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A Remark on Jimmy Buffett

He was a smart businessman who made millions telling y'all it's okay to goof off all the time. 

That was my wife's observation, and I thought it was too funny to keep to myself. 

I mean no serious disparagement of Jimmy Buffett. I was oddly saddened when I heard of his death--oddly because I wasn't a great fan of his music, and never even heard much of it apart from the few songs that were played on the radio. 

Maybe it was because I loved "Margaritaville" when it appeared in 1977. My family vacationed on the Florida Panhandle coast when I was growing up, and I always had a sort of romantic relationship with that area. The crush had been dormant for some years, but "Margaritaville" caused it to flare up again. (I think it was the line about the flip-flop and the pop-top. And the shrimp.) It's a good song by any reasonable standard, and an awfully appealing vision of beach life without major responsibility, yet including that offhand serious movement from evasion to responsibility ("It's my own damn fault.")

I'd probably like more of his music if I heard it. The truth is that I was put off his work not long after "Margaritaville" was a hit. He played in Tuscaloosa, where I was living at the time, and I went to see him. It was the only concert I've ever left before it ended. Buffett seemed to be pandering to the dumb college audience, causing them to erupt in frantic cheering by saying the word "beer" or anything else to do with drinking. Or sex. I was hoping for something with more depth than simple-minded party music. The songs may actually have had that, but I didn't know them and of course couldn't hear the lyrics very well, and the atmosphere was brainless college party. (Isn't it sad that "dumb," "brainless," and "college" go so easily together?) It was disappointing and dull and I left early. I'm pretty sure his music, at least some of it, deserves better. "Margaritaville" itself is no shallow celebration of indulgence. 

A White Sport Coat And a Pink Crustacean remains one of my all-time favorite album titles, though as far as I remember I've never heard it. He was very good at that kind of wordplay, though the number of people who get that particular joke must be diminishing rapidly. 

Buffett grew up in Mobile and is thought of as a local  hero, but I have the impression that he didn't much reciprocate the sentiment, in part maybe because Mobile radio was not receptive to his music, especially in his early days. A few years ago I heard a snatch of one of his songs in which he complains about that. His family lived in the Mobile area called Spring Hill, the most affluent neighborhood in the city, and he went to the Catholic high school and reportedly was an altar server at the chapel of Spring Hill College, which in his day was the unofficial parish of the neighborhood. According to this article in Church Life Journal, "Catholicism left an indelible mark on his imagination":

O bless me father yes I have sinned
Given the chance I’ll prob’ly do it again

Yeah, I hear that. And the article continues, making a point similar to my wife's:

Once again there is a contradiction in the telling: in order to show that one can have a successful life by just having fun, Buffett commits himself to work hard...

He might be the world’s most famous beach bum, but he eschews excess in his personal life and is a driven, hands-on entrepreneur. 

You don't create the kind of empire that his Margaritaville restaurants and resorts became without being driven. I've never been to one (there's not one here), and probably wouldn't like it much if I did. But he gave a lot of relatively innocent pleasure to a lot of people, and our deteriorating popular culture is the worse for his loss. RIP.

Local lore says that the cover photo of this 1981 album, which I have never heard, was taken in Point Clear, up the road from where I currently live, which was, in Buffett's youth, where many affluent Mobile families had summer homes. It certainly looks like it could have been, apart from the phone booth. Piers like that are seen all along the shores of Mobile Bay, not at the Gulf.

BuffettCoconutTelegraph

Forty-five years after "Margaritaville," I live an hour away from the Gulf and don't go to the beach very often--once or twice a year, maybe--because of the traffic and the condominiums and the crowds. "Nobody goes there anymore, it's too crowded." When I do go, it's in late fall and winter, when it's still pretty nice. 


Prayers For the Young Priests

This past Easter I wrote about going to the Vigil at a small parish where the pastor is a young priest, and said this:

The young priests I've encountered in recent years are all similarly committed to the traditional mission of the Church, which makes them "conservative" in the confused mind of our time. And they are very brave. The orthodoxy is not surprising, because, as has been pointed out for decades, who would give up everything a priest has to give up for an ill-defined mission of which he is half ashamed? The bravery is almost true by definition now, because in the minds of many all priests are automatically suspected of child molestation and other crimes. And the accusation obviously gives a lot of pleasure to those who already hate the Church for other reasons. I certainly would have trouble walking around in public if I thought people were looking at me with that in mind. God give them strength. 

This has been much on my mind for the past week or so because of a situation in my diocese. I haven't seen it mentioned in the national news, but then I don't see that much national news, so perhaps it's out there. There are quite a few local and state news stories about it, but I think I'll refrain from linking to them, because I don't want to be even slightly responsible for it getting wider attention. It illustrates a different sort of difficulty and threat faced by young priests--any priests, really, but especially young ones.

