Archives for January 2007

Pity Will Smith…

…trapped at the most terrifying Last Supper ever. Thanks to Michael for the link.

By the by, there’s tons of brilliant stuff over there at Gallery of the Absurd, but they do work blue when they’ve a mind to. Consider yourself forewarned.

Godspeed to Cubeland Mystic ….

Window in the Skies


The Farkleberry Spreads

Of the making of new Bible translations there is no end. Catholics, who are forced to listen to the clunky New American Bible at Mass, get to work off in advance some of the punitive aspects of purgatory. And evangelicals are indebted to Nelson publishers for the New Century Version. Now that version is available in Immerse: A Water-Resistant New Testament. “The first-ever water-resistant Bible is available in lime green and orange, with the pages 100% water-resistant…. A wonderful addition to any mission trip, a weekend at the beach, hiking, or even when you get baptized!” The effectual grace of baptism being indiscernible in so many of us, we now have a water-resistant Bible for water-resistant Christians. What won’t they think of next? Don’t ask.

— Richard John Neuhaus, in the February issue of First Things, p. 71.

Bookmark, Benedict Edition

From today’s reading in Benedictus:

“Human beings are such that they cannot stand the person who is wholly good, truly upright, truly loving, the person who does evil to no one. It seems that in this world only momentarily is trust met with trust, justice with justice, love with love. The person who exemplifies all these virtues quickly becomes insupportable to others. People will crucify anyone who is really and fully human. Such is man. And such am I – that is the terrifying insight that comes to me from the crucified Christ. Along with this insight, however, goes another: Man is the being who is capable of expressing God himself. Man is so made that God can enter into union with him. The human person, who seems at first sight to be a kind of unfortunate monster produced by evolution, at the same time represents the highest possibility the created order can attain.”


The Lion and the Cardinal has a new piece, as well as the miniature that inspired it.

Today in Worship

The Lawyer passes along a bit from Galley Slaves:

“According to, certain parishes under the Church of England will now be able to perform services to the tune of U2 songs ‘in an effort to boost congregations.’ Two of the songs to be used are ‘Mysterious Ways’ and ‘Beautiful Day.’

As some of you know, I’ve listened to U2 since I was about 14. But if I were sitting in a church and suddenly I was told to please rise and sing the communion hymn, ‘Bullet the Blue Sky,’ I think I would have to flee.

Sadly, this sort of gimmick is not new. When I was in Catholic high school, someone conned our teachers and the local priest into playing Mr. Mister’s ‘Kyrie’ during the consecration.”

Catholics: leading the way in goofy attempts to appeal to The Youth of Today since 1970. Because, you know, I just don’t get to hear pop music unless I go to church.

Mile High Club

Don’t Judge Too Quickly – video powered by Metacafe

A passage worth quoting from René Girard’s Things Hidden since the Foundation of the World

I recently finished this extraordinary book and whole-heartedly recommend it to everybody who can find the time. It is probably more easily understood after reading his book Violence and the Sacred, but its conversational style (Girard ‘wrote’ it in a series of ‘conversations’ with the French psychiatrists Jean-Michel Oughourlian and Guy Lefort) makes it slightly easier reading than that earlier work. I’m tempted to start up my own summer reading club in order to understand it a little better. I took many notes and have many questions, so I would certainly welcome any help from any scholarly minded folk who happen upon this post. For example, after 450 pages I’m still not clear on what “interdividual psychology” really is, beyond what the words generally imply: psychology as it somehow exists between individuals. Or is it Girard’s attempt to invent a word, rather as Derrida does with “grammatology” and “différance”? More substantively, how is a non-sacrificial reading of the Gospels really possible, not just because of the textual difficulty posed by the Letter to the Hebrews, but because of the Christian tradition and, in fact the Jewish tradition going back to the Passover? Or is this precisely Girard’s point?

In any case, after a book full of chapters with titles such as “The Logos of Heraclitus and the Logos of John”, “Desire without Object” and “Psychoanalytic Mythology”, the last two pages are simply breathtaking. After Oughourlian comments on the barren landscape of our contemporary intellectual climate (“a whole host of epigonal movements so devoid of real crativity that they seem more pathetic than dangerously misleading”), Girard closes with the following:

“I hold that truth is not an empty word, or a mere ‘effect’ as people say nowadays. I hold that everything capable of diverting us from madness and death, from now on, is inextricably linked with this truth. But I do not know how to speak about these matters. I can only approach texts and institutions, and relating them to one another seems to me to throw light in every direction. I am not embarrassed to admit that an ethical and religious dimension exists for me, but it is the result of my thinking rather than an external preconception that determined my research. I have always believed that if I managed to communicate what some of my reading meant to me, the conclusions I was forced to reach would force themselves on other people as well.

