Monday, December 31, 2018

Something To Take Along With The Alka-Seltzer

Imagine no "Imagine" 
I know that's hard but try
No boring  chorus
Or words that only lie
Imagine all The People, singing something new.

Imagine there's a song line,
One that goes somewhere,
And chords that don't lie static,
And words that move, those too.
Imagine all the people, singing what they knew.

You don't really need a dreamer,
Or even more than only one,
All you need's to try it,
And you just might come up with one.

I don't believe in memes, though when people say "meme" they aren't talking about memes.   Anyway,  I'm going to start one that "Imagine" is the "Little Drummer Boy" type song to hate hearing for the coming decade.  I encourage everyone to make fun of it and we can crush the thing back into the past. 

Why The Left Of The Future Will Be Religious Or It Will Flop

As good an example as I can think of, off hand, to show how some Evangelicals have learned and thought and grown in ways that I've seldom seen secular lefties grow,  you could listen to the two male hosts of The Bible For Normal People talking with the Womanist theologian Wil Gafney

A lot of what she and Peter Enns and Jared Byas talk about at the very beginning about how the ways in which different theologians read the Bible is necessary to understanding what it means and that that kind of reading is necessary for reading other things and coming to more than a limited, partial, inadequate reading from one perspective is enormously important.  History is only one area in which taking multiple points of view into account is essential.  Economics is certainly another.  Even science, in the 20th century has had to deal with that reality as opposed to the mythical monolithic "objective" hard truth superficial people believe science produces.  

I would trust a left that came out of these peoples' engagement with the Bible more than I would any secular materialist orthodoxy up to and including Marx.  Which basic framing is more likely to inspire people to change, one which comes from the idea that we are all beloved creatures of God or one that says we're all just collections of molecules who have an illusion of consciousness and free will but whose ever action is a pure and temporary result of the recombination of atoms and molecules determined before we were born and which will just continue after our illusory consciousness has ended?   

I will put my bets on the Bible readers as the left of the future.  Some of them are already way ahead of the secularists. 

People I Hope To See In Leg Chains On Their Way To Prison In The Coming Year: Kirstjen Nielsen: Stephen Miller With Better Hair

I hate that criminal.

Last Stupid Mail - Leaving The Home Of The Old Folks At Home Behind With 2018

It being the last day of 2018, maybe it's getting into the swing of things to take the plunge in a way that is irrevocable.  

Eschaton, a blog where the geezers who couldn't handle the challenge of learning how to use Twitter gather.  Even a lot of the stupider, younger regulars left it for newer forms of social media, "Trademark Dave," never goes there, or so I understand.   What they say there is of limited unimportance to a very limited audience of lazy, bored, unchanging old folks for whom it is always 1965 or, among the younger geezers, something like 1983.  

It's not important.  Changing minds, changing thinking is the only thing that makes media important, changing minds and thinking was supposed to be why, when blogging was young, it was alleged to be important.   Well,  as Anne Sexton described being stuck in a bad frame of mind,  "there are no prayers here, here there is no change."   Their house ideology, scientistic, materialist, atheism, leads to stasis, not change.  It is low on producing any motivation other than self-satisfied conceit.  It occurred to me while I was listening to the people coming out of Evangelical religion at The Bible for Normal People, they changed radically for the better, secular lefties don't.   They don't even learn from decades of futility, doing the same thing over and over again. 

I would bet the number of people who have ever had their minds changed by what is said at Eschaton might not have reached a hundred in its entire duration.   Being one of those people who can point to how they were changed by it, I can say that when it changed my mind about things, I left.  It only taught me what was wrong with the left, not what to do to change that.  

If I make the public resolution never to mention it again I'll be too embarrassed to give into any temptation to be pulled back in, so here goes.  This is the last time I will mention Eschaton or Simps, Tlaz, Thunder Boy, JR, Skeptic Tank, or the Baby Blue blog. . .   

I already feel cleaner. 

"one time I even ate salt. I tell them, just salt, I tell them"

The next text that the peasant theologians of Solentiname took up was the cries of the mothers of the slain children.  While I was reading it slowly and typing it out I kept wondering about how the mostly men who are quoted seemed to steer the passage away from children being murdered, certainly by men, soldiers, police power, and how it was women who were lamenting the deaths of their sons.  As I typed it out, though, I realized they understood things about the text that I couldn't see.  Their lives provided a deeper hermeneutical lens through which to see deeper meanings than life as a white male living in the United States could provide me.  That the violence of Herod murdering a number of babies to get at the one he believed was a threat to his wealth and power was part of the wider continuum of violence, including hunger caused by economic injustice is a commentary on this text I've never heard of before.  It makes the quibbling of scholars trying to estimate the number of male babies in that village,at that time seem, especially in the typical 20th-21st century academic debunking mode, repulsively frivolous.  So much in the culture, popular and academic, of ripe, ruling empires turns to such stuff.

That said, what Natalia the mid-wife said about her work, the terrifying situation she was in when things in a labor were going wrong and she didn't have any ideal what to do, seems to have been too uncomfortable for the men to deal with.  I'd have liked to hear more from her.

In this way was fulfilled what was written by the prophet Jeremiah:  "A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and great lamentation;  it is Rachel who weeps for her children, and she will not be comforted for they are dead."

LOREANO:  "I remember what happened in Chile, where they killed thousands of people, just because freedom was being born there;  many people were taken up in airplanes and thrown out into the sea.  But they can't put freedom down, just as Herod couldn't put Jesus down."

FELIPE:  "And as I see it, Ernesto, we are taught here that to be powerful isn't necessary to have money, because Christ was born very poor (Herod could not distinguish him from the other children of that village) and Christ was very powerful, so powerful that they were afraid, and they tried to kill him, and afterwards they did kill him but even after his death he was even more powerful.  So we are taught that we, even though we're very poor, must not feel humiliated, unfit, as they say, as though we had no right to live."  

ELVIS:   "The importance of the birth of Christ is that it was the birth of the Revolution, right?  There are many people who are afraid of the word as they were afraid of Christ because he was coming to change the world.  From then on the Revolution has been growing. It keeps growing little by little, then, and it keeps growing and nobody can stop it."

I:  "And it has to grow here also, doesn't it?"

PANCHO: "We hae to get rid of selfishness and do what Christ said and go on with the Revolution, as ou socialists say.  I' not a socialist, I'm not a revolutionary,  I like to hear the talk and grasp what I can but really I'm nothing.  Although I would like to see a change in Nicaragua."

MANUEL:  "But if there's going to be a change you have to cooperate with it,  you'e got to cooperate."

PANCHO:  "But how do you do it!  I'd like somebody to tell me:  'That's the way it's going to be done.'  But you can't!  When we rise up they kill us."

ALEJANDRO:  "But look, they killed him too."

PANCHO:  "Correct, but he was Christ and we're never going to compare ourselves with him."

MANUEL:  "But I heard there have been other men, like Che, who have died for freedom."

PANCHO:  "Right.  You can die, you, and tomorrow we'll all be dancing and we'll never think that you died for us."

WILLIAM:  "Then you think that those deaths are useless?"

PANCHO:  "They're useless.  Or they're almost useless!"

Young MYRIAM:  "I say that when there's someone who will free our country there will be another Christ."

My brother FERNANDO (to Pancho);  "When you say, ' What can I do?  Nothing!' I agree with you.  But when you ask another 'What can we do?'  I would say everything.   And that day when you ask each  other 'What can we do?' you'll already know what you are going to do.  And the poeple all united are the same Jesus that you see in this manger scene, against whom Herod couldn't do a thing."  (Fernando pointed to the clay manger scene, made by Mariita,  that we had put at the foot of the altar during the Christmas season.)

A young man from Solentiname who now lives elsewhere but who occasionally comes back:  "I who have been away notice that the child is being born in this community.  And I see the difference between this and the people who live in other places up the mountains.  Of course, up in the mountains it's different.  If I sing a song there, they tell me I'm a communist.  The way it is up there where we are,  if anybody says anything against the government, they say:  'Go and find out who the communist is so they can come for him.'"

And his brother, who lives in Solentiname;  "Ernesto, I'm going to tell you now about my brother.  My brother, he knows what a Nativity scene is.  We're brothers, after all.  I'm going to say a little more.  Since he went away,  he always has the idea of clearing his conscience, he talks and talks there.  Many farmers say,   'communist!' and they don't know what a communist is.  Now he talks to them a lot, because he's told me, he talks up there to the young people.  My brother has told me that some of them agree with him, others don't.  He says he's not making much progress.  I tell him; Don't be afraid, say what you know, even if it's only a little,  I tell him, I know you'll get to them."

