Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam

Essential thinking for reading Catholics.

Monday, December 31, 2007

The Year In Review In Review

The original theme of this magnificent post was the unspeakably unoriginal The Best Books of 2007. But then I realized that I pay chronology exactly zero heed in terms of what I read. Mostly what I read (and like) is something which grabs my eye on a bookstore's shelves or tables, or comes from the keyboard of an author whose previous effort(s) caught my eye on a bookstore's shelves or tables. As a consequence I neither know nor care which books were written when.

It is here that I'll freely admit to not being -- nor desiring to be -- a particularly open-minded reader. This exacts a particularly heavy burden upon me in the category of fiction; the state of which is deteriorating rapidly. So rapidly, in fact, that if you could get utter silence in a bookstore you could hear a faint fizzing sound.

The problem with fiction, and a problem which is accelerating faster than gravity would lead you to believe, is the unholy triumvirate between most authors, mental health care professionals and the pharmaceutical giants who produce antidepressants by the silo. In short, the novel these days is as depressing as a conjugal visit at Lubianka and worse, the comic novel is in a Hell of a bad way. In America the comic novel is in even worse shape, pale as moonlit fog and coughing up blood. This means that if you wish to read a readable comic novel from an American author, you have to wait for Dave Barry (who has been known to intersperse his ouvre with tomes the main subjects of which are nasal secretions) or Chris Buckley, who has been known to make his readers wait several epochs between books.

Which leaves the American reader seeking intelligent comic fiction -- the only fiction worth a read, says I -- training his eye across the Atlantic to perfidious Albion. Or re-reading stuff written at a time when his countrymen countrypersons were not such an insufferable gaggle of appalling, navel-gazing, humorless, politically-correct busybody Chicken Littles and therefore could muster up the courage to mock and laugh and generally make light of things.

You may ask, especially if you are new* here, what could possibly be the matter with "serious" fiction. I hear your cry and, filled with bonhomie and the spirit of the season (or at least spirits) I won't tell you to bugger off. Instead I'll sort of answer this, charitable sort that I am.

Y'see, dear Internet, serious modern fiction starts handicapped from the start. It is handicapped and fatally so, by the "serious" bit. Thence it devolves sharply in any number of directions. You have unhappy marriages, abusive mothers, alcoholic fathers, lesbians with rabies, drug addiction, compulsive gambling, the one sympathetic character dying of sputum or something, illegitimate progeny, someone leaving Ireland, someone committing suicide because the world is not ready to accept his zoophilic orientation ("Sir Wilbur's youngest, Ranulph, after leaving Eton, decided to enroll at Magdalene College, where he assiduously threw himself into the practice of animal husbandry, until one day lads from the village caught him at it."), someone being oppressed by the mores of the day, unrequited love, dysfunctional mourning, adultery, someone charming and yet evil, and, naturally, much death and betrayal.

Then there is the fetish for many writers to do one of two things with the characters:
1 - Make them interesting, which means they will be
a) so bizarrely improbable you'll hate them, or
b) so wildly flawed you'll hate them, or
2) Make them likeable, which means they will be an insipid bunch whose appeal reaches a mile wide but an inch deep.

The problem with all THAT is most authors -- cheating from the old Spy Magazine parodies, I bet -- simply cannot be bothered to be elegant in their prose. And inelegant prose cannot be overcome by anything. Whoever said that "90% of everything is $#!+" probably got the idea from scanning modern fiction.

This doesn't mean that modern non-fiction is let off lightly. After all, there is a chokingly huge glut of "the world is ending" non-fiction. This trend, I fear if not checked soon, will see bestsellers such as Build Your Own Mud Hut or Well, YOU Wanted High Def TV, Now The World has Imploded...Happy Now, Mr. Western Civilization? But setting aside the tomes that would have us rewind to those giddy, pre-James Watt, pre-I.K. Brunel days, there is still some daylight along the nonfiction aisles.

So!

Here is my list of books I enjoyed this year and which you won't read.

Blacklisted by History by M. Stanton Evans
An exhaustive look at the McCarthy years from a somewhat different perspective.

Conversations With My Agent by Rob Long
This explains how brilliant writers are co-opted by microcephalic Hollywood executives to bring us dumbed-down, cretinous TV fare (with the odd exceptions).

