Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas Crisis

Well, a small one anyway. I decided it was time to break out the Christmas decorations today: Wreath for front door, check. Christmas tree, check. Manger scene, check and double check. Then, in the midst of this full-on Yuletide mode, while I was looking for some background music to accompany the decorating frenzy, disaster struck. I could not find my favorite CD of Christmas music! I looked on the shelves near the stereo. I asked my attendant and helper to look behind and under said shelves. I looked through my large CD case. I moved and relocated boxes of other stuff. I rooted through boxes of old cassette tapes. No CD.

Mind you, this is not just any CD. This is Christmas Eve with Burl Ives originally released in 1957, briefly re-released on CD in 1998, and now apparently, inexplicably, unavailable once again, except through a specialty retailer for a minimum of $24.99. My copy was a gift from my brother several years ago. This is not just an old record, it is an indelible memory of my childhood. If I hear Burl Ives's rendition of "The Indian Christmas Carol," (also known as "Jesous Ahatonia," or "The Huron Carol," I am instantly six years old again, transported back in time to the house where I grew up, sitting on the living room floor, in front of the ancient and gigantic record player my parents had, transfixed by the music. My mother could remember the Christmas that she and Dad gave me a tom-tom (a drum, not a GPS) so that I could pound out the rhythm as we sat around the tree and sang the song. I missed hearing the song for years, and once I had it back, it just wouldn't quite seem like Christmas without it.

The afternoon wore on. I searched again. Still no CD. I checked and rechecked Amazon.com, reluctant to order another copy until I was sure mine was gone for good. I checked iTunes finding nearly every album by Burl Ives except that one. Finally I thought of one last place to check—a CD wallet on my desk, holding miscellaneous items and odds and ends. Success! One CD found. Burl's dulcet tones rang out once again through my newly festive apartment. I copied the tracks to my little mp3 player so that now I can have a pocket full of Burl and take him wherever I go.

This experience got me to thinking, readers. Is there something in your memories—a special song or story, a piece of music, some food, or some ritual or custom—without which it just doesn't seem quite like Christmas to you? Or, to put it another way, once you hear that song, observe that custom, or taste that food, you think, "All right, NOW it's Christmas!" I'd like to hear about it. Please share your thoughts in the comboxes below. Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Sound of Silence

Well, you may have noticed that blog posts have been a wee bit sparse of late. A lot of that has to do with technical difficulties we've been experiencing. Around the end of August, the sound on my computer just . . . died. As in one minute I had sound and could hear podcasts and YouTube videos, and the next minute I couldn't. Of course, I immediately called in my brother Bill, whose geek skills far exceed my own, to work his geek magic and fix the problem. Unfortunately, nothing seemed to work. He tried a couple of sessions of remote access, long distance geekery, followed by an intensive in person session of geekery over the Thanksgiving weekend, all to no avail. At first he believed the problem was a software issue which could be resolved by reinstalling audio device driver files, or, if worst came to worst, completely reinstalling the operating system software. Unfortunately, neither of those solutions worked, and now he's concerned that the root of the problem may be a hardware failure that it would cost serious money to fix. He's still researching the problem in hopes of finding a solution. In the meantime I bought a small inexpensive mp3 player so that I can keep up with my favorite podcasts, but I'm still not able to listen to YouTube clips or other web videos. (Grumble grumble, Bill Gates, mutter mutter HP, curse curse, Windows 7, grumble, mutter, curse).

Maybe this explains why I can't get any writing done

see more Lolcats and funny pictures, and check out our Socially Awkward Penguin lolz!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Great Escape: The Early Years

I saw a video over on Matt and Pat Archbold's Creative Minority Report blog and could not stop laughing, but for some weird reason I'm having trouble posting it here. If you don't see an image of two babies in a crib, hit the refresh button on your browser or go watch the video over there. I'll wait.

Hilarious, right? If that scene had included dialogue, I imagine it would have gone something like this:

BABY IN BLACK: That first dry run went OK. Everything ready for the big break?

BABY IN YELLOW: Yeah, man. The coast is clear. I'll distract 'em while you make a break for it.