“I began to breathe more freely when I discovered that literary and ethnological critiques are inadequate – even if they are not totally worthless – when confronted with the literary and cultural texts they claim to dominate. This was before I came to the Judaeo-Christian scriptures. I never even imagined that those texts were there for the purpose of passive enjoyment, in the same way as we look at a beautiful landscape. I always cherished the hope that meaning and life were one. Present-day thought is leading us in the direction of the valley of death, and it is cataloguing the dry bones one by one. All of us are in this valley but it is up to us to resuscitate meaning b relating all the texts to one another without exception, rather than stopping at just a few of them. All issues of ‘psychological health’ seem to me to take second place to a much greater issue- that of meaning which is being lost or threatened on all sides but simply awaits the breath of the Spirit to be reborn. Now all that is needed is this breath to recreate stage by stage Ezekiel’s experience in the valley of the dead:

The hand of the Lord was upon me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord, and set me down in the midst of the valley; it was full of bones. And he led me round among them; and behold, there were very many upon the valley; and lo, they were very dry. And he said to me, ‘Son of man, can these bones live?’ And I answered, ‘O Lord God, thou knowest.’ Again he said to me, ‘Prophesy to these bones, and say to them, O dry bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. And I will lay sinews upon you, and will enter you, and you shall live. And I will lay sinews upon, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the Lord.’

So I prophesied as I was commanded; and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold, a rattling; and the bones came together, bone to its bone. And as I looked , there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them. Then he said to me, ‘Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.’ So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood upon their feet, an exceedingly great host (Ezekiel 37, 1-10).


This is from the 1944 book Secrets of the Saints by Henri Gheon. After a period of initial resistance, he comes ’round to the appeal of the Little Flower, but that doesn’t mean he drops his critical faculties with regard to her shrine…(Go on, read the whole thing. If you had something better to do, you wouldn’t be here in the first place…)

“I went at last to Lisieux, the Story of a Soul under my arm, resolved to see everything, and to dare everything – even the chapel of her shrine…On entering one strives hard to find some attraction in it. Were it plainer, it would not be half bad; there is a crushing excess of ornament, as useless as it is bad, yet this might be overlooked. But on turning to the right to venerate the holy relics, we are at once up against the masterpiece of hideousness and stupidity that has the high honor of sheltering them. The pseudo-renaissance cupola and its worthless stained-glass windows are the least of the absurdities. The shrine itself is showy, clumsy, quite without beauty: let that, too, pass. And I am not particularly offended by the brocade and velvet with which the recumbent image of the saint is dressed up in its gold and crystal cage…What I canot tolerate are the shrine’s supernatural guardians, two gigantic angels and a child musician: they are carved so flabbily in a marble so white and soft that they seem to melt like sugar when you look at them…To complete the crime, the sculptor (doubtless an ’eminent’ one) has set out on the steps several things like marble-sugar in the form of scattered roses and – to crown the horror – from a dense oily cloud there rises a ponderous bronze cross…The uniform spirit of the repository, pretentiousnes, jingling poeticalness, and pious adulation give a confusing unity to the whole thing…And remember that this gilding will never be dulled, this stucco never fade, this marble never lose its shiny surface – for the lighting of candles is forbidden: bulbs of electric light have superseded them. We are among the new rich, whose drawing-room furniture has cost too much not to be kept like new.

“It would be laughable, if one could find the heart to laugh. It makes the visitor ashamed of his country and of his century, ashamed that he lingers among such enormities. He feels the spirit of the image-breakers rising within him. He is sorry for Teresa and asks her forgiveness for these outrages…”

The poor man tries to pull back from his own outrage: “Be humble about your likes and dislikes, humble yourself even to the extent of accepting ugliness…But reason persists: why does God allow it? Why does Teresa allow it? Why has God let the devil have this triumph, that this holy place should be in the front rank of monstrosities of Catholic ecclesiastical art in the twentieth century? Does the soul no longer inform the body, and the spirit the flesh?”

