Sunday, May 31, 2009

My Oldest Son Is Dead.

Billy Matthew Karnes was born on April 19, 1988. He died in a pick-up truck yesterday, May 30, 2009. He was always angry. He was always hurting. He was plagued with self-doubt. He was one of the saddest people I ever knew. When he was 4 years old he asked me why I loved his little brother more than I loved him. It was a shocking question. And nothing I ever did could convince him that I loved him. And nothing I ever did for him was good enough. He resented and was embarrassed by my poverty. On his thirteenth birthday I bought him a a Ralph Lauren tie. I did it because when he was a very little boy he used to beg me to let him wear my ties and I always said, when you're a teenager I'll buy you a tie. But after I left his and his mother's house, I was told this later, he threw a tantrum and wrecked his room. The more I did for him the more he fed me dirt sandwiches. So, eventually, when he was 16, I stopped asking him to visit. I kept writing to him, though. He never answered a letter. Never called on the phone. But I loved him. I remembered bringing him home from the hospital, him taking naps on my chest. I remember his first stitches from falling and breaking his mouth open on a door jamb. I baptized him in my Aunt Nettie and Uncle Fred's pool when he was 8. I wasn't Orthodox at the time but we used the Nicene Creed as a guide for talking about the Faith before he went under the water. Do I have regrets? Almost more than I can bear. The list of errors I made as his father is a terrible and long indictment. When he got out of the Army in January he didn't tell me where he was going. In fact, I didn't know he was out of the Army until I got worried enough (I hadn't heard anything from him in more than a year) to write to his Sergeant Major. I only learned a couple of weeks ago that he was in California, working on a cattle ranch. It took me a few days to decide whether or not to call him. Finally, I did. That was last Tuesday. I left a message at the ranch office for him. On Thursday he called me. He said, "Dad, this is Billy. I'm just calling to tell you not to call me anymore." Then he hung up. Now, three days later, he is dead, his pick up truck rolled over on him. I talked to his pastor about an hour ago - I have a funeral to arrange. He said Billy had been going to church. I've missed Billy for so many years. I've had dreams of him joining me in the rental property business, or maybe if I bought ag land he could run a cattle operation on it for me, since he has the experience. Now it looks like I am going to be missing him for many more years.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Sounds like he might be ready for some prostrations.

NPR had this story about a kid from Brown who spent an undercover semester at Liberty. Interesting. Especially this:

They may have done a better job than they thought. Even though he's back at Brown, Roose still tries to pray every day. He says the act of prayer changes him, referring to the writings of Christian author Oswald Chambers.

"He said that it's not so much that prayer changes things as that prayer changes me — and then I change things," Roose says. "That's going to be important for me — to sit down every day and think about the problems and the challenges facing other people in my life, and really trying to increase my own compassion that way.

Of course, we Orthodox also believe saints join in our prayers with us, angels deliver our prayers to God, and God answers our prayers.

Saturday Soundtrack: 70's radio, 90's television

I think this might be a first for the Saturday Soundtrack Series: A song I heard outside of the perimeter set for the series (e.g., if I can remember correctly, from 1920 to the cinematic release of Saturday Night Fever) but which was recorded within the perimeter set for the series. This song is intimately tied up with the time I was clawing my way out of homelessness.

Having read the book What Color is Your Parachute I decided to apply for a job at Williams-Sonoma (I knew food but didn't want to actually work with food) in San Francisco. Remarkably, I got the job. And it turned out that I was very good at it. I sold up a storm. (Went out with a few of my customers, too. Any single men reading this, be advised, women who like food are fun dates. If you want a good time, don't go out with models. Go out with a woman who knows the difference between madeleine and an mandoline and I guarantee you will be pleased.) But the job didn't pay much.

Thinking, maybe, I could take my newly discovered sales talent somewhere else and get paid more, after about 6 months I applied for and got a job selling advertising at SF Weekly. While I was there I discovered that one of my co-workers was a huge fan of Ally McBeal. Once a week she and I would sit on the edge of China Basin, which was just outside our offices in the China Basin Landing building (One time a small cruise ship hit us.), and go over everything in the previous night's episode.

If you have ever seen the Ally McBeal show, you know music played a huge role, or perhaps, several roles in the show. One song that made several appearances over the course of the shows run was Barry White's "My First, My Last, My Everything". White released the song in 1974 and I didn't hear it until the mid-1990s but it has become part of my life and I often will start tapping my foot, humming the tune, and lo and behold, I am doing the dance. Basil tries to do it with me. Anselm begs me to stop. (Little does he suspect that later today is his first ballroom dancing lesson!) Without further ado, here are three clips from the show that use Barry White's excellent song. In case you are wondering, the dance seems to be a variation on the Hustle.

I almost hate to admit it but, if I had a television, I would so totally own the whole Ally McBeal collection. And I am now a huge Barry White fan, too.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Wow! This week is almost over?

It's Thursday night and I wonder, where did the week go?

I've been dealing with sick family members this week. Ear infections, colds. I had to see the doctor myself on Tuesday for an ear infection. I wasn't going to go but Athanasia talked me into it. She stayed home from work and slept most of today. Fever in the early part of the day but seemed better in the afternoon.

Kind of a bummer Ascension. To celebrate I cooked pork ribs (I make a BBQ sauce out of mustard, honey, apple cider vinegar and tabasco sauce) and Athanasia made potato salad. We had a watermelon for desert but didn't cut into it. None of us felt much like eating. While we were sitting at the table I read all the readings for Ascension and we talked about them.

A funny thing about doctors, they never volunteer the codeine but when I ask, "while you have the pad out, could you also write a prescription for codeine cough syrup?" they always say "Oh yes, of course,his cough is really bad." Anselm Samuel and Basil Wenceslas are able to sleep through the night now without coughing so hard they vomit. I wonder if it is fear of the DEA that makes them not volunteer such a useful medicine?

