Sleeping In On a Black Friday

After a delicious Thanksgiving dinner with our folks and two of their good friends we came home and took a nice nap, and after that we dropped in on a heck of hootenanny at Kirby’s Beer Store, where our good friend Blind Tom Page and four other topnotch players from our surprisingly strong local music scene were playing some tasty Americana. After that we came home and watched the last hour of Martin Scorsese’s excellent movie “The Irishman” on Netflix, and after we finish penning this essay we plan to sleep late and forego the Black Friday shopping frenzy.
If it’s not too late, we’d advise you to do the same. The Wal-Marts are shopping malls are always unusually crazy on the day after Thanksgiving, and the same bargains will be available on Saturday when the shopping is less crazy, and for those who are up to date with these computer thingamajigs that bring us the latest Scorsese movie there’s Cyber Monday coming up when you can get even better deals and have them delivered to your porch.
Better yet that you forego all the crass commercialism of Christmas, or at least procrastinate to the last possible moment, and do some act of kindness rather than spending scarce money, as far as we’re concerned. After giving thanks to God for America and its democratic institutions and tasty meals and awesome music the nation rightly turns its attention to the miraculous and all-important birth of Jesus Christ, but we think our American ancestors were right to spend a only a week or so on it and try keep in it mind throughout the year and look forward to to celebrating Christ’s more all-important resurrection on a hopefully warmer Sunday Easter in the spring.
The weather around here was brutal on Thanksgiving, and probably will be until after Easter, but we’ll try to avail ourselves of the warming holiday spirit this cold and dark season somehow engenders. We’ll keep our eye on the nation’s politics, which looks to be turbulent, but try to keep the seasonal faith that it all works out well in the end..
The damnable corporations and the Christians and the popular culture have commenced the holiday season sooner than we would prefer, but our folks and their friends are doing fine enough despite life’s tragedies and there’s great music being played at Kirby’s Beer Store, so we’ll try to give thanks to God for each and every day. In a few short weeks we’ll celebrate Christ’s birth, and start looking forward to His resurrection in the far-off spring.

— Bud Norman

Opening Day

There’s plenty of serious and seriously depressing news out there, as always, but it’s hard to shake a certain sense of hopefulness on baseball’s Opening Day. It’s one of our favorite secular holidays for a number of reasons.
Much like the upcoming sacred holiday, Opening Day heralds the imminent arrival of warmer weather, for one thing, and after another long Kansas winter that will be most welcome. The first games played in the northeast will be chilly, but by the all-star game break they’ll be sweltering, and they’ll still be playing when it cools down in October. There’s something reassuring about such certainties.
Also much like the upcoming sacred holiday, baseball’s Opening Day offers everyone the chance to start life anew with an unblemished record and a shot at immortality. When the day’s last out goes into the record books half the teams will have a losing record, the other half will be briefly undefeated, but the next day brings another chance to win or lose, by the end of the season the worst teams will have won some and the best ones will have lost some, and there’s also something reassuring about such certainties of life as that.
As with politics and the rest of real life, we all take sides in baseball, and on this opening day we like our guys’ chances in baseball a lot better than we do our guys’ chances in politics. It’s a long story involving our Okie heritage and the late, great Mickey Mantle, but we’re lifelong fans of The New York Yankees, who look to be pretty darned good this year. Last year their emerging core of youthful stars, including a Rookie of the Year who smacked 51 homers, came a game short of reaching the World Series, and during the cold winter they signed a free-agent slugger who knocked 56 out of the park.
On a presumably warmer night a few weeks from now the unaffiliated Double-A Wichita Wingnuts will have their home opener down at the aging but venerable local ballpark by the Arkansas River, and that’s when baseball becomes serious. We’ve seen the Wingnuts play some great baseball from our seats in the smoking section with a couple of cigar-chomping friends, and last year they fell just a couple of runs short of a league championship, and we’re expecting another great season from our guys.
It looks likely the city will then tear down that aging but venerable local ballpark, which is the seventh-oldest professional ballpark in the world and witness to performances by such legends as Satchel Paige and Ron Guidry and Barry Bonds, and replace it with some shiny new structure and an affiliated Triple-A team with a presumably less goofy name than Wingnuts. Our old-fashioned conservative souls hate it, of course, but in baseball and the rest of the secular worlds things don’t always turn out to our liking. We’ll be back on the news today, in between watching the scores, but we’ll take time out to wish your team the best of luck and to wish you a very happy Easter.

