Monthly Archives: December 2006

What I Wrote This Year, 2006 Edition

Final Word Counts for 2006

December – 9,433
November – 2,674
October – 1,616
September – 4,536
August – 10,405
July – 11,304
June – 18,027
May – 20,583
April – 23,614
March – 12,940
February – 8,210
January – 8,059

Total for the year: 131,401

That’s a lot of words. Coulda been more, though.

A Lost Post from Earlier in the Year

Hurricane Katrina

August 29th, 2006 7:01 am by  ebohls

We will be dealing with a few other anniversaries about a third of the way into September, of course, of course, but we must certainly also be mindful of the first anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which made landfall in Louisiana one year ago today (although it existed as a storm between August 23 and 31, 2005).

I remember laughing at first at it and the coverage thereof on the television as just another example of weather porn. It was only later after we got back from the beach that it really started to sink in what a horrible fuck-up it all was, from the federal down to the local level.

But especially, especially at the federal level, after what we thought and could have reasonably expected, after 9/11, that the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the newly-created Department of Homeland Security would perhaps manage the emergency and keep the homeland secure. And they very much did not. They just simply failed.

Oh, now, I absolutely believe that the President and Secretary Chertoff and Director Brown were all well meaning surely. No Kanye West crap for me, thank you very much. But they weren’t especially competent in all this. And we again reasonably expect at least competence from the officials duly sworn, and paid, to manage and secure during emergencies.

So today let us remember and honor the thousands dead and missing.

What We Saw This Year, 2006 Edition

We went out the theater to see exactly zero movies this year. That’s gotta be a first for me since like I was three years old. Like since my parents started dressing us in our jammies to take us to the drive-in in the big old Buick station wagon.

Dawn and I watched thirty movies on DVD. Well, we finished twenty-eight of them. Crash and Napoleon Dynamite sucked so bad that we couldn’t finish them.

  • All Quiet on the Western Front
  • Love Me If You Dare
  • The General
  • Oscar and Lucinda
  • Office Space
  • Pride and Prejudice (Keira Knightley version)
  • Good Night, and Good Luck
  • Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
  • Crash
  • Ju Dou
  • Vanity Fair
  • Raise the Red Lantern
  • Rory O’Shea Was Here
  • The 40-Year-Old Virgin
  • Sideways
  • Empire of the Sun
  • Napoleon Dynamite
  • The Quiet American
  • The Chorus
  • The Third Man
  • Barton Fink
  • The Garden of the Finzi-Continis
  • Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room
  • Russian Dolls
  • Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
  • They Drive by Night
  • An Inconvenient Truth
  • Croupier
  • The Last Kiss
  • Little Miss Sunshine

My favorite of the year was probably The Third Man. The Enron and Al Gore documentaries were thoroughly compelling. I’m sorry to say that I liked Master and Commander more the first time I saw it, before I had read any of the books, although it was still completely enjoyable. And I’m also sorry to say that I pretty much missed the charm of Little Miss Sunshine.

Probably watched more TV on DVD than movies, and most of that British.

Series of made-for-TV movies:

  • Horatio Hornblower
  • Sharpe Series

Classic books made into mini-series:

  • Pride and Prejudice (1980 Fay Weldon version)
  • The Barchester Chronicles
  • The Forsyte Saga (1960s version)(Creepy. Didn’t finish.)
  • The Forsyte Saga (1990s version)(Boring. Didn’t finish.)
  • Daniel Deronda
  • Middlemarch

British television series proper:

  • All Creatures Great and Small (First three seasons)
  • Good Neighbors
  • Inspector Morse (May belong in series of movies category. Watched like five of them.)
  • Prime Suspect (Same as Morse re: series of movies. Watched three.)

American television series proper that we only watched a couple of episodes:

  • The Office
  • Veronica Mars

American television series proper that we watched all episodes:

  • Wonderfalls

Dawn thinks Ioan Griffud is yummy. I don’t think we saw enough Audrey Tautou this year. Best discovery was Prime Suspect. Helen Mirren is the best

The Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph

The choir is way more sparse than it’s been all season, with only eight members. The entrance hymn is Joy to the World, what hymn we left singing last time we were here. Kind of a nice bookend to the week.

And always a good time, Colossians 3:18, Wives, be subordinate to your husbands, as is proper in the Lord. Sadly, though, it’s balanced by 3:19, Husbands, love your wives, and avoid any bitterness toward them.

In his homily, Father Caulfield tells us what we can learn from each member of the Holy Family: humility from the Lord, generosity from the Blessed Virgin, and trust from St. Joseph. And all of these should add up to love.

The music leaflet is totally wrong in telling us that the Kyrie and Eucharistic Acclamations will be from the Missa cum Jubilo. They turn out to be from plain old Missa pro Defunctis (XVIII). And the readings jump totally around from the regular ones listed and the optional ones. We’re all mixed up today.

The Gospel reading is from St. Luke, when Jesus is twelve and gets lost in Jerusalem. Okay, well, not really lost. But his parents journey in the caravan for a day before they realize that they’ve left him behind. I don’t think I’ve ever noticed especially before the parallels between this episode and the Passion, the Lord being in Jerusalem for Passover and then being kinda missing for three days and then turning up.

And there’s another instance of the special relationship of St. Luke: [A]nd his mother kept all these things in her heart.

