So, I spent Columbus Day…

So, I spent Columbus Day weekend writing ballads. Or, at least, browsing around in books of ballads, singing and strumming away at them badly, and trying to think my way through their strange plot inversions and narrative compressions. In the best ballads, I feel some deep root of English being . . . . Continue Reading »

The End of Advent

Christmas has devoured Advent, gobbled it up with the turkey giblets and the goblets of seasonal ale. Every secularized holiday, of course, tends to lose the context it had in the liturgical year. Across the nation, even in many churches, Easter has hopped across Lent, Halloween has frightened away . . . . Continue Reading »

Dakota Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving was always tense while I was growing up, and I don’t know why. Christmas, now¯Christmas was mostly fun and presents and carols and laughter, as I remember. But Thanksgiving was arguments and huffs and recriminations and doors slamming and one indistinguishable great-uncle or . . . . Continue Reading »

Small Towns

Small towns have been in the news lately. The past election featured them often. Barack Obama commented on the bitterness of those who cling to guns and religion. Sarah Palin and the McCain campaign celebrated small town virtues to contrast with “big city elitism” of the Democrats.For . . . . Continue Reading »

Inventing Scotland

After losing his Glasgow-Govan parliamentary seat in the 1992 General Election, Scottish National Party politician Jim Sillars condemned Scotland as a country of “Ninety-Minute Patriots,” willing to support Scotland during a football match but unwilling to take the necessary steps to . . . . Continue Reading »

We Need Roots

G.K. Chesterton was a sucker for romantic gestures. Lines of soldiers with swords crossed, flags rippling in the wind, cathedral bells tolling: These sorts of scenes moved him, as did visions of lovers pledging themselves to each other in the dusky darkness of a summer evening, monks prostrate on . . . . Continue Reading »

Reel Aliens

The Day the Earth Stood Still , a remake of the 1951 black and white movie classic of the same title, will be released December 12. I can’t wait to see it. A emissary from the galactic federation is coming to warn Earth about its bad environmental habits. We’re trashing up the . . . . Continue Reading »

The Realism of the Supernatural

Ronald was staring with wild incomprehension at the toaster, which was stubbornly refusing to relinquish the toast. This sentence, from British writer Alice Thomas Ellis’ 1990 novel, The Inn at the Edge of the World , may well win my personal award for Best-Ever Pithy Character Sketch. In this . . . . Continue Reading »

Healthcare with a Conscience

Healthcare institutions owned and operated by the Catholic Church are, and always have been, an important component of the nation’s healthcare infrastructure. By 1872, there were seventy-five Catholic hospitals in operation around the United States, founded and staffed mainly by women’s . . . . Continue Reading »