Friday, July 16, 2021

Sophistry of the highest order

I graduated from a nominally Jesuit-run university and was glad for having had the chance to go to college at that school. Even so, there are multiple reasons why "Jesuitical" as an adjective has a perjorative connotation, and  -- sadly -- what Pope Francis just did won't help restore luster to that word. 

Basically, Francis today approved the publication of an official "moto proprio" that pours rainwater all over one of his immediate predecessor's more popular initiatives. 

It's now clear that Pope Benedict XVI was wrong to resign in 2013 -- unless perhaps his resignation was part of a divine plan to chastise the Church for awhile, which it might well have been, based on lots of what we've seen since then.

Ironically for someone in his position, Pope Francis is no fan of the most venerable form of the Mass we have. Even more ironically, his order today shackles the celebration of the Mass in Latin by using a document form with a Latin title which means "On his own impulse."

Sheesh. This Catholic wishes that Pope Francis had more impulse control.

Here -- in part -- is why the new edict stinks (You can be gentle and call it "ill-conceived," if you like). Fr. Dwight Longenecker's pitch for "subversive obedience" got my attention, also, as did Father John Zuhlsdorf's hot take

Those two priests argue more persuasively (to my ears, at least) than the biretta-fearing columnist for National Catholic Reporter who says this change was forced on Pope Francis by bad behavior from people like the aforementioned Father Z.

Saturday, June 26, 2021

While crossing Raleigh boundaries

Fall remains my favorite season of the year, but there's nothing quite as endearing around North Carolina as twilight in early summer. Cares seem to leach from the world for about half an hour, when the setting sun tinges the air a shade of lavender that slides almost imperceptibly into periwinkle blue. 

Skinny rabbits graze on suburban lawns, ignoring the blinking yellow-green lanterns of the fireflies that almost float by, buoyed by an alchemy of small wings and southern humidity. 

Twilight is the only time of day when, while commuting west to east, my thoughts segue from, for example, the Tuckman model of group development over to the bemused realization that "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" and "R-E-S-P-E-C-T" are actually songs about the same thing. 

Christian radio on the east side of the 40/440 split (where the same FM band flips from WSMW's "We Play Everything" format over to "HIS Radio" and its "Positive, Encouraging" tagline) runs seasonal promotions this time of year. My current favorite touts a pilgrimage to Israel with the slogan, "You haven't lived until you've toured the Holy Land with about 30 Tennessee rednecks."

Personally, I'd rather hear Gov't Mule sing "Soulshine" than listen to Tauren Wells croon his way through "Known," but that's a generational and probably also geographical thing. 

(Existential sidebar: Am I too quick to dismiss honest sentiment as cloying, or does anyone who grew up watching Marlin Perkins narrate Jim Fowler's close encounters with dangerous animals on Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom between 1970 and 1983 really appreciate 'Contemporary Christian Music' as a radio format?)

It's in early summer, on this particular weekend, that one of my parish priests can preach insightfully about the "Markan sandwich" of  Jesus coming to the aid of Jairus, the synagogue official, despite being interrupted by a faithful woman with a history of hemorrhages (a story within a story =  a"sandwich," according to people who know). 

Fr. Ramirez de Paz pointed out that Jesus does not regard the woman who is healed by touching his cloak as an interruption. She is a child of God. Moreover, the wise young priest wryly observed, "To Jesus, death is not an emergency. To us, it is." 

And I did not know until it was mentioned in this sermon that the raising of Jairus's 12-year-old daughter from the dead is one of only three times in the New Testament when the original Greek text also includes the words of Jesus in Aramaic (in this case, it''s Jesus' tender invitation, "Talitha koum").

Both stories in that Markan sandwich have special resonance now that my sweetheart is blessedly and and cerfiably free from breast cancer, according to the oncologist whom she'd been treated by for more than a year.

Friend Chris, a dab hand at borrowing from the Church Fathers, observes after the fact that it's no coincidence that the woman in the story featured in the Catholic liturgy this week had suffered from hemorrages for 12 years, or that the girl whom Jesus brought back to life was 12 years old, "given that there are 12 tribes of Israel."

Friday, June 11, 2021

Learning about Motte and Bailey

 Today I learned about the Motte and Bailey fallacy. Interesting stuff -- and all too common, it seems.

The reference that first piqued my interest was at Instapundit, where Glenn Reynolds got it from the Facebook page maintained by Mr. Phil Magness. 

So then I went to Wikipedia, which admittedly can be sketchy, but the entry for Motte and Bailey there was helpful.

