Thursday, December 31, 2015

Page Updates 2015

This blog has "pages", other than this, the main page. Some of the pages were former trailing threads that simply grew to be too unwieldy as they grew too large.

Formerly, when the pages that were threads were updated, they were bumped up, and several of them were amongst the most read threads on the site.  Now, of course, there's no easy way to know when they're bumped up. so this thread will serve that purpose.

Recent Updates:

They Were Lawyers.

January 1, 2015:  Mario Cuomo.

The Were Lawyers.

February 23, 2015:  G. D. Spradin.

They Were Soldiers.

February 23, 2015.  G. D. Spradin, Michael Vincente Gazzo,

They Were Soldiers

March 2, 2015.  Leonard Nimoy

March 12, 2015:  Neal McMurry, Mick McMurry.

The Poster Gallery, WWI

U.S. Coast Artillery.

The Were Soldiers

March 15, 2015:  Demond Wilson

They Were Clerics

March 15, 2015:  Demond Wilson

They Were Lawyers

August 19, 2015:  Helmuth James Graf von Moltke

The Were Soldiers

September 6, 2015: Dean Jones.

They Were Soldiers

September 15, 2015:   David Janssen, Richard Long, Martin Milner

They Were Soldiers

September 22, 2015:  Lawrence "Yogi" Berra

They Were Lawyers

September 22, 2015:  Erasmus  Corwin Gilbreath

They Were Farmers

October 2, 2015:  Robert Burns. 

They Were Soldiers

November 5, 2015Toshiro Mifune

November 6, 2015: George Gobel, Johnny Carson, Walther Matthau, Steve Forrest, Paul Newman, Jonathan Winters, Kirk Douglas, Dale Robertson, John Carroll, Randolph Scott, Charles Bronson, Art Carney.

November 9, 2015:  Hans Christian Blech,  Oskar Werner (Oskar Josef Bschließmayer), Hannes Messemer, Robert Graf, Sig Ruman (Siegfried Albon Rumann).

November 10, 2015:  Conrad Veid, Wayne Morris, Tony Curtis, Larry Storch, Forrest Tucker, Robert Montgomery

They Were Farmers

November 24, 2015:  Union soldiers, Confederate soldiers.

They Were Soldiers

November 24, 2015:   Olivier Jacques Marie de Germay

They Were Lawyers

December 9, 2015:   Charles White Whittlesey

December 31, 2015:  Bernard V. Rogers

Lex Anteinternet: New Year's Resolutions for Other People

So, how did they do?

This past January I published this:
Lex Anteinternet: New Year's Resolutions for Other People: Yeah, I know its rude.  But if you are in the public eye, I guess you are open for public content.  So here's some resolutions for folks who might miss these obvious ones.
 So, let's look and see if they checked in here, read the resolutions, and adopted them.
Congress.  Let's just assume that your audience is intelligent and can follow an intelligent argument.  I bet it can. And after assuming that, whether you are in the left or the right, conduct your public debates that way.  If you can't do that, you ought to not be there.
Hmmm. can't say I grew more impressed with Congress over the year.  They mostly seem just to have sort of checked out, but maybe I just quit paying as much attention to them.  Maybe they weren't paying as much attention, oncoming Presidential election and all. . .

Congressional Judiciary Committees:  Avoid appointments to the bench from Harvard or Yale for the entire year.  Not a single one. Don't we have enough of them already?  There are lawyers from other places.

For that matter, how about not appointing any sitting or retired judges to appellate benches.  Branch out.  You'll be glad you did.

And put a retirement age on the Federal Bench.  These are public jobs for the American public, not jobs for life for one single benighted generation.  Appointments for life no longer make any sense.
Well, I can't say that I paid much attention to appointments this year either.  No big ones seemed to come up.  But I can say that this was not an impressive year for the Federal Judiciary in some ways.  A knowledge of the nature of the law seemed quite lacking.  So, to the extent that this extends out to the judiciary on a Federal national level, it wasn't a good year.
Country Music.  If you aren't actually from the country, please sit this one out or admit you are a "pop artist".  It's different.

And cut out the sap, too, will you?  
Obviously, there was no progress in "Country" music at all.
ISIL  Open your minds up, at least a bit.  And get a calendar and see what century this is.
This may have proven to be the year of the Islamic State.  That's who I'd put on the cover of Time, if I was doing the "Man of the Year".  The Islamic State has been on the rise all year long, and the results have been horrific.
Kim Jong-un.  Kim, you are on your way to being remembered as a complete clown.  You could be remembered as a hero.  Take the bold move, open the borders, and announce that you intend to peacefully reunite North Korea with the South by letting the Republic of Korea take over.

You could go into comfortable retirement in Switzerland within a year, and be a hero for life.  The way you are going, you are going to be remembered as one of the all time biggest doofuses ever.
Kim obviously didn't check in here.
People with the last name Bush or Clinton.  Enough already, the country can function fine without you as President.  Sit this one out, and the next several as well, and surprise people by not running for
And people named Clinton or Bush didn't check in here either.
Barack Obama.  Go outside and see where you live.  You are not a law school professor anymore.  Yapping at people doesn't equate with action, and getting mad and assigning things to the class you can't deal with isn't going to work either.  Quit studying Wilson.  Study Roosevelt, Truman, Reagan, Bush I or Clinton and see how to get some things done.
It seems the President didn't get my reading list.
New York:  Hello New York and things New Yorkish.   We still love you, but you aren't "Number One" anymore, and you haven't been for a really long time.  Just because you pass a bill or collectively think something doesn't make it the up and coming thing, it probably is viewed by the rest of us as stale and a little moldy, which is how we also view New York.  You are going to have to get over yourself.  Your resolution is to have a little humility this year.  Think of yourself as, oh. . . Labrador.
Labrador, New York.  Look it up.
The People's Republic of China.  You can only pretend to be a "people's republic" while ignoring democracy so long. Read the history of your own country, and realize that China's always only a second away from a revolution, and take the next step to open the politics of the country up.  Your excuse for not doing so is long gone.  And stop acting like a 19th Century colonial power too.
Well, no huge reform in China in 2015, but  then its a huge country. 
Pop-Tarts You know who you are, you collection of women famous only for being famous, or for your appearance alone.  Stop acting like your for sale on the street and have a little big of dignity. Spend their year dressing modestly and really shock people. Read a book. Go outdoors with some outdoorsy close on.  Just be something, for goodness sake.
Nope.  They're still at it.
Television.  Hello television, you are stupid.  Get an education and quit broadcasting crap.
This is particularly the case regarding anything billed "Entertainment", or that appears on "TLC".  Enough already.  But it applies to the rests of television as well. Time for some remedial classes.
 If anything, this has gotten worse.