He is not blinded by the horror, mind you: “Above all, there is the devotion, the true devotion, of the humble folk who fill and transfigure the chapel at every hour of the day…Yet the surrender we are longing to make must wait for one more argument: Was all this stuff really necessary? Could we not have done without it?

“No. Probably we could not. Those of us who are put off by it are only a small minority. Teresa was given to her own times; humanly speaking, and in her earthly aspect she was made a standard for them, and the devotion she excites has taken the external form which it required…We need not try to explain it away, for it does no wrong to Teresa…God bequeathed it to Teresa – and she uses it.

“I do not mean to say that we have the saints we deserve; we never deserve the saints we have. But we are given the saints whose outward appearance is most likely to attract us…Jesus Christ did not die for artists and men of good taste alone: they can go to Chartres and some of them will come back converted. The crowds that descend on Lisieux and carry away its trash as well as its graces to the ends of the earth find themselves quite at home…As they pray they find the real Teresa underneath the sugar roses and the cheesy clouds, behind the platitudes and pet-names that take all the salt of her most heroic story: Teresa, the ascetic of the wasted body and bruised heart and unbending will whose sacrifice was ceaseless, who lived on and died from a love that was all pain. That is what lay behind her smile; i have read the Story of a Soul again, and it is beyond question. Some jam must be mixed with the powder if the multitude is to take so bitter a medicine. She mixed a little herself…”

Immaculate Direction Bids Farewell

Cubeland Mystic heads off to the Grey Havens:

“I started the Immaculate Direction almost a year ago to dialogue about materialism and its impact on our Catholic faith and culture. The dominant culture is an unavoidable reality. All of us, to some degree, make compromises with it in order to thrive in it. These may be reluctant compromises, but they are compromises nonetheless. The best way in my opinion to combat an aggressively materialist culture is to be an active creator rather than a passive consumer. Through our own creative energy we mirror our creator. While we create, if our intention is directed toward God, I believe the fruit of that effort is holy. Hence this blog’s subtitle, a journey toward a sacramental life…

This will be my last post. I won’t say forever, but for quite awhile…However, I will share something that I’ve been reluctant to reveal before. I wish to seriously pursue writing fiction. It’s been in the back of my mind for over twenty years. Perhaps it will lead to something someday, nevertheless writing is how I will engage the dominant culture.”

Godspeed, CM. In other news, the ranks of my blogroll do seem to be thinning of late. The Godsbody curse?

We raided the Korrektiv kids’ piggy banks and came up with $5.99 for our own domain name, with enough left over for a 40 oz. bottle of Rainier, which we rock-paper-scissored for. (Quin won.)

To quote the taxi from Who Framed Roger Rabbit?…

…Sister Mary Francis! Barb is busy:

“I have so many things I am dying to blog about (…how considering the competition, Apocalypto should have gotten an Oscar nom …why we are going to see a lot more movies like The Fountain which is an exhausting prospect…the difference between Last King of Scotland and Hotel Rwanda… how the Oscars are grimly and trenchantly embracing their own future irrelevance… Why The Nativity will not undo The Passion effect in Hollywood… Origin Entertainment, the production entity at which I am a partner…The 13th Day – the movie on Fatima I worked on in Australia…What I saw in Australia living in Asiatown, working with Brits and Irishmen on a fiolm shot in Portugal…My movie The Work getting shot this fall with a cool director who it probably isn’t up to me to name here… My thoughts on the script Myriam which I worked on as the co-writer for many months… the Jane Austen adaptation I am working on now and how smug I am about the cool and clever way it is structured – think chukkers not acts – but I say , nothing, nothing!…The thrilling prospect of starting work adapting A Severe Mercy for the screen – just acquired for me by Origin…. My upcoming pilgrimage to Israel, why, how and with whom…) but I have no time to blog!”

Sounds like somebody’s getting their calls answered these days…

From The YouTube Music Archives VII: Witold Lutosławski Conducting the London Sinfonietta

Born on January 25 in 1913, Witold Lutosławski was one of the major European composers of the 20th century. He was possibly the most significant Polish composer since Chopin, and was the pre-eminent musician of his country during the last three decades of the century. He served heroically as a communications director during World War II, and his music gives witness to the turmoil in Poland during the decades he composed.