I also won't mention the name of the priest involved. It isn't the one whose parish I attended at Easter, but they're about the same age. I'll call this one Father M (for Mackay). I don't know him personally but I heard him speak a year or so ago at my parish. Our then-assistant pastor, also a priest of around the same age, had organized a series of talks for men, and Father M was one of the speakers. It was a good talk. He was intelligent, articulate, and obviously passionate about the orthodox faith, about the need for committed spiritual combat against all the temptations and distractions that the contemporary world presents, about the need for courage and self-mastery.

But there was one thing that made me a little uneasy. Before I mention that, I'll speak generally: any young person with an intense commitment to anything runs the risk of either burning out, because the intensity can't be sustained over the long haul, especially in the face of life's typical disappointments, or of going off the rails in some way, passion overriding prudence and balance: out of gas, or crash and burn. Some young priests make me a little uneasy on this count. They are orthodox, often traditionalist, devoted, and intense, and I worry that they won't be able to keep their balance over a lifetime of ministry, and will come to a halt in one of those two ways. 

Where religion is concerned, the form taken by that second possibility--intensity that goes out of control in some way--is likely to be fanaticism, superstition, and other spiritual diseases. Father Ronald Knox devoted an entire book, Enthusiasm, to the syndrome as it has manifested itself since the beginning of the Church. (He means the word "enthusiasm" in a sense that's pretty much fallen out of use now, more or less equivalent to "fanaticism.") It can be difficult to tell the difference between intense healthy devotion and intense unhealthy fanaticism, but there is a difference. It's even more difficult, I suspect, to recognize it from the inside: to know how, in one's own interior life, to maintain the former without falling into the latter. (I wouldn't know; I don't have the kind of zeal and energy that puts me in that danger.) 

One particular danger for the very religiously committed seems to be excessive interest in signs and wonders, particularly those having to do with the workings of evil. As best I can tell from what's public knowledge, something like that seems to have happened to Fr. M, and to have led him into trouble.

As good as his talk at my parish was, some of it made me, as I said, a little uneasy. He was clearly intense, and that sparked my usual concern, that he would not be able to sustain it while keeping his balance. And he talked a lot about demons, prayers of deliverance, purging one's space of things that might carry evil influences, and so forth, and that made me concerned that he might be giving more attention to those things than is really healthy. I don't mean that I definitely concluded that that was the case; when I say "concerned" that's all I mean; I had that little warning-bell feeling. From what I hear, this interest--which, if not excessive, is clearly great--has been a strong tendency of his for some time. 

It seems to be at the root of the current situation--the current disaster, it's fair to say. Fr. M was often asked to speak to classes at the local Catholic high school, and his talks often were heavy on the topics I just mentioned. And he sometimes had counseling or spiritual guidance sessions with individual students. He was apparently pretty quick to blame the direct influence of Satan for their problems, which in my experience is a cause for concern. And he had gotten very interested in certain Marian apparitions, especially the one(s) in Garabandal, Spain, which as far as I can tell from a little reading about them are at best of dubious authenticity. Excessive interest in those is also, for me, a cause for concern. Again, I don't mean that these things are plainly misguided, only that I've seen and heard enough over the years to know that interest in them can become quite unhealthy.

Reportedly his talk of demons and exorcisms was enough to alarm some parents. Were they justified? Or did they, like many contemporary Christians, just want a tame faith? I don't know. 

Apparently he became very close with one female student. And a couple of weeks ago he and the girl, who had graduated in the spring, disappeared and were found to have  fled (the word seems reasonable) to Garabandal, for reasons that remain unclear. The archbishop immediately deprived Fr. M of his priestly faculties (which the local media keep incorrectly calling "defrocked"). The girl's parents are understandably very upset. When she and Fr. M were located, they both denied that they have a sexual relationship. But of course that's being met with "yeah right" by many or most people, and that's at least somewhat understandable--it certainly looks bad.

But I believe them. Based solely on my experience of his talk, I am quite willing to believe that it is not a physically sexual relationship, and that Fr. M did not "groom" the girl, as the irresponsible local sheriff is saying. However, I also think it's quite likely that it was and is sexual in the broad sense--i.e., that he is a handsome young man and she is a no doubt pretty young woman, and they developed romantic feelings for each other. Perhaps they didn't even really or fully recognize that it was happening. That's hardly an uncommon phenomenon. 

