31 December 2008

One of The Lesser Bowl Games


N.B. Hustisford is my home town, though I haven't lived there since I was 21. Once a cheesehead, always a cheesehead.

Though not so well known as the Rose, Orange and Cotton Bowls, the Toilet Bowl is also played on New Year's Day in a rural southern Wisconsin village, Hustisford, just north of I94 about halfway between Milwaukee and Madison, in the middle of dairy farm country.

The players are usually intoxicated young men without helmets or protective pads, and they play tackle no holds barred of course. In the morning they have a parade and a King and a Queen and everything. Sometime back in the 80s my mother ran for Queen and won. I know she sold me quite a few tickets with which she stuffed the ballot box, just like they do it down in Chicago. You can look it up on the Internet. Or read all about it in some of the quality newspapers of the USA. See below.


It has been held regularly since sometime in the 60s, the 1960s that is. To put that into perspective: while some "community organizers" were blowing up Chemistry buildings at the University of Wisconsin—Madison other young men were going to Vietnam or playing football in the Toilet Bowl. Nowadays it is a fundraiser for the local volunteer Fire Department.

Seventh Day of Christmas


7. On the seventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me a Monopoly game:

You can own houses on every street, but you’re still poor without a good wife. Houses and wealth are inherited from parents, but a prudent wife is from the Lord (Proverbs 19:14).

By Tom Neven

And from Something Sublime:

The seven swans represent the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit as found in the Bible in Romans 12:6-8. The Bible tells us we all have different gifts according to the grace given us. The seven gifts are: prophesy, serving, teaching, encouragement, giving, leadership and mercy. Romans 12 tells us that, just as the body has many different parts with different functions, so it is with us. We each have a gift that, taken alone, may not seem like much but is vital to the whole. Additionally, we are not to think of ourselves more highly than we should but to give our gifts cheerfully! What is your gift?

30 December 2008

Sixth Day of Christmas


6. On the sixth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me a pocket watch:

This timepiece is carried in a breast pocket, close to the heart, so we can remember to give each other time to grow. It was he who gave...to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be build up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ (Ephesians 4:11-13).

By Tom Neven

And from Something Sublime:

The six geese represent the six days in which God created the heavens and the earth as described in Genesis, the first book of the Bible. Hexaemeron is a word that signifies the six days of creation. Verse two tells us that "the spirit of God was hovering over the waters". Can't you just imagine Him, hovering in anticipation as He prepared to breathe into being His finest creation? That's exactly what happened next...He spoke...and the heavens and earth, and everything in them, were created. He didn't wave a magic wand or build the world from pieces...He merely spoke. Now that's a powerful Creator! For a commentary on the creation, click here.

29 December 2008

Fifth Day of Christmas


5. On the fifth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me a shovel:

This is a Smokey Bear shovel so we can put out sparks before they become raging fires. In your anger do no sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold (Ephesians 4:26-27).

By Tom Neven

And from Something Sublime:

The five gold rings of the song were originally five ring-necked pheasants, not jewelry. Dang! Interestingly, the first five gifts of the song were all birds. The five rings represent the first five books of the Old Testament. These books are known as the Torah or Pentateuch and include Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. These books are God's law and instruction to His people. They describe the story of the creation of man, his world and the universe. Also, the story of man's sinful, human nature and God's grace, forgiveness and love of His people. Do you like drama? Check out the Old Testament!

28 December 2008

Fourth Day of Christmas


4. On the fourth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me a ballerina doll:

Nothing epitomizes grace and balance like a ballerina, and a good wife even more so. A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies….She is clothed with strength and dignity (Proverbs 31:10,25).

By Tom Neven

And from Something Sublime:

The four calling birds represent the four Gospels of the Bible; Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The Gospels are God's written word proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ's life, death and resurrection and record many of Jesus' own words. The four calling bird evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, sang out a song of salvation, through Christ, to the world. The 12 apostles, including the four New Testament evangelists, paid a high price for their testimony. Traditionally, all 12 apostles died martyr's deaths. See here and here for more info.