So, all you listed here, get to work.  You need to do your 2015 resolutions in 2016.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The point at which food paranoia crosses over the line

From NBC News on the net:
(CNN) -- There's so much to dislike about air travel. There are the long lines and the delays, and of course, there is the bad airplane food. A recent survey found that airlines have a long way to go in making their meals and snacks nutritious and low in calories.
"I don't think airlines are keeping up with the trends across the United States, the 'better for you' food trend, the organic trend," said Charles Platkin, nutrition professor at Hunter College and City University of New York. Most airlines are also failing to provide nutritional information about their menu items that would allow passengers to make the healthiest choices, he added.
Yeah, well get over it.

Shoot, people don't live on the plane.  A little "bad" food on the plane isn't going to kill you.

Wyoming Fact and Fiction: Old West Shootout

Wyoming Fact and Fiction: Old West Shootout: Anyone who has made a serious study of Western history knows that the middle of the street, showdown gunfight is mostly a creation of pulp ...

Mid Week at Work: Loading the plane in the rain.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The state's income increases in 2015 in spite of, and actually because of the decline of the price of oil. . .

because it raised agricultural profits.

Cheaper fuel, and high cattle prices at the start of the year, gave a big boost to agricultural income.  So the state's income actually rose.

This obviously isn't expected to last, but it's an interesting illustration of cause and effect in the economy.

The Bonnie Blue Flag?

In Moneta Wyoming?

Monday, December 28, 2015

The Big Picture: Holscher's Hub: More southern Big Horns

Holscher's Hub: More southern Big Horns

Monday at the Bar: Courthouses of the West: Carbon County Courthouse, Rawlins Wyoming

Courthouses of the West: Carbon County Courthouse, Rawlins Wyoming:

This is the Carbon County Courthouse in Rawlins Wyoming.  This Depression era courthouse was built by the Works Project Administration, like the former courthouse in Casper, Wyoming.  It houses the Carbon County Court and also serves Wyoming's Second Judicial District together with the courthouse in Albany County.

This courthouse is unique for a classic Wyoming courthouse in that it sits on an entire city block in the center of town.  While not visible in these photos, due to the mature trees, the courthouse is also unique in that it was built with attached substantial living quarters which served the sheriff and his family at the time of its construction. The concept was that the sheriff would need to live there, as the jail was housed in the courthouse.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Movies In History: Three Godfathers

Three Godfathers

This 1948 John Ford western is one of my favorite Christmas movies.

Indeed, I actually don't like most of the Christmas classics for one reason or another, although I've just posted on another one of my favorites, A Christmas Story

This movie is a classic John Ford western featuring three of the best known actors who appeared in his films.  John Wayne, Pedro Armendáriz, and Harry Carey Jr. appear as three outlaws who ride into a small western town while on the lam, and then set out to make good their escape.  While in the desert they run across a dying woman and her baby, the only survivors of misbegotten effort to cross the desert.  The woman make the men the baby's Godfathers as she passes away and they then proceed to attempt to save themselves and the child.

Very well done, what is not evident at first is that this classic Ford western is also heavily allegorical. As the movie progresses we learn that it takes place near Christmas and the three Godfathers come to stand in for the Three Wise Men as they seek to rescue the baby and make it to the town of New Jerusalem.

The film is fantastically done, with rich color tones, and well worth seeing.  As a western movie, the film is typical of films of this period and attention to material details doesn't equal that of later films.  However, this film fares better in those details than some others as no date is given for the film, so it cannot be said that any of the physical items depicted in the film are done so incorrectly.  The clothing is typical for a film of this era and is not 100% accurate, but is not badly done either.

The film is well worth seeing and stands out as one of Ford's very good western movies, as well as being a unique Christmas movie.

Movies In History: A Christmas Story

A Christmas Story.

This 1983 movie committed to film a series of stories by Jene Shepherd and has become a beloved Christmas classic. 

Shepherd was a radio and television personality and writer whose storied varied wildly in terms of topic and quality, but who built a huge East Coast fan base that ultimately lead to a television series that was of more consistent quality than his radio shows.  At his best, he was extremely funny, and that often occurred when his stories focused on his youth in the Mid West.  Much like Patrick McManus, McManus' best stories tend to surround his childhood, and in his case, his service in the Army, although unlike McManus, Shepherd's youth was urban.  His written work tended to be much more consistent than his radio work, which was hugely ad libbed.

The only full length film every made from Shepherd's work was this one, A Christmas Story, which concerns the young Ralphie, a thinly disguised Jean Shepherd.  In his written and radio work many of the same characters appear, and it is clearer from those that Ralphie is the Shepherd character.  Here too he much resembles McManus, as many of the characters that appear in his work are in fact real characters from his youth.

Shepherd was born in 1921 and therefore old enough to serve in World War Two.  This is notable here as this story is set in 1940 when Ralphie is still in grade school, so unlike his radio and written works the movie Ralphie is a bit younger than the actual Shepherd was.  This doesn't matter too much in the context of this film, but the film does have late Great Depression feel to it, although that would not be inaccurate for the year it is set in.

A Christmas Story is not normally thought of as a period piece, and it remains hugely contemporary in spite of being set in the 1940s.  None the less, viewed as a film set in time, its remarkably accurate.  The film very accurately portrays the grade school experience that generations of Americans experienced, but which really basically started in the late 1920s and which ran through, in this form, the 1980s.  Clothing and material details are very well done.  The childhood focus on certain significant toys in any one Christmas is accurate.  The focus on a Red Rider BB gun in fact portrays a common Christmas gift that boys sought well into the 1970s. 

