Sunday, December 25, 2016

Christmas Time is Here, By Golly

A "white Christmas" was actually a fairly rare thing, once upon a time. Winter, after all, did not even begin until a few days before the Feast. All those deep snow, sleigh-ride infested, Currier and Ives Christmases date from the 1840s. when blizzards blanketed the Midwest and upstate New York. The 1930s and 1940s were a time of global warming and so, as in the movie "Holiday Inn", snow was a rarity in December. That's why Crosby could only dream about it. But it did chill off during the 50s and 60s and the snow came back, big time. Thereafter, it was declared a Constitutional Right and its absence taken as evidence of warmer winter nights. O Horrors!

It was the custom the Clan na Fhloinn to attend Midnight Mass, which in those halcyon days was held at -- wait for it --- midnight! This was preceded by the singing of carols like "Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht" by the Maennerchor. TOF suspects the whole thing a Plot to weary the Kinder so they would drop off in the arms of Morpheus as soon as they got home, if not well before, and not pester the folks as they assembled the toys and decorated the trees. So successful was this endeavor that for many years TOF was convinced that the toys once came fully assembled and only in later days did TOF as a new parent have to put them together. My father, of course, looked at TOF as if he had grown a second head and told him that he had done the Some Assembly is Required when TOF slept in the aforesaid Arms of Morpheus after Midnight mass.

"And a right fine job you did, too," sez TOF. "Professional quality." 
Oh, and that was when the tree got decorated, too.
That Sinter Klaas is a clever putz. He inveigles all the parents in the world to work for him for free. No wonder he can hit all the houses in the world in a single night. He's a parallel processor!  

There was one fine Christmas Eve, I forget which year, but all five brothers were there, so it was maybe early 60s. It had snowed deeply. Too deeply for the car to move. But St. Joe was only eight blocks away so we pulled on the snow boots -- you know the boots I mean, the ones with all the metal buckles up the front -- grabbed a couple snow shovels and we set forth, breasting the drifts and plowing our way forth. Outside, we encountered Sterling, a friend from school who lived in the public housing in the next block over. Bro Pat, a little guy, was over his head in the snow, so Sterling who was the biggest kid in school picked him up and put him on his shoulders and walked him like an icebreaker through the snows.

When we reached the church, there was an old lady who lived across the street from the church and she was trying to get out, but the snow covered her steps up to the door. So Sterling and Dennis and TOF the shovels to dig her out. Then we dug a path across the street to the church, only to discover that no one else had shown up and Midnight mass was canceled.There was a certain amount of astonishment at least on TOF's part that no one else in the neighborhood had made the effort. It didn't seem all that extraordinary to us.
For the night is dark and full of hope and joy.

There is a tag line in the TV show "Game of Thrones" used by one of the religions in that fantasy world: "For the night is dark, and full of terrors." Well, we called that the valley of the shadow of death, and it was. But for some of us, there is a light shining in the darkness and the sound of angels singing, and the night is dark and full of hope and joy.

Friday, December 23, 2016

In the spirit of the season

“Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” in Anglo-Saxon meter, by Philip Craig Chapman-Bell. Via Etymonline on Facebook, who says “An Internet classic; but I can no longer find it where I first found it (Cathy Ball’s Old English reference pages).” h/t Mark Shea

Incipit gestis Rudolphi rangifer tarandus

Hwæt, Hrodulf readnosa hrandeor –
Næfde þæt nieten unsciende næsðyrlas!
Glitenode and gladode godlice nosgrisele.
Ða hofberendas mid huscwordum hine gehefigodon;
Nolden þa geneatas Hrodulf næftig
To gomene hraniscum geador ætsomne.
Þa in Cristesmæsseæfne stormigum clommum,
Halga Claus þæt gemunde to him maðelode:
“Neahfreond nihteage nosubeorhtende!
Min hroden hrædwæn gelæd ðu, Hrodulf!”
Ða gelufodon hira laddeor þa lyftflogan –
Wæs glædnes and gliwdream; hornede sum gegieddode
“Hwæt, Hrodulf readnosa hrandeor,
Brad springð þin blæd: breme eart þu!”

