"Four years ago our nation and empire stood alone against an overwhelming enemy, with our backs to the wall…Now once more a supreme test has to be faced. This time the challenge is not to fight to survive but to fight to win the final victory for the good cause… At this historic moment surely not one of us is too busy, too young, or too old to play a part in a nation-wide, perchance a world-wide vigil of prayer as the great crusade sets forth." – King George VI, radio address, 6 June, 1944
A couple of nephews have had birthdays lately- here are the presents I gave them: I sewed a Marvel pillow case for one of them and bought a child's Atlas to complete the gift.
The other got a planet pillowcase; I made it out of glow-in-the-dark planet fabric which I'm not sure my sister will appreciate, but will no doubt be popular with the nephew. Also got him a book on codes, etc. I'm not sure if this is a good idea; he's already insulting his younger brothers in Latin because no one knows what he's saying... I may just be providing him with further ammo.
I got back from Fam Jam 2019 late Monday night, extremely tired. When my brothers and sisters and I get together, we tend to stay up late into the night- or rather, early into the morning- talking and playing board games (mostly talking). Unfortunately, the younger generation generally starts getting up around 6am on the Fam Jam, so sleeping in isn't really an option. Also, with many activities like the annual soccer/baseball game etc. going on, sneaking off to catch a nap isn't in the cards either. Anticipating this, I took a vacation day on Tuesday so that I could catch up on sleep and unpack... mostly sleep. I'm glad I did, because I would have been a zombie at work. This is a picture of the camp we rent:
It was still pretty chilly there this year, which is why one of my sisters is wearing gloves in the above picture; it had been snowing there the week before. While it would have been nice if it was a bit warmer, there were very few black flies around, and they're usually terrible at this time of year. We especially appreciated their absence during the soccer/baseball game.
A sister attempts to ride nephew's unicycle... it doesn't go well.
One thing we definitely do at the Fam Jam is eat well. Everyone signs up to provide one meal for the group, which means you only bring food for that one meal. This is a picture of one of the breakfasts:
Campfire/ marshmallow roast:
“You can kiss your family and friends good-bye and put miles between you, but at the same time you carry them with you in your heart, your mind, your stomach, because you do not just live in a world but a world lives in you.”– Frederick Buechner
*Part of my five-year-old nephew's school curriculum includes readings from Aesop’s fables. The ending of a recent reading of “Three Bullocks and a Lion" concluded “It was now an easy matter for the Lion to attack them one at a time, and this he proceeded to do with the greatest satisfaction and relish. In unity is strength.” Nephew thoughtfully considers the moral, then asks a pertinent question: “Where did the lion get the relish?” 😂
* My sister has been reading Tom Sawyer to the boys in the morning. Reading the part about Tom appearing ill when Becky Thatcher was too sick to come to school for weeks, 10 year old commented that Tom was “heart sick” to which eight year old (disgusted by such nonsense) replied “Why doesn’t he just take some TUMS then!”
*Ten year old nephew (incensed): “Duke Vincentio is disguising himself as a friar! What on earth does he know about being a friar??!!” #Shakespeare
Two year old nephew's self portrait:
Ten year old explains to two year old brother how the chess pieces move:
Some of the works which are being removed from the school libraries for being too edgy for the kids are Little Red Riding Hood, Sleeping Beauty, and the story of St. George. I'm not joking. The people responsible for this are fools and scoundrels and the parents and school officials who allow it are cowards. What should be removed is not the books but the prissy, censorious commission in charge of this wicked policy. Or, alternately, parents should remove their children from whatever fourth rate institutions are participating in this idiocy. Kids are being mentally and emotionally stunted by these book-banning, tinpot dictators and it needs to stop.
For Christmas 2018, one of my sisters bought tickets to Stars On Ice for herself, me, and another sister. The show was last night so the three of us met up after work, got some supper, and then headed to the show.
Waiting for it to start (we were pretty early):
A few pictures from the show:
Everyone was really good, but my favourite was- has always been- Kurt Browning:
I think my all-time favourite performance by Kurt Browning was his Casablanca program which he used to perform in the '90's; my favourite figure skater skating to the music to one of my favourite movies- what's not to love?