Anyway, this is obviously a disaster for all concerned. Is it even in principle possible for Fr. M ever to function as a priest again? Does he even want to? Would any bishop ever let him? What will this have done to the girl's spiritual life and general emotional health? Will she leave the Church? Will her parents? Will he? 

And somewhere out near the edge of the ripples generated by this splash am I, seeing what is probably the loss to the Church, and in a small way to me, of a gifted young priest. You don't have to believe that a demon whispered directly into Fr. M's ear to see that this is a victory for the arch-demon. At least for now. I pray every day for "all bishops, priests, deacons, seminarians, and religious." Especially the young ones.


I Really Don't Understand Halloween Mania

Not that there's anything wrong with Halloween. But the way some people plunge into it now strikes me as a little crazy. 

A couple of blocks away from my house there's a yard which features a werewolf sort of thing that must be eight feet tall. And a life-sized witch, and a few other things which I haven't gotten close enough to identify. At night there's a lot of spooky purple lighting.

This is not so very unusual. But what is unusual is that this display has been up for at least two weeks: i.e., it went up in mid-September. When I first saw it I had a moment of confusion about the date of Halloween: wait, Halloween is at the end of October, right? Is it at the beginning? Am I forgetting what month we're in now? By the time Halloween actually arrives, these props will have been in place for a month and a half. 

This seems to be a relatively new thing. I knew a family back in the '90s who went to a huge amount of trouble and expense to decorate their house for Halloween. As far as I recall that was the first time I ever encountered that kind of zeal. Since I grew up in the country I may have missed some of it, but I really don't think many people in the '60s or for the next decade or two went in for it with this kind of zeal. I don't remember it happening where I lived in the '80s but maybe I've just forgotten, or didn't pay attention.

In general Halloween seems to have become a major thing for a lot of people, which must surely have some social significance, but I don't know what it is.  


An Odd Little Incident in the Culture War

As I've surely mentioned before, the little town where I live has grown fashionable and affluent. And of course where there is fashion and affluence there progressives will be also. Which is ok, but as Justice Ginsburg said, there are certain populations that you don't want to have too many of. (I can't bring myself to use a smiley-face in a piece of writing meant to be at least somewhat serious, but yes, I do mean that in a mildly humorous way, and no, I do not wish to exterminate progressives. I just don't want them to rule the town in which I live.)

There is a Facebook group devoted to local news and general conversation. Happily, it mostly stays clear of controversy, though there are sometimes a few people who will insist on riding their particular hobby horse into any possible opening. The phenomenon of "Pride" Month, which weirdly groups advocacy for certain sins which don't appeal to most people beneath the umbrella of one to which we are all more or less deeply attached, produced a bit of that. There were one or two posts saying, more or less, "Yay Pride Month!" As far as I saw the only reactions they got was along the lines of "Yes! Yay Pride Month!" And I noticed with interest, but not surprise, that nearly all of these were from women, mostly young women. (I'm going by the profile photo thumbnails, and the names.) This is a feature of current aggressive progressivism that as far as I know has not been sufficiently remarked upon--sufficiently in relation to its significance, I mean, because it strikes me as quite significant, though I'm not sure exactly what it signifies.

Then a couple of weeks ago a "Yay Pride" post with a different slant appeared. This one, also from a young woman, was something like "Name the local businesses that you would like to see supporting Pride Month!", and was decorated, inevitably, with smiley-faces, rainbows, and such.

There were not many comments at that point: half a dozen or so comments in agreement, but this time there were some objectors, including the accurate but probably unhelpful "You need Jesus!" Apparently there were some people who agreed with me that this was a step too far: it's one thing to cheer for your team, another to demand that everyone cheer for it. I thought something along the lines of "More proof that woke progressivism is a religion." I considered saying something like that, and even clicked on the reply button and sat there for a minute or two trying to decide whether I wanted to wade in. Then I reloaded the page to see what new comments might have been added, and got a message saying "This content is no longer available." In other words, the post had been deleted. I have no way of knowing whether the author of the post deleted it, or the administrator of the group did. Either way, I was glad, because I thought it was a good sign that one or the other of them decided that it was inappropriate, and likely to start trouble. 

It's a small incident, but a couple of things about it struck me as significant. First, the moral confidence, or perhaps aggressiveness, exhibited by the original poster: she either saw her view as being so obviously right that it didn't occur to her that there was anything objectionable about urging people to join her campaign, or she knew many people would disagree and was deliberately challenging them. Either way, this was an example of the evangelizing zeal of the LG* movement. It was reminiscent of the story Rod Dreher got from Vaclav Havel and often refers to: the greengrocer in a Communist country who puts a "Workers of the world, unite!" sign in the window of his store, not because he believes it but to avoid hostile scrutiny.

