April 22nd, 2014 | FredKey

“Dude, I was so embarrassed! I was, like, talking to her for half an hour before I found out I had broccoli stuck in my teeth!”

Easter Monday is still a Monday.

April 21st, 2014 | FredKey

Do I need to tell you that my genial host Blarg.com is malfunctioning again?

No, of course not.

It’s been pretty good for a while, but over the weekend the usual crap started to happen. The login got screwed; the post tags won’t work; you can upload images but you can’t do anything with them unless you know code. And even then it may not work—how should I know? I don’t know code.

But I do know that this all happened right after I renewed my subscription.

Well, as the header says, even Easter Monday is a Monday.

It shouldn’t be, though, and I don’t just say that out of jealousy of our Anglosphere friends who have today off.

“We are Easter people,” says the pastor, and he is right, or ought to be right. We don’t live in the crucifixion; we live in the Risen Christ. So today and every day should be happy, suffused with the knowledge that salvation is at hand and the ills of this world are but small and temporary, nothing compared to the good things that await us. The problem is:

a. Our problems don’t feel small and temporary.
b. We have inadequate faith.
c. We have inadequate patience.
d. We take miracles themselves for granted, including the miracle of existence—but by definition miracles can never be taken for granted.
e. We’re tired because we stayed up too late and the kids got us up to early and the boss is an idiot and WHO ASKED YOU?

There are others, but these are on my mind this particular Monday. I hope yours is going better than mine.

Horpy Ister.

April 20th, 2014 | FredKey

At the Vigil Mass last night the pastor completely blindsided me. Before we got going he asked me to come up to the altar when I got a particular cue and read a list of names aloud. I had a chance to look it over beforehand, but not much of one.

Now, you’re probably saying, “Fred, I’ll wager your pastor knows that you are a sophisticated man of letters, a learned editor and writer, a communications specialist whose knowledge and abilities with words are as strong and artful as a proctologist’s way with—other things.”

No, I think it was because I was a warm body and I was wearing a tie.

The thing is, I had little trouble with the last names, the Wyzynskis and Szysznyks and Alamahandro-Estevezes and Nathraicheans, or at least if I did, no one would have known anyway. But on the very last name I made a slight error that caused a big change. I don’t want to give out the name, but let’s just say it would be like introducing a Jimmy as a Ginny. James would be sore.

And this, as I explained later, is why I’m not a lector. You can bet that if I were at the altar doing readings from the Bible, you would hear:

…a reading from the letter of St. Paul to the Philippines.

…a reading from the Sol of Songomon.

…a reading from the letter of St. Paul to the Colosseums.

…a reading from the book of Exorcist.

…a reading from the book of Laminations.

…a reading from the book of Habakkukkukkukkukkuk.

…a reading from the book of Neuteronomy.

…a reading from the band of Genesis.

…a reading from the latter of St. Paul to the Galacticians.

…a reading from the book of Haggis.

…a reading from the book of Prevorbs.

…a roding from the book of Nehemiahtode.

…a reading from the book of Revolution.

…a reading from the Apps of the Actostles.

It’s a good thing that laymen do not read from the Gospels, or I’d turn them into Matthau, Mork, Luck, and Joan.

Oh, well. Horpy Ister, everybody.

More space food!

April 19th, 2014 | FredKey

All right, now that it’s Holy Saturday and the fast is over, it’s time to be obsessed with food again!

Today’s treat, like the previous one, is a well-known astronaut fave that was hardly ever eaten by astronauts: freeze-dried ice cream.


