Year 12 -- Microsoft, Mozart & hell

For the principalities and powers at Microsoft, these are the times that try geeks' souls.

Then again, maybe an even more serious judgment day lies ahead.

Not long ago, Microsoft's advertising team came up with a cheery slogan to assure consumers that the software giant understands the daily challenges faced by ordinary people. One of these spots features a snippet of Mozart's Requiem, juxtaposed with Microsoft's omnipresent question, "Where do you want to go today?"

A recent issue of the journal InfoWorld noted that this was a strange question to ask while the choir urgently sang: "Confutatis maledictis, flammis acribus addictis (The damned and accursed are consigned to the flames of hell)."

But there is hope. A friend who is a classics scholar, Father Patrick Henry Reardon, informs me that these lines from the "Dies Irae" are composed, grammatically speaking, in the "ablative absolute." This is a dependent clause and, thus, the thought should be completed with its principal clause, which is: "Voca me cum benedictis (Summon me with the blessed)."

So who is blessed and who is cursed? In this case, a federal judge will make that decision.

This bizarre anecdote can only mean one thing. Every year I mark the anniversary of the birth of this column -- this is No. 12 -- by offering a buffet of my favorite off-beat leftovers from my mailbox. It's that time again, so dig in.

* Columns about church-music trends always provoke reactions. My commentary on "post-contemporary worship" inspired several readers to send the same parable, which explained the difference between "hymns" and "praise choruses."

"It's like this," a farmer explained to his wife. "If I were to say to you, 'Martha, the cows are in the corn,' that would be a hymn. If, on the other hand, I was to say to you, 'Martha, Martha, Martha, oh Martha, MARTHA, MARTHA, the cows, the big cows, the brown cows, the black cows, the white cows, the black-and-white cows, the COWS, COWS, COWS, are in the corn, are in the corn, are in the corn,' that would be a praise chorus."

* A personal request: Please, do not send more updates about the photograph of Shirley MacLaine in Los Angeles that is supposedly weeping tears that heal people. That is so 1980s.

* Six prominent ministers recently gathered in Virginia Beach, Va., for a rite to renew religious broadcaster Pat Robertson's vows as an ordained minister, a role which he surrendered in 1988 to run for president. Among the clergy who placed his hands on Robertson's shoulders during the ordination prayers was Episcopal Bishop John Howe of Orlando. So I'm curious. Historically speaking, are we talking about the Rev. Pat Robertson or Father Pat Robertson?

* A reader's list of possible titles for Jewish country-western songs began with "I Was One of the Chosen People ('Til She Chose Somebody Else)." It ended with "Mamas Don't Let Your Ungrateful Sons Grow Up to Be Cowboys (When They Could Very Easily Have Just Taken Over the Family Business that My Own Grandfather Broke His Back to Start and My Father Built Up Over Years of Effort Which Apparently Doesn't Mean Anything Now That You're Turning Your Back on Such a Gift)"

* The end is near. Apparel Industry magazine noted that the peek-a-boo trend of girls flaunting ritzy bras, or faux bra-strap headbands, has reached some pews. "Even Mennonite girls are wearing it at church functions," wrote the editor.

* You have to admit that it took guts for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals to put up a "Jesus was a vegetarian" billboard -- with an image of Christ with an orange-slice halo -- in cattle-crazy Amarillo, Texas. No, this had nothing to do with Oprah.

* If you get this joke, you probably grew up in the Bible Belt. "You might be a Southern Baptist if ... you know that Lottie Moon is not a member of the Unification Church."

* For those who remain anxious about the millennium, the Daystar International Ministry still has its 24-hour-a-day Webcam aimed at Jerusalem's Eastern Gate. The faithful can watch for the Second Coming at

* A reader passed along this puzzler: "Can atheists get insurance for acts of God?"