I went to look at a property above Felron, near loch Lomond. That was the only time this week the boys were out of the house.

I think we are all past the worst of it. Hopefully tomorrow, Saturday and Sunday will be good.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Advice to a college freshman

A fried of mine is a college freshman. She is a master of all the usual styles of academic writing: MLA, Chicago, APA. But she is, as are all underclassmen at that university, required to take a class on how to write a research paper. This was my advice to her.

I have given this a lot of thought, and, I think, that to be a good writer, especially a good academic writer, one must have poetry in one's heart. But good poetry. Poetry that enthralls. I think the King James version Psalms, Kipling's "Gods of the Copybook Headings", and Longfellow's "Midnight Ride of Paul Revere" are all examples of the the kind of poetry I mean.

Do not concede the use of our language to the heartless, the scientist, the academic. They strip it of beauty and would reduce it, if they were able, to mere logic and math. They make up rules about what is and what isn't academic writing style. They are wrong. English is too beautiful for us to let them wrap it in straight jackets and chains. Read poetry. Fill your heart with it. Let it flow from your fingertips even when writing about science; especially when writing about science.

He is trapped.

Of course they don't want to reduce the number of abortions. It is their most important sacrament.

Many people think President Obama wants to reduce the number of abortions but disagrees with pro-lifers about how to achieve that goal. People who think that are wrong.

Melody Barnes, the Director of Domestic Policy Council and a former board member of Emily’s List, led the meeting. As the dialogue wound down, she asked for my input.

I noted that there are three main ways the administration can reach its goals: by what it funds, its messages from the bully pulpit, and by what it restricts. It is universally agreed that the role of parents is crucial, so government should not deny parents the ability to be involved in vital decisions. The goals need to be clear; the amount of funding spent to reduce unintended pregnancies and abortions is not a goal. The U.S. spends nearly $2 billion each year on contraception programs -- programs which began in the 1970s -- and they’ve clearly failed. We need to take an honest look at why they are not working.

Melody testily interrupted to state that she had to correct me. “It is not our goal to reduce the number of abortions.”

The room was silent.

The goal, she insisted, is to “reduce the need for abortions.” (Read the whole thing here.)

My Dad

Here are some pictures of my Dad baptizing people in the early 1970s. When these pictures were taken he was just a couple of years older than I am now. The black and white picture was taken in Los Altos Hills. The color pictures were take at Lake Lagunitas on the campus of Stanford University. My dad is easy to find. He's the only one with a bald head. I sure do miss him.

In some of the pictures you will see some old women. When the hippies first started becoming Christians and coming to our classical Pentecostal church there was some resistance from the denomination. Two of those old women came to my Dad and said, "Pastor Karnes, we don't know what to think of this but if you say its okay we'll stand behind you."

At one district wide meeting my mother was seated with some other pastors' wives, who kept staring at the barefoot long haired tie-died people from our church. Finally my mother said to her friends, "If you don't stop staring at my parishoners I'll take my shoes off, too, and go sit with them."

Not everyone in these pictures is still a Christian today (The Lord told us this would happen in the parable of the sower.) but many are. I have hope yet for those who are not.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

More on what I've been thinking about

A while ago I wrote about my thoughts concerning the Bayview and Lower Fillmore neighborhoods. I've decided to start praying to St. Moses the Black about it. But not for the reason you might think. It is true that the help of St. Moses is often sought by those evangelizing people of African ancestry, but that is not the reason I have decided to seek St. Moses' intercession. Rather, I am seeking his help so that I can pray more effectively. You see, St. Moses was someone who was often disappointed by his lack of spiritual progress, but who also was quick to accept people where they were. From Wikipaedia:
"Moses was zealous in all he did, but became discouraged when he concluded he was not perfect enough. Early one morning, Saint Isidore, abbot of the monastery, took Moses to the roof and together they watched the first rays of dawn come over the horizon. Isidore told Moses, 'Only slowly do the rays of the sun drive away the night and usher in a new day, and thus, only slowly does one become a perfect contemplative.'"

"When a brother committed a fault and Moses was invited to a meeting to discuss an appropriate penance, Moses refused to attend. When he was again called to the meeting, Moses took a leaking jug filled with water and carried it on his shoulder. Another version of the story has him carrying a basket filled with sand. When he arrived at the meeting place, the others asked why he was carrying the jug. He replied, 'My sins run out behind me and I do not see them, but today I am coming to judge the errors of another.' On hearing this, the assembled brothers forgave the erring monk.

I do not imagine that anything I do or pray will be sufficient to meet the need I see in those two neighborhoods. So, like St. Moses, I am likely to be discouraged by slow progess. I will need his prayers to see it through to the end like he did.

Much of my problem in befriending the people in those neighborhoods, even if only in prayer, is that I see their sin, and much of it is cultural. The horrible thing about it is that my sins are just as bad if not worse, because I have been joined to Christ. Like St. Moses' sins in the basket on his back, they are a weight on me even though they are mostly out of sight. More than I wish, I am more like the Holy Prophet Jonah, who saw a wicked society and hated it more than he hated his own self-centered orientation. (See Jonah chapter 4 and consider that this man is a Saint. I don't know about you, but this gives me hope for myself.)

So, right now this is my prayer: "Lord Jesus, through the intercessions of St. Moses the Black, help me pray more effectively for the people of Bayview and the Lower Fillmore and for the expansion of your kingdom in those neighborhoods."

