casts an entirely different light on the situation.

God sent His only Son to be humiliated, to suffer and die horribly, for us. And He did it, his Son. Willingly. Such humility. Such a great act which cannot be seen except as fantastic. How could a sacrifice of that magnitude be seen in other than a positive light?

We cannot rightly see it any other way. Remember what Aquinas teaches: Christ is either lunatic, liar, or Lord. He Himself gives us no option but to answer the question in that frame. He claimed He could forgive others' sins: sins committed (on the surface) against other people by other people. That itself is effrontery or lunacy or even diabolical if He is not part of the Godhead. If He cannot actually do that, if He does not really have that power, then He lies or is insane. If He lies or is insane, then we cannot trust anything else He may say or teach or do. It's that simple.

Yet if we choose the example which faith recommends, if we see Him as Lord of all based on His actions in life and death as well as through the testimony of his trusted companions, then we see the need for praise and holy fear which His death illustrates to us. We understand what that death means: that the God of all humanity will not forsake humanity to her own selfish desires. He will give us an out, if you will, by living the greatest love of all: to give one's life for one's friends.

When the greatest One does that, what choice do we have but to call it Good?

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Conservatives aren't the controllers

As a conservative, I am often accused of trying to run everyone's lives. I quibble with such presumption. To be sure, there are aspects of conservatism which may well seem to dictate to people; abortion and same sex marriage come to mind. But do conservatives try to run the lives of the others so much as their friends on the left do?

We ask: who is telling you how much soda you can drink? Who is on the march against trans fat? Who is telling you that you must get health care insurance? Who is telling you what days you may cut your grass or gas up your car? Who wants you to take the bus rather than drive your own car? Who asserts that the environment is more important than the person? Who wails the loudest over urbanization, or the preservation of rather mundane places as the Arctic Wildlife Refuge? I'll tell you this: it ain't the conservatives.

Yes, the few issues through which the right does try to dictate terms are big ones. Yet they aren't actually about control. They're about preserving the dignity of the person in very important areas, areas which would help to make a better society. What dignity for the person is there within the nanny state?

The government is not our mother. Conservatives know that. Liberals don't. And that may well be the key difference between those broad groups.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Car 54, We need you!

There's a hold up in the Bronx, Brooklyn's broken out in fights.

How many of you are singing, whistling, or humming the tune by now? The theme of Car 54, Where are you?

I've watched several episodes of the classic comedy over the weekend. They were part of this past weekend's Binge watch on the Decades channel. I saw many repeats of The Newhart Show on that channel recently; the promise that the entire next weekend will feature The Fugitive is such a tease. I look forward to more such binges with more such shows.

Cable and satellite TV affords us options we could not have imagined a few short years ago. Hundreds if not thousands of channels are within our grasp. With that come prime opportunities to view old TV shows. And that is a good thing.

Car 54, Where are you? is a great example. Jokes about my age from my dear friends aside (who may not continue to be such dear friends should the jokes not subside), old TV shows demonstrate what good TV is about. TV shows then were mass produced, studio controlled, and yet alarmingly clever. You don't think so? Look for the episode about kleptomania at Christmas. It's a hoot. So too is the one about indecency on stage. I laughed out loud several times during each show.

My point is, you simply do not have to be raw to be funny. Or clever. Fart jokes aren't the best jokes there are. Indeed, they represent the laziest type of humor imaginable.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Palm Sunday 2016

Today is Palm Sunday. The day of the Long Gospel, to those of the Catholic faith. It is also the Sunday where I find myself most often moved to tears during the Mass.

Perhaps it is because today is the start of Holy Week. Yet I think it signifies something deeper. I wonder if maybe today we get to see the Lord, our brother Jesus Christ, at his most human, and we also get to see the great example of how He triumphed over human weakness.

Can anyone understand despair quite so well and so deeply as Christ did? He prayed that the cup be taken away. He didn't want to face what He knew he must face; He knew the horrors of what awaited Him. Still, He said: Thy will and not my will. This despite prayer so fervent that He would sweat blood. Can we really understand that?