Even odd material details are well done. The role of the radio in the home, the appearance of the interior of buildings, the lack of electrical outlets, the nature of coal burning stoves, and servicemen in uniform, are all correctly done.

This movie deserves its place as a Christmas classic, and it stands up much better than many other period pieces filmed several decades after the events portrayed.  Given the prolific nature of Shepherd's output, it is somewhat ironic however that this really stands out by far as his work that's really well remembered as it was less satiric and had much less of a sharper edge than most of his other work.  Still, it's a good work to be remembered by.

Blog Mirror: Modern Farmer: The Draft-Horse Gear and Tools you need.

Modern Farmer: The Draft-Horse Gear and Tools you need. Linking a horse to farming implements is a bit more involved than saddling up for a ride. A hames, which has small metal or wooden bars on either side, supports the horse’s collar and transfers the pulling power of the horse to the equipment in tow via heavy leather traces and, for some equipment, a yoke. A britchen strap around the rump acts as a brake, preventing wheeled implements from rolling forward when a team walks downhill.

Blog Mirror: The Suburban Hermit: St. Augustine's Christmas Sermon

The Suburban Hermit:  St. Augustine's Christmas Sermon:  Awake, mankind! For your sake God has become man. Awake, you who sleep, rise up from the dead, and Christ will enlighten you. I tell you again: for your sake, God became man . . .

A Day in the Life: Christmas 1915

Thursday, December 24, 2015

G.K. Chesterton: Christmas

G.K. Chesterton: Christmas: THERE is no more dangerous or disgusting habit than that of celebrating Christmas before it comes, as I am doing in this article. It is the ...

The Big Speech: A Visit From Saint Nicholas

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all thro' the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar plums danc'd in their heads,

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Lamenting the change in the Christmas Season. . .?

I recently heard two podcasts by a fellow who was lamenting the passing of the traditional Christmas season.  I sort of like the particular podcast, but I'll admit that it tends to be a bit snarky in what I think is sort of an over snarky way.  And it also features an interview, normally, of the same fellow by the same captive interviewer, which makes the style a bit problematic as the interviewer, in that context, is a bit captive.

 Christmas Tree, Madison Square Garden, 1915.

Anyhow, the fellow's point was that we now have an American (largely Protestant) Christmas that starts well before the liturgical Christmas Season and concludes well before Christmas, and we've lost the traditional Christmas Season entirely.  He maintains that this is the result of an intentional effort by American politicians to boost the Christmas marketing season and that this goes back to the early 20th Century.  And in support of it, he twice cited the absence of a celebration of the Twelve Days of Christmas.

Hmmm. . . .

I don't know, but frankly, I doubt his point here.

This isn't to say that Christmas hasn't become hyper commercialized, but the commercial, i.e., the gift giving aspect of it, is hardly a new thing.  And it isn't entirely a bad one either.

Before we look at that, however, let's look at his point, to the extent he has one.

St. Mary's Cathedral, Cheyenne Wyoming.  The cathedral for the Catholic Diocese of Cheyenne.