Rendered literally into modern English:

Here begins the deeds of Rudolph, Tundra-Wanderer

Lo, Hrodulf the red-nosed reindeer –
That beast didn’t have unshiny nostrils!
The goodly nose-cartilage glittered and glowed.
The hoof-bearers taunted him with proud words;
The comrades wouldn’t allow wretched Hrodulf
To join the reindeer games.
Then, on Christmas Eve bound in storms
Santa Claus remembered that, spoke formally to him:
“Dear night-sighted friend, nose-bright one!
You, Hrodulf, shall lead my adorned rapid-wagon!”
Then the sky-flyers praised their lead-deer –
There was gladness and music; one of the horned ones sang
“Lo, Hrodulf the red-nosed reindeer,
Your fame spreads broadly, you are renowned!”

Deus Vult! Part IV: Off to the Races

Continuing TOF's intermittent series on the Crusades. Hooray. I think.
Dudes, let's all go to the Holy Land and kick the Turks
out of Byzantium! Wear the pilgrim's cross when you go!

In Deus Vult! Part I, we reviewed four hundred years of muslim aggression against Christendom, a region known to the muslims by the subtly suggestive name "House of War."

In Deus Vult! Part II, we encountered the Standard Model of the Crusades as an unprovoked  incursion by boorish oafs (as well as oafish boors) into the suave and sophisticated House of Submission. No one thought to ask how all those muslims got all over everywhere in the first place.

 In Deus Vult! Part III, we noted that crusading was a crowd-sourced enterprise with voluntary participation. Participants were enticed by promises of suffering, impoverishment, and probable death. Who can resist inveiglement like that? But crusading was conceptualized as an act of charity and in the mental universe of the day, the greater the sacrifice, the greater the merit. Like any vassal, they were pledged to recover their lord's lost territories. The Lord in this case was Jesus H. Christ himself, and his lands were all the Middle East. This was not then an unrealistic goal: even Egypt was still about 50% Christian, and the lands more recently lost to the Turks were eminently recoverable. In fact, the Byzantines had briefly recovered some of them, only to lose them once more in the disaster following Manzikert. The crusade was less an organized military expedition than it was a joint pilgrimage undertaken by several thousand well-armed knights  initially with the purpose of restoring their Greek brothers' lost territories; then as it built up steam, of making a pilgrimage to Jerusalem as a sort of protest movement.

Problem was, there' s a whole bunch of muslims sitting on it.

Right Makes Might

Set a later time, this map shows the division within Islam
between the"highlands" (green) and the "lowlands" (yellow),
which in 1098 were exemplified by the Saljūqs and Fatimids, resp.
The House of Submission was divided into two broad zones. The Highlands -- the mountainous plateaus that run from Anatolia eastward to the Hindu Kush -- was occupied by Saljūq Turks, nominally comprising a great Sultanate but actually a potpourri of subordinate emirs of varying degrees of independence and mutual hostility. The Lowlands were the desert borders more or less reigned on lightly by the Fatimid caliphs. The Abbasid Caliphate owned a spurious independence and pretended not to notice the Saljūq hand up their skirts working the arms and voice. The Turks had a Sunni disposition while the Fatimids were in deep Shi'ite. This added piquancy to the usual rivalry between the uplands and the lowlands.¹ Syria-Palestine, which lay in between the two, suffered the usual soccer ball fate of lands-that-lie-in-between, which is why the Christian pilgrims going there found an on-going state of turmoil going on. Neither the Saljūqs nor the Fatimids were in complete control of their vassals and disorder was the order of the day. 
1. Uplands vs. Lowlands. This goes back to the Hittites vs. the Egytians.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

