Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Seven wonderful years so far

Intreat me not to leave thee, nor to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God:

Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the LORD do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me.

Happy anniversary to the most perfect woman the Lord could have picked out for me. I'm humbled and grateful.

(Oh, and thanks to Father Sam, who went way out of his way to come officiate at the wedding.)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Updates from the grinch zone

In case you can't tell, I recently found a place to store music files so I could blog them. (You can see the results below.) I also put my favicon and The Man Who Traveled in Elephants on there, so you won't get a 404 message from Geocities. Unfortunately, my home computer seems to have wheezed its last yesterday, so any blogging I do has to be done from the office (on my breaks, honest) until I get it back. If indeed I do.

Meanwhile, my schedule has been so hideous this last month and a half that I haven't been able to do much blogging even during my occasional jaunts home. I haven't forgotten that I owe Paul a video of humiliation, but I've been so doggone slammed that my kids have mostly forgotten what I look like. Serious. I walked in the other night and Ostrogoth clung to my wife's leg and whimpered, "Mama, who's that man? He's scary!" Thirteen years in the newspaper business have taught me to loathe the festive season.

I haven't figured out what to do about comments yet. Haloscan is about to upgrade to a paid service, and I think I may just bite the bullet and shell out the ten bucks a year to use it rather than lose all my comments from the last four and a half years. Apparently they allow you to export the archives for free, but none of the other platforms can import them. I'm a cheapskate when it comes to blogging - I promised myself when I started that I wouldn't take it seriously enough to pay money for it - but now I'm not sure I can quit.

In case I don't get anything more posted, Merry Christmas. And God help us, every one!

Yingling all de vay!

I wouldn't expect a man named O'Hannigan to be able to swot up a good Norwegian accent. In fact, given the ferocity with which my ancestors raped and pillaged his (not necessarily in that order), I would expect it to be blotted from his genetic memory altogether. Fortunately, The irreplaceable Yogi Yorgesson left us with an immortal seasonal classic to remember it by:

And Patrick? Sorry about that whole pillaging thing, man.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Hey, Nineteen!

My Virtuous and Excellent Daughter turned nineteen today. And I'll bet she's never even heard this:

Happy birthday! I love you!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Home for the holidays

A lapsed Catholic discovers that the Church, for all its warts, is still the Church.
It’s embarrassing to admit that I will go to Mass at Christmas, because I am clearly a bad Catholic. I am short-tempered, impatient, often the opposite of serene, and the number of Vatican rules I break doesn’t bear admitting. But, hey, if I didn’t go to Mass I’d probably be far worse.

I was educated at London state schools by bright nuns and committed Catholic lay teachers who firmly implanted in me the rhythms and inspiring messages of the church’s great festivals.

The commercialism of a Godless Christmas and Easter, reduced to conspicuous consumption and shorn of their epic tales of redemption, felt empty. I could never bring myself to use the word ‘Xmas’. Christ, the nuns always reminded us, was the feast’s whole point.

For years I used to sneak into my local church to pray when no one was there. While reporting child abuse horror stories I worked with an inspiring Christian police officer and confided my religious doubts. He gave me good, simple advice: ‘Take them to God. Just pray, “Lord, help me with my unbelief.”’

I surprised myself by even going to Confession for the first time in years. The priest put things in a nutshell when he gently asked: ‘Is your main argument with God or the Vatican?’

‘Oh, the Vatican,’ I blurted out.

‘Ah well, then,’ the priest chuckled, ‘I’m sure God the Almighty has far more problems with the Vatican than you. Welcome back!’

So that was it – it seemed that I didn’t have to sign up to the whole shebang to rejoin after all.

I don't understand people who can celebrate an entirely secular Christmas. It seems to me that whether you believe in the Nativity or you don't, it's still the point of the whole thing. If you can't in good conscience join with people who believe to celebrate that particular event, then why waste your time with the trappings?

If you haven't been to church in a while, Christmas is a good time to make an appearance. I promise, nobody's going to tie you to a pew and pummel you with a crozier until you can recite the Nicene Creed convincingly. And God's always happy to see you. Who knows? You might even feel like going back again sometime.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Glory to God in the weirdest!