What I Read This Year, 2006 Edition

First few books of the year: 

  • The Night Trilogy: Night, Dawn, The Accident by Elie Wiesel
  • A Good Man Is Hard to Find and Other Stories by Flannery O’Connor

Horatio Hornblower books by C.S. Forester:

  • Mr. Midshipman Hornblower
  • Lieutenant Hornblower
  • Hornblower and the Hotspur
  • Hornblower and the Atropos
  • Beat to Quarters
  • Ship of the Line
  • Flying Colours
  • Commodore Hornblower
  • Lord Hornblower
  • Admiral Hornblower in the West Indies
  • Hornblower During the Crisis

Aubrey-Maturin series by Patrick O’Brian:

  • Master and Commander
  • Post Captain
  • H.M.S. Surprise
  • The Mauritius Command
  • Desolation Island
  • The Fortune of War
  • The Surgeon’s Mate
  • The Ionian Mission
  • Treason’s Harbour
  • The Far Side of the World
  • The Reverse of the Medal
  • The Letter of Marque
  • The Thirteen-Gun Salute
  • The Nutmeg of Consolation
  • The Truelove
  • The Wine-Dark Sea
  • The Commodore
  • The Yellow Admiral
  • The Hundred Days
  • Blue at the Mizzen

Couple of other Royal Navy books:

  • Men-Of-War: Life in Nelson’s Navy by Patrick O’Brian
  • Seize the Fire: Heroism, Duty, and Nelson’s Battle of Trafalgar by Adam Nicolson

Wow. Thirty-five books this year. That’s a lot more than in recent years, probably the most since like the late eighties.


Finished the terrific Nicolson book on Nelson and Trafalgar.

Nelson, of course, though victorious in the battle, was also killed, struck by a musket shot. He took a couple of hours to die, so he was able to hear the cheering of the English sailors as the French and Spanish ships struck their colors. He knew that the battle had been won.

See this painting by Arthur William Devis. Notice how there are a couple of lamps shedding some dim light on the scene, but mostly the light seems to emanate from Nelson himself. Notice also the Christ-like imagery, the obvious similarity to any number of depictions of Christ being taken down from the cross and laid in the tomb.

And but so Nelson’s death, his sacrifice, only heightened his greatness, only added to his legend. Only added to the romance of his legend. And that’s where Nicolson quickly takes us through the rest of the war, to Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo, and through the rest of the nineteenth century.

The romantic notion of war continued into the twentieth century, only to be wiped away by the First World War. And so then, again being a man after my own heart, Nicolson ends with Owen’s Dulce Et Decorum Est.

President Ford

The death of President Ford last night, right around Christmas, reminds me of President Truman dying right around Christmas in 1972.

Quick research and I learn that both died on December 26. Truman in the morning, however, and Ford in the evening.

I was nine when Agnew resigned and Ford became the Vice President. I don’t remember anything about Agnew resigning, but I remember watching when President Nixon announced his nomination of Ford. Seems like nowadays when a President nominates someone they’ll be standing next to the President as the President introduces him or her. But somehow I remember Nixon calling out Ford’s name and Ford making his way through a crowd, smiling beaming, like it was some sort of surprise, like being called down on The Price is Right.

It probably was like some file footage or something on the news that I remember having watched, but that’s how I remember it.

The Day After Christmas

At some point on our walk to work, I remember that today is Boxing Day. And I have no idea why it’s called Boxing Day. So I ask Dawn, who does, after all, hold a master’s degree in English along with another in medieval studies. Who better to ask?

“Do they call it Boxing Day because of someone somewhere originally having to put something or some things in boxes?” I ask her. “Like servants having to put away all the Christmas decorations in boxes?”

I’m immediately suspicious when Dawn simply just agrees. I ask her if she knows or is just humoring me. She doesn’t know, but that’s as good an explanation as any, she says. Later Wikipedia and Snopes research tells me that nobody especially or definitively knows the origin of the name.

Happy Birthday, Grandpa

Virgil Paul Bohls, my paternal grandfather, would have been 96 today.

Oh, but he passed away twenty-five years ago now. But still, I remember when he died. He’d been in the hospital, and I was living with my father in Minnesota, so Dad and I drove to Toledo. I didn’t get to see him, but I think maybe Dad did, at the hospital. But anyway he died early on Thanksgiving Day. It was really hard praying for all the things we were thankful for as we said grace before Thanksgiving dinner. I remember Grandma sobbing and Dad reaching across the table to hold her hand.

I hadn’t had much experience with funerals and funeral homes, and I was terribly upset by the open casket and the viewing. I was all of eighteen then. Years later now I’m much more used to funerals, even feeling and understanding the need and benefit for ceremony and a defined time to grieve and say goodbye and celebrate someone’s life and death, the whole thing. But it was new to me then and, like I said, upsetting.

I got to be a pallbearer; in fact I was the oldest of the pallbearers. There were six or eight of us, his grandchildren, who carried him. I remember being astonished at how heavy the casket was. But I was glad that I got to carry him. I remember my cousin Mary Pat as one of the other pallbearers, but I can’t remember who else it was.

I had visited him the previous summer, when I was driving through Toledo on my way to moving to Minnesota. I seem to remember spending the night, although I’m not entirely sure. I definitely remember spending a night with my other grandparents, my Nana and Papa. And I definitely remember having dinner with Grandma and Grandpa, where it was a relatively quiet affair. I was a pretty sad wrecked depressed wretch back in those days and didn’t have a whole lot to say. Grandpa himself was a pretty reserved guy. So it was a quiet dinner.

He built that house, where my father and his siblings grew up, and where my Aunt Carol lives now. Apparently they used a team of horses to dig the hole for the foundation. But then after a few years Grandpa built an addition on to the house. And then he dug the basement under the addition himself, with a shovel and a bucket. Took him two years to dig that basement.

Sometimes my father brags about me to his friends, about like how Dawn and I do work around the house, remodling the kitchen or whatnot. Dad will say that I get the knack to do such things from Grandpa. I just about burst with pride to hear that.

Happy Birthday, Grandpa!

Merry Christmas

We sleep in late, til 8:15, before finally rolling out of bed. We had each opened one gift from each other last night, things to wear to church, the skirt for Dawn and the sweater for me. This morning we make mimosas and have a nice sit by the tree together and open the rest.

We have brunch, our usual weekend breakfast of omelette and toast, but with Dawn’s special cheese grits. And more mimosas.