In my misspent youth I and my friends were convinced that this was the treat John Glenn took with him into orbit, that Neil Armstrong scoffed down before he took that big step, that Sally Ride enjoyed with some freeze-dried chocolate syrup on the space shuttle. Of course Wikipedia has to rain on our parade:

Apollo 7 in 1968 was the first and only NASA mission on which freeze-dried ice cream flew in space. It was developed by U.S. Army Natick Laboratories, consisting of “coconut fat, milk solids, and sugar. The ice cream was homogenized, frozen, then freeze-dried, ground and compressed into cubes under high pressure. The cubes were then coated with an edible gelatin coating to prevent crumbs”. This was the ice cream flown on Apollo 7, which can differ from modern space ice cream. It was found to be impractical for space flight because of the tendency to crumble and create crumbs which can be dangerous to humans and equipment in a microgravity environment. Despite the modern images of space walking astronauts in shuttle era space suits, freeze dried ice cream was not included on any subsequent Apollo, Skylab, shuttle or International Space Station missions. According to one NASA food scientist, although freeze-dried ice cream was developed on request, “it wasn’t that popular.”

Not only was it used on just one space flight, it wasn’t even made the same way! Thanks, Wikipedia! Thanks for ruining our good time with your measly little facts! Now if I want to be like an astronaut I can’t just eat freeze-dried ice cream; I have to go learn physics and jump out of airplanes and hard stuff like that. You suck.

As for the stuff itself, the lovely and tasteful Mrs. Key thinks it’s an abomination to do something that mean to ice cream. She claims it doesn’t even taste like ice cream. I think it does, but the taste is kind of faint. It makes for weird eating, as it starts out like chewing Styrofoam but rehydrates in your mouth, turning into a kind of milky gelatin.

I suppose everyone who can eat ice cream should try this stuff once, just to tell his grandchildren he did it. Kind of like eating a fried baloney sandwich. You just don’t want to make a habit of it.

Very Good Friday.

April 18th, 2014 | FredKey

I don’t know if they do it anymore, but the Old Town Bar on East 18th Street used to close on this day. I went past there some decades ago and there was a hand-lettered sign in the window: Closed due to death in family 2000 years ago.

The New York Stock Exchange is closed too, and good on them. I have nothing against stocks or speculators or rich people, but it’s just not a good day for money changing.

It’s a fast day for Catholics. Despite our reputation as being big fun-hating meanies, our fasts are pretty easy. No meat. (Fish is not meat, which the fish might object to if they weren’t so busy eating one another. Eggs are not meat, which I’ve always thought kind of odd for reasons I won’t get into here.) Furthermore, on fast days you should only have one meal and two bites to eat that together do not make a meal. You don’t have to do it if you are a kid or an old-timer. Compared to the fast that the Greek Orthodox do for the Great Lent and Holy Friday, the Jews do for Yom Kippur, and the Muslims do for Ramadan, we have it easy. And it’s only required today and on Ash Wednesday.

Many years back I had a long, convoluted argument with a girlfriend who was not a lapsed Catholic so much as a jumped-in-the-car-and-tore-away-from-the-church-like-Thelma-and-Louise Catholic. At the time I was barely holding on to any faith, but was being pulled steadily closer to the church. She was indignant over the basis of Christianity being something so cruel as a crucifixion.

“But that’s what happened,” I said (as best as I can recall). “That’s what human beings did to him. That’s on record, as clearly known as anything else at the time.”

“So at its very heart is this holy man being tortured to death? What does it say about us?”

“Nothing good.”

I am sorry to say that she was unable to see that human nature has got a hell of a lot of evil in it. You can deny the divinity of Christ, but you cannot wish away the evidence of what we did to him, or the evil we did and still do to one another. To do so is not being a freethinker, it is willfully ignoring the truth.

In this fallen world you can never have an Easter without a Good Friday, though. If that seems cruel, it is nothing compared to what the world once was—all Good Friday, no Easter at all.

Ban the books, spoil the library.

April 17th, 2014 | FredKey

My last post this week on National Library Week. Promise. Maybe.

Actually, this post is on the American Library Association’s Banned Books Week, which doesn’t actually begin this year until September 21. But since we’re on the topic of libraries, I thought I’d bring it up.

