Monday, December 31, 2012

Auld Lang Syne x3!

For those of you who'll be ringing in the New Year at midnight tonight (Please don't drink too much, or if you do, please don't drink and drive), here's the version of "Auld Lang Syne" that you're most likely to hear tonight, as performed by Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians:

I don't know about you, but that melody and arrangement have always seemed way too sappy and schmaltzy for my taste. Did you know that there are at least two other melodies to which the song can be sung? (Both of which sound better to my ears than the previous one). The original words are in Scots dialect and were collected or composed, at least in part, by the Scottish poet Robert Burns (1759-1796) for a compilation of Scottish folk music called The Scots Musical Museum. Quoth Wikipedia:

Robert Burns sent a copy of the original song to the Scots Musical Museum with the remark, "The following song, an old song, of the olden times, and which has never been in print, nor even in manuscript until I took it down from an old man." Some of the lyrics were indeed "collected" rather than composed by the poet; the ballad "Old Long Syne" printed in 1711 by James Watson shows considerable similarity in the first verse and the chorus to Burns' later poem, and is almost certainly derived from the same "old song".
Should Old Acquaintance be forgot,
and never thought upon;
The flames of Love extinguished,
and fully past and gone:
Is thy sweet Heart now grown so cold,
that loving Breast of thine;
That thou canst never once reflect
On Old long syne.
On Old long syne my Jo,
On Old long syne,
That thou canst never once reflect,
On Old long syne.
It is a fair supposition to attribute the rest of the poem to Burns himself.
There is some doubt as to whether the melody used today is the same one Burns originally intended, but it is widely used in Scotland and in the rest of the world.

Here is an alternate version of the song, with a different melody, performed by the Scottish folk group The Tannahill Weavers:

Here is yet another version of the song with another melody, as sung by the Scottish singer Madelaine Cave and illustrated by some lovely Scottish landscapes:

Most people sing this song without having the slightest idea what it is really about. It is in reality a conversation between old friends (or perhaps old lovers, since the expression, "My Jo," is a term of endearment similar to "my love" or "my darling") reflecting on how much they have been through together. Circumstances have been difficult, and they have been separated, but they survived, thanks to their shared affection, shared experiences, and shared memories. They'll survive whatever the future may hold thanks to that same bond of affection and (being Scots) the occasional good stiff drink! Loosely translated from Scots, the chorus says, "We'll take a cup of kindness yet, for old times sake." A good thought to remember as we bid farewell to 2012 and say hello to 2013, yes?

Whichever of the three versions you prefer, I wish you, my readers and friends, the very best for the remainder of this Christmas season and for the new year 2013. To use another Scots expression, "Lang may yer lum reek," (literally, "Long may your chimney smoke," i.e, Long life to you!)

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Skyfall: A Catholic Movie?

Here's Father Robert Barron, host of the popular "Word on Fire" YouTube video series with a commentary on the surprising Catholic elements and connections in the new James Bond movie Skyfall. Caution: Includes spoilers.

Here's the trailer for Skyfall.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Eleven Years and One Day Ago . . .

Yes, I know I'm a day late commemorating 9/11. But I didn't know if I could bring myself to remember that horrible day. I thought about commemorating the anniversary yesterday, but somehow I just couldn't . Then Thomas McEntee, the host of GeneaBloggers, suggested that all the members of that blog ring should write a commemorative post. Perhaps it will do me good. Here goes mine:

As genealogists, we all know that history is important; but so often we tend to focus on history on a small scale. What happened in our family? Our town? Our county? The doings of the great and powerful, events on the world stage that get written up in history books, sometimes seem to be of interest only insofar as they affect our ancestors. There are other times, however, when history in the largest sense reaches out and affects everyone of us. We can recall exactly where we were and exactly what we were doing when we heard that some great and terrible event had occurred. For people of my parents' generation, it was the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941; for my older brothers and sisters, it's probably the assassinations of John and Robert Kennedy in the 1960s; for me, it's 9/11.

