Saturday, November 20, 2004

Celebrate Thanksgiving With Gusto!!!

'Twas a week before Thanksgiving, and all around the Boston area, homeowners were putting up Christmas decorations. Now I can understand the desire to make use of the relatively clement weather (yesterday it hit 62 degrees) to put up outdoor decorations in November. Who wants to be up on a ladder stringing lights along the top of the gutters in a December ice storm?

But one can already see numerous Christmas trees in house windows up, decorated, and lit.

Yes, they are pretty, and when you use artificial trees you can have them up longer. Much longer. But aren't we putting the cart before the horse?

Isn't there supposed to be a holiday between Halloween and Christmas?

Did we not once celebrate it as something significant in and of itself?

It used to be that the long Thanksgiving weekend was the kick-off for Christmas. That has been the case since the late 19th century. Families would gather around the traditional holiday groaning board in a way that would make Norman Rockwell smile. Santa Claus would arrive at the malls and downtown on the day after Turkey Day. The North Shore Mall has had Santa Claus at his station for a week now. The malls would be jammed on the day after Thanksgiving.

My sister-in-law's late sister was known as an early-bird for getting her tree up and decorated about 18 hours after the pumpkin pie was sliced up. Now folks have the tree up on Martinmas. If Patty were alive, I wonder...

Thanksgiving was led up to with a number of holiday specials (Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, Mouse on the Mayflower etc.). There were never as many Thanksgiving specials as Christmas specials, but there was a respectable number.

People left up their fall decorations and added pilgrims and turkeys to the pumpkins, Indian corn, apples, leaves, and cornstalks. People used to think about and remember the sufferings of the pilgrims and their determination to build a new society in a new world. Thanksgiving menus were designed around the model of the fare of colonial New England.

And if the gathering of family for a feast to thank God for His blessings wasn't enough, there was always plenty of football to watch. In fact, in the days before cars, there was some conflict between the desire to watch or play a football game, and the traditional family dinner.

Now, the menus for many Thanksgiving dinners are, shall we say, "nontraditional," because of the presence of so many wimps who are wet on the subject of eating meat or fats.
"Oh, that tofu turkey is so delicious!"

"That nondairy whipped cream on the pumpkin pie really hits the spot!"

"And the non-alcoholic wine really complemented the all veggie feast!"

Give me a break, and pass a plate of white meat with a little stuffing and real gravy.

Try to find a football game on TV on Thanksgiving Day. Oh you can sit in the stands and freeze your buns off watching the local high school. But aside from municipal bragging rights, how much satisfaction (or enjoyment) is there in watching Malden play Medford, or Peabody play Saugus? Where are the pros and colleges? Why don't they add extra games for Thanksgiving Day and weekend?

Are we becoming Euroweenies yearning for a "good" soccer game?

Are we no longer tough enough to appreciate a good hard-fought football game?

Thanksgiving is in serious danger of being overwhelmed by Christmas. People have long hit the stores early on the day after Thanksgiving. Most reasonable employers give their employees the day off. But now, with Internet shopping, and people shopping on Veterans Day weekend, the stores are less crowded, giving the ubiquitous TV news crews nothing to report on the "first shopping day of the Christmas season." Since Christmas shopping before Thanksgiving has become serious, Thanksgiving has become an interruption in Christmas. As time goes on, it will become as less and less notable interruption.

People are decorating for Thanksgiving less than they used to. You used to see lots of pilgrims in house windows. At A C Moore last fall, I noticed that there were plenty of Halloween gee gaws available, but very little in the way of turkeys, pilgrims, and cornucopias. Bring back the goofy looking pilgrims!

We have at least had the satisfaction of seeing the pilgrim re-enactors re-live the Pilgrims' Progress in Plymouth. But now they have to fight their way through a horde of "Native American" protestors (most of whom are 90% or more European since the original inhabitants of New England were largely wiped out by war and disease). Glorifying the pilgrims is unpopular, since they are dead, white, male-dominated Europeans.

Many students are taught that the pilgrims were giving thanks to the Indians for saving their sorry butts from starving. They have no idea that they were giving thanks to God for his blessings in establishing what John Winthrop would call the shining "City On a Hill."

So I urge people to buck trends. Put a ceramic pilgrim on your mantle, maybe even two. Put Indian corn on your door, and a pumpkin beside it. Don't touch those cornstalks. Don't turn the Christmas lights on until after Thanksgiving Day, even if you put them up before. Start your Christmas shopping the day after Thanksgiving.

