Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Dark Morning

Don't Look Away

Aleppo in 1997
Yesterday evening brought horrific news of the fall of Aleppo in Syria
to Bashar al-Assad and his backers, Russia and Iran. This calamity has President Barack Obama's bloody fingerprints all over it.

The president turned a blind eye
to what was happening in Syria because doing otherwise might have brought political jeopardy for his "precious": the Iran deal.

Aleppo yesterday
The public relations fig leaf of
a "ceasefire" has already collapsed, and Assad has resumed his brutal, indiscriminate massacre of the
city's residents, citing terrorism as his pretext.

It will be awhile yet before the full scale of this atrocity is made known, but history will remember Aleppo as yet instance where a humanitarian crisis erupted and the most powerful nation on Earth didn't lift a finger to help. We should be ashamed...

Feast Day

St. John of the Cross, by Francisco de Zurbarán

Today we celebrate the feast day
of St. John of the Cross, a 16th century Spanish mystic and Carmelite friar who played a major role in the Counter-Reformation.
He was also noted for his poetry, considered some of the finest in the Spanish language.

John joined with St. Teresa of Ávila to bring needed reforms to the Carmelite order, which eventually
led to the formation of the Discalced Carmelites, an order which still exists in both secular and religious form
yet today.

John was beatified in 1675 by Pope Clement X, and canonized by Pope Benedict XIII
in 1726. He was named Doctor of the Church in 1926 by Pope Piux XI.

He is the patron of mystics and the contemplative life.

Stocking Stuffer

Books were by far the most popular Christmas gift in my family when I was growing up. By mid-afternoon on Christmas Day everyone in my family had found a comfortable place to sit and read their gifts. For mom it was the latest from Stephen King and Dean Koontz, while dad preferred stories about flying from authors like Stephen Coonts and Ernest K. Gann. My older brother was fond of history, especially anything to do with the Titanic or George Armstrong Custer. My younger brother loved science fiction, particularly anything by Joe Haldeman or Orson Scott Card.

My gifts were usually a more eclectic mix, including mystery novels by Tony Hillerman and Robert B. Parker, speculative fiction by Harlan Ellison, and political thrillers from Tom Clancy. One constant, though, was my mother's practice of gifting me the latest book by my hero William F. Buckley, Jr.

It began with a paperback copy of The Jeweler's Eye in 1968, and because Bill was such a prolific writer for nearly 30 years there was almost always a new "Buckley book" for her to put on my list. Of course, back in the days before the internet she'd have to ask me for the latest title, and it sometimes took her a bit of doing to track it down in those pre-Amazon era. But track it down she would, every year, until she passed away in 1996. That was the end of my "Buckley book" Christmas tradition, but this year it is getting
a renewal, of sorts.

Back in October Crown Forum published A Torch Kept Lit, a collection of Bill's masterful eulogies edited by journalist James Rosen. I took advantage of a special offer to buy
a hardcover copy autographed by Rosen, and my "stocking stuffer" arrived in the mail yesterday...

A new Buckley collection!
Autographed by the editor!

"So that's why you had such a big smile on your face when you got back from the mailbox"

It absolutely was, yes...I mostly do Kindle books these days, so going old-school is fun...

Mugged Again

So I happened to be in the Starbucks at Metro Crossing yesterday while out shopping, and spotted the Polar Bear mug from their 2016 Holiday Collection.

I tried my best to resist temptation (whole seconds elapsed before I succumbed), but I left with a new addition to my collection...

"You really ought to find a 12-step program somewhere to help you deal with your problem."

Pretty sure the first step is admitting there IS a problem, which there is not, Mr. Killjoy...

Cold Comfort

From the pen of Lisa Benson, whose editorial cartoons you should read often, as I do.

Until Next Time...

Most of the songs associated with the Christmas season have been a part of my life since I was 
a young child. I still enjoy almost all of them, but the songs that have worn the least well over the years are the ones that are aimed at young children. I was already sick to death of songs like "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," "Jingle Bells," and "Up On the Housetop" before I even finished 8th grade.

To the extent that I can still tolerate those kinds of songs, it is mostly when they are performed as instrumentals, preferably by a jazz or classical ensemble. The Canadian Brass has long been 
a favorite of mine for that sort of thing. Their 1997 album A Christmas Experiment is one of my favorites this time of year, and is on my short list for Greatest Christmas Album Ever.

In October 2013 the group released Christmas Time Is Here, an album consisting mostly of songs from the classic Vince Guaraldi soundtrack for A Charlie Brown Christmas.

Besides covering Guaraldi's score, the Brass also included jazzy versions of some other Christmas favorites like "Have Yourself 
a Merry Little Christmas" and
"The Christmas Song," as well as pleasant renditions of a couple of those kids' songs I hadn't enjoyed listening to in years.

Today's send-off is the Brass's version of "Frosty the Snowman," from their YouTube channel. Enjoy...

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