NATALIA, who is a midwife and has been present at the birth of so many children in Solentiname, said:  "Well, as I see it, the birth of the child Jesus is also all of us,  this unity that we have here.  Because in ourselves we are seeing things clearly.  But we must all help with this birth of Christ.  Like when a baby is being born, and maybe you don't know anything, and they say to you:   Come help me.  Well, you go, not because you know anything,  you don't know anything, right?  But because a poor child is being born.  See, I grabbed my petticoat, or if I have on my apron I put it on him!  Because he's being born in need."

I:  "That must be difficult,  the birth of a child . . . "

NATALIA:  "Oh yes, of course it is.  Horrible, isn't it, terrible to see yourself in a fix like that, and maybe you want to know more, know something more, and you see the fix that your friend is in.  But you tell her (even though you're dying),  'Don't worry!  Even though I was trembling,  if y friend was trembling,  I said,  'Don't worry.  Don't worry, you'll be okay.'  And you see the problem, and you're covered with cold sweat.  This has happened to me.  A friend calls me because maybe she thinks I know,  and I don't know anything, or nothing more than what her faith puts into me, something."

OSCAR:  "Ernesto,  I want to say something.  Do you know how I understand birth as I'm listening to Natalia?  Very important, the birth of a child and even more to raise a child (I feel this deeply as the father of a family),  but that's not the birth that this Gospel is telling us about.  Do you know what I understand by a child here?  It's the poor people!  They are children with respect to the rich.  I mean we, then, since we're poor, we're children, we're always beneath the rich, and we feel maybe;  'I'd like to be like that one who's taking it easy over there.'  Enjoying what I'd like to enjoy, and I can't because they don't let me, understand?  It seems to me, then, that's what this birth means,  a little child who suffers.  We ourselves, even though we're adults, are like children:  the poor.  But I say,  the child is not always going to be tiny.  I say to my brothers, my comrades:  Hell, they're screwing us!  We're giving them everything we have!  Let's fight!  That's what Christ did.  He suffered, but he conquered.  It's true that he died, as they say, on the cross, but for me he didn't die.  And he's talking to us in parables;  I understand them so I'm relying on that.  I think he's telling us to fight and establish justice.   We ourselves are going to give justice to the earth,  we the children, to those who are imposing injustice on us.  Don't you believe that the child is always going to be crushed and hungry.  I mean the birth that the Scripture tells us about here is not like the birth of one of these kids romping around the church.  No, this child is me, you, everybody.  But the rich have always tried to crush us like we crush the snake,  by the head, wham!

ALEJANDRO:  "And as I see that Jesus who was born in a manger, like a child is born here in the mountains,  in a farmhouse or in a boat, is the liberation that's also being born here, in a humble form.  And even in those kids who are still so young, who are playing there, and who have been born like this, inside them, even though they don't know it, something is being born:  freedom."

Another young man:  "They're learning.  The child laughs and makes noise and racket,  but inside him freedom is being born."

After a pause:  "Since I was a small boy I've realized that.  I don't know anything about politics.   I don't know anything about other things either.  I'm not a reader or anything.  I understand all right but I can't express myself.  It bothers me and I want to express myself but I can't.  Some people tell me I ought to be happy with this regime because we haven't had wars.  You're a young man they say,  and since you were born you've never seen a war and you don't even know what war is.  Hell, I say to the,  I don't know about those wars, but do you know what war is for me?   Hunger,  I tell them, because I've suffered hunger,  I tell the, together with my mother;  one time I even ate salt.  I tell them, just salt, I tell them."

The deaths of children under the negligence, perhaps worse under the United States Department of Homeland Security - I wonder if the name wasn't so Nazi-like if it might have inspired better behavior - was the inspiration for meditating for several days on what that  text reads like for people who, first, have direct, first-hand experience of the modern equivalent of such state violence, now violence through the rule of their neighborhoods, villages and country by gangsters.  Second because the United States, the Rome of their experience, had a direct hand in creating the conditions of violence they are fleeing.  They might know that life for them in the imperial "homeland" will be difficult but they also know that, as opposed to the economic colonies they live in with direct violence, violence is somewhat quelled within the "homeland" for reasons of safety of the oligarchs here and for administrative efficiency.   We are Herod to the extent we participate in and tolerate that being done with our country, in our name.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Bernard Herrmann Rehearsing Carl Ruggles' Angels And An Interview

Now this makes my researching Bernard Herrmann worth it,  I came across this old BBC video yesterday but didn't listen to it till this morning.  I'll give Herrmann credit, he was an damned effective rehearsal conductor.  The difference from the beginning point to the end of it was notable.  

It's the all-muted trumpet version of Ruggles' Angels, not the one with the lower voices played on trombone.  What he says about having met Ruggles through Charles Ives is fascinating to hear.  I think some of what he says is somewhat inaccurate but there is other stuff I hadn't heard.  I never said Bernard Herrmann was an inferior musician, he was clearly very skilled, even brilliant.  It's just that his music apart from the movie music IN THE CONTEXT HE WROTE IT FOR is sort of a letdown.  

Here's the recorded performance of the piece directed by Gerard Schwartz, perhaps the greatest trumpet player of his generation, now a very fine conductor:

Here's the version with muted trumpets and trombones and the score

And here's a version for piano

You'll notice they are all different in details.  My dear late teacher,  Marilyn J. Ziffrin, Ruggles' friend and biographer said when she wrote a paper about this piece in the 1960s, she wanted to discuss it with Ruggles and as soon as they started going over the score, he wanted to start making changes to it - the piece had already been published for more than 40 years.   I'll dedicate this post to her memory, she died last spring

Here's her Suite for Piano.

Max Lifchitz, piano

"That government was also set up by the Empire"

When Herod understood that the wise men had tricked him he got very furious and he ordered the slaughter of every child two years or under who lived in and around Bethlehem. 

A girl said:  "The same thing happened up north when Catalino appeared:  Since they didn't know him well or even which one he was, they killed all the farmers around there."

Old THOMAS PENA:  "Herod ordered the kids killed since he wanted to reign forever and didn't want a liberator.  Of course, when he heard 'There was a king'  he said: 'There's no king but me, I better kill him.'  And then he tried to figure how to kill him,  but as Jesus Christ was more powerful than he was, he couldn't kill him."

Young OSCAR:  "That Herod was a coward.  It was because he was a coward that he committed all those murders.  A lousy coward."

Young ALEJANDRO:  "It's the same thing nowadays:  As soon as they see the first signs of anything new, they get scared and begin to murder, as happened with this child.  It's because these people are cowards,  and it's cowardice that makes them kill defenseless people like Herod who didn't kill armed soldiers but poor children."  

A Protestant who had come from the coast opposite:  "They persecuted Jesus, but he wasn't in opposition to any government."

FELIPE:  "He came as the king of the Jews.  What more opposition do you want?"

Another young man:  "Herod, of course that millionaire, with his power he had everybody crushed.  And the same thing happens here and in other places, wherever they're screwing the people.  The innocent.  Because the ones they're killing are the innocent, the ones who are dying, like that boy in the mountains up north. In all these cases they're killing the child that they don't want to see grow up.  Back then something like that occurred.  Herod was the Somoza of that region,  and when he heard that that child had been born, he went after all the children.  As soon as they glimpse a sprig of liberation anywhere, they do what Herod did."

LAUREANO:  "And not only that, because Herod killed them after they were born;  now they kill them before they're born with all their famous Family  Planning;  they kill the children before they're born for fear that later there'll be a people that they won't be able to control." 

I said that was very true, and that there are clinics set up through the country where they sterilize women without their consent.  This is a campaign that the United States is waging throughout Latin America.  They have population experts throughout Latin America, in charge of seeing that the population doesn't increase.  President Johnson once said in a speech that bringing up a Latin American cost the United States two hundred dollars, while stopping him from being born cost only five dollars.  And as an economist has said:  If births decrease, funds for investment will increase.

Another young man:  "Herod was less cruel than these people."

WILLIAM:  "That government was also set up by the Empire."