On September 11, 2001, I had just gotten to work at my still new job as the Technical Services Librarian (cataloger) for a small county-run public library system in rural South Carolina. The weather was sunny and mild, much like it is today. At first, there was absolutely no hint that anything was wrong.

I had just stepped into our tiny break room to pour myself a cup of coffee before beginning the day's cataloging when the phone rang. My boss Salley, the library director, was calling from her home in the nearest city, about 45 minutes away, to tell Margaret, her administrative assistant, that a plane had just crashed into the World Trade Center in New York. It was only later that I learned that Salley had a daughter who was living and working in New York and trying to make it as an actress. No wonder it was so personal to her.

At first I thought this was perhaps just a tragic accident; perhaps the pilot of a small plane had become lost or disoriented or had suffered some catastrophic instrument failure. As Margaret rushed into the break room to turn on the TV and details of the crash began to emerge, it became clear that this was no accident. This was a large commercial jetliner. Minutes later came the second crash. As I watched in horror and disbelief, my mind reeling from the implications of the first two collisions, there came the news that a third plane had crashed into the Pentagon.

I tried to stay calm and go about my daily routine, but it didn't do much good. My concentration was gone. I think I managed to catalog only two books that day. Every few minutes I would stop and sneak back into the break room trying to get more news. When I heard that the authorities had grounded all air traffic and effectively sealed off New York and Washington, D. C., I e-mailed two dear friends of mine who live in the greater Washington area to make sure they were all right. One of them, a professor at Gallaudet University, a school that serves the deaf, wrote back, "Please pray for our students. Many of them are scared and don't understand what's happening." They were not alone in that feeling. I e-mailed my nephew who is a federal employee. Suddenly I couldn't remember if he was still an Army reservist, and I was afraid for him. He was no longer in the Army reserves, but much later he was eventually deployed to Iraq for several months without incident.

I also e-mailed my immediate predecessor in the cataloger's job, who had moved on to another library.  I still felt like a rookie cataloger at the time, and I would frequently ask Melissa's advice on how to catalog a troublesome item. Our e-mail conversation naturally came around to the events of the day. "It's so horrible you can scarcely believe it's real," I wrote.

At lunchtime everyone piled into the break room, still glued to the TV. The library director, my boss, had asked me to dress professionally for work and wear a dress shirt and tie each day. That day I wore a light blue shirt and what I thought was a handsome copper-colored tie. I made the mistake of bringing a small tin of ravioli for lunch that day, and I was so preoccupied by the events on TV as I ate that I paid no attention as the ravioli spilled onto my tie. Every time I wore the tie after that, I managed to spill something on it.The tie eventually became so stained and discolored from repeated spills and dry cleanings that I eventually threw it away. Cursed, it seems, by a bad beginning, the tie came to a bad end.

I can remember pacing up and down in the staff room and murmuring, "This is war," when I should have been cataloging. Yes, you can pace, even in an electric wheelchair. That night I called my parents. "I just wanted to hear your voices and tell you that I love you," I said.

In the days after I can remember feeling the urge to sing patriotic songs such as the national anthem, "America the Beautiful," and "God Bless America," while fighting back tears as I sang. My country, my home, had been attacked as it never had before in my lifetime.

We are still living with the results and the aftermath of these attacks. What their ultimate results will be, no one can say. But we should never forget what happened that day.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

"The Closer" Closes

A couple of weeks ago what I think is the best show on television aired its last original episode.

The Closer, starring Kyra Sedgwick as Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson of the Los Angeles Police Department's Major Crimes Division, ended its network run on August 13 after seven seasons as a limited run summer series on the TNT cable channel—— and I'm already missin' me some Brenda Leigh.

Perhaps from what I've already written, or if you've seen the show yourself, you can guess why I love The Closer so much. Kyra Sedgwick is absolutely spot-on in her portrayal of Brenda Leigh Johnson, a former interrogator for the CIA and former Chief of Detectives for the Atlanta Police who finds herself in the strange new world of L. A. Who would've thought that a nice Jewish girl from New York City could so perfectly adopt the persona of a li'l ol' Southern girl from Atlanta who turns out to be a "steel magnolia," far tougher than she looks? One of my pet peeves as a native Southerner and a lifelong lover of movies and TV is the way that Northern actors frequently overplay and caricature Southern characters. They exaggerate a Southern accent to a ridiculous, unrecognizable degree and present their characters as buffoons, psychopaths, religious zealots, or some combination of all three.

