Day of Atonement

Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, began at sundown on the 18th. This is the gravest of High Holy Days in the Jewish calendar, one of those days that even people who rarely set foot in the synagogue make sure to get a seat ticket for. Not unlike Christians and Easter and Christmas, a Jewish friend assures me. It is very, very serious, and marks the time when men must examine their souls and apologize and make amends and atonement for the sins committed against G-d. Believers should have already asked forgiveness and apologized to other people they might have sinned against. Continue reading


Book Review: The Mecca Mystery

Townsend, Peter. The Mecca Mystery: Probing the Black Hole at the Heart of Muslim History. (2018) Kindle Edition

Everyone knows that Mecca is the holiest city of Islam, and that it was there that Muhammad began his years as the last prophet of G-d. What everyone knows might not be correct, at least not if you apply the rules of historical research and inquiry. Continue reading

September 11 Once More

None of my students were alive on September 11, 2001. It feels odd to type that, because to me the 9/11 attacks are current events. Granted, part of that is being trained that anything that happened less than thirty years in the past is “current events, political science, and popular memory” as one grad school professor phrased it. But I can clearly recall Sib’s voice on the phone, telling me to turn on the radio because “Your world just changed.” Sib was right, just not in the way either of us expected. Seeing Air Canada tails sticking up over the terminal building at the airport where I was working at the time was, ahem, surreal to put it mildly. Continue reading

Honest Labor

The US just has to be different. You see, we started the whole working man’s holiday idea, in Chicago, on May 1 during the Pullman Railway Carriage workers’ strike. The various European Labour and Socialist parties latched onto the idea and so May 1 became the International Day of Labor. Except in the US. Some states—New York and Oregon—picked the idea up, but moved it to late summer. Eventually it became a national day in 1884. Continue reading

Saints a’ Fire

St. Anthony Abbot, St. Florian, St. Elmo. They are all associated with “fire,” although only one is usually depicted as dealing with flames per se. That would be St. Florian, an Austrian martyr saint who is the patron of fire-fighters. A saint with a bucket dousing is building is St. Florian. He’s usually wearing Roman armor.

Patron of Firefighters, at least in Europe.

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Civilization – Precious and Hard Won

I wasn’t going to blog on this until I finished the series, but the opening music for the second episode brought too many fond memories to the surface for me to wait. I recognized the chant: Ubi Caritas et Amor. I have sung Lauridsen’s setting.

My folks and I watched part of the recent PBS series “Civilizations” and were disappointed. Great filming, some fascinating art, but it was hollow. So Mom tracked down the original BBC series, hosted by Kenneth Clark. It is chronologic rather than thematic, and locks on Western Civilization without apology or hesitation. Ah, 1969, when people still believed that the West was worth preserving, honoring, and fighting for. Continue reading