I said that in fact Herod had been put in power by the Roman intervention, and Rome allowed him to call himself "king,"  although he had very little power.  I said also that this slaughter of the innocents, although it seems unlikely, was not so in the case of Herod who slaughtered many families, and even his own children and his favorite wife.  An historian of the period says that his anger was boundless.  And it is said that he tried to arrange on the day of his death children would be slaughtered in Jerusalem so that there would be lots of mourning.  The slaughter of children in a village, that could have been like our little town of Belen, in Rivas, or like Colon, or San Miguelito (there were probably not many children),  it wouldn't be a cruelty very worthy of attention for historians, especially if Herod was involved.  But those children under two years of age in that village (there might have been twenty of them) represent all the innocents that have died for the cause of Jesus, for liberation, in the whole world. 

It is impressive how many things about this in 1972 are relevant to 2018, how many of the things they said about Herod they could say about Trump, though then there was no complication of the American administration being vassals of the Putin regime or the other regimes that Trump and his gangsters have sold out the United States to.

It's also instructive to see how, from the point of view of these recipients of North American wisdom in the form of family planning, out of their wider experience of North American foreign and military policy saw that as part of the same thing.  How Lyndon Johnson's appealing to the monetary interests of American tax-payers sounds a lot different to people who have every right to consider it to mean that Americans could save $195 if they had prevented them from being born.  Especially as the American government was financing and sponsoring their slaughter, their enslavement, maintaining a school to train Central American terrorists to carry out that economically advantageous slaughter.  Americans might miss such things said by American presidents, swamped in the news stream and entertainment that swamps us, the people who American presidents say such things about hear it and pay attention, knowing it could very easily become their reality, especially in small countries where people have brown skin.

Who can blame them for being skeptical of the motives of those American sponsored programs?  It reminds me of the problems the CIA cause for the program of  trying to eradicate polio when they decided to use a vaccination campaign as cover in the hunt for Osama bin Ladin. 

Hate Mail Shorts - I read the tiresome invective for you so you don't need to.

- Once I understood that in every Pauline letter and the ones that are attributed to him he was addressing small groups of beleagured converts, churches, set in an overwhelming pagan majority and that, like his ancestors in the Children of Israel he was trying to maintain them in their distinctive moral practice and identity, a lot of the troublesome passages became clear as could be.  Read in that context it makes sense to tell a slave to return to their master AND TO TELL THE MASTER TO TREAT THE SLAVE AS HE WOULD HIMSELF, to council wives to obey their husband AND TO URGE THEIR HUSBANDS TO RESPECT AND LOVE THEIR WIVES.  I think some of those things made complete sense as an attempt to live lives in which the earthly differences between  Jew or Greek, Slave or Free, Male and Female, ethnic differences, gender differences, difference in economic, legal and other worldly measures of status were still not only in effect, legally, they were the basis of the societies and habits of even the convinced converts.   In the context of a modern, would-be egalitarian democracy, they don't make as much sense unless you understand them in the contexts Paul wrote them to address.

In a context in which one man having penetrative sex with another one happened mostly if not always in a context in which the one being penetrated was socially, economically and legally in an inferior position - in the context of Roman law in a radically inferior position a slave, a child, a social inferior being used by a wealthy aristocrat - that Paul would have condemned that form of sex.  I don't know, maybe they also associated anal sex with the diseases that can be passed on through it.  If you look at gay porn and straight porn you see that would be being recreated in that context, the act of a man penetrating someone else often happens in a situation in which sex becomes an act of domination and subjugation and harm and destruction, certainly of contempt and derision and mental oppression.   Such things, if not given up, if indulged in turn sex into a sin. I think anal sex, with all its opportunities for using people without regard for their welfare and status as equals inevitably turns into at least a very high likelihood of becoming sinful.  I think the male gay population would be a entirely better off if it practiced only sex that was safe and an expression of love.  Committed love, promiscuity also opens people up to all kinds of risks.

The more I read Paul the more wisdom I find in him.  I'm convinced his conversion experience was not only something that happened, I think it was real and I think it was informed by the earlier Hebrew experience that he, as a Pharisee knew, well.

- Naw, I am not going to be bothering with Eschaton in the coming year, I looked around from what you sent me and it's obvious that it's turned into mostly a nostalgia blog for geezers entering into senescence.  It's both my experience and my observation that when the aging process is matched with secularism, that's what being a lefty descends into.   I'd rather try to make the future better than wallow in the foolish paths of least resistance already gone down.  It's kind of unattractive to see a bunch of geezerly play-lefties doing that.  It's such a waste of time to do it, commenting on it is also a waste of time.

Update:  -  Paul saying women were to be quiet in church is certainly a problematic text, as Elizabeth Johnson pointed out, since he said it one thing we can be certain of is that Women in the Corinthian church were not keeping silent, they were testifying and prophesying and could well have been celebrating Eucharist and that for some reason Paul didn't like it.  It's quite possible that this was Paul backsliding into previous habits from before his conversion, holding a difference between males and females that left Women in an inferior position.  Perhaps he wrote that before his understanding of how radical the transformation of Jesus Christ was complete.  The dating of the Epistles isn't certain so we don't know when he wrote his radical formula of equality in Galatians 3:28 as compared to the clearly contradictory passage in  1 Corinthians 14:34-35.  And as Elizabeth Johnson points out, we don't know how the Women of Corinth responded to Paul.  It would certainly be interesting if they had access to both epistles to know how they might have argued the contradiction between the two statements. 

-  I don't think there would be any negative effects if gay men, everyone gave up anal sex.  It's a form of intercourse that cannot be made safe.  Even when condoms are used, apparently.  That study done in Montreal that carried the supposedly great news for straight men that having sex with 20 or more women warded off prostate cancer also carried the news for men who were receptive partners in anal sex that their data indicated it was likely something that put them at greatly enhanced risk of prostate cancer.   Having read the study I'm skeptical of it, as, in fact, I am about most of the allegedly scientific study of sexual behavior but if you're going to use it to claim one thing, you don't get to pick and choose its conclusions.  But prostate cancer, perhaps caused by trauma to the prostate resulting from anal sex, who knows, is hardly the only risk factor.  The list of diseases that are easily contracted from contact with shit, especially shit of your own species, is long and dangerous.

I'm not sure which day of the week it was but I know it was the week of October 2, 2011 that as Ken Burns' Prohibition was on PBS I outraged some of the Eschatots when I blasphemed against what turns out to be an atheist-secular Higher-Power* by saying the only thing wrong with prohibition was that it didn't work.  I knew it was heresy but how angry that made some of the play-lefties there surprised me. 

Since we're about to go into the most boring of all holidays, New Years Eve and since during the tediously forced merriment of the Ball Drop they'll probably have some adenoidal adolescent intone John Lennon's stupid and hypocritical atheist hymn. imagine a world with no alcoholism, no drunk drivers, no drunken, violent boyfriends or girlfriends or husbands or wives or parents, no drunk or alcoholic children to worry parents and grandparents and uncles and aunts, etc.  Imagine all of that money spent on booze going to something healthy and productive . . . I imagine the likely bogus studies lauding the (often quite modest) health effects of drinking would be overshadowed by the health benefits of abstinence by a factor of thousands to one.   

Well, imagine what the world would be like if sex had always been a responsible, honest expression of love instead of a means of oppression and selfishness.

*  I have had to confront yet another beloved relative developing alcoholism this year.  It seems to be a familial trait.  This one hasn't yet used the "I don't believe in a "higher power" line on me as two others have but it's clear that atheist-invented attack on AA is a lie as every alcoholic makes the ethyl alcohol molecule into their higher power, a power that they give total control of their lives, the power to destroy them and whoever they might, through accidents, etc. take with them.  I will admit that realizing that and researching the atheist-"Humanist" attack on AA using that slogan has made me a lot more hostile to atheism than I might have been.  I don't apologize for that. 

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Saturday Night Radio Drama - Dorothy L. Sayers - The Man Who Knew How

Suspense's "The Man Who Knew How" was adapted from the short story by Dorothy L. Sayers, which was first published in Harpers Bazaar in February 1932. Suspense's version adds a little more to the ending, but otherwise, it is presented as written. The original story is available online at Google Books.

As the episode opens, Mr. Pender strikes up a conversation with a fellow passenger on a train. He offers the man a mystery to read, but the stranger declines the offer. The murders in mystery books are far too inadequate for him because the criminals always get caught. He is more interested in the murderers who don't get caught. Then, he mentions that one could easily kill someone without detection by using a few simple chemicals. . . .

