Saturday, December 28, 2013

Ah, Christmas, St. Stephan's, the Holy Innocents...but more on that later...

I just watched Spartacus, 1960 vintage.  I don't care if the real Spartacus was an army deserter and bandit who was sold into slavery as an adult and didn't really give a hoot about freeing all the slaves and changing society.  What REALLY matters is that this film had Ustinov and Laughton, the two greatest Neros of filmdom, side by side in scene after scene!  GREAT FLICK!

Ursula Andres, Catherine Deneuve, and Charo twice!

Friday, December 6, 2013


Cleaned out the pantry today and found several cans that were WAY past date and 2 small cans of crab that were in their last month...Having just gone through the soup, I was in the mood, so decided to find out what was left over from Thanksgiving, etc...

Cubed (1/2 inch) two Irish potatoes, chopped 3 leftover scallions and cooked them for about 5 minutes in a couple tablespoons butter and 1/2 tsp salt...

Deglazed with about a cup of pink moscato---only lightish wine I had...Added about 1.5 cups seafood stock (I am a fanatic about keeping fish, veg, beef and chicken stock in the pantry---Kitchen Basics).  Added 1/2 tsp thyme and 1/4 tsp pepper.  Added crab.  simmered about 20 minutes.  Mashed up w/ potato masher...

Added a cup of milk and 1/2 cup heavy cream and a couple T tawny port---I'd have used sherry but couldn't find any...brought back to a boil...mixed 3 T flour with about 1/3 cup stock and stirred in...

Good beyond belief.  Used up some stuff that was fixin' to go bad.  Nice.
...Ah, but maybe it`s the way you were taught
Or maybe it`s the way we fought
But a smile never grins without tears to begin
For each kiss is a cry we all lost
Though there is nothing left to gain
But for the banshee that stole the grave
Cause we find ourselves in the same old mess
Singin' drunken lullabies

---Flogging Molly

A Cowboy's Christmas Prayer

I ain't much good at prayin', and You may not know me, Lord ~
I ain't much seen in churches where they preach Thy Holy Word,
But You may have observed me out here on the lonely plains,
A-lookin' after cattle, feelin' thankful when it rains,
Admirin' Thy great handiwork, the miracle of grass,
Aware of Thy kind Spirit in the way it comes to pass
That hired men on horseback and the livestock that we tend
Can look up at the stars at night and know we've got a Friend.
So here's ol' Christmas comin' on, remindin' us again
Of Him whose comin' brought goodwill into the hearts of men.
A cowboy ain't no preacher, Lord, but if You'll hear my prayer,
I'll ask as good as we have got for all men everywhere.
Don't let no hearts be bitter, Lord; don't let no child be cold.
Make easy beds for them that's sick, and them that's weak and old.
Let kindness bless the trail we ride, no matter what we're after,
And sorta keep us on Your side, in tears as well as laughter.
I've seen old cows a-starvin', and it ain't no pretty sight:
Please don't leave no one hungry, Lord,
On Thy good Christmas night ~
No man, no child, no woman, and no critter on four feet ~
I'll aim to do my best to help You find 'em chuck to eat.
I'm just a sinful cowpoke, Lord, ~ ain't got no business prayin' ~
But still I hope You'll ketch a word or two of what I'm a-sayin':
We speak of Merry Christmas, Lord ~ I reckon You'll agree
There ain't no Merry Christmas for nobody that ain't free.
So one thing more I'll ask You, Lord: just help us what You can
To save some seeds of freedom for the future sons of man!

Author Unknown

Monday, December 2, 2013

Oh, turkey fog.  I need a fast.  A month-long fast.  Thank you, dear Lord, for Advent.  Thank you for the season of longing!  You thought of everything.  It's as if you are omniscient, or something...Oh!  Wait!  yes, you are.  Because you are God.  If only we'd listen to you and do as you say, how happy we could be.

Lo, how a Rose e'er blooming
from tender stem hath sprung!
Of Jesse's lineage coming,
as those of old have sung.
It came, a floweret bright,
amid the cold of winter,
when half spent was the night.

Isaiah 'twas foretold it,
the Rose I have in mind;
with Mary we behold it
the Virgin Mother kind.
To show God's love aright,
she bore to us a Savior,
when half spent was the night.

I wish you desperate yearning for the Savior, and happy deprivation in preparation for The Feast.


Sunday, November 24, 2013

Brideshead revisited yet again

Brideshead Revisited is the story of agnostic/atheist Charles Ryder's encounter with The Faith, his confusion over it, his contempt for it, his reluctant dawning understanding of it, his frantic retreat from it, and, finally, his surrender to it.

In the final drama, Charles is living in sin with Julia Flyte Motram, married sister of his college friend/infatuation, Sebastian Flyte.  The Flytes are that rarest of commodities in England, aristocratic Catholics.  Their magnificent family home, Brideshead, is complete with an elaborate chapel, at least until the death of Lady Marchmain, the family matriarch.  The local bishop closes the chapel upon her death, and with Christ no longer physically present at Brideshead, the hearts of the Flyte children seem to drift farther away.  Lord Marchmain, having deserted his wife and retreated to Venice with his mistress Cara at last comes home to die.  [Cara has explained to Charles years before when he visited Venice with Sebastian that Lady Marchmain is a good woman who has done nothing to incur her husband’s hatred except to be loved by him---the wrong kind of love.  One infers that he is simply incapable of being in the presence of someone who really believes and acts upon the Faith that he has converted to, and which inconveniences him.]