On This Day in History

Betts Hospital, Easton PA; birthplace of TOF
In the 241st year of the independency of the Republic, and of the Years of the the Incarnation of the Lord the one thousand nine hundred and forty-seventh, during the 9th year of the pontificate of the ven. Pius XII and the 3rd year of the presidency of Harry S Truman, while James H. Duff was the 34th Governor of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Dr. Ulysses Grant Palmer III in the first year of his ownership of the hospital founded by Dr. James Alfred Betts in the City of Easton did delivered to Rita Marie Singley Flynn, a boy and they named him Michael. And there great was the weeping in the land.

"Never fear," he said. "This is almost the shortest day of the year, so you won't have to endure it long."

:Horse feathers," said Mut in that Germanic way she had. "Horse feathers and donkey turds." German idioms tend toward the colorfully scatalogical. "I'm just glad he's out of there." She referred of course to the Weight of TOF, which tipped the scales at around 10 pounds.

"That's my boy," said Pere, who was not yet Pere, handing out cigars to everyone who would hold still and chasing down and tackling those who would not and stuffing Phillies Blunts in their mouths. "Pay him no mind," said Big Mom to the Mut (who, however, was not yet the Mut), "he's Irish." Since everyone was living at her house -- technically, by modern definitions, TOF's family was homeless -- what she said went. Guv had some say, too. He had been in the trenches in France and knew how to go over the top.
l. to r.: cousins Paul and Mariellen and the TOFling,
living at their grandmother's house. TOF and Mariellen were

TOF, The Early Years

TOF has very little memory of his early years, although he is certain he had some. Come to think of it, having just commenced his 70th year, he has very little memory of yesterday. What was I saying?

Oh, yes. The Mut once told TOF that he might have been named Michael Hinkle because there was a guy who was sweet on her whose name was Hinkle and wanted to marry her. This would have been Seriously Weird because in High School, TOF's girl friend was named Hinkle, no relation afaik.
Sweet Sharon and TOF
What if they had both been Hinkles?
The other thing TOF remembers from the Infancy Narratives is that he was related to everyone. The neighborhood was called Shwartown and/or German Hill. The Schwar family was rather numerous and even families that were not Schwar were related to Schwars. Mut's mother, Big Mom, was a Schwar. (Which, btw, rhymes with 'swear'. The a once had an umlaut, Schwär.) Just about every family had come from the Gemeinden of Oberhausen and Niederhausen in the Grand Principality of Baden.

When Mut brought TOF to the church to be baptized, Pastor Fries said, "Flynn is Irish. Take him to St. Bernards. That's the Irish parish." Fr. Fries, like all pastors of St. Josephs before him had been born in Germany or in German-speaking regions of Switzerland, Bohemia, etc. or were German-speaking sons of immigrants. No Irish need apply.

So the Mut says, "My uncles built this church, stone by stone. They can take it down the same way. Either you baptize him, or I take him home and baptize him myself under the kitchen sink."
Schwars building the church, stone by stone.
Scaffold: Uncle Leo, who also build the House
of TOF, Uncle George assisting. In foreground,
Big Mom, not yet Big Mom, mother-to-be of Mut.
The Schwars had been stone masons since
the middle of the 1600s.

The Irresistible Object is as nothing next to a German Mother. So Fr. Fries caved. TOF was baptized in the regular fashion. But it was years before the family received regular donation envelopes.
Irony alert: The last pastor of St. Joseph before it was folded into two other parishes to create Our Lady of Mercy, was a native of Tanzania and a member of the Hiya tribe. He spoke fluent Swahili, as well as English, Spanish, and of course Hiya.
Michael Francis Paul Flynn