As played by Kyra Sedgwick, however, Brenda Leigh Johnson is none of these. She is tough, passionate, driven, intensely ambitious, yet also capable of great tenderness and vulnerability, despite the cruelty, brutality, and deceit she sees as part of her job. Kyra Sedgwick nails not only a Southern accent (you'd swear she was from Marietta, a suburb of Atlanta), but the whole Southern way of being, if you will. Brenda is tough as nails at work but otherwise constantly afraid of giving offense, and terrified of offending her parents, especially her sometimes overbearing father. The subtle, ironic twist she can give the phrase, "Thank you," or "Thank you so much," (which often implies just the opposite of what it says) has become the show's tagline. For those of you who haven't seen the show, here's the backstory:

After she is accused of misconduct and forced to resign from the Atlanta Police (but later cleared by an ethics inquiry), Brenda Leigh Johnson is approached by her former boss and sometime lover, Will Pope, who is now an Assistant Chief with the LAPD. He offers her the rank of Deputy Chief and command of an elite squad of detectives, at first called Priority Homicide and later Major Crimes. They will investigate especially sensitive, high profile murder cases that will reflect badly on the LAPD if they are not handled correctly and solved quickly. Chief Johnson acquires the nickname "The Closer" because of her unique talent for eliciting confessions from suspects during interrogation———confessions that close cases.

At first her fellow officers and even the detectives under her command dismiss her as a hick and a hayseed, or even worse, an interloper and a bimbo who got her job by sleeping with the boss. Over the course of the series, however, she wins the respect and loyalty of her squad and even the grudging admiration of her critics in the department as she proves she is a very good cop who knows what she is doing.

She's not perfect, however, either personally or professionally. At the end of Season Six, she makes a highly questionable decision regarding the release of a murder suspect that costs the man his life and nearly ends her career. In the series finale, she essentially sacrifices her career to trap the one criminal who has eluded her because she knows he's guilty but can't prove it. She's flawed, vulnerable, and immensely engaging and sympathetic right up to the end, which is a testament to the show's fine writing.

Thus far I've focused on Kyra Sedgwick's importance to the show as star and executive producer, but of course the writers and directors also deserve major credit for the show's success. The stories are compelling, full of twists and turns and tangled ethical dilemmas that leave the audience with something to think about long after the episode is over. The supporting cast is excellent; each detective is well-drawn, a fully realized personality. Some episodes move Chief Johnson somewhat into the background and allow the spotlight to fall on one of the detectives; other episodes have a lighter tone and allow the cast to show off their considerable comedic talents.

If you haven't seen the show, do yourself a favor and watch it now. All seven seasons are available on DVD for sale or rental, and perhaps even for digital download for you to enjoy. If you did, I'm sure Brenda would "Thank yew!"

So Where Have I Been?

OK, so you  may have noticed a lack of posts on this blog in recent weeks. My apologies for that. My ongoing genealogical adventures which you can read about here have taken up much of my time and energy, but on top of that some other things came up: church work that had to be completed by a deadline and ongoing remodeling and renovation in my apartment. The church work is completed and in the rear view mirror, and I hope the renovation project will be done by the end of this week or some time next week at the latest. There may be one more period of "radio silence" yet to come when my carpeting gets torn up and replaced with tile. After that I hope everything will be back to what passes for normal around here and I can get on with the rest of my life. Until then, please bear with us.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

More About My Dad

2nd Lieutenant William S. Leslie
9 Oct 1943, Age 20
So young!

Friday morning I got a long-awaited letter from the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis in response to my latest requests for my father's World War II service records. My search was partially successful. It confirmed that I had indeed found his wartime serial number (0-668096) and it also confirmed my long-held suspicion that his complete service records, if they were ever held there, were destroyed in a fire in July 1973. However, the letter also stated that, "[w]e used alternate sources to reconstruct some record data lost in the fire," and included two copies of a Certification of Military Service that includes his complete dates of service, including a short period as an enlisted man that I did not know about. I am so very proud.

