The Gospel Truth

In God’s Locker Room

January 30, 2013

It seems that everyone I know is dying.

This weekend was a double duty affair.

There were two funerals, almost at the same time of men I had known briefly in this life.

One was Stan the Man Musial, who died in St. Louis a week ago Saturday.

Cardinals Hall of Famer Stan Musial Dead

Baseball’s perfect knight

His funeral was one for the ages, approximating that of kings, queens and powerful heads of state.

How many home runs did Queen Elizabeth hit or how many RBIs did FDR have?

Everyone who even knows what a baseball  looks like wanted to be at our Cathedral Basilica for the  ceremonies.

I thought about going but I came up with a million excuses why I didn’t need to go.

Funerals are really for the living, not the dead.

During my life in St. Louis I had more than a few wonderful and personal moments with Stan.

One of which I recounted for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch‘s commemorative issue on Stan the musician.

Playing the harmonica was just part of Stan’s personal charm. Probably the first baseball player, ever to become a “musician” after his playing days were over, Stan regaled several former players and family members of the old St. Louis Browns years ago during a club function with his stirring rendition of “Take me out to the Ball Game.” 

Sitting right next to him, I noticed how he closed his eyes while he played. This led me to quip to him after he finished: “I’ll bet there are a 1000 former National League pitchers who wished you closed your eyes when you hit.”  He gave me a big smile as if to say, “I’ll bet you are right!”  (PD 1/20/13)

He hit with eyes wide open

Since I never met anyone else in his surviving family my presence would serve them no great comfort.

The other man who died on Wednesday was Bob McAuliffe, the 79 year-old father of  good friend, Emmett.

Stan had suffered from dementia for a few years, as well as the loss of his wife of nearly 72-years.

Keeping within the baseball motif of this day, Bob McAuliffe took a page right of the demise of another baseball Hall of Famer, Jimmy Foxx, who choked to death on food during dinner at a restaurant.

Died the same way with friends

In a way Bob’s funeral was more personal and I think my presence at the visitation served as a modicum of comfort for the family members.

It goes without saying that Emmett’s dad was not as well know as Stan.

Instead of using the long row in the middle of the church, the powers that be chose to set up the wake in the vestibule of the Church of St. Clement’s on Bopp Rd.

It gave everyone the claustrophobic feeling that must have reigned during the Musial services.

It felt like an Irish fire drill.

While I do not think Bob ever met Stan, unless just in passing, one of the last days of their physical presence above ground took place in adjoining rooms at the Bopp Mortuary.

This caused Emmett to quip that his father was at last in Stan’s locker room.

I would say that, no it wasn’t Stan’s locker room.

It is God’s locker room where the good wait to see Him..

My wife stayed home and watched all the Musial events on the TV.

The principal speakers were well-known to me.

I didn’t hear Cardinal Richard Dolan, now of New York lament about his boyhood hero but fortunately on the way over to St. Clement’s I heard most of Bishop Richard Stika’s eulogy.

Stika will always be Monsignor Stika to me—Rick to his closest friends.

Monsignor Stika with Stan and Lil

He was our pastor at Annunziata Church in Ladue for nearly five years and a friend to the parish for seven years before that.

He was not only my confessor, but a friendly sparring partner in matters of faith and good humor.

At first I didn’t recognize his radio voice.

It sounded much more youthful than his 53-years would betray.

I  kept asking myself: who is this guy?

It wasn’t until he mentioned our parish and then Knoxville, where he is the bishop that I knew who he was.

His eulogy touched on Stan as a man, not the man.

Got three baseballs

Stan is a difficult man to describe, only because there are just so many words to describe, good wholesome and humble.

Stan is best remembered in his stories or stories about him.

The bishop mentioned the fact that Stan gave baseballs out to parishioners for helping him pack up his wife Lil’s wheelchair after a mass and put it in the back of his station wagon.

Stika said he had three himself.

Darn I only have one but I’ll bet Stika didn’t have the special moment I did!

One time I noticed no one was rushing over to help him after Mass.

So I did.

By the time I got there three other people had joined us.

I was the one who folded it!

I was the one who lifted and slid it back in the car!

But he gave everyone the same.

Sounds like one of Jesus’ parables.

I never particularly liked that parable.

When Stan handed me my ball, I held it up to read his autograph and looked quizzically at it and said to Stan: What’s this?  This says Red Schoendienst!

Wrong ball?

Just for a brief second I could see his thinking, did I bring the wrong…?

Then he smiled at me!

I had tweaked the greatest baseball player in the history of my adoptive home and in the parking lot of a church I shared with him for 40 years.

No wonder I only have one ball and Stika has three.

Stika finished with the pronouncement of the words every human being should beg to hear on Judgment Day.

Welcome, my good and faithful servant.

A shared faith

After the Irish wake, on the trip home I was able to listen to old friend Bob Costas give his version of Musial.

Bob was also the personal eulogist for his boyhood idol, Mickey Mantle who passed away several years ago.

After hearing what Bob said about Stan virtually every former or current player in the church wanted him to do them when their times came.

Bob’s finest moment in a long litany of perceptive insights and dramatic stories about Stan came when he compared his idol to the one that 90% of the attendees in the basilica had as children.

He told of a small dinner gathering at his home many years ago.

The Mick was near the end of his road.

Bob Costas Stan Musial

Baseball’s eulogist

His drinking had captivated his waking moments.

To make him more comfortable Bob invited the Musials to dinner.

Mickey vowed not to have even one drink that entire day or night because he didn’t want to embarrass himself in front of the man he respected so much.