BABY IN BLACK: OK, here I go! No wait. I gotta say goodbye to Blankie. So long, Blankie. I'm goin' over the wall. OK. Now I'm ready. Here goes! OOOF!

BABY IN YELLOW: (to parents off camera) What? I didn't see anything. I swear. Nothin' to see here. Move along.

BABY IN BLACK: Cripes! We're on tape! They saw everything, man! Wait! I can fix this. I'll just go over here, push on this, and . . . (Camera falls over)


Friday, September 30, 2011

My First Kitchen Disaster

not actual footage

So I'm in the kitchen yesterday, making a meat and potatoes dish in the crock pot. The recipe calls for a dash of pepper. I tip up the pepper shaker and the top comes COMPLETELY OFF, dumping nearly the entire contents of the pepper shaker into the pot. What to do? I can't just throw it all away uneaten. Anybody care for some meat and potatoes extra, extra, extra spicy? :)

Monday, September 19, 2011

Yo ho, Yo ho!

Iz a pirate!  So "Aarr" and stuff.

Ahoy there, Mateys! Once again, it be Talk Like a Pirate Day, it be! So order up an extra ration of grog for all hands, break out your copy of Treasure Island, and slip a copy of Captain Blood or Pirates of the Caribbean into the DVD player. Arrr!

Thursday, September 01, 2011

A New Home For Hawkeye

funny dog pictures - A New Home for Hawkeye
see more dog and puppy pictures

I got this picture and story from the LOLDogs website, but this isn't an LOL. This is a picture of Hawkeye, the faithful canine companion of Petty Officer Jon Tumlinson, a U. S. Navy SEAL who was killed in action in Afghanistan earlier this summer. Hawkeye waited patiently and loyally at his master's feet throughout Tumlinson's funeral service in Rockford, Iowa. Tumlinson's cousin, Lisa Pembleton, snapped this picture capturing Hawkeye's devotion and heartbreak, and the story was picked up and reported by ABC News.

Fortunately this tragic story has a happy ending, at least for Hawkeye. Tumlinson's longtime friend Scott Nichols and his family have adopted the dog. They know Hawkeye well, having cared for him during Tumlinson's previous tours of duty. I hope that Hawkeye's new family will take good care of him for many years to come, because they love both the dog and his master, their fallen friend. Petty Officer Tumlinson, the Nichols family, and Hawkeye can teach us all something about love and loyalty, service and sacrifice.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Prayers for Coach Summitt

I was dismayed to learn last week that Pat Summitt, the head coach of the University of Tennessee women's basketball team has been diagnosed with early onset dementia of a type similar to Alzheimer's Disease. She chose to make the announcement herself, with the support of her family, assistant coaches, players, and university administration. She has announced her intention to continue as head coach as long as she is able, doing mental and physical exercises to keep her mind and body as fit as possible for as long as possible, but she will be delegating more responsibilities to her assistants.

Her accomplishments on the basketball court have been almost legendary, and when I say legendary, I mean legendary. She has been the head coach of the Lady Volunteers for 37 seasons, winning eight national championships for Tennessee. She's the most successful coach in either men's or women's college basketball, winning an astonishing 84% of her games overall. In an era when many college and professional coaches seem to be willing to do anything to achieve success, Coach Summitt has achieved hers honestly, and by all accounts is as interested in building the character and integrity of the young women who play for her as she is in producing winning teams. She is the only person to have two basketball courts used by Division I basketball teams (and two streets on two different University of Tennessee campuses) named in her honor. I'd say that's legendary.

Anyone who reads this blog knows that I am a huge University of South Carolina fan. South Carolina and Tennessee are in the Eastern Division of the Southeastern Conference, so quite often I tend to think of Tennessee as a rival to and a competitor with my beloved Gamecocks. I'd love to see the men's or women's basketball programs at USC achieve even a fraction of the success that Coach Summitt and the Lady Vols have achieved. In this instance, however, I'd like to put partisanship aside and wish Coach Summitt, her family, her players, and staff, the very best as she battles this illness. You are in my thoughts and prayers, Coach. This season, This Gamecock will be cheering for Coach Summitt and her family and friends all the way.