Second, the reaction suggests a way for the evangelists and those who decline to join them to coexist. Consider the reception a Christian would get for posting "Christ is risen!" in a public group on Easter Sunday. Most likely only curmudgeons would object. (Actually I think this did happen, without controversy.) But it would be a different story if the Christian posted "Name the local businesses that you would like to see praising Jesus!" There's a hint of threat in that, even if unintended. It would make a non-Christian business owner feel uneasy, at minimum: are people going to avoid my business if I don't go along? 

In the current social climate, to perceive a threat from progressive activists requires no imagination, as the news is full of their attempts to punish people who disagree with them. This incident suggests to me that places like my town might be able to preserve the live-and-let-live attitude which is in fact the attitude of most Americans, left-wing rhetoric to the contrary. 


William Grant Still: "Out of the Silence"

I went to hear the Mobile Symphony Saturday night. It was a peculiar concert, and I'm not sure I would have gone if I'd realized how peculiar it would be. But they've had a very difficult year-plus, of course, and I wanted to support them. And although it was not the most exciting program conceivable, it included Dvorak's Serenade for Strings in E, which I like (and which I wrote about here), and which I knew I would enjoy hearing live. 

The peculiarity had to do with the fact that the concert was apparently planned before the pandemic restrictions had been mostly lifted. I think this picture, lifted from the orchestra's Facebook page, tells the story more effectively than I could.

SociallyDIstancedSymphony

When I walked in to take my seat in the otherwise empty center section of the balcony, and saw the sparsely populated stage, I just thought vaguely that most of the orchestra had not shown up yet. That would have been pretty strange, since it was only ten minutes or so before the concert was to start. Then it sank in on me that this it, this was all there was going to be. You might have to click on the picture to see that the musicians are masked. And "social distancing" was in force for the audience as well, though it didn't really matter because there were very few people in the audience. I'd guess a few hundred at most, scattered around a hall that seats almost 2,000.

As you can see, it's only the strings, and not quite all of them. Then I looked at the program and saw that it would only be a little under forty-five minutes long. Another thing that hadn't sunk in on me was that they are presenting it four times over the weekend, obviously in an effort to compensate for the extremely limited seating. 

But I enjoyed it anyway. The concert began with this little piece, which I regard as a real find. As far as I recall I'd never heard anything by William Grant Still before. If I'd heard it without knowing who the composer was I'd have guessed Delius. The strings were joined for it by a piano and a single flute.

In addition to the Dvorak, there was a Mendelssohn sinfonia for strings, a light and pretty early work which was enjoyable enough but which I'm not likely to seek out again.


Time For Me to Read The Moviegoer Again

Rod Dreher quoted this, in a post about celebrity:

Nowadays when a person lives somewhere, in a neighborhood, the place is not certified for him. More than likely he will live there sadly and the emptiness which is inside him will expand until it evacuates the entire neighborhood. But if he sees a movie which shows his very neighborhood, it becomes possible for him to live, for a time at least, as a person who is Somewhere and not Anywhere.

A few days ago I was watching the movie Alabama Moon with my wife. I don't especially recommend it, at least not for grownups. Some children may like it, and in fact that's why we were watching it--the DVD was part of a big gift basket my wife had bought at our parish's Christmas bazaar, and we wondered if our grandchildren might like it. (Verdict: very doubtful, as there are no spacecraft, superheroes, or battles in it.)

I had a vague notion that some parts of the movie might have been filmed where I live. Several locations did look familiar. Then came a scene set in a hospital, and I was almost sure that it must have been filmed in the local hospital (labeled, for purposes of the story, Tuscaloosa General, which I think does not exist, as if you care). This gave me a completely absurd moment of elation. And later, when I looked for information online and found out that it was mostly filmed in Louisiana and so the hospital was probably not ours, I felt an equally absurd moment of letdown. 

It's still possible that the hospital scene was filmed here. The film credits thank Fairhope along with Covington, Louisiana. And it really looked like Thomas Hospital. But of course I don't really care. 


"Good morning. It's 8:05 in the cone."

I'm told that a local radio host introduced his show that way yesterday. He's referring to the cone on hurricane tracking maps. As of this morning the cone for Hurricane Zeta is narrow and we are not actually in it, according to NOAA. We're in the blue area. If the storm actually follows that track, it won't be a big deal for us. There'll be a strong south wind which maybe will straighten some of those trees bent over by the north winds of Hurricane Sally.

