Friday, December 31, 2021

As 2021 slinks away

Among many other things, I'm thankful for the preset buttons on my car radio. I actually heard all of the following songs today:

  • I Can See Clearly Now (Johnny Nash)
  • Sister Golden Hair (America)
  • With or Without You (U2)
  • Day After Day (Badfinger)
  • Walk Like a Man (Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons)
  • Slip Sliding Away (Paul Simon)
  • These Dreams (Heart)
  • Crazy Little Thing Called Love (Queen)
  • I Heard it Through the Grapevine (Marvin Gaye)
In other entertainment news, "American Underdog" is a movie worth seeing.

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

The Klavan Catechism

From the 2016 memoir The Great Good Thing: A Secular Jew Comes to Faith in Christ, by Andrew Klavan:

The fact was, as a story -- even leaving out the supernatural, especially leaving out the supernatural, taking it all as metaphor, I mean -- the Bible made perfect sense to me from the very beginning.

I saw a God whose nature was creative love. He made man in his own image for the purpose of forming new and free relationships with him. But in his freedom, man turned away from that relationship to consult his own wisdom and desires. The knowledge of good and evil was not some top-secret catalog of nice and naughty acts that popped into Eve's mind when a talking snake got her to eat the magic fruit. The knowledge was built into the action of disobedience itself: it's what she learned when she overruled the moral law God had placed within her. There was no going back from that. The original sin poisoned all history. History's murders, rapes, wars, oppressions, and injustices are not the inescapable plot of the story we're in.

The Old Testament traces one complete cycle of that history; one people's rise and fall. This particular people is unique only in that they're the ones who begin to remember what man was made for. Moses' revelation at the burning bush is as profound as any religious scene in literature. There, he sees that the eternal creation and destruction of nature is not a mere process but the mask of a personal spirit, I AM THAT I AM. The centuries that follow that revelation are a spiraling semicircle of sin and shame and redemption, of freedom recovered and then surrendered in return for imperial greatness, of a striving for righteousness through law that reveals only the impossibility of righteousness, of power and pride and fall. It's every people's history, in other words, but seen anew in the light of the fire of I AM.

It made sense to me too -- natural sense, not supernatural -- that after that history was complete, a man might be born who could comprehend it wholly and re-create within himself the relationship at its source. His mind would contain both man and God. It made sense that the creatures of sin and history -- not the Jews alone but all of us -- would conspire in such a man's judicial murder. Jesus had to die because we had to kill him. It was either that or see ourselves by his light, as the broken things we truly are. It's only from God's point of view that this is a redeeming sacrifice. By living on earth in Jesus, by entering history, by experiencing death, by passing through that moment of absolute blackness when God is forsaken by God, God reunites himself with his fallen creation and reopens the path to the relationship lost in Eden. Jesus' resurrection is the final proof that no matter how often we kill the truth of who we're meant to be, it never dies.

[That summary right there is worth the price of the book, I think]. 

But there's more:

For years, maybe most of my life, I had languished in that typical young intellectual's delusion that gloom and despair are the romantic lot of the brilliant and the wise. But now I saw: it wasn't so. Why should it be? What sort of wisdom has no joy in it? What good is wisdom without joy? By joy I don't mean ceaseless happiness, of course. I don't mean willed stupidity for the sake of a cheap smile. The world is sad and it is suffering. A tragic sense is essential to both realism and compassion. By joy I mean a vital love of life in both sorrow and gladness. Why not? The hungry can't eat your tears. The poor can't spend them. They're no comfort to the afflicted and they don't bring the wicked to justice. Everything useful that can be done in the world can be done in joy.

Klavan's insight summoned a song for me. 

The  "Nazareth" that Robbie Robertson of  The Band was writing about pulling into "half past dead" was Nazareth, Pennsylvania, home of the Martin Guitar company. But we all know which Nazarene put the original town in Judea on the proverbial map. And I don't think it coincidental that the refrain of  "The Weight" is deliberately redemptive: "Take a load off, Annie" [or Fannie, if you sing it that way]. Take a load for free!

If you take a load off, what are you supposed to do with it? Jesus is the man who stepped up to say "You put the load right on me!"  Moreover, he volunteered for that.

The best kind of Christian music is stealthy Christian music. Ol' Luke ain't the only one "waitin' on Judgement Day." [Remember the stream of pilgrims going "down to the river to pray" in O Brother Where Art Thou, or Jake and Elwood Blues putting the band back together because they were "on a mission from God"? Remember the question about "Will the Circle be Unbroken" by and by, or Rick Beato pointing out that U2's "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" has gospel music phrasing in it?].

It's not too much of a hop from "The Weight" to C.S. Lewis and what he wrote about "The Weight of Glory." Think of the same theme in two different keys. But as the Klavan excerpt (and the harmony between Levon Helm and Mavis Staples in their live recording) makes clear, the Chronicles of Narnia author wasn't the only one "surprised by joy." 