How To Become Extinct by Will Cuppy
It's written by Will Cuppy and that should be good enough for you, especially if you are walking the benevolent misanthrope tightrope.

Florence of Arabia by Christopher Buckley
The idea of a breakfast-time TV show in a fictional Middle Eastern nation ("The Switzerland of the Persian Gulf") with the title One Thousand And One Mornings which features self defense advice for women to use against their boyfriends during Ramadan is priceless.

The City of Falling Angels by John Berendt
Stellar stuff from the author of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil and a former Esquire Menswear editor.

The Ode Less Travelled by Stephen Fry
At last, an entertaining book about poetry. An honest one, too, admitting that most modern poetry is well-nigh unreadable.

View of the Harbour by Elizabeth Taylor
This is as close as I come to both chick-lit and Serious Modern Fiction. Elizabeth "No, Not the Actress" Taylor is one of the most underappreciated authors of the last 50 years. Her prose is VERY precise, with a very dry wit, and interesting characters struggling against their feelings when they run up against Stiff Uppah Lip mores of the pre-Carnaby Street days.

Hell and Other Destinations by Piers Paul Read
A great series of essays, and I'm not much for essays.

Quite Ugly One Morning by Christopher Brookmyre
Carl Hiaasen, only funny.

Night of the Avenging Blowfish by John Welter
This is probably the greatest comic novel of the last 25 years and, for some quirk of fate, happens to be American. We'll not see the likes of it again. You'll laugh so hard you might get asthma medicines tossed at you. At least you would if you would read it, which you won't. (There is some Very Grown Up scenes and language. Ya done been warned.)

With One Lousy Free Packet of Seed by Lynne Truss
It falls apart a TINY bit at the end. But only a TINY bit.

-J.

* Hi.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

On Christmas Day in the morning.

Those of you who remember my lament from last year (Veritas, that means you) will be happy to know that, an overlong homily and truncated penitentila rite aside, Midnight Mass was exactly like what you'd want it to be: A Mass that looked like a Mass, in a church that looks like a church. There was just enough Latin to keep the faithful happy, enough English to keep the "seasonal visitors" and those attending Mass from other parishes happy, and lots of Yells, Bells and Smells.

Father did NOT sing the Gospel self-accompanied by an acoustic guitar. The schola cantorum sang beautifully. It was reverent and transcendent and I was keenly aware of how alive my love for Christ was at that moment.

The less said about Santa Claus, the better, though.

-J.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

How the Grinch is making a valiant effort to steal the Christmas trip.

One of the things we, as a family, argue like civet cats about discuss is travel destinations. Given the way my work schedule, uh, works means I don't have the luxury of stringing enough days together for a proper vacation...nor am I all that flexible about when I can string what days I can.

This is all compounded when family announces they are going to visit ____ and would we like to come along. The problem with this is that we're not really what you'd call "joiners." Even those among the household who join on impulse regret it three picoseconds after being dragged into some bucolic endeavor.

A particular nuisance are the trips which happen around Christmas. Something gets into the brothers-in-law (severally, too, which is worse) and they announce plans to head up to Gatlinburg, or Stowe or some other benighted spot which features certain elements I abhor:

1- Altitude
2- Forests
3- Snow
4- Outdoorsness

We have established pretty clearly I am not one for outdoor pursuits, I hate being cold, I hate parkas and anoraks and thermal undergarments and scarves and ski caps, I hate fleece, I hate Polartec and Goretex, I hate snow, I hate conifers and I especially hate being in the the middle of nowhere...particularly when all of the foregoing is happening simultaneously.

What I prefer doing -- color me reactionary -- is visiting friends I rarely get to see. Granted, sometimes this entails schlepping to some major city up north. To compensate for having wintry fun inflicted upon me, we usually leave the kids (theirs and ours) with an aged relative and go off gallivanting on New Year's Eve to someplace where black tie is required.

Now, I realize we live in a pluralist society and having to array oneself in black tie (or its distaff equivalent) might be someone's idea of an unacceptable terrorist insurgent interrogation technique. But I love it. Which is the polar opposite of the feelings I harbor for snowbound activities.

