Married in Vegas

I was reading about the selling of a wedding chapel in Vegas  for 12 million dollars.  Who gets married in Vegas and at a place called “A Little White Chapel”?  Famous people do and did tie the knot there in its 68 years of weddings. I was surprised by the first couple on the list of notables. The reason was that couple stayed together 50 years and were Hollywood A-Listers.

Continue reading “Married in Vegas”

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Built on the Rock

Here is a poem for your consideration as we celebrate Holy Week in the midst of sadness over the great damage to Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. This poem does not come from a post-Christian, unbelieving viewpoint, teetering on the edge of depression. I spared you my comments on those poems. Instead I have a different poem to offer. This is a manly poem, encouraging us to pick ourselves up, brush ourselves off, and start all over again, striding out with confidence in the approaching bright Easter Day.

Built on the Rock, the church shall stand
even when steeples are falling;
Crumbled have spires in ev’ry land;
bells still are chiming and calling.
Calling the young and old to rest,
calling the souls of those distressed,
longing for life everlasting.

Not in a temple made with hands
God the Almighty is dwelling;
high in the heav’ns His temple stands,
all earthly temples excelling.
Yet He who dwells in heaven above
chooses to live with us in love,
making our bodies His temple.

We are God’s house of living stones,
built for His own habitation;
He fills our hearts, His humble thrones,
granting us life and salvation.
Yet to the place, an earthly frame,
we come with thanks to praise His name;
God grants His people true blessing.

Thro’ all the passing years, O Lord,
grant that, when church bells are ringing,
many may come to hear God’s Word
where He His promise is bringing:
“I know My own, My own know Me,
you, not the world, My face shall see;
My peace I leave with you. Amen.”

The author was Nikolai Fredrik Severin Grundtvig. It was translated from Danish by Carl Döving.

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Breaking: Notre Dame on Fire

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6925015/Fire-breaks-historic-Notre-Dame-cathedral-Paris.html

Has anyone heard about the causes?

Added information from article.

Notre Dame – which means ‘Our Lady’ – was build in 1160 and completed by 1260, and has been modified on a number of occasions throughout the century.

A spokesperson for the cathedral said the blaze was first reported at 5.50pm (GMT) and the building was evacuated soon after.

Officials in Paris said the fire could be linked to restoration works as the peak of the church is currently undergoing a 6 million-euro ($6.8 million) renovation project.

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Lies as Fuel for Slaughter; Truth as Wellspring of Courage

Yesterday, by chance, reading involved two things: a chapter of history and a short story.  Written by men living 2300 years apart, these describe the very same thing: the workings of the human heart, in particular at times of trial, and the results of those workings in terms of human suffering and survival. In the history, people lied to everyone about everything in an attempt to save their own skins, and failed, earning themselves sordid deaths.  In the story, a man is led by his absolute devotion to truth at least to die with integrity after having behaved well.

Thucydides claims to have based his history on near reports, and to have fleshed it out with his own considered reconstructions of the speeches made by the great men on all sides during the Peloponnesian War.  That’s fine; all well and good, but to read it is to scan multiple recursions of the same theme, here paraphrased:

The Plutonians sent forty ships to lay waste the lands of the Apricotians.  The Apricotians did not submit, so the Plutonians slaughtered them all, burned the city, raised a trophy, and sailed home.

Then the reader arrives at Chapter X, “The Corcyrean Revolution,”  to be startled awake on reading this:

The Corcyrean revolution began with the return of the prisoners taken in the sea-fights off Epidamnus . . . the accused, rendered desperate by law . . . banded together armed with daggers, and suddenly bursting into the senate killed Peithias and sixty others, senators and private persons . . . 

After a day’s interval hostilities recommenced, victory remaining with the commons, [over the oligarchs] who had the advantage in numbers and position, the women also valiantly assisting them, pelting with tiles from the houses, and supporting the mêlée with a fortitude beyond their sex. Towards dusk, the oligarchs in full rout, fearing that the victorious commons might assault and carry the arsenal and put them to the sword, fired the houses round the market -place and the lodging-houses . . . 

The Corcyreans, made aware of the approach of the Athenian fleet . . . slew such of their enemies as they laid hands on . . . Next they went to the sanctuary of Hera and persuaded about fifty men to take their trial, and condemned them all to death.  The mass of the suppliants who had refused to do so, on seeing what was taking place, slew each other there in the consecrated ground; while some hanged themselves upon the trees, and others destroyed themselves as they were severally able. . .  the Corcyreans were engaged in butchering those of their fellow-citizens whom they regarded as their enemies: and although the crime imputed was that of attempting to put down the democracy, some were slain also for private hatred, others by their debtors because of he monies owed to them.  Death thus raged in every shape; and as usually happens at such times, there was no length to which violence did not go; sons were killed by their fathers, and suppliants dragged from the alter or slain upon it . . .