After the Musials had left he and Bob were left alone to talk into the wee hours of the morning.

Mickey confessed that while he had more natural talent than Musial, Stan had gotten more out of his gifts than Mickey had because he was a better man than I was.

What a marvelous insight to another great but self-tortured athlete.

Mickey concluded that he envied Stan because Stan could always rest in the fact that he had gotten the most out of his talent.

Mickey, on the other hand, had a life of regret because he had never lived up to his super-human potential.

That was a sad commentary on a storied life that was filled with the Mick’s own personal demons.

Stan was an inspiration to Mick

What made Stan better than Mickey?

Many things I presume but I would suggest that Stan’s Catholic faith had a lot to do with his dual ability to hit a curve and walk a straight line with humility and dignity.

In just short time after that dinner, Mantle succumbed to liver cancer.

Bob McAuliffe just had just one eulogy–a seven page essay that did a comparable job in capturing a departed loved one.

The beginning was part roast and another part adolescent humor at the eccentricities of the man in the family.

From his loud sneezing to his inability to sing or even hum, Emmett’s words clearly rang out with the profound admiration of a faithful son.

The rest detailed his corny sense of humor that most children would never trade for having Johnny Carson as a father.

His athletic abilities, the family vacations that rivaled those of the Griswolds and all the wonderful things that make families what they were–incubators for love, faith and salvation, underscored the man’s pure humanity.

A lot alike

In the end that’s what life should all be about.

Since this was their mutual day of salvation, I poised a question to Emmett at the wake:

If they came in to see God together, did he wonder which one God spoke to first?

Hell’s Bells

January 23, 2013

Hell’s Bells was a phrase that a good friend of my mother-in-law in Charleston, Missouri use to exclaim when she got irritated or excited.

I am not really sure what it means but I always loved the way she said it with her Southeast Missourian twang.

It does raise the question as to whether or not Hell has any bells.

When John Donne wrote his poem No Man is an Island, in 1621 one of his most quoted lines, was For whom the bell tolls.

a universal call

Of course he was not writing of Hell but was referring to the universal call of death.

For the past half century, most intellectual currents of thought in the West have mitigated against the idea of sin.

If there was no sin, then how could an all-loving God condemn His creatures to the flames for eternity?

The Christmas issue of the British publication, The Economist, focused on Hell as its cover story.

For hundreds of years, Hell has been the most fearful place in the human imagination.

It is also the most absurd they said.

To the Economist, Hell is just a medieval relic.

vivid images

It went out with ducking stools and witchcraft.

Philosophically, Jean-Paul Sartre encouraged the idea that Hell is other people.

There may be some truth to that in that some people can often make life a hell on earth for you.

Theologically, even the Vatican now defines Hell as a state of exile from the love of God.

The devils and pitchforks, the brimstone clouds and wailing souls, have been retired to dusty vaults of irrelevance.

For some Hell still fits the description given in the fifth spiritual exercise of St Ignatius Loyola, in which the Jesuit novice, now as in the past, prays for an intimate sense of the pain that the damned suffer: to feel the fire, hear the lamentations, smell the brimstone, taste the tears.

a purging fire

Most cultures have their underworlds—Egyptian Amenti, Jewish Sheol, Purgatory—in which the spirits of the dead gather, are judged, and purify themselves for other lives or life in Heaven.

For fundamentalists, new and old Hell is a torture-place for the damned in which they are flayed or eaten alive, disembowelled or impaled on stakes, either for incalculable ages or actually for ever.

Yet the fire of Hell wasis—no ordinary fire. First, it needed no fuel, and second, it did not consume what it burned. Hell-fire, though it could melt both stars and mountains, did not eat away the damned, for that would have ended their torments; it simply raged and hurt.

The Great Divorce is a work of theological fantasy by C. S. Lewis, in which he reflects on the Christian conception of Heaven and Hell.

Monochrome head-and-left-shoulder photo portrait of 50-year-old Lewis

a theory on purgatory

Lewis’ title refers to the  The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, which was a book by the English poet William Blake, written between 1790 and 1793, in the period of radical foment and political conflict immediately after the French Revolution.

Blake’s title is an ironic reference to Emanuel Swedenborg‘s theological work Heaven and Hell published in Latin 33 years earlier. 

 Swedenborg’s conventional moral structures and his Manichean view of good and evil led Blake to express a deliberately depolarized and unified vision of the cosmos in which the material world and physical desire are equally part of the divine order, hence, a marriage of heaven and hell.

a marriage made in hell

Unlike that of Milton or Dante, Blake’s conception of Hell begins not as a place of punishment, but as a source of unrepressed, somewhat Dionysian energy, opposed to the authoritarian and regulated perception of Heaven.

In the most famous part of the book, Blake reveals the Proverbs of Hell.

These display a very different kind of wisdom from the Biblical Book of Proverbs.

Their purpose is to energize thought. 

The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.

The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

When we first moved to St. Louis in 1969, an old friend from New York was visiting his transplanted folks in Kirkwood. 

His name was Charlie Burns...that’s with an S. J.

He had just been ordained a priest and I had known him since my old Sodality days at Holy Cross.

That few days we visited was one of the most remarkable in my early memories of St. Louis.

He was so vibrant, alive with the grace of God’s love.

He told me all the standard Jesuit stories that in his first two weeks he had heard every sin in the book, except suicide in the Confessional.

He also told me that as Catholics we have to believe there is a Hell but we do not have to believe that anyone is in it, except Lucifer and his band of rogue angels.

