Saturday, December 27, 2008

Feast of the Holy Innocents

For this blog entry I am going to to take a serious religious tone - for of all the Anglican feast days the “Feast of the Holy Innocents” has always had special meaning for me. For some reason it hits me the hardest for it truly shows how much man’s hatred can be, even to the children of man.

After the visit of the Magi, Herod, in rage and jealousy, slaughtered all the baby boys in Bethlehem and surrounding countryside in an attempt to destroy his perceived rival, the infant Messiah. These "innocents" are honored by the Church as martyrs. On, this day, in our own times, it is appropriate to recall the vast host of children who suffer innumerable forms of violence which threaten their lives, dignity and right to education.
Matthew 2:13-18
Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, "Rise, take the Child and His mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there till I tell you: for Herod is about to search for the Child, to destroy Him." And he rose and took the Child and His mother by night, and departed to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, "Out of Egypt have I called My Son."

Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, was in a furious rage, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time which he had ascertained from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah:

"A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation: Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled because they were no more."

My Prayer for the Feast of the Holy Innocents

O God, whose praise the martyred innocents did this day proclaim, not by speaking, but by dying: Destroy in us all the malice of sinfulness, that our lives may also proclaim thy faith, which our tongues profess. Through our Lord. Amen.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas Numbers

It’s the day after Christmas, Saint Stephen’s Day (the feast day of the first Christian martyr), and it’s time to take a look at the Christmas numbers from yesterday. The big numbers:

Number of batteries put in use was probably enough to run a household with all lights on for a year;

Number of first time calls made on brandy new cell phones was, I’m sure, enough to jam a cell tower or two nation wide;

The number of Chocolate covered Cherries eaten, and not eaten, could probably circumnavigate the globe a few times;

The number of Fruit Cakes turned into door stops was surpassed only by the number of Chocolate cherries above;

Hopefully the number of gift cards given out was enough to make up for the really bad pre-Christmas sales the retailers said they had this year;

The number of “I didn’t get what I wanted” was bigger than “I got what I wanted” and “I got what I wanted” was sure bigger than “I got what I deserved.”

The other big numbers:

Number of unwanted ties given was probably second only to the number given on Father’s Day;

Total number of long distance telephone calls made was second only to those made on Mother’s Day;

Number of Turkey’s and Hams eaten can only be surpassed by the number of Turkey’s eaten on Thanksgiving Day and Hams by the number eaten on Easter Day.

The littlest number: The number of times someone took the time to say “Happy Birthday Jesus!”

Say a prayer for Saint Stephen and remember that tomorrow is the “Feast of the Holy Innocents.”

And, Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Five Christmas Don'ts

Every year around the 20th of December I seem to need the Kleenex truck to back up to my door and deliver a thousand boxes of tissues to last me the rest of the month. All because I always break my five Christmas Don’ts!

Don’t watch Christmas movies. I haven’t found a Christmas type movie yet than won’t bring me to tears;

Don’t look at old Holiday photos, especially if they include my departed sweetheart, Miss J;

Don’t watch the movie “Fiddler on the Roof,” it doesn’t have a thing to do with Christmas by itself, but, Miss J and I saw it in Manila at Christmas, ‘72 (our first together) and it was always her favorite;

Don’t get caught up in other peoples Holiday angst, I have enough of my own to deal with; and,

Don’t listen to “Silent Night,” “Over the Rainbow,” or “When You Wish Upon A Star.” I have enough trouble with these darn three songs during the rest of the year - I don’t need to stress myself even more at Christmas.
Five easy Christmas Don’ts, but by the middle of every December I’ve broken them all at least once and that darn Kleenex truck needs to make it’s annual visit. Oh well, there’s always next year. Waaaah.

Merry Tacky Christmas

No other American holiday season can be more tacky than Christmas, except maybe our commercial conception of Easter. The tackier the better and I truly embrace this lovely tacky Christmas we have today, especially outdoor decorations. Nothing expresses tackiness as well.

I’m not talking about those all white electric hangings a lot of people are doing now-a-days, these I think are our way of praying for the icicle look of winter. No, I’m talking about the wild blends of colored electric lights and electric lit miscellany that comprise our tackier outdoor scenes. Christmas allows us to take outdoor decorations to real tacky extremes.

