Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Some people I just can't understand... Bradley Manning, and the people who think he's a hero.
Bradley Manning, for those of you non-news junkies out there, is a U.S. Army private who stole a billion top-secret classified documents and gave them to Julian Assange of Wikileaks notoriety. The documents contained sensitive State department memos, negotiations, confidential conversations with our allies, etc. There's a good chance people all over the world could be imprisoned or killed as a result of Manning's actions. There's an absolute certainty that other governments will be less likely to trust our own. Imagine that some jerk stole all your personal information and posted them all online, so the world could see your credit card debt, your Christmas list, and your personal correspondence. That's pretty much what Bradley Manning did to the United States of America. 
And that, according to some people, makes him a hero. Just read the comments here. Here's some samples, if you got the stomach for it: 
  • Good luck Bradley, the free world is thinking of you 
...yes. And weeping. The unfree world, on the other hand, is laughing.
  •  It is a shame how the US government is allowing a hero who helped support his fellow troops, by bringing info to light in order to aid in the cessation of continued military aggression abroad. 
...Ever notice how the military aggression of North Korea or Iran never seem to bother these people?
  • the real criminals involved are getting away with much worse crimes while those brave souls sharing the truth end up rotting in jail like this.
...Oh yes, he's the true brave soul, rotting in jail. I wonder if these people give a hoot about actual normal soldiers in combat. Charging a machine gun nest...protecting civilians from terrorists...pfft! That's nothing compared to giving classified documents to a Swedish blogger. Or how about those brave souls rotting in jail in Cuba, North Korea, China, Burma, Vietnam and a dozen other totalitarian countries? Have the same sympathy for them?
  • My heart goes out to this poor young man. I fear part of what they are doing is using this treatment to break him down and get him to testify against Julian Assange. Lord knows what they'll do after they're finished with him.
...Hmm. I don't know. A hundred years ago he would have been shot for treason. More likely he'll spend the rest of his life in Leavenworth - and good riddance.
  • Shame on the USA. Shame, shame, shame. 
...Yes. Shame. How dare we punish traitors.

And my personal favorite:
  • Bradley Manning is the role model I want my son to follow.
Makes you feel sorry for her son, doesn't it? Imagine the conversation:
"What do you want to be when you grow up, Lil'Fidel?
"I want to be a soldier!"
"No, no, Fidel! That would be serving the imperial war machine! Unless you join solely to steal classified documents and betray your country! Like Benedict Arnold! And Daniel Ellsberg! And Bradley Manning!"
"But mommy...I thought those were bad guys!"
"No, no! They're heroes! Unlike all the other unthinking drones in the Armed Forces with their puerile ideas of honor and duty! These guys marched to a different drummer?"
"But mommy...didn't Benedict Arnold betray his fellow soldiers for money? Didn't Daniel Ellsberg's actions help the North Vietnamese Communists, and set of a chain of events which ended with the enslavement and exile of thousands of Vietnamese, and the massacre of millions of Cambodians?"
"Shut up and eat your granola."

Or let's take another approach - what if all these maroons who laud Manning as a Wagnerian Superman had their own personal information exposed to the world? Hmm. Poetic justice.

What's really sad, of course, is that this isn't a conservative-vs.-liberal issue - or at least it shouldn't be. It's a right-wrong issue. Bradley Manning swore an oath, and broke it. He's a liar. But apparently that means nothing to these people. They hate the U.S. so deeply that all other moral considerations fly out the window.

Meh. Enough. This stuff makes my head hurt. 

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


It may be a few days late, but I can't let "wintertime" season go by without showing this little Glenn Beck gem: 
Come on, you gotta love it a video that has a snowman singing "Screw you, ACLU..." 
That triggers a thought - would it really be so bad if the ACLU never existed? Has it done any good in the world? I don't think so - but then I actually like the boy scouts. 

Ya learn something new every day

For example - did you know that Charlotte's Web was originally written as a critique of the United Nations
I knew there was a reason I liked this book :) 

On blog stats, Dostoevsky, Mark Shea (again, sigh) and my brand new novel

It's a sad fact that just when I was really serious about being a good, consistent blogger, another huge responsibility came into my life - namely, writing a novel for Catholic teenagers. Now that that is done, I find myself in an unusual quandary. I have free time. For the first time in twelve months, I have free time. I can blog again - but about what? And who will be listening? Ah, well, such is life.
In musing on this problem, I took a look at my blog stats and found some surprises. For example, I had 25 page views from...Russia? And 15 from...the Netherlands? Wondering why. Maybe the Russkies came for this post, but I can't imagine what I wrote that drew the Danes....
Speaking of Russians - I just finished reading the Brothers Karamazov for the third time. What a magnificent novel. Long, though. May I make a suggestion if you've tried reading it and failed? Try listening to it instead. You can get an audio version for free from here, read by volunteers (if you got an iPhone, download the free audiobooks app. One insight I've had about Dostoevsky is that the power of his novels comes from those long, rambling conversations - and when you actually hear the conversations, not read them, their power increases tenfold. I was brought to tears several times.
But back to the stats - interestingly enough, I found that some people came to my blog by searching for keywords "mark shea is vicious" and "mark shea is a bully". Obviously they got to my posts here and here - and even more interestingly, this post seems to be my all time greatest hit - bigger even than my screed against the ghostly evil glop. Now, I find this kinda troubling. I never intended my blog to become some kind of "I hate Mark Shea central". Although I do hate Mark Shea. No, I don't. You know, I recently met Mark Shea, briefly, and it was an exceedingly awkward experience. I mean, what do you say to a guy that you've blasted on the internet? It's just...awkward.
Anyway, I intend to post more frequently now. You've been warned. It's enjoyable to write casually again. Writing a novel is no fun at all - speaking of which, this novel is awesome. Seriously, you should read it once it comes out - and to prepare, you should buy and read books I and II as soon as you can. I'm actually doing you a favor here. It's not like these are weighty, ponderous tomes - they're fun, light reads with a compelling story. They're funny and interesting - a pleasure to read. Come on, dude. Take the plunge and buy them! Book III, on the other hand, is a little less light - because (semi-spoiler alert) some darkness comes in at the end of Book II. Book III deals with grief and loss, and doubt. It deals with temptation, and growing up, and how friendships can blossom or wither. It also deals with murder, mayhem, and (oddly enough) Catholics vs. Protestants. In other words, it's friggin' awesome. Can't wait for the day when I can tell you the release date (or the title, which will NOT be "Protestant for the Summer.")
See you soon.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Reflections on "Scrooge" and "Grinch"