Liturgically, the pre Christmas season is Advent.  The United States Council of Catholic Bishops defines advent this way:
Beginning the Church's liturgical year, Advent (from, "ad-venire" in Latin or "to come to") is the season encompassing the four Sundays (and weekdays) leading up to the celebration of Christmas.
The Advent season is a time of preparation that directs our hearts and minds to Christ’s second coming at the end of time and also to the anniversary of the Lord’s birth on Christmas. The final days of Advent, from December 17 to December 24, focus particularly on our preparation for the celebrations of the Nativity of our Lord (Christmas).
Advent devotions including the Advent wreath, remind us of the meaning of the season. Our Advent calendar above can help you fully enter in to the season with daily activity and prayer suggestions to prepare you spiritually for the birth of Jesus Christ.  More Advent resources are listed below.
The 1917 Catholic Encyclopedia, a valuable resource which is frequenlty made resort to by traditional minded Catholics and those who look towards Catholic tradition, holds:
According to present usage, Advent is a period beginning with the Sunday nearest to the feast of St. Andrew the Apostle and embracing four Sundays. The first Sunday may be as early as 27 November, and then Advent has twenty-eight days, or as late as 3 December, giving the season only twenty-one days.
With Advent the ecclesiastical year begins in the Western churches. During this time the faithful are admonished
  • to prepare themselves worthily to celebrate the anniversary of the Lord's coming into the world as the incarnate God of love,
  • thus to make their souls fitting abodes for the Redeemer coming in Holy Communion and through grace, and
  • thereby to make themselves ready for His final coming as judge, at death and at the end of the world.
To attain this object the Church has arranged the Liturgy for this season. In the official prayer, the Breviary, she calls upon her ministers, in the Invitatory for Matins, to adore "the Lord the King that is to come", "the Lord already near", "Him Whose glory will be seen on the morrow". As Lessons for the first Nocturn she prescribes chapters from the prophet Isaias, who speaks in scathing terms of the ingratitude of the house of Israel, the chosen children who had forsaken and forgotten their Father; who tells of the Man of Sorrows stricken for the sins of His people; who describes accurately the passion and death of the coming Saviour and His final glory; who announces the gathering of the Gentiles to the Holy Hill. In the second Nocturn the Lessons on three Sundays are taken from the eighth homily of Pope St. Leo (440-461) on fasting and almsdeeds as a preparation for the advent of the Lord, and on one Sunday (the second) from St. Jerome's commentary on Isaiah 11:1, which text he interprets of the Blessed Virgin Mary as "the rod out of the root of Jesse". In the hymns of the season we find praise for the coming of Christ, the Creator of the universe, as Redeemer, combined with prayer to the coming judge of the world to protect us from the enemy. Similar ideas are expressed in the antiphons for the Magnificat on the last seven days before the Vigil of the Nativity. In them, the Church calls on the Divine Wisdom to teach us the way of prudence; on the Key of David to free us from bondage; on the Rising Sun to illuminate us sitting in darkness and the shadow of death, etc. In the Masses the intention of the Church is shown in the choice of the Epistles and Gospels. In the Epistle she exhorts the faithful that, since the Redeemer is nearer, they should cast aside the works of darkness and put on the armour of light; should walk honestly, as in the day, and put on the Lord Jesus Christ; she shows that the nations are called to praise the name of the Lord; she asks them to rejoice in the nearness of the Lord, so that the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, may keep their hearts and minds in Christ Jesus; she admonishes them not to pass judgment, for the Lord, when He comes, will manifest the secrets hidden in hearts. In the Gospels the Church speaks of the Lord coming in glory; of Him in, and through, Whom the prophecies are being fulfilled; of the Eternal walking in the midst of the Jews; of the voice in the desert, "Prepare ye the way of the Lord". The Church in her Liturgy takes us in spirit back to the time before the incarnation of the Son of God, as though it were really yet to take place. Cardinal Wiseman says:
We are not dryly exhorted to profit by that blessed event, but we are daily made to sigh with the Fathers of old, "Send down the dew, ye heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain the Just One: let the earth be opened, and bud forth the Redeemer." The Collects on three of the four Sundays of that season begin with the words, "Lord, raise up thy power and come" — as though we feared our iniquities would prevent His being born.
Duration and ritual
On every day of Advent the Office and Mass of the Sunday or Feria must be said, or at least a Commemoration must be made of them, no matter what grade of feast occurs. In the Divine Office the Te Deum, the joyful hymn of praise and thanksgiving, is omitted; in the Mass the Gloria in excelsis is not said. The Alleluia, however, is retained. During this time the solemnization of matrimony (Nuptial Mass and Benediction) cannot take place; which prohibition binds to the feast of Epiphany inclusively. The celebrant and sacred ministers use violet vestments. The deacon and subdeacon at Mass, in place of the dalmatics commonly used, wear folded chasubles. The subdeacon removes his during the reading of the Epistle, and the deacon exchanges his for another, or for a wider stole, worn over the left shoulder during the time between the singing of the Gospel and the Communion. An exception is made for the third Sunday (Gaudete Sunday), on which the vestments may be rose-coloured, or richer violet ones; the sacred ministers may on this Sunday wear dalmatics, which may also be used on the Vigil of the Nativity, even if it be the fourth Sunday of Advent. Pope Innocent III (1198-1216) states that black was the colour to be used during Advent, but violet had already come into use for this season at the end of the thirteenth century. Binterim says that there was also a law that pictures should be covered during Advent. Flowers and relics of Saints are not to be placed on the altars during the Office and Masses of this time, except on the third Sunday; and the same prohibition and exception exist in regard to the use of the organ. The popular idea that the four weeks of Advent symbolize the four thousand years of darkness in which the world was enveloped before the coming of Christ finds no confirmation in the Liturgy.
Historical origin
It cannot be determined with any degree of certainty when the celebration of Advent was first introduced into the Church. The preparation for the feast of the Nativity of Our Lord was not held before the feast itself existed, and of this we find no evidence before the end of the fourth century, when, according to Duchesne [Christian Worship (London, 1904), 260], it was celebrated throughout the whole Church, by some on 25 December, by others on 6 January. Of such a preparation we read in the Acts of a synod held at Saragossa in 380, whose fourth canon prescribes that from the seventeenth of December to the feast of the Epiphany no one should be permitted to absent himself from church. We have two homilies of St. Maximus, Bishop of Turin (415-466), entitled "In Adventu Domini", but he makes no reference to a special time. The title may be the addition of a copyist. There are some homilies extant, most likely of St. Caesarius, Bishop of Arles (502-542), in which we find mention of a preparation before the birthday of Christ; still, to judge from the context, no general law on the matter seems then to have been in existence. A synod held (581) at Mâcon, in Gaul, by its ninth canon orders that from the eleventh of November to the Nativity the Sacrifice be offered according to the Lenten rite on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday of the week. The Gelasian Sacramentary notes five Sundays for the season; these five were reduced to four by Pope St. Gregory VII (1073-85). The collection of homilies of St. Gregory the Great (590-604) begins with a sermon for the second Sunday of Advent. In 650 Advent was celebrated in Spain with five Sundays. Several synods had made laws about fasting to be observed during this time, some beginning with the eleventh of November, others the fifteenth, and others as early as the autumnal equinox. Other synods forbade the celebration of matrimony. In the Greek Church we find no documents for the observance of Advent earlier than the eighth century. St. Theodore the Studite (d. 826), who speaks of the feasts and fasts commonly celebrated by the Greeks, makes no mention of this season. In the eighth century we find it observed not as a liturgical celebration, but as a time of fast and abstinence, from 15 November to the Nativity, which, according to Goar, was later reduced to seven days. But a council of the Ruthenians (1720) ordered the fast according to the old rule from the fifteenth of November. This is the rule with at least some of the Greeks. Similarly, the Ambrosian and the Mozarabic Riterites have no special liturgy for Advent, but only the fast.
 Holy Transfiguration of  Christ Orthodox Cathedral, a Russian Orthodox cathedral in Denver Colorado.
Advent is most definitely observed in the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church.  It's also observed in observed in the Eastern Rite of the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches, which have traditionally  had a Lent like observance of Advent.  Regarding this, the Orthodox Church in America, branch of the Orthodox that had their origin with the Russian Orthodox Church, provides:

We fast before the Great Feast of the Nativity in order to prepare ourselves for the celebration of Our Lord’s birth. As in the case of Great Lent, the Nativity Fast is one of preparation, during which we focus on the coming of the Savior by fasting, prayer, and almsgiving.
By fasting, we “shift our focus” from ourselves to others, spending less time worrying about what to eat, when to eat, how much to eat, and so on in order to use our time in increased prayer and caring for the poor. We learn through fasting that we can gain control over things which we sometimes allow to control us—and for many people, food is a controlling factor. 
[We live in the only society in which an entire TV network is devoted to food!] While fasting from food, however, we are also challenged to fast from sin, from gossip, from jealousy, from anger, and from those other things which, while well within our control, we all too often allow to control us.
Just as we would refrain from eating a lot before going to an expensive restaurant for dinner—if we “ruin our appetite” we will enjoy the restaurant less—so too we fast before the Nativity in order to more fully feast and celebrate on the Nativity itself.
During the Nativity Fast, we are called upon to refrain from meat, dairy, fish, wine, and olive oil. At the same time, we are challenged, within this framework, to fast to the best of our ability, and to do so consistently. 
If we must modify the extent to which we fast within this framework, it is of course possible, but in every instance our fasting should be consistent and regular, for Christ does not see fasting as an option, but as a “must.”
In Matthew Christ says, “WHEN you fast, do not be like the hypocrites,” not “IF you fast” or “IF YOU CHOOSE to fast.”
Finally, it seems quite odd that in our society—a society in which people gladly and freely spend huge sums of money for diets, most of which recommend that one refrain from red meats and dairy products—fasting is not more widely embraced. How odd that a Jenny Craig consultant or diet guru or physician will tell us to refrain from eating meat or cheese or butter and we will gladly embrace—and pay large sums of money for—his or her advice, while when the Church offers the same advice [at “no cost”] we tend to balk, as if we were being asked to do the impossible.
Okay, you may not be seeing any of that, right?  So does that mean that Christmas as a Christian holiday has really fallen off and isn't property observed?  No, probably not.  The number of Orthodox in the United States isn't large (which doesn't mean its insignificant), and the Eastern Rite of the Catholic Church, in recognition of their small size, generally modify their Advent customs somewhat. The Catholic Church is large, but then again, Catholics do observe Advent. That many Protestants really don't isn't surprising, as their history with it is significantly different.

Indeed, the Puritans, often cited as an example of tor original founding Americans, banned Christmas in both the United States and England. That's right, they banned it. And that sort of thing is exactly what lead to the English Restoration in England, and the dim view that was held of them there that caused them to have to take refuge first in Holland and then in North America.  So, for people who hold the "war on Christmas" view of things, the original hostility to Christmas in this country goes back as far as the same group of people we cite as founding Thanksgiving here.

Of course, it was exactly this sort of thing that caused Cromwell to posthumously lose his head.

Anyhow, going on, the same commenter referenced the "Twelve Days of Christmas" more than once, noting that few even are aware that the Christmas season commences on Christmas itself and then runs for twelve days, assuming that it does.

In actuality,that reference is a bit complicated.  It is the case that Christmastide is a feature of most Christian denominations in some fashion, although it's also the case that probably very few average people are aware of that.

Not all Christian denominations calculate Christmastide the same way.  In the Catholic Church, which most Christians in the west look to for the liturgical year, the Christmas season is longer than twelve days, although not by much, and runs from Christmas to Epiphany.  Catholics do observe that on their liturgical calendar.  In the Eastern Church this is also true, but it isn't calculated in quite the same fashion on their liturgical calendar.  The Anglican and Lutheran churches use a strait twelve days from Christmas, with the twelfth day being called Twelfth Night. Their calculation relies on the Latin Rite liturgical calendar, but the custom dates to a calendar that was in use at the time of their separation.

And here's where things get complicated.  It was indeed the case that these twelve days were once festive in character, with the onset of Christmas having broken the fasting of Advent.  The observation of the Advent fast was itself more strict to some degree in the West than it currently is, where it isn't observed at all. Rather obviously, in the Eastern Church, it still is observed.  Adding to that, the twelve day festival in the dead of winter was no doubt heavily looked forward to by people in what would have been otherwise a dreary indoor seasons.  Note also that the twelve days incorporated New Years Day within it, which is a Holy Day of Obligation in the Eastern and the Latin Rites of the Catholic Church, so in terms of the liturgical year a season commencing on Christmas and ending on Epiphany makes a great deal of sense and it retains a bit of its festive nature even today.

What is missing, however, is a public ongoing celebration of the seasons, such as celebrated in the somewhat dreaded Christmas song, the Twelve Days of Christmas.  But that parties and whatnot occurred is in fact correct.  Indeed, the legendary concluding party in A Christmas Carol in which Fezziwig dances with his workers takes place on Twelth Night.

Fezziwig gets down at the Twelfth Night Party.

So all is lost, right?

Well, I don't know.

Frankly, I think the point has been pushed too far.

Indeed, the lamenting on how commercial Christmas has become is a modern Christmas tradition and hardly new to our age.  The great G. K. Chesterton, whom I genuinely admire, noted in the first half of the the last century:
The same sort of ironic injustice is applied to any old popular festival like Christmas. Moving step by step, in the majestic march of Progress, we have first vulgarised Christmas and then denounced it as vulgar. Christmas has become too commercial; so many of these thinkers would destroy the Christmas that has been spoiled, and preserve the commercialism that has spoiled it.
Sounds like a very modern commentary (although much of Chesterton's work has as disturbingly prophetic nature to it ).

Perhaps it seems to connected, however, as already by the early 20th Century the modern gift giving Christmas we are used to already existed.  And indeed, it did.

It's very clear that the practice of giving gifts on Christmas was well established well prior to 1900.  Probably the only real change in the past century isn't that, but rather the onset of a consumer culture has emphasized it, and that too goes back about a century.

 Shoppers checking out a Christmas display in 1915.

Consumerism has undoubtedly made ongoing inroads into Christmas.  Now many stores don't balance their books for the year until Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, which is called that as that's the day their accounts hopefully go into the "black" and out of the "red".  But that's being going on for awhile.

Granted.  It hasn't been going on to the same extent that it is now, and the ongoing relentless advance of consumeristic thought and behavior has impacted things.  But not just as to Christmas, but as to seemingly everything in western life.  As societies have become richer, and more accepting of consumer debt, this behavior has expanded everywhere in the west.

But that didn't lead to a demise in the society wide celebration of the Twelve Days of Christmas. That declined on its own.

And that it would decline in the US is not surprising.  In spite of the observation of the commenter, this would really have been a public observance in that fashion very early in the country's history, when it was mostly English.  The observation of Epiphany elsewhere amongst Europeans, and Middle Eastern Christians, would have been real, but of a different character.  And the fact that the United States was so early on home to a number of dissenting Protestant denominations would have at least made some inroads into what was basically an Anglican tradition.