A good example takes in the whole house and front yard, must double you monthly electrical bill and be bright enough to rival a fully lit up airport:

White icicled eaves, windows and doors framed in colored lights are just the start. Now electrify all those winter bare trees with blue lit trunks and red lit branches. Wrap up the holly bushes with red, blue and yellow. Add electrified candy canes along the drive-way and garden paths and don’t forget to make a fence of them along the front perimeter. Now put a penguin on top of the camel; have Santa cavorting with the Three Wise guys; and mix up the Reindeers with the Holy Family. A electric pink flamingo adds Florida class and a Santa waving Merry Christmas helps. We’re getting there, but we’re not tacky enough just yet. For real tacky we need to add a few of the newest additions to Christmas - inflatable plastic! Add a Snoopy riding his snow covered house, a plastic globe with a snowman inside, a couple of inflatable Christmas trees and we have it. Real Tacky!

I love it! I couldn’t stand Christmas without outdoor tacky! Love tacky, enjoy tacky, embrace tacky and wait for Easter - it’s even better - it’s tasteless tacky!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Legends Behind Christmas

I recently came across this little bit of fuff about Angels and Christmas Trees. Enjoy the legend.

How Angels Came To Be Atop The Tree

Santa was very cross. It was Christmas Eve and NOTHING was going right. Ms. Claus had burned all the cookies. The elves were complaining about not getting paid for the overtime they had while making the toys. The reindeer had been drinking all afternoon and were dead drunk. To make matters worse, they had taken the sleigh out for a spin earlier in the day and had crashed it into a tree.

Santa was furious. "I can't believe it! I've got to deliver millions of presents all over the world in just a few hours - all of my reindeer are drunk, the elves are on strike and I don't even have a Christmas tree!

I sent that stupid Little Angel out HOURS ago to find a tree and he isn't even back yet! What am I going to do?"

Just then, the Little Angel opened the front door and stepped in from the snowy night, dragging a Christmas tree. He says "Yo, fat man! Where do you want me to stick the tree this year?"

And thus the tradition of angels atop the Christmas trees came to pass........

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

My ship has a nick-name?

Sailor’s often really love their ships and they have various ways of showing their love One is to give the ship an affectionate nick-name, such as, “Connie” for the old carrier USS Constellation, “Mighty Mo” for the battleship USS Missouri or “Robbie for my old destroyer the USS Robison.

The Fleet has nick-names for these ships too - some not so affectionate. Over the year’s I’ve collected a few, some nice, some not so nice. The not so nice one’s are RARELY used by those who are, or have been, crew on the ship in question. So. . .

No Go Maru - the battleship USS Nevada and probably a lot of others known to have barky engines

Shitty Kitty - the carrier USS Kitty Hawk. Only used by those not part of her crew and never in the vicinity of any Kitty Hawk sailor’s if you didn’t want to start a fight

Dirty Ernie - the first nuclear carrier USS Enterprise. The fleet couldn’t resist this one what with her having no stacks spewing smoke and that nice clean atomic power stuff.

Starship Enterprise - the nuclear carrier USS Enterprise. Used by her crew and Navy PR folks. You get the connection, right?

Big E - the first carrier named USS Enterprise and probably by the crew of the present Enterprise.

Big John - the carrier USS John F Kennedy

Big Stick - The battleship USS Iowa and the carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt.

The old Adams class guided missile destroyer’s had a lot of fleet names, a lot of them derogatory. They had 1200 pound steam plants that tended to need a lot of attention and a very high metacentric height which made them top heavy and rough riders in moderate to heavy seas.

Rocking Robbie - USS Robison. Boy could she rock!

Brokenly - USS Berkeley. All the Adams class destroyers had their days when they just didn’t want to go.

Robbie Maru - USS Robison. Used when the steam plant broke down.

Waddling Wally - USS Waddell

Bucking Bucky - USS Buchanan

Shivering Towers - USS Towers

Any many others. . .

Chucky V - the carrier USS Charles Vinson

Connie - the carrier USS Constellation

Sara - both carriers named USS Saratoga

Inch-on - the amphibious ship the USS Inchon. Engine troubles?

Socar - the nuclear missile cruiser USS South Carolina

Sweet 16 - the missile cruiser USS Leahy (her hull number was DLG-16, then CG-16). I’ve also heard Shitty 16. . .

Blocka’ Wood - the amphibious ship USS Bella Wood. Also known more affectionately as Big Dog and Devil Dog.

Naushious - the amphibious ship USS Nassau. USS Naushious was the pet name used by the sailors of her sister ship USS Saipan. Hate to think what they called us.

Bedpan - the amphibious ship USS Saipan. See we had these bedpan washer’s. . ..I’ve also heard Shit Pan - that one started a fight.