Saturday, May 23, 2009

A story about St. Cuthbert, via Ss. Augustine and Bede

I was looking ahead on the calendar today, (I was supposed to be a a birthday party but Basil Wenceslas and I have colds) and I noticed that the feast of St. Augustine of Canterbury (d. A.D. 605), the Father of the English Church is near on the horizon. That got me to thinking about the English Church, and then I remembered that I have a copy of the Venerable Bede's* (A.D. 672-735)* "The Ecclesiastical History of the English People". So I got it down from a high plank, opened it, and seemingly at random, my eye fell on this passage about St. Cuthbert (d. A.D. 651)...
There was in the monastery a brother named Baduthegn, who is still alive and who for a long time had acted as guest-master. It is the testimony of all the brothers and the guests who visited there that he was a man of great piety and devotion, who carried out his appointed duties solely for the sake of his heavenly reward. One Day, after had been down to the sea, washing the blankets and coverings which were used in the guest-house, he was seized on the way back with a sudden pain so that he fell ill to the ground and lay there prone for a long time, only rising again with difficulty. As he rose, he felt one side of his body was afflicted with paralysis from head to foot, and it was only with great effort that he reached home, leaning on a stick. The disease gradually increased...In his affliction he conceived the wise plan of going to the church as best he could, making his way to the tomb of the reverend Father Cuthbert**; there on bended knees, he intended humbly to beseech the mercy of the Lord so that he might either be delivered from his disease, if this were good for him, or if the divine grace decreed that he must endure so great an affliction still longer, that he might bear the pain that was laid upon him with patience and a quiet mind. He did as he had planned and, supporting his weak limbs with a staff, he entered the church and prostrated himself before the body of the man of God, praying with devout fervour that the Lord, through Cuthbert's intercession, would be propitious to him. While he was yet praying he seemed to fall in to a deep sleep and, as he afterwards used to relate, he felt a great broad hand touch his head where the pain lay; the touch also passed over all that part of his body which had been afflicted by disease, right down to his feet; slowly the pain fled and health was restored. After this he quickly awoke and rose up completely cured. He gave thanks to God for his recovery and told his brothers what had happened to him; to the joy of them all he returned to the office which he had been accustomed to fulfill so faithfully, yet still more purified and chastened as though by a scourge. The garments too, which had covered the body of Cuthbert while he was alive and after his death, did not lack the grace of healing, as anyone who reads my find in the book of his life and miracles.

*St. Bede is the person who invented footnotes. Really. Also, his name means prayer and was given to the little thing we call the bead, as in prayer beads.

** St. Cuthbert's coffin and other burial items are housed at Durham Cathedral, Northumbria, which was built specifically to house St. Cuthberts relics in the 11th century.

Well, if I'm going to to it I better do it quick. A Saturday Soundtrack Posting.

It just occurred to me that I am at the maximum age for joining the French Foreign Legion. 40. They have mandatory retirement at 55 so they let no one in over the age of 40. The last time I seriously considered flying to Marseille was in early 2000. I stopped in at the French Consulate in San Francisco and picked up a brochure. But I had been thinking about it for a long time. When I got out of the US Army in 1990 the Legion sent me some recruiting materials. I understand they contact everyone who gets out after serving in an Airborne unit. But the Foreign Legion has been something in the back of my mind since even before then.

I was five years old. I remember seeing something on television about the Legion fighting in Algeria. I remember the gorgeous uniforms, how powerful and proud those men were. I also heard this song be Edith Paif. I didn't know what it was about, but I knew it was associated with the Legion. So, I was somewhat enamored with it since I was a child. And I knew this song had something to do with them. The song, written during France's Algerian war and dedicated by Edith Piaf to the Foreign Legion in 1960, has been with me ever since I saw that program on TV when I was five. (Which should be a lesson to parents about letting their children watch harmful things.)

In 1961 after years of fighting, the French empire was pulling out of Algeria, the traditional home of the French Foreign Legion. The Legionnaires of the the 1st Foreign Parachute Regiment were not amused. When several generals of France attempted to overthrow the de Gaulle government and establish an anti-communist junta, the 1st parachute regiment of the Foreign Legion joined in the coup. Other units joined, too. but the 1st Parachute Regiment was the last mutinous regiment to surrender. When they finally lay down their weapons and saw their officers handcuffed they sang this song. Edith Piaf had dedicated it to the Legion. They sang proudly: "No. I have no regrets."

Friday, May 22, 2009

Prayer of a Prosphora Baker

"Dear Lord, this bread that we have baked represents each one of us in this family and in our congregation. We are offering ourselves on your holy Altar through this bread to be used by you in any way that you feel will enlarge your Kingdom. Accept our gift and make us worthy to receive the greater gift that you will give us when you consecrate this bread and give it back to us as your precious Body. Amen." - The Prayer of Helen Volosin, Proshphora Baker, St. Gregory of Nyssa Orthodox Church, Columbus Ohio.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

I Love California

Today we are had a special election to consider several new laws. In California, if the people want action and the legislators drag their feet we can put a law, even a Constitutional amendment on the ballot for a vote. Also, some acts the Legislature or the Governor want passed need voter approval, and they will put them on the ballot for us to consider. Sometimes we screw up, but not very often.

Today the government wanted us to pass a bunch of new laws that collectively would have allowed the legislature to get around the Constitutional requirement that all tax increases and all new taxes receive 2/3 majorities in both houses of the Legislature, would have put some government programs in a protected class so their budgets could not have been cut, would have borrowed money against future lottery revenues, and some other things I considered hare-brained. The only one of the proposals put on the ballot by the people, as opposed to the legislature, was one that freezes the salaries of elected officials if they do not balance the budget.

