Archive for October 2007

Searching for Dad, Finding a Career Direction

October 31, 2007

Recently I mentioned wanting to find out more about what my father did during World War II. I’ve submitted requests for Dad’s service records to the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis (so far I’ve come up empty), and nosed about on the internet trying to see what I could find. Earlier this spring,, normally a pay-for-access site, announced they were making their military records databases available to search for free for a limited time. I searched and turned up an enlistment record for Dad, but without a serial number. A Google search for Dad’s old unit, “U. S. Ninth Air Force in World War II” turned up the marvelously useful United States Army Air Forces in World War II site, where veterans, children and grandchildren of veterans, researchers, and military history buffs can ask questions and gather and share information. I cannot say enough good things about this site and the people who contribute to it! Within just a few days they had graciously and courteously answered many of my questions, provided information I didn’t have, and pointed me in new directions for research, including a database of Army enlistment records (with serial numbers) administered by the National Archives and Records Administration, and useful Wikipedia pages on the history, organization, and nomenclature of the U. S. Air Force in general and the Ninth Air Force in particular. With the help of these fine people I learned that the predecessor of the present U. S. Air Force was the U. S. Army Air Forces (plural), and that there is a difference between the U. S. Army Air Forces and the U. S. Army Air Corps. I was most impressed when veterans answered my queries. Often they would sign their postings with their rank, their unit, and the dates of their service. I am in awe of these men: their courage, their sacrifice, their humility, and their willingness to share what they remember. I know what they tell me is accurate because they were there to see it–and my father was one of them.

All this exploration and discovery of what happened to my father (what I’ve dubbed “the Dad project”) has made me realize that I might want to become what is variously called an information broker, an independent researcher, or an independent information professional. These are people who will plan and conduct searches for information (often highly specialized) in conventional and electronic sources, distill and package the information, and present the results of their search to the client for a fee. Many have library science degrees, as I do, but some don’t. The largest professional association of information brokers is the Association of Independent information Professionals, which I’ve joined as a prospective (free) member. I’m working my way through a bibliography of articles about the profession and know I want to read more. I’ve ordered three books on the subject that are frequently cited in the literature and are considered essential reading for anyone thinking about the IB business.

This is a new and potentially exciting career direction for me. This is problem solving, investigation, detective work and creativity–the kind of work I wanted to do when I decided to become a librarian in the first place. I want to see where this path leads. I hope Dad would be proud of me for following it.


Well Said, Rich!

October 20, 2007

NOTE: This is an edited version of an earlier post.

For some time now I’ve been wanting to blog about Pope Benedict’s recent motu proprio Summorum pontificum authorizing a wider use of the Latin form of the Mass as promulgated by Blessed Pope John XXIII in 1962 (Variously referred to as “the Traditional Latin Mass,” the Tridentine Rite, and now by Pope Benedict, the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite). Several blogs I keep an eye on, including Patrick Archbold’s Summorum pontificum blog and Father Z.’s What Does The Prayer Really Say? have been tracking the reactions of various priests and bishops around the world (which range from “Sounds like a great idea!” to “Hell no! Not in my parish/diocese!”)I’d been having trouble putting my own thoughts into words, however until I ran across this post from the estimable Rich Leonardi, in which he reacts to a Missouri pastor’s concerted effort to badmouth the Traditional Latin Mass.

The pastor writes:

I think that Pope Benedict’s decree reviving the old Latin Mass was a step backwards in the implementation of the decrees of the Second Vatican Council, which were approved and promoted by Pope Paul VI. The Council never intended there to be two forms of the Roman rite simultaneously. Latin at Mass, yes, but the old rite stemming back to the 16th century, clearly no. To keep a group of objectors in the Church, Pope John Paul gave permission to have the old Mass on a very limited scale in 1984, despite the nearly unanimous opposition of the bishops throughout the world. Now, Pope Benedict has given permission to go over the heads of the bishops as long as a “stably existing” community requests the old Mass an the pastors can prevent a disruption in their communities. The Council clearly wanted to give such power to the bishops, but in this too the Council’s teaching is being reversed.