I lose track of him for years, only to see and read about his serious travails with the Church.

In the early 80s, he had gotten into an unwinnable argument with some of the most powerful figures in the Roman hierarchy, including a certain German Archbishop.

Pope Benedict XVI, Ratzinger

Charlie’s target

Charlie had publicly challenged the Archbishop in a My Turn column for Newsweek Magazine over the Church’s failure to address the world’s AIDs problem.

Push came to shove and the Jesuits kicked him out of the order.

I don’t know what happened to Charlie other than life had become a living Hell for him.

Hell, real or unreal is a scary place.

It has probably the one fear that has caused me the most anxiety over the course of my life.

It is this fear that has led me to be self-manipulating and seeking to control all necessary and rewarding intrusions on my person, including medical ones without trusting in God’s will and grace.

As I continue to get older, I think about this a lot more.

As my love for God intensifies and my ability to t rust myself to his saving  more to his love and grace increases, I don’t see how He could allow so many billions of his flawed creation to lose him for all eternity.

Purgatory to me has become the most logical and creditable of all the Church’s  teachings on morality, sin and forgiveness when taken in connection with its teachings on original sin.

a reasonable teaching

To see God imperfect man must be purefied…but maybe not by a punishing fire but an enlightening love.

I have also come to believe that this temporary state is not one of pure physical punishment but one of a loving guidance that challenges the soul to see the errors of his or her lives.

In Lewis’ book, the narrator inexplicably finds himself in a grim and joyless city, the ‘grey town’, which is either hell or purgatory depending on how long one stays there.

He eventually finds a bus for those who desire an excursion to some other place (and which eventually turns out to be the foothills of  heaven).

Although the country is the most beautiful they have ever seen, every feature of the landscape (including streams of water and blades of grass) is unyielding solid compared to themselves: it causes them immense pain to walk on the grass, and even a single leaf is far too heavy for any to lift.

I tried writing a play on Purgatory, which I called For the Love of Dickens.

I chose a NYC subway train for my version.

The saved were required to ride the city’s vast system, reading the Great Books about life and love and so on.

While I did create some interesting characters, the main character was, to put it frankly, boring.

It was during one of my regular massages with Lena about 18 months ago that it dawned on me that if she could literally push the pain out of my back and lower extremities with her heavenly touch, why could not an angelic therapist do the same for the residue of sin, guilt, sorrow, weakness and so on?

Massage Therapy Massage-Therapy.jpg

a perfect metaphor

I think it is theologically correct and I hope it inspires many people to start thinking about what happens next!

For a synopsis of this play, and an entire scene please check my post:

Or if you would like to read the whole thing, just use my e-mail address:

GABY’S PEOPLE is scheduled for its first public  reading at Big Daddy’s restaurant (2nd fl) (771-3066) at 1000 Sydney St., through the auspices of the First Run Theater Group.  The date is Monday night February 4th at 6:30. For information please contact:

First Run Log

First Run Theatre
314-865-1296;  (Mario)



Gaby’s People

January 22, 2013
1 Comment

I wrote Gaby’s People to show a bird-eye’s view of the human condition with much of its defining passion, pain, pride, lusts and other evidences of man’s flawed nature.

Using the venue of a health spa, I have tried to give new meaning to the idea of a therapeutic massage, in that the therapist’s strokes are as much for the soul as the body.

Drawing my inspiration from such diverse sources as Dante Alighieri’s Purgatorio, C. S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce, and Bruce Jay Friedman’s 1970 controversial play, Steambath, Gaby’s People has the grand ambition of rethinking traditional understandings of sin, punishment, forgiveness and ultimate salvation.

Steambath (Broadway Theatre Archive)

In God’s waiting room?

While it certainly is not a Divine Comedy I did write it in a humorous but very adult vein so as to keep it earth-bound.

The main character Gaby is a selfless individual whose people sometimes draw her to the limits of her patience.

All of them–John, Lance, Donavan, and Harry, as well as Mike her attendant, display human qualities that push human nature to the brink.

Murder, rape, incest, hatred, sloth and self-indulgences are all par for Gaby’s course.

In addition to these major moral failings her people often wrestle with poor self-image, intimacy, modesty and prudery, and self-forgiveness issues.

While Gaby sometimes appears to be from a different world, her involvement in the raw and bawdy humanity of her people, rubs off on her, causing not only a cleansing effect, but also a deep sympathy that energizes her true calling, that of a unified physical, spiritual and emotional healer.

GABY’S PEOPLE is scheduled for its first public  reading, at 6:30 on Monday night, February 4th at Big Daddy’s restaurant (2nd fl) at 1000 Sydney St.,(771-3066) through the auspices of the First Run Theatre Group.  For more information please contact:

314-865-1296; (Mario) 

Here is a scene of what you will hear and see:

The massage therapist Gaby, walks into the therapy room of her Ultra Body, Face and Spirit Spa in an undisclosed location:

Scene Five:

(Same location, later in the future. A man lies fully clothed, except for his shoes and socks on top of the massage table.)


(Looking at her file, as she enters the room.)

You must be Harry!


(Looks up at her)  Yeah that’s me.  (Starts to get agitated) I have to get outta here.  I got stuff to do.


We have stuff to do here Harry.  And just why do you still have your clothes on?


Look that guy outside…

Hard to get a good massage like this


You mean, Mike?!


I don’t know what his name is and I don’t care…He just told me to come in here and lie down and make myself comfortable.