Of course, his Singing In The Rain program was also great- and a whole lot of fun:
“We are all flawed and creatures of our times. Is it fair to judge us by the unknown standards of the future?” ― Carl Sagan
The statue of Kate Smith outside the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia ignominiously had a tarp thrown over it and was dragged away last week in a frantic effort to keep the sight of it from turning passersby into members of the KKK. Of course, the statue had been standing there since 1987 and- as far as I know- not one King Kleagle has sprung from her head, fully formed. One can never be too careful, however. Both the Philadelphia Flyers and the New York Yankees have pulled Smith's version of "God Bless America" from their playlists as well, lest the Irving Berlin song sung in Kate's not-so-dulcet tones drive its hearers into a race frenzy. As we know, ordinary citizens are always just one Broadway showtune away from donning a white hood and taking up cross burning as a hobby. How was Kate Smith- American songstress, recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom largely for her selling of war bonds during W.W. II which raised some $600 million (over $10 billion in today's currency) for the war effort- outed as a vile racist? As it turns out, with remarkable ease: it merely took one social justice warrior digging through the hundreds of songs that Smith sang over her 50+ year career to find two which were "problematic". One of these was "Why The Darkies Were Born", an edgy title to be sure. Of course, the song was meant to be a satirical mockery of slavery, and was also sung by Paul Robeson, that notoriously (checks notes) black racist, but why bother with context or nuance when there's a reputation to destroy.
The other song was titled "Pickaninny Heaven" and seen today it is no doubt cringeworthy and offensive. But it wasn't viewed that way in 1931 when Smith sang it for a movie she was hired to be in. This propensity of the Extreme Umbrage Brigade to judge all historical figures by today's social mores- and to seek to eradicate the legacies of those found wanting- will be the death of all worthwhile art and culture. For who, living or dead, could possibly meet all of these malcontents' exacting and ever-changing standards? And, frankly, who would want to? The pusillanimous Flyers organization put out this whingeing statement: "Several songs by the late Kate Smith contain offensive lyrics that do not reflect our values." Wow- I sure am glad they cleared that up; I've been under the impression that anyone who plays an artist's song is tacitly supporting everything said, sung and done by that singer. This is why all radio stations which play rap should be castigated for approving of rape and murder- the subjects of many a rap song- and any movie theater which has ever showed a Roman Polanski film is obviously A-OK with statutory rape and sodomy. And don't even get me started on Michael Jackson.
If we continue down this road, how far will we go? The Marx brothers movie Duck Soup mentions the "darkies" song: obviously it and they will have to go. A minor character in the 1940 Cary Grant/ Rosalind Russell movie His Girl Friday uses the term "pickaninny". Fred Astaire and Bing Crosby both did blackface scenes, as did Judy Garland and Shirley Temple. Should all of their bodies of work be cancelled? The scene to the left is from a 1931 Alfred Hitchcock film Young and Innocent, which contains a blackface scene. Shall we remove all his films from circulation, too? I can do this all day... want some other, more modern examples?
The person to the right is Sarah Silverman in blackface. Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel, Ted Danson, Billy Crystal, and Dan Ackroyd all have appeared in blackface as well, and it wasn't in the 1930's either. Why should their reputations and careers survive while Kate Smith's is being ruthlessly eradicated? I suspect that Smith becoming a target for the social justice warriors was more about knocking down someone who was a staunch and patriotic American than because of a little known song she performed almost 90 years ago. I suspect that what really set them off was her song which is still widely played and loved... that in reality, these people are actually offended by Kate Smith singing "God Bless America". Thanks to the craven, cowardly behaviour of the New York Yankees and Philadelphia Flyers organizations, the regressives have achieved their aim of having it memory holed.
I spent a lovely weekend with my family- and church family- celebrating Easter. We were having such a good time that it was absolutely heartwrenching to see the news about the terrorist attack on Christian churches in Sri Lanka. I saw the report early Sunday morning and, as I sat in church a few hours later, watching as some of the kids participated in recounting the story of Jesus' resurrection, I couldn't help but think that this sort of thing was exactly what the Christians in Sri Lanka were doing when the Islamic terrorists burst in and set off bombs. This is a grim reminder that Christians are the most persecuted faith group in the world ( https://factsandtrends.net/2018/01/29/quarter-billion-christians-face-major-persecution-2018/ ).
On a happier note, we had a fun time painting eggs the other day and below are some of the results. My Easter egg in mid-production:
My sister's X Files obsession is getting out of control...
Another sister made the Star Trek egg for herself and the penguin one for her baby daughter. Her husband- who can actually paint, unlike the rest of us- did the angler fish egg in the middle.