The date of his enlistment conflicts slightly with some other information that I have (ironically, also supplied by the National Archives and Records Administration which oversees the National Personnel Records Center), so I may have to look into this further to make sure the details are correct. Also, although the caption on the original photo of my Dad identifies him as a 1st Lieutenant as of October 1943, I believe he was actually a 2nd Lieutenant at the time. The accident reports I mentioned in a previous entry bear this out.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

I Found My Dad

Caption on the back of the original photo reads:
"1st Lt. William S. Leslie, 20 years old, Oct. 9 1943"
(Scanned image supplied by William F. Leslie)
Note: A slightly different version of this post can be found here.

This past weekend was big for me. I found my Dad.

In the past, I've blogged about wanting to find out more about what my late father did in World War II. This past weekend, I took the first concrete steps toward finding out.

Early Saturday morning I received a long-awaited e-mail from Craig Fuller of the Aviation Archaeological Investigation and Research (AAIR) website that maintains a database of accident reports involving World War II aircraft. The e-mail contained a link to a page where I could download copies of two reports of two accidents involving my father, William Stewart Leslie, during his pilot training in World War II. The serial number of the "Leslie, William S." in these reports matches exactly the serial number on a set of dog tags in my family's possession, so I know this is my Dad. Now that I know for certain his rank and serial number and the group and squadron he was attached to at the time of the accidents, I can use these pieces of information to try and locate more details about his military service.

In the first accident, he was returning to Camp Campbell (now Fort Campbell), Kentucky after a routine cross-country training flight early on the morning of 15 August 1943. He landed about ten feet short of the end of the runway because the sun was in his eyes, and when he landed, the spindle supporting the left landing gear on his Bell P-39F AirCobra broke, causing the landing gear on that side to collapse. The board investigating the accident concluded:

Bell P-39F AirCobra with U. S. Army Air Forces Markings
Although pilot did land a few feet short of hard surfaced runway due to the fact that his visual judgment was hindered because he was landing into the sun at 0830 o'clock, it is not the opinion of the board that this fact would have been a factor in causing the landing gear to fail. It is a known fact that landing gear spindles on P-39 Airplanes are light and delicate. It is believed that spindle had Crystallized and cracked.

In the second accident, he was leaving Camp Campbell for another routine cross country training flight on the afternoon of 25 October 1943 when ice formed in the carburetor of his North American P-51 Mustang, causing a sudden and and complete engine failure. The official report reads:

North American P-51 Mustang
"After about 50 minutes of flying there was a tremendous backfire and engine failed. Pilot made crash landing, wheels up" in a farmer's cornfield near Scottsville, Kentucky.

The board investigating the accident recommended "that pilots be directed to use full carburetor heat when atmospheric conditions indicate that moderate to severe icing conditions exist," and "That WILLIAM S. LESLIE, 2nd Lt. Air Corps, Res., be relieved of all responsibility in this accident."

I'm relieved to know that in both cases, the investigating boards concluded that Dad did not cause or was not directly responsible for the accident.  A pilot is always ultimately responsible for everything that happens on board his aircraft, but apparently in these cases there were mitigating circumstances. A severe enough accident might have caused Dad to wash out of pilot training, which I think might have broken his heart. Dad loved flying.

I admire his persistence, too. One accident is one thing, but after the second one, I would have considered the Quartermaster Corps or the Navy!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

New Genealogy Blog!


As you might have deduced from my last post, dear readers, the genealogy bug has bitten me hard. I've created a new family history-themed blog "From Aberdeen to Alabama" to chronicle my adventures in pursuit of my Leslie ancestors. The title reflects my working assumption that my family originated in Aberdeenshire in northeastern Scotland, immigrated to the United States, and somehow, over several generations, worked its way to south central Alabama, where my paternal grandfather was born. That mysterious "somehow" is the subject of my search. If you want to see what I find out, come along and read. I'm really hoping that I might eventually draw the attention of distant relatives or other genealogists who are researching the same families I am. I'd appreciate any tips, tricks, or pointers more experienced family history researchers can offer, and put forth my own stumbling efforts in the hope that they may be useful to other noobs and neophytes. Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Who Do You Think You Are?

