Robert Brehl is a writer in Port Credit, Ont., and can be reached at bob@abc2.ca.

The death of singer Whitney Houston at age 48 set off an interesting discussion around the dinner table about the 40s decade. Why are the 40s so dangerous for some, especially the famous?

Think about all the great stars who’ve perished in their 40s: Judy Garland, Elvis Presley, John F. Kennedy, George Orwell, John Lennon, John Candy (who grew up in Holy Cross parish in Toronto) and so many more. Many, but not all, contributed to their early death through lifestyle choices.

Self-indulgence before Lent

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Faith and Las Vegas are an oxymoron. But these two seemingly paradoxical thoughts rattled around in my head as we walked down the busy, glittery Las Vegas strip the other day for the first time.

Sure, Sin City has different types of temples filled with moneychangers of a modern ilk. These temples are named Caesar’s Palace, the Mirage, the Venetian, Bellagio and a host of others. And, sure, churches are hidden so far out of sight that you’d think illusionist David Copperfield made them disappear.

This time, the court hears the voice of the people

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It is all too common (and often exasperating) when the ground beneath us shifts on morality issues and common decency. It is easy to shake our head and say, “This sort of stuff wouldn’t have happened in the Canada I grew up in.”

These shifts occur for many reasons, from the silent majority saying nothing about the latest “Politically Correct” silliness to politicians bowing to the pressure from small, but effective, special interest groups. Sadly, the courts are also to blame by too often protecting the rights of offenders ahead of the rights of victims and the community at large.

Out of the frying pan come joys of the season

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As we settle into the new year, I can’t help reflecting on three gifts I received this Christmas.

All were thoughtful, one was unintentional, and all came from three wise women. Even a couple weeks later, they still make me smile for different reasons.

The first came from my beautiful and thoughtful wife. This present is the latest, state-of-the-art, high-tech, environmentally-friendly, non-stick, ceramic frying pan. A frying pan! I giggle just typing those words.

2011 will certainly be a year to remember

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Life can be like wine. Some years are simply better than others. And 2011 was a wonderful vintage for me.

Don’t get me wrong, there were some bitter tannins at the bottom of the glass at times, but overall the bouquet was exceptional and the taste robust.

It had to be after beginning the year with a remarkable trip to the Holy Land in January, my first time to walk where Jesus walked 2,000 years ago. It began as a business trip and quickly morphed into a spiritual journey.

This Christmas, don’t forget the things that are truly important

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In this Advent season of expectation and worship, I was thinking about hero worshipping when I noticed that the other day was the 100th anniversary of the birth of my dad’s boyhood hero, Joe “Ducky” Medwick.

Unless you’re a diehard baseball fan, you’ve probably never heard of Ducky. But everyone in my family knows of him because my late father’s only encounter with Ducky has long been family lore.

Penn State can take lessons from the Church

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The tragic child sex abuse scandal at Penn State opens many wounds for Catholics.

During the first seven-10 days after the story broke, almost every media report compared the scandal to abuse that has rocked the Catholic Church over past decades. The comparisons have not totally abated, either.

“Like the Roman Catholic Church, Penn State is an arrogant institution hiding behind its mystique,” declared the National Post on Nov. 14.

Life is so much better with good neighbours

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Recently, our next-door-neighbour died.

Technically, he was no longer our next-door-neighbour because he had sold his house and moved into an apartment about a month earlier. But I will always remember him as our neighbour.

John Macaulay was 83 and a wonderful man who built his own business that supplied science kits to schools before retiring some time ago. His funeral was packed with people from so many different parts of his eclectic life. His two sons and grandson spoke well, along with a friend of some 70 years, who told a story about his last conversation with his friend. John called him just days before his death to alert him to a “great sale on underwear” at Sears.

Life lessons taken from a baseball flick

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It’s been said that baseball is like church. Many attend, but few understand.

That may or may not be so. But while watching Brad Pitt’s new hit movie Moneyball, my mind kept wandering and I couldn’t help but think “this isn’t just a baseball movie. It’s about life; a metaphor about relationships, limiting irrational emotion and making improvements day after day.” (No doubt my wife’s mind was wandering in a different direction seeing Pitt up there on the big screen.)

Good baseball movies tend to hit my sentimental side and make me think of things beyond the game or the particular movie, from Field of Dreams and The Natural to Bang the Drum Slowly and The Pride of the Yankees.

The things they’re aiming at, and profiting from, our ‘tweens’

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Two recent events at our house got me thinking about Tipper Gore.

Remember her? She is the former wife of Al Gore who years ago fought against profane language in music, particularly rap and heavy metal genres, and violent imagery in media. She was dismissed by many as, at best, a meddling mom and, at worst, an enemy of free speech.

There is always hope, and there is always faith

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Do you believe in miracles?

It’s an age-old question. Songs and movies have been written on the topic. Sporting events have taken the issue as their own: consider the “Miracle on Ice” or the “Immaculate Reception.” TV evangelists and so-called “doctors” the world over have gotten rich selling miracle healing and miracle cures.

Sometimes, the question touches us so personally and so profoundly that we can’t get it out of our mind. Can we definitely give all credit to God’s grace? Is God not working through the actions of humans, such as doctors, nurses and others? 

I found myself in this state the other day.