And indeed, in the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church, the observations really continue on, but just not quite in the same fashion as imagined by a Twelve Days of Christmas, but then it never matched that description.

But, going back to the lack of twelve day long holiday, why additionally would that have occurred?  Well, we really have to accept that this is something that lasted no longer, in that form, than the early 19th Century.  And the disappearance of isn't too surprising.

First of all, once again, it's really an English holiday we're discussing.  And sort of rural English one at that.  By the early 19th Century that England was disappearing very rapidly in favor of the industrialized England that came on rapidly behind it. Even in Dicken's A Christmas Carol the change is manifestly noted, and in part the work laments that change. Scrooge can be seen not only a a miser, but the emblem of industrial England.  He wasn't celebrating a twelve day holiday and was limiting the time off of his employees to Christmas alone. Sound familiar?  Well, that's because that's largely what happened in industrial societies, with usually a single day or two around a major holiday, like Christmas, also included (Boxing Day remains a holiday in countries with large English influence).

And indeed, that was inevitable.  In a rural setting, a series of feasts lasting more than a week long is not difficult to create.  In an industrial setting, however, that's not the case.  Most modern urban workplaces can't idle for more than a few days before dire things begin to occur to them, no matter what they are.

And, as noted, in the United States this distinctly English spin on the season wasn't going to last.  As an Anglican observation, the mere presence right from the onset of competing denominations would impact that.  One of those traditions, Puritanism, was hostile to Christmas itself at its origin.  Once members of other faiths, such as Catholics, arrived, the nature of an English Anglican observation was going to diminish in any event.

 Family with their Christmas Tree, 1915.  The Christmas Tree is a German tradition, incorporated in the American holiday.  Presents can be seen near the tree.

None of that really means that the holiday has somehow become un-observed, however.  By late 19th Century it was already a holiday that varied by community, with elements of various cultures mixing their traditions.  The religious nature of the holiday, in spite of the sometimes declared belief that there's a "war on Christmas" continues on, even in a country that has some substantial non Christian populations.  Indeed, Christmas has been so pervasive that some observation of the season is generally acknowledged by some non Christians, if only in a muted secular fashion.

Yes, it does seem that the commercial nature of the season has expanded. But then the consumer nature of everything has.  That might have less to do with Christmas than we suppose, and more to do with a culture that's completely adopted a consumer mindset, which is a problem in its own right, but a distinct problem.

Anyhow, Merry Christmas. And enjoy Epiphany as well.

Mid Week at Work: Steam Hammer

Steam hammer in railyard facility.  Note the lack of hardhats and the old style soft caps that were so prevalent prior to the baseball cap dominating everything.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

When Sage Chickens Attack

Wound from a sage chicken, it wasn't quite dead, back during the season.  They have impressive feet.  It was almost gone, but kicked.  It was a bit bloody, so I didn't notice the blood or the wound, at first.

Given the blood, it infected.  That was easy enough to address, but it since has scarred.  Seems to be permanent.

Sort of like a dueling scar from days of old.  Except not as cool, which is okay as it isn't as visible.

Why am I posting this?  Clearing out my Iphone photos.

Wyoming Fact and Fiction: Indian Wars In The West

Wyoming Fact and Fiction: Indian Wars In The West: In 1825 President James Monroe, after looking at reports from his top advisors, created, what was called, the Indian Frontier between the M...

New hotels with elements of the old and new.

I've posted here in the past about old hotels, and how small their rooms were.  Here's a twist on that.

Single king bed room at the downtown J. W. Marriot in Houston, Texas.

These are photos of the room interior of the current JW Marriot in downtown Houston, which is a very nice hotel.  It's located in a building built in 1909, at which time the sixteen story structure was the tallest building in Texas.  It wasn't a hotel, however, it was an office building.  The solid steel frame building housed banks and offices in its early history.  It didn't become a hotel until last year, 2014.  It's a nice one, but a careful eye can tell that it wasn't built as a hotel.

Interior (back room) view.  The other views are no doubt much better.

The hotel is a very nice one, but what strikes me is how small the room noted above was.  It was a fine room, but very small, just like the early 20th Century hotels I've stayed in elsewhere are, except that this didn't become a hotel until 2014.

Ipad, taking the place of a hotel services book and phone in some ways.

Which isn't to say that it wasn't updated with modern conveniences.  It certainly was.  Included in these are, of course, the perfunctory television, which I rarely turn on in a hotel room, and an Ipad, which could be used to check the hotel's services, or order that your car be brought around, etc.

Interesting incorporation of the old and new in a renovation.

A move afoot to end tipping?

According to The New Republic, there's a move afoot in some significant East Coast restaurants to raise waiters' wages and ban tipping.

If so, that would would be quite a change.  It's apparently been tried once before, but waiters objected to it.

Interestingly, according to the article tipping originated in the United States as a means of paying freed blacks who had been slaves, and then found employment as waiters. low wages.

Monday, December 21, 2015

I'm sorry Dave. . . .

So what's a species anyway? New information on the Red Wolf.

Way back when I co-authored this article; 
Lex Anteinternet: Wolf Recovery Under the Endangered Species Act: A ...: From the Public Land Law Review: Wolf Recovery Under the Endangered Species Act:  A Study In Contemporary Federalism . An article I work...
I recall reading about Red Wolves.

The article is really on Gray Wolves, the same species people call Timber Wolves.  When researching it at the time I recall reading a fair amount of the literature of the species classification of wolves, and Gray Wolves were the big wolf group in North America, with there being in some people's minds a variety of subspecies of them. The local wolf was the Northern Rocky Mountain Gray Wolf, but that's really just a regular Gray Wolf. Some old literature maintained that there might have been a species they termed Buffalo Wolves, but the best evidence was that those wolves were just wolves that had grown large on buffalo carcasses, rather than some giant species of wolf that drug down buffalo, although some maintained the opposite.

