Veteran’s Day

Bob and Steve, here. Veterans Day is right around the corner.  Ahhh, Veterans Day.  A day for unbridled patriotism.

Oops. The P-word. We probably should have just tapped the backspace button and rid ourselves of the offending word, but instead here we are forging brashly ahead.

Patriotism has become a divisive issue in our country. Or course, just about everything has become a divisive issue these days. Don’t believe us? Consider Christ Church in Alexandria, Virginia, which announced it was pulling down a memorial plaque to George Washington, one of its founding members, saying he and another famous parishioner, Robert E. Lee, have become so controversial that they are chasing away would-be parishioners. A plaque. To our country’s first president! Even the media coverage is divisive– playing up or down the church’s actions, depending on their audience.

Soon, it seems that every American institution, achievement and tradition will be a bone of contention, a matter that demands we choose sides and prepare for pitched battle. Lunar Landing – great leap forward for mankind or round one of man’s sullying the surface of the moon. Presidential Turkey Pardon – light hearted Thanksgiving tradition or crony justice for the top turkey 1%. Groundhog Day – high precision climatological forecasting or heartless exploitation of groundhogs.

We want to get to the bottom of this issue starting with patriotism, so of course we turn to science (ooooo, sciiiiiience). Here we’ll employ the science of Etymology, which is the study of Etyms, which are tiny particles of matter that form the building blocks of most of the really dumb things that people are prone to say when making statements in the media. There are also particles that are the building blocks of intelligent things that people say in the media, but they quickly decay into more-common Etyms once released to the media.

Employing the science (ooooo, sciiiience) of etymology – Patriotism, from the root Patriot, is derived from the Middle French Patriote which harks back to the Latin Patriota. Patriota is a combination of the words patronizing and riot, or at least that’s how it’s interpreted by people who find that most words derive from words meaning things like patronizing and riot.

This explains a lot.  Let’s take a look…

The former First Lady lecturing people on who they should and shouldn’t vote for – patronizing. Hissy fits over invited university speakers with opposing views – riot. Kneeling during the national anthem – patronizing. Angry mobs pulling down statues – riot.

Some of these examples warrant greater scrutiny.  Take the kneeling phenomena.  We at Orthogonal Catholic are firm believers that kneeling is the proper position during certain parts of the Mass and when proposing marriage, but never during the national anthem. Of course it may all be a big misunderstanding. It could be that there have been wildly coincidental occurrences of the highly paid athletes all losing their contact lenses at the same time leading to frantic searches in the AstroTurf. Equally likely is a wave of sudden awareness that their shoelaces aren’t properly tied and they’re bending over to determinedly go through the painstaking steps of forming perfect bunny ears and double knots. But somehow, we doubt that.

Veterans Day also gets us thinking about monuments. Thank heavens that monuments at least haven’t become divisive. Oh– nevermind. We think it’s splendid that so many monuments are suddenly under attack by a small number of perpetually offended people. It’s democracy in action, right? Perhaps we can replace monuments and plaques of figures like Columbus, Washington and Lincoln, with uniquely gifted humanitarians like Mao, Chavez and Castro – now there’s a celebration of democracy.

But seriously now, the Orthogonal Catholic wants to thank all of the veterans for their service to our great nation. We salute you, we stand for our flag and national anthem, and we respect our national history – warts and all, because the great accomplishments of the “all” far outweigh the “warts”.

Halloween 2017

Bob and Steve, here. It’s that time of year again for huge parties, ridiculously expensive costumes, and over-indulging. Oh yeah – there will probably be some Halloween activities for kids as well.

When we were growing up Halloween was for, and celebrated by, kids. Sure, sure, the adults joined in the fun – playing Frankenstein at the local haunted house, that sort of thing – but it was for kids. Now it seems to mostly be about the adults. Elaborate parties at the singles bars. Elaborate parties in the neighborhoods for trick-or-treater’s parents. Elaborate decorations to rival Christmas displays. Endless marketing to convince adults to fork over their dough.

