Saturday, December 10, 2016


Kennedy with Judge Edmund Reggie and Edwin Edwards
In 2013, the Times-Picayune published a fascinating article on John F Kennedy's political connections in Louisiana, which began years before his campaign for president. I don't think I've ever seen a picture of Kennedy wearing a hat, but here he is pictured in a rice hat at The Rice Festival in Crowley, Louisiana. Judge Edmund Reggie is in the center, and a young Edwin Edwards is on the right.

Of his visit to Louisiana:
With the program ready to begin at the podium in the center of Crowley, Kennedy asked his wife to say a few words in French to the gathered crowd of Cajuns. She at first resisted, but Edmund Reggie, who had accompanied the couple throughout the weekend, introduced her anyway at Kennedy's request, according to [Leo] Honeycutt.

"So she gets up there and, in French, she recounts a story about how when she was a little girl, her father had told her that Louisiana was way down south, but it ... was a little part of France, and she had been in love with it ever since," says Honeycutt. "Well, what do you think? I mean, the house comes down."

Kennedy followed his wife with his own speech -- in English -- about various political issues, including the rising tensions between the U.S. and Cuba, but he hardly needed to speak. Following Jackie's story, the crowd was already sold.
When I shared the article on Facebook, a long discussion followed in the comments about JFK and hats, when he wore them, and when he didn't - a very long thread with links and videos. The thread then drifted into whether Kennedy killed the men's hat manufacturing industry. What fun!  You don't know what you're missing by not having a Facebook account, but I admit that at times it is a huge PITA.

Sunday, December 4, 2016


The Feast of Christ the King has come and gone, but images of Christ the King, sitting on a throne wearing a golden crown and royal robes, have long troubled me.  I'd allowed such images to take root in my mind and, in some sense, spoil the feast day.

Soon after the feast, in a sudden flash of enlightenment, I remembered that the Jesus I know was born of a lowly maiden in a humble shelter for animals. When Jesus entered Jerusalem in triumph and was hailed as a king by the crowds, he rode on a donkey.  The only crown he ever wore was a crown of thorns, and the only royal robe he ever wore was when he was mocked and beaten as he stood before Pilate, and the crowd called for him to be crucified.  That's the Jesus I know and imagine on the feast day now, and I'm at ease.

Though I'd heard and read the stories in the Gospels over and over, I'd allowed the images of of different kind of king, an earthly ruler, take over on the feast.  Jesus invites us to join a different kind of kingdom, an upside down kingdom to the kingdom of the world, as described in the Magnificat, his mother Mary's prayer in the Gospel of Luke.  In Christ's kingdom, the lowly servants are raised high, the hungry are fed, the powerful are brought low, the proud are scattered, and the rich are left empty;

My soul magnifies the Lord,
   and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant.
   Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
   and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him
   from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
   he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
   and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
   and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
   in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
   to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.
(Luke 1:46-55)

The sculpture of Christ on a donkey is from c.1480, in limewood and pine, painted and gilded, Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

The painting of Christ the King shows the sacred heart, a symbol that has long troubled me, too, but that's for another post or not at all.

Monday, November 28, 2016


The quote below is from At Home in the World: The Letters of Thomas Merton and Rosemary Radford Ruether.  The book is out of print, but I have ordered a used copy. Rmj at Adventus quoted the words at his blog, and I borrowed them.
Merton: I do wonder at times if the Church is real at all. I believe it, you know. But I wonder if I am nuts to do so. Am I part of a great big hoax? I don’t explain myself as well as I would like to: there is a real sense of and confidence in an underlying reality, the presence of Christ in the world which I don’t doubt for an instant. But is that presence where we are all saying it is? We are all pointing (in various directions), and my dreadful feeling is that we are all pointing wrong.
Yes, I suspect we are getting it wrong.  This past April, I stopped going to church altogether, because of pain due to a bad back which limited my activity.  I've been a lifelong churchgoer, though I changed denominations, but I found I didn't miss church attendance, which surprised me greatly.

Looking back now, I remember thinking about church, "What are we doing, and why are we doing this?"  Now I'm wondering if it was habit more than anything else that kept me going for so long.  Also, when I was involved in several ministries in my church, it all seemed to make more sense, but, as my health deteriorated, and I gradually eased out of ministry, I began questioning. As long as I was busy in the church, it seemed fine.