HurricaneZeta
We are really sick of this. This is the fourth time this year that we've been in the cone. Only Sally really affected us, and that was as close to a direct hit as we've had since I moved here in 1992. Thousands of trees were knocked down, and a good number of those fell on power lines. We've never had such an extended power outage--six days, I think. But it could have been a lot worse, as it was only a middling sort of storm as hurricanes go. 

Here's the view looking up the street from in front of my house the morning after Sally.

MyStreeAfterHurricaneSallyAt the middle of that pile is a pine tree about 18 inches in diameter. I'd guess that pines accounted for at least 3/4 of the downed trees. Streets and roads are still lined with piles of debris. I saw an estimate that there's something on the order of a million tons of it. My yard still looks like one of those morning-after battlefield pictures. 


Written In Sand

This was taken from a room in a motel at Gulf Shores over the Thanksgiving weekend. It struck me as very poignant. Where will Mike, Angie, Logan, and Blake be ten years or more from now? Will they remember each other? Will they remember Thanksgiving 2019? And where will I be? Possibly not in this world.

This message was well above the waterline, but would have been blown away, or mostly blown away, by now, as we've had some windy days since then. WrittenInSand


Yes, We Have Bananas

GreenBananasMany years ago, thirty-five or so, my father somehow or other obtained a little banana tree, which he planted in a wooden tub maybe two feet in diameter. This was in north Alabama, where the winter temperatures drop below freezing quite often, so he couldn't leave it outside or plant it permanently. So every fall he would drag the tub, which was quite heavy, into the basement, and in the spring drag it out again. It never grew more than a few feet tall, but it survived. 

About twenty years ago my wife brought a shoot from that plant down to our home 350 miles further south, where freezing temperatures are much less frequent. She planted it (maybe I helped, but I hesitate to claim that.) It has survived and to some degree thrived; it's now a clump of half a dozen or so trunks which by the end of the summer are ten feet tall. Most winters have at least one hard freeze that kills them back to the ground, but they always come back. Last year we really didn't have a serious freeze. Now for the first time it's bearing real fruit. We've had a few little ones before but they never got this big. 


Blue Heron Feeding

Sometimes I forget that the group of people who read this blog and the group who see what I put on Facebook overlap but are not identical. I posted this on Facebook one day last week, so some of you have seen it. Here it is for those who have not.

I was sitting in my portable chair working by the bay one day a couple of weeks ago when this heron landed nearby. That's a bit unusual, so I took out my phone and started recording, mainly for the benefit of my local grandsons, who have seen these birds but not so close. I wish I had zoomed in before the bird caught the first fish. Probably someone who knows something about video could bring out more detail in the bird, which is mostly in shadow. But I decided not to let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

 


The Jewish Cardinal

As I've often lamented, the little town where I live has gotten all uppity and is overrun with rich people, many of whom are artsy, which is sometimes almost as bad as uppity. But there are benefits, too, and one of them is that there is now a Fairhope Film Festival.

It ran Friday through Sunday of this past weekend. My wife and I considered trying to catch several of the films, but there was really too much else going on. So we picked one that looked particularly interesting: The Jewish Cardinal, a French movie about Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger, whom you may remember as something of a protege of John Paul II. Born Jewish, he became a Catholic in 1940 at the age of 14, a priest in 1928, and archbishop of Orleans in 1979, quite early in the papacy of John Paul II.

The film covers almost exclusively a period of a bit less than ten years, from his consecration at Orleans until sometime toward the end of the 1980s. It focuses on his relationship with the pope, and on his role in the controversy surrounding the establishment of a Carmelite convent at Auschwitz. As you no doubt remember if you're old enough, that was quite a bitter controversy. I didn't follow it very closely, but I know that Jews objected very strongly to it, and Christians objected to their objection.

If the film is accurate, Lustiger was very involved, was deeply affected, and found himself at odds with John Paul. I don't know enough to say whether it is accurate, but I can say that taken on its own terms it's an excellent piece of work, very well produced and acted. See it if you get a chance.

Here's the trailer:

 

As we left the auditorium in the library where the movie was shown, I told my wife that next year we'll take Friday off work and spend the whole weekend going to movies.


Alas for me! For I have beheld the crawling chaos Nyarlathotep, which dwelt in the red cooler in the kitchen. Full many and many a dark aeon, even since the Fourth of July, had it brooded in darkness, forgotten of men and nurturing the impious vengeance merited by that forgetting, and gathered unto itself certain unhallowed vermin of the lower air, which whispered foully to it of what it might become. And in the end it was that blasphemous thing of which the sly and ill-favoured merchants who embarked from the black galleons in the port of Dylath-Leen to trade in rubies of doubtful origin would speak only in whispers.  And when it had been carried into the uttermost reaches of Y'ard, and, emerging from the cooler, slid loathsomely over the withered and unwholesome vegetation, none there was who could say what that thing once had been but I, who cast it out, and am the same who beheld it and knew it for what it was. And I fear that the shadow of that unholy vision will never depart from me, nor the stench ever fade entirely from the red cooler.