He would not answer the Sanhedrin, nor Pilate. He knew the futility of it, so He stood mute. He had faith that that was pointless and even that no answer would speak more profoundly than anything He might utter. Pilate was amazed. One can almost taste the apprehension the Roman felt...and one can certainly sense the human fear which caused him to symbolically wash his hands of the affair.

Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? He cried. Many today believe it nothing but a cry of total despair. But it was not. It was the beginning of the 22nd Psalm, a prayer which ends hopefully and indeed gloriously. You may read it here:

Christ more fully understood human suffering than any one of us. Yet He gave Himself up to it, to show that it was not futile. Let's not fail Him in facing our own despairs.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Tier 55

Curling season draws soon to a close; there are about three weeks left it seems. I'm glad I did not say farewell to the sport last year as I had threatened. Folks did not believe me then, when I said so. But I meant it. I was ready to call it a day. You can only do so much, then the curtain must fall.

But aye, it appears the curtain was not so ready to drop as I had supposed. I returned for this year, intending it to be a swan song. Instead, I found it a refreshing swig of the curling grog.

Today is my last Tier 55 bonspiel of the season. I'm having a grand time at it, this transference to senior (over age 55) curling. Yet still, I partake of the more regular competitive and league curling which I've enjoyed for so long. I might do both now it seems. The best of all worlds, perhaps.

I've always loved baseball. Part of the reason is that baseball grows with you; the dimensions of the game grow along with you. I see now that in curling the dimensions also grow with you, but in another sense. You simply graduate along with your peers.

So I look forward to today thinking about how great next year will be. What a difference a year makes.

St Patrick's Day 2016

Ah, the Irish. There's so much of them in every one of us. That's not really surprising seeing as there are so many more Irish outside of Ireland than still living on the old sod. And when you have St. Patrick's Day celebrations in such diverse places as exemplified as Buenos Aries, Argentina, you know that the Irish mystique pervades world culture.

Why is that? Might it be that the soul of the average Irish personality resides in most all of humanity?

An easy examination of Irish culture gives many examples of Irish fortitude, courage, allegiance, patriotism, and an appreciation of simple yet profound human relationships. Who does not, if they have any sentiment in their bones, shed a tear when hearing O Danny Boy? Whoever will not feel their chests swell with nationalistic pride when hearing God save Ireland are indeed cold towards patriotism and their homelands and their brethren. Even sublime romanticism exists, heard through tunes like Black Velvet Band.

The more rambunctious bar songs of Irish lore appeal to the common thread of humanity. Have you heard The Wild Rover? A loser comes into his fortune and wins respect; redemption and respect indeed, as dreamed of by so many. Do not we all dream of that, to show everyone else that we've triumphed after all despite our flaws? How can we not believe in ourselves when listening to those happy tunes?

Acceptable extremes appear quite obvious in Irish lore. But do they not appear prominently in all human thoughts? The drunkard who believes God will forgive him if he makes Mass and does the occasional earthly good deed as did Darby O'Gill; will he not be forgiven by his faith in the simple acts which are the primary hope of redemption within the means of the most persons? The music was his, after all, wasn't it? Why? Because he did what he was asked to do within a legitimate frame.

The Irish are fightin', the Irish are sad and humbled; the Irish have been under the boots of their oppressors for centuries. Yet they hold true to what is true about who and what they are and about what defines them: their God. They recognize it even in their shortcomings. Their Irish guilt won't let them admit it, and rightly so.

Yet humanity requires that sort of odd pride, doesn't it? Perhaps it requires that profound and almost humble comment of the rebel Irish soldier to the northern Irish soldier near him at Appomattox, when Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia to Grant in April 1865. The Confederate leaned into the Unionist and remarked, "You only won because you had more Irish than we did".

Ah, the Irish. They can teach us something, can't they?

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

On this day in history

Isn't the Internet wonderful? All that information right at your fingertips. And it's all true!

Well, one hopes such is the case. Either way, a quick lookup of March 16 in history brings us the following interesting facts and factoids.