He didn’t tell you to disrobe to your level of comfort?


Yeah, something like that!


And this is your level of comfort?


Yeah, this is as much as I’m taking off!  What’s wrong with it?


Oh, just about everything…look I can’t do you any good unless you take off some of your outer clothes.  Modesty is an important concern, so you don’t have to take off everything if you’re not comfortable…


Lady that’s not going to happen in this lifetime!  Get it through that empty head of yours.


O.K. Have it your way.  I’ll just massage your big toe for an hour.  (Starts to stroke his big toe on his left foot.)

Massage Therapy Massage-Therapy.jpg

A heavenly touch


Don’t touch me!!! (Yells out loudly)  Take your hands off me…I don’t like being touched.  (She continues and he starts to calm down a bit)


See that doesn’t hurt, does it?  (Starts on his whole foot and slowly works up his left leg.)


Oh that feels so…(Sits up…and shouts) I told you I don’t like to be touched!!


Look Harry I don’t know what your problem is but before I continue and I will continue we should come to an understanding.  I am here to help you.  You wouldn’t be lying on this table if you didn’t need my help.


Look baby, I don’t know who you are and what your game is but I want to get out of here fast!  Back away from me or I’ll scream.  (Making a fist he starts to yell very loudly)


(She looks him directly in the eye and as if mesmerized he calms down)  Now we are going to co-operate, aren’t we, Harry?


Well…maybe I’ve been a bit too quick on the trigger.  What …(nervously) are you going to do to me?


(Continues massaging his right big toe, foot and lower leg)  I knew you would see it my way.


I don’t know why I am so angry all the time…


Well when I am finished you will never be hostile and I mean NEVER again….but you have to…


(Gets agitated again)  I have to…what?


Let me ask you something, Harry?  When you shake hands, you don’t wear gloves…do you?

The Benefits of Butt Massage

Missing the full benefits


No…I never shake hands…


You never…why is that?


I don’t want to catch anything.  People are dirty…they are walking disease-spreaders.  (Looks down at her hands and pulls his leg away)

Suffered from Haphephobia


Harry you can’t keep doing this.  Look at my hands!  Go ahead…take a good look! (Holds them up)  I wash them frequently and oil them so that my touch is clean and pure.


Are you sure of that?  (She starts rubbing even higher on his calf)  OOowwoo…That’s nice.  (Starts to frown)


Harry…do you like me?


Like you?  Why…you seem very nice for…a girl.


Well that’s nice of you to say so.  I will take that as a compliment.  But if you like me Harry, you will have to trust me…right Harry?


I ….I trust you…


Say it again…Harry…I didn’t hear you…(Looking intently at him)

trust is essential


I, I, I… trust you.


Again!  I trust you Gaby!


(Loudly he says) Again I trust you Gaby!!!!


Now that you trust me Harry, I think you should take off the rest of your clothes.


(Indignant)  I am not that kind of guy…


And I am not that kind of woman.  Look Harry, I am a massage therapist.  The more of your body you let me work on the more I can do for you…within the law of course.


I don’t think I can show you my body…I’m just not….


You have had massages before…haven’t you?


Not that I remember.


If you had one of my massages…you’d remember!  Just lay back Harry and let me do all the work.  I will take you places you have never been.


That sounds very nice but I am so…




I don’t know if I can let you touch me…I don’t let people touch me…as a rule.  In fact most people never want to touch me or even be …you know…close…and…


Whose rules are they Harry?  If they are just YOUR rules—they need to be broken.


But how?


Just take off your shirts and let me do your back…(Trembling slightly he takes off his shirts and lies on his stomach} She starts massaging his neck and shoulders and he starts to sigh)


That feels so very good but I don’t think I can go any farther…




You know…like the rest of my clothes.


Keep on as much as you feel comfortable with.


Do you mean that?


Every word! I am here to serve and heal you of all that ails and troubles you…

I am a little surprised about the no touching…


Unites body and soul




I mean somewhere along your life, someone must have touched you.  I mean touching is a part of living.


Not my life…


You’re married…right?


How did you know?  Oh, the ring…(Wiggles his finger) Not any more…I only wear the ring because I… can’t get it off.


How long were you married?




10 years…that’s a long time…surely there was some sort of touching.


10 hours…nuptials at 10AM…at 8PM she had already left me…alone in our honeymoon suite…


Oh…I am so sorry for asking…

Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino

a great metaphor


I am way over that bitch… …the next day she went to our bank and withdrew every nickel I had and went to Mexico.   But it serves her right…two weeks later she got caught in crossfire with some them drug dealers…I guess they got the money…but she got what she…


What a horrible cross to bear.


I hope she burns in…


Oh Harry, you can’t really mean that!


I don’t know what I mean..


Believe in me…Harry.  Gaby can take away your pain…just relax…don’t fight me…(Starts to rub his neck and shoulders)


You know…I haven’t been touched like that…since….




Since my mother did….


Your mother was a therapist?


No, I was told she was a nurse…


You were told?  Why didn’t she tell you?


I was too young.  She went someplace and later they told me she died in a plane crash.


Oh I am truly sorry…Harry.  Look I can’t be your mother but I can help you get over some of your anxiety and fear…


Oh that would be so nice…(starts to tear a bit)


(Starts massaging a bit more intensely on his shoulders)  Harry you are starting to relax.  I can tell.  Pretty soon and you will be a pro at this.


How do you know?  I still feel tense and cranky…


Your body is talking to me…it is telling me where to rub and what part of you really needs my touch….


