Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Tornado Alley Terrorism Advice

The Bear is proud to call home the very groin of the United States. The mounds and ripples of southern Illinois are densely covered with old growth. It is our very own "mesopotamia," or land between the rivers, where the blue Ohio and muddy Mississippi descend like great national ureters to abruptly, if enthusiastically, void their contents at the scuffed toe of Cairo.

The pure blue Ohio (r) resists the muddy Mississippi (l)

The Land Between the Rivers, southern Illinois, is also smack dab in the middle of Tornado Alley. Oh, yes, we know a tornado really does sound like a locomotive, and we say so to the local television reporters every time there is one.

1925 Tri-State Tornado Attack

In 1925, 234 were killed in nearby Murphysboro, Illinois alone by the Tri-State Tornado, which makes it the most deadly tornado attack to this day. The same merciless vortex plowed through Tornado Alley from Missouri to Indiana killing many more, although possibly not 1000. It did not spare schools or children. My mother was very young, but her memory in West Frankfort, Illinois, was of an upside down Model-T with the wheels still turning.

Big cities are not spared, either. In 1896 a St. Louis tornado killed a couple of hundred and bit a chunk out of the approach to the Civil-War era Eads Bridge that still spans the Mississippi.

Tornadoes like those are rare, though. There are relative few victims. Yesterday's headlines fade away. In tornado alley, we know spring will bring the radio warning bleeps and the sirens and some afternoons will be tense as the temperature drops, the sky turns sickly green, and the wind whips up.

We make sure our flashlights and phones are charged, clear the path to the basement, and keep one eye on the sky. But, mostly, we shrug.

They are a real threat, but we all know that statistically they are likely to claim somebody else's life, not ours. Besides, there's nothing we can do about it. It's a trade-off. It is a beautiful and scenic place to live, here in Tornado Alley. A tornado is probably going to skip my five acres.

Terrorism is a lot like tornadoes. They bring relatively small numbers of random death with spectacular surprise.

Europe seems to have become 'Terrorist Alley." The Bear thinks his own experience here in Tornado Alley is relevant. Just accept it as a risk of living where you do.The chances of terrorism killing you or anyone you care about are very, very small. A fluke, really. Besides (unlike tornadoes) even studying "the root causes of" terrorism - usually a favorite game among humans - is not permitted. One can hardly even mention the topic in polite society.

So, terrorism is just something that happens. Nobody knows why. Make yourself as safe as you can, but don't go overboard. You have statistics on our side. And keep telling yourself that there's nothing you can do about it anyway.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

To Following Readers: IMPORTANT

Edward G. O. Radler Rice



Please email Bear your mailing address and any special instructions regarding the autograph of your copy of Judging Angels. Thank you. (If you have already supplied this information, Bear must have lost it in the current confusion.)

Thanks to everyone who already has their copy in hand. Bear hopes his friends are enjoying it (and looks forward to their reviews, hint, hint). You have an advantage over non-Woodland Creatures because you know not to expect:
  1. Dan Brown.
  2. The Exorcist.
  3. "A heartwarming tale of a mysterious stranger who shows up in a small town and changes the inhabitants' lives forever." (Something like Pope Francis' "favorite movie" Babette's Feast.)
  4. Anything set in the 4th Century.
  5. An old priest finds a relic of unimaginable power that may determine the fate of the universe in the final cosmic conflict between Heaven and Hell.
  6. Fifteen-year-old Angela is the least popular girl in her high school when the dreamy new boy with glowing red eyes asks her to the prom.
  7. A wagon train of Amish brides is ambushed by Indians, but beneath their nine-patch quilts is hidden a shipment of the latest Browning Automatic Rifles. (This sort of Christian historical romance can miss a few details.)
  8. Mostly anything the Bear says about it.
  9. How Muslims saved Western Civilization and will renew it in our century.
  10. The Humble Wisdom of Pope Francis.
Or anything else that comes to mind when people think of "Christian / Catholic Fantasy."