Anyway, this year it seems we're Washington, DC-bound. You might recall that due to manifest imbecility on the part of American Airlines our summer trip thereto was nipped in the bud. So we're making up for lost time...the advantage of which is that -- oops, so sorry -- we shan't be able to drive eleventy zillion hours to freeze.

So, while we may be cold at least there will be musea and activities and restaurants.

-J.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Don't hate me because I'm dutiful.

All the major Christmas gifts have been purchased. We are awaiting delivery of one item bought and then we're done with the giftage.

The way it works at JMG Manor is that my beloved handles gifts for her side of the family (except her brother, which I take) and her friends, while I handle the gifts for mine (except my sister, which she does); I handle the oldest boy and she handles the youngest.

Then she spends three of the four Advent candles wrapping gifts VERY prettily and complaining about how very tiring it all is. Y'see my wife has this sort of carpal type thing which requires her wearing these neoprene wrist things that she won't because she thinks they are ugly says she doesn't really need them. She really does put a Hell of an effort into the wrapping. Symmetry abounds, no ragged edges, bows and cards are chosen and arranged for maximum visual impact.
Me? I bought a carton of assorted size (pretty, though) gift bags in seasonally-appropriate motif and BAM! My wrapping took nano-instants. They're reusable, which matters to someone like me who is all about the environment.

My big chore (besides slinging foodstuffs for our Boxing Day brunch*) is making cookies. I'll let you in on the biggest secret to assembly line cookie making. You need to get a tiny ice-cream scoop. Scoop and plop, scoop and plop.

This recipe is idiot-proof, relatively healthy (for a cookie), keeps well, travels well, and tastes yummy.

Here ya go.

Brown Sugar Crackles

(I'm giving you the plain brown sugar version, although you may use 3:1 white sugar : maple syrup fort Maple Crackles)

1 1/3 cups (1/3 liter) regular flour (I use unbleached, you should too unless you like eating bleach)
1 1/3 cups whole wheat pastry/cake flour (if you can't find this use 2 cups regular white flour and 2/3 cups regular whole wheat)
1 teaspoon (5ml) baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder (I know! I'm a wild man! I can't be stopped!)
1 teaspoon salt (if using some kind of coarse salt, grind and then measure)
2 cups (480ml) light brown sugar, well packed (dark brown sugar might prove too bitter)
1/2 cup (120ml) butter
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons (10ml) REAL vanilla extract

Preheat your oven to 350F (180C). Grease up however many cookie sheets you'll be using.

In a bowl, mix the butter and sugar until it's a golden-ish beige-y sort of color. Add the eggs and vanilla. Mix well. Combine remaining dry ingredients. Mix the two mixtures, you will get a stiff dough so don't panic. Now, you COULD go all Mrs. Cleaver and start rolling out the dough and using a cookie cutter and all that. (If you want festive shapes such as reindeer, etc. feel free, see if I care.) Me? I use that very small ice cream scoop which issues scoopfuls the approximate size of walnuts.

Put the scoopfuls in a cookie sheet about an inch apart and flatten to roughly a quarter-inch with a fork (wet the fork if it sticks) and bake for 7-9 minutes until the edges JUST begin to go golden-brown and the tops are puffy. You really have to watch the first batch because almost certainly your oven is not calibrated to be spot-on temperature. After the first batch, you can time the rest pretty easily. Anyway, let the cookies rest for a couple of minutes before sliding them off to cool. This makes 48 cookies and these will keep about 3-5 days.

There ya go.

-J.

* Pannetone french toast, scrambled eggs with chives, homemade breakfast sausage links! from scratch!, bloodies/mimosas, latkes with creme fraiche & homemade gravlax and assorted espresso-based beverages. Boxing Day is the day I spend with people I REALLY like, as opposed to people whom my wife compels me to be gracious and cheery on Christmas Day proper.

"Teaching the lepers how to sing."

Over at my house the above is an oft-used phrase. In a nutshell it means that one is doing something of nebulous goodness strictly to assuage one's mind and possibly broadcast a more-virtuous-than-thou to one's putative lessers.

The ways one can "teach the lepers how to sing" are manifold. Buying a hybrid vehicle made of 100% post-consumer content is one. Turns out that buying Fair Trade coffee is another.