I read the Scripture passages for the day from the Lectionary and say my prayers at home; I'm immensely grateful for the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church.  The 1979 version in modern English retains some of the grandeur and flavor of Thomas Cranmer's beautiful but simple language in the older version and includes at least some prayers in the old language.  My faith in the teachings of Jesus as a way to live my life remains firm, as does my faith in God, although my concept of who God is and how God relates to me is much less certain.  My one true certainty is God is love, or God is not my God.

Having said that, I have no idea how to get church right, except a vague idea that perhaps the Christian church ought to be poor and on the fringes of society and not so much about elaborate buildings.  It appears churches may get to such a place by force, as attendance drops and funding dries up.  I still believe Christian community is important, but I am open to the idea that community can take many forms outside the traditional gathering in a building.

In no way do I mean to disparage my parish church community; the rector is a fine man, and the members of the parish are good people who obviously live the Gospel as best they can.  I doubt that I'd find a better church anywhere nearby, and I'm certainly not looking.

I'm enormously grateful for my religious upbringing; the family I grew up in, with the exception of my maternal grandmother, was not especially devout, though my mother attended church regularly. Somehow the Christian teachings in my schools stayed with me for a great part of my life, though my practice and theology evolved over the years.  Being brought up in the church through religious schooling seems not to be what it once was.  All my grown grandchildren who attended Catholic schools from an early age do not regularly attend church. Their families were not especially devout, but, either the teachings in the schools have changed, or they just didn't persuade my grandchildren that church attendance was important.

All that being said, if I could, I'd very likely attend church during Advent, the season of waiting and expectancy for the coming of the Kingdom of God, which is right now and not yet.  I will very much miss my favorite service of the entire church year, the Christmas Eve service, when we celebrate the coming of Emmanuel, God with us, in the form of a baby, born of a woman in a humble shelter for animals.

Now, I take my community where I find it, and I found my sermon for the First Sunday in Advent at Adventus, by my friend Rmj.
Advent is about preparing for the coming, again.  Christmas is about the coming that has already happened.  Advent reminds us to wake up, look around, see a world that needs what is coming, what has come, and who came, and what happened after that.  We start over again, to end in four weeks with what we anticipated this time; and still we are surprised by it.  Christmas is about the same thing every year, and every year we need to see again that what we waited for, what we are waiting for, is already here.

Saturday, November 26, 2016


Each sunset is lovely
In its own way,
Except when the sky
Is all colored in gray.
The birdhouse collapsed
On three sides of four.
There it rests as a ruin
For me to abhor.
My neighbor says no
He will not take it down,
And there it still stands
Awaiting my frown.
My best view of sunset
The house must include,
And I sit here and ponder
Why neighbor's so rude.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016


This afternoon I happened upon one of the first propaganda movies made after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, the film titled Air Force. I clicked on TCM and the movie had just started, so I saw it in its entirety. Howard Hawks directed and John Garfield, John Ridgely, Gig Young, Arthur Kennedy, and Harry Carey starred, all names I recognize from the olden times. All things considered, that the film is intended to boost the morale of the people in the US and the members of the military, the story is believable and engrossing, and the actors give strong performances.

As I read the reviews of the DVD on Amazon, I was greatly amused by one reviewer's comment that no great movie stars were in the film. Maybe one has to be old to remember, but John Garfield was a great movie star.

Garfield tried to enlist in the Army when the war started, but he was turned down because of a heart condition resulting from a bout with scarlet fever. After the war, he was hauled before Joe McCarthy's HUAC during Hollywood's involvement in the Red Scare and refused to name names. The actor died at the age of 39 from his heart condition, possibly aggravated by the stress of his testimony before the committee, which was followed by threats of being charged with perjury.

After the film was over, I thought about the number of deaths of members of our military and those of our allies fighting the Nazis in World War II, and how we will soon have a man who formerly ran a white supremacist, antisemitic news site working in the White House with President-elect Trump. I nearly cried. How can this be?

Monday, November 14, 2016


Following his meeting last week with President-elect Donald Trump, President Obama decided he needed to spend more time than a president typically would guiding Trump's transition to the White House, according to a Sunday Wall Street Journal report.

At the meeting, Trump seemed surprised by the duties of the president, and his staff seemed unaware that the entire administration staff had to be replaced...
The level of ignorance is astonishing. This example may seem of minor importance, but, for me, it's a metaphor that signals the future functioning of the Trump presidency.

President Obama will attempt to give Trump and his top aides more schooling on the operations of the Oval Office and the West Wing, not because he will enjoy doing so, but out of concern for the people of the country.

