Monday, November 30, 2009

Dancing With Pink Gloves

From the nurses at the Providence St Vincent Medical Center of Portland, Oregon: "Our employees put together this video to generate breast cancer awareness throughout our hospital system. We had a ton of fun putting this together and hope it inspires others to join in the cause."

Because I saw it on ABC News tonight. Because you know you want it. And because there are worse ways to spend your fifteen minutes.

You go, girls!
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Huh???

“Nor is discrimination based on sexual identity new (even if such discrimination manifests itself in particularly virulent forms under the aegis of modernity) what is new is the realization that we cannot understand the reality of sexual preference apart from the culture that express and repress it. As each of these examples suggests the new attention to cultural diversity involves the humbling acknowledgement that we cannot access the signficance of such diversity apart from a genuine encounter with members of diverse cultures.”

-- Kevin Burke SJ
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Hi, we’re not as important as we think we are. Wanna party?

Six days ago, a Virginia couple was able to get past security checkpoints at the White House to attend a state dinner, without an invitation. Michaele and Tareq Salahi are regulars on the Virginia cocktail-party and polo circuit, and are often seen at fundraisers and horse shows on their side of the Potomac. Obviously they thought that would buy them some cred with the political-mover-and-shaker crowd on the other side. But as Politico.com reports, it doesn't.

The couple — prospectively cast on “The Real Housewives of D.C.” — barely register on the political landscape: They lack fundraising chops, lobbying clout or party connections. “They are so on the outer spectrum of everything that’s been familiar in both R and D circles,” said one influential D.C. lobbyist. “They’re just not part of the political or business conversation in Washington.”

The President and First Lady have faced quite a challenge as a couple, in terms of acceptance by Washington high society, but they're not unique. Even former First Lady Nancy Reagan had to prove herself to the blue-bloods in Georgetown, and she's a Smith College alumnae, for pity's sake. There's no word yet on whether formal charges will actually be filed against the Salahis. But one thing's for sure, they won't escape the wrath of the "in crowd."

Perhaps it was The Hollywood Gossip who said it best:

If you thought the Balloon Boy hoax was as far as you'd see aspiring reality TV jokers go for 15 minutes of fame, you don't know Michaele and Tareq Salahi.

After all, showing up without an invitation is ... well, it's just not cricket.

[FOOTNOTE 1: Political blog Hot Air didn't report on this sure-fire palate cleanser until Friday, three days after the event. They could be losing their touch, don't you think? Or don't you?]

[FOOTNOTE 2: Remember that story about her once being a Redskins cheerleader?]

[FOOTNOTE 3: It would appear that Tareq Salahi has some background in politics after all, according to Talking Points Memo.]
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Dance Scenes From Down Under

Just when you thought you'd seen everything, someone made a musical about the aborigines of Australia.

A film adaptation of the 1990 musical of the same name, Bran Nue Dae is about life on the road, coming of age, the adventure of finding home, and spontaneously breaking into song and dance. Reviews have been mixed, and it's probably got a few naughty parts in it, enough that you can't take the kiddies. But hey, they wouldn't get half the jokes anyway. Do them a favor and don't take them. Just watch the trailer and call it a day.

Bran Nue Dae opens in theaters in January 2010.
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Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Reason for the Season: Introduction

Advent Carol

Hush that anguished
    hymn you're humming:
"Come, O Come, Emmanuel."
Trumpet Christmas!
    Fix his coming
firmly at
    "The First Nowell.

"He's already come in glory!
Why plead,
    "Savior, come at last"?
Let's talk Christmas! Tell a story
safely in the distant past.

Drown out John the Baptist. Edit
out "Prepare! Make straight the way!"
Cut to Christmas! Buy on credit.
Square things up another day.

Advent's dreary. Let's start living
Christmas now! Wear red and green!
While we're at it, skip Thanksgiving!
Deck the halls at Halloween!

Then, when the Incarnate Verb
overnight becomes passé,
carry Christmas to the curb.
Pack the Prince of Peace away.

-- Julie Stoner, writing in "First Things"

+ + +

Today begins another Year of Grace, and the world hardly takes notice. It revels in epic films about a post-apocalyptic nightmare, even as it would be shocked at the prospect of its occurrence in real life. Yet in today's Gospel, we have been assured that it will. The difference is that no one will escape that which is otherwise limited to the silver screen.

We here at mwbh want our viewing audience (and you both know who you are) to make the most of this opportunity for such Grace, and to "wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ." This is why we will be showing a twice-weekly segment (or more if we're in the mood) during Advent and Christmastide, on ways to make this season of the year both memorable and spiritually rewarding.