Normally, I do not bother reading The New York Tass Times, seeing as how hypertension runs in my family but if PJ O'Rourke hath penned a piece for them, the least I could do is show open-mindedness and read it, skipping merrily past all the articles explaining to murderous terrorists insurgents how and why and when the various military and intelligence forces of the USA and its allies intend to combat them.

If we go strictly by the P.R. buzz of the thing, you'd think Fair Trade Coffee was simply a group getting together to make sure certain coffees were grown by, say, non-slave labor and paid a price which would afford the people involved a living wage and that'd be pretty much it. Of course, just because that should be it, doesn't mean it is. Instead, according to Starbucked author Taylor Clark (hardly a vast right-wing conspirator), the reality of the thing is quite different, since those who wish to qualify for the coveted FT status:
"...must obey a structure of rules that often seems more like a socialist wish list than a structure designed to help growers[.]"
and
"All aspiring farms must be small, family-run plots that are part of democratic, worker-owned cooperatives. Private ownership and capitalist practices are completely off limits — even hiring day laborers can take your farm out of the running."
Mind you, I was dimly (very dimly, truth be told) aware of the not-quite-sympatico vibe of the FT bureaucrats and always went with these guys who paid their growers FT prices without the liberation dog and pony show.

...and I'm a coffee snob.

-J.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.

So the Christmas thing at school was last night.

The bad news is that I have seen better organized riots. The good news is that NOS did his bit to much acclaim.

Keep in mind this school is not just "Catholic" but Catholic. With nuns in full habit, Latin everywhere, and all that sort of thing. Therefore, the Christmas pageant thing can't just be singing and dancing in a hall with a stage. So, what Sr. I. did is have a Rosary that was punctuated with pageant-ish stuff.

Now, for those who are not fully Papist-conversant -- the rest of you may go off and have a soothing beverage -- the way the Rosary works is that you think about ("meditate upon") a particular bit of the Bible (called "a Mystery;" for example when St. Gabriel the Archangel shows up and tells Mary she's going to give birth to Jesus) and as you do so you pray an Our Father and ten Hail Marys, and a few other ancillary prayers, then you think about the next bit (Mary goes to visit St. Elizabeth, etc.) while praying the next batch of prayers, etc.

Before this kicks off, the school choir -- an institution that celebrates diversity, not only in matters of race and ethnicity but also in matters of ability and enthusiasm and choice of key -- starts things with a selection that culminates in "O Come, O Come Emanuel." NOS forgot he had been given a dispensation since he was narrating and sang from the lectern, drowning out the un-amplified choir for 3 and a half bars. Sister D. was not pleased.

Once a semblance of order had been restored (it's murderously hard to keep +/- 1000 children plus parents from chattering loudly, you kind of see Herod's point of view) NOS announced the first bit of the Bible, read the appropriate passage and then kids assemble in a sort of living, pantomime, tableau.

Here is where things got a bit touch-and-go. The child cast as St. Gabriel the Archangel, for reasons which were not listed in the Playbill, failed to materialize. At the last picosecond, an understudy had to be located and pressed into service; this entailed, most pointedly, placing the new kid in the costume. From memory, the original child cast in this role was a slip of a girl with luxuriant blonde tresses. The understudy was, um, a cheerful looking lad possibly four years older, with what I surmise to be an overexcited pituitary and of a robust build. A healthy blond boy with not so much luxuriant tresses as a Marine Corps flattop buzzcut. What he lacked in rehearsed polish, he made up in sheer joyful enthusiasm. As he gesticulated animatedly to the startled girl playing Mary, he made sure to put all the knowledge acquired during a childhood spent assiduously playing charades into practice.

He pointed eagerly at Heaven, stood on tippy-toe and spread wide his arms to indicate to Mary the magnitude of the Lord and then, to the hyper-thunderous acclaim of all the audience who were neither nuns, priests or parents, made a spherical sort of motion in the general vicinity of his midsection to inform a now-very startled Mary that she would conceive and bear a child.

After the audience recovered its wind, other children would file up to the microphone, unburden their vocal chords of the Our Father, etc. which they had been assigned, and shuffle off to give the next kid his shot at the limelight.