Red Wolves, however, were thought by most to be a completely separate species.  Some, however, argued that they were just a coyote wolf hybrid.

Indeed, canines don't fit the classic species definition well, as it's pretty clear that they'll readily produce viable offspring, which according to Linnean classification rules means that they're all one species.  This seems ignored in regards to them, however, in no small part as various dogs have significantly different behaviors.  Coyotes, for example, don't hunt in ordered packs like wolves do.

Well, with DNA studies advancing to rapidly it was only a matter of time until a DNA study was done of Red Wolves. And it turns out they have no identifiable separate genetic information. They really are a coyote wolf hybrid.

They like each other better than coyotes, it turns out, so they keep on keeping on. But this is really pretty significant in terms of our understanding of species, let alone wolves. For one thing, it means that a person now has to either question whether Red Wolves deserve the endangered species characterization they now have, as they might not be a species at all, or perhaps it means we should reconsider the definition of a species.

Or perhaps it brings back the old argument about lumpers vs. splitters in species classification, which has always been with us. Are there lots of species in any one genus, or just a few?

I think just a few, quite frankly. 

Courthouses of the West: Lahaina Banyan Courthouse, Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii.

Courthouses of the West: Lahaina Banyan Courthouse, Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii.:

This is the Lahaina Banyan Courthouse in Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii. The courthouse was built in 1859 to replace a courthouse that had been destroyed in a typhoon the prior year.  The courthouse served the Kingdom of Hawaii until in U.S. annexation in 1898.  It was renovated, while still being used as a courthouse in 1925.  It is now a museum, visitors center and a community center.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

It'll turn around . . . or maybe it won't.

Just yesterday I was in a gathering where the price of oil and coal were discussed.  The rosy "it'll turn around" comments were absent from the insiders.  "Five to six years out" was the most optimistic comment.  And I think that comment is likely truly optimistic.  In today's paper there's an article about service industries that are struggling, and another one on the state's outmigration, something that was inevitable.

Interestingly, there was also an article about the last underground British coal mine closing, which occurred last week.  Prior to World War Two 1,000,000 British were employed in coal mining, now its fading away.  Britain, the article notes, still uses coal for about 1/5th of its power generation, but it is anticipated that this will end.

I've commented on this all before, but the best evidence is that we live in a new economic regime regarding energy and fuels.  Perhaps the beginning of a new era.

Part of that era is fuel efficiency, on the fuels we are using.  The new gasoline 3/4 ton trucks get 16 mpg in town and about 25 mpg on the highway.  A truck, that is.  My 2007 diesel, currently convalescing with a sick diesel particulate filter in the shop, gets 16 mpg to 20 mpg on the highway, which I always thought was good.

That may help explain why I saw diesel for sale in town yesterday for $2.13.

Lex Anteinternet: You can't do what you want

This was posted on Friday:
Lex Anteinternet: You can't do what you want: In the film Lawrence of Arabia, Sharif Ali and T. E. Lawrence exchange these lines: Ali:  A man can be what he wants, you said. Lawrence...
Heard yesterday, from a young member of the demographic being discussed; "I want to die rich on my own place".

He works as a hired hand.  Indeed, in that small gathering of young agriculturalist in this county, only three out of the five young men who wold be in that occupation were "on their own place", and they were family places.  One wasn't working in the field at all.

Sunday Morning Scence: Churches of the West: Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Roman Catholic Cathedral, Rapid City South Dakota

Saturday, December 19, 2015

The Best Post of the Week of December 13, 2015.

We like everything to be all natural. . . . except for us.

I recently posted here regarding people undergoing medical treatment to ostensibly change their gender.  Of course, as we can't actually change our DNA, the degree to which we really can change our gender is questionable.  What we're really doing is changing the perception of gender, not our genetic gender assignment.  And that lead me to think of this.

 Chilean couple, 1940, no doubt a lot more natural than "all natural" folks today, in every sense.

Blog Mirror: This Cat Calendar Is Making the Russian Orthodox Church Go Viral

This Cat Calendar Is Making the Russian Orthodox Church Go Viral 

You’ve probably never seen cats and the Russian Orthodox church so up close and cuddly together. A group of Christian enthusiasts has released a photo calendar where the 12 months of the upcoming year are illustrated with images of Orthodox priests posing with their cats. The “Priest + Cat” calendar published by Artos, an association of Christian artists, is aimed at promoting “modern Orthodox culture” in Russia.

Denver continues in a boom in the midst of an oilfield recession.

Everyone knows that the oilfield is in a recession, if not a depression. But Denver is still booming and housing prices there are through the roof.


Nobody is certain, but it appears that marijuana may be the reason.

And according to the New Republic, the boom in LoDo and HiDo is so marijuana centric that space for that industry has crowded out the arts scene that was booming down there.

"They're fighting over which religion is the most peaceful". No, they aren't.

I saw this as a caption of a cartoon, but even if you haven't seen the cartoon, it's a fairly common flippant comment.

It's also wholly incorrect.

The concept that a lot of wars are religiously motivated is a fairly erroneous concept in general.  Some are, but a lot of the ones people claim are, aren't. And the idea that all religions are fighting for "peace" is complete bunk, as not all religions espouse peace never do they contest each other for the title of most peaceful.

That's right, they don't.

Indeed, the entire concept of a religion of peace is pretty much uniquely Christian although some other religions do incorporate that to varying degrees.  Some of the ones that people believe do, quite oddly, don't have that in the form we imagine.  Peace as a central virtue is not necessarily incorporated into every religion the same way it is in Christianity.  

Buddhism?  Surely it's central virtue is peace, there's one, right?

Oh, you know of course that there were Japanese fighting Buddhist monks, Sōhei. They even ran schools on the use of their arms.  You know that, right?  That they killed people in that pursuit. 

Hmmmm. . . .

This isn't easy to make light of.  I don't know, for example, that we can compare them to Knights Templar, as they seem quite different indeed.