The Bear is pleased to report that the Kindle Version of Judging Angels is hanging in at #8 today in Amazon's weirdly-titled "Hot Christian Fantasy" category against all the giveaway books. He just wonders what all those teenage girls and Amish women are going to think when they read the first page. Girls, just skip toward the end of Chapter 28: A Fine Romance With No Kisses, right before Chapter 29: Hotel Blocks Cops, Tots Chopped.

Find the now-infamous "Elevator Scene." (Make your own jokes if you must, but Bear doesn't wanna hear 'em.)

Sorry, but it's not really that sort of "Hot Christian Fantasy."

While everyone is waiting for their autographed trade paperbacks, check out the many inspiring books EWTN is featuring on their book blog. (Of course, Judging Angels is not there. EWTN hates Bears. And possibly elevators. The Bear wishes to state, however, that rumors that EWTN harvests Bear bile for Chinese traditional medicine have not been conclusively proven.)

Friday, May 19, 2017

Jorge Bergoglio - an Interview With the Bear

Bears have been at this for a very long time.

Some may wonder how the Bear, of all bloggers, scored an interview with  Jorge Bergoglio. Argentina has Bears, although they are a rather miserable species. So here it is. An interview with Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina.

Bear - You may be familiar with normal journalistic practices, where the journalist records nothing, takes no notes, and makes up a lot of stuff. Bears do things differently. By the way, welcome to the Interview Cavern.

Jorge - Thank you. Who are you? Why am I strapped to this chair? Why do you care about me?

Bear - Just a Bear, as you see. The Bear's right paw is resting on lever connected to a mechanism beneath the trap door upon which sits your chair. We call it the... Bear Chair. Yeah, I know. We're working on that.

Jorge - I agree. I do not feel as frightened as I probably should.

Bear - The point is, every time you lie to the Bear, he will pull this lever, and a random number of cogs will slip. When the cog wheel makes one complete revolution, the trap door will open and the chair - with you in it- will drop.

Jorge - This all seems exceedingly complicated for Bears, if I may say so.

Bear - We had help from the Raccoons, who are surprisingly clever at complicated dramatic schemes.

Jorge - But how will you know if I am lying? How will I know when the chair is about to drop? Where does it drop to?

Bear - [Pulls handle.]

Jorge - Wait! I didn't even answer a question!

Bear - An honest man would never have asked. You never know when the trap door will be triggered. But if you tell the truth, then you you have no worries. Bears have the best noses in the animal kingdom. They can smell a female in heat 100 miles away and make a beeline. That's true. And Bears can smell lies. That is also true.

Jorge - Too much information, mi amigo. Listen. Let me out of this chair and I'll tell you - no - give you - anything you want.

Bear - [Pulls handle.] Bribing the Bear. Not getting off to a good start, Jorge. Who knows how many pulls you got left. First question. You're in a desert walking along in the sand when - Oh. Hang on a sec. Wrong questions. Okay. A man gets tired of his wife -

Jorge - Is this the test now?

Bear - Yes. A man gets tired of his wife, who is mature, yet faithful, and divorces her. He marries a younger, more attractive woman and they form a breeding pair. Are they committing adultery?

Jorge - [Looks at Bear's paw on handle] - Si.

Bear - Should they be admitted to Holy Communion as long as they maintain their marital breeding relationship?

Jorge - A very complicated question. While yes, they are committing adultery, this is not the only consideration. Rules are always lubricated with Mercy, much as I am sure your complicated raccoon-devised Bear Chair is lubricated. Therefore, we meet people on the moral periphery of life with arms outstretched, not like museum mummies afraid to dance, afraid to cry afraid of everything. Therefore they may receive a little bread and wine. It does not harm, eh?

Bear - Strangely put, but I do not smell untruthfulness. Is that "little bread and wine" really and truly the Precious Body and Blood of Christ?

