But Not In ’13

But Not In '13

But Not In ’13

So, the Cards lost last night and with the game also the series. I am disappointed, but not distraught. As one of the codgers at work told me today, “It’s only a game.” Then he went on to explain that baseball is really just a mechanism for generating statistics and anecdotes. This year’s series was certainly good for that. While we were commiserating, another co-worker joined us and explained his coping strategy for dealing with the Cardinal’s declining fortunes through the course of this year’s World Series. He would only watch the portion of the game where Saint Louis was at bat, because when Boston was up, nothing good could ever come of that. A third colleague admitted to not watching the series at all. He had tuned in briefly during one of the NLCS games. There was no score yet, but immediately after starting to watch the game the Dodgers got a run and went on to win that game. He claimed to have the stupid superpower of being able to jinx the home team. He preferred to acquire his baseball news postmortem. It would have been nice to win the World Series, but it was not to be. How long until spring training?

If the devil can convince us he does not exist, then half the battle is won.

While Cardinal fever gripped the city, Saint Louis University was commemorating a victory on a different plane. Timed to coincide with Halloween, a symposium was held this week on the fortieth anniversary of the release of the film, The Exorcist. This movie, based on William Peter Blatty’s novel, was in turn based upon events that occurred here, in Saint Louis. In 1949 a teenage boy, given the pseudonym Robbie, was brought by his Lutheran mother from DC to Saint Louis to seek help. Saint Louis Cardinal Ritter gave permission to the SLU Jesuits to perform an exorcism, at Alexian Brothers Hospital.

Fill your servants with courage to fight that reprobate dragon. – From the Church’s exorcism handbook

A key member of this symposium’s panel was Thomas B. Allen, author of Possession, his 1993 nonfiction account of events. Allen interviewed the two pinciples involved in the exorcism. In the winter of 1949, Father William Bowdern led the two-month long exorcism ritual. He remained publicly silent about the events unto his grave. Allen claims that Bowdern told him nothing, except to say that it was real. Bowdern died in 1983. Assisting Bowdern was Father Walter Halloran. Halloran spoke openly about the events and expressed some skepticism of any supernatural involvement. “He talked more about the boy, and how much he suffered, and less about the rite,” Allen said, “Here was a scared, confused boy caught up in something he didn’t understand.” After the exorcism the boy was OK. He had no memory of the events. He grew up and has led a normal life. “He [Halloran] told me, ‘I simply don’t know,’ and that is where I leave it,” Allen added. Halloran died ten-year ago. Allen also a skeptic admitted that the underlying questions here are fundamentally questions of faith. Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.

I want enlightenment and I want it now!

Golden Buddha

Golden Buddha

What did Mahatma Gandhi and Genghis Khan have in common?
Unusual names

So I was speaking with the Buddha the other day. He was all being enlightened and such, the way that he always is and there I was trying to uphold my half of the conversation, when what I was really thinking is how I am going to make it through this low-caste, overcast day. Then I blurted out, “I want enlightenment and I want it now!” You might think that after this outburst, the Buddha might have been taken aback. If so, you would be wrong. He was totally unfazed, but he did later advise me not to bother him again, at least for a couple hundred more lifetimes.

State two major world religions:
1) The Force in Star Wars
2) Football

The picture with this post is of a painting in Little Saigon, my favorite Vietnamese restaurant in town. It is located in the Central West End. The intermingled test questions in this post are from the book, “F in Exams – The Very Best Totally Wrong Test Answers”, by Richard Benson. I’ve included them to make this rather nonsensical blog post seem more intelligent, at least by comparison. Really though, what can you the reader honestly expect on a low-caste, winter’s day at the end of a work week that never feels like it will end.

What is a pilgrimage?
It’s when lots of people wander off in the same direction for no apparent reason.

Spring Break!

Pink Cloud

Duchess, the natives are revolting!
Yes, I know and jolly disgusting too.

By the time that you are reading this post, Anne will be on spring break, (Woo Hoo!) and not a moment too soon. Both teachers and students look forward to their breaks. Student deportment is always an issue, just before a break. This spring break was no different.

Thursday, was a rough day. She sent two students to the office and both of them were subsequently suspended. Her sending was only the last straw that broke the camel’s back. A third student later complained to her that she had suspended those two students. I would have made a smart aleck reply, “I’m now looking for a third.” She didn’t.