Islam has frequently been cited as a "religion of Peace" by non Muslims, and that has been picked up by some Muslims as well. But it certainly didn't originate that way.  Islam was spread by the sword for almost all of its early history, with Judaism and Christianity being tolerated in the lands they captured, at the price of paying a special tax for belonging to either of those faiths, and with other faiths faring less well.  Violence in the name of Islam has never left it.  This doesn't mean all Muslims are violent, but stating that its a "religion of Peace" requires some examination.

Some will maintain, of course, that there have been violent Christians. And there has been. But violence has never been a tenant of Christianity.  It has been of Islam and it doesn't do the faith justice to pretend otherwise.  

What's the point of this?  It's not a comment on any faith. But, the frequent claim that various faiths are fighting for the title of "most peaceful" are just flat out wrong.  I"m not aware of that ever happening.

Friday, December 18, 2015

We like everything to be all natural. . . . except for us.

I recently posted here regarding people undergoing medical treatment to ostensibly change their gender.  Of course, as we can't actually change our DNA, the degree to which we really can change our gender is questionable.  What we're really doing is changing the perception of gender, not our genetic gender assignment.  And that lead me to think of this.

 Chilean couple, 1940, no doubt a lot more natural than "all natural" folks today, in every sense.

In our world today, westerners (residents of Europe and North America) are huge on things being "all natural".  It's the rage, and it doesn't appear to be going away any time soon.  And I'm not really criticizing it, as my agrarian leanings make me sympathetic, when its done in the messy, bloody, muddy way of actual nature.  I'm not so sympathetic with the fanciful fake natural way that some who fear real nature would have it.

So, in this era of all natural, we have "natural" organic foods of all types.  Natural organic oatmeal (maybe even better if from Ireland and cut with steel), organic vegetables, grass fed beef.  You name it.

Indeed, entire sections of the European and North American populations are at war with any genetically altered foods of any kind, although it must be noted in fairness that nearly every food we eat was selectively bred that way so as to alter it from its original form, save for people who eat fairly primitive foods and hunt and fish.  Indeed, ironically for some of these folks, our meat sources tend to be much less genetically altered by selective breeding than our plant foods.  Cows, for example, differ little from aurochs.

Frequently satirical copied World War Two era poster.  Presenting an idealistic image, the mother and daughter in fact represent Americans who were a lot more "natural" than nearly any living today.

People have taken this one step further and now, in some hip circles, want their foods to be produced all locally.  Again, I'm not criticizing that.  I have some sympathy for it, being a fan of systems and realizing how odd some of our food production chain actually is.   I used to grow a big garden myself, and miss doing so, which sort of taps into this.

And we have all natural concerns expressing themselves in clothing.  I know of people who will only wear "all natural fibers".  Not liking synthetics much, I trend that way, although I do like the storm proof hoodies that are now out there, which make for great winter insulation.

Some folks, however, have gone even one step further there, and insist that their fibers, if plant derived, also be organic, out of an apparent concern for the environment.

All really big in Europe and North America, particularly with the upper class, the upper middle class, and the university crowd.

So why don't we apply it to ourselves?

It's really interesting.  We are now the least "natural" and "organic" we have ever been, and this includes a lot of people in the "all natural" and "organic" crowed.

If nature is good, shouldn't it be good for us too?  Why don't we go "organic"?

What do I mean, well consider this.

 This Tlingit couple is a lot more natural than darned near any modern American, and in part for reason that we hardly even consider.

Let's go back to the story that proceeds this one on this blog, which I reference above.  Nature determined  your gender.  The natural and organic thing to do is to go with that.  That's natural. Surgery and chemicals to change that aren't natural, they're unnatural and in-organic.

So too, I might add, is the ingestion of chemical compounds designed to interrupt the natural byproducts of those genders and their interactions, i.e., stop the creation or, as they actually will sometimes apparently do, stop the implanting of tiny human beings that come about when two big human beings of opposite genders become, well. . . ..  Indeed, it's becoming more and more evident that only is that not natural, but it's also dangerous for the women who take them.  I have to wonder if those pharmaceuticals were being introduced for the first time today, if they'd long last the resulting lawsuits that came about over some of those questions.  But, no matter, litigation isn't the point, nature is.  Messing with that is counter to nature, and most things we do with our bodies that are artificial have some sort of bad psychical or psychological result.

And on that particular topic, the psychology of this works the way it always has, creating a mess of people's lives who have otherwise defeated the natural, which then works to make all of our lives more messy and less natural.  And in terms of culture, the den of unnatural, Hollywood, doesn't even seemingly know what the purpose and results of two genders is, which is quite unnatural.  By extension, a lot of people in society today don't either.  Indeed, quite a few people have become confused enough about it that they now self identify based on their concept of their gender, which is really odd and not natural. That is, they don't identify by their culture, but by an attraction, which is not what nature would provide, no matter what their attraction.

Not to seem to leave men alone on the disruption of nature by physical or chemical means brought up above, having surgery to frustrate the same thing isn't very darned natural either.

Now, having surgery is something I'm not advocating against.  We've learned how to address many illnesses and defects surgically, and that's a great blessing.  No, what I'm talking about is surgery upon a healthy and functioning body. That is, to defeat the way the body is designed to work.  That's not in keeping with nature.

Cosmetic surgery sure isn't natural either, when looked at this way.  Or at least some of it isn't  I understand, and certainly do not oppose, surgery that is designed to fix a physical defect, no matter how derived, but surgery merely to make a nose look different, or worse to make certain attributes artificially bigger is extremely unnatural.  So is surgery to counter the effects of our appearance as we age.  We all age, and not looking like we are doesn't actually make us look any better as a rule, just artificial.

Diets (which is where this conversation started out) designed around a social construct aren't natural either.  So, vegans, you aren't natural.  Not that I'm saying that the American diet is 100% good for you.  I'm not. But what I am saying is that people who delude themselves into thinking that being a vegan, or a vegetarian, is a good thing for philosophical reasons are wildly off based.  You weren't designed by nature to be a cow.  And  your body knows that which means you'll have to do a lot of effort to defeat the fact that you are an omnivore, not a plant eating mammal.  That's just nature.

 Young farm couple in town, 1930s.  Yes, they're not hipsters. . . they they're a lot more natural that probably anyone reading this.