Just as I was thinking about leaning toward making a resolution, my resolve was pre-empted by whoever smashed the rear window out of my car on New Year's Eve. Apparently just for fun. Totally shattered, glass everywhere; I got cut cleaning it up. Little slivers remain under my skin. After power-vacuuming the entire vehicle, sparkling remnants keep reappearing as if by magic. I'll never get it all out. If the perpetrators' aim was to make my life miserable for the following week, they have succeeded. But the event inspired a sudden clarity of thought: what's the point in changing when everyone around you remains the same? How can I do good to those who misuse me when I can't find them? Retribution and revenge ought to have a more prominent place in the Christian ethic. I tried plumbing the depths of my soul for the spirit of forgiveness, but found it wasn't very deep, and thus concluded, not with reluctance but with considerable gusto, that my ultimate hope for the malefactors was that they die young and go to hell. If you want a more Christian take on the proper response to insensate evil, there are plenty of pious websites out there.
* * *People have been wondering where I've been and what I've been doing. My evidence for this? None. Huge assumptions provide motivation.
But (in the spirit of the foregoing) one thing I've been doing is keeping track of dead people. Bad dead people, who died during the past year. A partial list:
Abu Musab al Zarqawi (remember Nick Berg)
Richard Kuklinski, 70, a Mafia hitman known as 'The Iceman'.
Some other bad people also died on "The Sopranos," but I'm not sure they're real or that they really died.
Feel free to add to the list if you wish. Others, whose eternal fate we leave to the heavens, and many of whom we can't help but miss, in the order of their perishing, you can find listed here. Among them are Dana Reeve, wife to Christopher; Maureen Stapleton, of "All in the Family"; Muriel Spark (The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and many others); Patsy Ramsey, mother of Jon Benet; Archbishop Paul Marcinkus, of Vatican banking scandal fame, and Johannes Cardinal Willebrands, a Dutch liberal, both familiar names in my early Catholic years. Maybe the headlines don't tell all there is to know about a man; and Jeanne Kirkpatrick (see Peony's tribute). We lost the voices of Lou Rawls, Wilson Pickett, June Pointer (at only 52), Buck Owens, and Gene Pitney ("Town Without Pity"); the voice of sportscaster Curt Gowdy is also gone. And the screen presence of Shelley Winters, Jane Wyatt (of "Father Knows Best", and later Spock's Mom), Anthony Franciosa, Dennis Weaver, Don Knotts, Darren McGavin, Glenn Ford (he always reminded my wife of her father), Peter Boyle of "Everybody Loves Raymond", who came to prominence in the film Joe, and, of course, the widely loved Steve Irwin, the Croc Hunter, whom I promise not to pick on anymore. And on and on. God rest'em, most of them anyway, especially if they didn't kill anybody or vandalize property.
Some have also been wondering what I've been thinking about various goings-on, so in obedience to huge assumption #2, let's break it down into categories. The first category is: WORLD AFFAIRS
I'm sorry to have to report that I haven't been keeping up very well in that department. So let's mix it in with NATIONAL AFFAIRS and maybe that'll get us started. Well, I haven't been keeping up in that area either, but I do know that Gerald Ford died. I also know that James Brown died, but I don't know which died first because Saddam Hussein had to go and get himself hanged, which kind of crowded out the attention being given to the other two. Death ain't fair, is it? I also know that Hussein appeared a more dignified and sympathetic figure than his killers. I remedied this somewhat by dwelling for a few moments upon his past life, which included the snuffing out by chemicals of several thousand Kurds. I also know that some guy sang a song entitled "Sex Machine" at James Brown's funeral. Yeah, at his funeral. They can sing that one at mine. After all, that's what they do at funerals, dwell upon the past.
I'm further aware that Ethiopia invaded Somalia and put the sharia thugs temporarily out of business, which is what should be happening all over the world, and probably will once we get this War on Terror into proper focus. These things take time. At home the prospect is a bit dimmer. The six imams who shouted Allahu Akbar! in an effort to terrify passengers preparing to board a U.S. Airways flight in Minneapolis have inspired the TSA to inflict sensitivity training on its employees, so that they won't be unduly alarmed when they hear fanatical Mohammedans shouting out "the very last human sound on the cockpit voice recorder of United flight 93 before it screamed into the ground at 580 miles per hour... the sound of male voices shouting 'Allahu Akbar' in a moment of religious ecstasy." You can find out about the imams' further behavior, and the reactions of passengers, here (click on the printer-friendly format). The author, Debra Burlingame, is the sister of the pilot who lost his life at the controls of Flight 77. Said Newt Gingrich, "Those six people should have been arrested and prosecuted for pretending to be terrorists. And the crew of the U.S. airplane should have been invited to the White House and congratulated..." (Newt for President? I'd kind of like to see what toxic chemistry might develop between him and Mizz Pelosi.) Andrew McCarthy, echoing Pogo, says that we have seen the enemy and he is us.