You really think so?  My body is really speaking to you?


Most definitely!  You should listen to your own body and ask what it wants you to do for it.


My body is telling me that you should rub my right shoulder.


See isn’t this a lot better than you thought?


(Nods in assent)  My body is telling me that my right knee needs your touch.


Right knee?  (She tries to rub under his pants but can’t get up that high.)  Problem Harry.


Problem?  What’s wrong?


Like I told you…the more you show…the more I can do…


(Looks around) Oh, I see…well I could  err…take them….off?

a normal comfort level


Don’t you think you would be more comfortable in just your shorts?


Err…I am not…sure but if you promise…not to…


(Holding up two fingers)  Scout’s honor!   But don’t worry, we have rules here.  And we don’t break our rules. You take your time and I’ll be just outside the door.  You can take off as much as you want …but please slip under the sheet when you have disrobed and call me.


You sure…


Perfectly!  Now just call my name…

(Gaby steps outside and finds MIKE waiting for her)


What’s with this guy Gaby?  I heard some shouting.  I almost came in…


Don’t worry Mike… Harry is just hurting a lot…like all my people…it takes awhile for them to trust me enough to talk…

(In the background, HARRY stands up on the far side of the table.  He takes off his pants and places them on the chair.  With his back to the audience, he starts to pull down his boxer shorts but has second thoughts and quietly slips between the sheets lying on his stomach.  GABY returns to the massage room)


Feeling more …comfortable…


Yeah…a little…


(Folds the sheet over his middle, exposing his right leg. Starts massaging his leg…) Harry I am really proud of you for taking those pants off…I have a little more room to work…(A pause in the conversation) You know I do great glutes!


What are “glutes?’

Proper draping for glutes


Your glutes are in plain language–your buttocks, butt, bum, derriere and so forth.  It has so many different names because it is so important to the well-being of your body.


You want to rub my butt?  That sounds kinky to me… Look Gaby, I am really enjoying myself but I don’t do kinky…maybe this isn’t so good an idea?


Seriously Harry, the best part of any full body massage is the glutes because they contain five major muscle groups and those are the muscles most of us use the least.  Blood just collects there like stagnant water on the street.  We need to get the blood flowing.  And like all roads lead to Rome…the glutes lead to your soul.


Well do ‘em…I’ve come this far.


There’s a slight problem…


Another problem?


(Slapping lightly on his buttocks)  It’s these Harry…your shorts…if I am going to do your glutes…you need to expose them…one at a time of course, so that I can do my job properly.


I just can’t do that!!! Never…never in a million years…Don’t even think about it. (Looks at him sternly)


The Big 4-0!

January 16, 2013

My wife and I usually go to movies on Thursdays or Fridays.

That is our Date night.

Sometimes we run out of a decent movie to see and consequently we tend to lower our standards..sometimes way lower.

Recently we saw Turning 40, a romantic comedy about a married couple with two young daughters.

The crux of the plot was that both partners were turning the big 4-0 within days of one another.

Each was having troubles serious difficulty coping with staying perennial young as is the American obsession with aging and ultimately death.

Starring Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann, the film had a great supporting cast, led by Albert Brooks and John Lithgow.

Also turned the big 4-0

While it was mildly entertaining, the raw language, some of it even used by their 13 year-old daughter, started to grate on us.

I understand that kind of thing is standard in films today but Turning 40 took it to a new low.

I don’t like or enjoy profanity but I tolerate it as I would a spot on my pants or a newspaper with ink blotches on one page.

But this was so pervasive, it not only got boring but it made us feel embarrassed to be in the theater.

I would say that it could arguably be the worst film we saw last year but we actually saw it the first weekend of January.

So it almost has a lock on this year’s worst film for us.

A movie has to be beyond the pale for us to get up and leave…so we stuck it out.

The only movies my wife and I have ever walked out on, oddly enough, had one of the Redgrave sisters, Lynn and Vanessa in it.

They were both b&w films from the sixties—Morgan and Georgie Girl.

When I am watching a bad movie, I try to look for some redeeming social value.

In this case, I am glad I did.

While it came near the end of the movie, one of the complexities of their turning 40 was the fact that Leslie’s character became pregnant.

Now this was just one unexpected, unwanted challenge that was lumped in with his failing business, her employee’s theft, school problems, a sibling rivalry, strained relations with each of their fathers and so on.

In today’s mores, a quick and easy abortion would have solved that problem.

But surprising there was none of the hand-wringing and gut wrenching drama that has always led to the abattoir.

As in his other gross film, Knocked Up Judd Apatow has a similar sequence, where the baby is, after a few nervous moments of surprise, welcomed.

A director with a trend?

I don’t know if this is a trend but it is certainly a vast improvement over the 1991 film, Cider House Rules, adapted from the militant pro-abortion John Irving’s book, which vigorously advances abortion as the cure-all for any unwanted pregnancy.

Funny thing happened on the way to the clinic.

In the real world, legalized abortion in all 50 states, also turns 40 this year.

And it seems that their big 4-0 is riven with as many problems and challenges as the couple in the Turning 40 movie.

A recent column by NYT’s writer Gail Collins, entitled The Woes of Roe,  lamented that Gallup polls suggest support for abortion rights is fading, particularly among young Americans, and that more people now regard themselves as pro-life than pro-choice.

Defending Roe’s legacy

While she tries to obfuscate the findings in a cover of obtuse legerdemain, the bottom line is that most Americans are conflicted about killing unborn babies.