I'm trying to find out.

I've started watching "Who Do You Think You Are?"  NBC's Friday night show in which celebrities discover surprising truths about their genealogies and family histories. This Friday's season finale will feature upscale, down home Southern chef and foodie Paula Deen. On the plus side, the show is sometimes interesting and thought provoking. It's motivated me to begin researching my own family history again, something I have tried to do, off and on, with varying degrees of success, for many years now. On the minus side, I do have several beefs with the show:

First, it's built on a formula. Every episode begins with Big Famous Celebrity who has a lingering question about his or her family history. What really happened to cousin Fred when he disappeared for six months in World War II? Was Great Aunt Ida really a show girl? Was Great Great Great Grandpa Leroy an escaped slave? So, Big Famous Celebrity traipses off across the country (and often around the world) to meet with historians, archivists, librarians, and genealogists who seemingly by magic and on command produce documents that provide another piece to the puzzle. There are twists and turns. There are dead ends. At the end, however, the mystery is solved by a Stunning Revelation that leaves Big Famous Celebrity choked up or teary eyed on camera. A sadder but wiser man or woman, he or she returns home to the bosom of his or her family to reflect on What We Have All Learned From This. Fade to black, roll credits, cue commercial.

Second, it focuses on celebrities. Why are the family histories of rock stars, actors, or pop singers necessarily more interesting than those of truck drivers, nurses, or teachers, for example? I 'm just a newbie genealogist and family historian, but I'll bet nearly everybody has someone interesting in their family tree if they go back far enough. My father flew fighter planes in World War II. His mother, my grandmother, had chronic, crippling arthritis that left her bedridden much of the time, but she still raised two children and helped support her family during the Great Depression by writing poetry, short stories, and advertising jingles in contests and promotions. One of my ancestors signed Scotland's declaration of independence— some 400 years before the American one. I think the show would gain, not lose, emotional impact if it focused on ordinary people rather than on celebrities. What if each week Joe or Josephine Average from Des Moines or Tampa or Buffalo found out that they were related to a scientist or a millionaire or a baseball player? Or that they were related to other ordinary good, decent, compassionate, quietly heroic people? Wouldn't that motivate other people across America to find out more about their families?

Third, it presents a distorted picture of genealogical research. At the beginning of the hour, the celebrity has a problem. At the end of the hour (less, if you deduct time for commercials), the celebrity has a solution. He or she jets around the country and around the world to meet with the experts who have just the information our protagonist needs.. At least once per episode, someone suggests that the celebrity consult, the show's sponsor, and our hero always finds at least one useful nugget of information there. Again, I'm just a beginner at this, but I do have sense and experience enough to know that it can't be that easy for us mere mortals. I've just started using and its Family Tree Maker software myself, and they are indeed wonderful tools, but they are not the whole story.

I 'd guess that each episode of this show took months of planning and preparation. Someone would have to research the historical and genealogical problems involved and figure out who had the documents, information, and expertise to solve them. I'm not a pop star with the resources and budget of a production company and a major TV network behind me. I can't fly all around the world to research documents and meet with experts. I expect that in my search there will be dead ends and disappointments. There will be documents I need that aren't at the county courthouse, the state bureau of vital statistics, or digitized in an online database somewhere. If they are, I might have to spend my own money and wait weeks for copies. Yet I'm willing to take those risks because I want to know more about my family. I'll just have to do genealogy the old-fashioned way.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Mr. Happy Man

Here's another little video gem I found via Facebook Friend Deborah Schaben. Johnny Barnes is an 88-year-old retired railroad worker from Hamilton, Bermuda who stands at a busy intersection in the city every weekday morning blowing kisses to commuters and telling passersby—most of them complete strangers, no doubt—that he loves them.