We take a short walk mid-morning, before it starts raining. When we get back, I start reading a book that Dawn gave me, Seize the Fire: Heroism, Duty, and Nelson’s Battle of Trafalgar, by Adam Nicolson. I have a fun epiphany reading the preface, where Nicolson describes the British concept of the hero, inherited from ancient Greece (e.g., Homer’s Achilles) and ancient Rome (e.g., Virgil’s Aeneas). He writes,

That twin inheritance, the Virgilian and the Homeric, are both in play at Trafalgar and both are fused there with the contemporary passion for a burning apocalyptic fire.

And, as it happens, after having seen the British Romantic exhibit on Saturday, I spent yesterday morning reading the first few chapters of Peter Ackroyd’s biography of William Blake, and this sentence immediately brings Blake to my mind. And apparently to Nicolson’s as well, as the very same paragraph continues:

It is not usually done, either by naval or literary scholars, to put William Blake and Nelson in the same bracket … but to do so, and to understand their shared relationship to the visions and desires of contemporary England, is to understand both why Nelson was the object of so much love and hope in England … and why the men of the fleet he commanded fought and killed with such unbridled intensity and passion.

I think I’m going to really like this book.

Oh, and I should maybe say that I’m also reading it because I’ve run out of Patrick O’Brian books. At least the Aubrey-Maturin series. I finished all twenty. (There’s kind of a twenty-first, called simply 21, but it’s (a) apparently just three chapters written, whereupon O’Brian died, and (b) available only in hardback, and that hard to find as well.) Boy, they were so good. I picked the first one back up and re-started it after finishing the twentieth, and it was a real kick to read and think of all that was going to happen to these same people, to see them all meeting for the first time. Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin, of course, but also Pullings and Mowett and Killick. Oh, and Lord Keith and Queenie. Great fun.

I make another pie in the afternoon, much more successful than the one I made yesterday. Yesterday I tried mixing the dry ingredients first, but maybe shouldn’t have included brown sugar as a dry ingredient. And then I chilled the ball of dough for about forty minutes before rolling it out. And so anyway yesterday’s pie didn’t seem to be done enough on the inside, even though the crust around the edges was getting ready almost to burn. Today’s pie seems to finish crust and custard both around the same time, what with a less chilled crust and a maybe better mixed custard.

For dinner I chop the obligatory onion and Dawn makes a wonderful mushroom risotto, with sautéed fresh spinach. And we watch the very un-Christmasy Prime Suspect 3.

The Nativity of the Lord

We kinda sorta cheat, going to the morning Mass for the fourth Sunday of Advent, then returning for the five-thirty Mass for Christmas. We’re not sure if we’re allowed to take Communion twice on one day. We ask Deacon Merella, and he assures us that we’re okay. Then we run into Monsignor, and so we get a second opinion from him, thankfully agreeing with the first.

We had trouble finding seating last year, so we arrive a full hour early this year. Or, since there’s the contemporary choir singing a chorale prelude starting at five, I guess it’s more like half an hour early. But anyway, we’re packed in by showtime, our pew built for four having five of us smooshed into it. We have a scare when the elderly genltleman at the end to our right swaps out with a younger man holding a small child. Ack! But luckily this arrangement is temporary, as the squirmy noisy urchin is taken away, and the old guy returns.

Note here that the contemporary choir is a separate entity from the schola cantorum whom we heard just this morning, or, rather, the former is a subset of the latter. Jennifer Goltz, who’s normally a member of the schola as well as usually our cantor, is director of the contemporary choir. There’s a wonderful small moment between songs where she’s quietly blowing into the pitch pipe, sort of huddled with Ellen and Heidi, who then express some sort of confusion as to why Jennifer is giving them the pitch. Jennifer realizes that the upcoming part is hers alone, rather than sung by the three of them. So she laughs and then directly launches into the song.

The entrance hymn is O Come, All Ye Faithful. Lovely, except that I never noticed how strange is the line He abhors not the Virgin’s womb. The older woman next to me to my right has a high strained and cracked voice, weirdly charming and soothing.

It’s the five-thirty Vigil Mass, and so we’re surprised when we get the readings from the Midnight Mass. How grand, getting so much of the beauty from the Midnight Mass without having to actually stay awake that late. Which we could never manage anyway. First reading is goold old Isaiah, with that old chestnut, another favorite part of Handel’s Messiah, For unto us a child is born. Or, as the NAB has it, For a child is born to us. Close enough. But it’s verses three and four from the passage that really jump out at me.

For the yoke that burdened them,
the pole on their shoulder,
and the rod of their taskmaster
you have smashed, as on the day of Midian.
For every boot that tramped in battle,
every cloak rolled in blood,
will be burned as fuel for flames.

Oh, isn’t that the best day, though? When every boot that tramped in battle will be burned!

Next is from St. Paul’s letter to Titus, where pretty much the life of the Christian is summarized quite neatly.

[T]o reject godless ways and worldly desires
and to live temperately, justly, and devoutly in this age,
as we await the blessed hope,
the appearance of the glory of our great God
and savior Jesus Christ,

A neat summation, surely, but actually living it, actually doing it, is so very hard.

And the Gospel, this year according to St. Luke. Some of you Peanuts fans may recognize it from A Charlie Brown Christmas, where the pedantic Linus explains the true meaning of Christmas. Some of those same fans may notice the differences between Linus’s King James and our NAB, although Linus makes one small mistake in his recitation.

For today in the city of David
a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord.
And this will be a sign for you:
you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes
and lying in a manger.”
And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel,
praising God and saying:
“Glory to God in the highest
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

Generally, during the Credo, or Profession of Faith, we bow during et incarnátus est de Spíritu Sancto ex María Vírgine et homo factus est, or by the power of the Holy Spirit, he was born of the Virgin Mary and became man. Today’s a special day, as we’re supposed to kneel during it. Monsignor reminds us before we begin the Profession of Faith. But the booklet that we’re using says that we’re to kneel “for a brief moment of prayer.” So when the time comes, all of use, the whole congregation, haul ourselves down. But then suddenly everyone’s getting up again right away. I’m confused; I thought we’d be down longer. And I stopped reciting as I was getting the kneeler out and down and getting myself down onto it. So now I feel like I’m behind, with everybody charging ahead with the He was crucified under Pontius Pilate.