While I'm on a roll, let me drag J.R.R. Tolkien up to the bar so he can help me make the argument from Middle Earth that Frodo and Sam and the other hobbits were invited into the Fellowship of the Ring not merely for their humility, but also because the most obvious characteristic of hobbitry (hobbitdom?) is joy (in contrast to the fragile valor of the humans, the cultivated detachment of the elves, the pugnaciousness of the dwarves, and the wisdom of wizards). 

The Fellowship needed joy, which I think is why Tolkien inserted two "spare" hobbits into it for a total of four, and no more than two representatives of any other free race among the nine heroes. As Saint Paul had before them, Tolkien and Lewis saw joy as a hallmark of the Christian life. 

It's inspiring to see a contemporary thriller writer like Andrew Klavan wrestle his way into the same insight, and then surrender to it.

Thursday, November 25, 2021

My Thanksgiving cooking playlist

My sweetheart spent last night making a pumpkin pie while listening to Christmas music. Contrarian that I sometimes am, I still insist that Christmas music before Thanksgiving is premature, That said, her example inspired. 

We were doing meal prep in two different states, so I kept track of what was playing while I made deviled eggs from a proven recipe in The Deplorable Gourmet.

Directions in that crowd-sourced cookbook are, for the most part, spot on, but there's no way that prep time for deviled eggs is only 30 minutes -- at least not for me! My tripling the recipe didn't shorten prep time, but that's alright. Thanksgiving, y'all.

The playlist is eclectic because Dad had an influential hand in forming my musical ears. I miss him.

Pro tip: Slice the eggs on the longitude, not on the latitude. And I think they peel a little easier if you go pole to pole, north to south, after denting the egg to give your thumb some purchase.

Music to peel hard-boiled eggs

  • Honky Tonk Woman -- Rolling Stones
  • End of the World Again -- The Steel Wheels
  • Good Hearted Man -- Fats Domino
  • Call Me -- Blondie

Egg slicing

  • Something so Feminine About a Mandolin -- Jimmy Buffet
  • Mirabeau Bridge -- James Keelaghan

Scooping and grating

  • You Ain't Going Nowhere -- Nitty Gritty Dirt Band
  • When Silence Was Golden -- David Schnaufer
  • Brighter Than the Sun -- Colbie Caillet
  • The New Jerusalem -- Dan Wheetman

Mix and measure

  • When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs for Wings -- Willie Watson and Tim Blake Nelson
  • Worried About You -- Rolling Stones
  • Fat-Bottomed Girls -- Queen

Using the "Poor Man's Pastry Bag"

  • Some Nights -- Fun.
  • Si Lo Hice y Que -- Carin Leon
  • Into the Mystic -- Van Morrison
  • Be Thou My Vision -- Martha Bassett
  • More Than a Feeling -- Boston
  • How Great Thou Art -- Home Free

Decorating with Paprika

  • Find a New Home -- Will Banister
  • Yellow Ledbetter -- Pearl Jam
  • The Load-Out -- Jackson Browne
The recipe doesn't include a dash of Frank's Red Hot, but my deviled eggs do. That's how I roll.

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

More of the underrated

These actors and actresses have more range than many people seem to give them credit for having:

  • Kathryn Erbe
  • Katheryn Winnick
  • Jack Black
  • Ana de la Reguera
  • Mary McDonnell
    (Truth to tell, however, when you successfully play characters in both Dances With Wolves and Battlestar Galactica, people know you've got game)
Among poets, on the evidence of When Earth's Last Picture is Painted, I think Rudyard Kipling is underrated.

Among brewers, don't sleep on the Benedictine monks of Birra Nursia.

Underrated musicians (lauded but not as well-known as they should be, given their talent):
  • David Mason, the trumpeter on the Beatles' song, "Penny Lane"
  • Laith Al-Saadi, dark horse Voice contestant and Michigan music legend
  • Evelyn Glennie, deaf but extremely accomplished percussionist

Monday, September 6, 2021

An almanac page

 Looking back at this summer....

Most entertaining event on TV
The "Field of Dreams" baseball game played August 12 in Dyersville, Iowa between the Chicago White Sox and the New York Yankees.

First day I saw fireflies out locally
June 4.

Biggest summer expenditure 
New HVAC system was installed June 15, and totally worth it.

Biggest blessing of the summer
Lisa is officially free from cancer!

The closest thing to a vacation we could manage this season
A road trip to Seaford, Delaware to drop in on family briefly.

Most "North Carolina" thing we did
Visiting the Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park and Museum in Wilson, NC.

Best live music of the season
(Only live music of the season)
Harry Connick, Jr. and his band at the Koka Booth Amphitheatre in Cary NC on August 24.