What a simple and remarkably revolutionary act! Isn't it one of our deepest longings—if not the very deepest—to be loved? To be told we are loved? That we matter and are worth something? Johnny Barnes does that every day for the people around him. Just think how different the world would be if we followed his example! As Johnny himself points out, there would be no murders or rapes because we would be too busy truly loving one another. Notice too, that Johnny's love for those around him is not rooted in some vague, generalized quasi-socialist love for all humanity. It is rooted in Johnny's love for God and in his awareness of God's love for him. "I'm just a little small instrument in the hand of God to be used any way  He sees fit," says Johnny.

God Bless You, Johnny Barnes! And long may you continue to bless the people of Hamilton.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Still Tweaking

As you may have noticed, I'm still experimenting with the look of the blog. Comments and feedback are welcome. We'll get it settled eventually.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Accidental Makeover

So, you may have noticed the new look for the blog in the past couple of days.

Yeah, about that . . .

Y' see, I was perfectly happy with the old blog layout except for one minor detail. I went in hoping to make just a small tweak, started clicking on stuff without really knowing what I was doing, and the next thing I knew, I had lost the old template and had no idea how to get it back. I looked at the choices Blogger now has available for templates and this one seemed the most attractive and the most like what I had before. It's not perfect (In some posts the embedded videos overrun the area allowed for posts) but I can live with it. I hope you can too.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

"I Sing Because I'm Happy"

Today is Easter Sunday. The whole Christian world rejoices in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. I must confess, however, that the joy I would normally feel at recalling the Resurrection of the Lord is tempered by two things: the sad news that my dear friend Lauren passed away Thursday afternoon after a long and painful battle with cancer; and by my own medical problems that have made me a virtual shut-in for weeks now.

Yet my faith in that same Resurrection of the Lord gives me hope that one day, by the grace of God, I too may rise to the glory and beauty of eternal life with Christ in a new and glorified body free from pain, suffering, disability, or defect of any kind; and that Lauren will enjoy all eternity in communion and fellowship with the God she loved, sought, and served with all her heart. She was the kind of person who radiated the love and joy of Christ everywhere she went and in everything she did.

This was actually Lauren's second bout with cancer. She was first diagnosed several years ago, had extensive surgery and radiation, and made a recovery that was nothing short of miraculous, thanks to her own rock-solid faith in Christ and the love, support, and prayers of those around her. She seemed healthy for several years and resumed a normal life, but when this recurrence of cancer was diagnosed a few months ago, it was just too much for her to overcome, despite extensive treatment.

I recall one Sunday several years ago after Lauren was first diagnosed, or perhaps it was after the cancer had gone into remission--that Lauren, in her role as music director for our parish, stood up and sang the old Gospel hymn "His Eye Is On The Sparrow" as a post-Communion meditation. It was so beautiful that it sent shivers down my spine. I think it was her declaration that she was going to trust God no matter what the future held for her. I think of that song now as I think of Lauren. Here is a version of the song as performed by Ethel Waters as Berenice Sadie Brown in the 1952 film The Member of the Wedding with Julie Harris as Frankie Addams and Brandon De Wilde as John Henry:

I sing because I'm happy,
I sing because I'm free
For His eye is on the sparrow
And I know He watches me.

The Resurrection of Christ sets us free. Let us not merely be happy, but joyful in the face of it. A joyful Easter to all of you!

Friday, April 06, 2012

Good Friday

While searching YouTube for something appropriate for Good Friday, I found this lovely antiphon from the Byzantine tradition translated into English and sung by Vassilis Hadjinicolaou.

The lyrics in English:

Today He who hung the earth upon the waters is hung on the tree,
The King of the angels is decked with a crown of thorns.
He who wraps the heavens in clouds is wrapped in the purple of mockery.
He who freed Adam in the Jordan is slapped on the face.
The Bridegroom of the Church is affixed to the Cross with nails.
The Son of the virgin is pierced by a spear.
We worship Thy passion, O Christ.
We worship Thy passion, O Christ.
We worship Thy passion, O Christ.
Show us also Thy glorious resurrection.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Itz Teh Soopah Frenz!

funny dog pictures - The Super Friends
see more dog and puppy pictures

Holy Thursday

Unfortunately, I will not be able to attend tonight's Holy Thursday liturgy due to illness. For all those in a similar situation, whether due to illness or some other reason, I offer this, the beautiful Eucharistic hymn "Tantum ergo sacramentum," traditionally sung as the Eucharist is removed from the Tabernacle to a place of repose. The lyrics in Latin and in English are as follows:

Tantum ergo Sacramentum
Veneremur cernui:
Et antiquum documentum
Novo cedat ritui:
Praestet fides supplementum
Sensuum defectui.