Rich responds:

The thing is, I don’t pine for the extraordinary form. While I welcome Pope Benedict’s call for its expanded use, my preference is for a reverently-celebrated ordinary form that is faithful to the G.I.R.M., Sacrosanctum Concilium, and various papal instructions, rare as that species of Mass is. But nasty, dishonest, and disrespectful “reflections” from would-be popes are making me curious about what I’m missing. In other words, if people like this hate the extraordinary form so much, it must have something going for it. And I’ll wager I’m not the only one thinking this way.

Well said, Rich! It seems to me that if Catholics are serious about the Second Vatican Council’s declaration that “the eucharistic sacrifice is the source and the summit of the whole of the Church’s worship and of the Christian life,” we ought to celebrate that eucharistic sacrifice with as much beauty and dignity and reverence as we can muster. My mother once complained that a church we used to attend reminded her of “a K-Mart with pews.” As Catholics, we believe (or we ought to believe) that in the Mass Jesus Christ himself comes among us and offers us his very Body and Blood! Shouldn’t that moment be just a little more special than a trip to K-Mart? Shouldn’t that moment be sacred? Shouldn’t that moment be holy? If the use of Latin, ad orientem worship, Gregorian chant, and polyphony help us to make the Mass more sacred and more holy, then I say BRING THEM ON!

I was born in 1963, smack dab in the middle of Vatican II, so I have no memory of of the Traditional Latin Mass or how things used to be “back in the good old days.” This is not a nostalgia trip for me, and it shouldn’t be for the rest of the Church either. Simply saying, “Gee, remember the old Latin Mass, wasn’t it swell?” will not do. If advocates for the wider celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass are to have any success, they must convince Catholics my age and younger that the this form of the Mass still has something good and beautiful and worthwhile to give to the Church (and I firmly believe it does). I think perhaps one of the best ways to persuade people of the beauty and value of the extraordinary form is to let people hear the great music the Traditional Latin Mass inspired. I, for example, am gaining an appreciation of the Traditional Latin Mass, “through the back door” so to speak, because I’ve discovered polyphony and the musical form that preceded it, Gregorian chant. If music this good was inspired by and created for the Traditional Latin Mass, then, as Rich says, the extraordinary form must have something going for it. Hearing Tallis and Byrd and Palestrina and Victoria has made me realize just how shallow and cheesy much of the ersatz ’60s and ’70s “folk music” I grew up on really is. Younger Catholics are being cheated out of their precious musical and liturgical heritage by not even having the opportunity to hear and appreciate this glorious music.

As for me, away with the cardboard and the bubblegum! Give me a liturgy that is truly reverent and dignified and beautiful, one with uncompromising proclamation of the Word of God, sound preaching, and inspiring music that lifts my mind and heart to God and is truly “a promise and foretaste of the paschal feast of heaven” as one of the eucharistic prayers says.

Picture Credit: Traditional Latin Mass being celebrated at St. John Neumann parish, Diocese of Knoxville, Tennessee.

A New Look

October 20, 2007

I hope you like the new motif around here. I just felt it was time for a change. Welcome to the new and (we hope) improved It’s All Straw. All the same great taste with 50% fewer calories and 0 grams trans fat! And now leaves your breath minty fresh! 🙂

Learning 2.0

October 19, 2007

When I was working as a librarian not so long ago, I discovered the Learning 2.0 website created by the staff of the Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County (North Carolina) to help staff members familiarize themselves with emerging Web technologies such as blogging, podcasting, RSS feeds and social networking sites. The Learning 2.0 site is open to anybody and has inspired similar sites at libraries and other organizations around the world. It lists 23 short exercises users can do to learn about cool new web stuff. I wanted to check out this site in detail when I was working, but I never had time because there were always so !@#$%&* many books to catalog. Now I’ve got more time than I know what to do with, so . . .

