Fascism. Indulge me for the space of a weblog entry. Let’s both act as if modern-day American society may possibly be exhibiting fascist tendencies, and that it is permissible to discuss that possibility in a calm and reasoned manner, without risk of being consigned to the lunatic fringe. Take a look at this story about a fellow’s recent experience with airport screening.
What I like about this story is that it’s not overblown. If the fellow had managed to swallow his indignation and keep quiet, he probably would have escaped without incident—but not without some amount of shame for not having stood up for his wife. And the overreaction of the screeners was slight, maybe even justifiable—but it was enough to set another part of the bureaucracy in motion, one that immediately swallowed the fellow up.
What’s nightmarish about this story is not the bureaucratic entanglement itself, but that such an entanglement could be triggered by such a small and understandable thing, namely a man’s indignation at someone having made his wife cry. What’s disturbing about the story is how easy it is to read such nowadays with more sympathy for the screening system than for the fellow. We value our personal peace so highly that we are willing to require everyone to walk a fairly narrow path for the sake of that peace, and to blame the fellow who stumbles in his walk, rather than question the need for such a narrow path—and the need for the bureaucratic abyss that awaits those who stumble.
Frustration. Last night I was at Abingdon Presbyterian Church for their Sunday evening service. It was a Fifth Sunday, meaning one of those fifth Sundays of the month that happen about four times per year, and so it was a joint service between five of the area Reformed churches, Saint Peter being one of the five. We sang a hymn, had a prayer, and then R.C. preached a corker of a sermon on the first part of Ephesians 5.
It was probably far and away the best sermon in a long time for most of the non-Saint Peter people in the room; pretty high up on the Saint Peter scale, too. And so I was frustrated that the fairly small sanctuary was half empty. I can understand why folks would be loyal to their home church for worship and for regular teaching, but I can’t understand why more people don’t take advantage of the addtional world-class teaching that is available right in their own backyard. There are obviously a number of dynamics that I’m ignoring here, some of which I’d probably prefer not to contemplate too deeply.
Cultured. Just so you don’t think too highly of our kids: they came and reminded me today that they hadn’t yet cashed in their Christmas gift of a video rental (one for all three to share), and that they’d like to do so … with a rental of Star Wars II: Attack of the Clones. Sigh. Now, we did all go to see it together this summer, and I’ll admit that I enjoyed it as eye candy. But I let them watch it themselves this afternoon, and I wasn’t tempted at all to join them. (Matthew did admit later that he had forgotten how much gooshy stuff there was in the movie.)
Coffee. While helping to rearrange cabinets in the kitchen this week, I came across my old French press coffee maker. There was a time when I used it for every cup of coffee, but that was years ago. I finally put it away because I didn’t have access to a sink with a disposal where I made the coffee, which made the maker a pain to clean. So I used it to make a cup, and have used it about half the time since. I’d forgotten how good a cup of coffee it makes.
One advantage of a French press is that it steeps the coffee, and so it brews longer than a drip coffeemaker does. Another advantage is that the filter is very coarse, only filtering out the grounds—well, most of them, anyway; there’s always a bit of sludge at the bottom of the cup. The coarse filter allows through all the brew colloids that get captured by a paper filter, making the brew almost syrupy. (Brew colloids, according to the Coffee Quality Institute, are “micro-sized particles formed by different combinations of oil and water-soluble constituents that are suspended in brewed coffee. Colloids give texture (mouthfeel) and contribute to overall flavor.”) A third advantage, at least to my taste, is that the brew is more mellow, less acidic.
One disadvantage to a French press, of course, is that it is slightly more trouble to clean than a Mellita filter cone. But, really, it’s not much more than a matter of rinsing out the grounds from the container into the disposal, and then rinsing off the plunger mechanism. A second, more irritating disadvangage, is that the container is glass, which radiates a lot of heat; if you steep the coffee for four minutes, it really needs a bit of time in the microwave to get back up to temperature.
Uncultured. On Christmas eve I took Chris to the video store; as part of his birthday celebration he got to choose a couple of videos for everyone to watch. He was looking for either Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, or Harold Lloyd—which pleased me no end—but the video store let us down. After much looking, I finally recommended a Laurel and Hardy film, Bonnie Scotland. We also rented Stuart Little 2, having found the first one mildly enjoyable.
The kids started with Laurel and Hardy, and it was fun to hear all the laughter from the basement. On Christmas Day they watched Stuart Little, and it was pretty quiet by comparison. They’ll probably watch the Laurel and Hardy film again before the videos are returned.
Christmas. We had a great one. My brother Gary did make it here on Christmas eve. I found out this time around that he is an aficionado of both fine cigars and fine bourbons, so we shared a drink that evening; I gave him the rest of my Knob Creek, which he had been wanting to try, while I moved on to open my tiny bottle of Bakers (which I wisely poured only a bit of, maybe 2/3oz, since its excellence is accompanied by a fairly high alcohol content).
Christmas morning was the usual rituals—open stocking gifts before breakfast, a breakfast of Sara Lee coffee cakes (Debbie’s family tradition), and then the rest of the presents. Even though we’ve shifted to giving major gifts at other times of the year, relatives provided more than enough of them to fill up the space under the tree. Among the favorites were two gifts they each got, a large candy bar (candy isn’t something they get often) and a tiny radio-controlled car.
In the afternoon the Daughertys joined us. Mid-afternoon eats included the eggnog, an excellent fruitcake, some homemade candies given to us by a neighbor, cookies, chips and salsa, and Chex mix. We sat around the dining room table and ate and talked. Soon enough, though, I had to push myself away—not because of the food, but because of the eggnog, whose excellence was also accompanied by a fairly high alcohol content. Later there was a supper of ham, baked beans, hashbrown potato casserole, corn salad, rolls, pecan pie and brownies, washed down with some of Jonathan’s fine homebrew.
The food was good, and the company was especially fine. We’re still a long way from knowing how to celebrate properly—but how enjoyable it’s going to be learning how to do it right!
Birthday. Tomorrow is Chris’ birthday. He’s our oldest, and he’ll be fourteen years old. Debbie and I have gone through many changes in our life together, and Chris has had to endure the brunt of many of our mistakes. But he’s borne up well under them, and we’re pleased and grateful that God gave him to us as a son.
We’ve shifted our gift-giving policy yet again. Now we give major gifts at the appropriate time, and only small token gifts for birthdays and Christmas. But we still make both times special in other ways. Since it’s Chris’ birthday tomorrow, he gets to set the menu for supper (chicken-fried steak, apple pie), and to choose a special family activity (a movie or something similar).
And since it is Christmas eve, we will be trimming the tree tomorrow afternoon and spending the evening together as a family. My brother Gary will be joining us tomorrow afternoon, and then for Wednesday’s Christmas supper the Daugherty clan will join us as well. For the occasion I’m going to try my hand at making a traditional egg nog, with rum and bourbon and brandy and cream and milk and eggs.