Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Entertainment from 'Christmas Past'

The world hasn't been so nice lately -- Sometimes humour is definitely in order. My favourite sketch from Eric Morcambe and Ernie Wise, English humour at its very best -- and Andre Previn wasn't bad either!

Monday, December 17, 2012

O Wisdom

I grew up not so far from Newtown, Connecticut. I can smell the air and see the landscape so clearly. It's Christmas time. Decorations are up, Christmas trees are shining bright on the town green... and suddenly, in the midst of preparation and the great celebratory rush, devastation is thrust upon us. There have been other tragedies that have knocked us back at this time of year. The first I experienced was the assassination of President Kennedy on November 22, 1963. Another was the 21st of December 1988, the Lockerbie bombing of Pan Am 103. And now we suffer the chilling agony and pain of the slaughter of  the Innocents.

Today is the 17th of December. The day when many churches begin the recitation of the Antiphons of Advent. Today's reading is O Wisdom (O Sapientia) and it seems appropriate to dwell on this in order to try to make sense of what on earth is happening in our country in particular. I believe that if we as a nation do not do something to control the use and availability of guns it will happen again and again.

Do not tell me that guns don't kill people, people kill people. Don't tell me that more cars kill people than guns. The purpose of a gun is to kill. That is not the purpose of a car, as you well know! And the argument that we need to protect this Constitutional 'right' because it might be necessary for the populace to have guns should a government betray its people and needs to be overturned -- is so flawed  it beggars belief. First of all, what non-democratically elected person or group determines this? If this were true, it would follow that any person has the Constitutional right to determine that he or she has the right to destroy the government should he or she think that government needs overthrowing.

Right now there is uproar. I hope those with a voice will lead the way to a better way than the rule of lobbyists from the National Rifle Association. They have been pulling the strings for far to long. In the 60's I worked for my Congressman in his Washington office. As long ago as that Congressional and Senatorial offices were besieged with hundreds of letters and phone calls from the NRA. American legislators have got to stop being 'for hire'. Feelings are strong right now, but we all know that the strength of feeling will fade. The other day on television an American living in Britain said that teachers should be armed -- he is not alone. He insisted that if they had been armed in Newtown they would have been able to 'take him out'. What has happened when people believe this is an answer -- armed teachers of small children. And just where would this weapon be kept -- on the teacher? Under lock and key? How would it be feasible to access it if some maniac appears brandishing his own firearms?

Another woman today argued that if we weren't allowed to have guns then only the bad guy would have them ... I don't pretend to know the answer to the predicament we find ourselves. When there are over  300,000,000 guns in the country it seems an impossible task to have any kind of meaningful gun control. But perhaps we should start with a ban on assault weapons and take it from there -- if the Supreme Court doesn't knock it down. But I say, it's time to fight and maybe lose, but fight again and again and again.

So I call upon Wisdom today especially:
O Sapientia (Is. 11:2-3; 28:29): "O Wisdom, you come forth from the mouth of the Most High. You fill the universe and hold all things together in a strong yet gentle manner. O come to teach us the way of truth."

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


I've been thinking a lot the past few days about the two DJ's involved in the 'prank' that went so tragically wrong last week.  Actually, I was thinking more about what I was like when young and eager. When I 'had the world by the balls' -- so to speak...

The case of the two DJs from Australia is so graphic -- so sure were they of their success and future careers one moment and so broken the next. I can remember having that intoxicating feeling that nothing could or would ever stand in the way of my success in whatever endeavour I was exploring at the time.

So I do identify with their youth and to some extent the quandary in which they find themselves. The problem is we can so easily forget when we are young that the universe does not revolve around us -- that there are other people in the equations of our lives.

In their interview I was touched by their obvious chagrin and despair. But I was also surprised by the seeming lack of understanding about the cause of their predicament. Prank telephone calls made thousands of miles away to people you don't know about information that is none of your business. Did it not occur to anyone that the people on the other end of the phone could lose their jobs -- or receive severe reprimands?

The story is now already 'yesterday's news'. But the ramifications are no less severe for the people whose lives are irreversibly changed. Which is another indictment of our society's capacity to indulge in the salacious, the embarrassing with eagerness, greedily soaking up the information, reacting and then becoming bored with the nitty-gritty of detail. And in the meantime, lives are shattered and hearts are broken.

Friday, December 07, 2012

'Tis the Season to Be Greeting!

I love to give and receive Christmas cards. For me it is a way to keep in touch with people who are important to me, even though I may not see them very often. I always try to write a personal message on all the cards I send to people that I seldom see, which means that at least once a year I do think about about the people I write. But the past few years, and this year in particular, postal rates mean a lot of second thoughts about who to send cards.

I chose badly for sending outside the UK. 1.20 pounds for any card over 10 grams. That's $1.92 at today's exchange rate!) Fortunately I do have enough cards that fit the bill for the lower rate of 87 p or $1.39  -- otherwise it would pay me to buy another box of smaller cards. As rates climb higher and higher, one can imagine that in the not too distant future there will be no such thing as the postal service. In the past year I suspect that I've only mailed birthday/anniversary cards and packages. Amazon means that I can order goods from the American website and so avoid expensive international charges. A long time ago, in a Universe far away during the olden days, I remember when it cost 3 cents to mail a letter!

Of course the weight (and size) of a card isn't the only consideration when choosing a card! Some people are not Christian or have no religion -- careful then to find a card that says something inoffensive such as 'Season's Greetings' or 'Peace'. Others are religious and prefer not to get winter scenes, or robins or cardinals and want a Madonna, or a manger scene or the three wise men.

A former vicar of our church once gave a sermon in which he held up a card with a picture of something inoffensive and non-religious on it (a robin, I seem to remember) saying to the congregation that this card did not convey what Christmas was all about and complaining about cards that did not properly convey the meaning of Christmas.

It so happened that the card turned out to be from the Bishop. And the Bishop just happened to be in the Congregation that day! Talk about "getting your vicars in a twist"! :-)

Tuesday, December 04, 2012