And then we sing O Little Town of Bethlehem during the preparation of the altar and gifts. And it’s the same a few minutes later when we sing Silent Night during communion. Both carols are lovely, in and of themselves, but I have trouble singing the higher notes while at the same time being as pianissimo as we’re supposed to be.

The usher directs us to go through the pews to our left, more towards the middle, to take communion. We have trouble getting back to our seats then, as we can’t go through the choir to the other side of our pew. We have to go back in the same way we came out. So Dawn and I have to step aside to let the people to our right go in first, and they mix up their order doing so, so I have somebody else sitting next to me now.

And communion itself takes quite a while, as there’s so many of us packed into the Cathedral. After Silent Night we have time to sing It Came Upon the Midnight Clear, even time to sing the first verse again at the end.

And finally the recessional hymn is Joy to the World, which I can usually belt out pretty well. But we’ve been singing quite a bit tonight, and I’m a little worn out. But I give it my best. And afterwards I chat with Jennifer Goltz for a minute, getting her to explain to me how she’s related to the two others named Goltz in the choir. Husband and brother-in-law, turns out. And if Heidi Scanio in the choir is related to the Heather Scanio and Alan Scanio listed as authors or arrangers in the choral prelude song listing. Same person and husband. And if the Ellen Roche in the choir is related to the Terri Roche in the song listing. No relation, as Terri Roche (actually it’s Terre Roche) is in the singing group the Roches, whom I saw at Wolf Trap once, opening for Richard Thompson.

Fourth Sunday of Advent

We’ve almost made it. It’s so close now. He’s so close, almost here. The first reading is from Michah.

Thus says the Lord:
You, Bethlehem-Ephrathah
too small to be among the clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
one who is to be ruler in Israel;

And today’s Gospel reading, from St. Luke, has more of the Hail Mary.

Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit,
cried out in a loud voice and said,
“Blessed are you among women,
and blessed is the fruit of your womb.”

Father Caulfield reminds us how he had told us those three short weeks ago, when Advent began, that it would fly by so quickly. He sure is right, I agree. Time has flown.

He admits that it has for him as well.

And I wonder if we can ever truly prepare as much as we should. I always think of Emily’s line in Our Town, from the third act: Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it? -— every, every minute?

The Artist’s Vision: Romantic Traditions in Britain

Dawn’s office was closing early, so we had planned to go Friday afternoon to the National Gallery to see the British Romantics exhibit. But she ended up working late, and it was supposed to rain, so we go on Saturday instead.

I have no idea who the British Romantics are, when or what they did, but still I’m excited that we’re seeing something. We haven’t been to the Gallery in a while, I think. Not since the Toulouse-Lautrec and Montmartre exhibit with Mother Dillon? And the Thomas Gainsborough before that?

We have a little trouble finding the works themselves, though. All Dawn knows is that they’re on the ground floor. We wander around a little before we find a desk with maps and a listing of current exhibitions. There’s a brass quintet playing upstairs, we can hear. Playing Christmas music. But we’re heading down to the west end to galleries C23 to C25.

And when we get there I’m delighted, first to learn that the period covered is late eighteenth through early twentieth centuries, which period includes my recent obsession of Britain during the Napoleanic Wars, and secondly that included are William Blake and Dante Gabriel Rossetti. And in general, the exhibition is all of like sixty-nine works, so it’s sort of perfectly sized. Not too big, not too small.

First up are some romantic landscapes. Think like Elysian Fields, or better yet, think pastoral. Like farm workers viewed from a great distance, surrounded by beautiful scenery, and the distance making their work look idyllic. Romantic.

But then also apparently a theme of this romanticism is a kind of macabre grotesqueries. Included in this are the works by Blake. There’s an etching, two paintings, and two bound volumes. (The bound volumes are under glass, so we can just see a page or two; we can’t turn the pages and peruse.) The one I assume is most familiar is The Great Red Dragon and the Beast from the Sea, which I guess is the one that Francis Dolarhyde eats in Red Dragon. (Alas. Wrong. That turns out to be The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed in the Sun. That’s at the Brooklyn Museum, still there, not really eaten of course, but anyway not here.)

And then, just for kicks, the Pre-Raphaelites are here. What a treat. First up is Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones, (most famous for The Beguiling of Merlin, also not here), with an Ariadne and a Saint Barbara. Ariadne’s face doesn’t seem to be finished, although I’d swear that’s Jane Morris under there, whereas Saint Barbara is apparently egg tempera, maybe, so says the ID information, with a question mark.

Then there’s Rossetti, with two chalk treatments of Desdemona, and an honest to God actual work (pen, though, not painted) of she herself, named for her even, the impossibly beautiful Jane Morris. We used to, Cathy and I, have a poster of Rossetti’s Proserpine on our living room wall, in our apartment on Barton Street. That’s my favorite Jane Morris of all. Oh did I love that face.

A grand little exhibit. They’ve got it until March 18, 2007. Go see it.

Downloading Music

We got Tivo recently. Well, almost Tivo. The DirecTV DVR version. DirecTV used to have a deal with actual Tivo, but they went out on their own a year or so back.

But anyway the point is that I got this certificate in the mail, kind of a rebate or something, for ordering the DirecTV DVR and service, for fifty free downloads at eMusic. After signing on to, and signing up for, eMusic, I found that the normal two-week trial to emusic affords one thirty free downloads, so I guess I got twenty free downloads from DirecTV. Whatever.

But then the problem was that emusic isn’t iTunes. They don’t have any of the usual mainstream stuff. Which is okay, I guess. I’m hopelessly out of touch as far as mainstream pop music goes nowadays. Not to say that I’m some sort of indie hipster either, though. More accurate to say that I’m hopelessly out of touch altogether.