Most entertaining summer movie
It's a tie between "The Death of Stalin" (2017) and "John Wick" (2014).

Most autumnal summer movie
I was impressed by "Last Flag Flying" (2017)

Famous missing persons
R.I.P. to singer/songwriter Nanci Griffith, and Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts.

Best books I read this summer
It's a tie between two very different memoirs that both happen to be immigrant stories:

  • MIG Pilot: The Final Escape of Lieutenant Belenko, by John Daniel Barron
    (copyright 1983)
  • Call Me American: A Memoir, by Abdi Nor Iftin
    (copyright 2018)

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Olympic stories I liked

If you knew nothing else about what a topsy-turvy couple of years the Wuhan Coronavirus and official response to it bequeathed to the world, you might guess that something big and destabilizing had happened just by watching "Tokyo 2020" signage on TV in the summer of 2021.

An Olympics without spectators seems wrong. I don't envy the people in charge of programming the choices they've had to make, either. But in spite of those constraints, a few athletes and athletic stories nevertheless inspire:

  • Filipino weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz impressed me with her improvised water-jugs-on-a-yoke training tools.
  • American Lee Kiefer -- gold medal in fencing while going to medical school? Whoa!
  • American swimmer Lydia Jacoby has the best cheering section I've seen. And she plays bluegrass bass in whatever spare time she can find.
  • It was fun to see Poland win the inaugural 4x400m mixed relay.
  • Ya gotta love a diver who qualifies for the Olympic final at age 41, as Japan's Ken Terauchi did.
  • Wrestling gold medalist Tamyra Mensah-Stock made news for enthusing about how much she loves representing America. I like that. She's great. But if she had a chat with NBC commentator Mike Tirico, I missed it.
The people writing human interest stories about American athletes haven't dug as deep as they might have had to in the good old days when Sports Illustrated was running stories by the likes of Frank Deford, but the one-two finish by Katie Ledecky and Erica Sullivan in the 1,500 meters also moved me. Ledecky has charisma, a metric mile is a really long swim, and anyone who medals in that event is amazing. 

Ditto the one-two finish for the US in the women's 400-meter hurdles by Sydney McLaughlin and Dalilah Muhammed. Both women enthusiastically endorsed their "iron sharpens iron" rivalry, and both seem appropriately regal on the track.

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.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Equity and equality reconsidered

Neo -- she of the blog that is always worth reading -- looks at blind auditions for symphony orchestras, and uses that as a metaphor to think well about what might change for the worse if current notions of "equity" (as opposed to "equality") remove the blindfold from Lady Justice.

"Equality" isn't the only word that's been put through the wringer lately, however. "Moderate" used to be roughly synonymous with "impartial" or "fair-minded," but it's not anymore.

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Scott McKay understands what Rush did

Rush Limbaugh's death at age 70 from lung cancer was announced on his radio show yesterday morning by his wife, Kathryn. 

Mark Steyn wrote what I think is the best of several very good obituaries for the talk radio pioneer, but Scott McKay does a fine job of putting Limbaugh's excellent work in context:

"He created an industry and fueled a movement that has won the modern American argument. Thanks in large measure to Rush Limbaugh, the Left doesn’t even bother trying to persuade anyone of their ideas; instead they invented cancel culture to stop the argument altogether.

They couldn’t cancel Rush, so they’re trying to cancel the rest of us.

We should honor him by continuing the fight. It will take all of us to paper over the void his passing leaves behind."

Friday, February 12, 2021

Fossil fuels in Canadian life

David Warren with some of the stuff you never hear from people like Greta Thunberg and her shameless handlers:

"I am on record speculating that God put the polar bears here for a reason: to warn migrants off. And then he gave us Justin Trudeau, in case anyone hadn’t got the message yet. 

But He also put extraordinary quantities of “fossil fuels” under the ground, in case we insisted." 

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Expertise should not be soulless

It's hard to blame the world's most famous virologist for being tone-deaf to the concerns of ordinary people when he hasn't seen actual patients since completing his internship more than 40 years ago. (Some context: That was before Woodstock, and before Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin made the original moon landing).

I can't help but wonder, however, why Dr. Anthony Fauci is the highest-paid employee in the federal government, given his history of talking out of both sides of his mouth, bowing to Planned Parenthood, and greenlighting very questionable  investments such as gain-of-function mutation research done overseas (away from American-style quality control and potentially pesky oversight).

He's not ignorant (and not alone), but he's a political animal who pretends to neutrality, and defends his own credibility in sanctimonious fashion. He was against quarantines before he was for them. 

Like all politicians, Dr. Fauci has grown fond of the limelight. Accordingly, he cuts himself the benefit of doubt but makes no allowances for anyone who questions the narrative of choice.