The America League was announced on March 16, 1900. That's good for Detroit Tiger fans. Did you know that the Tigers are the only AL team still in its original city, dating from the formation of the Western League (which evolved into the AL) in 1894. Yep. Just us.

For my Canadian friends, or I suppose hockey fans anywhere, The Ottawa Senators beat Port Arthur for the Stanley Cup on March 16, 1911.

Of interest to both Canada and the US, the two countries signed a migratory bird treaty on 3/16/16. Okay, that's a yawner, yes.

Hitler ordered German rearmament on this day in 1935. Surprisingly, not every event can be good. The Nazis also occupied Czechoslovakia on the date in 1938.

The Allies secured Iwo Jima on March 16, 1945.

The United States accepted the Panama Canal Treaty on March 16, 1978, which provided for the return of the Canal Zone to Panama.

There's more of course, but these are a few, just to whet your whistle. As I say, you can find these and more with a simple web search. No reason I have to do all the work for you.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The Old Boys Club

Now, I've been curling in Canada for many a year now. I think 21 of them, though I can't say for sure seeing as my memory has begun to fade. And in that time, whatever it is, I've gained many a curling friend. Still, it's been long enough that I've amassed friends beyond the curling sphere.

There are the boys whom I meet after curling in a pub where they, every three weeks or so, play euchre. They play two weeks away, then one at this pub. They return to that pub every Monday nonetheless should they draw cards there or not, for a pint, maybe two. I find myself there quite often after curling, for a pint. Maybe two. We trade our tales of woe over a dram.

I lament my poor or, on occasion, praise my good curling, as we sit. They regale me with tales of cards wrongly offered or cards intelligently spent. I have promised them that when I retire from curling I will join them at euchre.

This is no laughing matter. They are as serious at euchre as I am at stones. They have been at it since 1945. They have a Constitution, something normally reserved for entire nations. I must respect that.

And I will indeed join their euchre league when I cannot toss a curling stone. That is no blow off; I have told myself that at age 60, I will no longer curl if it is beyond my capacity. I won't put my physical self at risk over a sport so hard on the joints as curling if my joints will not hold up to the strain. I will retire to the euchre table.

I look forward to the day. Until then, let's keep meeting at the pub to lament our woes. Or hold trump, as may be.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Trump violence

Now we seem to have recurring violence at rallies for Presidential hopeful Donald Trump. That's not surprising; he appeals to the more extreme elements of the GOP while also somewhat ironically igniting the extremes of the left. If that's not a recipe for trouble I don't what is. But it will all of course be the GOP's fault, even though the Republicans have no real control over who represents them. Go figure.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Is Church attendance all that odd these days?

I'm not sure that I should write this post, let alone publish it. I don't want to appear holier than thou, and on this subject one can slip easily into that mode. Neither do I wish to put down any of many friends, many of whom will know who they are if they read it. Further, though I don't think that I hide my religious beliefs I'm not comfortable waving them from the rafters either. They Holy Father is right: our actions should speak for our religion. Yet I find that I am bugged to write it anyway and let the chips fall where they will, and hope that readers understand my point.

I spend last weekend at a curling tournament. Before I left, I did a web search for Catholic Churches in the area where it took place. It's an easy thing to do in this internet age. I found four within an easy drive from the hotel where I stayed and wrote down all their Mass times; not knowing when my team would be playing until the tournament played out, I knew I would need options. As it were, we had to play at 9AM Sunday, and a Church just down the road had a Mass at 7:30. So that's where I went. I didn't even make it a point to tell anyone what I was doing. But when asked where I was going I answered honestly, because I'm not hiding the fact either.

The response ran the gamut from respect to humor. The humor I get: Marty goes to Church? It was friendly enough and I accept it on that level. Yet much of it was an odd amalgam of incredulity, embarrassment, and even excuse mongering, though I don't believe I had intentionally laid a guilt trip on anybody. But it was at times somehow admiring (So you went to Church, eh? Good for you) laced with pity (I could almost hear the unsaid question: why did you waste your time with that?) to shy excuse making (though I never asked anyone for the reasons they did not go). I suppose what got me most was the number of people, at least a dozen on Sunday and even a few more during my Monday night curling league who somehow got wind of my churchgoing, who, it seemed, almost felt they had to come to me and say something about it.