At some point, an artistic decision had to be made: "Do we cast the Junior High kids who can say things clearly and without congealing in a dopamine-fueled terror but who are, let's face it, not the most adorable of sights...or do we go with the little tykes who might interject the contents of their Christmas wish list throughout their assigned prayers but are SO ADORABLE?"

You guessed right, Internet. They went with the cuties. For sheer entertainment value, the choice was genius. Your average 5 year old has the attention span of a crazed rodent (even less if they were anything like I was) and is always staving off near-terminal levels of boredom. Which is precisely what you want to see in a Christmas verité sort of production. Even more interesting is when the one conscientious child starts chiding his or her fellows near an open microphone, his (or her) piping child voice reverberating throughout the place.

The second Bible passage that NOS had to read concerns Mary visiting her cousin St. Elizabeth, herself carrying St. John the Baptist. The girl playing Mary was obviously relieved to have playing opposite her a seasoned expert in the role of Elizabeth. What they didn't count on was that Elizabeth, who has to fall to her knees, would get nervous and emphasize the falling bit a bit too hard for her poor knees. She was a trouper, though, and gamely stayed knelt even though she probably wanted to have a good sob in the corner along with a healthy bag of ice. She gets my award for bravery, whichever son of mine doesn't have otherwise made nuptial arrangements would do well to hitch his wagon to her.

The third bit was the Nativity scene, and that went pretty incident-free, except for the shepherds shoving each other a bit and the real baby (as opposed to a doll) playing Baby Jesus decided to loosen a couple of lungfuls of air at 165dB, apparently never getting the instruction that "the little Lord Jesus, no crying He makes." Even offstage the baby's wails could be heard, and you would have thought as a surprise encore they were doing the Slaughter of the Innocents from the sounds of it. Maintaining an amazing sang-froid was St. Joseph who yawned throughout.

The following section was the presentation of Jesus in the Temple, when Simeon prophesies. Interestingly, Simeon looked an AWFUL LOT like St. Gabriel the Archangel and not so much like the skinny Haitian kid I'd seen at rehearsal. Sure, the felt/cotton beard was similar, but the gesticulating pantomime gave it away. I must hand it to the child in question, because once he had discovered what worked best for him as an actor, he latched on to it like a lamprey, or possibly a moray. Maybe it was a limpet. No matter, this kid had worked out his system and got a chokehold around it.

The last section, of Jesus staying behind at the Temple discussing with the elders and scribes, went exactly as planned. Not much drama here.

There was much singing afterwards, both religious and secular and jingling of jingle bells and towards the end, Father D. went and sprinkled Holy Water on all the Baby Jesus figurines the kids had brought.

The End

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Just in time for Christmas.

I'm selling my carbon offsets. They're just taking up valuable space I need for other offsets (I've had my eye on some helium offsets for quite a while, come to think of it.) and I figured I might as well let them go to someone who could use them.

These are available in any denomination and covers all forms of carbon, except diamonds because I'm married and not stupid.

Proceeds go towards my solar-powered race car.

-J.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

"I know that dude!"

(Apologies to Jeff Spicoli.)

Check out this article from (gasp!) The New York Tass Times.

The Jesuit in question, Fr. Juan Manuel Dorta-Duque, SJ was one of my teachers and he is now the Spiritual Director of my school's Alumni Association. Another Jesuit (not featured in the piece) Fr. F.S. Azcoitia, SJ was actually a classmate of Fidel Castro.

There.

Now you know.

-J.

...a Meme Christmas to all, and to all a g'night

OK, I have some catching up to do, so I'm taking the easy way out. I'm doing a meme I have brazenly pilfered from an email just received.

Ready?

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags?
Gift bags. I am male and therefore too inept to wrap neatly and too lazy not to toss something in a bag. If the store whence the gift came originally -- I do my shopping on eBay and Amazon -- is posh enough, then my job here is done.

2. Real tree or artificial?
Fake. I have appalling allergies to conifers; my beloved didn't believe me when we were first married, and so I let her get a natural tree the first year...she still wakes up in a cold sweat.