Charles Laughton
Hans Conried
adapted for radio by Evelyn Keller and produced/directed by William Spier.

The video is complete with vintage commercials.  I don't usually post adaptations but I love Charles Laughton and Hans Conried.  They really knew how to create the impression of being in a location.  Some newer ones do a good job but I think some of them could do a bit more with subtly used sound effects.

The beginning of this reminded me of a radio play I posted a long time ago, if you missed it you might like David Pownall's The Man Without The Mobile.  You might like it if you didn't miss it.

"And the picture of all those families fleeing, mothers carrying their children in their arms, is the same as the flight to Egypt"

Continuing on from here yesterday:

Another of the ladies:  "Yes, that's just like what goes on nowadays,  and it's because anyone that is struggling for the liberation of the oppressed, he himself is a Christ,  and then there's a Herod, and what we're seeing is the living story of the life of Jesus.  And more Herods will come along, because whenever there's someone struggling for liberation there's someone who wants to kill him, and if they can kill him they will.  How happy Somoza would have been if Ernesto and Fernando [Cardenal] had died when they were little kids so they wouldn't be teaching all this.  It's perfectly clear that the business of Herod and Christ, we have it right here."

One of the boys:  "I think that the same thing happened to Catalino Flores [the murdered union leader mentioned earlier in the discussion] as to Christ, exactly.  They didn't kill him when he was a child because he, like Jesus, managed to escape.  They killed him at an age when he had already fought his fight.  He fought, and they killed him, but the same thing happened to him as to Christ, that he is resurrected and is in the hearts of everyone that wants the things that he wanted. 

DONALD, who is studying in a small town on the Costa Rican border and has come home for his vacation:  "But in the Gospel, it's a tiny child that they are persecuting, and here they're not going to persecute a newborn child.  From the time he was born, they were looking for Jesus to kill him, and his parents had to save his life."

Another of the boys:  "I think the same thing happens here, Donald.  Can I say something;  You know what country we're in, and how there's so much infant mortality, and so many stunted, undernourished children.  I think that's persecuting children.  I think the same thing is happening here as happened to Christ when he was persecuted as a kid."

And I said that there are many campesino families that have had to leave their homes in may parts of Nicaragua, fleeing from misery and hunger or because they have been driven off their hands, or because the National Guard is killing the campesino leaders, burning farmhouses, raping women, jailing whole families, torturing.  And the picture of all those families fleeing, mothers carrying their children in their arms, is the same as the flight to Egypt. 

LARUEANO: "Another thing:  the revolutionary conscience in these countries is still a child.  It's still tiny.  And they persecute it so that it won't grow.

I'm not qualified to add anything.

America's Lefty Media The Worst And The Best Of It

I go from tearing my hair out as I hear the Majority Report crew, Sam Seder, Michael Brooks,Jamie Peck,  Matt Lech spout the typical New York City lefty bubble bullshit of insisting on the stupidest of things, doing really stupid things like pushing the buttons of the Bernie bots, the goddamned Greens, the rising tide of similarly disastrous delusion that is coming from the Democratic Socialists*  to thinking they have some of the best commentary these days. 

Here's an example of what I like that they do, asking why and how Donald Trump and the many others like him in American life have gotten away with being gangsters for so long and why that is bad in the way that having him in the presidency is.

Yeah, more of that, less with the delusional thinking that Bernie Sanders would be a serious candidate for president or the idiotic idea that the election of AOC is the beginning of the Marxist millennium or something.  Encouraging dopey college kids in that kind of delusion has been a feature of the "left" for my entire life.  It's been part of the marketing strategy of the lefty magazines and publishing houses.  In his obituary of Christopher Hitchens Alexander Cockburn said that he used to warn his friends at New Left Review and Verso that the Hitchens who they loved when he was attacking Mother Teresa was no one they should put their faith in.  It should never, ever be forgotten that Hitchens, as Cockburn also pointed out, was always pretty much the same guy even as the lefty media took him to their bosom and nurtured him.   I figured that out from reading him in The Nation way back when I was still a subscriber.  You eventually have to ask what the hell is wrong with the American lefty media.

Well, with the behavior of such magazines as The Nation and In These Times during the 2016 campaign and, lest it be forgotten 2000,** them helping to deluded the "left" with pie-in-the-sky that turned into the shit sandwiches of the Bush II and Trump regimes, the last thing the American left needs is for Majority Report to have a similar marketing strategy of attracting America's Stupidest Lefties and encouraging that line of unrealistic bullshit.   

There is nothing, no fevered dream of any Marxist or Democratic Socialist or, God help us, Anarcho-syndicalist that is more radical than a bill that is adopted by a state legislature or the Congress which is made law and which makes things better.  That's something that the American left has not learned since the days when Victor Berger was derided as a "sewer-socialist" as he saved the lives of poor people and others by getting his city to clean up the water supply.  Any real leftist, any real, American traditional style liberal will have to fight against the elitist, often affluent "left" which doesn't really care about winning to do such radical things, it's all an abstract game to them.  It's why they were able to support Stalin and Mao within living memory, it's why they dream longingly of Lenin and lie about Che.  It's never any skin off of them if Republican-fascists win.  With the antics at The Nation I'm not entirely convinced there isn't some equivalent blackmail of Richard Cohen to that rumored to be held over Donald Trump.  There was something they had on him from the time of Brezhnev.   And it is a known fact that those dear old commies of the Gus Hall era and earlier were being paid in pretty much the same way that Putin has funneled money to Trump.  Though I doubt the Soviets were as free with their money as Putin was with his and his fellow (many of them ex-commie) oligarchs.

* I pray that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is smart enough to refuse to play their Ralph Nader or Bernie Sanders.  The DSA has produced exactly one successful candidate, or, rather, has had one as a member, a very smart, very talented (very Catholic, by the way) young woman who won in an overwhelmingly Democratic district in a very atypical American city.   It would be the stupidest thing in the world for Democratic Socialists to mistake that one member of the House as a power base from which to make demands on Democrats who have to get elected in far more typical districts in the country which is, by and large, quite unlike NYC.  I'll remind you that the same New York City also maintains the Republican scumbag Peter King in office, the DSA can't even convert New York City, never mind the entire country.

** Not to mention 1968, 1972 and 1980, and arguably 2004 which, in retrospect, were exactly the same kinds of disasters aided and helped by Americas Stupidest Lefties being led into delusion by America's foremost lefty publications. 

Friday, December 28, 2018

Hate Mail

Simps and the Simpletons of Eschaton - what is said there is totally unimportant.  Anyone who is stupid enough to believe them is too stupid to be convinced of the truth so why bother?  Maybe if it amuses me I'll mention it but it's going to have to be a lot better than that. 

Stupid Mail Update:  Well, if there's one thing that Steve Simels is it's a liar.  I've mentioned Bernard Herrmann I didn't say anything bad about him or his music.  I said of his score for Citizen Kane 

It is a good movie, it is beautifully filmed, beautifully structured, well to greatly acted, very well written and the score is very effective, though I am unaware of anyone excerpting the music to stand on its own.  So much of movie music is so much less without the movie to support it.

Which is all true.  I have never seen any of Herrmann's concert music programmed by an orchestra or performed in recital or a chamber music concert.  Though it has been and you can hear some of it at Youtube.*

The only commercial recording of music from Citizen Kane I found listed this morning was a single performance of  "Salaambo's Aria"conducted for a "movie music" recording by Charles Gerhardt. I suspect as part of that 1990s fad of pretending "movie music" was great music** which it seldom is.  Apparently a number of pops performances of that one piece have been done, though it's just a tiny part of the score.  I doubt that Bernard Herrmann wouldn't have rather had some of his concert music achieve that level of performance.   

*  His Symphony of 1941 is a respectable enough attempt at writing a symphony but it's not a piece that I'd ever expect will be much revived.  If he hadn't been famous for his movie music I doubt the available performances would have been recorded.   Oddly, it seems to me like Virgil Thomson's music would be if Virgil Thomson didn't have a sense of humor. 

Echoes for string quartet is also perfectly respectable, though I found it quite boring, extremely repetitious, the kind of music that might be effective in the background of a movie sequence.   In the different sections of it I kept feeling like I should expect something to happen that didn't. 