Jorge - "Really and truly?" What is the connection between "reality" and "truth?" As you say, a tree falls in the forest but there is no, why, no bear to hear it? Does it make a sound? "Reality" is the fundamental ontological category of which we can say so very much, yet so very little. It presupposes a unified nature of all that is, but that is unproven. "Truth," on one hand, is the multivalent appreciation of the validity for all times and places of certain propositions. It presumes a moral intellect to perceive the truth. But on the other hand, truth is contingent upon experiences and felt needs of each person as we - meaning the Church - accompany them on their journey. When one travels - have you traveled much, Bear?

Bear - You might say Bear has gotten around.

Jorge - One travels, and the landscape remains the same. Yet, one returns over the very same road, always journeying, and we are always accompanying them in mercy. And while the landscape has remained the same, can you say you are on the very same road? Truth is dialogue between the pilgrim and that which is. Whatever it is.

Bear - I'll be damned. I got nothing here. [Moves left paw to previously unseen pull handle by Bear's left ankle.]

Jorge - What is this? You did not explain that handle.

Bear - It's special. Do you believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the only means of our redemption through his sacrifice?

Jorge - To be fair, that is two questions.

Bear - Bear will concede the objection. Jesus Christ, his only - come on, you know all this. So what do you say?

Jorge - We are all children, even when we stumble. Jesus himself said children may be caused to stumble, did he not? Is God the Father, or is he only partly the Father? Father to Catholics, but nothing to Lutherans? Maybe even an enemy? If God is not the Father to Muslims, then he must be divided in his nature. Father to a billion and a half Catholics, and yet what is he to the majority that is not Catholic? Father to some humans, yet not Father to the very same humans because they are named Mohammed (peace be upon him) instead of John? Are we not all made in the image of God?

Bear - [Paw on lever twitches.]

Jorge - I believe everything you say and that we all and each participate in that child-ship with our loving Father. Jesus is undeniably our brother. How then can we not have the same Father?

Bear - You're a tough one. Holy Trinity?

Jorge - A coruscating ballet of light and love that is beyond our understanding, but who may accurately be described in terms that are appropriate to the faith traditions dominate in various geographical regions and racial-societal identities.

Bear - What is today's mission of the Church?

Jorge - To accompany those on the periphery such as migrants. To bring chairs to the table when others, who already have their places, say "no!" The gospel - God himself - is understood in different ways in different times. There have been very scholarly periods in Church history, when the intellect has dominated mercy. But we live in different times, when we are called to act! The French have a word for it. Propagande par le fait. The mission of the Church is not to preach at people. Does that fill an empty stomach? Fill the ache of two people trapped in a marriage that has long since died? No!

Bear - Bear thinks that will do it for today. He would like to thank you for participating and being so honest. He did not detect a single lie.

Jorge - So, you will now release me?

-- Ten minutes later --

Bear - [Smoking cigarette outside entrance of Interview Cavern. Another Bear approaches and asks how the interview went.] Jorge's a very honest fellow. Bear was quite impressed. Turn him loose? No. [Sigh.] Bear had to pull the Jesuit Handle. Go? I don't know what's underneath the Interview- Hey, can we get some better names for our stuff? I mean, "Interview Cavern?" "Bear Chair?" It's embarrassing. Anyway, in that instant the trap door was open, Bear would swear he heard laughter. Bear thinks it was - Badgers.

Other Bear - Badgers? That's... [Other Bear shudders.] Hey, can you tell me something? Where do they go if they lie enough and you pull the lever?

Bear - [Laughs.] There's no cogwheel of random doom. The lever isn't connected to anything. We don't care about liars. We give them a nice meal and a plane ticket home. It's the true believers in all that crap he was blathering about that are killing us. Still...

Other Bear - Yeah. Bear knows. Badgers.

Bear - [Heaves deep sigh.] They got it comin' to 'em. That's what Bear keeps telling himself. Besides. He's not absolutely sure they were Badgers.

Other Bear - Yeah. Probably not. Not Badgers. You probably heard... Bear doesn't know. But not... you know. How's it going on getting that other Jorge, you know, the Pope, in your chair? Not the click bait one.