--from "The Forgotten Watermelon of Ga-Yfer", by Dunwich Arkham


That's What I Like About the South

On my commute to work on the western side of Mobile, I have a choice of going through the older part of town or taking I-10 and I-65 around it. My extensive research shows that the route through town, though shorter in distance, takes an average of five minutes longer. So since I'm usually late, I usually take the interstate. But I prefer to go through town, and this church sign is always one of the nice things about that route. Right now this is what it says on the east-facing on-the-way-to-work side:

GraceAndTruth

And on the west-facing going-home side it says this:
CastThyBurden

Which is a good after-work message.

The sign seems to be associated with the church you can see in the first picture, Providence Baptist, but is actually in the yard of a little house next door to the church itself. I've always supposed that must be the "parsonage"--the pastor's residence; the term seems rather quaint. A year or so the sign said, for a few weeks, "FIFTY YEARS OF PREACHING THE GOSPEL ON DAUPHIN ST." But the house doesn't look inhabited, though the church seems to be still active. I guess the pastor lives in a larger house in a subdivision.

A month or two back the sign went blank, and I wondered if perhaps the old pastor had died, and the church was going to close. Or if neighbors who thought the sign unsightly (which one must admit it is) had managed to get the city to force its removal. But after a few weeks the messages reappeared. I wonder about that chain-link fence surrounding it: did they have a vandalism problem? If so that fence wouldn't stop any but the very casual attacker.

I think of this as a southern thing but I suppose it's fairly common elsewhere.


Why Do They Keep Doing It?

The Bankhead Tunnel is one of the two tunnels under the Mobile River in Mobile. It was built in the late 1930s and the entrance is not high enough to accomodate today's big trucks. There is an elaborate warning system telling truck drivers not to attempt the entrance. Yet they regularly try it, and the truck gets stuck, and the tunnel is blocked for hours. This one happened last week:TruckStuckinBankheadTunnel

Click here to read the news story. I'd guess these incidents happen on average once a year or so ("a lot more often than it should," sighs someone from the Alabama Department of Transportation). But there was another one last night, though I can't find a good picture of it online yet. And last August there was this one:TruckStuckinBankheadTunnelAug2012

I suppose each one of these represents an out-of-work truck driver. A pretty incompetent one, anyway. One driver said his GPS told him it was okay, so he ignored the warnings.


Lemons and Satsumas

It's citrus harvest time here. And these are our very own trees. Meyer lemon (a larger and mellower lemon):

OurLemons

And satsuma:

OurSatsumas

I've written before about the glory of the satsuma. I was going to say it was a couple of years ago but I see it was three. This is the tree I mentioned in that post, or one of them. The other didn't make it through an exceptionally dry summer, and, I regret to say, negligence on my part. This is the first year it's borne fruit, and I hope the first of many. The leaves of the satsuma are actually closer, quite close, to the color of the lemon's. I took the lemon picture with a small Nikon point-and-shoot camera, my wife took the satsuma one with her iPhone. Interesting. No doubt the general lighting was different, too. 

I should take a picture of the whole lemon tree. It's all as densely fruited as this shot indicates. We've given away a couple of grocery bags full of them and the tree is still loaded. 


Another Note on the End of the Newspaper Era

As we were discussing a week or so ago, the Sunday September 30 edition of the Mobile Press-Register was the last daily edition of the paper, presumably forever. In it, Frances Coleman, who had been the editorial page editor for many years, and is one of the people who will not have a job in the new state-wide organization, published this final column, and I'm a little surprised that the new powers printed it. It isn't so much a lament for the changes, the technological and social obsolescence of the old ways of doing things, and so forth, as for a whole way of approaching journalism, independent of its medium. It's quietly incendiary--read it and you'll see what I mean. 

Like almost everyone who has definite opinions about politics, in particular those whose opinions are on the conservative side, I complain a lot about the news media. But the complaint is about their malpractice, their failure to fulfill their own mission of informing the public as fully and fairly as possible. In a society where the people have the last word, that's an essential function. We're moving back into a situation like that ca 1900, when newspapers were openly partisan. And maybe that's ok; maybe it's even better, in a way, because it encourages a certain skepticism about all of them. But the pretense of fairness remains, even when the product resembles Pravda, and is the occasion for quite unjustiable self-congratulation by many journalists, and that's pretty annoying. 