Bonnie Dick - the amphibious ship USS Bonhomme Richard

Witless - the command ship USS Mount Whitney. Get this one?

There are more, some older, some newer. Since I’ve been out of the Navy I’ve been out of touch so I don’t know very many fleet names for today’s new ships. Not sure I really want to. If I have offended any ship mate’s from the ship’s I’ve named I’m sorry. It’s part of history, get a grip.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Writing History Again

President-elect Obama wants a massive public works project to repair roads, build rapid transit and make America green. Nice things to do with my tax money but let us not forget the finer things in life. In my last post I wanted Mr. Obama to put some money into some fine art in our modern built Post Offices. Now I want him to also open the money bags to today’s young writers, composers, geographers and cartographers.

From 1936 to 1943 the WPA and the States sponsored several projects for writers including Folklore Project and the Federal Writers Project. The Folklore Project included the Slave Narrative project and Life Histories Project. The Federal Writers Project included my favorite works: the American Guide Series. Now it’s time to do them all over again - with a few changes.

The Slave Narrative project concentrated on the history of slavery in the South gathering information from wills, slavery related papers and narratives from former slaves. The narratives are most informative because the writers use the exact language of the former slave, for example:

LULA FLANNIGAN Ex-slave, 78 years.
"Dey says I wuz jes fo' years ole when de war wuz over, but I sho' does member dat day dem Yankee sojers come down de road. Mary and Willie Durham wuz my mammy and pappy, en dey belong ter Marse Spence Durham at Watkinsville in slav'ry times."
"When word cum dat de Yankee sojers wuz on de way, Marse Spence en his sons wuz 'way at de war. Miss Betsey tole my pappy ter take en hide de hosses down in de swamp. My mammy help Miss Betsey sew up de silver in de cotton bed ticks. Dem Yankee sojers nebber did find our whitefolks' hosses and deir silver."
"Miss Marzee, she wuz Marse Spence en Miss Betsey's daughter. She wuz playin' on de pianny when de Yankee sojers come down de road. Two sojers cum in de house en ax her fer ter play er tune dat dey liked. I fergits de name er dey tune. Miss Marzee gits up fum de pianny en she low dat she ain' gwine play no tune for' no Yankee mens. Den de sojers takes her out en set her up on top er de high gate post in front er de big house, en mek her set dar twel de whole regiment pass by. She set dar en cry, but she sho' ain' nebber played no tune for dem Yankee mens!"

Disclaimer: I mean no offense by this except, it is from a real historical narrative. Believe me there are a lot worse that this one.

Today instead of Slave Narratives lets do narratives of Native American’s. Let’s fine out how they feel about living in today’s society, life on the reservation, and living their lives in the modern world as Natives.

The Life Histories Project employed over 300 writers who produced thousands of documents - typically 2,000-15,000 words in length, varying in form from narrative to dialogue to report a case history. The histories describe the informant's family education, income, occupation, political views, religion and mores, medical needs, diet and miscellaneous observations. Pseudonyms were often substituted for individuals and places named in the narrative texts. I have a copy of one of these narratives done for my great-uncle C.

Now let’s do the same today and put some young writers to work to collect the narratives of our dying off Korean veterans and our graying Vietnam veterans. I bet they have a lot to say about their times that we should really listen to.

Finally it's time to redo the America Guide Series which were originally written in three parts for the then 48 states and the Alaska territory: state’s history, essays about various subjects germane to the state and a travel/tour section.

Round up today’s writes, geographers and cartographers and let’s redo the whole series. This time we can include Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Guam and the Virgin Islands.

So Mr. President-elect get going and find all those young high school graduates who like to write, all the Writer Academy graduates who can’t find a job, geographers and such and put them to work. We need some new books. If John Steinbeck could do it so can America’s new writers - we might find a new Steinbeck.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Starving Artists - Past and Present

My oldest daughter said that I should put some of my more esoteric knowledge to work on my blog. So here we go:

President-elect Obama has said that he is planning vast public works projects for the unemployed and underemployed. Well I suggest he take a look at the past public works projects, especially the Great Depression era WPA fine arts projects. Employ those out of work writers, artists, actors and dancers in something useful. Especially the artists.

The WPA put over 5,000 artists to work on posters for safety and health programs, cultural programs including art exhibitions, theatrical, and musical performances; travel and tourism; educational programs; and community activities. But, most importantly it put them to work on murals reflecting American life past and present.