I ended up downloading two records, Fox Confessor Brings the Flood and Furnace Room Lullaby, by Neko Case, and then Peddlin’ Dreams by Maria McKee, and Your Country by Graham Parker. Oh, and with three songs left over, I grabbed Marieke, from the recent off-Broadway revival of Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris, sung by Gay Marshall. And then I found a recording of Jacques Brel himself singing it. And lastly The Day After Tomorrow by Tom Waits, from a record or two ago.

I couldn’t find any Wilco records, or anything by Sarah Harmer. Would probably have gotten something from one or both.

But, all in all, so far, I’m really really digging Fox Confessor. By turns exhilerating and disturbing, Neko Case is like some strange combination of Patty Griffin and Liz Phair, if you can imagine. Great singing chops and bizarre lyrics, maybe, is the key to the combo.

I heard Tom Waits sing Day After Tomorrow on the Daily Show, of all places. They don’t generally have musical acts, not performing anyway. The rest of the album from which the song comes seems like more normal Tom Waits barrelhouse raucous bluesy kinda stuff with weird clanging percussion, but Day After Tomorrow is just a real slow sad dirge. It’s very much like his Fall of Troy from the Dead Man Walking soundtrack, actually, which song I also love love love.

And Marieke, actually, I like a lot better sung by Gay Marshall rather than Brel himself. It’s easily my favorite song from Alive and Well. I didn’t see the recent revival off-Broadway. I saw it, actually, way way way off Broadway, in the basement of Kelly’s Irish Times in DC back in the mid-nineties. Went with the woman whom I dated soon (too soon, really) after my first marriage blew up. Said woman knew the producer of the show, had had like a one-night stand with him in college. Or just a few minutes up against a Pepsi machine affair, really. But anyway he was a really cool guy. Good-looking fellow. And I don’t know what he did in his day job, but he produced this excellent show.

And something about the song and the way that the woman sang it, and how she really emoted, or maybe over emoted but in a way that really worked anyway, it just really got to me. And part of it maybe is the lyrics in Flemish or Dutch or whatever they are, part of the song in this sad different language. It all just really sank in, stuck with me.

The way Jacques Brel himself sings it should probably be the definitive, right? But for me it just fits so much better with a woman’s voice, and Gay Marshall just does it right.

Third Sunday of Advent

So very similar to the previous Tuesday’s Zechariah, and either Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion or Sing and rejoice, O daughter Zion, today’s first reading is from Zephaniah and begins Shout for joy, O daughter Zion!

The Gospel reading though is the one that’s a real true treat for me, one that I know from way way back. The full reading is from St. Luke, from chapter 3, verses ten through eighteen. But, as it happens, on my old Datsun 510 station wagon years and years ago, my license plate was LUK-313. First time I saw it I figured it meant Luke 3:13. So of course I looked it up immediately.

I must have looked it up in a King James Version, because I remember it as “Exact no more than that which you are appointed.” Oh, but of course I remember it wrong. The quote from the King James is actually “Exact no more than that which is appointed you.” Either way, though, someone is not supposed to exact more than some specified amount. Or, as I’ve always translated it, “Take no more than what you’re supposed to take,” or, more generally, “Take no more than you need.”

And I remembered it as being St. John the Baptish preaching to the tax collectors of Lebanon. Now though I’m not so sure as to why I thought that they had to be especiallly from Lebanon. He’s baptizing in the Jordan River, which is mighty mighty long, running from the Sea of Galilee to the Dead Sea, in or between Israel, Jordan, and Palestine. Kinda south of Lebanon. Although I guess I’m looking at present day boundries, not like whatever the Romans said was what, back when they were in charge, two-thousand years ago.

But anyway, looking at the passage now, years later, (when my license plate is CB-0083,) I’m struck more by what surrounds the passage. The NAB that we use in the Catholic Church translates it itself as “Stop collecting more than what is prescribed.” But what I like is that it isn’t just St. John the Baptish spouting off on his own, although I like it when he does that too. No, here, the tax collectors ask for advice. So do the soldiers, and the regular folk too.

The crowds asked John the Baptist,
“What should we do?”
He said to them in reply,
“Whoever has two cloaks
should share with the person who has none.
And whoever has food should do likewise.”
Even tax collectors came to be baptized and they said to him,

“Teacher, what should we do?”
He answered them,
“Stop collecting more than what is prescribed.”
Soldiers also asked him,
“And what is it that we should do?”
He told them,
“Do not practice extortion,
do not falsely accuse anyone,
and be satisfied with your wages.”

And that’s stuff I’ve been thinking about forever, and thinking about lately. Like, why do I believe what I believe? Or, more generally, just what am I doing here, on Earth or even today in this church? And then, more specifically, what should I do? What should I be doing?

And it’s comforting to remember that these are not new questions. Clearly people have been asking these questions for thousands of years.

And it’s some good answers that St. John the Baptist gives as well. Sure, it’s real simple, common-sense advice, but it’s still good advice. You maybe can’t solve all the problems, but at least don’t be the cause of some of those problems. And also: share.

Lovely music today, too, as Ellen Kliman takes a little solo part during the Kyrie that just knocks your socks off. And then she solos wonderfully during communion on the Handel, But who may abide. We go up to her like groupies after Mass and tell her how wonderful she is. Dawn mentions that she’s great on the St. Matthew’s Choir Christmas CD that we bought as well.

Holiday Party

We’ve got a short Friday of work, as our office holiday party starts at one. Or, even earlier, or shorter, I guess, since it, the party, is at Zola, at Eighth & F Streets. We’re at Nineteenth and M. So we pile into cabs to get there.

I ride with Ryan, Michelle, Nancy, and Joe. Ryan’s in front with this giant poinsettia, so the other four of us are smashed in the back seat. It’s your basic Ford Crown Vic cab, like most of them seem to be, built to seat three in back. But four of us make it work somehow.