"End of an Era" Is Such A Cliche

But sometimes it's applicable. As of Monday, there will no longer be a daily newspaper in Mobile. I'll miss it, though it's been in very visible decline for several years, seeming to shrink in size and in depth of coverage almost from one day to the next.

When I moved to Mobile in 1990, the paper came out in slightly different morning and evening versions. And it was a pretty terrible paper. Then sometime around the mid-1990s new management came in, and it went from being the worst major newspaper in Alabama to being the best. The company made a huge investment in a new facility, including a press that cost a jillion dollars, and I think did very well for a while. Then the effects of the Internet began to take their toll. I think at this point the routine of reading a daily newspaper is something that's associated with "older," if not just plain old, people. Like me. 

There are those with knowledge of the industry and of this paper in particular who say the fundamental problem was mismanagement. I don't know about that, but I'm going to miss it. I think almost as much as I'll miss reading it I'll miss the sense of continuity, of participating in something that has been a feature of American life for over a hundred and fifty years. As a person of conservative temperament it saddens me to see traditions like this fade away.


The Archivist's Lot

I mentioned the other day that my wife is the archivist for the local archdiocese. She tells me that she spent the entire day today trying to find out what color the eyes of someone who died in 1921 were. The person was Fr. James Coyle, and someone wants to have a portrait of him painted, but all they have to work from is a few black-and-white photos. And if there is anyone still living who saw him while he was alive, he or she would have to be over 90, and would have been only a child at the time.

Want to take a guess at the color of his eyes?

Jamesecoyleandmarcellajpg-70004050b0c32c6e_large
Fr. Coyle and his sister, Marcella

In the archiving business, people like my wife, who are the sole person in charge of the archive, are referred to as Lone Arrangers.


Wife gets her name in the paper

For the help she provided to someone writing a history of the Mobile Archdiocese. Only a brief mention, but no mention at all would have been very unjust:

Noland called Mobile's Catholic archives "absolutely wonderful," and praised the archivist, Karen Horton.

As well he might. She downplays her contribution, but I'm pretty sure it was essential. I know she certainly spent a huge amount of time on it, digging up the raw material that Dr. Nolan (the name is misspelled in the story) turned into a book, and doing a lot of the computer-related work.

 


Southern Living

What do you do when you see an alligator? You try to catch it, of course. And if you succeed, and the alligator is not too big, what do you do? You take it home and try to put it in a swimming pool, of course. But sometimes these rural idylls don't work out as they were envisioned. Read the whole story. It even has a moral.


That Big Ol' Moon

The "super-moon" stuff from last weekend--a full moon at the moon's closest approach of the year (or for some number of years, I think)--was a little overdone, with many pictures of the moon looking truly enormous. But if you actually looked at the actual moon, you saw it looking pretty much like it always does when it's full. That doesn't mean it wasn't beautiful, though. My wife took this with her iPhone, from the parking lot of Ed's Seafood on the Mobile Bay Causeway. Pretty nice for a phone camera.

KarensBigMoonPicture2

Well, okay, the super-moon stuff was a lot overdone. Those pictures that show it looking so big were probably taken when it was rising or setting, then cropped so the moon fills up more of the frame. As everyone who's ever watched it knows, the moon (and sun) look bigger near the horizon (and also reddish-orange instead of white).


Sunday Night Journal — May 6, 2012

Images and Sounds

I haven't posted any pictures here (my own pictures, that is) for a while. The reason is partly that I haven't been taking very many, and partly that I haven't sorted through the ones I have taken over the past months. And the reason for both those things is lack of time.

And if you're a very regular and attentive reader of this blog, and also have a very good memory, you might remember that sometime last year I posted a couple of videos (nothing elaborate, just things captured with the video setting on my camera), and that I mentioned that I was also planning to post a video taken during Tropical Storm Ida, which I believe was in 2009.

So I decided this afternoon that instead of writing I would spend some time selecting and beautifying some nice images from my past six months or so of pictures, and also post that tropical storm video. Well, as is often the way with computers, I ran into unexpected technical problems with the video, which I won't bore you with, and then was pretty much out of time. But here are a few pictures, starting with a still from Tropical Storm Ida.

TropicalStormIda

One of those strange spider webs on the ground in the woods, that you only see when the dew is heavy:

Web

One of many pictures I've taken of these dead trees in the bay. They were probably cypresses. I don't expect them to be standing that much longer--the next hurricane will probably knock them down. This was taken last October.