 Weeks before his death he tells his youngest, and most devout child that he claimed his freedom when he left his wife praying in the chapel he had built for her.  Was this a crime, he asks?  "I think it was, Papa," says uncompromising Cordelia.

Lord Marchmain's homecoming accelerates Julia's reluctant return to religion---Charles' greatest fear--because, of course, if Julia returns to the Faith, she will no longer be willing to divorce her divorced "husband" in order to marry another divorced man---Charles himself.  Julia has left the Church in order to marry the first time, and has felt grief over it ever since.  She once tells Charles that although she no longer believed in God herself, she had intended to make certain that her daughter was raised a good Catholic.  The baby, however, is stillborn, and Julia accepts it as part of her punishment.  She tells Charles that she has earned sadness.

Charles has blamed the Church for every "misfortune" and grief that has befallen the Flytes, beginning with his friend Sebastian's alcoholism.  In Charles mind, it is never the fact that the Flytes disobey God which leads them to disaster, it is merely the fact that God has rules.  He believes that the very thought of God is rubbish, and it never occurs to him that if the Flytes, especially Julia and Sebastian, had submitted to Him, Sebastian would have not ended his days in drunken exile and Julia would never have contracted a miserable marriage.

As Lord Marchmain's death looms, His oldest son and Cordelia begin a campaign to reconcile him with the Church.  Charles' objections are frantic and disproportional, as the objections of so-called objective and logical agnostics always are to anything which cements the existence of the God they flout.

Most distressing to him is the fact that his Julia is slowly drifting into the enemy camp.  He steps up his protests and, in doing so, opens her eyes to the obvious. 

   “I really can’t see why you’ve taken it so much to heart that my father shall not receive the last sacraments.”
    “It’s such a lot of witchcraft and hypocrisy.”
    “Is it?   Anyway, it’s been going on for nearly two thousand years.  I don’t know why you should suddenly get in a rage now…For Christ’s sake, write to The Times; get up and make a speech in Hyde Park; start a ‘No Popery’ riot, but don’t bore me about it.  What’s it got to do with you or me whether my father sees his parish priest?...I shall begin to think you’re getting doubts yourself.”

In the end, in her siblings’ absence, it is Julia who makes the decision to call a priest to administer last rites to her father, and all Charles’ fears are realized---Lord Marchmain’s reconciliation with God, and Julia’s, and the her consequential “Goodbye” to Charles and to all their plans, but most of all his own realization of God and His Church.  At the end of their brief and agonizing goodbye, when Julia tells Charles that she had almost committed the unpardonable sin of raising a rival good to God’s, Charles tells her that he doesn’t wish to make things easier for her, but that he does understand.

In the epilogue, we glimpse Julia’s lonely but purposeful life, and Charles’ conversion to his lifelong nemesis. But he leaves us with the assurance that for all his loneliness, for all his lack of temporal “happiness”, he has acknowledged his own responsibility for his actions and their consequences and he has, quite unexpectedly, found Joy.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

My Big Fat Racist Family

A lot of the news articles which currently interest my friends who blog, and on FB, involve discord between religions and races.  A lot of the discussions eventually involve implications that individuals or groups are “haters” because of their explicit statements, or even inferred thoughts…and eventually I get invitations to join groups which denounce “haters”. 
Although I believe hatred to be a terrible and very serious sin, I won’t join those groups. In order to explain why, I really think it’s time for me to publish my “confession”---my terrible racist upbringing.

My people were racists. Pure and simple. I know they were racists, with whatever accompanying attitudes you as an individual may wish to assign to that condition, but one thing they were NOT, is "haters".

My mother was so thoroughly racist that even the first little "nursery rhymes" I learned were rife with it:

Jaybird, Jaybird, sittin’ on a limb
He winked at me and I winked at him.
I picked up a rock and I hit him on the chin
He said, "Look here, [n-word], don’t you do that again!"

And of course:

All the girls in France
Do the Hootchie-Cootchie dance
And the dance they do
Makes a [n-word] kiss a Jew!

Mother thought it was hilarious. I didn’t get it. She explained to me that [n-words] hated Jews. And Louis Farakhan was a mere infant at the time, so how did she know? [for those readers with an impaired sense of humour, I am making a joke. I don’t seriously know why my mother thought animosity between Negroes and Jews was a universal condition].

The one that really troubled me was:

Eenie, Meenie, Minie, Moe!
Catch a [n-word] by the toe!
If he hollers make him pay
Fifty dollars ever day!

I was outraged by this little poem, not because of the n-word, but because, well, it would hurt like hell to be caught by the toe, and of COURSE you would holler, and this poor guy was going to have to pay FIFTY DOLLARS EVERY DAY---which was an exorbitant sum in the 1950’s. I was furious. I wanted to find this man and help him. Mother assured me that it was just a little rhyme and that no one was catching anyone by the toe.