At Zola we’re led this way and that. Through the kitchen at one point. I tell Joe I’ll give him a dollar to yell La Migra to the kitchen staff. We’re led by a landing, where we’re up above the Spy Museum, which is next door to Zola. Then we head to a back room, our private dining room.

It’d be fairly grim, with its concrete walls, but said walls are somewhat cheerfully masked by hanging sheer fabrics. Scrims? The tables are round and seat ten each. There’s an open bar that we pass on our way to the tables. I ask after their white wine, but they’ve got no pinot grigio, just chardonnay. Yurk. I go with the red, a shiraz. We’re each given a slip of paper with whatever entree that we chose by email a few weeks back. Rodney hands out the tickets for the prize give-away.

I sort of semi-follow Joe and Ryan to a table in the back corner. Ryan’s recently bought a house in Silver Spring near Joe and they’re standing discussing the neighborhood. They’re also standing directly beneath a speaker blaring music. I choose at the table as far away from the speaker as possible, although I’m not sure it’ll be far enough away, that I’ll be able to hear anything.

Kyra and Lauren arrive and sit next to me, to my left. To my right, along the wall, are two empty seats, then Ryan, then Joe. Gladys sits to Lauren’s left. Michelle sits to Joe’s right.

There’s munchy vegetables as appetizers. Then Marty speaks. Or tries to, but we can’t hear her until they turn the music down. Marty gives a nice speech summing up the year. Then we eat. Then Marty and Matt give out the fabulous prizes.

I win something that I’m supposed to pick up back at the office, which thing I promptly forget all about. Days later I’m in crisis as to what is the protocol for such a situation. Should I ask around about whom to ask about the thing that I can’t remember? Should I keep quiet and hope that whoever is holding said thing at the office notices that I haven’t picked it up? (Though I’m pretty sure that there’s no like physical record that I was the winner of whatever it was that I won.) Should I keep quiet and hope that no one ever notices the one prize that’s left unclaimed? If there’s like an email out to all staff about unclaimed prizes, should I still keep quiet, so as not to be that guy who’s so ungrateful as to not even remember what it is that he won?

Happy Birthday, Gordon!

My best friend Gordon turns 43 today.

I first met Gordon in August of 1983. He worked at Crown Books, at store #828, in Bradlick Shopping Center. That’s in Springfield, or maybe Annandale. It’s at the intersection of Braddock and Backlick roads.

Eileen was his boss, the manager of the store, and Gordon was her assistant manager. And Eileen was … well …. my friend, I guess. Boy, is that a long and complicated story. Long and complicated to me, anyway. Maybe not so interesting to you, though.

So anyway I went to see Eileen at her store, I think to talk to her about Mark Buckley, maybe. And while I was there I met some of her staff and co-workers, Gordon being one of them.

Oh, and I bought a porn magazine, a copy of Swank, while I was there. And Gordon rang up the purchase. I seem to remember now that he maybe asked to see my ID, I think to see how old I was. Since Eileen was older he thought that I was older too, but then learned that I was a few months younger than he was.

Swank had bought some pictures of John and Yoko naked, that somebody had found in the trash at the Dakota, is the only reason why I was buying the issue. I mean, hey, don’t get me wrong: I loves me my porn. But Swank? Not really my particular cup of tea. Way too outre for my tastes.

And but anyway, so then I had a passing acquaintance with Gordon, more so when Eileen moved over to Crown #807 and took Gordon with her. And I saw more and more of Eileen over fall and winter 1983 and 1984. And then Gordon and Babs and I all got dumped by our respective dating partners all around February and March of 1984, and all started hanging out together. Lots of dinners at the Pizza Hut across Beauregard Street, playing Back on the Chain Gang on the jukebox.

I used to call Gordon Dad for many years. It came mostly from Daddy Gordon (or maybe Daddy Gordo), what his girlfriend’s daughter called him. And I think it partly related to the Our Speaker Today episode of the Good Neighbors, where Richard Briers refers to the young Robert Lindsay as son, so Robert Lindsay kinda testily then calls Richard Briers dad. But still, calling Gordon Dad. That seems kind of weird and significant, now that I think about it, twenty years later.

And now Gordon is a dad, of course. He and Babs finally got married, and then they had Ally, who’ll be eleven next March. Goodness, how time flies.

Happy Birthday!

Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Today is the feast day of the patron saint of Mexico, among other places. I’ve been living with her all year in the form of the calendar that adorns the wall right behind me, right between the two windows of my office.

I’m not sure where or why or how I came to possess this calendar. I think maybe I bought it on sale at Borders, after Christmas, after New Year’s Day. Dawn likes whimsical cat or folk art calendars, whereas I’m more generally a fan of religious ones. And a calendar where each month is a different depiction of the same icon, well, that’s right up my alley.

The first reading from the Lectionary for today is from Zechariah. It’s similar to, so very similar to, but in fact just ever so slightly different from, the great soprano piece from Handel’s Messiah, Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion. That’s actually from Zechariah 9, whilst today’s reading is Sing and rejoice, O daughter Zion and is from Zechariah 2.

(And as it turns out, we hear this very Handel piece this coming weekend at the 10:00 a.m. Mass.)

And the Gospel is the from St. Luke, just slightly before the Magnificat. Hey, it’s the Hail Mary!

The angel Gabriel was sent from God
to a town of Galilee called Nazareth,
to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph,
of the house of David,
and the virgin’s name was Mary.
And coming to her, he said,
“Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.”

When I was first in inquiry at St. Matt’s, Will Young pointed out how great the next line was: But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. Will said that this showed what a special relationship the Blessed Virgin had with St. Luke, because the only way that he would know that she was troubled, or what she pondered in her heart, is because she told him so.


Speak no evil of the dead? Not this time. Pinochet died yesterday.