Serve a real turkey (they are not hard to cook) with stuffing, gravy, squash, cranberry sauce, pumpkin and mince pie. Put a little Cointreau and orange rind into the whipped cream. Ditch the pumpkin mousse, vegetable casserole, and tofu "turkey."

Watch a football game, even if it has to be the Detroit Lions.

Most importantly, give thanks to God for His many blessings (I'm sure you can think of something). Remember the pilgrims celebrating being alive and able to worship God as they saw fit.

And save some of that turkey breast for me. I like turkey sandwiches on nice fresh white bread with a little salt and a decent amount of Cain's mayonnaise. And pour me some eggnog or fresh cider, if you please!

Over At Recta Ratio: The Yahoo Group

I've been busy in the last few days getting Recta Ratio: The Yahoo Group ready for the holidays. That is why there has been light blogging here. I still have a way to go before I think it is complete.

I've added new Files folders for Christmas Carols, Thanksgiving Songs, and Recipes and Menus. I'll be working on filling out those folders today and tomorrow.

Can you belive Advent starts a week from tomorrow? Under Catholic Prayers, I've added a sub-file for Advent Prayers, including the O Antiphons and the blessings prescribed by the US Bishops for an advent wreath, a nativity scene, and a Christmas tree.

I've also taken the sub-file of Traditional Catholic Hymns (formerly part of the Catholic Prayers File) , and expanded it into a full file of its own, with topical sub-files.

And I came across a site featuring Memling's Last Judgment, which, as this is the month in which we especially pray for hte dead and think about the Four Last Things, is now the home page image of the Group (until St. Cecilia's Day on Monday). I've created a sub-photo album in the Last Judgment Album for about 30 details from the painting (though I would caution those with young children that they might not want to share those images with them as the details involving demons dragging souls to Hell and tormenting them might be a little much for some young people).

Will the Real First Thanksgiving, Please Stand Up?

With just 6 days to go before Turkey Day, it is time to examine at least one Thanksgiving legend. There have been many claims to the title of "First American Thanksgiving." Let's take a quick peak at some of the more famous ones.

I know there are historic claims from Texas and Florida. But the Spanish presence in Texas was not what this country was built on. It was, in fact, a nuisance that needed to be overcome in the Mexican War. And that particular claim is not well-documented, and there does not appear to have been a feast involved. A Spanish expedition was looking for fodder in the Texas desert, and stopped at a river bank to refresh themselves.

As to the Florida claim, the French protestants in Florida were wiped out by the Spanish for unlawfully setting up a settlement on Spanish territory. So the settlement was not a permanent one. Also, there is no documentary evidence of any kind of feast. So I think that we can fiole these along with the undoubted prayers of Columbus' crew on sighting land after so long at sea, as giving thanks, but not the antecedent for the American Thanksgiving custom.

Now the other contenders:

*The Popham Colony This early Maine settlement claims the honor of the first Thanksgiving. Apparently, in 1609 the colonists there gave thanks in a day of prayer. There is no record of any feasting in honor of God's bounty. The colony itself did not last. It was wiped out by the combined effects of starvation and disease.

*The Berkeley Hundred The settlers of this short-lived community in Virginia also gave thanks to God on their safe arrival. This, too, predated the Pilgrims' 1621 Thanksgiving. But again, there was no communal, or even family feast recorded, merely a day of prayer. The colony was wiped out by Indians in 1622.

*Jamestown Jamestown's settlers, too, gave thanks to God in 1610, on the arrival of a supply ship. Only a small percentage of the original colonists had survived the "starving time." Again, there was no feasting (supplies where still in too short supply).

*Plymouth, 1621 This claim which has been embraced by most historians, has a couple of drawbacks. It would appear that this was, despite the Pilgrims' dislike for the pre-Christian custom, an English Harvest Home celebrated in September or October. There is little doubt that the pilgrims gave thanks for their harvest, and for their alliance with the local Indians. But they did not set this up as an annual custom. There was no 1622 Thanksgiving.

*Plymouth, 1623 The pilgrims in the spring of 1623 suffered from a severe drought. In June, rain finally came, saving most of the withered crops. A day of prayerful thanksgiving was declared by the governor that June. But this was not a harvest feast. Without the harvest feast aspect, this can have little claim to be the First Thanksgiving.