Just to prove it, the first Muslim member of the U.S Congress took the oath of office yesterday by putting his hand to the Koran and swearing to uphold the constitution of a country that takes its values from a rather different book.
As a bulwark against the demon of tolerance, I offer you a beacon of sanity.
Speaking of Nancy Pelosi, she is THE FIRST WOMAN SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE. That means she's third in line to assume the presidency should something happen to George and Dick. God save George and Dick. I've been wondering, purely as a matter of political strategy, if Cheney ought to invite her to go hunting...
Well, that's about the extent of my expertise in those areas, so let's move on to the next category: POPULAR CULTURE, or as some gal on Fox called it, the "skankification" of said culture ('culture' seems a bit elevated a word for it), which apparently has been going on for some time beneath my radar. For example, we were informed that Britney Spears and Paris Hilton were palling around and skanking up the town and that the paparazzi took photos of Brit getting out of a limo with no underwear on (Britney, not the limo), having forgotten, in her fetching, drunken absentmindedness, to don any, and that the photos were everywhere abroad but I haven't seen any of them swear to God. On another show on Fox (moving on to our next but not completely unrelated category, THE MEDIA), a panel of journalists claimed collective culture shock at the fact that so much of this skankification phenomenon was being given air time. I guess their approach was that the more they talked about it, the less visible it would become. Pessimists all, they predict more and worse in the future. They promise to talk about it then, too.
Actually, I hate politics and entertainment, so let's try something of genuine import, SPORTS, which consists of a single Memo to TSO: Michigan, the team you thought should be in the championship game, sure looked good against USC (whom he now thinks might've should've been in the championship game). Do you mean the same USC that lost to UCLA that lost, in its bowl game, to the worst FSU team to come along in 30 years? I'm sensing some big time Big Ten bias here, and a total disrespect for the Gators. If the Gators win, you will hear more along these lines. If they don't, I'll be going back to delete this so that no record of it remains.
* * *Perhaps some of you would like to know what I got for Christmas. Of more interest is what I had to give away: a bunch of free paintings to relatives. Elizabeth walked off with two. Bern got one, but today I sent her a cell phone photo of a work in progress and now she wants that one too. The greedy, grasping presumption of women who seem to think they can get anything they want out of you. It's worked so far, and I have no remedy. I have considered producing more than they could possibly want, but I don't think it's possible. Elizabeth also got the biggest prize of all, a new laptop. But she deserves it. She's gone without long enough. She offered many thanks, over and over, but her face was reward enough; genuine gratitude cannot be disguised.
I am not totally bereft of it myself. I'm thankful for good people like TSO and Zippy and Cella and Peony and Ellyn and Elena and Terry and Micki and Christine and most all the folks in my sidebar and others who aren't. Sometimes I rouse myself from the reign of lethargy and say a prayer for Dylan. Other voices have been lost to us for good. Jeff Culbreath has resigned from Hallowed Ground, though it's possible that outside of cyber space he still lives on it, and has deleted his Lumen-Christi collection. I hope people remember how good he was, how distinctive his voice, the kind of man you wished could always be right even when you suspected he was wrong. Francis Mooney disappeared never to return: this page cannot be displayed. Kathy the Carmelite's Gospel Minefield has imploded. She could probably use your prayers too. Most of her comments here were sharp and often funny, but most have also been lost. She was a fighter, and I suspect now she's in the fight of her life.
It all seems so fleeting, and it is. Just remember the bumper sticker I saw on a dumpy little vehicle in traffic the other day: "Don't let the car fool you. My treasure's in heaven."
And that Purgatory's a place of hope, not despair.
Meanwhile I miss my girls and the dog. Fortunately, the main girl still lives here and still puts up with me. She got me a Stay-wet palette for Christmas. She always knows just the thing. I got her a gift certificate for two at Ruth's Chris. She took Elizabeth with her. That girl knows how to work it.