Saturday, November 12, 2016


As if I wasn't sad enough... A little over a week ago I posted the following on Facebook:
Leonard and I have a close relationship, only he doesn't know it. I love his poetry, songs, and voice, even when he sings in his gravelly old man's voice, speaking more than singing the lyrics.

We have a lot in common: We are contemporaries, born in the same year in September, only three days apart. He has back trouble and is more or less "confined to barracks", as he says, and as I am. Except for the fact that he is male and a genius poet, song writer, lyricist, and singer, we are just the same. See?
Leonard's final album You Want It Darker arrived a few days ago. I didn't want it darker, and I especially didn't want it darker this way, but I love the sad, haunting album. Leonard is gone, but his music lives on.

From Rolling Stone:
"My father passed away peacefully at his home in Los Angeles with the knowledge that he had completed what he felt was one of his greatest records," Cohen's son Adam wrote in a statement to Rolling Stone. "He was writing up until his last moments with his unique brand of humor."
As we grew old together, the resonance of Leonard's songs grew ever greater and deeper over the years.

From Cohen's 2012 album Old Ideas.

Photo from Wikimedia Commons


From Digby at Hullabaloo:
Trump tweeted the following four years ago when he thought Obama was going to win the electoral college and Mitt Romney was going to win the popular vote. He's deleted them, but every Donald Trump tweet has been preserved.

Trump won the election in the Electoral College with with fewer votes than Clinton, but he is, without doubt, the winner of having made the most statements that may come back to bite him in the ass. Not that it will matter, because he will carry on as though he never said or tweeted the words.

Friday, November 11, 2016


Top aides to Hillary Clinton believe the press and FBI Director James Comey contributed to her surprise election night loss, according to a Hill report out Thursday.

In a private conference call with supporters, Clinton campaign chair John Podesta, communications director Jennifer Palmieri and other senior staffers struggled to explain how their well-oiled campaign machine ultimately failed.

Voter suppression, Comey, media bothsiderism, and the media banging away at Clinton emails, (State Dept. and Wikileaks), and, in comparison, ignoring Trump's many scandals all played a part, but honest self-examination would indicate that the DNC is a troglodyte and needs an overhaul starting at the top.

When African-Americans in Louisiana, who turned out in lower numbers than previous elections, were asked why, their response was that neither Clinton nor Kaine were a presence in the state, so they felt the two didn't care about Louisiana.

Local Democrats worked hard and did their best, but they received scant support from national Democratic organizations such as the DNC, the DSC, and the DCCC.  Even if blacks had voted in higher numbers, Trump would probably have won the electoral votes in the state, but that does not negate the fact that Democrats, win or lose, need an ongoing 50-state strategy, starting now.  A political party that wants to be a national party does not have the liberty to write off even deeply red states. To build a national party, Democrats must have a presence in every state, as Howard Dean told us over and over and tried to do when he was head of the DNC.  Alas, he was thrown out for a scream.

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Correction: Howard Dean offered his resignation as Chairman of the DNC after Barack Obama was elected in 2008, because the president traditionally appoints the DNC chair, not because of the scream.  In 2004, Dean was a candidate for president.  The scream was an attempt to rally his supporters after his loss of the Iowa caucus that he had expected to win. Wide media coverage of the scream was followed by loss of support from party insiders, and John Kerry ultimately became the Democratic nominee.

Sunday, October 16, 2016


Yesterday, I watched the movie "Mud", which I enjoyed very much.  The indie film is a coming of age story in the style of Twain's Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn of two 14 year old boys, Ellis (Tye Sheridan) and Neckbone (Jacob Lofland), who live on or near the Arkansas River in Arkansas.  On a small island in the river, the boys meet a stranger, Mud (Matthew McConaughey), who's living in a boat stuck up in a tree that Ellis and Neckbone hoped to claim for themselves.  Mud convinces the boys to bring him food, because he has no money.  The boys later discover that Mud is on the run and can't go into town.

As the boys are drawn deeper and deeper into the relationship with Mud when his requests escalate beyond food, tension rises as the viewer suspects that no good will come from the boys' association with him.  The young actors are superb and completely believable. McConaughey's performance is somewhat mannered, which actually works in this instance, since Mud is a con man. Reese Witherspoon performs well as Mud's girlfriend, Juniper, as does the always excellent Sam Shepard as the father substitue in Mud's life.

Writer and director Jeff Nichols grew up in Arkansas and fought hard to have the movie filmed on location in the state.  The scenes filmed on the river and the island are gorgeous.

Picture from Wikipedia.