Now Thucydides moves from the particular to the general.

. . . struggles being everywhere made by the popular chiefs to bring in the Athenians, and by the oligarchs to introduce the Lacedaemonians. . .   The sufferings which revolution entailed upon the cities were many and terrible, such as have occurred and always will occur, as long as the nature of mankind remains the same;

Too right, says the 20th-century reader, who now wonders if she is actually reading a news story:

. . . Words had to change their ordinary meaning and to take that which was now given them. Reckless audacity came to be considered the courage of a loyal ally; prudent hesitation, specious cowardice; moderation was held to be a cloak for unmanliness; ability to see all sides of a question inaptness to act on any.  Frantic violence became the attribute of manliness; cautious plotting, a justifiable means of self-defense.  The advocate of extrme measures was always trustworthy; his opponent a man to be suspected.  To succeed in a plot was t0 have a shrewd head, to divine a plot still shrewder; but to try to provide against having to do either was to break up your party and to be afraid of your adversaries. 

 

Stephen Vincent Benét’s 1937 short story The Blood of the Martyrs concerns an apolitical scientific researcher and professor, imprisoned in “the castle” by the soldiers of “The Dictator.” The Professor dispassionately assesses the near likelihood of his execution.  He does not betray his students, who apparently have been self-organizing into a force in opposition to The Dictator –  but he does not articulate to himself why he does not betray them despite beatings and condemnation to death.

Only at the very end, when The Dictator personally demands, in exchange for his life on terms, that he lie about science – do State Science, speak in scientific language in service to the State – does the Professor make his refusal.  He does not spell it out for himself in his mind; he simply recalls the faces of his students who came to him over the years for one thing: truth, and the pursuit of truth.

He paused again, seeing their faces before him. . . From all over the world they had come – they wore cheap overcoats, they were hungry for knowledge, they ate the bad, starchy food of the poor restaurants . . . a few were promising – all must be given the truth. It did not matter if they died, but they must be given the truth.  Otherwise there could be no continuity and no science. 

. . . not to tell lies to young men on one’s own subject. . . .They had given him their terrible confidence – not for love or kindness, but because they had found him honest.  It was too late to change.

The Professor will not lie for the State, even to save his life.  His death is sordid only externally; internally his integrity gives him calm. He dies thinking of the young men to whom he has not lied.

So, some will lie, and participate in lies, in an attempt to evade murder, or merely to advance themselves.  Other will refuse to lie, because to lie would be to commit painful betrayal to the highest value.  For Benét’s character, it is not a matter of anguished calculation or conjecture.  It just is so.  That is the source of his personal courage: faithfulness to what is so.

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This Week’s Book Review – Code Name: Lise

I write a weekly book review for the Daily News of Galveston County. (It is not the biggest daily newspaper in Texas, but it is the oldest.) My review normally appears Wednesdays. When it appears, I post the review here on the following Sunday.

Book Review

“Code Name: Lise” reads like a thriller and a romance, yet is solid history

By MARK LARDAS

Apr 9, 2019

“Code Name: Lise, The True Story of the Woman Who Became WWII’s Most Highly Decorated Spy,” by Larry Loftis, Gallery Books, 2019, 385 pages, $27

On July 16, 1940, Winston Churchill began an effort to “set Europe ablaze,” creating the Special Operations Executive to strike at Nazi Germany from within Occupied Europe — the nations conquered by Germany. One of the agents recruited to infiltrate into France was Odette Sampson, a married mother of three.

“Code Name: Lise, The True Story of the Woman Who Became WWII’s Most Highly Decorated Spy,” by Larry Loftis tells her story.

Sampson was born in France, but had moved to Britain between World War I and II after marrying an Englishman. She wanted to do her bit for Britain after France fell in June 1940, and offered her services. She thought she could be useful as a translator. Instead, as Loftis shows, the SOE saw her as a perfect agent to infiltrate into occupied France. They convinced her to do so, leaving her children with relatives in Britain.

Assigned to the SPINDLE network, she served in Southern France, then run by the German-friendly Vichy government. She was a courier, carrying messages, money, and munitions to other agents. Women could move more freely than men.

She proved competent, gaining the trust and admiration of the network’s leader, Peter Churchill. Danger brought the two together. Their relationship passed from admiration to love, although neither acted on their inclinations while active agents.

In turn, the SPINDLE network was being tracked by Hugo Bleicher, a sergeant in the Geheime Feldpolitzei. He proved outstanding at counterespionage, successfully turning one SPINDLE agent and rolling up the network. He captured Sampson and Churchill as they attempted to escape to Switzerland.