Bear - Oh, Bear crossed him off the list months ago. Do we really need to buy a one-way ticket to prove what he is? Besides. The last place we want him is on a plane with a freaking microphone in his hand.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Death Penalty Is Now a Mortal Sin SUCKA!


Yeah, in your face. It's official.

The death penalty is a mortal sin. Yep. No ifs and or buts. Oh, did I mention the death penalty was a mortal sin? So knock off that murderous bunk and get over it.

Right here in "America," the official magazine of the smartest Churchmen in the world - our POPE is a Jesuit, after all - it says this:

"Pope Francis: the death penalty is a 'mortal sin' and 'inadmissible.'" 

It's not even just a mortal sin but it's legally inadmissible!

Guess Bear was right all along huh? Because POPE FRANCIS said it. Infallibility baby.

Sit on a death penalty jury and vote for the death penalty? Going to Hell. Or you would be, if there was a Hell to go to that people actually went to.

Warden? You're definitely going to Hell.

Guys who push the buttons that that start the lethal injection process? Hell.

Legislators who vote for the death penalty? Hell. Voters who voted for them? Hell.

Judge? Hell. Bailiff? Hell. Court reporter? Maybe Hell - can't be sure.

You know who's not going to Hell? The guys all the people who are going to Hell executed!

Bear? Death Penalty Defense. NOT going to Hell. Prosecutors? You are so going to Hell. Deepest pit.

This will be the argument from now on. "Ladies and gentlemen, if you vote to send my client to the death chamber, you're sentencing yourself to Hell. It's official. But get this. First of all, you're for slavery. So that's strike number one. Then you're committing the mortal sin of death penalty which is so Hell.

"Oh, what was that? Objection, Hell Boy? Judge, did you really sustain that? A Higher Court just sentenced you to Hell. Contempt? Me? That's Hell, too. Sorry, Don't say I didn't tell you. Lucky LaRue the Ice Pick Nursery Killer and I are going to be eating pizza in Heaven, laughing at every last one of you in Hell. And it's going to be deep dish pizza, Chicago, style. As much as we want.

"What are you going to be eating? Hot gravel and washing it down with battery acid. Not as good as pizza, huh? That's why they call it Hell. Mortal sin."

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Contest! Win an Autographed Copy of Bear's Novel!

First public answer wins. The contest last 24 hours. No previous winners please. Identify the above-pictured individual and briefly explain his relevance. That's all! Winner gets a free, autographed copy of the Bear's Book, send nailing addres to:


That didn't take long. Congratulations!

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Someone Had to Say It

The Hound said it. 

Cormac McCarthy was an awful writer.

The Hound and the Bear is a majority in any company. For charity's sake, let's say he was talentless, and no one had the heart to tell him. Critics lavish praise upon him because they lavish praise on anyone that irritate ordinary people.

Bear thinks he was a stylist. He made his own rules because he could, not because he had discovered a better punctuation or grammar. Stylists are fine if, as nature intended, they blow up and we are done with them. When their literary ashes, mixed with dead leaves and bits of bird nests are mucked out of the gutter and preserved for all time like your little darling's kindergarten pictures, then nature as been defeated.

Whenever nature has been defeated, you know what happens.

Mother Nature releases her favorites: the dogged hound and the eviscerating Bear. Here's the Bear's own contribution, although it has been a long time, and it was shunted directly down the incinerator chute in his 450 gm brain.


He could see the highway from where he was both ways. He was on a berm a good high one with a good view. It ran before three cabins each cabin in which was a woman who loved him. He could feel the bubo on the back of his neck like an alka seltzer boil blooming in the sun which was a quarter past. Noon he thought. Maybe a quarter til. He gazed at the sun until he was blind. He would have to shoot the Negroes by sound.

Where he was they could not see him either. The Negroes not the girls who loved him.

It had gotten that bad in what two weeks ago was the good part of town where the only Negro you saw wore a uniform of some sort and not a police one.

The bubo was joined by another right on the end of his nose so he would not get a clear shot anyway. Why did he drink those gin fizz. The size of a golf ball the white kind he could hear the thwack carry from the country club a quarter mile to his left.