3. When do you put up the tree?
Thanksgiving Saturday.

4. When do you take the tree down?
Immediately following Epiphany. January 7.

5. Do you like eggnog?
Nah. Tastes like someone spiked custard with vodka and tried to cover that error with nutmeg.

6. Favorite gift received as a child?
My gifts always sucked dead wombats as a child.

7. Do you have a nativity scene?
Yes. This old intricately carved thing from Spain. Every year we get a new cast member.

8. Hardest person to buy for?
Me. I'm, uh, a complete and utter PITA very particular.

9. Easiest person to buy for?
TFBIM. Something in the jewelry vein that is not too "bling" and not too "funky" and I'm set.

10. Worst Christmas gift you ever received?
My parents got me a beard-trimmer three years ago. I've never had a beard. You'd figure that my parents who see me, on average, thrice weekly, would know that.

11. Mail or email Christmas cards?
Mail. Not to say I hand-write most of them, but I do mail them, given that with a word processing software's mail-merge function and a printer one can be done with it in oh, 20 minutes, I fail to see the stress in this task.

12. Favorite Christmas Movie?
Hmm. A Christmas Story. My favorite TV show is A Charlie Brown Christmas. Not a real big Grinch fan ovah heah.

13. When do you start shopping for Christmas?
Dec. 26th.

14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present?
If I've ever given you anything, or you've given me anything, the answer is "No, of course, not."

15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas?
Nougat.

16. Clear lights or colored on the tree?
Clear.

17. Favorite Christmas song?
Religious: Adeste Fideles. (Yes, in Latin. That's just the kind of guy I am.)

Secular: Run, Run Rudolph by Chuck Berry or B-b-b-blue Christmas by Porky Pig.

I know, I know...I am SUCH a child.

18. Travel for Christmas or stay home?
Stay home. Keep in mind that Christ -- and it is His birthday we celebrate -- said to pick up our cross and follow Him, and I can think of no better way to do just that very thing than to let my family inflict itself upon me.

19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeers?
Yes.

20. Angel on the tree top or a star?
Star. It is a wire star, and I stuffed it full of tree lights, for added excellentness.

21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning?
Christmas morning. We're too beat after enduring my extended family and then hearing Midnight Mass to do anything else.

We also don't do that "open up one gift on Christmas Eve" stuff.

22. Most annoying thing about this time of year?
My family, which I should specify is my mother's side. My father's side is almost all in Spain (except for the ones shot by the proponents of socialized medicine during the Spanish Civil War or the proponents of socialized medicine in Cuba).

23. What I love most about Christmas?
Christmas is just okay in the cultural sort of way. I love getting people gifts they will love, but people usually never give me anything that's all that great. The best part is our Boxing Day Brunch and then immediately flying off somewhere.

New Year's is pretty good, though.

I hereby issue due taggery upon Mark, Veritas, Karen, Ryan & M2.

-J.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

As it turns out...

...bestselling author Phil(l)ip Pullman is a space alien in disguise. Not only is he a space alien, but we have been getting warnings to this effect for almost 20 years.

Look!


(Pay close attention to the end of the clip.)

and



See?

-J.

"When we said wanted comprehensive immigration reform, this is NOT what we had in mind."

His Eminence, Walter Cardinal Kasper has been quoted as saying, in regards to the request by the bishops of the Traditional Anglican Communion to have "full, corporate and sacramental union" with the Roman Catholic Church, the following gem:

(Ready?)

"It's not our policy to bring that many Anglicans to Rome."
Presumably any in excess of the number His Eminence has in mind will be...what? detained and deported?

The irony of all this is that for epochs -- certainly for all of my soon-to-be-not-inconsiderable lifetime -- the Modern Brights at the Vatican have longed publicly for a corporate reunification with the Church of England and its assorted branches. So what seems to be at play here is a reverse-Goldilocks-effect. One Anglican is fine, the whole Anglican communion is likewise fine, but a substantial hunk thereof in one lump, well, we just don't have enough forms and paper to process the whole lot. Simply not done, you see.

So, it's OK for the shepherd to wander off searching for the one lost sheep, but it is not Official Shepherding Policy to wander off searching for, say, seven or more sheep.

Oy.

-J.

P.S. If you click on the above link and scroll down, you'll find myriad examples of the sort of obnoxiously, ignorantly robust heresy that one would have thought extinct. Glad to know we're still in people's crosshairs.

H/t OTR

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Rudy can't fail?

[Re. the post title: Apologies to those whose youth, sadly, never encompassed the manifest glory that is ska music.]