Believe it or not, blogging is actually #3 on the list, creating a Flickr account is #5, and downloading audiobooks is #22, all of which I already know how to do, so for once in my life, I’m ahead of the curve! :). Some of the activities, such as registering a blog with the library, creating a account, and alas, receiving a free MP3 player for completing the exercises by a certain date, apply only to library staff members, but there are free equivalents that those not associated with the library can do, such as download audiobooks from free public sites such as LibriVox and Podiobooks. I’ll be blogging as I complete the exercises and share my reactions to them. I always feel so much more alive when I learn something new. It should be fun!

Watching The War

October 14, 2007

I just finished watching the final installment of Ken Burns’s mammoth documentary series The War about World War II. Public television stations in North and South Carolina have been running it almost continuously for several weeks now. I’d seen bits and pieces of it along the way, but didn’t try to watch the whole thing for fear it might be too overwhelming. I think I was right. I choked up at several points during this last episode, thinking not only in general terms of the horrors the veterans and survivors of that war had to endure, but also in particular of my own parents who lived through that terrible, awesome time.

I especially thought of my Dad who was an Army Air Force pilot during those years. I wish I had another chance to thank him and tell him how proud I am of him for what he did for our country. It made me wish I had asked him in greater detail about what he did during those years. If I know Dad, he would have shrugged it off, insisted he didn’t do anything special, and told a story about something funny that happened to him. Earlier this year I tried to obtain a copy of his service records from The National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, but I quickly realized I didn’t have enough information to locate his records because I didn’t know his service number, his unit, or his precise dates of service. I also received a form letter from NPRC informing me that his records may have been lost in a fire there in 1973. I’ll keep trying. I’d like to know what he did. It seems my brothers and sisters have different recollections of what he told them about his wartime service, even disagreeing about whether he went overseas. It doesn’t matter. Even if it turns out he spent the war peeling potatoes at Fort Dix, I would still be proud of him.

I also thought of my Mom during the film. Katharine Phillips of Mobile, Alabama, one of the people that Burns chose to describe life on the home front, reminded me quite a bit of Mom and has several things in common with Dad. Ms. Phillips was born in Mobile; Dad was born in Birmingham. Both she and my Dad attended Auburn University. The film made me realize how much I still miss my parents and how much I have a new respect for them because of the remarkable experiences they lived through.

Mars as You’ve Never Seen It Before!

October 12, 2007

How very, very, very, extraordinarily super-mega-cool! Mark Shea reports via his son Luke, who is a student in film school:

Pixar is working on an adaptation of…(drumroll please) JOHN CARTER, WARLORD OF MARS!!


I actually danced when I first read that. Danced. Like, all around the

Tee hee hee!!


Luke the Totally Stoked

For those of you who don’t have the foggiest idea what I’m talking about, Princess of Mars, Gods of Mars, and Warlord of Mars, all by Edgar Rice Burroughs (the creator of Tarzan) form a trilogy about John Carter, a Civil War veteran who is mysteriously transported to Mars. There he finds beautiful, scantily clad Martian maidens (e. g., the image on the right), green bug-eyed monsters, airships, sword fights, lost cities, disembodied brains, and all kinds of cool stuff! I’d bet my bottom dollar these books were an inspiration for Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers, which in turn were an inspiration for Star Wars. This is the granddaddy of all space operas, folks! POM is a pulp classic! The first five Mars books are available online as e-texts, and the first three are available as podcasts. Simply click on the links and do an author search for Edgar Rice Burroughs.

I’m delighted these fabulous adventure stories are finally being brought to the big screen. A few years ago I tried to turn POM into a screenplay myself but gave up after a couple of pages, having discovered that writing for the movies is harder than it looks. I’m sure the Pixar gang will do a much better job than I did. Huzzah!

Thanks to Tangor and friends at for the use of the image and for the links to the online versions of the texts. is the one-stop shop for all your Edgar Rice Burroughs needs.