Some of the nephews' & nieces' eggs:
Two more sisters' eggs:
My three year old niece recieved a box of Mike & Ike candy for Easter. She started to work her way through them with alarming rapidity until her father (my brother-in-law) commented: Dad: “Why don’t you save some for later?” Toddler: “Nooo... (soft voice and sweet smile) ... then everybody will say ‘can I have some,’ nooo, we will not save them...” (inserts three more candies into her mouth). Guess who has numerous brothers and sisters. Also, she sounded a bit like Gollum. #MyPrecious Meanwhile, some of the older nephews were busy trying to take over the world:
The pan of Hot Cross Buns I made for our Good Friday luncheon:
The origin of hot cross buns probably dates back to the Germanic Saxon tribes who, pre-Christianity, worshiped Eostre, the goddess of spring and light. Every spring they would bake buns in her honour which they would mark with a cross, representing the quarters of the moon and the four seasons. When Christianity became their dominant religion, the Saxons adapted some things which had been part of their pagan worship practices to their new faith, hot cross buns apparently being one of them. Now, of course, the cross represented the cross of Christ. The first linking of the buns to Holy Week seems to date to the 1300's when Thomas Rodcliffe, a monk at St Alban's Abbey, began making buns similar to this and distributing them to the poor every Good Friday. The buns became inextricably linked to Easter in 1592 during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I when a decree was issued forbidding the sale of hot cross buns and any other spice breads except for Good Friday, Christmas, or for funerals. Those found flouting this law would have their hot cross buns seized and distributed to the poor. This ban apparently wasn't completely successful, as further measures were taken during the reign of James I to stop the sale of illicit- one might say, hot- cross buns. Yet another example of big government overreach; the State has no business grabbing its citizens' buns. Of course, everyone knows the ditty "Hot Cross Buns" and this appears to have its origins in a call uttered by London street vendors, the earliest written record of which is found in the 1733 edition of Poor Robin's Almanac: "Good Friday comes this month, the old woman runs. With one or two a penny hot cross buns." The earliest published nursery rhyme/song version is found in Christmas Box, which is an English publication from 1798.
* You may notice that my hot cross buns seem to be lacking in raisins. This is due to an unfortunate incident in childhood when the onset of stomach flu intersected with the consumption of a raisin muffin, leading to extremely unpleasant results and my inability to this day to eat anything containing raisins.
"Notre-Dame de Paris is, in particular, a curious specimen of this variety. Each face, each stone of the venerable monument, is a page not only of the history of the country, but of the history of science and art as well. Thus, in order to indicate here only the principal details, while the little Red Door almost attains to the limits of the Gothic delicacy of the fifteenth century, the pillars of the nave, by their size and weight, go back to the Carlovingian Abbey of Saint-Germain des Prés. One would suppose that six centuries separated these pillars from that door. There is no one, not even the hermetics, who does not find in the symbols of the grand portal a satisfactory compendium of their science, of which the Church of Saint-Jacques de la Boucherie was so complete a hieroglyph. Thus, the Roman abbey, the philosophers’ church, the Gothic art, Saxon art, the heavy, round pillar, which recalls Gregory VII., the hermetic symbolism, with which Nicolas Flamel played the prelude to Luther, papal unity, schism, Saint-Germain des Prés, Saint-Jacques de la Boucherie,—all are mingled, combined, amalgamated in Notre-Dame. This central mother church is, among the ancient churches of Paris, a sort of chimera; it has the head of one, the limbs of another, the haunches of another, something of all. We repeat it, these hybrid constructions are not the least interesting for the artist, for the antiquarian, for the historian. They make one feel to what a degree architecture is a primitive thing, by demonstrating (what is also demonstrated by the cyclopean vestiges, the pyramids of Egypt, the gigantic Hindoo pagodas) that the greatest products of architecture are less the works of individuals than of society; rather the offspring of a nation’s effort, than the inspired flash of a man of genius; the deposit left by a whole people; the heaps accumulated by centuries; the residue of successive evaporations of human society,—in a word, species of formations. Each wave of time contributes its alluvium, each race deposits its layer on the monument, each individual brings his stone. Thus do the beavers, thus do the bees, thus do men. The great symbol of architecture, Babel, is a hive. Great edifices, like great mountains, are the work of centuries. Art often undergoes a transformation while they are pending, pendent opera interrupta; they proceed quietly in accordance with the transformed art. The new art takes the monument where it finds it, incrusts itself there, assimilates it to itself, develops it according to its fancy, and finishes it if it can. The thing is accomplished without trouble, without effort, without reaction,—following a natural and tranquil law. It is a graft which shoots up, a sap which circulates, a vegetation which starts forth anew. Certainly there is matter here for many large volumes, and often the universal history of humanity in the successive engrafting of many arts at many levels, upon the same monument. The man, the artist, the individual, is effaced in these great masses, which lack the name of their author; human intelligence is there summed up and totalized. Time is the architect, the nation is the builder." - Victor Hugo, Notre-dame de Paris
Like so many others, I was shocked and heartsick to see the devastating fire in Notre-dame Cathedral. The church, which began construction in 1163, has been a landmark in Paris for literally centuries. More, it has been a reminder of the faith which once moved men to erect buildings of awe-inspiring beauty to the glory of God, something all but forgotten in an almost aggressively atheist France. Thankfully, though the Cathedral has sustained severe damage, much of the structure has been saved. As we mourn the historical and achitectural losses, however, I also grieve the loss of the spirit which inspired its builders to such exquisite heights of grandeur. Roofs and walls can eventually be repaired or replaced... I'm not so sure it'll be that easy with the faith.