To begin, we were delighted to read an account from a correspondent at New Liturgical Movement, a gentleman by the name of Andy Bellenkes. He describes for us a region of Europe where the flame of Christendom still burns bright.

+ + +

Happily, here in the Austrian Tirol, Advent is still observed as intended; a time of waiting and quiet anticipation. Yes, there is some commercialism here outside of the larger cities, but this is very limited indeed. Throughout Austria and Bavaria, one can attend an 'Adventsingen' at any number of churches and cathedrals. There, one can hear the story of Advent and the Birth of Our Lord both in beautiful narrative and music as performed by wonderful local non-professional musicians. The melodies of both the instrumental and vocal works stem from folk tradition extending back many years. At the end of each Adventsingen, whether in Austria or Bavaria, the beautifully moving 'Andachsjodel' is sung, forst by the performers and then by all assembled. It is a simple, touching, quiet piece that evokes the beauty of these weeks before Christmas. Might I recommend you [watch the accompanying video clip] where you can see and hear an Adventsingen at the village Church in Polling.

Outside, there are some lights decorating homes and those Christmas trees already standing, Yet, for the most part, these remain subdued until the great feast of Christmas Eve. It is then that the celebrations begin, the lights blaze in full glory, the music that follows Stille Nacht in the darkened, cold filled village Churches at midnight Mass is jubilant and majestic.

You might at some time consider spending some or all of Advent in Austria or Bavaria. I believe that in doing so, you will come to love what is known as 'the quietest time of the year'.

+ + +


(Did we mention that our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, is originally from Bavaria? Some guys have all the luck.)

In addition to our own material, we will also be introducing some of those of a fellow Virginian, namely Denise Hunnell, the Catholic Matriarch in my Domestic Church aka Catholic Mom. With a collaboration like ours (well, sort of; she'll be learning about it tonight, and let's hope she's a good sport about it), your household shall come to know “the reason for the season” around which the entire history of mankind revolves.

Maran atha! Come, Lord Jesus!
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Friday, November 27, 2009

We do not have any highlights of this year's Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, but we have one from the previous year. I believe it was Nick Lowe who summed it up for the rest of humanity in “All Men are Liars” when he said: “Do you remember Rick Astley? / He had a big fat hit that was ghastly. / He said I’m never gonna give you up or let you down. / Well I’m here to tell ya that Dick’s a clown.”


He was referring, of course, to Astley's overexposed 1987 hit "Never Gonna Give You Up." Soon after, the phenomenon known as “rickrolling” was born. You're listening to something on the radio, or you're clicking on a link that you expect to take you somewhere, only to come face to face with the realization that you've been "rickrolled" as in the above example.

Well, we wouldn't be man with black hat unless we provided you with the "literal remix" version, would we? And for another example, we show the fat guy from "Family Guy" getting the rickrolling he richly deserves. He was warned. (Hey, didn't Astley follow up with another turkey of a tune that sounded too much like the first one? Something about moving heaven and earth? No wonder he's relegated to "Behind The Music" segments and celebrity convention appearances for the rest of his life.)

Alas, not even executive privilege can stop the wrath of the mighty rickroll from entering into ... hey, wait. You clicked on it, didn't you? Obviously the good old-fashioned Chicago political machine did its dirty work from inside the Beltway. But be advised that such a fate awaits all of us. Something to consider for this week's Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy.
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Thursday, November 26, 2009

Baubles, Bangles and Blessings

I awoke at about 9:30 this morning to the smell of chicken soup in the making. Sal had already let herself in, and was preparing a large batch of her special recipe for her "diko" (pronounced DEE-ko), her second-oldest brother, who simply adores his "bunso" (pronounced BOON-so), his little sister.

The night before had been spent with a few of her countrywomen, looking over goods brought from the Philippines. Sal once had a successful clothing and jewelry business back home, and has begun an informal purveying of exotic women's apparel and accessories from out of her very large suitcase. I was there too, entertaining somebody's four-year old daughter. (Ever watch a room full of ladies fuss over the latest in haute couture from Thailand? I knew you'd understand.)

Now, Sal has two brothers, but this year they each had separate feasts for their growing extended families. So we sort of went between the two. When half the room is speaking a language you haven't learned yet, it helps to stay occupied without appearing anti-social. I've never been good at parties. I always end up in the TV room or by the bookshelf. Or in recent years, at somebody's computer. But everyone is okay with my quirks, which makes them more like family. (This could come in handy in case ... eh, you know.) I was able to catch up on correspondence with Scout leaders from various parts of the country.