Lutosławski studied piano and composition in Warsaw, and his early works were overtly influenced by Polish folk music. His style demonstrates a wide range of rich atmospheric textures. He began to develop his own characteristic composition techniques in the late 1950s. His music from this period onwards incorporates his own methods of building harmonies from a small group of musical intervals. It also exhibits aleatory processes, in which the rhythmic coordination of parts is subject to an element of chance. His works (of which he was a notable conductor) include four symphonies, a Concerto for Orchestra, and several concertos and song cycles. In Jeux Vénitiens (1961), Lutoslawski took his first step into a “limited aleatory music”, after hearing a performance of John Cage’s Concerto for Piano in 1960. Lutoslawski’s elegant String Quartet (1964) utilizes four rhythmically independent strands simultaneously, yielding wonderfully dense and elastic textures. In the Livre pour orchestra (1968) the work’s four main sections are connected by controlled aleatory passages. Most of his subsequent works were orchestral, fully chromatic, orchestrated in a manner suggesting Debussy and Ravel, and consistently develop an opposition between aleatory and metrical textures.

Here are three short pieces for flute and harp, as recorded by Katherine Kemmlar (flute) and Anne Benjamin (harp).
[Magia][Andante con moto][Presto]

This Mini-Overture, performed here by the Triton Brass Quintet, is a short and yet powerful work from 1982.

Here is a sample of the the Double Concerto, commissioned by the Swiss conductor and new music patron Paul Sacher for the oboist Heinz Holliger, at whose request an obligato harp part for his wife Ursula was included. Completed in 1980, the work was first performed in August that year, when the Holligers were joined by the Collegium Musicum and Sacher. The orchestra consists of two percussionists and twelve strings which, though the number can be increased in larger venues, enables the composer to use them as an ensemble of soloists.

It’s about the strangest music ever written. Very strange and very beautiful.

In my opinion his Third Symphony is one of the greatest masterpieces of 20th century. I couldn’t find an mp3 of it online, but you can purchase a CD here. Here also is a fine article on Lutosławski’s First Symphony, one of his more accessible works. And here, lastly, is the concert performance from YouTube (a little more than ten minutes long) of Lutoslawski conducting his Chain No. 3, performed by the London Sinfonietta (this post was compiled from several sources, including a very fine entry at wikipedia).

Dept. of License Plates


It’d be downright sweet, possibly a pledge of marital affection, except, well…

St. Timothy

Born at Lystra, Lycaenia, Timothy was the son of a Greek father and Eunice, a converted Jewess. He joined St. Paul when Paul preached at Lystra replacing Barnabas, and became Paul’s close friend and confidant. Paul allowed him to be circumcised to placate the Jews, since he was the son of a Jewess, and he then accompanied Paul on his second missionary journey. When Paul was forced to flee Berea because of the enmity of the Jews there, Timothy remained, but after a time was sent to Thessalonica to report on the condition of the Christians there and to encourage them under persecution, a report that led to Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians when he joined Timothy at Corinth. Timothy and Erastus were sent to Macedonia in 58, went to Corinth to remind the Corinthians of Paul’s teaching, and then accompanied Paul into Macedonia and Achaia. Timothy was probably with Paul when the Apostle was imprisoned at Caesarea and then Rome, and was himself imprisoned but then freed. According to tradition, he went to Ephesus, became its first bishop, and was stoned to death there when he opposed the pagan festival of Katagogian in honor of Diana. Paul wrote two letters to Timothy, one written about 65 from Macedonia and the second from Rome while he was in prison awaiting execution. (

Memento Mori

Jody Bottum prepares to waltz with the Reaper (or at least, talk about it):

“For several years now, in a slow, circuitous way, I’ve been thinking about death–not dying, so much, as the role that death plays in various forms of human thought. Ethics, art, politics, psychology, metaphysics–what difference does the knowledge that we can die make? What difference does the knowledge that we will die make?

So, for example, in accounting for human behavior, game theory makes much of the risk of death in various activities. But how are actual human behaviors influenced not just by the deadly risks of certain activities but also by the inescapable human knowledge that, regardless of all activities, death will come anyway? And how are we influenced by the knowledge that all those around us can and will die? Slowly, as I’ve worked on these topics, I’ve come to the understanding that the death of others, more than the death of ourselves, remains the supressed premise in huge swaths of human thought.”