I'm trying to work out what to do/think about Rudy Giuliani. As I mentioned previously, his stand on social issues leaves me bewildered. What I have read about his viewpoints on the social hot-button issues leads me to shake my head in spectacular disagreement. He is wrong on almost (almost?) all of them. I won't try to work out if his stances are a function of having to get votes in that citadel of hatred and collectivist groupthink that is NYC, or to what extent he holds them passionately and/or sincerely. I'll take his positions as read and leave it at that.

But here's the thing.

My positions on these issues are, unarguably, those of the vast majority of Republicans, including many whose pro-life/culture warrior credentials I am unworthy to unfasten. Yet...Giuliani has a commanding lead in the Republican nomination polls. So what gives? Why are several prominent pro-life/culture warriors endorsing him? Why are so many pro-life Republicans throwing their support to someone whose views on social issues are inimical to theirs?

A part of this can be explained by Giuliani's tough law-and-order record, having convicted a gazillion mafia types and generally being considered to have "cleaned up New York." There is also his putative fiscal conservatism -- although in the minds of the Upper West Side brights, not confiscating income at gunpoint pretty much counts as neoclassical economic theory -- and, my personal favorite, his eagerness to slug it out with political opponents. He is also probably the most natural campaigner in this race, speaking effortlessly and cogently in an extemporaneous way.

But that's hardly it, right?

The only thing that occurs to me is that Republicans, including the aforesaid stalwart prolifers, do not consider 2008 a "regular" political year. My ridiculously informal assessment is that winning the war on terror, especially in Iraq which particularly necessitates smacking down Democrats who seem, er, not especially concerned by Islamofascism nor the aid and comfort afforded Islamofascists by a Vietnam- or Somalia-like withdrawal. Republicans have the images of 9/11/01 pretty well engraved in their mind, and in those images they recall a Giuliani who exuded authority and leadership.

This election, this issue seems to take precedence over all those issues which would have rendered a Giuliani candidacy an unviable tissue mass in a normal election year. That's the only sense I can make of it.

-J.

Monday, December 10, 2007

See? We're not the same person.

(I was originally going to title this post "I'm Not The Stig" but I doubt anyone would know what on earth I was talking about. This doesn't strike me like a BBC2 crowd, hence the paucity of Gordon Ramsay references.)

The lovely and gracious Karen and I are often accused, often by the more assertive enuretics out there -- usually over at ALB -- of being of one mind. Marching in lockstep, as it were. But that is not true, and I am about to present compelling evidence to that effect.

Karen, taking the occasion of Mitt Romney's Ich Bin Ein Berliner I'm A Mormon & I'm OK speech, has written a post on how she sees the upcoming US presidential election. Before I do an abbreviated version of the same, I must lay out (again) my political inclinations that nobody will think I am trying to palm off anything surreptitiously.

I am (emphatically) not one of those "the two major parties are all the same" or "they both upset me just as much." I am a Republican. No, I am not a _____ Republican. Not a "social" conservative or a "fiscal" conservative or whatever. To coin a phrase, I inhabit the Republican wing of the Republican party. Part of this is genetic. The first civic act my parents ever did as U.S. citizens was to vote for Barry Goldwater in 1964; and when we were children, my sister and I were free to help ourselves to any dimes we found, as our ancestors refused to have anything to do with FDR, and the animus towards FDR extended to coins. (We never tested whether this courageous stand on principle extended to Kennedy half-dollars and Jackson $20s, but we do know that we never had any Democrat on the stamps at the house because "the saliva would somehow wind up on the incorrect side.")

So now you know.

Having said all that, I am disheartened by the appalling lack of choice for the Republican nomination. All of these guys have some serious strike against them, which precludes my voting for them in the primaries. (The general election is a wholly different animal. The only way I'll ever vote for a Democrat over a Republican is if the former is pro-life and the other is not. I'll wait for that day sitting down, thanks.)

In sum, while I am not electorally put off by the LSD-ish views of the LDS, I am concerned by the generally unimpressive nature of Mitt Romney and I'm not all that crazy-convinced about his seriousness as a social conservative. The fact he got into a discussion on some of the more, er, peculiar aspects of Mormonism without realizing his mike would still be live during the commercial breaks doesn't speak highly about his sagacity.

