Saturday, February 07, 2004

Coming To A Theater Near You: The Passion of the Christ

OK, so the ad on the hood of a racing car is pretty tacky. (Thanks to Domenico Bettinelli for the link!) Auto racing in general is right up there with the WWF as the epitome of tacky. But the film is not necessarily going to find its best audience among folks in the Northeast with multiple degrees and a taste for brie, J. Press suits, and Jaguar motor cars like me.

But this is an important movie, one that you should see. The reviews by opinion makers who have seen the movie reflect a common reaction: stunned silence after the film is over.

The official website provides this search engine to find out where the movie will be playing. It opens February 25th (Ash Wednesday).

Friday, February 06, 2004

Samuel McIntire: The Man Who Built Salem

For the most part, only people who live in Salem, or make a close study of early American architecture are familiar with Samuel McIntire. But he was the foremost Federalist-style architect (he called himself a "housewright") and wood carver outside of Boston. Indeed, looking at their surviving work, it is difficult to say who was the more talented, McIntire or Bulfinch. He was the son of a house wright, and apprenticed with his father, along with his brothers. His father may have built in 1759 the oldest brick house in Salem, the first home (a wedding present from his merchant father, Captain Richard Derby) of the man who would become America's first millionaire, Elias Haskett Derby.

Even before the Revolutionary War was over, young Samuel was producing elegant homes for Salem's new mercantile elite. His first works were heavy and awkward adaptations of the Robert Adam style to American conditions, like the Pierce-Johnnot-Nichols House (1780) on Federal Street. But shortly he had developed a lighter touch, as seen in the Ward House (1783) on Washington Street (allegedly the most haunted house in Salem, and where George Washington spent the night on a visit to Salem in 1789) and in a house built for Elias Haskett Derby next door to the existing Derby House , called the Hawkes House in 1782 on Derby Street.

And McIntire's taste and talent grew from there. The fullest expression is the Gardiner-White-Pingree House (1805) on Essex Street, across from another example of his best, the Gideon Tucker House (1804). The GWP House is cited in most textbooks as the most refined expression of the Federal style of architecture and interior design. It is open as a house-museum run by the PeabodyEssex Museum. Hamilton Hall (1805) on Chestnut Street, at least three houses on Salem Common, the old Crowninshield House on Derby Street, and several of the earliest houses on Chestnut Street are his.

McIntire was patronized by the Derby Family extensively. Aside from building the Hawkes House for Derby (Derby never lived in it, but used it as a warehouse for his privateers, and then sold it to one of his captains), he remodeled an existing house on the corner of Washington and Lynde for him. He remodeled Derby's farm in present-day Peabody and built a beautiful summer house there, now on the grounds of Glen Magna in Danvers.

Mrs. Derby grew tired of the house at Washington and Lynde, and commissioned McIntire to build a new house between Essex and Front Streets on the site of the current Old City Hall. He finished what was probably the finest example of Federalist architecture in New England in 1799, just months before Mrs. Derby died (followed just six months later by Elias Haskett himself at the age of 60). But the patronage of the Derby family did not end there. He built houses that are no longer standing for one of Derby's sons in the area ravaged by the Great Salem Fire of 1914, and for Derby's daughter (Oak Hill) on the present site of the North Shore Mall in Peabody, a few hundred yards down the road from her father's farm. Several rooms from Oak Hill are preserved at Boston's Museum of Fine Arts.

But McIntire also built great public buildings. I have already mentioned Hamilton Hall, essentially the Federalist-era equivalent of a function room. The building we live in was built as a Custom House for the US government by McIntire in 1805 (and features one of the few Palladian windows McIntire utilized (others were at Oak Hill and at Waltham). At one point, more than 5% of the total revenue of the US government was generated in this building. He built a commercial block almost identical to our building, but no longer standing, on the corner of Washington and Essex Streets. He built a school, no loner standing, on Federal Street. He built the old Tabernacle Congregational Church (the new one was built in the 1920s along very similar lines) on Washington Street. He built a new church for Salem's First Church congregation on Chestnut Street. Unfortunately it burned in a spectacular fire in 1911.