I know that Church attendance and belief in God is down. But I never thought that it was all that unusual these days. The only time I felt similarly to last weekend was back in 1989 when my daughter was born. She is our third child. My wife and I felt on display at the hospital. We actually heard the nurses whispering: See them? They're here having their third child. Together. And they've been married the whole time!

To the point, I find myself dismayed by it all. It just sounds very sad. Yet I don't see what I did to provoke it except to do what I always do: go to Church on Sunday. I simply don't know what to make of it.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Go now. What are you waiting for?

I am not a fan of Donald Trump. I do not want him to be the standard bearer for the GOP in November 2016. But I do have two words for those who say they will move to Canada if he is elected. Two very simple words.

Go now.

I am not a fan of Barack Obama. I suspect I feel about him the way many anti-Trump supporters feel about The Donald. In truth, I likely feel more powerfully anti-Obama than they feel anti-Trump. But never once during the 2008 or 2012 Presidential campaigns did I ever think that I would leave my country if that man were elected. This is my country. I will not abandon her merely because I do not like her choice for President. But if you would, if you would leave simply because you do not like the occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, then I have two words for you.

Go now.

I'm aware of the spike in google searches for immigration to Canada in recent days. I love Canada myself; if forced to leave the United States, I would go there, if you'd excuse the irony, in a New York minute. But as it is, my country is the USA. And I will not leave her merely because the political tides are against my beliefs. But to those of you who would, I have two words.

Go now.

What are you waiting for? Clearly your patriotism is shallow and parochial. Go now, or go to Hell so far as I'm concerned.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Curlmageddon 2016

I'm home tonight after a long, extended weekend of curling. I think it may be the most I've curled in such a short time: nine games in five days.

It began with my regular Thursday league game, which we won. On Friday I played in a Tier 55 spiel in Chatham, Ontario. Tier 55 is a kind Canadian term for senior curling, which itself is a PC term for old guys trying to keep curling. Be that as it may, we went 1-1 there and finished third. We won a nice pork loin for each member of the team; it was a meat spiel. For some reason, Canada loves to have curling tournaments where the prizes are meats. I won a three pound bag of breakfast sausages at a meat spiel in Leamington, Ontario, back in January. It's a great deal for us non, non-non, vegans.

Then I curled at Roseland, my home curling club in Windsor, Ontario, on Friday night. We won.

Next came the Wild Goose Bonspiel in Kingsville, Ontario. We played two games on Saturday and two on Sunday, finishing in the C Final. We lost that, but played really well, and maybe should have won that last game. Maybe the first one too, if the skip had have made his shots. Ah well. We were 2-2, and were part of the final group which were led onto the ice by a bagpiper in a grand procession. I tell ya, few things beat being piped onto the ice in a curling bonspiel.

My regular Monday league game came last. The boys in front of me played well and we caught some breaks to end up with a win.

So Curlmageddon 2016 went well for me, thanks to the players around me. 6-3 over nine games, and we really could have easily been 9-0. Honest. But now I'm very tired and gotta get some sleep. By Wednesday I'll be fine.

But it was a great five days on the rink.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Why I can't stop Donald Trump

We are in the throes of another election year here in the States, and all my Candian friends seem to want to knwo from me is, 'What are you going to do about Trump?'. Well, I can't do anything about Trump. And neither, quite frankly, can the GOP

The way things are with US elections right now, anyone can enter primaries as whatever party they choose. Because of the open nature of most primaries and caucuses, if someone wishes to seek elective office all they need to do is proclaim themselves a Democrat or Republican and do their level best to entice the public into supporting them rather than appeal to the respective party on the grounds of political philosophy. As almost anyone can vote in the primary or caucus of their choice in order to select candidates for either major party. The parties have increasingly little say in who actually represents them.