Anne is the most understanding person that I have ever met. I’m glad that I married her, because she totally understands me. I am so not worthy. This is my promise to her, if she wants to spend all day, or all nine days, bicycling, knitting, quilting, or playing combinations of Sudoku, Solitaire and Mine Sweeper, I shall not comment. I’ll not mention the T-word. She has earned any pleasures, guilty or not. I pray, she takes this opportunity to rest, recover, recharge.

Now that I’ve said all of these kind things about Anne, I feel somewhat chagrined, to mention the following details. Suffice to say, even Saint Anne’s patience has its limits. One of the students that was eventually suspended, was disrupting the class, with fake coughing. Anne asked, “Are you dying?” The student said, “Yes”. Then Anne said, “I hope you don’t die, because I hate filling out paperwork.” The student responded, “Oh, if I die, my mother is going to sue you.” Anne asked, “If you die?” The student said, “Yes”. At which point, Anne was thinking, I’m sure that Brown & Crouppen are just salivating to take this case.  

According to Christian (Catholic and Eastern Orthodox) and Islamic traditions, Saint Anne was Mary’s mother, or Jesus’s grandmother. Not much more is know about her. Normally, this would be an opportunity, for me to make things up, but I’ll resist. Saint Anne is the patron saint of Detroit (who knew?), there is a connection to my Anne there. Saint Anne is also the patron saint of horseback riding, which could be construed to also include modern bicycling. A common form of art depiction, has Anne teaching the Virgin Mary how to read. Teaching? Could it really be so simple? It is to me. 😉

Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

Swing Low, Sweet Chariot by John McCrady, 1937

“Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” is a historic African-American spiritual. It was first written by Wallis Willis, a Choctaw freedman in the old Indian Territory, sometime before 1862. He was inspired by the Red River, which reminded him of the Jordan River and of the Prophet Elijah’s being taken to heaven by a chariot (2 Kings 2:11). McCrady’s painting shows mourners hovering over a deathbed visible through the open door of a cabin, while angels descend to take a newly departed soul to heaven in a chariot. The painting is full of rural and spiritual imagery. The song, “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot”, is sung in choral below.

Anne and I attended the soul food supper at the MRH high school. This is the school districts traditional celebration at the close of Black History Month. In this context the choice of “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” seemed appropriate to the season. On a more personal note, Anne’s Aunt Fran passed away last week. So the painting has a personal connection too.

Fran never stuck me as a particularly religious person, but I wouldn’t categorize myself as one either. I found her to be a kind, loving and caring person and if these aren’t religious values, then I don’t what is. My interjection of religious themes is not to be construed as a form of proselytizing. It is just that when the big themes arise, the life and death themes, I find it easier to fall back upon religious tradition. It offers a set of Arthur Murray steps for life to follow.

Fran made our wedding cake. I wish that I could have enjoyed it more than I did at the time. My problem was with the ceremonial feeding of the groom. I must admit that I started it, but Anne surely retaliated. I wonder if she would have been so exuberant then, if she could have seen her husband now. I should have manned up, instead I asked for a glass of water. Fran was rightly horrified. She taught home economics, don’t you know. In retrospect, I blame the server and not the cook. No tip for her! Fran also created an anniversary cake, which I did enjoy, because I served myself.

In later years, she switched from making me cakes to Fran-hattens, which I never had any problems getting down. When I pull up to the Cabin this summer, I’ll look for her, but she won’t be there. I want to pray for her.

She’s gone over before I did, coming for to carry me home. I hope she cuts a hole and pulls me through, coming for to carry me home. Since, you got there before I did, coming for to carry me home. Tell all our friends I’m coming too, coming for to carry me home. God bless you, Fran.

Red State

“Red State”, Kevin Smith’s new movie, which is part horror, satire and political movie, has made its debut, first at Sundance, then Direct TV, now Netflix streaming, direct to me. On the way, it Oscar trolled its way through a few movie theaters, but that was just for show. Rated R for blue language and crimson gore, it is most disturbing, most horrifying in it’s eerily quiet interstitial spaces. None of Mr. Smith’s previous efforts have been very family friendly. “Clerks”, “Dogma” and “Chasing Amy”, as examples, while universally lewd and rude, they were also funny. “Red State” has no intentions to amuse.

Smith divides the casting credits into three categories, Sex, Religion and Politics. His story begins with three horny high school boys looking to get laid. They are first lured and then trapped by a fundamentalist Christian sect that seems strangely like the Westboro Baptist Church, as if taken to its worst, but logical conclusion. Enter act three, John Goodman, as an ATF agent, in a surreal sequence that devolves into a ’93 Waco like shootout. A post-mortem scene attempts to tie a neat bow on this mess. That is the plot, but it is not the story.