Even though Plymouth 1621's celebration was not in November, was in fact an English Harvest Home, and did not create the immediate precedent for annual thanksgivings, it has the best claim. But that won't stop numerous local chauvinists from laying claim to the first Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 18, 2004


Kerry ended up with $15 million still left in his campaign warchest. Now the Dems want him to part with some for the party, and not hoard it for 2008 and his senate re-election.


Peggy Noonan Is Wrong About This One

She says Specter got the message, is chastened, and that we should just let him have the Senate Judiciary Committee chairmanship.

No way. Conservatives are not just mindlessly flexing muscle and paying back old grievances in trying to keep him out of that position.

That post has an awful lot to do with getting judges through the confirmation process. And the confirmation of conservative judges is vitally important on the agenda, next to winning the war against Moslem terrorists, the most important. In no other way than the appointment of conservative judges and justices can the murder of 1.4 million babies a year be curtailed, slowed down, or stopped.

Letting Specter have the the vitally important, key job would be handing the enemy the keys to the fort's main gate.

And Specter does not get it, is not chastened, and, just like the scorpion crossing hte river on the back of the dog, will come back to sting his benefactors by not advocating forcefully and voting for conservative judges and justices. That is his nature as amply demonstrated over the last 20 years.

So, I say, to hell with the gentlemanly folkways of the Senate. Keep Specter out of the chairmanship of the Judiciary Committee. let him chair something else, where he can do little harm to the important parts of the conservative agenda.

And Peggy, on this issue, Sssshhhhhhhh.

Prince Charles: Sometimes You Wish He Would Curb His Mouth

And sometimes he makes sense. Like here, and when he decries modern architecture, and efforts to get rid of fox hunting.

Of course it is not popular, what he is saying. But it is a reality. Just because someone gets through modern education does not entitle them to rule.

Aristotle said that some men tend to rule, others to be ruled, and that from birth onwards the differnce is discernable. Thee is a hierarchy of talents. Even the most egalitarian of the Founding Fathers, Jefferson, granted that in his correspondence with John Adams. Burke said that men have equal rights, but not to equal things.

They are equal, surely, before God. They are entitled to an equal vote, and to be treated the same in a court of law.

And after that, the equality stops.

Natural talents, plus the effects of inheritance, rise to the top. Not everyone is equally talented or equally deserving of having a share in running things. Czar Nicholas II used to self-deprecatingly admit that, had he not been born to be Czar, he was well suited to grow turnips on some remote farm.

Now notice that His Royal Highness is not saying what the headline writer for Yahoo says he is: that people just ought to stay in the station to which they were born. That is, in fact, a gross distortion of his words.

"Knowing your place" in this context is just healthy awareness of one's own abilities and limitations, and not trying to force oneself into positions of responsibility for which one is not suited. he is not saying that the ruddy peasants ought to stay on the farm, and that the OxBridge elite ought to run everything. He is saying that people with natural talent, education, and ability ought to run things, and that those without ought not. His system is open to merit, but closed to lack of merit. If an old Etonian has the skills to run his household, that is who he wants doing it. If a graduate from one of the jumped-up new "universities" does not, he does not want her running it.

What could be more genuinely egalitarian?

This issue touches a nerve, that Chesterton would handle masterfully. Remember his radical professor who let the canary free to become lunch for a predator, and them blew up the house he was visiting, so that all those molecules could be liberated from the tyranny of human form?

What Chesterton's anarchist and this woman fired by Clarence House have in common is an inability to understand that hierarchies are natural, and good, and in fact necessary to a productive normative human order.

That fact is why one of my favorite pieces of furniture is the table. There is a well-defined bottom, and a well-defined top. Each keeps to its purpose, and both are necessary. The top is higher and of more utility than the bottom. But without the bottom, a user would be forced to stoop to the floor to lay something down (I'm paraphrasing Samuel Johnson here, I think).

So here, I think, the Prince is right on target. Let merit rule in university admissions, in employment, in life generally, and society will be much better off. Hamstring merit with quotas and blatant, if legal discrimination, and society sinks into a grey unimaginative doldrum that Alexander Pope would recognize as the Triumph of Dullness in his Dunciad.