27 December 2008

Third Day of Christmas


3. On the third day of Christmas, my true love gave to me a duffel bag:

This model has two handles, one on each side so the load is lighter for both of us. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2).

By Tom Neven

And from Something Sublime:

The three French hens represent the three gifts found in 1 Corinthians 13:13: faith, hope and love. "And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love".

There is a beautiful note in my Bible explaining this scripture: Love remains now and forever. The greatest of these (gifts) is love because God is love (1John 4:8) and commands us to love one another (Jn 13:34-35). Love supersedes the gifts because it outlasts them all. Long after these sought-after gifts are no longer necessary, love will still be the governing principle that controls all that God and His redeemed people are and do.

26 December 2008

Christmas Day on Ramada Drive

Friends, kids and grandkids to the left.

A new version of Monopoly to the right. It looks like they just added about 5 or 6 zeroes to all the numbers, changed the railroads to airports, and left Atlantic City and New York in the lurch as the properties are scattered all over the country and are not limited to streets. Oh, and there are debit cards to keep your money straight.

It looks like fun, though without much scope for stretching the rules. That is a pair of underwear on the top of the Monopoly game, a bow to the Spirit of Christmas Past in our memories.

That is the sunroom to the right, temporarily converted to a playroom for grandchildren and their numerous gifts from China.

And of course, the leftovers from our gigantic Christmas Dinner. We should have invited all the hungry of Billings.

Second Day Of Christmas


2. On the second day of Christmas, my true love gave to me a calculator:

This is a special calculator, with the cancel key prominently placed in the center of the pad, conveniently twice the size of all the other keys so it is easy to cancel accounts instead of keeping score. Love is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs (1 Corinthians 13:5).

By Tom Neven

And from Something Sublime:

The two turtle doves from the song represent God's word to the world in the form of the Old and New Testaments. Not only are the Testaments the story of the creation and history of the world but they are guidebooks for us, showing us how we are to live and proclaiming God's love for us.

25 December 2008

The First Day of Christmas


Found this on View From The Pews a couple of weeks ago. For the person on your list who has everything. Who needs 10 lords-a-leaping for Christmas...or two turtle doves. Here’s an updated list.

1. On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me a zipper:

It is usually wiser to keep your lip zipped than to compound a problem. Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry (James 1:19)

By Tom Neven

And this and following come from Something Sublime, the most visually appealing blog I've found so far.

The twelve days of Christmas actually begin, not 12 days before Christmas (which is Advent), but on Christmas day. The twelve days run from December 25th to January 5th which is twelfth night; the last night of the Christmas season. January 6th is the beginning of Epiphany, the time before Easter. Advent is the time looking forward to the birth of Christ while Epiphany is the revelation of Christ to the world. The word "epiphany" means "to show, make known or reveal."


The 12 Days of Christmas song was originally a mnemonic device to used to teach catechism to children at a time of religious suppression in England during the 16th century. It was written as a love song, not referencing an earthly relationship but a heavenly one. The "true love", gift giver is God himself.

The "me"...receiver of gifts...refers to all believer's in Christ. Each gift given in the song is representative of an important aspect of the Christian faith.

The partridge in a pear tree represents Jesus Christ...God's greatest gift to the world. The mother partridge is a bird that, when her helpless young are threatened, pretends injury to draw predators away. The obvious parallel here is Christ's crucifixion and resurrection, protecting believers from death and providing eternal life.

24 December 2008

Saint Jerome "On Being Born in a Stable"

From a blog, appropriately called Singing In The Reign, a joint effort of Michael Barber and Brant Pitre, a couple of our younger Christian scholars.

Not born in a manger, which would be decidedly awkward for everyone, St Luke says he was "laid in a manger" after he was born that is; a manger is a feeding trough for animals, from which it seems natural to suggest that he was born someplace where animals were housed, perhaps a stable.

I wonder if the dissident monk Martin Luther was inspired by the reflections of Saint Jerome on this business of being born in a stable: "He is not born in the midst of gold and riches, but in the midst of dung, in a stable where our sins were filthier than the dung."

