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    John L. punched hard and lived even harder. When he met Corbett after a decade on top he was out of shape and the years of fights and magnums of champagne had taken their toll. He lost to “Gentleman Jim,” another American Irishman, and if it were anyone else, he would have gone the way of every ex-champion: instantly forgotten and thrown on the dump heap. But that didn’t happen. He was no longer champion, but he was still the “Great John L.” He remained a draw, a star, for the rest of his life. Corbett, for his part, was somewhat bitter. Though muscular and handsome, he never replaced Sullivan in the popular imagination. Ironically, when fighting was through with him, Corbett followed in John’s footsteps and became an actor.

    John L. Sullivan was America’s first sports celebrity; the model for every athlete hence who has peddled razors, action figures and underwear. Every jamoke who makes more money pitching junk than playing whatever “sport” they play owe their racket to Sullivan. He had his share of vices but he had great virtues as well, and was a loyal friend and overly generous benefactor to just about everyone who put his hand out. To the Irish in America, who needed a hero of epic proportions, he was an incarnation of CuChulainn, a hero from time, who, as it turned out, did indeed transcend his own time.

    Dr.O rather flatters himself that he bears a passing resemblance to Sullivan (in his waning days that is) and I’ve put together a little living history performance in homage to the Strongboy. I don’t knock out anybody, but I imagine that John L. would be pleased, since John L. was his favorite subject. If anyone is interested in seeing this, check out the information at the “Dr.O Presents” Moustached Men of Boston, Living History Performances tab under the GFABA banner.

    Recently, our Knights of the Altar put on a fundraiser to support a nearby order of nuns who run an elder care facility, tending to some folks who may otherwise be forgotten. The Sisters gave us a list of their needs and it included pretty much everything; food, naturally, but also items from wet wipes to toilet tissue to copy paper. The boys put boxes in our three churches and asked the parishioners to give anything they could. It’s a working-class town, and the parish is not rotten with 1% ers, but after a month, the boxes were overloaded with donated items. Great, but we also put on a spaghetti supper, which, next to car washes, is about the lowest level of fundraiser going, meaning you don’t really make that much, no matter how worthwhile the cause.

    Our small hall was packed, cheek to jowl, which means there were probably a hundred and a half people there. Again, this was no Al Smith dinner or Jerry Lewis telethon; strictly amateur hour at an out of the way Latin Mass parish. The guests ate their fill and afterward the kids put on a variety show which showcased the talents of the altar boys and the other young people of the parish.

     A couple of the girls did Irish step, other kids played violin, piano, guitar and drums. One boy sang a Sinatra song and he did pretty well, conveying Frank’s “Mood Indigo” ennui, you know the whole thing with Ava. The boy emceeing, who is rather shy, entertained between acts with awful jokes, which are, of course, the best kind. My BFF performed a magic show, and the interlocking rings continue to amaze. Dr.O, never one to be plagued with self-esteem issues, needed little coaxing to take the stage, and belted out “Whiskey in the Jar,” an Irish love song which tells of robbery, murder and prison. Yes, that good things to right a research paper on is an Irish love song. The war songs are much happier. Sure, it was torment for the audience, but since I cooked the spaghetti, the eaters had to suffer a little at the ears in recompense. The band played on, and one of our 90-year olds tossed aside her cane to dance around the floor. She told me she felt like she was 30 again. The Sisters drove home with their van full of supplies and some money to help support the house.

    Right about now you may be wondering “What is this post about?” Simply this. What happened here was no big deal. It was miniscule. But Hilaire and GK would likely call this subsidiarity, the practice of helping people at the local level, looking out for your own, no central government criminals involved.  The parishioners who donated, and ate, and listened and clapped were not saying to themselves “This is a fine example of subsidiarity,” they weren’t thinking anything of the sort. You see, another way of defining subsidiarity is simply “Christian Charity,” which has nothing to do with any thug regime and precious little to do with corporate-style “charities." The money we raised that night was just a nickel and a dime in the scheme of things. Still, the Sisters surely made good use of the dough and the tooth paste, and a good time was had by all, under the Catholic sun.