Archdiocese Puts 16 Churches Up For Sale

And hopes to collect $28 million from the sales.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

See, These Things Can Happen

Egypt is now having a plague of locusts, though not as bad as the one in the Book of Exodus.

Another Good Weekend In Boston Sports

Both the Patriots and BC were victorious.

BC is heading for a bowl. Maybe not a New Year's Day bowl, but a bowl nonetheless.

The Big Dig Tunnel Is Full of Leaks

What? You didn't actually think that they were doing "quality" work for only 50 gazillion dollars, did you?

And of course, it will cost more to fix it, because heaven forbid that the contractor be held responsible for its mistakes, and be forced to fix them without further charge!

"21" Is Out

I was in Barnes and Noble yesterday, and saw a big, huge, and undoubtably expensive (but there was no price on it), 5-volume hardbound set of Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin novels, that included the first three chapters of the unfinished 21st novel, dubbed 21 by Norton.

Anybody read it?

My current reading is two by Dudley Pope: The Black Ship, about the mutiny aboard HMS Hermione, mentioned several times in the Aubrey/Maturin canon (naturally, since it was the "Joyful" Surprise that recaptured her from the Spaniards), and the first Ramage novel (I'm not far in yet).

Pope wasn't as talented as O'Brian or Forster (the creator of Horatio Hornblower), but is better than Alexander Kent. And I need my fix of Royal Navy in the Age of Nelson.

BTW, for those of you have not heard, the ship used for Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, Rose, a replica of the 1757-built 24-gun frigate HMS Rose that played a part in the American Revolution, and on which I have spent some considerable time as a re-enactor, is now a dockside exhibit in San Diego, of all places, and has been renamed HMS Surprise. A new link for her is included on the right, under "Fun."

The "Caring Professionals" Don't Care For Rush

The "Oh the pain. The pain." crowd is stamping its tiny foot in impotent rage at Rush.

But I connected the same dots and came to the same conclusions Rush did, I think before he brought it up (hard to tell since I don't get a chance to listen to him anymore).

There is something not just namby-pamby, weak-in-the-knees, and lily-livered about the way liberals are reacting to the election result. There is something profoundly un-American about it., especially the fear of what Europeans will think and the urge to migrate to the land of high taxes and socialized medicine (both of which themselves are profoundly contrary to the American character and spirit, but fit right in with the European welfare state).

Without a major national trauma (economic depression, unsuccessful war, major scandal like Watergate), they will not get back into power until they amputate the Michael Moore, MoveOn.org, George Soros, Alec Baldwin, "Oh-I-can't-deal-with-this-without-counselling" and hate-America leftist wing from their party.

That point has been demonstrated every four years since 1972. Carter was a fluke cauzed by Watergate. Clinton was a fluke caused by Ross Perot, and President Bush (41)'s looking at his watch during the debate and seeming to have no idea that the Northeast, the most vocal and articulate part of the country, was in a depression.

In both cases, Carter and Clinton, the Democrat elected passed himself off as a Southern moderate (of which there are now none left in that party).

Yet, that party as a whole seems determined to nail the red flag to the mast and go down with the ship. How many more elections until the ship sinks?

Or will there always be at least 45% of the American public dependant on government hand-outs and jobs and eager to vote themselves more at the expense of the taxpayers at large, a coalition of the greedy that can be built up if a small number of the rest of the electorate is disgruntled over something?

Hey, If I'm Recalling Correctly, It's Almost Time

For the very famous author Amy Welborn and Michael Dubruiel's next baby to be delivered.

Keep Amy, baby, and their whole family in your prayers as the time approaches.

Saint Elizabeth of Hungary

Today's major saint.

Requiescat In Pace

We all knew that the major media was biased in favor of liberals, their view of events, their causes, and the fortunes of their candidates long before AIM was on the scene. But Accuracy In Media quantified that bias for us.

Its polling established that reporters and staff of the major media self-identified as liberal and Democrat by roughly 80% to 20%.

AIM's analysis of the bias of major stories established that the mjaor media (ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, PBS, NPR, AP, UPI, Reuters, NYT, Wash Post, Boston Globe, Chicago Trib, LA Times, Time, Newsweek, US News and World Report, Rolling Stone, Atlantic, New Yorker, etc., etc., etc.) was biased in favor of liberal candidates, causes, and views of events by about the same 80-20 split.

And the man behind Accuracy In Media was Reed Irvine. To be honest, I never met the man. I don't recall anything he wrote other than quantifying the bias of the media. I don't think I've ever even heard him interviewed.