The n-word was tossed around quite freely in my youth, but we were stringently cautioned never to say it around Negroes because it would hurt their feelings. I remember a cousin being soundly thrashed for transgressing this rule.

I remember when I was about 5, traveling to East Texas and getting lost. In those bad old days there were more segregated communities. My mother stopped in a "nice little n-word" town to ask directions. I waited in the car, and she went to the door of a local diner, and---knocked.

A large black man came to the door, my mother explained her dilemma, and he walked out onto the sidewalk and began giving her directions—pointing down the road, gesturing to emphasize his instructions. At one point he looked over at the car and saw me. He smiled and waved, and I smiled and waved back. Mama thanked him, then came back to the car and we drove away. The man turned back from the café door and waved at me again, until we turned the corner. It may not have been ideal, but it was in no way hateful. In no way "phobic". On either side.

 Here are two memories from my childhood which profoundly illustrate the hypocrisy of white people who strive to gain moral highground or popular affirmation by crying “hater”:

My grandmother had a yankee neighbor named Mrs. Hawley. Mrs. Hawley loved to deplore the "hatred" that "you Southerners" felt for "the poor Negro". My grandmother generally just listened politely and without comment, because poor Mrs. Hawley, being a yankee, was innately benighted. But on this particular day, she was in pain from her crippled ankles, and short of patience. In order to cut short Mrs. Hawley’s pontifications and hopefully send her home in an outraged huff, my grandmother said: "Mrs. Hawley, I don’t hate [n-words]! I wish I had two of them in my kitchen right now fixing supper!"

And Mrs. Hawley WAS indeed horrified! She said, "I wouldn’t have one of those nasty things in MY clean kitchen!"

My young jaw bounced off the floor, and I would have launched into a tirade on hypocrisy had it not been for my grandmother’s languid glance. She had been born in the South in 1898, and she had seen yankee hypocrisy before.

Another memory which sticks out in my mind happened when I was about seven or eight. This was in the early sixties. My uncle, a young veterinarian, took me with him to test cows. We met up with a classmate of his, a yankee, and had dinner at a small café. The classmate began to wax poetic about the plight of the black man in the South (as opposed, somehow, to the North) and how downtrodden they were. He was highly offended when my uncle opined that many of the [n-words] needed to apply themselves. But we were going to be late to test the herd for TB, so the conversation ended and it was decided that my uncle would follow his classmate the last 35 or so miles to the ranch.

About 5 miles from the café, my uncle saw a black man, traveling the same direction we were, trudging along the shoulder of the road. It was August, and very hot. My uncle said, "Oh, look—that poor guy is going to have a heat stroke. Honey, get in the back seat so we can turn the air conditioner on him."

I did, and we did, and the fellow’s delighted comment, "You got AIR, Man!" became a staple of my family for years to come.

Only later did it dawn on me that my uncle’s classmate, the great champion of the Negro Race, had passed the man by without any compassionate thought or action.

Now that, my friends, is hypocrisy.   And it has since been revealed to me again and again that those who scream loudest about what other people think are usually the least likely to ACT in a compassionate and charitable way…

My point is simply that whatever reasons a person may have for being racist, and whatever one may think about racism, it ought not to be automatically connected with hatred, much less become, as it has recently, a synonym.

Through my adolescence, with the coming of the Civil Rights movement and the mass desertion of Booker T for DuBois and King and Abernathy and the rest, I can still remember bits of conversation from my elders, some of which must present an insurmountable dichotomy for the simplistic ideology so carefully nurtured by most modern liberals.

"Who is that pretty little (n-word) girl who does the news on channel five?"

"I don’t remember. I know she’s from Midland."

"Oh, well, that explains it. All them Midland girls are pretty."


"During your lunch break, can you run out and vaccinate that nice old (n-word) woman’s dog? She can’t afford anything so just tell her you were passing by and charge her two dollars." [I must point out the real compassion of allowing someone to pay what they can for something without either making your generosity obvious, OR telling them that they have a RIGHT to something which, frankly, no one has a right to. No doubt she knew, but her dignity was preserved and charity was not compromised.)

So, that’s the story of my horrible racist upbringing in my horrible racist family. Things change. The old folks are gone. Do I still say the n-word? Sure, occasionally, I do. I said it several times while watching "The Last King of Scotland". Don’t see it. Or maybe, do. It is quite horrible.

My kids, and my husband, and I feel no guilt associated with other races. Whatever else happens, we know that in our own interaction with people, we have taken them as individuals and expected the same and allowed the same for all of them, no matter what their background, genetic type, beliefs, or whatever. Do I "prefer whites"? It would seem from looking at my friends list that I must at least know more whites. And I must admit that there is a "family" thing going on there. This is not considered a bad thing when other races experience it---this "My People" thing. And it ought not to be a bad thing when whites experience it. Love of one’s own is a virtue. There is nothing wrong with enjoying one’s own people.

There is only something wrong with hurting others.

Is hurting someone compounded if that person is from a different race? I don’t think it is. I’m not racist enough to see that distinction.