How can you not pinch his cheeks?
is the son of Joseph Francis Flynn
Personally won the Pacific war.
There is a story about a foxhole on the beach on Iwo
who is the son of Francis Thomas Flynn
One-time assistant manager of the Hotel Easton.
There is a story about when he didn't get the top job.
who was the son of Daniel Joseph Flynn
A blacksmith and volunteer firefighter
Once chopped a hole in the roof of the Presbyterian Church
who was the son of John Thomas Flynn
Left Ireland and was crushed between coal cars
in New Jersey. His brother was run over by a box car.
who was the son of Martin Flynn of Loughrea, County Galway, Ireland
Was brought over by his sons John and Patrick
but died two years later.
who was descended of the Flynns of the Sil Maelruain, dispossessed according to local lore by Cromwell of their quondam lands in the County Roscommon in the 17th century.

And so it was ordained that for three days of the year, to wit: from 17 to 19 December, his brother Dennis could brag on being "the same age" as his big brother, until, lo!, the birthday rolled round again and Michael once more pulled ahead. Mwahaha.

Perceptive Reader will notice that with birthdays on the 17th and 20th of December, the Flynn boys could get mighty confused when presents re-appeared once again on the 25th. Hey, what's going on here? Another birthday? When Reader is further informed that a third brother celebrates his annual superannuation on the 27th, said Reader may make a cogent guess as to when their father's own birthday falls and what pleasant gift he oft received.

Between two (and later three) birthdays and Christmas, parental spending could be spread mighty thin. Since Dennis and I were nearly of an age and had similar interests, the usual solution was that they got us two of everything.
Note the two of everything strategy, vis a vis Superman suits.
The urchin on the left is Bro Kevin, now a City Councilman
in Denver CO. In rear is a Xmas Tree with "Rain" and on right
an HO gauge train layout with miniature village. TOF remembers
his parents as incredibly old, but somehow they do not appear so.
 However, we further note that great-uncle Dan also had a birthday on 16 Dec., as does son Dennis (as mentioned betimes), and great-aunt Kathryn had a birthday on 20 Dec. as does cousin Mark Flynn, so one expects some deep December harmonic convergence. Furthermore, TOF's two besties in highschool, Red and Sterling, had birthdays on 23 and 24 Dec., resp. When we went out to celebrate our 21st birthday at a bar to have a legal drink it was on the 23rd and the drinks were bought by Bill, who was Red's older brother. You will notice that this made Sterling one day short of legal. However, we were all carded none the less, except for Sterling, who was of the Very Large persuasion. He had always had to pay the older prices at the amusement park and the movie theaters, but for once he was glad to be taken as older. TOF had a rum-and-coke.

Well, enough of that. Happy birthday to me. Woo-hoo.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

An Archdruid Reports

On a blog called The Archdruid Report by a fellow named John Michael Greer, who styles himself Past Grand Archdruid of the Ancient Order of Druids in America and current head of the Druidical Order of the Golden Dawn -- So druids have grand archdruids. Who knew? -- In any case, he has some interesting comments on the recent presidential elections here in the US of A. (There were 50 of them, you may recall.) He believed the good guys lost and lost for reasons that no one has talked about.

He writes:
The point I think the Left tends to miss is that not everyone in flyover country is like that. A few years back, in fact, a bunch of Klansmen came to the town where I live [an old mill town in Appalachia] to hold a recruitment rally, and the churches in town—white as well as black—held a counter-rally, stood on the other side of the street, and drowned the Klansmen out, singing hymns at the top of their lungs until the guys in the white robes got back in their cars and drove away.  Surprising? Not at all; in a great deal of middle America, that’s par for the course these days.

To understand why a town that ran off the Klan was a forest of Trump signs in the recent election, it’s necessary to get past the stereotypes and ask a simple question: why did people vote for Trump?
The Archdruid goes on to give four reasons, based on things he's heard people say in his presence. 
1. The Risk of War. This was the most common point at issue, especially among women—nearly all the women I know who voted for Trump, in fact, cited it as either the decisive reason for their vote or one of the top two or three. They listened to Hillary Clinton talk about imposing a no-fly zone over Syria in the face of a heavily armed and determined Russian military presence, and looked at the reckless enthusiasm for overthrowing governments she’d displayed during her time as Secretary of State. They compared this to Donald Trump’s advocacy of a less confrontational relationship with Russia, and they decided that Trump was less likely to get the United States into a shooting war.