Souvenirs de Voyage, or at least the available first movement for clarinet quintet was, for me, more effective, if too obviously inspired by Ravel.   I think he is one of those composers who were so brilliant at studying other peoples' music and so good at their lessons that they were unable to find their own music.  Maybe the movies helped him in that, even his admirers seem to admit that his concert music wasn't his best.   He was certainly well rewarded, financially, for his work and his work was the kind for which there are financial rewards.  Maybe he shouldn't have expected artistic success for himself at the same time.  

I can imagine some of his music will occasionally be revived by faculty and student ensembles at universities and conservatories, I don't think it's the kind of music that will inspire anyone the way that really great music will.  I would even expect occasional revivals of his symphony but not too often, probably decades between performances.   He was one of hundreds of very talented composers whose talents - perhaps thwarted by his easy achievement of technical mastery and the work of previous composers - failed to develop an importantly distinctive idom to stand on its own without other support.  A lot of those in the past worked in the theater, either opera or musical comedy.  I do have to confess that while I was listening to his symphony this morning all I could think of was Meridith Willson's two Symphonies as issued by Naxos, a disc I think I might have listened to twice but it's still sitting somewhere in the W section of my CD shelves.   Youtube, for all its shortcomings at least lets you try music out without having to buy a disc.   

**  As I remember becoming aware of the fad, it was a desperate attempt to get young people to start going to orchestra concerts because they were afraid that their audience was dying off.   Since TV and the movies, adding to the attention deficit and stupidity of the American public were a big part of the reason for the reduction in consumption of more challenging art of all kinds, it was bound to be something of a flop.  I think other than for pops orchestras it's pretty much run its course long ago. 

"But only now, when an army patrol has just come, have I really understood that very real and harsh circumstance that the Gospel presents to us here; repression"

A couple of weeks ago I transcribed part of a sermon given by Fr. Jack Lynch in which he noted how much he learned from the impoverished lay people of barrio he served as priest in Peru as opposed to the great University of Toronto.  That's true in my experience of reading and rereading The Gospel in Solentiname, the discussion of mostly uneducated, sometimes illiterate peasants as related by Fr. Ernesto Cardenal. 

The death of Jakelin Caal, a seven-year-old girl and, now Felipe Gomez Alonzo, aged 8 in the custody of the Trump regime, are only two of certainly scores of thousands, probably hundreds of thousands of innocents slaughtered as a result of the violent, oppressive Pax Americana, an effort by American presidents and politicians and businessmen to manipulate events and policies to subjugate as much of the Western hemisphere to serve their wealth and power as they can manage.  Overtly, from the beginning, American politicians, as soon as more powerful countries holding parts of the Western hemisphere were unable to maintain control of them the United States has done its best to exercise hegemonic power over those people and those places in service to the wealth of wealthy Americans.   I am sure there were earlier examples but as good a place to start with that is Thomas Jefferson's overtly stated intent to prevent the slaves of Haiti from ruling themselves, more than two centuries of American meddling have taken their tole there and then pseudo-Christians like Pat Robertson slander the people so oppressed and subjugated in the most overtly racist of terms. 

Central America, as soon as later presidents issued things like the Monroe Doctrine, became especially vulnerable to the most horrific of terrorism and oppression as American presidents worked with local elites to enslave and oppress and terrorize the inhabitants, often for the overt benefit of nameable American companies and industries.  Fruit, coffee, other commodity industries, the Panama Canal, . . . it is rumored even the illegal drug industry all figured into the machinations of American presidents, up to and including Reagan, Bush I, Bush II and certainly Trump.   The recently beatified George H. W. Bush, if there is a purgatory, will, no doubt be confronted with his massive sins in that regard, including the terror campaigns of the Reagan administration which he was part of.  Not to mention those he was part of during the Nixon administration.

I am going to spend several days with Chapter 8 of The Gospel in Solentiname because if there is one thing these peasant theologians understood better than those living in relative safety as white members of the imperial power,  it is the slaughter of innocents  as exercised by the local puppet despots of the predominant imperial power. 

In Central America then, as now, it is a central fact of life, the murder of children, the slaughter of children, the terrorism exercised by gangsters, official and unofficial as a means of gaining power and wealth.*  Today it's not just the official puppet governments in Central America, it's the rule by drug gangs exported to Central America by the American government, after government policy helped found such gangs.  Even as The School of the Americas trained the terrorists of the 1970s, American prisons are the School of the Americas of the criminal gangs who Central American parents flee from with their children. 

If there is a crisis of Latin American refugees on the American border, it is a problem that American governments and governing elites created with centuries of oppressive and viciously violent foreign, military and economic policy created.  The United States, in the Western hemisphere has acted as the aristocratic class of Romans did.  If they had nurtured egalitarian democracy there, there would be no flood of refugees from American policy trying to get here, today.   It would certainly be easier to help The People of Latin America nurture good government and honest economic policies than it has been to maintain an oppressive regime of enslavement, but it wouldn't have been as profitable for the rich here and there.  People tend to want to stay home if home is a place they can live a decent life.  The racist stupidity of Americans has caused this problem, the crooked aristocratic elites here have used that as much as anything to thwart egalitarian democracy here.  We are a manipulated people, a used people and a divided people.  White people, up till now the numerically dominant population will find a lot of this hard to get.  Members of racial minorities here, those with dark skin,  will certainly find a lot that is familiar in what was said more than 40 years ago. 

The Slaughter of the Innocents   
(Matthew 2: 12-23)

Shortly before we had Mass this Sunday a National Guard patrol came to inspect our houses.  (Martial law had been declared throughout the country, with a suspension of individual liberties.)  Some people seemed to be a little afraid,  but the children rushed gaily throughout the church and made so much noise that it was hard at times for us to hear clearly the commentaries on this Gospel passage MYRIAM had read:

After the wise men left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in his sleep and said to him:  "Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to the land of Egypt and stay there until I tell you to come back.  Because Herod is going to look for the child to kill him."

Among those present was my brother FERNANDO (a Jesuit priest), and he said:  "I think that if Mary, when she was waiting for the birth of the infant, had the idea of a messiah who would be a power, she quickly lost the idea.  She realized that she had given birth to a messiah who was subversive from birth.  And I also think that for a long time we have been misreading the Gospel,  interpreting in a purely spiritual sense, eliminating all its political and social circumstances, which are certainly very dramatic;  that is, we have abstracted the Gospel from its reality.  How often have I read that Saint Joseph and the Virgin fled to Egypt.  But only now, when an army patrol has just come, have I really understood that very real and harsh circumstance that the Gospel presents to us here; repression.  

One of the ladies said:  "It's very rough, but what happened then has gone on in every age.  There was a king like those who exist now in many countries, in our country and in many others, and if that child was coming to liberate from injustice, the ruler had to pursue him and try to kill him so that the people would liver forever in slavery.  The same thing happens here the minute a good person appears.  We've seen how in the north they've killed that union leader Catalino Fores.  I heard the news on the Cuban radio; up to then I still thought it wasn't true.  Sure, they always persecute people who want to free the rest, and they kill them.  That's what happened to Jesus;  they tried to eliminate him when he was a child." 

Beethoven - Choral Fantasy op. 80

Evgeny Kissin - Piano
Cheryl Studer - Soprano
Kristina Clemenz - Soprano
Camille Capasso - Mezzo-soprano
John Aler - Tenor
Hiroshi Oshima - Tenor
Friedrich Molsberger - Bass
Berliner Philharmoniker
Claudio Abbado
RIAS Chorus
Marcus Creed - Chorus Master

Two Comments - The Tragic Results of Using TV As A Babysitter

  1. "North will always be a never-revived composer of Hollywood crap."

    So your argument is that North sucks because he's not Beethoven.

    Get back to me when Beethoven wrote something this brilliant that was synched to something as fabulous as this visual montage.

    1. Steve Simels, Music Critic believes the opening sequence for Spartacus is a greater musical achievement than Beethoven's Fidelio.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Too Many Catholics? No, Too Small A Base Of Authority.

Yesterday was a lost day between eldercare duties and dealing with sleep deficit.  It ended with me choosing to be diverted by something my volunteer example of pseudo-lefty stupidity said, which led me to the comment threads of Eschaton, the risen and fallen baby-blue blog which, I'll give it credit, taught me a lot about the many ways in which a secular, anti-religious left will always, always fail. 