What this does more than anything is weaken party identification and, in the end, any real choice we have in who we elect. It leads to what currently are called RINOS: Republicans in name only. One would supposed that DINOS, Democrats in name only, would be rampant in the political world as well. Basically we end up with two parties: Demopublicans and Republicrats, political movements of a hash which leave little save bland taste.

As political parties are essentially private entities, it should follow that they ought to be able to select their own candidates for office. It would create something more akin to what parliamentary systems have, a party discipline wherein you could not run as a Republican or Democrat unless you really stood for what the party did.

What we require is a return to the smoke filled rooms of yesteryear. That would stand a better chance of giving us as the electorate a real choice in who becomes our legislators, congressmen, governors, and presidents. Let the parties choose who represents what they believe in. Then we may actually see a difference in the GOP and the donkeys. Until then, we shall get what we deserve: bad philosophy, and worse politics.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

I don't care about my carbon footprint

I have written several times about how unimpressed I am with the recycling fad which increasingly permeates our society. Today, I feel like writing a bit more.

Many of my conservative friends have latched onto the R-Train. "Conservative means conserve, right?" one asked me the other day. Another, holding out his plastic water bottle in demonstration, remarked that he "...didn't want to see this end up in a landfill." I fought the to urge to ask, why not? We were at a party to cheer up a sick friend, and I felt that good taste recommended not pursuing what can become a highly charged topic in such a setting.

But now I ask, why not? At our current rate we will have, in about 300 years, a total landfill area only about the size of Yellowstone Park. I see no landfills producing zombies or adversely affecting the water tables or local agriculture or industry or home life. Why not keep burying the trash?

A large part of conservatism certainly involves conserving various things and ideals. But that cannot mean that there isn't a necessary prioritizing of what we do. Fighting abortion, big government (which is, let's face it, greatly responsible for forcing recycling around our necks, which I think in itself makes the policy suspect), and the myriad factors of liberalism which threaten to tear our social fabric apart. To wit, the critical part of what we conserve must be our well being as a people along traditional lines. What we do with our garbage, while important, pales beside that.

So I say, screw my carbon footprint. There are more important things to worry about than whether we incinerate our debris or put it in a hole in the ground. Unless and until you can prove beyond reasonable doubt that those things are substantially harmful to the human condition, I can live with them. That's conservative environmental policy in a nutshell.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Curling Overload?

So I had to be up at 5 in the morning, to be able to make an 8:30 curling game in Chatham, Onatrio. Then I'll play a second game there, and get back to Roseland (my home curling club) in time for a 6:30 game this evening.

Then, I have a game at 11 AM Saturday, again one of two, at the Kingsville, Ontario curling club. This will be followed by at least one game on Sunday at the same club. We may play two on Sunday, if we do well enough. I'll finish the streak with my regular Monday night league game.

So my question is, am I overscheduled, curling wise? But there are only six weeks left in the season.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Pops and the ducks

There were a few things he said which I try to live by. I was reminded of one such phrase recently.

I was quoting a repair to customer A as customer B walked in. 'A' feigned a heart attack when I told him the price. He then turned to B and said that I was killing him. I jokingly told B that he could leave, that I wouldn't need his business after I was through extorting A.

Anyways, A leaves and I began to deal with B. To my delight, B being familiar with what A wanted, he first remarked, "I don't know what his problem is. That was a very good price you gave him." I thanked him. It's always nice to hear that you're actually an honest businessman. He continued, "How do you put up with that?" referring to customer's A's gyrations.

"Water off a duck's back, Pops used to say," I told him. You can't let obnoxious stuff like that bother you. Let it seep away.

I try to remember that, because customers, hell, people in general, can be hard to deal with. Myself included, quite frankly. You just have to strive not to let it bother you. That whole incident was over in about 40 seconds. Why should it bug me? Okay, arguably I am doing that, but to a purpose. I'm using the incident as an illustration. Don't let those things trouble you. Let them flow off like water from a duck's back.

I don't think it a bad way to conduct yourself at all.