Every horror story needs a monster. Smith serves us up Abin Cooper (Michael Parks), the preacher of this little church. His sermon, which makes up a large part of this movie’s 88 minute airtime, is punctuated with long silences. Maybe some of those pauses were stretched beyond the needs of dramatic effect just to hit the ninety-minute mark? Abin preaches that God is only loving to the ones that fear him, really meaning just his flock. There are families in this church, husbands and wives, fathers, mothers and daughters, but not one son, an interesting directorial choice.

(Spoiler Alert)

At the end of the sermon, the children are escorted out of the church. The boys that went looking for love in one of the worst of all places now reappear as human sacrifices. One thing leads to another, the cops are called, shots are fired and the movie moves on to its third act. John Goodman leads the ATF as they proceed to take down this sect, in a take no prisoners fire-fight. At the climax of this fight, Gabriel’s trumpet blows, Abin leads his survivors out of the compound, joyously welcoming the Rapture. End scene.

An epilogue, shot in a DC conference room, gives Goodman the opportunity to explain himself to his superiors and this movie to the rest of us. I won’t ruin this movie any further, except to make these observations. The epilogue, while long on exposition came up short on viewer satisfaction. Which maybe why Mr. Smith is rumored to have contemplated ending his movie back on the ranch, not just with Gabriel’s trumpet, manufactured by disgruntled neighbors, but with an appearance of the avenging angel himself. In this alternative ending, Gabriel slays all save Goodman and is soon followed by the four horsemen of the apocalypse. The End.

Not With a Bang, But a Whimper

The work week ended, not with a bang, but a whimper. I was sick earlier this week and now Anne is showing the same symptoms that I had. I count myself fortunate that I was sick during the work week and that I have paid sick leave. It looks like Anne will be sick over the weekend, so it probably doesn’t matter that she has no sick leave. She could claim workman’s comp, or tell the sub-scheduler on Monday that she brought “some work” home with her, but since I am the vector for this mini-epidemic that probably won’t work well.

Work was more subdued this morning then it was after Wednesday night’s victory. I guess that is the difference between winning and losing. Today is a travel day, so there is no game today. Tomorrow the Cardinals and the Rangers play game three of the World Series in Arlington, TX. They are tied 1-1. I never made it inside the Ranger’s previous stadium, passing by it on the highway seemed close enough. I did tour their current stadium. Like Busch, it is built in the brickyard style, but unlike Busch it is closed in on itself, like a brick oven. No breeze ever wafts through it on a hot August night. That is why it is known as the hottest stadium in baseball and that has nothing to do with the Ranger’s hitting.

On Sunday, there will be two Saint Louis teams in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area. The Cards will be playing game four and the Rams will be playing the Cowboys. Similarly, last Sunday, the Cardinals were playing the Brewers in Milwaukee, while the Rams were playing the Packers in neighboring Green Bay. The Cards clinched the pennant, while the Rams lost. I would be glad to see the Rams take another knee as prelude to another Cardinal victory this Sunday. It seems like a fair trade, Saint Louis loves its baseball and everyone in Texas always cares more about football than baseball.

I had lunch today with Dan from work and the Perma-Bear. I got to drive and show off the Prius to them both. Over the summer, both the Perma-Bear and I made two different, but both quite green energy investments. I bought the hybrid and he had a home geo-thermal heating/cooling system installed. Between the two, I think that his geo-thermal system was both the smarter and greener investment. A while back, the Perma-Bear and I made a bet, a gentlemen’s agreement. He bet that gas at the pump (in Saint Louis) would hit $2 before it hit $5. I disagreed. He reminded me of this wager after I bought the Prius. Last month, when we spoke with our broker, I asked Pat about this bet. Usually quite loquacious, he fell silent for a while and thought. Finally, he answered with a no. “For gas to hit $2, oil would have to hit $50. I just don’t see that happening. Of the 1.2 billion Chinese, 300 million of them drive cars …”

We have another wager that is marked with a yellow Post-It on my cubical wall. It says that I am to ask him about my Starbuck’s index a year from now. The Perma-Bear believes that the Great Recession is really the Great Depression II and that just fearing a double-dip recession is being wildly optimistic. That’s fine, everyman’s entitled to his opinion, but then he brought up a PBS show on Chernobyl, twenty-five years after. Radiation has scoured mankind for miles around the accident site. Wolves and wildlife have returned. Soviet era buildings have decayed. Mankind’s apocalypse drawn real, abet on a scale smaller than the proverbial end of days. Fortunately, we glided silently into my parking place, before the final end drew too much nearer.