And yes, this illustration makes sense:


I feel edumacated! And Bookform the Essayist has a long-form but fascinating explanation about why this matters, as does science fiction author John C. Wright, who comes at critical race theory from a decidedly different angle.


Saturday, May 1, 2021

If Blue Bloods characters talked masking

Blue Bloods has been a mainstay of network TV for more than a decade. While Tom Selleck gets top billing for playing NYPD Commissioner Frank Reagan because even his mustache enjoys gravitas, the commissioner's unflappable competence makes him a “Mary Sue'' compared to other members of the cast. That’s why supporting characters in the series fit into mashups that Frank doesn’t. 

Think instead of Bridget Moynahan and Steve Schirripa, who play Frank's daughter, Assistant District Attorney Erin Reagan, and her chief investigator, Anthony Abetemarco. What might those two say to each other if they were arguing about, for example, mask mandates in church?

Both Anthony and Erin are at least nominally Catholic. Irish and Italian backgrounds give them common cultural and religious references. When they volley back and forth, it's not always a foregone conclusion as to whose thinking will impress enough to become an anecdote at the Reagan family dinner table next Sunday night.

The following conversation hasn't actually happened. But with a respectful nod to the Blue Bloods script writers, it probably should:

Anthony broaches the subject of mask compliance while on his way out of Erin’s office after a long day. He pauses with his hand on the knob of her frosted glass door to look back over his shoulder and sound her out. The pose is familiar to both of them:

“This mask thing in church is getting to me, Erin.”

She looks up without saying anything. She'll wait. She’s the counter-puncher.

“I mean, I get it,” Anthony adds, stepping tentatively toward her desk. “Nobody wants the covid. But when somebody says that vaccination doesn’t keep me from catching the virus and spreading it, then I gotta wonder what the shot is for, you know?”

“I can’t see fighting your parish priest on that one,” she replies. Thanks in part to her job within the criminal justice system, Erin has always been quicker to bend the knee to authority than Anthony ever will be. “The diocese doesn’t want legal trouble, and the churchgoing crowd skews older. When the governor’s trying to keep everybody safe, the archbishop can’t afford to look callous.”

Anthony looks disappointed with that answer. He knows when his boss tries to skate past a point by being glib.

“It’s not the governor’s job to keep everybody safe,” he says. “That’s what people like you and me do. That’s what your brothers do. And most of the seniors who want the vaccine already have it. Even when the teachers’ unions were calling their members 'front-line,' seniors had first crack at vaccination.”

“But masks help slow the spread of the virus,” Erin suggests.

“Do they?” Anthony pushes back. “The doctor who talks most about masks is making bank, but even Congress can’t get a straight answer from the guy. Let's face it: Tony Fauci hasn’t had a bedside manner since before Giuliani was mayor.”

“The mask thing is about following the science, Anthony. You know that.”

“Maybe it was once. It’s not now. I trust the CDC about as much as I trust the FBI. Even little kids still have to mask up. Little kids! And what do we hear from public health officials? ‘If it saves just one life.’ Or baseball analogies. Like nobody outside insurance understands risk assessment anymore.” 

“You don’t like masking? Nobody does.”

“I’m not anti-mask. I’m `pro face’. Especially in church. To be honest, I’m more of a Christmas and Easter guy than a regular churchgoer, but the idea of people being made in the image and likeness of God ought to give pastors pause, don’t you think? All I hear is fear. You'd think going maskless for an hour on Sundays was like playing with rabid dogs.” 

“Can you blame shepherds for not wanting to lose any sheep?”

“How much caution is too much? You see bodies being stacked like cordwood in Florida and Texas and Mississippi? I don’t. Last I checked, science was science even in places like Georgia. I guess the archbishop watches TV news. With those guys, it’s all case count and who needs a ‘vaccine passport.’ They wouldn’t know context if it bit them in the ass! They don't say jack about unintended consequences, either. I need to share my medical history to get on a plane or go to a show? I guess HIPAA doesn’t exist anymore. And the people pushing vaccination louder than anyone else just give you a deer-in-the-headlights look if you ask why we should all be guinea pigs, which is what we are if the nurse with the syringe in his hand has to tell you that you're getting a dose under an emergency use authorization.”

“I understand your cynicism, Anthony. You sound like Danny trying to sell me on a prosecution despite problems with chain of custody in the evidence room. But if you have this conversation with your pastor and he says, ‘I still think protecting you from me is my duty,’ then what?” 

