Wednesday, February 27, 2008

On the Passing of William F. Buckley

The first time I ever read his column, I think I might have been 11 or 12. My class had taken a trip to the main branch of the local library to do some kind of research paper using periodicals as our main sources. Well, instead of settling in to do research on the 1950s, I looked through all of the various magazines to find information on President Reagan and the latest happenings in Washington DC. I went through the racks and found National Review sitting there, apparently unopened by human hands once it was received. Most of the information went over my head at the time, but I remember that Tom Selleck had advertised it as a good addition to a regular newspaper and better than the main weeklies like Time and Newsweek. (I also tuned in to Magnum P.I. on a regular basis, but the reasons for that were the Ferrari, the helicopter, the guns, and the comedy. The women showed up on my radar screen later.) I had a feeling there was something worth reading when both he and President Reagan extolled the virtues of the magazine. I read through his columns, then the whole magazine, and then read it again. The joke has always been that you read a William Buckley column with a dictionary at your side. That was no joke for me, and it got to the point where I needed a better dictionary. So off I would go to the periodicals section on a regular basis to read National Review. I always hoped to be able to use language as he did: using obscure words to fit perfectly the idea you were describing because no ordinary words were perfect. I also reveled in the idea that Catholics could be something other than socialist-leaning liberals, and it was thanks to his work that I had an intellectual reinforcement of my beliefs in things both mundane and spiritual.

I read a few of the left-leaning political commentary magazines my freshman year of college, but none of them ever came up to the same standards as National Review. When I was in the Air Force, I was the only guy who tuned in to public tv to watch Firing Line. In fact, the first thing I bought when I returned to Illinois from my time in the service was one of those page-a-day calendars. It happened to be Mr. Buckley's "365 Words You'd Like To Know." I think the only one of those words I've used on a regular basis has been "mandarinate." When I went back to college, I was too busy to read NR as often, but the Internet provided where the library could not. National Review's website has become one of my major stops in news and political commentary. I found there many more amazing writers, such as Jonah Goldberg, Jay Nordlinger, the late Cathy Seipp, Deroy Murdock and found a regular place to find Thomas Sowell's columns. That Mr. Buckley could find such a varied cast of writers and wrangle them all into his magazine showed the variety of thoughts that made up modern conservative culture.

I certainly do miss Notes and Asides, his column on using proper words in the proper contexts. The columns both laudatory and censurious of political figures are now something to leave as examples of How It's Done in discussing the issues of the day. Godspeed to you, Mr. Buckley. You will be missed.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

A Little Something For My Leatherneck Readers

23 February 1945: Four days after the initial landings on Iwo Jima, 1stLt Harold G. Schrier led 40 men from Company E, 2d Battalion, 28th Marines, up Mt. Suribachi to secure the crest and raise the small American flag that battalion commander LtCol Chandler Johnson had given Schrier. Within an hour, the patrol reached the rim of the crater. After a short fire-fight with Japanese defenders emerging from several caves, the small American flag was attached to an iron pipe and raised over the island.

This is one of the best-known moments of history that have come to define the spirit of the Marines. We should never forget it.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Lent 1, Doughnuts 0

So, for Lent I gave up having doughnuts for breakfast. I usually get them two or three times a week from a certain glorious manufacturer of breakfast pastries. It's a local chain, too, and has basically sent the other doughnut chains packing when they've come to town. Yes, they're that good.

This morning, what do I find at the office as I walk in to get my morning coffee and warm up the breakfast I'd brought from home? Yes, two large two-dozen boxes of the One True Doughnut. Every time I'd go to get a refill on my coffee, they sat there as if they were staring at me and chanting "Eat us! We're delicious! No one will know!"

I managed to avoid the temptation. Chalk up one more little Lenten victory.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Another shooting at a university has occurred today, this time at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb. Yeah, this is just what we needed, another mass shooting. I guess Virginia Tech taught us nothing about what to do when the need arises to meet force with force. Once again, if there'd been one student who could have returned fire the shooting might have been able to stop sooner. Maybe there'd only be one dead, not six. My prayers go out for the families of all involved, even the shooter's family. I do want to know what brought this on, though. Will it be another case where a student decided to believe that no one understood him, was it a crush that went terribly wrong, or something even worse than those two?

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Bowling Night, 2/7/08 edition

The weather was finally good enough to head to the range tonight for our monthly qualifier shoot. I looked down the range and two of the dreaded steel targets were there, waiting for me to miss many times before hitting them. Well, tonight, I dropped both steel targets with the first shots I took at them. It was just shoot-drop, shoot-drop.

The cardboard targets were a different matter. I missed one target completely and our no-shoot target had two nice holes where I nicked the edges. Well, I at least did well against the steel targets tonight, and that's a big improvement for me. I still have a long way to go for increasing from a "D" classification to a "B." I think I can do that by the end of the year if I get more practice in during the week. So, that's what I'll have to do. I'll just have to grit my teeth and go to the range two or three times a week. Darn my luck.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Well, it's Super Tuesday. So, for those of you in the 24 states who are running primaries today, GO VOTE if you haven't already. Vote before work, or after work, or at lunch. We're narrowing the fields of contenders today, so this is your chance to see how your party will shape up. I'm not going to stump for any of the candidates, nor am I going to rail against any. I just want you, the reader, to go out and participate in the electoral process. Just remember this: in the United States, you get the government for which you vote and you get the government for which you don't vote. So, here's your opportunity to help make a decision on who's running the place. The general election is nine months away, but your vote in the primaries determines what each party will have to offer in November.

The rest of the country had their big event Sunday, for politics-watchers like me, this is like the playoffs. The first Tuesday in November is my big event.

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