At this hour, with about 1/2 of the precincts reporting, all of the proposals but the last one are going down to defeat with at least 60% opposed. Some with more than 66% opposed. The only one that appears to be about to become law is the one one freezing the politicians' salaries if they fail to pass a balanced budget.

All I can say about this is: HA HA HA. Take that SEIU! Does that feel good, CTA? You want more? You aren't going to cry are you? Ohhh. The poor government employee unions got their feelings hurt by the SOVEREIGN people of California! And you legislators should be happy all we did was freeze your pay. We could have reduced it. Maybe, we will in the next election! HA HA HA HA HA
I LOVE IT!!!!!!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Things You Won't See Today

It is likely that if you are under the age of 60 you have no idea what these are. They are tobacco cards, also called cigarette cards. This set displays Boy Scout flag signals. They came in packs of cigarettes and were like baseball trading cards today. Like the headline says, you won't find anything like this today.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

St. Lawrence and Bucca di Beppo

This morning, because of a footrace in San Francisco that bisects the city, thus making it extremely difficult to get to the Cathedral, we went to the Divine Liturgy at St. Lawrence Church in Felton. (It is closer to where we live than the Cathedral in S.F.) There have been some changes since I was there last. There is more paint on the walls and ceiling so that beautiful redwood smell is much diminished, but the paint seems to be in preparation for more Iconography. Indeed, there were already some large medallion style Icons of Old Testament Saints on the fore-wall above the iconostasis, not the traditinal loction for these icons, but it was nice to see the Holy Patriarch Abraham, Aaron the High Priest, the Holy Prophet Samuel, and others. It was Anselm Samuel's first time to see his heavenly patron in a temple. There was quite a crowd (including 4 adult catechumens) at the liturgy, which necessitated 4 chalices. Even with 4 chalices Communion took quite a while.

Note on Communion: Who is ever worthy? Certainly not me. But what joy to hear the words "The Son of God Matthew receives the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ". Can life be better than it is at that moment? I do not think so.

It was a real scorcher of a day in the bay area, and we slept most of the afternoon. Then we went to Athanasia's 1 year M.P.A. class reunion. It was a lot of fun. Athanasia organized it at Bucca di Beppo. It was my first time to eat there. I love it. For a chain Italian restaurant it was really good. Much better than the Olive Garden. What the Olive Garden tries to do is create an illusion of a restaurant that serves Italian regional cuisine. But that is really hard to do year round and at the price point Olive Garden targets. Also, they bastardize recipes. For example, once, about 10 years ago I ordered scallops in white wine sauce at the Olive Garden. It was horrible.

Good Scallops in White Wine Recipe
To make that dish for two people you need 1/2 cup of the little scallops, 1 cup dry white wine, one chopped scallion, and 1/4 teaspoon of butter or olive oil. You put everything except the scallops in a small sauce pan, heat to boiling, reduce heat to simmer, introduce the scallops, and leave them in just long enough to get hot. Pour the whole thing over plate of hot cooked linguine. It is a classic and delicious meal.

Is that what Olive garden did? No. They cooked the scallops until they were rubber. They drowned the whole thing in melted butter. It was gross.

How is Bucca di Beppo different? First of all, they set a different expectation. You walk into Bucca di Beppo and you are probably going to hear Luis Prima or Dean Martin or Rosemary Clooney singing Italian-American kitsch songs. You are going to see pictures of Sophia Lauren and Frank Sinatra on the walls. It is a nostalgic dream image of 1950's Italian-American culture. In many ways it is the restaurant Primo and Secundo were competing against in the movie Big Night. Nothing about the place suggests authentic Italian food. From the moment you walk in the door you know you are going to get Gramma Maria from Brooklyn's spaghetti and sausage covered in Sunday gravy and topped with cheese.

So, how was the food? Rich and tomato-y. The baked manicotti was excellent. I didn't have any of the eggplant parmesan (my tablemates reported that it was good.) but the chicken parmesan was perfectly cooked and brought to mind some of the home-made Italian-American food I had in Miami. (Miami: It's not just for Cubanos and Haitians.)

I had two well-made drinks from the bar: A Manhattan (which is a Martini, but with whisky instead of gin, sweet vermouth istead of dry vermouth, and a cherry instead of an olive.) and a Sidecar (Which is a Martini made with brandy istead of Gin, Cointreau instead of dry vermouth, and a sugared rim instead of an olive.) The drinks were good and strong. The only problem was the Sidecar, which was lacking the sugared rim. Everyone else drank the house red which is an imported sangiovese of good repute.

I had tiramisu for dessert. It was good (not soggy, which I hate) but nothing to write home about. For sure, though, it is better than I can make. Some in our party commented that it had too much brandy and not enough coffee, but I didn't recognize that as a problem.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

A long way from 1942

As I noted below, in 1942, F.D.R. explicitly stated that our war against the Nazis was being waged for "the Holy Bible and the cross of mercy". See how far we have fallen:
KABUL, May 5 (Reuters) - Bibles in Afghan languages sent to a U.S. soldier at a base in Afghanistan were confiscated and destroyed to ensure that troops did not breach regulations which forbid proselytising, a military spokeswoman said. (Read whole story here.

All I can say about this is that General Mullen and Secretary Gates will receive letters from me next week.


It is a sign of love that the Church provides for those, such as me, who are not always able to attend the Vigil on Saturday night, and are less than ready to approach the life creating Mystery on Sunday morning. On Saturday nights like this there is The Order of Preparation for Holy Communion. True, part of the Order can only be prayed while standing in line to receive and eat the Body and Blood of Jesus, but most of it can be sung on Saturday night. Of the many beautiful hymns, Psalms, and prayers in the Order is this, the 1st Ode of the Canon For Holy Communion, which appears at about the midpoint of the Order:

Eirmos: Come, O ye people, let us sing hymn unto Christ our God, who divided the sea and guided his people whom he brought out of the bondage of Egypt, for He is glorfied.

: Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.

May Thy holy Body be unto me the Bread of life eternal, O compassionate Lord, and Thy precious Blood be also the healing of many forms of illness.

Refrain: Cast me not away from Thy presence, and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me.

Defiled by unseemly deeds, I the wretched one am unworthy, O Christ, of the communion of Thy most pure Body and divine Blood, which do Thou Vouchsafe me.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

O blessed Bride of God, O good soil that grew the Corn untilled and saving to the world, vouchsafe me to besaved by eating it.

Note on the Icon: This Icon is called The Inexhaustible Cup. It portrays the Mary/the Church/the Bride/Creation offering Jesus as the sacrifice on behalf of all and for all.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

FDR, 1942 State of the Union

“They know that victory for us means victory for religion, and they could not tolerate that. The world is too small to provide adequate living room for both Hitler and God. In proof of this, the Nazis have now announced their plan for enforcing their new, German pagan religion all over the world, a plan by which the Holy Bible and the cross of mercy would be displaced by Mein Kampf and the swastika and the naked sword.

“We are inspired by a faith that goes back through all the years to the first chapter of Genesis: God created man in his own image. We on our side are striving to be true to that divine heritage. That is the conflict that day and night now pervades our lives. No compromise can end that conflict. There never has been, there never will be successful compromise between good and evil.”
F.D.R., State of the Union Addres, 1942

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Unexpected Finds (A weekday Saturday Sound Track posting)

I was wondering tonight if Rapper's Delight by the Sugar Hill Gang or Rapture by Blondie was the first rap "song" to make the it to the Top 40 in America. (Things like this bother me. I don't know why.) As it happened, Sugar Hill Gang's Rapper's Delight was released in 1979, about 1/2 a hear before Blondie's Rapture. So, though Blondie can be said to have had one of the earliest Hip Hop hits, Sugar Hill Gang was first.

Interestingly, my memories of these songs involve church parking lots. I was a boy, about 10 years old at a P.Y.P.A. rally Concord, California. I have no memory of what was said by any of the speakers at the rally, but after the meeting some of the kids were playing Rapper's Delight and break dancing. That is, they were until some of the adults came over to where we were and said our behavior was not appropriate. I was just a spectator. I had never seen breakdancing. The Blondie song, Rapture, I remember because I and a girl named Kim were sitting on the parking lot listening to it on her new Boom Box, trying to memorize the words to the rap portion. Well, she was trying to memorize the words. I was just trying to be cool. She was 13. I was 10. 10 year old boys are, and I know it might be hard to believe, not cool.

But that is not what this post is about. While looking for the answer to that question - Which song was the first Hip Hop hit? - I came across two things that I found both diverting and entertaining. The first is a song by a group called Las Ketchup. What about it is so diverting and entertaining? They have taken the most identifiable and memorable part of Rappers Delight - you know what I'm talking about: "I said a hip hop the hippie the hippie to the hip hip hop, a you dont stop the rock it to the bang bang boogie say up jumped the boogie to the boogity bee..." and have turned it into something... well, when I first heard it I wasn't sure what I was hearing, but the second time I was sure. You need to hear it for yourself.

Isn't that great!?!?! I love it.

The other thing I came across is Lilly Allen - she's obscene, vulgar, uncouth, and drinks too much, but OH! Such a delightful songstress she is! - singing Blondie's 1980 hit, Heart of Glass. Not only is she singing it, she has made the song her own by ditching all of Blondie's hard edged New Waviness and replacing it with a kind of breezy, light-hearted Django Reinhardt feeling. (Not that anything about Django - He let's me call him Django, but you probably shouldn't - was lighthearted.) Enjoy!

(Note: It is not Saturday, and none of these songs fit in the time perimeter established for the Saturday Soundtrack, but I don't really have another good label for this post.)


The U.S. Congress is considering raising taxes on soft drinks. Why not just stop subsidizing corn farmers? Ending the subsidy would take land out of corn production and allow the price of hi-fructose corn syrup to find its natural equilibrium.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Children's Literature

"The French are going to have to get taxation down to a much lower percentage of GDP."

"Yes, but according to this chart, they are doing much better than the Italians."


You have to watch this video about immigration. It is so good to hear something that is reasonable (i.e. not Lou Dobs, not La Raza) on this topic.

Monday, May 11, 2009

What is the smart thing to do?

Premise: You owe a lot of money.
Premise: The government fiscal policy (borrow and spend), and Fed monetary policy (lower the rates and run the presses full speed) are going to result in hyper-inflation.

Question: Is it smarter to pay debts now or to wait pay with post hyper-inflation dollars?

I agree with CitiGroup

Sunday, May 10, 2009

What a Weekend!

On Friday night... Well, I don't even remember Friday night. But On Saturday morning Athanasia had to go to work because one of her employees called in sick, which threw a wrench in the gears, and messed up our breakfast plans. But when she cam home, Anselm Samuel and I went to the Scout-O-Rama, which was pretty fun, except for the Scout who fell 30 feet from the slide for life (ambulance, no broken spine, but sprained neck & broken ribs). Anselm earned his marbles belt loop, carried a 20 pound boa constrictor, played some really very hard coordination games, made a new kerchief slide out of a square knot, fired a marshmallow rifle, ran obstacle courses, and a bunch more stuff. We saw one very old scout who seemed to have every patch ever awarded. He was very old and frail looking, and was in a wheel chair. He had one patch that said something like "70 Years of Scouting". I wondered if that was the 70th anniversary (which would have been in 1979) patch of the BSA or if it was an award the scout received for 70 years of service to the BSA.