Merry Christmas everyone! If you've noticed the length of this post, you may have guessed what has happened...I'm done my book! That's right! John Paul 2 High Book 3 is finally finished! 
Ah....I'm still reveling in this fact, rolling around in it like a...well, the only metaphor I can think of isn't appropriate either to a family blog or to the festive season, but hopefully you catch my drift. And in celebration of this happy event, I am sitting here at Starbucks. I waltzed right in here, wished the cashier a Merry Christmas, and asked for a cup of tea. What kind? she asked. The most Christmassy kind you have, I answered jauntily.. And she gave me...Tazo Joy. It's not bad. It's kinda Christmassy. It would have been more Christmassy if Starbucks had a liquor license, but whatever. 
So...what's this Christmas Eve post about? About two stories that, for good or for ill, have come to encapsulate the Christmas Season: A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, and How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss. (Useful link note: you can read the first online here; the second, of course, is still copyrighted.) 
These two stories share many similarities. Both are not overtly religious. This, paradoxically, adds to their power. The salvation story sneaks up on you, like a thief in the night, like Marley's Ghost or like that stubborn Christmas star that, despite old Greeny's efforts, "came! Somehow or other, it came just the same!" 
Both stories have the same theme - of a damned soul that is saved through mercy and grace. Both Scrooge and the Grinch are unabashedly evil at the start of the story - both are restored to childlike innocence by the end. Scrooge transforms from "a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner" to to "as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world." The Grinch transforms from a thing that doesn't have his head screwed on just right, with shoes too tight, and with a heart two sizes too small, to the bringer of Christmas, "blowing pooh-pooh on his trumpet" and carving the "roast beast". 
Even when the two stories differ, they differ in remarkably parallel ways. Think about it. Scrooge is evil in a passive way - Grinchy is evil in an active way. Scrooge is sunk into himself, "secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster," caring for no one and cared for by no one except his saintlike nephew. The Grinch, on the other hand, isn't content with not keeping Christmas himself - he goes out of his way to ruin it for everyone else. 
Their salvation, conversely, is precisely the opposite - Scrooge is saved by the active invasion of the four spirits (Marley, Past, Present and Future) who, in rude and hilarious fashion blast into his cramped little world and pry open his heart. The Grinch, on the other hand, is the invader - and is saved by beholding the unbroken joy and love of the Who's. He can't steal Christmas from them - and that makes him realize that Christmas is something more than annoying "noise" and "singing" - but something "a little bit more." Suess doesn't spell out exactly what Christmas is. But he doesn't need to. We all know. 
Saved Scrooge becomes an active participant of Christmas - Saved Grinch becomes an active recipient.  Both hearts are opened, but in precisely opposite ways. 
But I'm getting off the subject - or rather, I'm straying from my original idea. What struck me first about these two grumpy old codgers were their names. As I can attest, having just finished my second novel, coming up with names - really memorable names - is one of the trickiest things in the world. A really good name is hard to find and nearly impossible to generate by grunt work - and grunt work is 99% of writing. In other words, you can't just come up with a name - at least I can't. It has to come to you. It's pure inspiration. 
Well, Dickens and Seuss were both touched with inspiration when they got the names scrooge and grinch. Think about it. Both words tell a story just by the spelling and prununciation. What better name for a coldhearted old jerk than scrooge? What better monikor for a green-furred old grump who burgles tinsel, toys and groceries than grinch? 
Both words are easy to say, but unpleasant to hear - a fitting characteristic for the vices they represent. Scrooginess and Grinchiness are horribly easy to fall into - their hellish spirit can sneak up on you - either by misguided political correctness ("happy holidays", anyone) or by a misguided prudence ("Christmas is too commercialized!" is too close to the "Are there no prisons" spirit for my taste.) We must fight against them, every year. 
One final note before I sign off to enjoy my Christmas Eve - how many people out there have actually read "A Christmas Carol?" Too few, I'll warrant. You should. It's a delight. You can read it online, of course, but if you, like me, have too little time for such things, I would highly recomend that you purchase it in audiobook form. There's an excellent rendering of the old tale available on iTunes, read by none other than Jim Dale (the same guy who does the Harry Potter audiobooks). Costs $14.95 and worth every penny. Download it and listen while you're wrapping presents, doing last-minute shopping, or cooking dinner. 

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night! God bless us, every one! Enjoy your roast beast!