In one of the cabins was Consuela bare legs splayed behind her cello. In the next Mitzi a math whiz drawing doodles with long yellow fingers and stubby bits of chalk she hoped would save the world but he knew different. He had to leave the knife of screeching fingernails bleeding him dry from the great vein in his neck.

Gin fizz had egg in them. He was allergic to eggs. Peanut butter too. But he ate the peanut butter sandwiches and drank the gin fizzes with eggs in them anyway. Why. He used the touch readout to consult the Stupidometer he could not see with blistered retinas. He figured as much. The now needle with no color made of iron was buried so far in stupid not a molecule of the gin fizz he had laid down his carbine to pick up could fit between the fixings.

Why drink another gin fizz.

Why not.

Why another bubo on his buttock the right one at least.

Why not. It all made sense at last the gin fizzes the bubos the women the country club and the Negroes. He did not dislike them but it was their mutual nature to lay down with never a getting up. Sunday morning at Bedside Baptist forever.

It could be worse.

No it couldn't.

Because it made no difference although the prettiest of the girls she might have been 17 he told himself that because she was rich and had a rich daddy somewhere far from Negroes and Mexicans in Trumpland. If only he could get them all and the unborn baby but she was a pretty little thing and pretty did not last. Hell three bubos would last longer, outlast them all.

The Americans

Remember the Nice Blogger Who Wrote About
the Americans Sometimes?

Back when life was simpler - i.e. Benedict XVI was Pope, if he still isn't (see?) - we official Catholic bloggers got to gather around the campfire in the clearing and chat about just about anything. One blogger friend, now retired from the game, used to occasionally write about television shows.

The Americans was one of the shows she followed on her blog.

The pilot of this drama about Soviet spies in '80s America hooked us with an extended cut of Fleetwood Mac's pounding TUSK as the score to a chase. It promised to be another excellent television drama in the tradition of Breaking Bad.

Up until the current season, it mostly lived up to that promise, although Bear thinks we could have done with less of Keri Russell and a whole lot less of a certain U.S. Special Forces officer in an alley, an episode that scarred poor Bear for life. He is still afraid of the dark.

The Americans is a good show. But it is neither the same show nor as good as the show promised in the pilot.

Lotus 1-2-3

But while the Bear has kept up with it, this, the penultimate season, has managed to make being a Soviet "illegal" - a fake American and real spy - look as exciting as running a travel agency. (They manage to do that, too.) The episodes have been excruciatingly boring.

Critics love it. Who knows? Maybe the kind of people who write reviews for Slate and HuffPost really know good television, and aren't just getting together in their Che tees and rooting for the Russians once a week.

But the FBI agent who has lived across the street from the spies through five seasons is just comic relief as he blunders through each episode without a clue. By now, no matter how The Americans finally ends, Agent Beeman collaring his friends across the street will seem to come from way out of left field. Whatever tension there is, it does not include the smallest worry our comrades will get caught before the series finale, if then.

Another hilarious character is Keri Russell's current sex-for-info wheat expert in Topeka who is so much like Owen Wilson's perfect ex-boyfriend in Meet the Parents both the Bear and Red Death burst out laughing every time he is on screen doing Tai Chi or making organic soup or saving the world's grain. But the best comic highlight comes when, after Elizabeth's success with her noble and sensitive hunk, Phillip must admit he got dumped by his source.

His time with the affectless Miss Lotus 1-2-3 may have been the only time he actually thought of Mother Russia.

He did score a bootleg copy of that program though. And that is the story of Philip's life. That and guilt over killing some innocent wheat farmer based on bad information from Center. He is not a happy spy, and neither he nor Center trust each other. Elizabeth, on the other hand is a true believer. (Oddly, even Elizabeth sounds less like a communist than the average American leftist of today. Writers would recognize how ridiculous it would sound to have characters actually talk like that.)

Real commies would not be impressed by our special snowflakes.