And that brings us to another thing, Halloween was modest. By modest, we mean cheap. Costumes were either homemade or chintzy inexpensive things that were broken and torn before even leaving the house. And they were seriously dangerous. Paper cuts and puncture wounds abounded. Studies show that if everything spent on today’s Halloween costumes was diverted to something more useful, like rubber-band-ball manufacturing, we’d now have one whopping big rubber-band-ball industry. And what the costumes have gained in cost, they’ve made up for in tastelessness. Or something like that. The point is, for $79.99 you can either look like something from one of the inner circles of hell or the red light district. Those are your options.

No doubt there’s quite a bit of psychology in all of this. And if we were psychologists* we’d probably have to entertain all manner of complex behavioral models and pathologies like arrested development, diversion from the frightening realities of life and so forth and so on. Fortunately we’re not psychologists , so we can just spout our own half-baked theories. Even more fortunately, we don’t have to research and justify our theories (since we’re not, you know, psychologists), we just have to think them.
One theory is that all of this is spurred by nostalgia for a simpler time (e.g. pre-Obamacare, pre-civil unions, pre-internet, pre-just-about-everything-that-qualifies-as-pop-culture). This was a past unknown to anyone college age or younger, when Americans weren’t perpetually engaged culture wars and war in the Middle East and Islamic Extremism had not reached our shores and no one was under the delusion that anything on TV was “reality”. This is not to say that the 70’s and 80’s were perfect mind you – the seeds of our current discontent were germinating even then. There was also something terribly wrong with our pants, first bell-bottoms and then parachute pants. But by today’s standards those were simpler times indeed.

And by the way, what’s become of Mischief Night? Back in the day, Halloween morning yielded a panorama of soaped windows and toilet-papered trees. Not that we miss this mind you – just imagine the damage that could be leveled with today’s giant, economy sized rolls of toilet paper? But where is everyone? But could it be, perhaps, that most every night is mischief night, but lived out in virtual realities, viewed on LCD’s and communicated in pidgin-English sound bites sent by blazing thumbs?
Halloween is also a perfect time to enjoy a little scare. We like to do this by thinking of really scary what-ifs. Here’s one – what if Hillary Clinton was elected president? Brrrrrrr. It makes us shudder. The horrifying activities of her and her “Stranger Together” minions (we always wondered why her editorial staff never caught the repeated typo in her “Stronger Together” slogan).

Equally scary would be if a crude, egocentric, megalomaniac got elected. Ummm, anywho…. When we get too scared, we get relief by thinking of silly things that make us giggle, like Joe Biden. Or Trumpkins.

Back to the psychology of Halloween, our second Halloween operating theory, and we’re pretty certain about this, is that the recent and disturbing shift in Halloween is a giant mind control program orchestrated by the government (the reeeeal government, the people that never leave). You know, like 9/11, Area 51 and Joe Biden (there’s no way he was really our veep).

Here’s how it works; the government wants to scare us. “Scare us about what?” you ask? The answer is – everything. Our health. Our work. The economy. The environment. Remember, “don’t let a good crisis go to waste”? The government wants us to see everything as the big, bad boogieman so that we’ll want the government to make the big, bad boogiemen go away. And what better place to start instilling fear and scariness than on Halloween** ? It primes the pump of what our government calls the brain’s Total AnXiety system (also known as TAX). Once TAX is fully engaged, it keeps TAXing more and more and more until the affected individual is completely TAXed out.

While we’re pretty sure about the TAX conspiracy, it could also be that much of the Halloween overkill is simply a case of adults behaving badly and yet another example of a secular world that really is as crazy as we think it is. Off we go to Radio Shack.


*We’re engineers. If you wanted us to fix your noodle we’d do so by dismantling it, measuring each part with great precision before judging it to be inferior, tossing it, and then remantling your brain, but with more expensive parts from Radio Shack.