Oh, I’ve been feeling sick and angry all over again about him, since his birthday last month when he announced that he took “full political responsibility for what was done.”

I have to keep returning to the Onion story, about Atta and company, Hijackers Surprised To Find Selves In Hell. I can only comfort myself by thinking of these same unspeakably obscene tortures being visited today and in perpetuity on one Augusto José Ramón Pinochet Ugarte.

But then, of course, I read the companion piece, God Angrily Clarifies ‘Don’t Kill’ Rule, from the very same post-9/11 issue, and I feel ashamed.

Growing increasingly wrathful, God continued: “Can’t you people see? What are you, morons? There are a ton of different religious traditions out there, and different cultures worship Me in different ways. But the basic message is always the same: Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Shintoism… every religious belief system under the sun, they all say you’re supposed to love your neighbors, folks! It’s not that hard a concept to grasp.”

“Why would you think I’d want anything else? Humans don’t need religion or God as an excuse to kill each other—you’ve been doing that without any help from Me since you were freaking apes!” God said. “The whole point of believing in God is to have a higher standard of behavior. How obvious can you get?”

“I’m talking to all of you, here!” continued God, His voice rising to a shout. “Do you hear Me? I don’t want you to kill anybody. I’m against it, across the board. How many times do I have to say it? Don’t kill each other anymore—ever! I’m fucking serious!”

Upon completing His outburst, God fell silent, standing quietly at the podium for several moments. Then, witnesses reported, God’s shoulders began to shake, and He wept.

Second Sunday of Advent

Oh, but I didn’t mention the music we’ve been having! Even starting two weeks ago, the week before Advent began, November 26, the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ the King, we get someone from the Schola Cantorum doing a solo from Handel’s Messiah. On Christ the King it was Worthy is the Lamb. Last week it was Thus saith the Lord and But who may abide.

And this week it’s O thou that tellest good tidings to Zion. I don’t know the names of the singers in the choir, so this woman who sings it I always just call Kate. She vaguely reminds me of Kate Winslet. After Mass she’s out in the nave greeting what appear to be her grandparents, so I stop by and introduce myself and Dawn and tell her how good she was. And she introduces herself as Heather. Ah, not Kate. Heather.

And continuing the theme of waiting and anticipating, today’s Gospel reading, from St. Luke of course, gives us good old St. John the Baptist, preaching from Isaiah. And it’s those lines that Handel uses right at the beginning of Messiah.

A voice of one crying out in the desert:
“Prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight his paths.
Every valley shall be filled
and every mountain and hill shall be made low.
The winding roads shall be made straight,
and the rough ways made smooth,
and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”

So I’m totally expecting that as the Handel solo during Communion, Every valley shall be exalted, but, as I said, we get O thou that tellest instead. Or we could totally expect this part of Isaiah to be the first reading, right? Wrong again! We get Baruch instead. But, still, it turns out to be interesting in its own way. Check this out:

For God has commanded
that every lofty mountain be made low,
and that the age-old depths and gorges
be filled to level ground,
that Israel may advance secure in the glory of God.

It’s the same thing! Cool and fun. Our man Baruch tying into Isaiah, or channelling Isaiah. Or maybe the other way around? Wonder which was written first? I’m guessing Isaiah, since he’s like such a rockstar prophet, while poor Baruch is deuterocanonical. (Or apocryphal, depending on your particular persuasion, right?) Some quick Wikipedia research puts Isaiah around 740 BC and Baruch around 580 BC.

I have to admit, though, that I’m a bigger fan of Handel’s old King James, with its rough places being made plain, rather than the NAB’s smooth.

And I especially like the beginning of the Gospel reading, setting the scene, placing it in historical context:

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar,
when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea,
and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee,
and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region
of Ituraea and Trachonitis,
and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene,
during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas …

The way I understand it, there’s no contemporary record of Jesus, the Gospels all being written some forty to seventy years after the Resurrection. So I like this tie to events and people where there maybe are extant records. I don’t know if St. Luke’s account matches up exactly, like if Lysanias and Herod were in fact contemporaries, but it sounds good to me.

Circuit 9

We’d been having this problem with an electrical circuit in the house. It’s been really weird. Dawn noticed it at first, watching Midsomer Murders on the Biography Channel while knitting. The power to the TV and satellite receiver would just momentarily go off and then back on. It’d be especially annoying because then the receiver would have to take a minute to reacquire the satellite signal. As a couple of weeks went by it started to happen more frequently, and then the power started staying out for more than just an instant.

We tried cycling the circuit breaker off and on, but that didn’t help. There are only two outlets on that particular circuit, so I bought replacements. I replaced the first outlet, the one nearer to the breaker box. The outlet further downstream turned out to be like two outlets covered by a double plate. I didn’t feel like replacing just one of the outlets or going out to buy another one, and frankly I didn’t think that it was the further downstream outlet(s) causing the problem anyway.

But replacing the one outlet didn’t help, either. So the one last thing I wanted to do before calling in a competent electrician was to check the circuit breakers themselves, since this problem only started since we had had some work done, when the guys added the two new circuits. And but actually, when they did that, I had seen how the circuit breakers plugged into the main panel, is really the only reason that I even thought to check this.

To get to the breakers I had to remove the front panel. It was attached by three screws (although there should have been four, but one was missing). After taking out two of the three screws the front panel shifted partially sideways, hanging from the one remaining screw. And it must have touched something otherwise inside, because the main circuit breakers tripped and the whole house went out.

Okay. Probably should have shut off that main circuit before taking the panel cover off.

Anyway, I pulled out the breaker for the circuit, but nothing seemed amiss. But it was a smaller breaker, one that plugged in together with the circuit breaker right above it, both going on the same main panel connector. And both of these were directly below the new circuits the guys installed. And the little pin on that companion circuit breaker looked bent somewhat to the right. So I bent that back straight, plugged both circuits back in, and now the problem seems to be solved. I think the way that the one pin was bent on the one circuit breaker was pushing the pin on the other circuit breaker just enough to sometimes break the connection, maybe as the weather the getting colder and these metal connections were contracting ever so slightly.