I suppose one reason this news disturbs me so much is that Coach Summitt is only about ten years older than I am. If Alzheimer's Disease can happen to the most successful coach in college basketball at the height of her career, it can happen to anyone. I already have a physical disability and some associated health problems, so I've been able to adjust fairly well to the idea of a body that doesn't always work properly. I've always been able to compensate, at least to some extent, with a fairly sharp intellect. If my cognitive and mental functions were to begin declining, however, I'd really be in a mess. It's the one thing that truly scares me about growing older.

Coach Summitt has said that she began wondering about her mental and intellectual health when tasks that had always been routine, such as planning her daily schedule and the strategy for her team suddenly became noticeably more difficult for her. Her son Tyler has said that he noticed something didn't seem right when his mother would mislay her car keys three times in one day or forget when she was supposed to go to her office or meet the team for practice. For the most successful coach in college basketball to forget the scheduled time for practice would indeed be a red flag. It's made me think twice about my own forgetfulness and absentmindedness and wonder what I can do to keep my mind sharp. I would urge anyone reading this who might be wondering about the state of their cognitive abilities to see their doctor, get tested, and find out what they can do to stay mentally alert. In the words of a famous slogan, "A mind is a terrible thing to waste."

Friday, August 26, 2011

"Oh The Dreadful Wind and Rain"

Hurricane Irene is lumbering her way up the South Carolina coast at the moment, which means I'm keeping an eye on weather conditions. I don't believe the effects on me will be too severe because I'm so far inland, but it's possible we could see some heavy rain and gusty winds here later tonight. As a consequence of the weather, however, I keep thinking of this grisly little murder ballad with the oft-repeated chorus, "Oh the dreadful wind and rain." I've heard Scottish, Irish, and American versions and variants. It's an eerie tale of ill-fated love, jealousy, homicide, cannibalism, and the supernatural. Here's an outstanding a capella version by singers Paul and Kim Caudell:

On a somewhat lighter note, I'm also thinking of Feste's closing song from Shakespeare's Twelfth Night:

When that I was and a little tiny boy,
With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
A foolish thing was but a toy,
For the rain it raineth every day.

But when I came to man's estate,
With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
'Gainst knaves and thieves men shut their gate,
For the rain, it raineth every day.

But when I came, alas! to wive,
With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
By swaggering could I never thrive,
For the rain, it raineth every day.

But when I came unto my beds,
With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
With toss-pots still had drunken heads,
For the rain, it raineth every day.

A great while ago the world begun,
With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
But that's all one, our play is done,
And we'll strive to please you every day.

Because The Bard left us only the lyrics for this song and not a melody, it's been set to any number of tunes in any number of productions of the play. Here's a cut from the 1996 film version of Twelfth Night directed by Trevor Nunn, with Ben Kingsley as Feste. I also like the Celtic flavor of the closing music composed by Shaun Davey:

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Et maintenant, un petit peu de musique Cajun

(And now a little bit of Cajun music).

Bonjour! I've blogged before about how I find YouTube endlessly fascinating. I've discovered that it's a virtually limitless video jukebox with samples of just about every kind of music imaginable (and some you can't imagine) available for the asking. The past few days I've had an inexplicable hankering for Cajun music, of all things—not sure why. I don't have any French ancestors that I know of, I'm not from Louisiana, and I don't have relatives there, but I've loved the music ever since I discovered it in college. I think the combination of joy and melancholy in the music is truly remarkable.The chaplain at my undergraduate school grew up in Southwest Louisiana, and could drop into a French-accented English patois in an instant. Maybe I'm thinking of him. Bob Martin, wherever you are, these are going out for you, cher.