Genitori, Genitoque
Laus et iubilatio,
Salus, honor, virtus quoque
Sit et benedictio:
Procedenti ab utroque
Compar sit laudatio.

Down in adoration falling,
Lo! the sacred Host we hail,
Lo! o'er ancient forms departing
Newer rites of grace prevail;
Faith for all defects supplying,
Where the feeble senses fail.

To the everlasting Father,
And the Son Who Reigns on high
With the Holy Spirit proceeding
Forth from each eternally,
Be salvation, honor blessing,
Might and endless Majesty.

A Blessed and Holy Easter Season to all my readers!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

"Lament of the Three Marys"

I've found another YouTube treasure appropriate for Lenten prayer and meditation. This is Caoineadh na dTri Mhuire, or "The Lament of the Three Marys," an ancient Gaelic lament for the crucified Christ sung by Mary the mother of Jesus, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and John. This version is performed by the Irish traditional singer Iarla Ó Lionáird. The original video came from the "Highland Sessions" program produced by BBC Wales, but the uploader of this video added additional material including a partial translation of the lyrics. I hope you find this video as moving as I did.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012


Here's another little musical treat for you that I found via Facebook friend Marnie Falcon. It's a sneak peek at the new translation of the Exsultet, the solemn, joyful proclamation of Christ's Resurrection that's chanted on Holy Saturday night as part of the Easter Vigil Mass. I love the Exsultet to begin with, and in my opinion the new translation just makes it even better! The fine folks at Corpus Christi Watershed have done their usual bang up job.

Exsultet Practice Recording, Holy Saturday Night, (Roman Missal, 3rd Edition) from Corpus Christi Watershed on Vimeo.

"O Mother of the Graces"

Hello again everyone! I just had to share this remarkable You Tube find with you, a performance by Irish vocalist Roisin Elsafty. The daughter of an Irish mother and an Egyptian father, Roisin Elsafty is rapidly making a name for herself as an outstanding interpreter of traditional Irish song, especially in the sean nós ("old style") tradition. Here she is performing a beautiful hymn in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary, A Mhuire na nGrást ("O Mother of the Graces").

About the song, she writes:

"A beautiful prayer from my mother's schooldays. The prayer is to the Virgin Mary, that she look after us and keep us safe on land and sea. It also mentions the Guardian Angel, that God is before us and that God is with us. My mother first composed music for this prayer for the funeral of my new born cousin Fionnuala Ní Cheannabháin."

(An English translation of the Gaelic lyrics is provided below):

 O Mother of the Graces, O Mother of the Son of God,
May you put me on the right road,
May you save me from every single evil,
May you save me both soul and body.
The Guard of the Angels above my head,
God before me and God with me.
O Mother of the Graces, O Mother of the Son of God,
May you put me on the right road,
May you save me on sea and on land,
May you save me on the slab of the pains.
O Mother of the Graces, O Mother of the Son of God,
May you put me on the right road,
May you save me on sea and on land,
May you save me on the slab of the pains.

The Guard of the Angels above my head,
God before me and God with me.
O Mother of the Graces, O Mother of the Son of God,
May you put me on the right road,
May you save me from every single evil,
May you save me both soul and body.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Another Year, Another Shamrock

Happy St. Patrick's Day, everyone! To help you get in the mood, here's a clip from a 2009 St. Patrick's Day special broadcast by Irish television's Gaelic language channel TG4. This clip features the women's vocal group Liadán performing a traditional song in Irish, (listen for the really neat harmonies on the chorus) and Irish-American Chicago-based fiddler Liz Carroll performing original and traditional tunes. Unfortunately the clip ends before the music does, but there's plenty to enjoy.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Cheezburger of teh Day

funny dog pictures - U mad?  U no be mad k
see more dog and puppy pictures

Who could be mad at a face like that?