This is from the 1984 punk compilation Midnight Christmas Mess. "Angels We Have Heard On High" as you never expected to hear it:

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Here we go again

The usual spate of "Christmas is just a revamped pagan holiday" articles, reminding us Christian redneck yahoos that we're really just glossing over a solstice ritual, or a Mithras-cult revel, or some such. Some of those are atheist pharisees, some are civil-religion bigots for whom all religions are equally superior to the Christian one, and some are just well-meaning people who have been told that all their lives.

Umm... nope.
Many Christians think that Christians celebrate Christ’s birth on December 25th because the church fathers appropriated the date of a pagan festival. Almost no one minds, except for a few groups on the fringes of American Evangelicalism, who seem to think that this makes Christmas itself a pagan festival. But it is perhaps interesting to know that the choice of December 25th is the result of attempts among the earliest Christians to figure out the date of Jesus’ birth based on calendrical calculations that had nothing to do with pagan festivals.

Rather, the pagan festival of the “Birth of the Unconquered Son” instituted by the Roman Emperor Aurelian on 25 December 274, was almost certainly an attempt to create a pagan alternative to a date that was already of some significance to Roman Christians. Thus the “pagan origins of Christmas” is a myth without historical substance.

The idea that the date was taken from the pagans goes back to two scholars from the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. Paul Ernst Jablonski, a German Protestant, wished to show that the celebration of Christ’s birth on December 25th was one of the many “paganizations” of Christianity that the Church of the fourth century embraced, as one of many “degenerations” that transformed pure apostolic Christianity into Catholicism. Dom Jean Hardouin, a Benedictine monk, tried to show that the Catholic Church adopted pagan festivals for Christian purposes without paganizing the gospel.

In the Julian calendar, created in 45 B.C. under Julius Caesar, the winter solstice fell on December 25th, and it therefore seemed obvious to Jablonski and Hardouin that the day must have had a pagan significance before it had a Christian one. But in fact, the date had no religious significance in the Roman pagan festal calendar before Aurelian’s time, nor did the cult of the sun play a prominent role in Rome before him.

Go read it all and be ready the next time someone tries to foist the "pagan" canard on you.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Today being the feast of St. Nicholas...

... I think I'll desecrate his blessed memory with the worst movie ever made about him. If you can sit through this one without chewing off your mouse arm to escape, you deserve a special award. (And if someone who's better at graphics wants to come up with one, I'll even bestow it on you.)

Please enjoy endure Santa Claus Conquers the Martians:

Friday, December 04, 2009

Science fiction: ahead of the curve for a reason

I lifted this Harry Turtledove short from last July's issue of Analog, which isn't available online. (If the publishers want to make a fuss, they can let me know and I'll take it down.) I'm posting the whole thing; it's too good just to excerpt.

Ironically, sci-fi writers tend to think more realistically than the average novelist because theirs is such a wildly speculative field. You can't write good 'what-ifs" without understanding the forces that go into making what actually is. And sure enough, it's much more relevant than it was last summer.

Try as we will, we can no longer deny the truth. The world is getting warmer. Glaciers everywhere are in full retreat. Shamans and wizards of many clans have joined together, and rightiy so, in stressing the disastrous environmental impact the withdrawal of the ice will have.

Many large mammal species - the bases of our economy and our very way of life - are certain to face displacement or even extinction as the weather worsens. Clans dependant upon woolly mammoths and woolly rhinoceri for sustenance will either have to migrate into new and unfamiliar hunting grounds or begin feeding upon smaller, less satisfactory prey animals such as caribou and horses. In certain heavily impacted areas, clans may be reduced to eating beavers and marmots. There have even been reports of the regular consumption of crayfish, mussels, and other fare normally contemplated only during famines. All such movements and lifestyle shifts, of course, also entail numerous violations of tabu. The cost of propitiation is certain to be high.

Worse problems may also lie ahead for affected areas. As the tundra retreats northward, invasive foliage from the south encroaches upon it. These "trees," as they are technically known, cannot support the biodiversity upon which we depend. Not only that, hunting becomes far more difficult: with the severely reduced horizon among trees, visibility and tracking suffer badly.

Furthermore, anecdotal reports trickling up from areas in the south already afflicted with trees indicated that predators peculiar to this degraded environment pose significant risks to hunters and even gatherers. These so-called "bears," if such sources may be relied upon, are large, wily, and dangerous in the extreme.

It is as yet unclear to those studying issues pertaining to "forests" (as accumulations of trees are termed) whether the beasts called "boars" are predators or prey. Not to be confused with bears, boars are simultaneously alleged to be both extremely tasty and swift and savage. As trees continue to advance onto tundra, cautious experimentation seems indicated.