He's more enthusiastic about serving the current administration than he was about being an oracle for "Operation Warp Speed" in the previous administration, and (since his new boss has no objection) he didn't waste any time appearing on Rachel Maddow's cable TV show to do bad impressions of gospel hymns like "Free at Last." 

On the few occasions when news producers don't lead broadcasts with COVID death numbers or 20-second clips of things Dr. Fauci says, they run footage from the World Health Organization instead, and that, please note, is not a step up.

What's next? That's what Neo asked. She could as well have pondered more colorfully, along the lines of "What fresh hell is this?"

UPDATE: Peter Barry Chowka had Dr. Fauci's number a year ago.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Friday, January 15, 2021

The ghost of Christmas past?

Writing for American Thinker, James S. Corum observes that Joe Biden (or his people) have applied analogy ineptly, not least because they don't remember the differences in World War Two events between the bombings of Dresden and Hamburg. 

Biden and his handlers pulled the Nazi card reflexively, as progressives too often do. 

They accused Republicans who questioned election irregularities of touting a big lie. The truth is very nearly a mirror image of what some progressives say it is, and when they don't pull the Hitler card, they just say shut up, as spokespeople for NY governor Andrew Cuomo have hoped in vain that Janice Dean would do. (Deplatforming is what happens to people who don't toe the progressive line, if they have a big enough audience to come to the attention of the nomenkatura).

Here's how Corum put it:

"The Big Lie of 2020 is that it was a clean and honest election. Like the Big Lie of Hamburg raids, the Big Lie will fail. Like Hamburg in 1943, there are simply too many witnesses. There are the videos of election observers being blocked in several cities and videos in Atlanta of observers sent away, and in their absence election workers piling ballots into the counting machines.  There is sworn testimony from hundreds of election workers detailing illegal actions. There are the Dominion machines in Michigan that were set up to create ballot errors which were “adjudicated” (flipped) in favor of Democrats. There is hard documentary evidence of the dead voting by mail, or of (supposedly) living voters receiving and returning their ballots by the postal service within a day. There are thousands of Georgia voters who illegally provided post office box numbers as their place of residence. There is the analysis of highly respected IT experts and statisticians who have spotted statistically implausible vote spikes, unusual local turnout, and voting patterns not seen in previous elections. The evidence presented at state legislative hearings (I watched some on One America News) is thorough, well-documented and plausible.

Joe Biden is beginning his presidency with one of the biggest lies in the history of American politics. On top of the “honest election” lie, he will have to maintain lies about his family’s Chinese and Ukrainian business connections, as well as his involvement in illegal deep state surveillance of political opponents."

James Bovard has written something similar. So has Conrad Black, not linked from this entry but well worth reading even when his essays appear in the otherwise deeply disappointing National Review, towering like sunflowers over the cat box where NeverTrumpers leave their odiferous deposits.

The thing is -- for example -- Antifa isn't actually "anti-fascist." They're just the most vocal of several groups carrying signs that mostly say "hooray for our side," as Buffalo Springfield put it generations ago. They're self-appointed hall monitors in the Temple of Wokism. And despite what Nancy Pelosi claims, the riot in Washington D.C. on January 6 wasn't even remotely an insurrection or an attempted coup.

Monday, January 11, 2021

Why John Roberts fumbled again

We know longer have cause to look down on the corruption of so-called "Banana Republics," because we've become one (I borrowed the image above from The People's Cube, where they're familiar with totalitarian impulses).

E. Donald Elliot in American Spectator Online yesterday:

"The [U.S. Supreme] Court's stated reason for turning down the case brought by Texas against Pennsylvania and other swing states was its ruling that one state has no "judicially cognizable interest in the manner in which another state conducts its elections." That should go down in history as one of the dumbest things the court has ever said, right up there with 'separate but equal' as a justification for racial segregation or 'three generations of imbeciles is enough' as a justification for mandatory sterilization.

The question was not how Pennsylvania conducted "its" election, as the Court wrongly characterized the issue. The allegations went to the constitutional legitimacy of election procedures in a presidential election in which voters in both Texas and Pennsylvania participated. If one state may illegally manipulate votes in a presidential election, the influence of all the other states that do play by the rules is undermined. The Court was essentially saying that one team has no interest in whether the other team is cheating."

(To see and think about what the Supremes should have but chose not to, see this compendium of evidence for ballot fraud and irregularity as alleged by no less than 923 fact witnesses)

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

A few medical links

 Because 2020 was that kind of year, and risk assessment is an increasingly forgotten art:

Bonus quote from Newsweek (14 January 2021): "A new study evaluating COVID-19 responses around the world found that mandatory lockdown orders early in the pandemic did not provide significantly more benefits to slowing the spread of the disease than other voluntary measures, such as social distancing or travel reduction...The peer reviewed study, which was conducted by a group of Stanford researchers and published in the Wiley Online Library on January 5, analyzed coronavirus case growth in 10 countries in early 2020."