Here are two selections by the Balfa Brothers. The Balfas are to Cajun music what Bill Monroe is to bluegrass or Chuck Berry is to rock and roll: giants of the genre, seminal artists without whom it would be impossible to understand the music properly. The first piece, "'tit Galop pour Mamou," is accompanied by what seems to be archival footage of floods in Louisiana in the 1930s and efforts to rebuild the levees after the flooding. I can't tell for sure because the title cards at the beginning of the clip are blurry and out of focus. The music, however, comes through loud and clear:

The second, "J'ai passé devant ta porte," (I passed by your door) is a characteristically melancholy Cajun waltz, a lament for forsaken love—but what fun the Cajuns have being melancholy! They seem to pour every ounce of their heartache into the song (including those long wails in the background) and you can't help feeling better after listening to it:

The person who posted this video even included lyrics in Cajun with an English translation:

J'ai passé devant ta porte,
J'ai crié, 'bye-bye, la belle.'
'Y a personne qui m'a répondu!
Oh yé yaille! Mon coeur fait mal...

I passed in front of your door.
I cried good-bye to my sweetheart.
No one answered me!
Oh, it hurts! My heart hurts...

Allons danser!

Life Is Easier When You Have A Helping Hand

Well hello there, my two or three faithful readers! You may be wondering where I've been all summer. For a long time I was feeling depressed and discouraged and having difficulty keeping up with the basic activities and responsibilities of daily life. I have some continuing medical issues, and for awhile there it seemed to be increasingly difficult for me to keep abreast of those issues by myself. I'm on a fixed income, and it was hard meeting my basic expenses month to month. It looked as if I would have to move into an assisted living center in North Carolina, a move about which I had mixed feelings at best.

Then in July, after a long time on a waiting list I was notified that I qualified for a program known as Community Long Term Care, which is funded through Medicare and Medicaid. Under the program, I can stay in my home and have an aide or attendant come to the house five days a week for a few hours each day to help me with health, hygiene, and housekeeping issues. I have a "lifeline" system installed so that I can quickly call for help in an emergency. I can have meals delivered during the week, and I'm also receiving assistance from a local food bank, which reduces my weekly spending for food and makes budgeting easier.

All these improvements have made a huge positive difference in my mood and attitude. With a basic safety net in place, I don't have to worry quite so much about basic survival and can think more about what to do with the rest of my life and about ways I can make a positive contribution to the world. My main worry, however, is that I seem to be depending most heavily on government assistance just at a time when terrible economic conditions may require that government at all levels reduce spending dramatically. If Caesar giveth, Caesar can also take away. I know times are lousy, and governments will have to rethink their priorities, reduce spending, and balance their budgets, but I hope ways can be found to do these things that will not harm the poorest, the neediest, and the most vulnerable.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Another Year, Another National Championship

Ho hum. Didn't we do this last year?

From Gamecocks Online, the official website of University of South Carolina athletics:

Gamecocks Capture Back-to-Back National Titles With 5-2 Win Over Florida:
Carolina Sets NCAA Division I Record with 16 Straight Postseason Wins
June 28, 2011

The South Carolina Gamecocks rode the stellar pitching of Michael Roth to defeat the Florida Gators, 5-2, and sweep the best-of-three College World Series Championship Series Tuesday night at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha in front of an announced crowd of 26,721. The win gave the Gamecocks back-to-back National Championships in Division I College Baseball.

The Gamecocks (55-14) broke out in front in the bottom of the third inning when they sent eight men to the plate, scoring three times off Florida starter Karsten Whitson (8-1). Peter Mooney led off the frame with a double down the left field line and advanced to third on Robert Beary's sacrifice bunt. After Evan Marzilli walked, Scott Wingo lofted a sacrifice fly to right, scoring Mooney with the game's first run. After Jackie Bradley Jr. walked, Christian Walker's bouncer to short eluded Nolan Fontana and rolled into centerfield for an error, allowing Marzilli to score and sending Bradley to third. Brady Thomas chopped an infield single over the pitcher's mound, scoring Bradley Jr. and putting Carolina on top 3-0.

Florida (53-19) answered with a single run in the top of the fourth. Mike Zunino led off the inning with a home run over the left field wall. The solo blast was his team-leading 19th round tripper and just the third home run allowed by Roth all season. Zunino had three of the Gators' six hits on the night.