Where did a lot of these murals appear? Why the good old United States Port Office! They produced 1,200 murals and 300 sculptures for Post Office facilities between 1934 and 1943. About 1,000 murals and 200 sculptures remain in postal facilities today. Nice!

Just two examples of their Post Office work:

Luray, VA Post Office
"Luray - 1840" - oil on canvas
by Sheffield Kagy (1939)

Saint Helena, CA Post Office
“Grape Pickers” - oil on canvas
by Lew Keller (1942)

I am for anything that will make our modern Post Office’s a little more art friendly. It’s time to get all those U.S. Post Office posters off the walls and get some good old American art out there. So Mr. President-elect how about a new Fine Arts projects for the United States Post Office. Let’s put America’s out-of-work (if they are any) to work! Find those young starving artists just out of High School, College and Art School - put them to work beautifying America. There are two modren style Post Offices in Virginia Beach that sure could use some nice modren art work. . .

Friday, November 21, 2008

Why Cats are better than Dogs

Cats don’t eat the Mailman. Have you ever seen a “BEWARE OF CAT” sign!

Cats smell better. Nothing is better smelling than a fresh licked cat.

Cats don’t poop all over the yard. Yes, cleaning the litter box is a chore, but it’s a better chore than cleaning up after the Dog!

You don’t have to walk the cat a million times a day if you live in an apartment. Walking the dog is stupid, especially if it’s “Big man, little dog.”

Cats don’t bark at the Moon all night, nor bark at everyone who walks by the house. Cats might meow a bit, but that’s only because they are hungry or want a little attention. Dogs are just noisy.

Cats don’t need to see the Groomer every two weeks for a wash and trim. You can keep you Poodle and spend your own fortune keeping it trimmed.

You don’t see cat owners hauling 55 pounds bags of kibble from the store every two weeks! Even the biggest house cat only wants a cup or so of chow a day.

Cats entertain themselves. They chase their bitsy balls by themselves and it‘s fun to watch them chase imaginary bugs up the wall. They don’t need you to play fetch with them for hours on end.

You can cuddle with a cat easier than you can with a lot of dogs. Have you every tried to cuddle a Bull Mastiff on you lap? You’ll need a new lap when you try that trick.

Cats purr, and, purring calms your soul. Purring is nice, purring is soothing, purring is purr-fect. Cats make nice sounds, dogs don’t. Try to purr dog, just try!

Cats will bring you presents that they catch themselves. How about a nice little mouse or a little bird? Dog’s need some one to shoot the bird first so they can go play fetch!

Cats are just like us -- they’re just little people in form fitting fur coats. I have no idea what dogs are, except that they are smelly, noisy and stupid things on four legs.

So get a cat and send the dog to a nice farm far away from me!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

What I Can't Do

Everybody knows what they are good at, right? Have you ever thought to sum up what you can't do? Here's my list:

Trilling the "R's". I can't trill an "R" in Spanish to save my soul. Nope can't do it. This goes way back to a Fifth Grade introduction to Spanish when even my best "White Boy" friend Eric could do it. I should be able to do it; I'm from California with it's HUGH Spanish influence and I have Hispanic blood flowing through my veins. So why can't I trill my "R's?"

Watch the rice fly. I can't use chopsticks! Everybody after just a little training can use chopsticks, even little kids. Not me, doesn't happen. When I go out to eat Chinese food with the kids they automatically say give the old man a fork!

Two hours later and they're still not in. I can't put contact lenses on my eye balls. Don't laugh; even trained technicians have trouble doing it - took one sweet dear 30 minutes to get one in. So after cathartic surgery which improved the sight in one eye and should have allowed me to get rid of my glasses, why I'm I still wearing them? Because I can't get that darn contact lens into my left eye that's why!

It's pronounced "sínnəmən!" Oh yeah? Well I can't say it no matter how hard I try. I'll just stammer away every time, I promise you! So you'll never hear me order a Cinnamon Bun without sounding like a complete fool.

You know how to whistle don't you? Dear Miss Bacall, sorry can't whistle, I have tried and failed. Must be connected to those darn Trilling "R's" that I can't do either.

Splat! Well there goes another pie crust on the wall! I'm a good cook. I make good stews and soups and I can bake bread from scratch. But, I cannot make and roll a pie crust to save me life. I've thrown more failed pie crusts against the wall than you can count. Darn things just won't roll with out tearing into pieces. Thank goodness for Pillsbury frozen pie crusts -- well yeah, there have been a few of those too hitting the wall.