Father and later Lutheran pastor Luther reckoned that his explanation of justification was better than the Church's theologians over the centuries: "We are dung hills covered by snow."

20 December 2008

Billings West High School Scores Again

The choral program at West High is in good hands and the kids sound great. Go here for a picture and more text.

19 December 2008

I Told You I Liked Guys Singing

Straight No Chaser

I am very fond of guys singing Christmas carols, especially when they appear to be intoxicated. I'm not sure what to call this: maybe 12 Days And More Of Christmas. Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night. Here is the group Straight No Chaser.



I'm still fond of guys singing Christmas carols even after the above strangeness. This is Straight No Chaser singing Carol of the Bells.

18 December 2008

Billings Surgeon Performs Miracles

Who would have thought that a skilled plastic surgeon could alter the shape of a soul. This guy is really good. Check this out here.

17 December 2008

Moscow Ballet Dances Nutcracker In Billings

Tuesday evening Moscow Ballet was in Billings' Alberta Bair Theatre doing their Great Russian Nutcracker along with large numbers of kids from Billings and Bozeman. It was fun except for the ridiculously loud music, not live. So loud that it hurt the ears. I'm sure Mr Tchaikovsky would have objected to his lovely music having all that fuzz on it. The backdrops were a little garish but the dancing was splendid. Attractive young people, both male and female, danced in a relaxed and thoroughly enjoyable way. Some of the young ladies approached nubility. Many of the local kids did very well by the way, though sometimes they seemed to distract from the main event. I'm sure their parents were not distracted. A fairly full house for a change. They are off to Great Falls on Wednesday, 18 December and then to medium- size cities in California.

16 December 2008

Was Lincoln Correct?

"Not only is Lincoln one of my political heroes," Obama said, "but like Lincoln, I served for seven years in Springfield in the state Senate, and it's there I learned how to legislate, it's there that I developed many of my political ideas." Certainly not in Chicago, oh no, never, nada.

"You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time.
Abraham Lincoln, (attributed)
16th president of US (1809 - 1865)
But you only have to fool a simple majority of the Senate and House of Representatives and the President to pass most laws. So then, maybe Lincoln's aphorism is true, true, true and irrelevant to the political process. By the way I think when people use the word "attributed" they usually mean that the quote sounds good, but they can't track down the actual reference.

15 December 2008

3rd Sunday in Advent—Gaudete—Rejoice


These are some of my favorite things. Last Advent/Christmas season Carol and I were in Italy. We enjoyed visiting Venice, Florence and Rome very much but we also realized that we loved a lot of things that go on in our home town of Billings Montana USA, especially starting in late November and going on through most of December all the way to Epiphany in early January.

I suppose that is one of the reasons for travel: to realize how good you have it at home. One of those goods in Billings is the presence of many good singers and instrumentalists and fans of that sort of home-made music. And there are enough of us show-offs, religious or not, that we like to do this sort of thing around this part of the year, early on the religious calendar and late on the secular calendar.

This past Sunday afternoon we enjoyed Bellissimo, a really good bell choir, at First Methodist—see the sanctuary above, the big bells to the left, with the ringers and singers below— in downtown Billings. They usually have enough fans to warrant a couple of performances. Led by Julie Draeger and joined by the Magic City Singers, this was a pleasant Sunday afternoon. Even got to sing a few verses of Silent Night.

With the malls and other places spoiling ordinary versions of a lot of Christmas carols by their constant repetion it seems to me that we need an unusual sound or arrangement or both to perk up our interest in Silent Night or Joy To The World, but curiously enough, there are still lots of people out there still writing songs to celebrate this joyous Jesus season: John Rutter is one of them; and not surprisingly Bellissimo performed Hart Morris's difficult On This Day Earth Shall Ring with notable aplomb.

The Magic City Singers were led by Chris Sheppard with some help on percussion from young people pressed into service as jingle bell shakers and whip snappers on a nice vocal arrangement of Sleigh Ride.