— Bud Norman

Two Holidays in One

Yesterday was Easter Sunday, of course, but this year it coincided with the far more secular holiday of 4-20. For the sake of the squares among you we will explain that “4-20” is a sub-cultural slang term for marijuana. Some marijuana enthusiasts make a ritual of indulging each day at 4:20, although we’re not sure if it’s supposed to be A.M. or P.M, or perhaps both, if your sleep schedule is accommodating, and the 20th day of the fourth month of the year has become an unofficial national 24 hours of marijuana celebration. Easter didn’t prove a distraction for the large crowds that gathered in various cities across the country, and in The Mile High City of Denver 4-20 pushed the holiest day in Christendom right off the front page.
Tens of thousands gathered in a Denver park, according to the Associated Press, to smoke enough marijuana to make the nearby buildings look quite hazy in the news photographs. The state of Colorado has recently legalized the sale and possession of small amounts of marijuana, and although it remains in violation of federal laws and it is still illegal to smoke marijuana in public there seems to be a considerable degree of tolerance regarding the drug. Reports indicated that only 103 of those tends of thousands were cited, and only 92 of them marijuana violations. The rest were presumably handed a more expensive ticket for consuming tobacco in one of the nearby taverns. There seems to have been no violence or other problems associated with the party, and it can be assumed that the nearby fast-food outlets and convenience stores did a brisk business, so the event might become an annual tradition if anyone can remember the location. Most years it won’t fall on Easter, and a few more pious potheads might join in.
A bunch of grubby neo-hippies littering a park and giving a contact high to an entire neighborhood might not seem the most persuasive image that the pro-legalization movement might send to a wary non-pot-smoking public, which thus far retains a political majority in the country, and would probably be more sympathetic to the respectable Saab-driving suburban pothead who tries to hide it from the kids, but they do seem to be on a roll lately. Polling shows public sentiment moving toward legalization with the dizzying speed of same-sex marriage, legislation and referenda are being considered in several states, prominent politicians from both parties have offered their endorsements, and a certain sweet scent of inevitably is wafting across the land like the smoke from that rally in the park. It’s partly the Baby Boomer’s dominance of the Democratic party, and partly the increasing influence of libertarians and libertarianism in the Republic Party, but we suspect it’s mainly because everybody in government at every level is increasingly desperate for more and more revenues. Just as the Great Depression brought and end to the prohibition of alcohol, the current never-ending recession will prompt the government to cut itself in on the enormous trade in marijuana.
When it does happen, all those 4-20 types around the country won’t necessarily be celebrating. They’ve been smoking tax-free so far, and will be surprised to find how very expensive is the government’s fair share. Pot has previously been free of regulatory oversight, as well, and bureaucrats are notorious buzz-kills. In our newspaper days checking the fly-sheets at the local jail we noticed that the only people who ever got arrested for marijuana were selling large amounts in a careless way or had small amounts in their pockets while they were being arrested for something else, but we’re sure law enforcement will take a more active interest in the matter when state funds are stake. They’ll miss that slight outlaw frisson, too, and some will consider take up tobacco to regain that rebel stand.
State governments are all in the numbers racket already, with their lotteries and casinos ruthlessly protected monopolies, and government itself can be understood as sanctified protection racket. In Puerto Rico they’re considering getting in on the prostitution to trade to erase a debilitating debt, along with other ideas ranging from legalizing weed to reviving the country’s once-great coffee trade, and the more indebted states will be tempted to do the same after they’ve taxed all their rich people into other jurisdictions. State-sanctioned marijuana, which would be far more palatable to those aging Baby Boomer Democrats and their haranguing feminist wives as well those libertarian Republicans and their religious friends, will soon be an easy sell to a cash-strapped public.
A better way to fill the public coffers would be to expand the broader economy with tax and regulatory incentives to create more productive goods and services, but that’s a harder sell. There are good arguments against putting someone in prison at taxpayer cost for smoking marijuana, and good arguments for taking small cut on that marijuana to keep someone in prison for something more detrimental to the society, but parks full of grubby neo-hippies and agencies full of rapacious bureaucrats is not going to be a successful combination.

— Bud Norman

A Resurrection Correction

With all due respect to Dave Barry, Art Buchwald, Paul Krugman, and the other notable newspaper humorists who have plied the trade over the ages, the most reliable source of a good chuckle to be found in the American press has always been the corrections column of The New York Times. The latest howler ran on April Fool’s Day, aptly enough, and humbly acknowledged that “An earlier version of this article mischaracterized the Christian holiday of Easter. It is the celebration of Jesus’s resurrection from the dead, not his resurrection into heaven.”
This glaring mistake has already prompted considerable ridicule from the more conservative commentators, including one who was also reminded of the old joke about a man so stupid that he did not know what Easter is, but we feel obliged to say a forgiving word for the reporters who made the error and those fabled layers of editors at America’s putative paper of record who failed to correct it. Such astounding ignorance of the most basic tents of Christianity is quite common these days, and no longer confined to that highly-educated segment of the society from which the Timesmen are drawn.
The smart set seems especially prone to such obliviousness, though, which is a shame. Even if you regard Christianity as so much superstitious nonsense a familiarity with the religion is still necessary to understand the western civilization that it has done so much to form over the past couple of millennia. Aside from the enduring wisdom of the scriptures, which is widely acknowledged even by those who don’t buy into the supernatural aspects, the Bible is required reading for anyone who wants to appreciate much of the greatest art, literature, cinema, and all the other cultural forms that the educated once aspired to learn, as well as the beliefs that informed the founding of our system of government, and it’s even needed to understand the common idioms of the language. Another famously funny New York Times correction ran after a reporter quoted President Barack Obama’s allusion to the “Tower of Babble.”
Such high-placed ignorance of Christianity also has an unfortunate effect on the country’s politics. Too many people assume that Christianity, Judaism, and Islam are all the same Abrahamic hooey and thus fail to see the essential differences in the faiths, making a sensible debate about Islamist terrorism impossible even within the State Department. Traditional notions of morality that are associated with Christianity, such as disapproval of out-of-wedlock births, are casually dismissed as archaic even if their social benefits are well documented. A widespread public ignorance of religious beliefs is often exploited to portray people with longstanding beliefs rooted in a philosophy of love as hateful bigots, and even to force secular notions of morality on religious institutions.
Still, the Times’ lack of familiarity with Easter and other arcane aspects of Christianity is not surprising. The schools will no longer teach about the Bible even as an important literary and historical document, partly for fear of pesky litigation from those who are absolutists about the separation of church, partly because they prefer to preach the gospel of global warming, and except for that big hit series on cable the entertainment industry seems to have given up on the Biblical epic. About the only place to learn about religion is a church, and as any Times reader knows only the very low-brow go there.

— Bud Norman