So I spent several minutes there last night and, yes, I saw a brief discussion of one of the few adults there, David Derbes', comment that Prof. Melissa Murray as seen on Ari Melber's show would make a good Supreme Court member, young, black, female, progressive . . . and the discussion quickly went to the question of whether or not she was Catholic (I don't generally associate the name "Murray" with Catholicism, all the Murrays I knew were Yankee WASPs).   Derbes said he had no idea if that were the case. 

It was a fairly short and fairly innocuous comment chat, though it's seldom,very seldom that the word "Catholic" comes up at Eschaton without it being used as an invective or a disqualifier or in some other negative context.  I suppose it might be a comment on the supposedly absurd number of Catholics on the Court just now.  The list I found online of the current court says that there are five members of it who are Catholic and though Neil Gorsuch attends an Episcopal church he was raised as a Catholic.  Though I'd also read that Clarence Thomas also attended an especially right wing Anglican-style Episcopal church at one point I have no idea what he calls himself.  He, as all the Republicans on the court, vote a solidly Mammonist line, and, of course, that means their Christianity doesn't impinge on their legal work.

I will admit that does seem like a high number of Catholics though it's clear, since one of those Catholics is Sonya Sotomayor, you can't accuse all of them voting in the lockstep which traditional American anti-Catholicism has always said was to be feared.  I would point out that the four or five others seldom vote in line with Catholic social teaching, except on matters of reproductive rights, you could never intuit the official teachings of the bishops or even the last two very conservative Popes.  And that's not to mention the real Catholic church, The People. 

It is odd that there is only one official Protestant member of the current court (Gorsuch) though earlier in the history of it an all WASP court wasn't considered odd.  I believe for a short period after Stevens retired there were no Protestants on the court but am not interested enough to check that.  If the question is one of percentage of the population, no one comments on the proportional "over-representation" of Jews on the court,  a third, currently, whereas Jews are estimated to be 1.4% of the population.  Which shows how stupid such thinking is.  If that were the case then there would be no Jews on the Court, Muslims would also not be represented, not to mention atheists, about the smallest religious minority commonly measured in surveys.  Some say that one of the Jewish members of the court, Stephen Breyer is the lone atheist on the court.  I don't know if he's actually confirmed that or not.   I'd certainly rather have him there than the one Episcopalian and all but one of those listed as Catholics.  But not because of their religious affiliation.

What was on display on the supposedly leftish-liberalish blog was petty anti-Catholicism.  That is one form of bigotry which has never been out of style with the college-credentialed, play-lefties or even the old-line college-credentialed secular liberals I knew.  Back in the 60s, even at the height of Catholic liberalism (something which never faded as secular liberalism did) mocking Catholicism was everything from de rigueur to, at least,  a not disqualifying form of bigotry in such circles.  There's nothing so old fashioned as an old play-lefty trying to be au courant.  They're as predictably repetitious as the  Christmas decorations you got when your parents died.


I hadn't intended to write about this until I read an article posted this morning at The National Catholic Reporter, it was an article of responses* by readers to a proposal that the media start distinguishing between the Catholic hierarchy, the bishops and cardinals and popes and the Catholic Church, which is, in its broadest sense, The People, certainly for the purposes of the media, the living population of Catholics.  The responses were to an article by Thomas Reese published a month ago.

 It is time to stop using the term "Catholic Church" as a synonym for "Catholic hierarchy."

We all do it. "The church teaches such and such." "The church lobbied against gay marriage." "The church failed to protect children." "The church is homophobic and sexist." "The church is authoritarian." "I hate the church."

The word "church" has multiple meanings. One theologian counted more than a dozen different ways "church" was used in the documents of the Second Vatican Council, referring to everything from a building to the Mystical Body of Christ.

"Church" is the word we use to translate the Greek word "ekklesia," which originally had the meaning of an assembly called together by a secular authority.

In the New Testament, the term is used more than 100 times — to refer to Christians assembled for the Eucharist, to a local congregation (such as the church at Corinth) or to all the people of God united as a body with Christ as its head.

The leaders of the community were not "the church," but the apostles, bishops, presbyters and elders.

Language matters.

Yes it does, especially when it comes to denigrating an entire group estimated to be 1.2 billion people. 

I have tried, every time it comes up, to distinguish between Putin and the crime regime he heads and the Russian People who are the primary focus of his crimes.
It's a practice I try to follow whenever the group is one of involuntary membership who are not characterized by a leadership they have chosen to have. 

I remember in the 1980s taking a tour of the House of Commons in London. The tour guide pointed to a plaque on the wall in honor of a minister "who was killed by the Irish Catholics." Not the IRA, not the Provos, not the terrorists, but the Irish Catholics.

I will break in and say that the anti-Catholicism in the United States is heavily informed by the centuries long program of British anti-Catholicism, something mounted on behalf of the power and wealth of the British elites, having little to do with religion and much to do, especially in the early years of it, with the Tudor era theft of church property among the Royals and nobility and the various power factions that wanted anyone with any connections to Catholicism kept from the throne.  A lot of it is just that, adopted by American bigots, many of them atheists many of them not even that but would-be people of fashion who use their bigotry as social bonding with various elites. 

Today we do the same thing when we say, "Muslims are killing Christians."

Saying that the Catholic Church did not protect children is just as wrong. It was the bishops. It was the hierarchy.

We should not blame the the people of God for the sins of the hierarchy. In many other churches, the people have some say in selecting their leadership and therefore have some responsibility for their hierarchy's actions. Not so in the Catholic Church, where new leaders are chosen by current leaders.

That last point is important, the leadership of the Catholic Church, the body of unmarried men who hold the power and govern it are a self-selected group.  Like the membership of such bodies as the National Academy of Sciences, there is a strong tendency in such ruling elites to become unlike the universal set which they are supposed to represent.  Though in the case of the Catholic hierarchy, restricted to ordained, unmarried men, that leadership is radically unlike the large majority of lay Catholics, Women religious, and even many, perhaps most of those in the priesthood who are faithful to their responsibilities to The People and who have never broken their vows of chastity in any way. 

After what I wrote on Christmas Eve about the need to see The Incarnation in a much broader, much more audaciously expansive and central role, as the salvation of all of the universe, it's a modest proposal to agree with Thomas Reese that "The Church" should mean The People, perhaps not even only the Catholic People.  I think once you get beyond the various hierarchies and power players in religion, people whose primary goals are entirely secular power and wealth, you find a lot less division than you get if you concentrate all of your attention on the ruling elites.  I've taken a lot of encouragement from the officially excommunicated Roman Catholic Women Priests under various and, I believe, inter-collaborating groups around the world.  They are characterized by small communities who meet in house churches, the way that Paul talks about in his epistles.  Back when that was The Church, or, better, The Churches.  Not that it was perfect, Paul's epistles are generally written in response to problems of backsliding out of the radicalism of the Gospel of Jesus and back into pagan (we call it "secular" today)  society and habits. 

A lot of the scandal of sex abuse is a direct result of an isolated, restrictive leadership, faced with a shortage of males willing to forego marriage leading to an anomalous and in some ways peculiar, self-selected group of men being the incoming population of priests,** the disastrously centralizing and ideological papacies of John Paul II and Benedict XVI appointing some of the worst bishops and cardinals in modern history, those appointed with an eye towards support for the upper limits of power and with a devotion to the neo-medieval views that most Catholics don't support, etc. 

For all of the promise that the election of Pope Francis has brought, for all of his best intentions, it has proven impossible to turn that decades in the making disaster on a dime.   Francis's predilection to act collaboratively with local bishops and national conferences of bishops might have worked if those hadn't been stacked with Vatican hacks and outright gangsters like Raymond Burke and if the right-wing Catholic establishment, financed by a small group of Catholic billionaires and millionaires and having a well established media presence hadn't been attacking every positive move Francis has tried to make.  There are and have long been a relatively small but dangerous fascist presence in the Catholic church, among wealthy Catholics, among those who politicize the power of the Church while ignoring the Gospel and Epistles and the social teaching of the Church, that fascism has a dangerous representation in the hierarchy which both John Paul II and Benedict XVI irresponsibly promoted.  And they have attacked Pope Francis, viciously.  While the survivors groups and ex-Catholics in the media have attacked him in another direction. 