If his architecture was the epitome of refined good taste, his wood carvings somehow managed to surpass even that standard. His most familiar motif was the sheaf of wheat, which appeared on the sides of many a mantle-piece here in Salem. He carved the federal eagle for the entry-way of our building (the original is in the PeabodyEssex Museum down the street). Delicate moldings, mantlepieces, arches, doorways, staircases, entryways, even plaster ceilings, all bore the marks of his exceptional skill. He even carved the figureheads of some ships. He even turned out some fine Federal style furniture.

McIntire died before he could execute many of the numerous commissions he had been given for the new development on Chestnut Street, soon to be the homes of merchants and sea captains. But his brothers were longer lived, and his son worked in the trade as well. Therefore, Chestnut Street, which the tourist guides will tell you is considered the best-designed and most architecturally harmonious street in the United States bears the McIntire stamp. There generations of Salem Brahmin families grew up. Some still live there part-time.

Read a brief biography of McIntire by Salem historian Jim McAllister here. Do follow the links, especially the ones relating to the federal mansions, and Salem Common. The PeabodyEssex Museum also has some part of a site dedicated to the Gardner-White-Pingree House.

Samuel McIntire died on February 6, 1811, and was, according to the diary of Rev. William Bentley, greatly mourned in Salem. With good reason. He was the man who built Salem.

One of my favorite places to walk and think things over (and occasionally smoke a cigar where no one will object) is the Charter Street Burial Point, where McIntire is buried. I make the pilgrimage to McIntire's grave at least twice a year, if I can. I have noticed that t

Ronald Reagan: The Man Who Saved America

America's greatest president of the late twentieth century, Ronald Reagan, is celebrating his 93nd birthday today. Perhaps, given his current status, "celebrating" is not quite the right word. But we Americans who are the beneficiaries of his policies can celebrate the man and his achievements.

To put it as succinctly as I can, he saved America. His economic policy of cutting taxes and regulation paved the way for unprecedented prosperity from 1983-2000.

His determination to check the expansionist Soviet Union at every step, and his re-building of the US armed forces not only overtaxed the Soviet Union, but gave us the muscle to easily win the Persian Gulf War.

His judicial appointments prevented, at least until Bill Clinton got into the Oval Office, the federal judiciary from becoming a complete tyranny overturning the acts of democratically elected legislatures at will.

Perhaps most importantly, he came to the White House at a time when the American people were still reeling from Watergate, Vietnam, and the failure of the Keynesian economic policies of the Johnson, Nixon, Ford, and Carter administrations, and revived a faltering American Spirit. He made patriotism popular again. He made us feel good again about being citizens of the greatest republic in the world and reminded us of John Winthrop's vision of a City On a Hill.

The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum is dedicated to preserving the legacy of that great man. We all know his story (if not, check it out at the Reagan Foundation's website).

For a more in-depth treatment, read When Character Was King by Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan. It is available at most book stores or through the Conservative Book Club. Peter Schweizer also has a new book out called Reagan's War, detailing Reagan's struggle against Marxism.

America owes Ronald Reagan a tremendous debt for his inspired leadership. He is the man who saved America. God bless him.

Thursday, February 05, 2004

The Need For Parish Consolidation Explained

Last night, Archbishop O'Malley, in a 32-minute broadcast on Boston Catholic TV, explained the demographic, personnel, and financial pressures behind the need to consolidate parishes.

The reasons were nothing new. Anyone who pays attention to the parish statistics in the Annual Boston Catholic Directory will be familiar with the situation. Anyone who has read the papers over the last two years knows that the parishes and the Archdiocese are hurting financially.

The Archbishop is putting the best face on a bad situation. Given certain limitations in his own view, it is probably the best he can do. And this sort of shortening of sails is what he did in Fall River, and started to do in Palm Beach.

To me, though, it is sad that we have to respond to crises like this by trimming back the size of the Church and its public organs, when instead we should be standing pat for a few more years while a process of "getting serious again" about Catholic worship refills the pews, the priesthood, and the parish and Archdiocesan coffers. I doubt if Archbishop O'Malley sees renewal of serious worship and devotion as a financial and personnel arrow in his quiver. But it has been that in dioceses where seriously orthodox bishops have been allowed to run things (Lincoln, Arlington, Scranton, Denver, etc.). There, the Church is healthy and isn't in need of trimming parishes and schools, or desperate for priests.