War isn’t an abstraction here in flyover country. Joining the military is very nearly the only option young people here have if they want a decent income, job training, and the prospect of a college education, and so most families have at least one relative or close friend on active duty.  People here respect the military, but the last two decades of wars of choice in the Middle East have done a remarkably good job of curing middle America of any fondness for military adventurism it might have had.  While affluent feminists swooned over the prospect of a woman taking on another traditionally masculine role, and didn’t seem to care in the least that the role in question was “warmonger,” a great many people in flyover country weighed the other issues against the prospect of having a family member come home in a body bag. Since the Clinton campaign did precisely nothing to reassure them on this point, they voted for Trump.
2. The Obamacare Disaster. This was nearly as influential as Clinton’s reckless militarism. Most of the people I know who voted for Trump make too much money to qualify for a significant federal subsidy, and too little to be able to cover the endlessly rising cost of insurance under the absurdly misnamed “Affordable Care Act.” They recalled, rather too clearly for the electoral prospects of the Democrats, how Obama assured them that the price of health insurance would go down, that they would be able to keep their existing plans and doctors, and so on through all the other broken promises that surrounded Obamacare before it took effect.

It was bad enough that so few of those promises were kept. The real deal-breaker, though, was the last round of double- or triple-digit annual increase in premiums announced this November, on top of increases nearly as drastic a year previously. Even among those who could still afford the new premiums, the writing was on the wall: sooner or later, unless something changed, a lot of people were going to have to choose between losing their health care and being driven into destitution—and then there were the pundits who insisted that everything would be fine, if only the penalties for not getting insurance were raised to equal the cost of insurance! Faced with that, it’s not surprising that a great many people went out and voted for the one candidate who said he’d get rid of Obamacare.
3. Bringing Back Jobs. This is the most difficult one for a lot of people on the Left to grasp, but that’s a measure of the gap between the bicoastal enclaves where the Left’s policies are formed and the hard realities of flyover country. Globalization and open borders sound great when you don’t have to grapple with the economic consequences of shipping tens of millions of manufacturing jobs overseas, on the one hand, and federal policies that flood the labor market with illegal immigrants to drive down wages, on the other. Those two policies, backed by both parties and surrounded by a smokescreen of empty rhetoric about new jobs that somehow never managed to show up, brought about the economic collapse of rural and small town America, driving a vast number of Americans into destitution and misery.

Clinton’s campaign did a really inspired job of rehashing every detail of the empty rhetoric just mentioned, and so gave people out here in flyover country no reason to expect anything but more of the same downward pressure on their incomes, their access to jobs, and the survival of their communities. Trump, by contrast, promised to scrap or renegotiate the trade agreements that played so large a role in encouraging offshoring of jobs, and also promised to put an end to the tacit Federal encouragement of mass illegal immigration that’s driven down wages. That was enough to get a good many voters whose economic survival was on the line to cast their votes for Trump.
4. Punishing the Democratic Party. This one is a bit of an outlier, because the people I know who cast votes for Trump for this reason mostly represented a different demographic from the norm out here: young, politically liberal, and incensed by the way that the Democratic National Committee rigged the nomination process to favor Clinton and shut out Bernie Sanders. They believed that if the campaign for the Democratic nomination had been conducted fairly, Sanders would have been the nominee, and they also believe that Sanders would have stomped Trump in the general election.  For what it’s worth, I think they’re right on both counts.