**Interestingly enough, studies show that for most Americans tax day is far scarier than Halloween, but the government still thinks of it as the happiest day of the year.


Columbus Day 2017

Bob and Steve, here. We’ve been thinking about Columbus Day.

So what’s Columbus Day all about? Mattress sales, you say? Um, no, that would be Labor Day. Columbus Day is all about furniture sales, or at least that’s the loudest message we hear in our retail-oriented society. But before you head out that weekend in search of the perfect futon, consider the man, Christopher Columbus and his legacy.

If you’re not familiar with Columbus Day – don’t feel bad. Columbus is out of fashion in many places that are very concerned with all that is fashionable. We were thinking about writing a carefully considered and well-researched article on the timely issues surrounding celebration of Columbus Day. Fortunately, other people have already done this ( With the “carefully considered” and “well researched” aspects duly covered by others, we can tackle this from a fresh perspective.

We suppose a little background would be helpful. It seems to go like this. Columbus had a knack for sailing and exploring. The Spanish monarchy funded him to find a western route to Asia, so they could avoid the inevitable tie-ups and traffic jams to the east. Columbus sets off across the Atlantic with the Nina, Pinta and Oscar Meyer Weiner Mobile, but due to problems with his GPS lands in the Bahamas instead of Asia. At least, that’s what he claimed. Based on our research*, we’re convinced Columbus sabotaged the GPS because, hey, who wouldn’t want to go the Bahamas? That was all quite a while ago and everything was going swimmingly since then including having a US holiday named after him.

Now Columbus was a good Catholic. When he landed in the Bahamas he named his island San Salvador, which, if Columbus had a good Spanish-to-English dictionary, he would have known meant Holy Savior. Much of what Columbus did he did with all his abilities and for the glory of God. But, being a good Catholic, Columbus was also human (like most Catholics are), which means he was a sinner. So Columbus was involved in other things that we don’t agree with today, like slavery.

That brings us up to today. Or, maybe yesterday or a few weeks or years ago depending on when you’re reading this. Some people are upset that Columbus was a sinner and don’t want a holiday celebrated for him. It might also be the case that some of those folks aren’t as fond of the fact that Columbus was a man of faith whose major accomplishments were directed toward the spread of Christianity to the new world. It might also be the case that some of those folks aren’t as fond of the fact that it was the Knights of Columbus who spurred President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to proclaim a federal holiday. It might also be the case that some of those folks just don’t appreciate the need for low-priced futons (though some people legitimately question the need for futons at any price – this contingent typically made up of people that have actually tried sleeping on one).

But, maybe “they” have a point of not having anything to do with people who are sinners. You know, we’ve heard that Henry Ford wasn’t always the nicest guy. We’re glad we don’t drive Fords. But wait – he’s the “father of the automobile”, so all automobiles must be bad. That settles it, we’re giving up our cars. And that guy who invented toilet paper – clearly he was troubled. We can just imagine him drooling with glee over the mayhem that would ensue, what with no consensus over which way the toilet paper roll should spin (Bob thinks from the top, Steve from the bottom, somehow our friendship has survived this). And Edison – now there was a slave driver. We should give up on electricity. In fact, we’re going to pull the plug right …… OK, so now that the computer has rebooted, we’ll rethink our position on electricity.

Maybe we’re taking all this a bit too far. After all, FDR’s own proclamation was to set aside a day so that “we can revitalize our faith and renew our courage by a recollection of the triumph of Columbus after a period of grievous trial.” That sounds inspiring. Columbus did a great thing for a noble cause. It’s not like we’re celebrating every other facet of his life. It would seem that any American Catholic, or Christian for that matter, or patriot for that matter, or citizen for that matter, would be able to get behind this simple ideal. Which leads us to think that, as with many things these days, anti-Columbus efforts are probably led by a few cranky people. Maybe they had a bad night’s sleep on a cheap futon.

*This is a foot note to reference our research so that readers can confidently reproduce for themselves our footnote.