The Gators had chances to get closer when they put their first two batters on base in both the fifth and sixth innings, but Roth was able to work his way out the jams unscathed.

South Carolina got an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth when Mooney crushed a 3-1 offering from reliever Tommy Toledo into the Gator bullpen beyond the right field wall for his fourth home run of the season, giving the Gamecocks a 4-1 advantage. Mooney's round tripper was the only home run hit by the Gamecocks in their five-game stay in Omaha.

Florida cut the deficit to 4-2 with a run in the top of the eighth. Zunino doubled to center off Roth and scored on John Adams' two-out single off reliever John Taylor, but Matt Price caught pinch-hitter Tyler Thompson looking to end the uprising.

Carolina came right back with one of its own in the bottom of the frame. Beary singled to center, moved to second on Marzilli's sacrifice bunt, advanced to third on a wild pitch and scored on Wingo's bouncer to right over the pulled-in infield.

Roth (14-3) was lifted after 7.2 innings of work. The junior southpaw allowed just five hits and two runs with two walks and six strikeouts. He threw 127 pitches, 77 for strikes. In 38.1 innings of work over the past two years at the College World Series, Roth has posted a 1.17 ERA, second-best all-time. Price worked the final 1.1 innings for his 20th save of the season.

The Gamecocks, who entered the tournament as the number four national seed, have now established NCAA records with 16 consecutive postseason wins and 11 consecutive wins in the College World Series. While in Omaha, South Carolina defeated Texas A&M, number one seed Virginia twice, and number two seed Florida twice without a loss.

# # #

All kidding aside, I never thought I'd live to see the day Carolina was national champions of anything, let alone BACK TO BACK national champions in a major sport.

Well done, fellas! Congratulations to the 2011 NCAA baseball CHAMPIONS! Go 'Cocks!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Catholic Comics Coincidence?

So, earlier this week I decided to splurge because Amazon.com had an absurdly good price on one of my favorite movies: the original 1978 Superman with Christopher Reeve and the 2000 "special edition" with a few minutes of extra footage. The DVDs arrived today, so of course I had to watch them. No sooner do I finish watching the movie and some of the bonus stuff, when I cruise over to The Crescat's blog and find this item:

Kat tags this "Art Behaving Badly" and asks, "Is it a sin to actually covet this?" I dunno, because I'm actually kind of attracted to the thing for the sheer geekiness of it. The more I think about this, the weirder it gets. Cap, Spidey, and Hulk all seem to be listening to Jesus. What is he saying to them? I can't help imagining how church history might have been different if these guys had been around when Christ gave the apostles "The Great Commission," (Mt. 28:19-20):

"Hulk Baptize! In name of Father, Son, Holy Spirit!"

I also wonder if there's similar artwork featuring Jesus and the DC superheroes (A quick search of Google Images reveals there's plenty of Jesus and Superman art, but much of it is even weirder and in more questionable taste than the item above). Just imagine what Jesus might have done with Supes among the Twelve:

"You're going to Confession, Luthor, whether you like it or not!"

Sigh. It's a weird, weird world we live in.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

A Mother's Day Cheezburger

Happy Mother's Day to all my readers and all the Moms out there in the blogosphere! This is for you:

Happy Mother's Day!

Hat tip to bluesfan473 for the LOL.

This is for my Mom:

Cecilia Roberts "Cele" Leslie


Love you and miss you, Mom!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

"The Joy of the Resurrection Renews The Whole World"

Happy Easter! (A little late, yeah, but it's still the Octave). I first saw this video a couple of days ago over on Mark Shea's blog. While watching it, I was reminded of a line from one of the Eucharistic prefaces used at this time of year: "The Joy of the Resurrection renews the whole world." Many Americans in their ignorance would almost automatically assume that everyone in the Middle East is Muslim, but in this video we see Lebanese Christians coming together to publicly proclaim and celebrate their faith. The Resurrection of Christ is not just a cause of joy for Americans, Europeans, Westerners, or even Christians alone; it is a cause of joy for the whole world.