Whatever else you think of him—and I think he’s fantastic— if you claim to support free speech, you will have to agree that Mark Steyn is dead right when he says that free speech means nothing unless it includes speech you don’t like. But more and more people, the same people in most cases who like to think of themselves as daring artists and courageous scientists, all are for banning the crap out of speech:

A generation ago, progressive opinion at least felt obliged to pay lip service to the Voltaire shtick. These days, nobody’s asking you to defend yourself to the death: a mildly supportive retweet would do. But even that’s further than most of those in the academy, the arts, the media are prepared to go. As Erin Ching, a student at 60-grand-a-year Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, put it in her college newspaper the other day: ‘What really bothered me is the whole idea that at a liberal arts college we need to be hearing a diversity of opinion.’ Yeah, who needs that? There speaks the voice of a generation: celebrate diversity by enforcing conformity.

The problem under consideration here is that I suspect that the American Library Association only gets thrilled defending banned books that they happen to like. To be fair, I do think that they try to accommodate library patrons, even if they don’t like the books their visitors want. Most (nearly all? all?) librarians are politically liberal, but the ones I have seen will force themselves to bring out copies of books by Sean Hannity if that’s what people want (although they may wear surgical masks and gloves while handling them). I do note that searching for radio host Rush Limbaugh on my library system database brings up more anti-Limbaugh books than books by Limbaugh or by friendly writers. And the whole multi-city system has just one copy of his first children’s book.

As for books that truly are vile: My library system has Mein Kampf, by the way, as it should, it being a hugely important book in world history. No copies of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, though. Both of these are best-sellers in parts of the world where hating Jewish people is a fun pastime. But I think the latter book, being older, is less relevant to current research, so I’d give the library a pass on not carrying that.

The main problem I guess I have with the banned book week business is that most of the complaints about books come from concerned parents who want to protect their children, not from Puritan killjoys who worry that other adults are having fun. So however you feel about it, Banned Book Week is mostly about librarians celebrating a triumph over concerned parents. And yet the main problems faced by the librarians’ cohorts, the teachers, come from the fact that parents don’t care enough about their children’s education. And why should they, if all they get for their trouble is disparagement and ridicule?

It’s an offshoot of the evil vine that entwines all of American culture. The only things we can celebrate are the triumph of some Americans over other Americans. All this while there are genuine enemies who would like us crippled or dead. I wish the ALA would express more interest in the banning of books worldwide, for the list of books banned in China or Saudi Arabia is probably longer than the list of books allowed in those places. (In North Korea they would probably be eaten, anyway. The books, that is, not the librarians, but you never know.)


April 16th, 2014 | FredKey

Continuing our theme of National Library Week…

The American Library Association loves to make all kinds of posters that show celebrities reading books, with the big word READ next to them. If you’ve been in an American town library or school library I’m certain you’ve seen them. They often feature celebrities, minor or past their prime, showing how reading books has turned them into… whatever they are now, I guess. I suspect the designers have to Photoshop the book covers right-side-up after the shoots.

Personally I’m not a big fan of the “READ!” poster series. It would be like having nutritionists put out posters with celebrities saying “EAT!” Okay, I’ll have 17,000 cookies. 

People who read crappy, vicious, dark, or evil-minded books are less happy, more confused, and less balanced than people who don’t read at all—this is a personal observation, not something for which I have data. And speaking of data, “READ!” posters are like yelling “DATA!” at computer programmers too. What data do you want? ”DATA!” Okeydokey…

This one I thought was particularly stupid.

Ooooh, yeah. Because when I think of the Hulk I think of sitting down with an enriching tome, just as he does when he isn’t smashing gigantic things into tiny splinters.

It’s part of this Avengers series. I guess they had to do something for the main members. Thor probably reads Scrolls of Fenrir and Uncle Volstagg’s Bathroom Reader or something. Tony Stark reads manuals and his checkbook. Cap reads The Art of War and Clausewitz. I’m even willing to say Bruce Banner reads books, maybe on anger management. But the Hulk?


All right, big fella, cool down. Let’s relax with a good book. How about this?


Hmm—maybe Hulk not so dumb after all!