And I found the fourth screw that the guys seemed to have forgotten, so now the cover is back on a little more stable.

All in all, I’m very pleased that it’s working correctly again, but also that I didn’t kill myself.

The Nutcracker

It’s a holiday season tradition, seeing the Washington Ballet perform The Nutcracker at the Warner Theatre. We meet Becky beforehand at Red Sage around the corner, have dinner, and then head over for the show.

Artistic Director Septime Webre reimagined the whole thing a couple of years ago, giving it a Washington setting and flavor: Clara living in a big house in Georgetown, the land of the Sugar Plum Fairy springtime under the cherry blossoms, that sort of thing. We had originally heard that there’d be some sort of George Washington Nutcracker battling a Mouse King George III – awful, dreadful, yuck – but thankfully it doesn’t go that far. True, the Russian dance is transformed into a frontiersman and women, but it’s okay. And the Arabian dance is Anacostia Indians, but that’s a really good touch. I’m underwhelmed by the Clara shrinking/Christmas tree growing special effect, but that’s a very minor point.

We have fun trying to figure out which dancers are dancing which parts. We had expected some sort of an announcement, at least for like Clara’s parents and the Sugar Plum Fairy. But, no, nothing.

Looks like Sona Kharatian and Erin Mahoney-Du switch off with each other on different nights, one playing Clara’s mother and the other in the Spanish Dance. Sadly this is Erin Mahoney-Du’s night to be Clara’s mother. Much less dancing, but at least she is completely lovely in a gorgeous deep rich red gown. My other favorite, Elizabeth Gaither, is the Snow Queen this year. Last year, or maybe it was the year before, she was the Sugar Plum Fairy. This year the SPF is Maki Onuki, and Dawn announces, correctly it turns out, that Jonathan Jordan will be her Cavalier.

Most amazing are the Anacostia Indians, Laura Urgelles and … we’re not sure who. He’s wearing a mask. The program says that it’s one of: Chip Coleman, Runqiao Du, Alvaro Palau, Tyler Savoie, Luis Torres. We can tell that it’s definitely not Chip Coleman or Runqiao Du. I’m reasonably sure that it’s not Luis Torres. Dawn’s sure that it’s not Alvaro Palau. (The next day’s review in the Post will say that it’s Alvaro Palau. Dawn stands by her determination.) Whoever it is, though, mightily and quite impressively lifts and holds Laura Urgelles straight up on one arm. Wow.

Mother Ginger in this production is called Mother Barnum, and she (although played by either Jason Hartley or Luis Torres) is a big merry-go-round. I like that a whole lot better than productions where she’s this giant and the kids (clowns, or, technically, Polichinelles) get like creepily birthed out from under her skirt.

It’s cold and windy when we get out, and we catch a cab home, the one day of the year that Dawn will take a taxi. And he’s just about the fastest craziest cab driver in the city, this guy is.

De mortuis nil nisi bonum

Jeane Kirkpatrick apparently died in her sleep last night. She was 80.

I yelled at her once. Not that she likely heard me, mind you, as she was at the time being yelled at by a lot of people. But I did yell at her.

Twas way back in the early eighties, when she was the US ambassador to the United Nations. She had come to the University of Minnesota to give a speech, which speech at the Northrup Auditorium was booed and jeered and heckled by many dozens of the students and guests present. I myself sat politely and just quietly listened and observed, until she began taking questions. Someone asked if we, meaning the United States and its citizens, bore some responsibility for the killings and atrocities and torture being carried out by the government of El Salvador, and by its proxies and death squads, since we supported the junta so heavily.

Ambassador Kilpatrick, with venomous condescention, explained, that by the same logic, the Americans who protested the Vietnam War now bore the responsibility for the behavior of the government in Hanoi. Oh, I was so mad. I stood up and just shouted obscenities at her.

Later, since it was the first Wednesday of the month, and around noon, we held our usual die-in1 on the steps of the auditorium. A news photographer snapped a picture of us, which photo ended up on the front page of the Minnesota Daily the next morning. You can see me beatifically propped on the steps in the background. I still have a copy. Found it recently when cleaning out the filing cabinet.


1 A die-in was like a sit-in, except that instead of sitting, you’d like fall down and pretend to be dead for five minutes. This we did on the first Wednesday of every month, when the civil defense sirens would go off. Maybe it wasn’t noon when they tested them. Maybe it was one. Or maybe noon. Doesn’t matter. The point was to protest the idea that maybe sirens and fallout shelters weren’t a particular wise policy vis-à-vis nuclear war. Maybe preventing nuclear war was the way to go.

First Sunday of Advent

Happy New Year!

It’s now Year C, according to the Lectionary readings schedule. Readings from St. Mark? That’s so last year. It’s St. Luke this year.

The readings today, as they would be in Advent, are all about anticipation. Something’s a-comin’. First, from Jeremiah:

The days are coming, says the LORD,
when I will fulfill the promise
I made to the house of Israel and Judah.
In those days, in that time,
I will raise up for David a just shoot;

I like the botanical imagery, describing a shoot. Oh, and not just any shoot, but a just shoot. Why such a phrase, a just shoot? Well, I guess I understand the just part of it, as the Messiah will be the king, who limns between right and wrong. And maybe the shoot, the plant image somehow makes it all the more natural, more organic. That it’ll just grow and happen. Somehow that makes it more likely?

And what should we do while we’re waiting? St. Paul says to “conduct yourselves to please God.” And in the Gospel, Jesus warns that there will be signs, scary signs, that people will die of fright, even. Be vigilant at all times, he says. Pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations.

Oh, yes. Something’s a-comin’.

In his homily, Father Caulfield, dressed in festive purple vestments, explains that it isn’t quite Christmas yet. Soon. But for now, we wait and anticipate.