For unclear reasons a very early carol, The First Nowell, always attracts my attention and it did here as well. There were other good songs including one by John Rutter. Nice solos too.

Those are the ringers taking a bow to the right with the singers in the background and some appreciative fans in the foreground in the very attractive First Methodist sanctuary.















To the right and left are some of the decorations at Mount Olive Lutheran Church in preparation for the Christmas season. These elaborately dressed dolls are getting ready for a concert by the nearby West High School choirs this coming Thursday evening, 18 December. This should be worth listening to.

I forgot to mention some of the stuff that went on the weekend before. On the left is the big-voiced and pretty Amy Logan, almost hidden by the acrobatic John Baber, and some members of the string sections of the Billings Community Orchestra. Amy alone was worth the price of admission. They were getting ready, along with the Al Bedoo Chanters and the Akzents, for their 6 December Saturday afternoon concert at the Alberta Bair Theatre.

And then Sunday afternoon was the Messiah with some very able soloists and a strong-throated community chorus led by the prodigal David Reynolds: excellent stuff.

And then in the evening we heard the absolutely delicious Rocky Mountain College singers and instrumentalists led by the splendid splinter—sorry Ted W— of Billings, Stephen Hart, doing their annual Festival Lessons and Carols concert at the First Presbyterian Church on 13th and Poly. Dr Hart is clearly a wizard and one of our true treasures.

This year we will have two performances of the Nutcracker. The Eugene Ballet did one in late November and one of the Moscow Ballet companies is doing one this coming Tuesday, 16 December, at the Alberta Bair Theatre. This is only a sample of all the musical celebrations going on at this time of the year.

14 December 2008

Don't Drink and Drive

Martin Luther was right, of course, when he suggested that beer, especially good German beer, is not only good for you, it is also evidence that God loves you.

Pope Benedict XVI reminded his parishioners in early November that Saint Paul cautioned against drinking and driving: “Dear brothers and sisters, I implore everyone — drivers, passengers and pedestrians — to heed carefully the words of Saint Paul in the liturgy of the word today: Stay sober and alert,” he added.

By the way, are the Sundays in Advent like those in Lent where you can celebrate a little?

It looks like this is not a recent picture as the Cardinal has been promoted.

13 December 2008

There Are Many Reasons to Like the Advent/Christmas Season

One of the many reasons is the Clementine or Christmas orange. It is surprisingly juicy, almost always seedless, very easy to peel and just the right size for a between-meal snack. I was reminded of these by the Pious Sodality of Church Ladies excellent blog, whose purpose is "to exchange such pieces of feminine genius as are useful to their craft." They also point out where more information is available on these seasonal delights.

Something Sublime

Do not pass GO.

Do not collect $200.

What a treat.

Go directly here for delighting your senses.

This one is called "There's a snowman on your snowman."

12 December 2008

I Like The Way This Lady's Head Is Screwed On

Check out this blog at this and any other time of the year.

Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe


Today is the Feast Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe: who just before the 2000 elections was named by Pope John Paul the Great as “Patroness of the Americas and Patroness of the Unborn.” A big job.

The Anchoress is a reliable source about this and lots of other stuff. Highly recommended.

11 December 2008

Czar v. Commissar

Greg Mankiw's Blog: An Etymological Suggestion

Professor Mankiw with tongue firmly in cheek suggests that instead of car czar the government-appointed person to oversee the auto industry should more appropriately be called the car commissar in deference to the ideas of central planning which were instituted after the Bolsheviks came into power. This seems a gentle enough reminder to our Washington betters that some of us are concerned by their socialist proposals. History may not repeat itself but it does often rhyme according to Kurt Vonnegut. Perhaps our representatives will design Five Year Plans too.

I think commissar might be OK as it has connotations of political oversight of the military or in this case their business counterparts, but maybe the German word gauleiter or regional leader might be more appropriate with its National Socialist background. This is what the highest authority among the residents was called in a certain Boston hospital in the 60s and perhaps still is, though I doubt it with the spread of politically correct words and phrases in recent years. The only problem is it doesn't rhyme or alliterate. Maybe "motor gauleiter." Too clumsy.