These voters pointed out to me, often with some heat, that the policies Hillary Clinton supported in her time as senator and secretary of state were all but indistinguishable from those of George W. Bush—you know, the policies Democrats denounced so forcefully a little more than eight years ago.  They argued that voting for Clinton in the general election when she’d been rammed down the throats of the Democratic rank and file by the party’s oligarchy would have signaled the final collapse of the party’s progressive wing into irrelevance. They were willing to accept four years of a Republican in the White House to make it brutally clear to the party hierarchy that the shenanigans that handed the nomination to Clinton were more than they were willing to tolerate.
Item #4 may be why the results were more due to lower Democratic turnout than it was for higher Republican turnout -- although Mrs. Clinton's utter lack of charisma may also have been a factor in that. 

A close attention to #3 as well may reveal that opposition to illegal immigration was less a matter of xenophobia or racism than an objection to corporations importing cheap labor to drive down wages. Bipartisan support for trade deals may also explain why Trump spent most of his time attacking and demolishing the conservative wing of the Republican party with apparently no ill effect on his support. They disliked the Republican establishment nearly as much as they did the Democratic establishment.

#1 and #2 were scarcely mentioned at all by the punditry. Hunh. But you might notice that the reasons the Archdruid heard bruited about amounted to the Old Democratic Platform and as the industrial belt had become the rust belt, the core of the Party has become disaffected. The Father of TOF told him once that he had voted for the first time for Franklin Delano Roosevelt and if they were to disinter him and reanimate his corpse, he would vote for him again. But in recent years he had voted for the likes of Reagan and Romney because they actually sounded to him more like the old Democrats than modern Democrats did.

The Archdruid continued:
Those were the reasons I heard people mention when they talked in my hearing about why they were voting for Donald Trump. They didn’t talk about the issues that the media considered important—the email server business, the on-again-off-again FBI investigation, and so on. Again, this isn’t a scientific survey, but I found it interesting that not one Trump voter I knew mentioned those.

What’s more, hatred toward women, people of color, sexual minorities, and the like weren’t among the reasons that people cited for voting for Trump, either. 
The media seemed unable to grasp this and continued to interpret matters in terms of their favored paradigms, as in the bed of Procrustes. But the same set of facts can mean very different things when viewed from the perspective of different theories.
Example: The media recently reported as if it were a contradiction (or "controversy," as they are wont to put it) the statement of Trump that he saw no evidence that the Russians had interfered in the US election and the CIA's conclusion that Russia had released the DNC and Clinton Campaign emails in order to encourage the election of Trump.* But if the vast majority of Trump supporters really didn't care about the emails, but were more concerned about Mrs. Clinton's bellicose posturing over Syria, triple-digit increases in health care costs, job loss, or (among disaffected Democrats) the suppression of the Bern, then both could be correct because Mr. Trump and the CIA were actually speaking to two different issues: Yes, the Russians were messing around; no, it didn't affect the election.  
Basically, most voters other than the extremes didn't care about the issues that the elites thought were central -- boutique concerns, let us call them -- but more about bread and butter issues.
(*) CIA. Just this morning, TOF heard to his astonishment, the mainstream media rush to the defense of the CIA after Trump had badmouthed them for being wrong about Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq (so why believe them over Russian hacking?) Who are you? he asked the screen, and what have you done with the real NBC? A day or two before he had heard the media defend big corporations against Trumpean tweets accusing them of overcharging the government or putting profits over jobs. (This could affect your 401(k) plans. Yes, yours!) No one warned us of this possibility when investigative reporters accused corporations of overcharging, nor worried overmuch when the Usual Suspects accused the CIA of masterminding All the Evils in the World. Have we fallen into Bizarro World?

Thursday, December 8, 2016

The Magic of Donald Trump

He has succeeded in getting NBC and the Democratic Party to leap to defend the honor of big corporations, job loss, and overcharging on government contracts.

In The Belly of the Whale: Publisher's Weekly Review & Pre-Order Links

 Hello Fans of Michael Flynn. I am pleased to let you know that Dad's novel In the Belly of the Whale will be released by CAEZIK on July...