Click on the CC button to see an English translation of the lyrics. He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!

Jesus is risen from the dead
Defeating death by death
And giving life to those in the grave.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

So Where Have I Been?

Hi there! Remember me? The guy who supposedly ruins runs this blog?

You may have noticed, my three loyal readers, that I haven't posted in a while. There's a reason for that. Along about Ash Wednesday or so, I began having some really bothersome medical problems that gradually became more and more acute. I didn't have to spend any time in the hospital as an in-patient, thanks be to God, but there were trips for tests and trips to the doctor and pills and blah blah blah. My life has been somewhat topsy-turvy for the past several weeks.

The situation seems to be stabilizing, but I'm still not back to where I was before all this stuff started, and some of these problems will most likely be chronic, requiring certain changes to my lifestyle. Prayers would be appreciated. Thank you.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Cheezburger ob teh Day


At leest kitteh adn himz hyoomin habs gud choys ob reedin' muteeriul!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Dewi Sant!

Happy Feast of St. David, the patron Saint of Wales! Everyone knows about St. Patrick and the Irish, and most people associate kilts and bagpipes with the Scots, but the Welsh are often overlooked among the Celtic nations. Many common American surnames—Griffith, Griffin, Jones, Jenkins, Davis, Williams, Thomas, Lloyd, and my mother's maiden name, Roberts, for example—are very common Welsh surnames, so it's quite possible that I and many other Americans may have Welsh ancestors without even knowing it.

Such ignorance is a shame, too, because the Welsh language is distinctive, rolling, and musical, a language that seems tailor-made for poetry and song. Here for example is a performance by the folk trio Plethyn, featuring the beautiful vocals of lead singer Linda Healy:

Unfortunately, I don't understand one tiny word of Welsh, but there is magic in this language! Here is Welsh folk rock singer Cerys Matthews performing the folksong Calon Lan:

Finally, here is a performance of the Welsh national anthem Mae Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau (Land of My Fathers) by Bryn Terfel. The performance style is a bit bombastic for my taste, but the video includes lyrics in English and Welsh set against some lovely Welsh landscapes:

O bydded i'r hen iaith barhau.

O may the old language endure.

Amen and Amen! Cymru am byth! Wales forever!

Saturday, February 05, 2011

The Force Is Strong in This One

Here's a preview of a new Volkswagen ad that you should see some time during tomorrow's Super Bowl broadcast.It's already generated quite a buzz, with over 10 million views on YouTube and over 54,000 positive ratings on Facebook. I heard about it on NPR's news and chat show, All Things Considered."

When I saw it I thought it was charming and decided to share it with you. Enjoy!

UPDATE: Here's a link to a story about six-year-old Max Page, the diminutive Darth Vader in this ad. Seems young Max has already made a name for himself as a child actor, but even more significantly, has already battled to overcome adversity. He was born with a heart defect that led his parents to seek treatment for him at the Children's Hospital of Los Angeles. Under the care of some skilled surgeons and cardiologists, Max has made significant medical progress and is hoping for a normal life. Prayers and best wishes, Max. May the Force be with you! Thanks to Patrick Archbold of Creative Minority Report for the link.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

The Eighth of January

Happy New Year! While it's still the 8th of January, I'd like to post this outstanding performance of an old fiddle tune called . . . "The Eighth of of January." On this date in 1815, American forces under the command of Andrew Jackson defeated British forces at the Battle of New Orleans—unfortunately after a peace treaty ending the War of 1812 had been signed, but before either side had gotten the word. This tune was composed to commemorate the victory and later became the basis for the famous ditty, "The Battle of New Orleans," written by Jimmie Driftwood and recorded by Johnny Horton and others. Hat tip to Garrison Keillor and the Prairie Home Companion radio show for bringing this bit of history to my attention. I had heard of The Battle of New Orleans, but I didn't know it took place 196 years ago today. Enjoy the video!

Now here's Johnny Horton's version of "The Battle of New Orleans" accompanied by some clever visuals. I hope you like this too.