But all conservatives owe Reed a debt of gratitude for the work he did for more than 20 years with AIM. He died yesterday at the age of 82. Requiescat in pace.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Colin Powell Stepping Down

As the Cabinet re-shuffle continues, Colin Powell is stepping down as Secretary of State. He has served the President and the American people well, and deserves our gratitude, as does Spencer Abraham, Don Evans, John Ashcroft, and Rod Paige, all of whom are leaving.

The speculation is focusing on Condi Rice as Powell's replacement. I think she would make a fine Secretary of State.

Some Guy Set Himself On Fire In Front Of the White House

Another disgruntled blue state liberal?

I asked myself last week when the first Bush-hating self-immolation would happen.

If that is what this is, these people are seriously deranged.

As the Bishops Meet In Washington...

A timely reminder that the crisis continues, and that for reasons of politcal correctness, or perhaps complicity and blackmail, the US bishops have not addressed the root cause of the crisis: that a third or more of Catholic priests are homosexual.

A Good Discussion of Archbishop Sean's Letter

Over at Bettnet.

I agree largely with Dom's analysis.

But this statement that the Archbishop would sometimes rather die than deal with the heartache caused by the closings, coupled with that incident a couple of months ago when he was confronted by a single angry parishioner of a closing parish and ended up abruptly leaving tells me our Archbishop has a very difficult job, that it is getting to him, and that he really, as Dom suggests, needs our prayers.

Archbishop Sean is a man from the orthodox side of the peace and justice wing of the Church. He came of age working on housing for the downtrodden and ministerial outreach for non-English speakers.

Because of his clear-headedness, and not having been part of the problem, he has been called upon to be the Church's one-man fire brigade in 3 dioceses troubled with pervert priest (or bishop) concerns in the last decade+. Obviously, the stress on him personally is mounting.

But I don't honestly think that anything could have prepared him or anyone to deal with the clean-up of the mess here in Boston.

And nothing in his background, not even the limited parish closings he instituted in Fall River, really prepared him to be the "villain." He is used to being thought well of because of his personal holiness and his "roll-up the sleeves and get the job done" attitude. Being perceived as "on the side of the angels" on so many economic/social justice issues has not served him well when he has to be the boss over parish closings.

Since he has been in Boston, he was had to weather the worst of the pervert priest litigation settlement, has had to take big financial risks, and has had to weather withering criticism for closing parishes.

On top of that, people he used to see as allies were at his throat about his adherence to the men-only rule for Maundy Thursday's Washing of the Feet, while conservatives like me have been outraged that he did not align himself with Archbishop Burke and Bishop Bruskewitz, etc. on the Communion for Kerry et al issue.

All this is on top of the stress that comes with the normal, routine business of being Archbishop of Boston.

So, as Dom suggests, do keep this good man (and he is a good man, even if I do not agree with him on some issues) in your prayers. He needs it.

James Carville Has Egg On His Face

But we already knew that, didn't we?

Sunday, November 14, 2004

A Year's Mind

One year ago today, my pastor Father Daniel Flaherty, died from complications after a stroke.

Father Flaherty, though only in his 50s, had not been a well man when he was assigned to St. James. He was suffering from lingering problems after a badly broken ankle, and walked with a cane (an Irish blackthorn stick).

Less than a year into his pastorship, and a week after his 30th anniversary as a priest, he suffered a stroke that left him with more mobility problems and some difficulty expressing his thoughts.

Yet, after a few months' recovery, he was back at the helm, soldiering on despite his disabilities.

Father Flaherty gave good sermons that often touched on the historic reasons behind what was happening in the Gospel or Old Testament readings. He was a straight-shooter who said what he meant and meant what he said.

He recognized the centrality of the Blessed Sacrament to Catholic worship. Among the first things he did was have candles put back on the altar, and re-introduce the Consecration bell. He experimented a little with Latin/Greek common responses (Kyrie and Agnus Dei). Probably the most important thing he did from a worship perspective was to re-open the central Tabernacle in the fine reredos, and stop the practice of hiding the Sacrament at a side Tabernacle.

I deeply appreciated his warmth and wit, and miss his kindly if outwardly gruff presence.

God bless him, and lead him through swift completion of any term in Purgatory to his well-deserved heavenly reward.

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