TreeReflection

A heron in morning fog, December 31 2011:

HeronInMist

And, from the same morning: I don't know why I took this, and it's entirely possible that it was an accident, but I for some reason I really love it:

TreetopFog

And also: a couple of years ago my wife gave me for my birthday a little hand-held sound recorder. Sometimes I use it to record little notes to myself, usually about something I'm writing, while I'm on the way to or from work. I've also played around with recording natural sounds with it, and I did that one night a couple of weeks ago when I was taking my nightly walk to the bay with the dogs. There is a little creek that empties out into the bay, and up in that creek a bit there are a lot of reeds or rushes which provide homes for frogs. (It's the mouth of that creek which reflects the trees in the picture above--it moves around and changes shape all the time.) And there are woods all around. For some years now we've had very few lightning bugs--"fireflies" to most of the world, and I think that's a nicer word, but it feels slightly pretentious for me to say it, because I grew up saying "lightning bugs." But this year there have been quite a lot. I was standing about halfway between the bay and the reeds with the recorder going, and the woods beyond the reeds were full of those sweet cool flashes of light from the lightning bugs. You can hear tree frogs, an occasional bigger frog, and insects, but mostly the waves. At some points you can hear the traffic from up on Section Street, several hundred yards away. I'm sorry you can't see the lightning bugs.

 SpringNightAtTheBayApril2012-2

 


The Tuscaloosa Tornadoes

Hmm, sounds a bit like the name of a rock band.... But no: Friday will be the first anniversary of the devastating (to put it mildly) tornadoes that hit northern Alabama last year. An old friend of mine, one of a number of people who came to Tuscaloosa for college in the late 1960s and never left, was in a neighborhood that took a direct hit from the one that destroyed a big part of the city. She lived to tell the tale, and has recently put it online here. It's pretty long, too long for me to read in one stretch, but only the first quarter or so of it deals with the day of the storm itself, while the rest describes the aftermath.


"There's been a lot of whiskey drunk to that song"

An interesting profile of an interesting fellow in the local paper: Eldon Bryson, who has been repairing stringed instruments for many years. He's a country guy who learned the trade on his own over many years, and now orchestral players with instruments that cost in the tens of thousands of dollars trust him to take care of them. Click here to read the story, which also includes this video:

I've been in that workshop. Mr. Bryson worked on my violin-playing son's expensive instrument, and my guitar-playing son's old Fender Mustang (one of Fender's cheaper guitars). There was a big old Fender amp in the corner when I was there.


Sunday Night Journal — July 10, 2005

You Can’t, In Fact, Always Get What You Want (Waiting for Dennis)

This is a Sunday Morning Journal. By Sunday night it’s very unlikely that I’ll have electricity, which means I won’t have Internet access. It’s possible that I won’t have a home, at least not one that is habitable without major repairs. We are waiting for Hurricane Dennis, a vicious storm, frightening not only in itself but because there has never been a storm so bad this early in the season.

Being a hundred yards from Mobile Bay, our house is vulnerable to wind, water, and falling tree damage in a hurricane. At the moment the last of these seems the most likely. As a tree lover I had never wished for fewer trees until last year when Hurricane Ivan poked a hole in our roof. I wish now I had taken the trouble and expense to have some of the trees around the house trimmed or removed. Now I can only wait. The newer suburbs, big open tracts that used to be fields or orchards but now have no trees more than twenty or thirty feet tall, suddenly look secure and desirable.

We don’t have much of a house. In a situation where we could not afford both house and location we favored—“privileged,” to use the currently popular jargon—location. The house is just a couple of steps above a trailer—small, pre-fab, low-ceilinged, built in the mid-70s, rather flimsily for its time but I’m told not so badly by current standards. I can’t say I’ve ever been fond of the house for its own sake, but it’s full of things that I value, and besides I want my grandchildren to be able to know the place where their parents spent at least part of their childhoods (we moved here in 1992). Now, like George Bailey, I’m singing a different tune and trying to strike bargains with God, just like a million or so people along this stretch of Florida, Alabama, and Mississippi coastline. One thing’s for sure: we aren’t all going to get what we’re asking for.

Tuesday Afternoon Update

We were spared this time. The storm weakened considerably and went further east than intially predicted. Mindful of the ethical and theological problems raised by the fact that the storm hit someone else instead (see this item from last summer), I emphasize the sudden reduction in strength which made Dennis considerably less destructive than it might have been. My wife points out that this was the Psalm from yesterday’s Mass:

Then would the waters have engulfed us, and torrent gone over us; over our heads would have been swept the raging waters. Blessed be the Lord, who did not give us a prey to their teeth!

Our help is in the name of the Lord.

Our life, like a bird, has escaped from the snare of the fowler. Indeed the snare has been broken and we have escaped. Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.

Our help is in the name of the Lord.