If Pope Francis or his successor wanted to risk schism (which is the alternative to the gradual erosion which will result if radical reform isn't implemented) they could use the power they're unwisely given to make change all on their own.  Maybe that will happen, I wouldn't count on it because after five years, Francis hasn't done that.   His Christmas Eve message to clergy who have committed sexual abuse to turn themselves in to civil authorities as a means of circumventing the unwillingness of bishops and other authorities cover-ups is good, though I doubt many will take that command to heart.  It might happen but I wouldn't hold my breath. 

Maybe the Church will have to give up the edifice complex that comes with owning huge churches and properties and go back to being a house church.  It came to something like that in Latin America with the base-communities that became an alternative to the all too often power-seeking and corrupt hierarchy there.  I don't know.  If Pope Francis or his immediate successor don't do something radical - which will include opening up the priesthood to married men and women, opening actual church governance to more than unmarried, ordained men - I would expect that's what will come.  The existence of the Roman Catholic Women Priests, excommunicated or not, proves that the Catholic Church is already wider than what is officially admitted.  And that's only one part of that larger reality which is already there.

*  I think this reader response  among many good ones, is closest to what I think is the heart of the problem.

The article "Note to Newspaper Editors" speaks of the church contrasted to the Roman Catholic male hierarchy, well and good, but the author misses completely the necessary and righteous transformation that needs to happen for a healthy, holy church to grow. What has happened within the Roman Catholic Church is much more profound than being "the mess we are in today" as the author glibly states the case. Language, words do matter.

My note to newspaper editors is that what is generally called the Roman Catholic Church should now appropriately be called the Roman Catholic Crime Syndicate not the Catholic hierarchy. The Catholic hierarchy — all the way to the pope, bless him — is a now daily demonstrated criminal enterprise! Many of the hierarchy need to be finally prosecuted and put in jail. By any legal definition many are criminals, twisted thugs.

I grew up in an Irish Catholic family with uncles as priests and aunts as nuns. I was schooled by Dominican Nuns and Jesuits. As a former altar boy, the whole male hierarchy makes me nauseous.

Women priests and married clergy are the only way for a healthy church to rise up out of all the untold suffering. Bringing laity into all decision-making processes is important, but it's a small measure next to the deeper transformations necessary to cure the disease.

Or just burn the whole thing down.

The never-ending revelations of perverted men covering up other criminals who they know are destroying children's lives has to stop. There is really nothing else worth talking about regarding the Roman Catholic Church at this point, until that happens. 

Seattle, Washington

Remember, this is a point of view from within The Church, it's not heretical, it's not even that unusual. 

**  Of course, I would never want to condemn all male, celibate Catholic priests in that way, though it's undeniable that such odd rules for inclusion will tend to skew those who become priests in odd directions.  I don't know but I always have a feeling that the younger priests who came into it inspired by John Paul II and Benedict contain an unusual number of those invested in hierarchical power concentration and political conservatism.  They aren't generally the social justice and peace Church of my parents generation.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Stupid Mail - More On The Idiocy Of Saying A Performance Is "Definitive"

Well, much as I love the great wit Oscar Levant and as much as he was a very, very good pianist, indeed, he wasn't one of the greatest of pianists.  I'm sure he would have been the first to admit that.  I wouldn't be surprised if it wasn't one of the causes of his mental illness and the drug addiction that came with scientific treatment of it.  Which is a sad irony in the context of this post.

As to Anton Rubinstein's 4th Concerto, it's not great music but the claim that Levant played "the definitive" version of it is rather stupid as the composer was considered one of the greatest pianists of all time, if he considered any performance of it "definitive" - and the composer is the only person in the universe who has the ability to determine that about his own music - is doubtful.  Unless the composer designated someone else as giving such a "definitive" account of it, the logical assumption would be that if the composer also is one of the greatest of all pianists, they are the only candidate for having produced such a performance.  I think "definitive performance" is a bullshit term created by rather inept and stupid music critics who are a minor appendage of the advertising-publicity industry.  It's an advertising slogan, musically, next to meaningless. 

There was a famous recording of it played by one of Anton Rubinstein's few pupils, the great and tragic Josef Hofmann with the very great Fritz Reiner conducting The Curtis Institute Student Orchestra.  Hofmann's playing hadn't, so far as I can hear, been damaged by the alcoholism that would destroy him.  The imperfect recording technology, though, doesn't disguise the fact that he was an incredibly fine pianist, I've never studied his recordings but listening to this now I am absolutely floored by his technique and the clarity and range of color he got and which comes through, as well.   I would be surprised if he hadn't studied the piece with the composer whose intentions and playing he knew as intimately as a student does their own teacher.  I don't know about Fritz Reiner's association if any with Rubinstein but I have never heard a recording of his conducting which wasn't anything but faithful to the composer's intentions as notated.  I would imagine he learned something about it from Hofmann, as well.  It is an incredibly great performance of a merely good concerto. 

There is a good possibility that there are at least two recordings of Anton Rubinstein's playing, accompanying a tenor, Vasily Samus.

If the Hofmann recording above is technically less than perfect, the 1890 recording of this performance is many times removed from that level.  But I'd agree with the person who wrote the notes that whoever the pianist is, they were extremely good. One of the points in favor of it being Anton Rubinstein is that the second of the songs is by him, "Longing" and the pianist takes an improvisational approach to the performance. 

I will give you the link so you can read the notes at the Youtube posting.  Much of what is said is taken from one of the greatest of all recording technicians, one of the greatest at getting the most out of acoustic era recordings and transferring them to modern media,  the unreservedly great Ward Marston.  The notes give this quote from Hofmann about Anton Rubinstein's playing.

”I’m very sorry for you that you never heard my master. Why… I’m a child – all of us put together are infants – compared to his titanic force.”

So, the idea that anyone else would give "the definitive performance" of any of his own works is beyond silly.
Had to sit with my brother-in-law this morning so I'm getting a late start. 

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Max Reger - Mariä Wiegenlied

Anne Sofie von Otter, mezzo-soprano
Bengt Forsberg, piano


Olivier Messiaen - Vingt Regards Sur L'Enfant Jesus - XIII Noel

Yvonne Loriod, piano. 

I find this video so incredibly moving, the shared experience between the composer and his wife and primary interpreter, the bells at the end. 

Missa O Magnum Mysterium - Tomas Luis de Victoria

O magnum mysterium,
et admirabile sacramentum,
ut animalia viderent Dominum natum,
iacentem in praesepio!
Beata Virgo, cujus viscera
meruerunt portare
Dominum Iesum Christum.

O great mystery,
and wonderful sacrament,
that animals should see the newborn Lord,
lying in a manger!
Blessed is the virgin whose womb
was worthy to bear
the Lord, Jesus Christ.

I'd say this is my current favorite Christmas music for many years running.  The words, the ideas and the music. 


IMSLP has a number of different scores for this mass.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Patrick Cornelius - Christmas Gift

Patrick Cornelius Sax
Gerald Clayton Piano
Peter Slavov Bass
Kendrick Scott Drums

A babe is born - William Mathias / Improvisation Olivier Latry

Henri Chalet, director
Yves Castagnet. organist for the choir
Olivier Latry, improvisation on the great organ

Magnificat in D - Johann Sebastian Bach

Christine Schäfer, soprano
Anna Korondi, soprano
Bernarda Fink, mezzo-soprano
Ian Bostridge, tenor
Christopher Maltman, baritone

Concentus Musicus Vienna
Arnold Schoenberg Choir
Conductor: Nikolaus Harnoncourt


Manuscript score

Canticle of Zacharias - Carlo Gesualdo

Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel;
he has come to his people and set them free.
He has raised up for us a mighty savior,
born of the house of his servant David.
Through his holy prophets he promised of old
that he would save us from our enemies,
from the hands of all who hate us.
He promised to show mercy to our fathers
and to remember his holy covenant.
This was the oath he swore to our father Abraham:
to set us free from the hands of our enemies,
free to worship him without fear,
holy and righteous in his sight all the days of our life.
You, my child, shall be called the prophet of the Most High;
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his way,
to give his people knowledge of salvation
by the forgiveness of their sins.
In the tender compassion of our God
the dawn from on high shall break upon us,
to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death,
and to guide our feet into the way of peace.

And God Saw That It Was Good - December 24 - The Feast of Eve And Adam

I have become more convinced that the foremost reason for a decline in Christianity* or at least in its "mainline" form is its failure to articulate the most audacious claims of Christianity.  I think a lot of them went to college, got brow-beat by the materialists and science and wanted to fit in, too much. 