So far, it will be noted, I have discussed only the incontrovertible fact of global warming, its likely impact upon us in the relatively near future, and short-term coping strategies. Many will say that we should not remain in a reactive mode, but should proactivety seek to reverse the deleterious effects of this warming trend. In some ways, though, such a proactive response seems more readily proposed than implemented.

Forward-thinking shamans - including some among the first to recognize the reality of our predicament - have naturally sought sorcerous countermeasures. Considerable appropriations of dried meat have enabled a large-scale research program unmatched since the one that led to the partial taming of fire (about which, in a rather different context, more soon). If only success were commensurate with effort! Even spells essayed in the dead of winter and in the anomalous cold darkness of solar eclipses have failed to halt or even slow the steady, apparently inexorable retreat of the glaciers and degradation of the tundra south of them.

Which brings me back to fire. Wizards have conclusively demonstrated that fire is a spear with a point at both ends, as likely to wound the ones who wield it as to aid them. Fire gives heat. It cooks food. So much has been known for many generations. Because of this, tundra clans, almost without dissent, reckon it highly valuable. Lately, the truth of that assumption has come under question.

You see, fire, while burning, releases invisible spirits into the atmosphere. Because they spring from fire these spirits trap heat, in much the same way hunters trap mammoths with pitfalls. Once the mammoth tumbles into the pit, it cannot hope to escape. And, once the liberated fire spirits trap the sun's heat, that cannot hope to escape, either.

The more fires our clans burn, then, the more fire spirits commence to prowl the air. And, the more fire spirits prowl the air, the more solar heat they snare near the earth's surface. This obviously is a factor - and an increasingly significant factor as the use of fire grows - in the emerging global-warming crisis.

From this, it follows that reducing the fire spirits' footprints as they prowl the atmosphere would correspondingly reduce the amount of trapped solar heat contributing to the warming of the earth. We must use fire less. Those habituated to the savor and chewability of cooked meat may well object to that. So may those who have grown accustomed to sleeping soft in their tents even when snow swirls outside.

Their shortsighted, deluded self-interest must - I repeat: must - be rejected, and in the most emphatic way possible. The environment and its continued protection take priority over all the commonplace concerns. If fire causes the glaciers to retreat; if fire causes the tundra to follow the ice north and causes longtime clan hunting grounds to be overrun with useless, obstructive vegetation pushing up from the south in the wake of global warming; if fire causes the very seas to rise, threatening to displace or drown the clans living in low-lying regions - if fire causes these things, I say, we must suppress it. Cause them it does. Our wizards and shamans no longer leave us any room for doubt. Therefore, suppress it we must.

Let this be a warning, then, to all those so enamored of their temporary comfort that they are willing (perhaps even eager) to cling to fire despite the ever more obvious long-term environmental consequences. If they persist in releasing fire spirits into the air, we shall oppose them with all necessary measures, up to and including war.

And once we vanquish them - and vanquish them we shall, for our cause is just - we will make an example of them, so that we discourage and intimidate potential future backsliders. We will catch them and kill them and eat them.

Raw, of course.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

I want to believe

Mr. Gorski was bad enough, but to hear that the greatest newspaper lede in history was a myth?

No! A thousand times, no! Generations of newspapermen have clung to the dream that one day they might write something half as good. I will maintain with my dying breath that the line was genuine.

La la la... I can't hear you...

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Note to Paul

I haven't forgotten who won the game on Saturday. I just haven't been able to get everybody in the same room long enough. Hopefully tonight or tomorrow I can make good. Sorry for the delay.

(I may speak Welsh, but I don't do it. Honest.)

This is what's meant by "choice"

Silly girl just didn't understand that the abortionist only had her best interests at heart when he and his assistant held her down, clamped his hand over her mouth to muffle her screams, and aborted her baby against her will.

You know you really want it. You little hussy.

An aberration, you say? Think again. My Lovely and Brilliant Wife used to pray outside an abortuary in San Antonio, and she saw more than one occasion where a teenage girl was literally dragged into the facility, screaming in protest, by the man who drove here there with the help of the clinic employees.

See, sometimes choice isn't enough. Sometimes they have to be forced to accept the choice. For their own good.

This is why abortionists need to stay above the law. So their profits can be kept safe (for them), legal and abundant.