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

The Ketchup-Money Juggernaut Rumbles On

Kerry won five states last night. Clark and Edwards stayed alive by winning one each. Joe Lieberman put his candidacy out of its misery, not holding on to see if he did better in Florida, New York, and Connecticut.

Meanwhile, President Bush was won every Republican primary so far. The economy is improving. The war is going OK. The doldrums the president's campaign is in are just that, doldrums, a tempest in a teapot, nothing to be concerned about. The lack of a real primary challenger has put the re-election campaign in sleep mode now. It would do no harm to rev things up a bit, and blast back at Gigalo John (D-France) with the voice of Thurston Howell III and the voting record of Ted Kennedy at his most drunken.

In case there ever was any doubt, Recta Ratio endorses President Bush's re-election, and the election of as many Republicans as possible to every elective office up this year in every state. The only exception I make is when the Democrat is demonstrably more conservative than the Republican candidate (and how often does that happen?).

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Jackson-Timberlake Continue To Dominate the News

I really don't care about this. Popular culture, so-called, is generally beneath my notice. I don't watch TV, and haven't for 6 years. For me, the TV is just a vehicle for the VCR/DVD player. I did watch the Super Bowl, but was in the other room during halftime.

It seems to me pretty clear that Timberlake, at least, planned to do what he did. The smirky unrepentant apology clinches it for me.

Does it matter? Not really. It is just one more indication that our popular culture has spiraled rather rapidly in the last 50 years into the toilet. Can anyone imagine Gene Kelley doing this to Rita Hayworth if they were the half-time show in a 1955 Super Bowl? I don't think so. I don't think Sonny would even have done this to Cher in 1971.

Who do we have to blame? Look in the mirror. We have the culture we are willing to accept. If everyone spent their free time listening to Mozart and attending lectures on Robert Frost, instead of clustered in front of the TV in search of eye candy, this sort of thing would not happen. Instead, we have become a society in constant search of stimulation, with the attention span of gnats. So Timberlake/Jackson just provided what the audience really wanted to see. They are scum of course, both of them, the detritus of a hopelessly decadent culture. But until men change, societies will not change.

Patriots On Parade

The New England Patriots are getting a victory parade through the heart of downtown Boston today. A million people are expected to attend.

If a million people turn out for the second Patriots' Super Bowl win in this decade, what will happen if the Red Sox win the World Series? Well, I like this year's team. We may find out. Pitchers and catchers report in 16 days.

Ricin In Seante Office Buildings

What appears to be ricin has been found in mail addressed to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist. This morning, 3 Senate office buildings are shut down while the extent of the contamination is investigated. As far as we know, no one has been injured by what appears to be an attack.

Is this al Qaeda or Saddam sympathizers? We really don't know, just as we still do not know if the anthrax attack on the Senate of more than 2 years ago was the work of al Qaeda, or a rogue government scientist.

Well, even if it was not an al Qaeda attack, this can serve as a reminder that we are still at war with Moslem fanatics, and will be until we can exterminate them. This is not a war like World War II, or even Vietnam, where we have final victory by conquering Berlin (or Hanoi). This war is in the hearts and minds of armed Moslem fanatics, who have a tendency to be in every place where Islam comes into contact with any other culture. It goes beyond al Qaeda per se and includes the scum plaguing Israel, Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, and groups in Indonesia, the Philippines, and in North Africa, as well as in the Arab states and Iran and Pakistan. And there are cells of fanatics in Europe and here in North America.

Constant police efforts, and hard military tactics will be required to wipe out the enemy. And wiping them out is what we need to do. There is no accomodation with folks trained to hate us with every fiber of their being. This isn't like the SS- you kill Hitler and their natural love for jazz and other aspects of American/Western culture will win out. This isn't like fighting the KGB, which had an innate sense that it, too, was a child of Western civilization, a bastard child, but a child nonetheless.