There might be a reason that a form of Christianity which is decidedly less faithful to the Gospel and Epistles seems to flourish as the more faithful forms of it languish.  They haven't given up audacity, even in its most ludicrous and anti-Christian forms.  Martin Luther said that there was no reason to let the devil have all of the best tunes, or so I was taught when studied music in college, why let him have the best stories, as well?

One of the landmarks in my recent progress, one which I believe I mentioned exactly a year ago, today, was Walter Brueggemann pointing out that in Genesis 9 , that God said he had made a covenant with the animals.

 9 “I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you 10 and with every living creature that was with you—the birds, the livestock and all the wild animals, all those that came out of the ark with you—every living creature on earth.

The idea that God made covenants with animals is something I must have read before when I read that story but I'd never noticed it until then.  It's a beautiful and audacious idea.  That it is after the flood that Genesis seems to give permission to eat animals for the first time in the Bible sort of puts a damper on that.   Maybe it's one of those scribal corruptions of the text that we're always hearing about. 

Of course, the atheists who troll my blog are already scoffing because, in their limited knowledge of the Bible, the lore surrounding Noah is perhaps second in the debunking literature in its cooties conferring power only to the story of Adam and Eve .  So, what the hell, I'm going to go full audacious and say starting there but continuing on to the end of the Bible and beyond, I'm going to propose the  ultimate in Christian audacity, the doctrine of apocatastasis, the idea more than merely implied by Paul in several places, most notably in First Corinthians 15

20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died. 21 For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being; 22 for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24 Then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, after he has destroyed every ruler and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “All things are put in subjection,” it is plain that this does not include the one who put all things in subjection under him. 28 When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to the one who put all things in subjection under him, so that God may be all in all.

Some may have had one phrase of that jump out, "26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death," because J. K. Rowling put it on the gravestone of Harry Potter's parents (if I remember, correctly).  For me, it was an opening into the most radical, the most audacious and the most mysteriously awesome of all Christian stories, the best of all stories, the most radically expansive claims about the Incarnation and salvation history, the end of it.

I was introduced to the most radical form of universalism, apocatastasis, through reading St. Gregory of Nyssa, one of my favorite of the early saints.  Universalism is much more encountered in Orthodox Christianity than in the West where the idea of eternal damnation is more popular.   I think it's a contradiction, certainly if you hold the idea that God is all powerful to think that it's possible for any of his creatures to hold out against God for eternity, even more so if you believe that God is identical with love.  It makes far more sense than the idea that God, who is supposed to be perfect in love, would created myriads of babies who were destined to burn in hell forever because they  would never have access to baptism - one of the most demented and unBiblical doctrines ever to gain currency.   While I don't think Gregory's analogies of refining impurities out of gold or an encrusted rope being pulled through a hole are entirely successful, no analogies are, but they're a lot more successful than the hellish doctrine of predestination which I can't think could be adopted except through a human weakness for enjoying the contemplation of the pain of others. 

A lot of darkness came into Christianity when Augustine got depressed over the falling Roman empire, I can't remember who it was who regretted that he'd lived long enough to write The City of God, in which he pushed his darkest form of eternal damnation.  Considering his motive in writing that, it's ironic that a lot more came into it as it was further polluted with European paganism and, most disastrously of all, became the state religion under "Most Christian" kings and princes and emperors who were far more pagan than Christian.  His fatalistic eternal damnation seems to me to be more compatible with paganism than it is with the Gospel and Epistles.  And it produced Christianity which was thoroughly polluted with the feudalism that came after the Roman Empire.  If you want to see examples of that, look at the trappings of Brit royalty, especially the warrior aspects of it. 


I think especially Western Christianity is too limited in its claims for The Incarnation as the salvation limited to "Good Christians" or  "men of good will" or even, in some Western universalists, all human beings.  I don't think it's adequate, nor is it adequate to view Jesus Christ as merely having significance for human beings, though that is certainly how the human beings who wrote the Second Testament tend to present him.  I think that passage from Paul is a good place to start with expanding the significance of the incarnated Jesus - God with us, God made flesh, to cover the entire range of embodied life and the entire physical universe, the same universe that Genesis declares three or four times God found was good.  As Richard Rohr said:

The Gospels are about the historical Jesus. Paul, however, whose writings make up a third of the New Testament, never talks about that Jesus. He is talking about the Christ. Jesus is the microcosm; Christ is the macrocosm. There is a movement between the two that we ourselves have to imitate in our life and walk, the resurrection journey.

Western Christianity has plucked Jesus completely out of the Trinity. The historical Jesus has become the new monotheistic God -- God the Father for all practical purposes. Once you no longer have a Trinitarian view, you no longer have a dynamic view of God. When you emphasize Jesus apart from the Father and Holy Spirit, then creation is just an afterthought or a backdrop to a limited salvation drama, “an evacuation plan to the next world,” in Brian McLaren’s phrase. We become preoccupied with those last three hours of Jesus’ life, when we get the blood sacrifice that gets us humans saved, our ticket to heaven punched. Protestants are somewhat worse than we are on this, to be honest.

The real trump card of Christianity is not just that we believe in God. The mystery we are about is much more than that: It’s that the material and the spiritual coexist. It’s the mystery of the Incarnation.

Once we restore the idea that the Incarnation means God truly loves creation then we restore the sacred dimension to nature. We bring the plants and animals and all of nature in with us. They are windows into the endless creativity, fruitfulness and joy of God. We assert that we believe in the sweep of history, humanity and all of creation that Christ includes.

Incarnation is already redemption. Bethlehem was more important than Calvary. It is good to be human. The Earth is good. God has revealed that God has always been here.

He goes on to, no doubt proudly, point out that this is a characteristic Franciscan idea,

It’s a Franciscan approach, and indeed was the theology of key Franciscan figures like Duns Scotus and St. Bonaventure. It will increasingly become mainline spirituality as we become more comfortable with an expanded view of the mystery of Incarnation in the cosmos. If we Christians had taken this mystery seriously, we would never have raped the planet like we do, never have developed such an inadequate theology about sexuality.

I am convinced that he's right, this will increasingly become mainline spirituality.  I also think it's a remedy for Karl Rahner's pessimistic prediction of the decline of Christianity into a merely personal mystical experience, of a modest "wintry Christianity" of reduced dimensions, as appealing as that idea might be, it's not enough.   Rahner's theology, massively impressive as an intellectual exercise, is too modest in that it rejects the kind of audacity I think is necessary to sustain Christianity.  Its subjugation by modernism and scientism makes me wonder if that isn't just a modern form of what happened when Greek philosophy came to dominate the radicalism of the Hebrew tradition in which Christianity began. I think it might be a modern recapitulation of Augustine's pessimism caused by the fall of Rome.  I think, Rahner and others sense a new dark age starting and they're trimming their sails.  Rahner, in Germany in the 20th century certainly had a front row seat to that falling darkness.  Though, as Elizabeth Johnson points out, he adopts the Franciscan view of creation as good, I don't think he could allow himself the audacity to believe it included the salvation in eternity for all creatures. 

I think Gregory of Nyssa and the other Cappadocians seem to have struck a better balance in that.  Though they were all, clearly, well versed in Greek philosophy and culture but their religion doesn't seem to be as submerged by it as so much other Christian theology.  Perhaps it has something to do with where they were located, though the family of Gregory and his brother St. Basil, their sister St. Macrina the younger and their grandmother, St. Macrina the greater, had experience of Roman imperial oppression during their parents generation.  Maybe things were looking up for them, in the Eastern empire even as the Western one was falling around Augustine.  I wonder what consequences that has had for the succeeding centuries of Western Christianity, up to and including today.  Maybe if I knew more about his teacher,  Martin Heidegger, I might be able to figure out more of why. 

In the end, I would rather be wrong in thinking well of God than wrong in thinking badly of God.   I'm hoping for the story to end as well as it possibly could.  I think that's a story that people will believe.  It will overcome the darkness.  I think the best hope for the future is to be as audacious as that story is.  I think it makes the most sense, I find the arguments of the universalists to be more convincing, the God they conceived of is more convincing.  I certainly think the fruit they bore is better.   I'm holding out for God saving it all, whether they like it or not, at first.

*  If, indeed, that's what we're in now, I only mention it for rhetorical purposes, I'm not convinced that's what we're seeing