Remember this is a nation that bends over backwards to protect the dour existences of such vitally important species, such as the snail darter and every variety of gnat.

However the absolute evil of killing a human baby, in utero is often easily dismissed by the mental gymnastics of a soul that is able to delegate its moral reasoning to the chaotic filing system of cognitive dissonance.

Collins cites a libertarian faction within the pro-choice movement that just wants to be left alone.

They want the decision to abort or not-to-abort to be strictly that between them and their doctors.

She stresses leaving the politicians out of this decision when it was the left-wing politicians who created the situation more than 40 years ago.

While Collins does her level best to shroud the 40 years of bloody fetal tissue in all the niceties of a debutante tea dance, where over 55 million have perished, the bottom line is that abortion has done an uncalculated harm to the female gender.

All women have been tainted by the decision 40 years ago that turned their wombs into potential battlegrounds.

It is not surprising that so many have had their feminine psyches twisted into caricature of the worst science fiction about a future America where men have become feminized and women have grown testicles.

Dripping with such sexual irony was the recent flap with sports announcer, Brent Musburger and his comments  during the National Championship game between Notre Dame and Alabama University.

Because the game quickly became an Alabama rout, Musburger looked for some interesting diversions.

In the first quarter, ESPN showed Alabama quarterback, AJ McCarron’s girlfriend, Katherine Webb, who was sitting with his parents.

Musburger called the 23-year-old Webb, the current Miss Alabama, a lovely lady and beautiful and said to his broadcast partner, Kirk Herbstreit, a former quarterback at Ohio State, You quarterbacks get all the good-looking women.

A moral eye for feminine beauty

The criticism came quickly with such words as creepyawkward, uncomfortable and heteronormative.


Musburger had better see his doctor.

The radical feminists, most of whom man a college post, teaching young, impressionable women, now had another example of how men oppress women.

It’s extraordinarily inappropriate to focus on an individual’s looks, said Sue Carter, a professor of journalism at Michigan State.


In this instance, the appearance of the quarterback’s girlfriend had no bearing on the outcome of the game.

Webb, who is indeed everything the 73-year old Musberger said she was and then some, was the only woman quoted who showed any sense or maturity.

It was kind of nice, Webb told The Associated Press after the game.

I didn’t look at it as ‘creepy’ at all.

Aj McCarron, Katherine Webb

A little avuncular advice

For a woman to be called beautiful, I don’t see how that’s an issue.

I would add that Musburger’s comments taken on face value were not vulgar or profane.

With a bit of an elderly sigh, he appreciated the natural beauty that God has blessed this particular woman with.

I think if the late Pope John Paul II had been watching the game…maybe he was–he would have said something like…she is what she isbellissima.

With the Church’s team playing, you know He was watching!

I think he would have added that…what Mr. Musburger said was exactly what I meant in my book about the Theology of the Body.

The TOB in action

Brent knows the moral way to look at one of God’s most beautiful creatures.

It is nice to know that there are still some real, normal women left like Ms. Webb, who can think for themselves.

I have a little avuncular advice for her.

O.K. make that grand-avuncular advice. 

Given the petulant, over-wrought personality of her relatively new boyfriend–ahead by  nearely a 1000 points, he starts a fight with his own teammate— alas, I can say, she can do better…much better!

Today most women can do better…but will always be enslaved by the male mentality that has given us Roe v. Wade.

Justices Byron White and William Rehnquist were the only two dissenting votes that day.

One of only two justices who saw the evil

These are just a few thoughts for you to ponder on this the darkest of all anniversaries.

I think 1/22 with its 55 million dead  will rank in infamy with 9/11 (3700 dead), and 12/7 (2700 dead).

Has choice been worth it to women?  Are they any happier?

To America?

What do you think?

 The Big 4-0!

Have A Happy Pencil

January 10, 2013

I promise this will be the last post about my hearing loss.

The above title makes even less sense than the I tell jokes statement of my Bible nemesis, Geoffrey.

But taken together both have what I hope will be real significance with my adjustment to chronic hearing loss.

By that I mean I am hoping that the one will be the alpha and the latter will be its omega…the beginning and the end of my inability to hear language correctly.

High Maintenance

The night at the parish dinner when I thought I heard Geoffrey say: I tell jokes when it was really Father Issac Joques was the first indication that something might be wrong.

That has to be over 20 years ago.

At a Cardinal baseball game last September–the day before my September 6th birthday–my wife told me something that sounded to me—Have a Happy Pencil!

A happy pencil at rest

Since it was very close to my birthday, my first thought was that she was extending some sort of weird birthday salutation.

What she really said was a woman friend’s name…Kathy Kingsley, which is obviously nowhere near what I thought I had heard.

I had to laugh both at the inanity of what I heard and the existential applications of the phrase Have a Happy Pencil.

There is a revision with a new translation of an old Russian novel book out that was reviewed in the New York Times at the end of the year.

Its title is Happy Moscow, written by the late Russian author Andrey Platonov.

I just had to get it, which I did last week.

I think I have stumbled on to something.

Doesn’t everyone seek personal happiness?

Isn’t that the focal point of most people’s lives?

Since then I have been having a grand old-time trying to set a trend.

What if you don’t know what to say when an old friend, whom you will probably not see for sometime leaves you?

Just say Have a Happy Pencil and wait for the reaction.

After someone waits on you or briefly helps you with some task, just utter: Have a Happy pencil!

You have to admit it is far better than Have a Nice Day and implies a good feeling that can last for months.

It is a great conversation starter.

You never know where it will lead.