This is a conflict with an armed religion determined to exterminate us. You can only win such a war by killing the killers before they kill us, and making Moslem authorities clamp down on anti-American propaganda, publications, and education, so that the future need not be so contentious. Can we do it? Yes. Will we have the will? That still remains to be seen.

Saint Blaise

Much of what we know about Saint Blaise is legendary. We think he was born in Armenia sometime in the third century. He apparently studied medicine, but eventually became bishop of Sebaste. Despite being a bishop, he lived as a hermit on Mount Argeus. In his hermitage, he was visited by and healed a great many people and animals. One girl he healed when she had a fish bone stuck in her throat. That is the origin of his status as one of the fourteen Holy Helpers, with special concern for disorders of the throat, and why throats are blessed on Saint Blaise's Day. He also is a patron for those who treat animals.

Blaise was arrested during a sweep for Christians around 316. He was tortured in an effort to make him abjure the Faith. Legend says that he was thrown into a lake in an effort to drown him. He walked on the water, and challenged his pagan persecutors to show the power of their gods by doing likewise. They were all drowned. Blaise returned to the shore to be martyred by other means.

Monday, February 02, 2004

I Like Archbishop Burke More And More

Vote to make it easier to murder innocent babies time and again over 30 years+, and if you get into the Communion line, expect no more than a blessing.

Archbishop O'Malley seems to take a more hands-off approach, just saying that he would leave it to the conscience of the individual to not present himself. O'Malley has the problem in multiple copies. There is not just Kerry, but Kennedy (various Kennedys, actually). Markey, Tierney, Capuano, Delahunt, and other members of the Massachusetts congressional delegation (not to mention dozens of members of the state legislature) who are nominally Catholic (and might show up for some event, like a funeral for Senator Kennedy with the Archbishop presiding, or something like that) but who have consistently supported abortion. Will they all have the good sense to stay out of the Communion line at such an event? I doubt it.

Note the "States I Have Visited" Map At the Bottom of This Page

Scroll all the way down.

Indiana, Illinois and Ohio are explained by having been engaged to a lady from Indiana.

Alaska, California (airport layover in San Francisco), and Washington state are due to my wife being from Anchorage (and having friends near Seattle).

Texas was a job interview in law school (Bickel & Brewer in Dallas).

The rest of the Eastern Seaboard visits outside New England (aside from job interviews in NYC, Philly, DC, Baltimore, and Hartford) were Revolutionary War re-enacting weekends.

Generally speaking, I have to be dragged kicking and screaming to get me out of the Sacred Soil of New England.

You should add Bermuda, and Canada's provinces of Nova Scotia, Quebec, and Ontario to my list of travels.

Twenty-Three Days Until The Passion of the Christ Opens

Lent is coming on fast. This is Carnival time. Only a few weeks of moderate enjoyment available now before the austerities of Lent.

What do you think about the timing for the opening of the movie? Should Gibson have opened it on Palm Sunday weekend, instead of Ash Wednesday? While the emphasis during all of Lent is on sin and repentence, the Passion itself does not come into clear focus until Holy Week. It would be embarrassing to see the movie close before Easter.

However, I have heard a great deal of buzz about this movie, even more so than for the Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. And not just here at St. Blog's. I think a lot of people are curious about this movie. In that sense, the controversy is serving Gibson's purposes very well.

I have given my opinion on the controversy before. Those who are complaining about the movie as anti-Semitic are complaining about something we will never do anything about. The movie is said to be a faithful rendering of the Gospel accounts of the Passion. If that is so, the complaint is against the Gospel itself. And those forces can complain about the Gospel all they want. It is not changeable. It is immutable. It is the Living Word of God. Take your complaints to the Almighty. Otherwise, talk to the hand.

Six More Weeks of Winter

Well, Punxatawney Phil saw his shadow this morning, which is supposed to mean six more weeks of winter (as opposed to only four if he did not see it).

One might question why, if it is sunny and pleasant on Candlemas, that does not portend an early spring. I guess the idea is not so much that he saw his shadow, but that he ran back into the burrow in fear, which is why seeing the shadow is supposed to mean that he is not done hibernating. Why a little groundhog, seeking all the TV crews (and their lights) and huge crowds would ever not see his shadow and run back into the burrow is, in my opinion, an open question. I think you just have to go back to the old European legend (no groundhog involved) that said a pleasant Candlemas means winter will last 6 more weeks. The difference is that, here in North America, a tough winter, like this one, usually lasts about two weeks longer than in Europe. In a difficult winter, the season measurably changes with the coming of April.