The Greatest Non-Entertaining Television Drama

Don't get me wrong. The Americans does the whole Serious Drama Thing very well. The exception is the entertainment option. This season had one episode where an inordinate amount of time was spent showing grim Russians digging a deep hole. We drink coffee. We dig. We drink more coffee. And then, we put coffee down, pick up shovel - mama's shovel from beet collective we brought from Soviet Union with us - and dig more.

It really made the Bear appreciate just how boring being a spy could be, by, well you can finish that one.

Now, you can praise it as a taut slow-burn drama, an accurate Polaroid of the 80s, or, for a few seasons, anyway, an artistic study of the nude female-ish form. But entertaining? Look, Bear is BEAR. If there is anyone who would like a Russian spy drama, it would be the national animal of Russia. (And let us not forget the deep debt he owes for last year's rescue from Istanbul by SPETSNAZ.)

Let's put it this way. If a forest fire were this slow-burn, Smokey would turn over and go back into hibernation.

So imagine the Bear's surprise when he actually enjoyed the late-season episode, Dark Room.

The Dramatic Payoff

After nearly a season of setup, we finally get some dramatic payoff. There is nothing wrong with setup. But occasionally, one conflict or another has to erupt. or at least move from potential to manifest, whatever form that may take. People doing stuff is not drama, even with Keri Russell's game face or Matthew Rhys with lava bubbling beneath the surface because he already knows being a Soviet spy sucks, and there is no way this ends well for the people he loves.

Here's an example. Their Viet Cong kid in one of their other families makes a mysterious bus ride to an I-Hop. He gets caught, then explains it away with a lame story. Twenty minutes of just some random screw-up by a high school spy? Or setting up the ultimate downfall of spy fake mom and dad? Who knows?

Love makes an not-entirely unexpected but welcome return in this episode. It is sweet - and completely ruined by the knowledge that "Center" now wants the couple to keep their sexual partners on the hook indefinitely. Operational necessity, or is Center peeling Philip away from Elizabeth  as the weak sister.

But most of all, characters are being forced to realize their work has put them into a "dark room." The episode was very thematic. Relations with their new-old handler could not be chillier. There are reasons to doubt the truth of what they are being told. Having sex with other people all the time and living at least four lives, by Bear's count, is getting old and beginning to interfere with their fake marriage. Complicating matters is Elizabeth sort of falling for idealistic bearded Mr. Tai Chi.

Daughter Paige has her parents' spy genes. This episode holds a mirror to Philip and Elizabeth in a shocking conclusion with their daughter. A conflict over several seasons has been whether to bring the girl into the family business. Philip is against the idea, Elizabeth is for it, Gabriel (the kindly old handler who returned to Russia for reasons unknown) is against it. Paige is a competent teenage mess, but naively imagines her parents are on remarkably heroic missions that must remain unsung.

Bear supposes when you have unlimited time, the temptation is to write setup-setup-setup with multiple plot lines and character arcs in far-flung settings while putting off all your big payoffs.

For awhile, the Bear was thinking that the modern network prestige television series - Breaking Bad, Mad Men, The Americans - had become the ideal vehicle for drama. It had the production values of film, but instead of 90 - 120 minutes, Breaking Bad's "running length" was one day, 23 hours and 23 minutes!

A canvas that big leaves a lot of room for character development, complex plots and details by the truckload. But if you look back (or think back) you realize the best of them are not immune to forgotten plot lines, characters who do not earn their screen time, and the round-and-round of obsessing over the same issues. It's easy to lose focus, I bet, especially if you can do no wrong in the eyes of critics.

We sometimes forget series writers are making it up as they go along over years. The Bear does not believe that the network prestige dramas will replace film or novel as the best vehicles for drama. Its very advantages work against them.

And if you have watched all five seasons of The Americans, congratulations. You have spent two days and four hours according to the website from where you may learn such things.

Featured Post

The Day the Book Closed

At Et Cum Spiritu Tuo , I read an interview with a professor in the UK who said parents who read to their kids should feel bad for "di...