The other day, I was telling my sad tale to a guy and he said he had read about a man who was a pencil sharpener.

That’s what he did.

Get happy folks

His name is David Rees and they call him the Proust of Pencils.

He has a book, out, entitled, How to Sharpen your pencils.

One of the things I liked about starting the artisanal pencil sharpening business was that it made me think about pencils in greater depth than I probably ever had in my life. And the more I thought about them the more I appreciated them as really efficient, elegant tools.

He had a whole bag of tools, with which to sharpen your pencils.

Wrote the book

That reminded me of the old Saturday Night Live routine where a small shop sold only scotch tape.

They later expanded with a 10 cent copy machine.

How could they afford to stay in business?

And he wasn’t cheap.

But I digress.

Just before the end of 2012, I got my new state of the art hearing aids.

Yes I said aids.  I now how twin aids–one for each ear.

Just tape

Yes even Judy’s ear gets one though I hear very little but white noise in it.

This aid, which is a wireless microphone, transmits sound to the receiver in my good ear.

It will remove the awkward gymnastics that I must perform to hear anyone on my rights side.

This ensures me that I will never get nostril prints on my eyeglasses ever again.

The day I went to have them tested, fitted and explained was filled with high anxiety.

The night before I had read the story about the old man who was in a similar position as I was.

He tells his friend that he had just purchased a state of the art hearing aid that worked perfectly.

Yet he bemoaned how much it costs, his friend asked him what kind is it?

The old man responded about 10:30.

When I met with Amanda my audiologist, I was afraid she would give me another one of those dreaded hearing tests I hate so much.

No she said...not this time.

Her computer calibrated the aid for me and after nearly two hours of explaining its complexities I was good to go.

There have been a few bumps in the road.

Being right-handed, the right one is extremely hard to put in for me.

I still have a wax build-up problem but the aid comes with a wax guard that can be easily changed.

The batteries have the same life span as a turkey on Thanksgiving.

I have to change them so frequently that I now wear a cargo vest or whatever they call what a photographer wears, with all the pockets.

I buy my #13s by the gross.

Orvis Trout Unlimited...

Holds a ton of 13s

Despite all the high maintenance  I think I have finally settled into a routine that will enhance my ability to hear sounds, beautiful worldly sounds of all kinds.

The best place to test it has been a Saturday Mass.

I was the lector recently and when the priest reads the Gospel and gives his sermon, I am lucky to hear a half-dozen words.

This time I heard virtually every word.

Monsignor has always been difficult for me to understand but this time I was amazed at how lucid and clear his sermon was.

He compared Einstein’s  1905 formula, E=mc2, where he had discovered the quantum theory of light that boasted of capturing the energy of the universe.

He compared that with God’s infinite grace and how great it would be that could be captured to energize all the Catholic families of the country.

A religious application?

I immediately wondered how many other brilliant sermons I have missed these past few years.

The thought also occurred to me that to people who are ignorant of God’s truth or refuse to hear it or even those who fill their lives with so much white noise, the WORD is merely static or gibberish.

That was probably the hardest thing to endure–not being able to hear the truth when it was presented to me.

I now realize just how much I have missed.

After my service was rendered I returned to my pew where I was nearly over-whelmed by the richness of our cantor’s voice, as well as the organ music.

I even delighted in the loud turning of pages and the constant squeaking of the pews as some heavy-set parishioners shifted their weight.

It was all so rewarding.

I felt like an explorer who made a great discovery or someone who found something he had lost.

All these sounds encouraged me to make every new day…a happy pencil.

2012 in review

January 8, 2013
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The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 24,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 6 Film Festivals

Click here to see the complete report.

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A Hollywood History Lesson

January 3, 2013

While I love both movies and history, I cringe every time I see or read about a new Hollywood movie that attempts to give the definitive interpretation of a historical event.

The two are more like oil and water.

Hollywood never seems to get it historically right.

I think that is true–and I would add it is also true of many current historians–because their interpretations are driven by a particular agenda.

That agenda usually has something to do with social justice, abortion rights, civil right or the environment.

I recently spent a Sunday afternoon watching the new Steven Spielberg movie, Lincoln.

A cold feeling

The movie was highly touted because of the quality of its ensemble cast, led by Oscar winners, Daniel Day-Lewis and Sally Field.

As Lincoln Day-Lewis artistically caught many of the nuances and mannerisms of America’s most popular historical figure.

As Lincoln’s melancholic wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, Sally Field, who looked much more matronly then when she was Forrest Gump’s mom, was voluptuously seductive in her nightshirt.

She had to lose 25 pounds to get the role and then had to gain 25 to keep it.

Only in Hollywood!

Sally Field On Fighting For Her Role in 'Lincoln'

A weighty role

I thought she was far better than many reviewers had led the public to believe.

The overall effect of the movie left me a little cold.

Since it was billed as Lincoln’s second struggle to get something concrete after his symbolic victory with the Emancipation Proclamation two years prior, I smelled a civil rights agenda brewing in the Hollywood coffee pot.

Historians call that historicism.

It is a fallacy that I define as the viewing of past history through the ideological prism of the current day’s driving mores.

The movie underscored several interesting things about America’s political system.

It reminded me of another movie about Congress, Allen Drury’s 1959 novel, Advise and Consent.

It stands out in stark contrast for its accuracy and its attempt to portray things in a much more realistic fashion.

It was based on the sad tale of a homosexual Senator, Lester Hunt from Wyoming, who ultimately killed himself in 1954 after being pressured to resign by colleagues.