Friday, March 09, 2012

"Keep Calm and Carry On"

I found this short film via Facebook friend Deborah Schaben. It's the story of how a little known British morale-building poster from World War II with the simple slogan, "Keep Calm and Carry On," was rediscovered and has rapidly become a contemporary cultural icon. (The film uses the word "propaganda," to describe the poster but I dislike that word because to me it always implies manipulation and deceit).

The narrator of the film remarks, "It is hard to say exactly why such a phrase from a bygone decade would have so much appeal and resonance now." Actually, it isn't hard to discover why at all. The narrator goes on to say, "Like a voice out of history, it offers a very simple warmhearted message to inspire confidence in others during difficult times, and it's something that should never fade from fashion." In other words, times are hard once again, and the courage and resolution needed to face those hard times never go out of style.

Anyone who knows me knows that I have tremendous respect and affection for my parents' generation--the generation that came through The Great Depression and World War II--the generation that Tom Brokaw called "the greatest generation in American history." The British, of course, suffered even more than the Americans during World War II, facing constant air raids and the very real threat of invasion by their enemies. That generation of British and Americans possessed a courage that I fear my generation lacks. They did not have access to the tremendous number of luxuries and comforts that I do. They did not expect life to be easy. Unlike the vacuous pop idols and celebrities of today, they did not go on chat or "reality" TV shows whining and whimpering about the terrible sufferings they endured. Yet they did not fail to meet their challenges. They did what they had to do. They kept calm and carried on. I pray for the courage to follow their example.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Cheezburger of Teh Day

funny cat pictures - Askuse !  YOOR  ATTENSHUN ,  PWEEZE !

This LOL completely sums up my state of mind. I've been feeling rotten all day for medical reasons, and I just wanted a little sympathy. Thank you. This concludes this self-pitying whine. We now return you to your regularly scheduled internet browsing.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Because I can't get this song out of my head . . .

I'm going to drive you crazy with it too share it with you. Because I heard it in a car commercial. And because I can. Ladies and gentlemen, the late great Bo Diddley:

The man knew how to rock. You're welcome.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Laissez les bon temps rouler!

(Let the good times roll!)

Bonjour, tout le monde! Today I have two reasons to celebrate. First, after weeks of technological nightmares and exile from internet land, I am back in cyberspace using a borrowed computer. Huge thank yous to Tommy and Preston! You guys are the best.

Second of all, today is Mardi Gras, literally "Fat Tuesday," the last chance to celebrate and indulge before Lent begins tomorrow on Ash Wednesday. To help you get in the mood, here is a traditional Mardi Gras song performed by Dewey Balfa and Nathan Abshire. In the rural communities of southwest Louisiana, masked and costumed revelers (also known as "Mardi Gras") would ride from house to house singing this song and asking residents for ingredients to make a gumbo that would feed the whole community.

 I think the tone of the song is supposed to be jaunty and festive, but to me, the accordion and the wooden blocks used to simulate the clip-clop of the horse's hooves give the tune a somewhat melancholy and even slightly creepy feeling, Here's a translation posted by a commenter on a different version of the song:

The Mardi Gras come from all around, all around the center of town.
They come by once per year, asking for charity.
Sometimes it's a sweet potato, a sweet potato or pork rinds.
The Mardi Gras are on a great journey, all around the center of town.
They come by once per year, asking for charity.

For more information about real Cajun Mardi Gras customs, watch Dance for a Chicken, Louisiana filmmaker Pat Mire's fascinating documentary about the origins of Mardi Gras and the survival of ancient traditions in rural communities. In particular, watch for some perceptive and thought provoking comments from the parish priest in Eunice, La., about how the Incarnation of Christ, the entry of God into our ordinary world, sanctifies and makes holy every aspect of everyday life. Have a happy Mardi Gras and a holy Lent!