Today is the feast of Candlemas. It is of double significance in the Christian calendar. It is the day on which we celebrate the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple in accord with the Mosaic Law, and also the ritual purification of the Blessed Mother 40 days after giving birth. Simeon saw the Lord on this day, and his phrase, "A light of revelation to the Gentiles," provides the basis for the ritual blessing of candles in Church on Candlemas. The light is growing. In Europe, February is the last full month of winter. By the end of the month, the first flowers may begin to poke through the ground, and the mating of birds begins.

A European legend has long held that if an animal sees his shadow on Candlemas, the winter will last for another six weeks. If it is so overcast that animals would not see their shadows on this day, we only get 4 more weeks of winter. This is the basis for our modern Groundhog Day, which, sadly, has overtaken the religious meaning of Candlemas.

Super Bowl Champs Again!!!

The Red Sox may not have delivered a world title in more than 80 years. The Celtics may be in the midst of a two-decade slump. The Bruins, starved for cash for big names by the ownership, may be unwilling to compete. But the Patriots have won two Super Bowls in the last three years. That is something that makes all New Englanders happy.

Again, it was the team of Tom Brady and Adam Vinitieri (an Irishman and an Italian; very fitting for the Boston area) that led the way. Brady threw a very good game, except for one interception in the end zone. Vinitieri had a rough start, but kicked the game-winning field goal. This was a dramatic win, like the last one. The last few minutes of the game were acid-indigestion city.

I never pray for the success of a sports team. I have a lot more to petition the Almighty for that is more important to me. But I am deeply pleased about the win, though it has no effect whatsoever on my life.

Unfortunately, some idiots decided to celebrate by rioting. About a dozen cars were overturned, three people hospitalized, at least three arrested, and one person killed when a car drove into a crowd. Some fires were lit in the streets, though I don't think any buildings were burned. Alcohol generally has a disastrous effect of crowds when they are in a celebratory mood.

Sunday, February 01, 2004

Super Bowl Sunday

Usually a non-event for me. But this year, the Patriots are in it again. One sees numerous folks on the streets wearing hats shaped like the new Patriots logo (a highly melancholy change from the old somewhat goofy-looking Patriot that had been on the helmets since the team was known as the Boston Patriots). The new logo is a sort of winged face that may or may not be a minuteman. Oh well.

GO PATRIOTS!!!!!!!!!!

Saint Brigid

Today is St. Brigid's Day. Here is her biography from Catholic.org:

Brigid was probably born at Faughart near Dundalk, Louth, Ireland. Her parents were baptized by St. Patrick, with whom she developed a close friendship. According to legend, her father was Dubhthach, an Irish chieftain of Lienster, and her mother, Brocca, was a slave at his court.

Even as a young girl she evinced an interest for a religious life and took the veil in her youth from St. Macaille at Croghan and probably was professed by St. Mel of Armagh, who is believed to have conferred abbatial authority on her. She settled with seven of her virgins at the foot of Croghan Hill for a time and about the year 468, followed Mel to Meath.

About the year 470 she founded a double monastery at Cill-Dara (Kildare) and was Abbess of the convent, the first in Ireland. The foundation developed into a center of learning and spirituality, and around it grew up the Cathedral city of Kildare. She founded a school of art at Kildare and its illuminated manuscripts became famous, notably the Book of Kildare, which was praised as one of the finest of all illuminated Irish manuscripts before its disappearance three centuries ago.

Brigid was one of the most remarkable women of her times, and despite the numerous legendary, extravagant, and even fantastic miracles attributed to her, there is no doubt that her extraordinary spirituality, boundless charity, and compassion for those in distress were real. She died at Kildare on February 1. The Mary of the Gael, she is buried at Downpatrick with St. Columba and St. Patrick, with whom she is the patron of Ireland. Her name is sometimes Bridget and Bride. Her feast day is February 1.

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