Car Commissar
it is, thank you Professor M. But just in case here is a nifty vehicular insignia from our friends at Wikipedia.

10 December 2008

A Father Writes To His Children

My friend Bill McNamer has been writing this nice little book for several years now. It was worth waiting for. It is part Apologia Pro Vita Sua, an apology or defense of one's life, with a touch of Baltimore Catechism thrown in, and in closing, a sincere, thoughtful and sensitive invitation to his children and really all of us younger folks who have tended to drift away from Mother Church, wittingly or not, to re-think the situation.

Here is the blurb from McNamer's book website:

"Keep the Faith is a series of letters from a Catholic father to his five young adult children, and by extension to all young adult Catholics who are at risk of losing their faith, or who have dropped out. The author presents the theology underlying Catholic teaching at a level appropriate for thinking adults, addresses the common hangups to faith, and concludes with an extended treatment of Catholic spirituality.

In Keep the Faith, the author meets the problem of belief and doubt with understanding and common sense, questions the adequacy of secularism as a philosophy of life, and insists that both faith and reason -- and a little poetry, beauty, and prayer -- are necessary to live a life of meaning and purpose. These can be found in the Catholic faith."

There are defenses of this and explanations of that as a lawyerly way of laying the groundwork for his final summation which is the Great Commandment: “Love one another as I have loved you.”

Maturity has not blunted his ironic wit: “The sacrament of Reconciliation was formerly known as Confession to you regular sinners. But we don’t hear much about sin and Confession anymore. Somehow, sin has [had] done a [total] makeover so it’s hard to recognize. Or else we’re all getting holier as we grow older.”

In addition to the Scriptures and Joyce, a little Blake and Belloc leaven the whole thing, and in addition he makes good use of some of the dissenting 20th century Scribes of the Church, though he mercifully puts those references into some compact endnotes. This slim book is worth more than a quick read as I found on my second reading. Highly recommended.

09 December 2008

Where Are You Mr Hayek & Lord Keynes When We Need You?

From the pen of J. Bradford DeLong unblushingly comes this mellifluous portion of a paragraph, see Cato Unbound ". . .the magnitude of the liquidity discount should be roughly equal to the technologically- and organizationally-driven rate of labor productivity growth divided by the intertemporal elasticity of substitution." Doesn't that kind of talk give you a thrill, maybe even a shiver running up or down your leg? That is a picture of Friedrich August von Hayek to the left. He must have done something right as he lived into his 90s, dying in 1992. He was one of the very few members of the intelligentsia who said that socialism could not work. Hayek's Road to Serfdom is one of those 20th century classics that our teachers seem never to have heard about. Can a teacher be sued for negligence posthumously?In The Road to Serfdom (1944) and in subsequent works, Hayek claimed that socialism required central economic planning and that such planning in turn had a risk of leading towards totalitarianism, because the central authority would have to be endowed with powers that would have an impact on social life as well, and because the scope of knowledge required for central planning is inherently decentralized. Advisers to both Reagan and Thatcher were among his followers. I wonder if President-elect Obama has ever heard of him? Wouldn't it be fun for Katie Couric to ask a question like that.

Winston Churchill is supposed to have said: "If you put two economists in a room, you get two opinions, unless one of them is Lord Keynes, in which case you get three opinions." We may be hearing again from this fellow or at least from some of his disciples in the universities, i.e. Krugman, Stiglitz, Summers, Geithner & Romer.

Keynes wrote, "The ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed, the world is ruled by little else. Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influences, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist. Madmen in authority, who hear voices in the air, are distilling their frenzy from some academic scribbler of a few years back... soon or late, it is ideas, not vested interests, which are dangerous for good or evil."