“Like my pastor's gonna listen to an old detective when there's epidemiologists who can't get a word in edgewise? But maybe I start talking to Saint Jude again.”

“The patron of lost causes?”

“Bet you didn’t know he was a paisan.”

“Good night, Anthony.” 

“Good night, Erin.”

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Entertainment for a pandemic?

I wrote a post about "pandemic pals" last May, but the movie list in that blog entry needs an update. 

Even with vaccination widely available now, repression continues. Small business owners remain in reluctant league with unelected public health officials and self-aggrandizing politicians to keep mask mandates and so-called "social distancing" in effect. 

(If you're distancing, you're not being social. Words mean things, as I'm fond of saying).

In any case, movies watched since last May have helped to pass the time:

  • A Fall From Grace (2020)
  • The Maltese Falcon (1941)
  • Sully (2016)
  • Fatman (2020)
  • Nobody's Fool (1994)
  • Finding Ohana (2021)
  • Parasite (2019)
  • An Ideal Husband (1999)
  • Lincoln (2012)
  • Apollo 13 (1995)
  • Nomadland (2020)
  • Risen (2016)
  • White Nights (1985)
  • The Terminal (2004)
  • Concrete Cowboy (2021)
  • Miracles from Heaven (2016)
  • The Untouchables (1987)
  • The Zookeeper's Wife (2017)

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Hobbits of the music world

 I have a few thoughts about artists who are underrated.


The most underrated singers:

  • Patty Smyth: If you haven't heard her song Wish I Were You, you're missing out. And her duet with Don Henley on Sometimes Love Just Ain't Enough still grabs me after almost 30 years. Goodbye to You and The Warrior (1984) were Patty's biggest hits. She's hardly unknown, but she ought to be in the same musical conversations that Ann Wilson and Pat Benatar are. And I miss the early Eighties music videos that bands made just by hiring a videographer to capture them dancing around a studio. 
  • John Popper: Sure, he wailed like nobody's business while fronting Blues Traveler with a diatonic harmonica, of all things, but anybody who sings Hook (1994) as well as John Popper does also has serious vocal chops. And Hook wasn't a one-off, as you'll know if you also listen to Run-Around or The Mountains Win Again.
The most underrated guitar solos:
  • When The Knack made a splash with their monster single My Sharona in 1979, the pretty braless woman on the album cover and the take-no-prisoners drum beat got more attention than Berton Averre's guitar, but what Averre brought to the party still stands in perfect propulsive counterpoint to all the other energy in the song. Everything you'd want in a lead guitar solo is in there somewhere.
  • (YouTube legend Rick Beato agrees with me on this one): What Tom Scholz does with his lead guitar on the Boston anthem A Man I'll Never Be  (1978) is too often overlooked by people who recognize Scholz for his producing and arranging, or the home studio he used to put together Boston's legendary debut album way back when.
  • The original recording of Paul Simon's Late in the Evening (1980) doesn't feature a traditional guitar solo from Eric Gale, but only because it already has a propulsive duet between bass and drums plus horn parts you can dance to. With drummer Steve Gadd using two sticks in each hand, Gale has to content himself by playing fills throughout the song -- but they're very tasty fills.

Friday, March 5, 2021

Remembering Dad


Joseph O'Hannigan was 82 years old when he passed peacefully from his daughter's Scottsdale, Arizona home to his eternal reward on Tuesday, March 2nd, 2021. He had multiple medical issues, but covid-19 was not one of them. Almost everybody called him Joe.


Obituary writers usually address the departed by their given names, but this writer can’t. As TV cop shows would say, I make “lack of emotional distance” for the culprit. The thing is that Joe O’Hannigan embraced fatherhood as much as any man ever has. Four souls bequeathed that honorable role to him, and three of them are still around to affirm that he took it seriously (Maria Elena arrived first, but returned to heaven before she could grow up. It’s easy to imagine her joyful reunion with the man whom the rest of us just lost).


Whether you read this sketch of a man’s life, or hear some version of it from Patrick-Sean, Joseph-Shannon, or Lani Eve, you didn’t have to be a formal part of the “ohana” to figure out that Joe was Dad -- unless he was feeling especially Celtic, in which case he’d sign handwritten notes to his children as “Da.” And so “Dad” it will be for the remainder of this remembrance. 