Saturday night Athanasia and I went to my sister's house for a Baby shower for my nephews wife. That was a lot of fun, except, my brother-in-law's mother died that morning. And I was already feeling kind of sad because as I was getting ready to go tot the shower this thought entered my mind, "I haven't seem Mom in a long time. It will be good to see her tonight." Then, of course, I remembered that she died more than a year ago. So, Dan's mother dying, knowing Mothers Day was just a few hours away, and my mother's absence from an event she would only have missed because of the grave... It was an effort to keep from crying at that party last night.

This morning, zipped up to the cathedral. How beautiful to hear the words "Christ is risen from the dead trampling down death by death and upon those in the tombs bestowing life!" the day after learning the sad news about my brother-in-law's mother's death. We had her commemorated during the Liturgy. She is a fine Christian woman who has labored her whole life in service to God, her husband, and her children. Her name is Lois, if you are able to pray for her.

There was an army of altar boys serving this morning. Altogether there, were 8 altar boys, 1 reader, 2 priests, 1 deacon, and 2 subdeacons serving. The Little and Great Entrances resembled a river of vestments flowing though a hole in a dam. It was almost startling. We prayed "God Grant You Many Years" to all the mothers. Then we prayed "Memory Eteral" for all the mothers who have fallen asleep. I do not think there was a dry eye in the building after that. And Orthodox accuse western Christians of being sentimental... Sheesh!

For those who have never heard the song, here it is in Russian.

After Church I had to augur some drains in one of the townhouses, but when that was completed we went out and had some fun. We went for a hike in Castle Rock State Park. All over the mountain, which is covered in oak, redwood, bay, madrone, and pine trees are large outcroppings of rock. Many large enough to be of utility to rock climbers. At the summit of the mountain is the park's namesake. The Castle Rock is enormously huge. It is riven; many fissures, caves and crevasses throughout the giant stone. The boys found one cave that had two large rooms. One was designated the kitchen (complete with an imaginary fire place) the other was the bedroom.

After the hike we came home. It was about sunset. Athanasia made a salad. I baked kielbasa and sour kraut. We drank mimosas. Desert was berry pie and ice cream.

In other news, I heard a song on Prairie Home Companion while driving home from the Divine Liturgy today. The version I heard on the radio was pretty amazing, and I wish I had a copy of it, it was guitars, banjos, a piano, (maybe a mandolin, too?), and at least 5 very talented singers. I googled the song when I got home and learned that it was recorded by a Kentucky preacher named Alfred Karnes in 1927. He had seen an ad in a newspaper asking for people to come down and audition for a record company. The instrument Rev. Karnes is playing in this recording is a Gibson Harp-Guitar.

Well, before I go, I'd like to point out that there seems to be a war on scouting here in the West, and it seems the homosexuals are behind it. Item #1 and Item #2. Other than praying and calling congressmen to complain, I don't know what to do about it.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

75 Years Ago Today

Seventy-five years ago today the only "successful" general strike in American history began. Born of the Longshoremen's Strike in San Francisco, which spread to every port on the west coast, the San Francisco General Strike absolutely shut down all commerce and industry in San Francisco, and threatened the government of California. In general, I do not like labor unions (for a short while I was a member of the IBEW. It didn't do anything for me, and I think it was run less than democratically.). Neither do I like the Communists, who were very active in San Francisco in the months before the General Strike. A good summary of the government's and the shipping companies' perspective on the strike can be read in this story published in the San Francisco News in July 1934.

But it seems to me, that the practices of the shipping companies at that time were reprehensible: Longshoremen and stevedores had to pay bribes to the bosses in order to work. The longshoremen and stevedores had other grievances, for sure, but this one is, I think, the one that is an insult to liberty and most indicative of the black hearts of the shipping company owners. It directly interfered with what should have been a pure relationship between the seller of labor and the buyer of labor.
Today, across the street from the Rincon Towers you can see te monument erected to the longshoremen who were killed by the SFPD. A more balanced, and interestingly this shows the violence employed by the strikers, report was published in the September 1934 issue of Survey Graphic magazine.

Harry Bridges, the leader of the Longshoremen, is a hero in the labor and comunist movement around the world. His birthday is a paid holiday in many unions. Frighteningly, his birthday is also offically celebrated by the State of California nd the City of San Francisco. Arlo Guthrie sings his praises.

Friday, May 08, 2009

An Idea For Monks and Nuns

Like the rest of us, monastics have to make a living. But, and it seems odd to me, they invariably do work that is not very remunerative and have to ask the rest of the church to support them with money. So, I'm wondering, why don't we have a monastery that specializes in a profession such as law or accounting. This would give the monks an opportunity to book 4 to 6 billable hours each day, maintain an active liturgical life, position them to be of great service to the parishes and dioceses by providing legal and/or auditing services.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

The Hate Crimes Bill

Perhaps, you have heard of the Hate Crimes Bill being considered by the U.S. Congress. It was passed by the House of Representatives and is now being Considered by the Senate. For several days i have been hearing that this Bill, if passed into Law will be the end of free speech in America. At first I thought, no, the liberals can't be so stupid as to attack free speech. But I kept hearing about how preachers will be pulled from their pulpits and hauled before the U.S. magistrates for preaching against certain fashionable sins. So, tonight I looked up the text of the Bill that was passed by the House of Representatives.

I noticed three things:

1. If the Bill becomes law it will only effect people who commit real physical crimes, acts which would be crimes even if the bill does not pass. The person who would be prosecuted under this Bill is the one who...
"...willfully causes bodily injury to any person or, through the use of fire, a firearm, a dangerouse weapon, or an explosive or incendiary device, attempts to cause bodily injury to any person..."