It captured the ruthless attempts by our leaders to maintain maximum control in Congress.

Unfortunately, as with Lincoln, millions of people will go to this movie and believe that this is the way it really happened.

Probably would have liked the movie.

Lincoln did go a long way to show the congressional divide that made the viewer think he was caught in a 2012 time warp.

Two congressional factions had coalesced around the subject of Reconstruction.

Taxes and spending had nothing to do with their divide.

A majority group of moderate Republicans in Congress supported Lincoln’s position that the Confederate states should be reintegrated as quickly as possible.

Lincoln believed that the Union was morally and politically indivisible.

To him the South had never really left.

It was akin to the child who runs away from home.

The South would almost be part of the national family.

A minority group of Radical Republicans–led by Thaddeus Stevens in the House and Ben Wade and Charles Sumner in the Senate–sharply rejected Lincoln’s plan.

They believe the South had really seceded.

They claimed Reconstruction should involve a re-admittance to the union at a great penalty for their secession.

Tommy Lee Jones Brings Intensity and Humor to 'Lincoln'

A sterling performance

Thaddeus Stevens played admirably by Tommy Lee Jones, Al Gore’s old roommate at Harvard, took his commitment to racial justice to his bedroom, as the movie showed his getting into bed with his black housemaid.

This stretches history a bit.

Though he never married, Stevens was rumored to have carried on a 23-year relationship with his widowed quadroon housemaid, Lydia Hamilton Smith.

A victim of Washington gossip?

In the film Stevens fudged his belief that the races were equal in all matters and not merely before the law.

These Radical Republicans wanted their pound of flesh.

They wanted to destroy the South’s ability, not only to wage war, but to ever be a threat to America’s social and political unity.

They wanted to effect sweeping social and economic changes in the South and grant the freed slaves full citizenship before the states were restored.

They wanted to pick its bones clean.

The influential group of Radicals also felt that Congress, not the president, should direct Reconstruction.

In July 1864, the Radical Republicans passed the Wade-Davis Bill in response to Lincoln’s 10 percent plan.

This bill required that more than 50 percent of white males take an ironclad oath of allegiance before the state could call a constitutional convention.

The bill also required that the state constitutional conventions abolish slavery.

Confederate officials or anyone who had voluntarily borne arms against the United States were banned from serving at the conventions.

Lincoln had pocket-vetoed, or refused to sign, the proposal, keeping the Wade-Davis bill from becoming law.

The Radical Republicans’ assault on the South in the post-bellum led to nearly 100 years of violence and repression.

Lincoln’s sense of magnanimity that Grant had so aptly displayed at Appomattox was quickly discarded.

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role

Death changed everything

The film was very contextual movie in that the debate seemed to imply that it would on a high note…that is the end of slavery.

The movie made little mention of the fact that three/fourths of the state legislatures had to approve the amendment.

This was not accomplished until December of 1865, several months after Lincoln’s assassination.

That was no easy battle.

Spielberg should have implied that Lincoln’s death made the 13th amendment almost moot and changed the entire nature of the post-war debate.

I do understand that Lincoln was not a documentary, nor was it bound by the rules of truth and accuracy but when movies do history they almost claim the same of kind legitimacy.

This in itself underscores just how powerful Hollywood has become.

Lincoln the film missed the historical consequences of Lincoln’s actions.

Having the gift of historical foresight, film-makers should always be faithful to the way things really happened.

They should imply that things are not always as rosy as they appear and that many political victories turn out to be hollow and often filled with a den of vipers.

The legacy of the 13th amendment and its sister laws, the 14th (citizenship) and 15th amendments (male suffrage) was filled with a den of unintended consequences, such as the KKK, Jim Crow Laws and segregation.

The Klu Klux Klan was founded in Pulaski, Tennessee in 1865 by Nathan Bedford  Forrest.

F. Gump’s namesake

This led to another 100 years of racial strife and social disruption.

Millions voted for a black man for president twice now, hoping to heal the sins of Radical Reconstruction...only to find out that we are now almost as divided as we were in the 1840s.

There is a history lesson to be learned from this movie but I doubt it is the one that Spielberg had intended.

About author

After graduating from Holy Cross, Bill Borst earned an MA in Asian History from St. John's University and a Ph.D in American History from St. Louis University. (1972) A former New Yorker, he taught for many years in the St. Louis area, while also hosting a weekly radio show on WGNU from 1984-2006. He currently is a regular substitute for conservative Phyllis Schlafly on KSIV radio. (1320) He is the author of two books on social history, "Liberalism: Fatal Consequences," and "The Scorpion and the Frog: A Natural Conspiracy." He just retired as the Features editor of the Mindszenty Foundation Monthly Report. In his 11 years from 2003-2013 he wrote nearly 130 essays on Catholic culture and world affairs. Many in St. Louis also know him as the "Baseball Professor," because of a course that he offered at Maryville College from 1973-74. It was arguably the first fully-accredited baseball history course in the Midwest.The author of several short books on the old St. Louis Browns, he started the St. Louis Browns Historical Society in 1984. In 2009 his first two plays were produced on the local stage. "The Last Memory of an Ol' Brownie Fan," ran six performances at the Sound Stage in Crestwood and "A Perfect Choice" ran for two performances at the Rigali Center Theater in Shrewsberry. His third play, "A Moment of Grace," ran six performances at DeSmet High School in January of 2011with First Run Theater in January of 2011. He is currently working on a 4th play, "A Family Way," which is a comedy about a happy dysfunctional family. He can reached at