When captured, Sampson claimed she was married to Churchill and that he was related to the British Prime Minister. Both claims were false. The Germans believed it, and ultimately it kept the two from being executed due to their “hostage” value. They also were sheltered and fostered by Bleicher, an oddly humane counterspy.

Loftis follows the story from its origins through the end of the lives of the participants, well after the war’s end. “Code Name: Lise” reads like a thriller and a romance, yet is solid history.

Mark Lardas, an engineer, freelance writer, amateur historian, and model-maker, lives in League City. His website is marklardas.com.

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Unplanned

The film Unplanned tells the story of Abby Johnson, erstwhile director of a Planned Parenthood clinic in Bryan, TX. It is based on her book of the same title. Ms. Johnson first joined Planned Parenthood as a volunteer when she was a student at Texas A&M in nearby College Station, TX. She eventually rose to become the director of the Bryan clinic. Her growing unease with Planned Parenthood’s policies and procedures culminates with her participation in an abortion with the aid of sonography. Visualization of the process finally pushes her over the edge and she quits, becoming an anti-abortion activist. She has previously told her story in speeches.

As expected this film as been controversial, leading Google to label the film as propaganda. The film is certainly polemical. Any film with a point of view could arguably be labeled as propaganda but that would mean almost everything coming out of Hollywood is propaganda. By applying the word this way it loses all meaning. Unplanned is reasonably balanced. People on both sides of the issue are generally portrayed as being well-intentioned rather than good or evil. The main exception is Ms. Johnson’s superior at Planned Parenthood, who is the film’s villain. Some of the anti-abortion activists are also depicted as being less than well-behaved.

I found the film both moving and disturbing. Though not especially squeamish, I had to look away on a couple of occasions. One cannot come away from viewing it without being affected. There have been complaints that the film is rated R but the rating is not unreasonable given the nature of the material. It would be inadvisable to take a child to see it. The film has a fair amount of reference to religious faith. From the point of view of a non-believer, this is not central to the film’s message; the film stands on its facts and arguments, along with some tugging at the heart-strings.

Highly recommended.

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Latin Saying: Corruptissima re publica plurimae leges.

In the most corrupt state are the most laws.

I have heard this expressed as “Laws are for the lawless.” A law does not change a person’s heart. A law will make a bad person be more careful so they don’t get caught. In a sense a law is aspirational. It is how we hope society to be not how it is. How it gets to that good place takes more than a law.

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propaganda

Google categorized the new movie “Unplanned” as a “Drama/ Propaganda” film.   They have not categorized other films as propaganda, even films that are famous as examples of propaganda.

After the Christian blogosphere circulated this on Thursday, it got noticed in conservative niche media yesterday.   Today Google quietly changed the category of “Unplanned” back to “Drama.”   Shame on Google.

I expect that all y’all know that “Unplanned” is an anti-abortion film that tells the story of Abby Johnson, who famously flipped from being a successful abortion clinic manager for Planned Parenthood to becoming an anti-abortion activist.   Perhaps you also know that the MPAA slapped it with an R rating, even though it is devoid of sex, violence or bad language.   Maybe you also know that Facebook and Google have refused the publicist’s ads.   And that Google has been downgrading search results related to the movie.

This is just another day in the culture war.   Another state passed yet another anti-abortion law today, adding fuel to the fire that will ensure that Roe v Wade gets a return engagement at the Supreme Court.

Maybe someday America can stop murdering helpless babies.

LORD,  have mercy.

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Today Poem: Loveliest of Trees

Inspired by Dime’s tree posts, I thought this appropriate. It is not Kipling, but Houseman is another favorite of mine. This is one of his few cheerful poems and about the only one by him I saw in my middle school English texts. (Those were typically filled with dreadful stuff by Emily Dickinson.) When I was in college, I discovered A Shropshire Lad, in which this poem appeared, and which had lots of other gloriously mordant verses.

LOVELIEST of trees, the cherry now
Is hung with bloom along the bough,
And stands about the woodland ride
Wearing white for Eastertide.

Now, of my threescore years and ten,
Twenty will not come again,
And take from seventy springs a score,
It only leaves me fifty more.

And since to look at things in bloom
Fifty springs are little room,
About the woodlands I will go
To see the cherry hung with snow.

A. E. Houseman

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Latin Saying: Multi famam, conscientiam pauci verentur.

Multi famam, conscientiam pauci verentur.
Many fear their reputation, few their conscience.

I like the pithiness of Latin sayings. They get to the point quickly. This saying gets across people worry about looking good instead of being good.

Many English words come from Latin so we get introduced to our language’s roots. Which English words do you see in this saying?

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