There is nothing in there about speech. No one will go to prison for saying buggery is bad, or blacks are inferior, or women need to stay in the kitchen where they belong. The speech part only comes into effect once a real physical harm is committed or attempted, and the attempt must involve the use of a weapon.

2. The Bill actually says that nothing in its text may be interpreted as weakening Constitutional rights. The exact wording is...
"...Nothing in this Act, or the amendments made by this Act, shall be construed to prohibit any expressive conduct protected from legal prohibition by, or any activities protected by, the Constitution."

Now do I think we ought to punish one murderer more severely than another because the former hated his victims race while the latter only wanted to steal his victims wallet? No. To my way of thinking the price to be paid for murder is the same, no matter why a murder is committed. We should not place different values on he shed blood of various victims. For that reason alone I think this bill should be defeated. But I think the people who are saying this Bill is going to end free speech in America are being disingenuous. I'd like to know why. What is their real agenda.

3. The part of the Bill that bothers me most is in the definitions paragraph. To me it looks like the Democrats in Congress are attempting, in all perfidy to run around the Constitution and count non-States as states with the folowing language:
"[T]he term ‘State’ includes the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and any other territory or possession of the United States."

Notice, the only territories named are those which have solid Democrat leaning populations. I do not think this is a mistake. It is clear to me that the Democrats in Congress are trying to get the courts to regard these districts as States without going through the necessary Constitutional Process, which would, of course, result in the District of Columbia and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico not being made States.

This is a curious political fight and I do not understand what it is really about.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Disease and Communion

The Rev. Deacon Brendan emailed the following to me:

The "There Are No Stupid Questions" Column

Q. In light of discussion concerning the 'flu, do you think it possible to get ill from receiving Communion?

A. This is a timely question and one that touches the anxieties of a number of people.

There is a simple, faith-based answer: no one ever got ill from participating in the Body and Blood of Christ, 'the medicine of immortality' (as holy communion is called in our prayers) - unless of course they receive communion unworthily - cf. 1 Corinthians 11:27 - 30. We receive communion for our health and salvation.

In almost 2000 years of far worse things - real plagues and epidemics - let alone the annual regular cycles of colds and ' flus - it does not seem that communion has had any discernable impact on the transmission of disease via communion. After all, if communion were a vehicle of disease you would think the clergy would have been getting sick all the time and dropping like flies, since they have to consume the chalice etc....

However - I think it a blessing that this simple, faith-based answer can be augmented by some information from a medical perspective. I have attached to this column a reflection written several years ago by a friend who is a doctor in one of our parishes.

I myself still think that the best - the most appropriate, the most loving - preventative practice is for you and your children to stay away from gathering at the church and parish center if you are sick with a contagious disease or feel that you are coming down with something. This is better for you - rest is best! - and better for the people you would have had contact with if you went out while sick - and better for the anxieties and scruples of your brothers and sisters in Christ. The clergy will be happy to minister to you as a shut-in at home, if necessary.

Fr Andrew

CAN YOU GET ILL FROM TAKING THE COMMUNION CUP? A Physician's opinion the Healing of soul and body...

By Emanuel Kolyvas, M.D., The Sign of the Theotokos Church, Montreal

Contrary to popular opinion, wine, and other beverages of antiquity produced through fermentation, were probably more important in providing disease-free drinking fluids than in their tendency to intoxicate. Ancient Greeks drank their water mixed with wine, and also used wine to cleanse wounds and soak dressings. More recently, military physicians of the last century observed that during epidemics of cholera, wine drinkers were relatively spared by the disease, and troops were advised to mix wine into the water.

Wine has been shown to be an effective antiseptic even when the alcohol is removed. In fact, 10% alcohol is a poor antiseptic, and alcohol only becomes optimally effective at concentrations of 70%. The antiseptic substances in wine are inactive in fresh grapes because these molecules are bound to complex sugars. During fermentation these antiseptic substances are split off from the sugars and in this way become active. These molecules are polyphenols, a class of substances used in hospitals to disinfect surfaces and instruments. The polyphenol of wine has been shown to be some thirty-three times more powerful than the phenol used by Lister when he pioneered antiseptic surgery.

Same year wines can be diluted up to ten times before beginning to show a decrease in their antiseptic effect. The better wines gradually improve with age over the first ten years and can be diluted twenty times without a decrease of the antiseptic effect. This effect then remains more or less constant over the next twenty years and becomes equivalent to a new wine after another twenty-five years. (Modern antiseptics and antibiotics for disinfecting wounds have surpassed wine effectiveness because the active ingredients in wine are rapidly bound and inactivated by proteins in body tissues.)

In preparing communion, the hot water that is added to the wine will increase greatly the antiseptic effect of the polyphenols. Disinfection occurs more rapidly and more effectively at 45 degrees centigrade than at room temperature (22-25 degrees). Another contribution to the antiseptic effect comes from the silver, copper, zinc that make up the chalice itself, ensuring that microbes are unable to survive on its surface.

Throughout the centuries, no disease has ever been transmitted by the taking of Holy Communion. Diseases, such as Hepatitis B, known to be transmitted by shared eating utensils, have never been acquired from the communion spoon. HIV is known not to be transmitted through shared eating utensils, and considering the antiseptic qualities of the Holy Communion received by the faithful, there is no likelihood of acquiring HIV infection through the Common Cup.