Dad arrived in September of 1938, as the firstborn to Joe and Helen Hannigan, who would go on to have another boy (Jim) and two girls (Pat and Dianne). Other people wax nostalgic about the Bronx, but Dad didn’t stay there any longer than he had to. He lied about his age to get into the U.S. Marine Corps at 17, eventually meeting and proposing to a pretty young woman from Texas who also happened to be a Marine. The former Margot Martinez is still with us. Back in the day, she decided that while the USMC wasn’t for her, the strapping young man from New York might be. 


Twelve years as a Marine and 26 more as a police officer testify to Dad’s devotion to public service. His influence was such that his brother Jim followed him into both careers.


When the Marine Corps sent Dad to Hawaii, it lost a “leatherneck” who might otherwise have been a life member. Dad fell in love with the islands, joined the Honolulu Police Department, and earned a master’s degree in Pacific Island Studies from the University of Hawaii. The big Irishman led HPD’s pipe-and-drum band, but wore a lavalava when he was off duty, and knew more about his adopted state than most native Hawaiians do. 


His genealogical research found relatives in Ireland, and his stubbornness convinced him that our surname needed an O-apostrophe in front of it, regardless of what anyone else in the family remembered.


Dad started out Roman Catholic but didn’t stay that way. He was a lifelong seeker and voracious reader with a “roll your own” approach to religious faith. He didn’t know anything about how to dress, how to raise saltwater fish, how to roll the letter r into an arpeggio the way Spanish-speaking people do, or how to romance a partner with a different “love language.” But he accepted dogs and cats, not to mention tracts from the missionaries who strolled through our neighborhood looking for converts.


Joe and Margot put two sons and a daughter through private schools on his salary. Dad planted bougainvillea bushes and plumeria trees around “Hale Ola,” and made friends with all the neighbors. He was, as his brother notes, "one of the most giving people you'd ever meet." If you had to live in a low-income housing development in the Seventies, you wanted that one, because it was where you called Joe before you called 9-1-1. If he wasn’t busy patrolling the parts of Waianae and Ewa Beach not welcoming to tourists, Dad would help you out.


When he broke his leg chasing a burglar over a wall, it’s because he felt sorry for the perp and shifted his weight in midair to avoid landing on the guy’s chest. By the time Dad retired from HPD, he was a lieutenant and a local legend. He wasn't ready to give up uniforms then, and so worked another decade as a security guard for the Department of the Navy.


Because he thought we needed one, Dad talked a metalsmith into helping him create a family coat of arms, which he mounted medieval-style in the stairwell of our townhome. 


Because off white as a color had no pop, he hung a chandelier in the same stairwell, and painted the brickwork around it in alternating shades of lemon yellow, tangerine orange, and flamingo pink.


In homage to the extensive collection of vinyl records he’d once had, Dad made mix-tape musical compilations, usually getting the hang of a new technology just before it went out of style. Reel-to-reel tapes? Check. Eight-track tapes? Check. CDs? Check. MP3 files? -- Well, let’s just pass lightly over anything having to do with computers.


When relatives or friends flew in to visit, Dad spared no hospitality (“Champagne taste and a beer wallet,” his mother explained to the grandsons who grew up calling her “Tutu,” while noting that Dad had moved her and his little sisters across the country so they could live in a less chaotic environment than the one he’d grown up in).


Tutu learned to keep sandwich makings on hand in case her eldest son stopped by with a hungry prisoner he was transporting downtown for booking. Dad would take the prisoner’s handcuffs off, explain to his mom that they couldn’t stay long, and offer the detainee a sandwich, together with an assurance that Jesus loved him and would appreciate it if he learned to make better choices. Then he’d plant himself at Tutu's apartment door and tell the prisoner not to bother trying to make a run for it.


How many lawbreaking citizens walked into police headquarters with full stomachs because Dad took a merciful little shine to them, we’ll never know, but Aunt Dianne says it was more than a few. Dad never bragged about it, probably because he figured that cultivating the “aloha” spirit was something everybody ought to be doing.


Joe left Hawaii only when he was talked into getting medical treatment on the mainland for poor circulation. He enjoyed the chance to “grandpa” for a year in San Diego (“Grandpa” was as much of a verb to him as “Dad” was). He acquired a taste for sashimi, dumped sugar on puffed rice cereal, and invariably called pizza “pie.” When one of his children pointed out that medical facilities in Arizona are just as good as those in California, he moved to Scottsdale.


In sum, Dad was a commanding presence with a large dose of warm fuzziness. Over the last few years of his life on Earth, he let it be known that he’d rather celebrate the Marine Corps' birthday than his own. But the Big Protector has gone home. His children, grandchildren, siblings, step-siblings, cousins, friends, and former wife all miss him profoundly.