With our present economic woes Mr Hayek (and Mr Friedman too) have gone out of favor and Lord Keynes is back in the middle. We really need an Einstein to clear this whole thing up. Does anyone else get the feeling that our elected representatives are hastily drawing up fixes, in order to put them into effect before non-governmental methods start correcting things, so that no matter how long it takes the ERs can take the credit? What kind of a district elects a guy like Barney Frank?— repeatedly!

08 December 2008

Chanticleer at Christmas at the MOMA on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception


A gift from Nathaniel Peters at First Things, a little late for the feast of St Nicholas, and a little early for the Nativity and Epiphany.

But just right for the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, celebrated at noon at St Patrick's Co-Cathedral this day, December 8th. The neat thing about this celebration was that it included a requiem mass for a beautiful and strong 92 year old lady. Her daughter, a Sister of Charity of Leavenworth nun, said that she would be thrilled to know that her requiem mass was celebrated on this day.

Chanticleer, a group of 12 guys, is really something special. This is an Ave Maria that seems kind of low key, perhaps more suited to a Jewish peasant, not so showy as other versions. Thank you Mr Franz Biebl. And you too, Chanticleer, and YouTube too.

07 December 2008

2nd Sunday in Advent

This is a nice summary of Advent for the non-liturgical.

A nice summary of the Scriptural readings are found here.

Time to get ready.

05 December 2008

Boy Meets Girl


I always thought I was born a generation too late, but now it appears that in fact I was born two generations too early. See this article. Is it true or false? True/true and unrelated? False/False and irrelevant? I saw the above at CostCo a few weeks ago. Periodically the image pops up in one of the dreams I happen to remember. That is one nice thing about gastro-esophageal reflux (GERD): When you wake at 5am and go back to sleep after some Pepcid AC you tend to remember your dreams. Hmm.

03 December 2008

Another Good Thing About Montana




You can advertise your purpose, profession or your passion on your license plate.




I remember a few years ago I was walking to my car in the doctor's parking lot [yes, Virginia, we did have a separate parking lot at one time] along with a friend who cashed in his chips way too early, from a melanoma ironically enough. He was a plastic surgeon.

We commented on the neurosurgeon's plate, Brain, and the pulmonary physician's plate, Chest. And then he thought for a few seconds and said: "I'm going to get a plate for myself, Tits."

02 December 2008

How Many Words Can You Make With Obama In Them?

I wonder if Mussolini had people making words using his name? Or Peron? Or Chavez? Obamanomics. Obamelot. Obamamama. Olabama. Obamanufacturing. Obamarine. Obamanation. Isn't this fun?

01 December 2008

Amen Brother or Sister as the Case May Be

Check out our friends at Planet Moron. They are funny without being too ironic.

Downtown Billings in the SummerTime

Downtown Billings in the SummerTime
At The BrewPub on Broadway

Downtown Phoenix

Downtown Phoenix
Downtown Phoenix in the Winter Time

Good Cheese Here

Good Cheese Here
Vermont Cheddar & Minnesota Blue

TAKE TIME FOR PARADISE

TAKE TIME FOR PARADISE
Dehler Park, Billings MT, July 2008 This is what Bart Giamatti recommends for good mental health.

Me and Joan

Me and Joan
Early elderly and middle middle age: We May Know Something You Don't

Mrs America

Mrs America
Fortunately these girls had a good-looking mother

Rimrocks @ Billings MT

Rimrocks @ Billings MT
“In beholding old stones we may feel our anxieties about our achievements–and lack of them–slacken . . . Vast landscapes [and seascapes] can have an anxiety–reducing effect similar to ruins, for they are the representatives of infinite space, as ruins are the representatives of infinite time, against which our weak, short-lived bodies seem no less inconsequential than those of moths or spiders.”—Alain de Botton in Status Anxiety

Easter Sunday at St Patrick's Co-Cathedral

Easter Sunday at St Patrick's Co-Cathedral
12 April 2009

Pleasant Hillside at Hustisford, AKA The Grassy Knoll for you conspiracy buffs

Pleasant Hillside at Hustisford, AKA The Grassy Knoll for you conspiracy buffs
A Lot of Muellers Are Buried Here