Image: Chalice of Antioch, c. early 6th century

The Right Woman

Many years ago, in 1991 or 1992, I saw the Keeping Quilt by Patricia Polacco in the children's section of my favorite, but now kaput bookstore. I remember that I began wiping away tears on the page that said...
After her mother had sewn her a new one, she took her old dress and babushka. Then from a basket of old clothes she took Uncle Vladimir's shirt, Aunt Havalah's nightdress, and an apron of Aunt Natasha's.
"We will make a quilt to help us always remember home," Anna'a mother said. "It will be like having the family in backhome Russia dance around us at night"

I dated many women in my 20's and early 30s. And to many of them I gave copies of The Keeping Quilt. I had in mind that if one of them cried upon reading it she might be worthy of a present of "...a gold coin, a dried flower, and a piece of rock salt, all tied into a linen handkerchief." That is, I would ask her to marry me. I must have bought this book for a couple of dozen women. Not one of them cried. Eventually, I stopped buying books for the women I was dating.

A few days ago I ordered an autographed copy of The Keeping Quilt from Alibris. It is a new edition, updated to include the latest generation, but it is still the same story.

Tonight I read it to Athanasia. She cried.

Arbor Day: YES! Earth Day: NO!

I have fond memories of the Arbor Day of 1976, when my 1st Grade class planted a grove of trees on the school grounds. My uncle planted many trees on his land. I remember trees being planted by the men of my church in Palo Alto when I was 7 or 8. But I must admit that I have disliked Earth Day ever since I first heard about it in the early 1990s, it seemed to me that the people behind it disliked a lot of the things I think are important. A few years ago I discovered that the date for Earth Day is the same as V.I. Lenin's birthday. That sealed the case against Earth Day in my book. But here is an interesting article contrasting Earth Day with its predecessor tree loving holiday, Arbor Day.

Nothing reveals the essence of a people like their national holidays. This week marks the end of most Arbor Day celebrations across the United States. (Like many Victorian-era inventions, Arbor Day was individualized and idiosyncratic; most states observe it in late April and early May.) Earth Day was, of course, was always a top-down federal holiday set for April 22. (READ THE WHOLE THING HERE.)

Monday, May 04, 2009

From the New York Times (Yes, I do read it once in a while.)

But something many of us have lost track of in the past decade or so is that some of this playing can be done alone. It still counts as play if a grown-up isn’t arranging it, or participating in it, or paying someone else to lead it. In fact, it just might count more. (Read the whole article here.)

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Weekend Journal

From the Summer of 1991 until sometime in 2002 I read the Wall Street Journal almost every day. I am not really in the business world anymore, and aside from my aspirations to own and manage some investment property I don't see myself doing anything in life that would require me to know the contents of the Journal. But sometime around 1993 or 1994 they began printing a special section on Fridays called "The Weekend Journal". Along with their classic Christmas editorials, the "Weekend Jornal" makes the price of a subscription worthwhile.

Consider the issue of May 2-3: A full page article on the joys of sleeper cars, lasting marriage, champagne, and sunsets that was so good Anselm Samuel, upon my reading it to him, said he wanted to clip out of the paper and save it forever.

Another full page article article on the growth in cook book sales contains these sentences: "Specializing in such life-threatening dishes as deep-fried macaroni and cheese and bread pudding made from Krispy Kreme doughnuts, Ms. Dean is high voltage Dixie kitsch, a cartoon version of the kind of brassy, boozy aunt the other aunts always refer to as a "hoot"" and "Cookbooks like this invite you to fantasize about the kind of life in which instead of picking up a carton of supermarket pasta salad on the way home from work, you trip off to the greenmarket every morning with a string bag, maintain a flourishing herb garden, and are on a first name basis with a goat farmer."

And there are articles on Swine flu and the history of pandemics, Broadway musicals, the Fragonard Panels, and modern classical music. It is just a great newspaper.

All of this writing is available on line now, but I read it to my son, he on the top bunk playing with Legos, I on the bottom bunk with the paper spread out before me, reading aloud like a reader in a cigar factory. Thankfully, unlike other newspapers, the Wall Street Journal is seeing readership increase and will continue to exist, at least for the foreseeable future, in its paper form.

Two Things I OftenThink About

In San Francisco there are a few really bad neighborhoods. One is Bayview. Bayview has several congregations of the "Black Church" denominations, but is still plagued by crime, loitering, poverty (spiritual more than financial), public drunkeness, etc. Maybe, the black churches are too close to the culture to reach the people who lie drunk on the sidewalks. They have heard the message of the Black churches so often, presented in the same way so many times that it just rolls off of them. I'm not being racist. The same thing can be said about White pentecostal and baptist churches in the American South. Church is just part of the culture, not a life changing soul saving experience. So I wonder, could a group of Orthodox Christians in that neigborhood make a difference? If we just met in one of the abandoned houses or store fronts for two hours a week, put up fliers offering "life transforming encounters with God", set up some icons, prayed vespers - if we did that would any of those angry, suffering, poor, people walk in the door? Would they be saved?

The other neighborhood I think of is the Lower Filmore. There is an abandoned church building - with the door on the west and the altar at the east, the way Orthodox Churches are oriented -right on the main street of the neighborhood. The building is fenced in and boarded up. But is is well-made, and after years of neglect is still beautiful. It is across the street from a notorious housing project. I often wonder, would the trustees of that church let the Orthodox have it to start a mission to the people in that spiritually suffering neighborhood?

Let's Pray That We Will Be The Refuge They Need

Dr. Edith M. Humphrey, William F. Orr Professor of New Testament at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, said in her letter of resignation that the foundations of The Episcopal Church and Anglicanism have been compromised and have become unrecognizable. "After over 13 years of discernment, I will be chrismated and received into the Eastern Orthodox Church on Orthodox Pentecost, June 7th. I will be making my church home at St. George Antiochian Cathedral in Oakland (Pittsburgh)." Humphrey said she had worked for the health of the Anglican Communion, but cited "foundational differences" in understanding the Church, the sacraments, and the place of tradition. (Read the Whole Article Here.)