Giuliani's appallingly Upper West Side social views make me want to flee screaming as if my hair were aflame. (In fairness, I do like the fact Giuliani -- as opposed to almost all Republicans in living memory -- likes to play hardball with his political enemies. The late, lamented Spy magazine once christened him "America's Toughest Weenie.")

McCain? Yes, sure, the fact he always looks as if he is about to #$%&ingsnapanymomentnow is highly entertaining, but his bedwetterness on the matter of the appointment of judges who'd actually reshape the issues of same-sex marriage, abortion, etc. is, for me, a dealbreaker.

So who's left? Huckabee? His position on illegal immigration is a nonstarter, and presages someone who'd easily cave to the Usual Suspects; an Arkansas Democrat is not at all like a Capitol Hill Democrat.

Tom Tancredo was imbecile enough to say Miami is like a 3rd World country -- and anyone stupid enough to insult one of the (if not the) most loyal of Republican constituencies is simply not intelligent enough to be President.

The only guy who stands a snowball's chance of getting my unreserved support is Rep. Duncan Hunter. Of course, it takes a mighty long memory to remember the last President elected straight out of the House of Representatives*. The last guy to have had a s-l-i-m chance was Jack Kemp in 1988 and he was flattened by GHWB. But so far his outlook on the issues seems congruent with mine, he served honorably in Vietnam and his son is a Marine (Marine?) serving in Iraq. Anyone so sympatico with my views, doesn't have a chance, alas.

Of course, a hypercynical pro-life person would say the way to end abortion would be to vote for the Democrat who'd most likely surrender unconditionally to Islamofascism, Inc., and when those guys overrun the place, Emily's List will be in burqas, quietly walking three paces back.

The problem is that I am not running for President (the reasons why the Republic is being deprived of my manifold qualities is another story for another post) and therefore we won't have someone who will simultaneously play hardball over judges who are Not Insane, win the War on Terror once and for all, take a meat cleaver to both the Federal Register and the Federal Budget, merrily chainsaw taxes and turn Washington D.C. into a Volvo-propelled BoBo reenactment of the Grapes of Wrath.

-J.

* James Garfield, in 1880. He was shot.

I'm Meme-ing of a White Christmas

The lovely and gracious Karen hath issued much taggage unto me, and thus I must respond.

This is the 8 random things meme.

Since my life is all about the randomness thing, the hard part is to limit myself to a mere 8 things, but one tries.

1- I have never bought -- and I do not ever anticipate ever buying -- a car with an automatic transmission. Like dating a smoker or an atheist, this is a fuse-blowing dealbreaker. I don't care how good the car, or how good the deal...if it lacks a clutch pedal, consider me among the absent.

2- I refuse to reside anywhere that has:

a) A state income tax (every April 15th, the Federal income tax always has me gazing longingly at the more obscure Caribbean islands).
b) No coastline. If seafood is flown in, it's not fresh.
c) The slightest, tiniest, hint or checmical traces of winter.
d) Cretinous laws related to the consumption of ardent spirits or automotive emissions.

The ideal place for me, then, is some tropical tax haven island with a Libertarian regime and an autobahn connecting all the fishing docks, wineries, breweries and distilleries.

3- I do not drink -- ick! -- regular coffee. If it's not espresso, it's simply too bloody watery to be allowed.

4- I can taste the difference between all colas known to mankind. Incidentally, the ne plus ultra of colas is Coke's Kosher-for-Passover Coke, sweetened with REAL CANE SUGAR and not the cheap-o HFCS, which is Satan's sweetener.

5- I can go 48 hours without sleep. I really, really try not to, but in college I was able to do this easily and without stimulants. These days, having reached man's estate, there is no call for that, but the odd 24 hours of sleeplessness is sometimes necessary.

6- I can correctly fake almost any accent in English except Australian.

7- I haven't let my wife cook in almost 15 years of marriage. When I am off on a business trip, our ten-year-old cooks.

8- My favorite bit of Christmas entertainment, BAR NONE, is the Charlie Brown Christmas special.

-J.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

"THAT. That's what we're talking about." Pt. 11"

Oy.

And from a Jesuit Bishop.

Read and weep.

-J.