When I think about life during the first year of this journal, I realize just how much for which I have to be thankful. The need for thanksgiving to the Almighty for blessings in this earthly life, was recognized early in the history of this great Republic. A President who would today be chastised by the mainstream media for his brash political incorrectness, acted upon that need. We may contemplate the results in this video clip which was stolen by yours truly, from the guys at Creative Minority Report when they weren't looking.

The perfect end to a reasonably perfect day: sitting in an easy chair drinking a favorite liqueur, and watching episodes of The West Wing.

Deo gratias.
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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Giving Thanks

Earlier this week, the President performed his annual duty (in the case of the current incumbent, for the first time) of issuing a proclamation that the fourth Thursday of November be a national day of thanksgiving. Then he pardons one turkey, and eats the other one. A lot is written about the origins of this feast, some versions more credible than others. In Canada, they have theirs on the second Monday in October, the day when we in the States observe Columbus Day, to give thanks for the harvest. Not a bad idea no matter who invented it.

Tonight will be the worst time all year to try and leave Washington, whether by land, air, or sea. As husband and father to a young family -- I like to call it "my former life" -- we learned that lesson the hard way in the mid-1980s. Closer to the present (and a bit wiser, one would hope), Sal has two brothers in the area, and we usually visit one of their families on Thanksgiving. Sometimes my son Paul joins us for a few hours, but he seems to have plans of his own. I suppose that's not unusual for a young man in his mid-twenties.

After being in the Philippines for more than two months, Sal is still unpacking, and otherwise making the adjustment to life in the States again. It would be nice to have a day where we could just relax. Meanwhile, I know that most of you are already making plans. I'm including an old favorite here (for the third time by my count), a "five-minute antipasto platter" in case your Aunt Minnie and Uncle Buck decide to surprise you with a visit.

As the Christmas season approaches, we'll be scoping out the internet for some other ideas to bring the Suzy Homemaker out in you. Until then, remember, "antipasto is your friend!"

Bon appetit.
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One Minute Theatre: The Residents

The Residents have been "an avant-garde music and visual arts band" for forty years. Who knows, maybe they're the ones who invented the video that killed the radio star.

For this week's usual midday Wednesday installment, we present a series of four one-minute pieces by this ensemble. Their respective titles are:

Moisture
Act of Being Polite
Perfect Love
The Simple Song

This sort of thing is what might be considered an "acquired taste." That said, they performed with the late Conway Twitty. You know, the "High Priest of Country Music" and the inspiration for the musical Bye Bye Birdie. (No, it wasn't Elvis.)

You can't make up stuff like this.
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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Moderation

Lately, I've started getting this kind of crap:

Great article you got here. I'd like to read something more concerning this topic. By the way look at the design I've made myself Companionship in London.

The link if for an escort service. If this continues much longer, mwbh is going on moderated status. It will likely occur in stages. By the first of next month, no anonymous posters will be allowed. By the end of the year (if not before), the change will be complete. I'm just sick and tired of these boneheads sending me stuff that no one wants to read.

Helluva way to make a living, though, don't you think?

Or don't you?
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Sunday, November 22, 2009

When He Comes

There's a king
    and captain high,
And He's coming
    by and by,
And He'll find me
    hoeing cotton
        when He comes.

You can hear
    His legions
        charging
In the regions
    of the sky,
And He'll find me hoeing cotton when He comes.

There's a Man they thrust aside,
Who was tortured till He died,
And He'll find me hoeing cotton when He comes.

He was hated and rejected,
He was scorned and crucified,
And He'll find me hoeing cotton when He comes.

When He comes! When he comes!
He'll be crowned by saints and angels when He comes.

They'll be shouting out Hosanna!
To the Man that men denied,
And I'll kneel among my cotton when He comes.

-- French E Oliver, 1921
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Friday, November 20, 2009

Taylor Mali is a forty-four-year-old slam poet, teacher, and voiceover artist. A native of New York City, he is also the great-great-grandson of the founding president of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, John Taylor Johnston. But that's not why he's here. To put it in his own words, “I'm just, like, inviting you to join me on the bandwagon of my own uncertainty.” It is a critique of the many bubble-heads we meet every day who have that "valley girl" ending to their sentences. We can console ourselves with that knowledge that frequent use of contraceptives has virtually succeeded in preventing them from reproducing.

You'll also notice how he never ends a sentence with a preposition, even in a case about halfway through, when most people would have done so: “Where are the limbs out on which we once walked?” And so, we can breathe a sigh of relief as we get on the bandwagon of this week's Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy.
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“I was so much older then ...”

Deal Hudson, the man who pulled Crisis magazine out from under, only for it to evolve into InsideCatholic.com, turns sixty years old today. It was heralded by an epiphany the day before.

"Chippy, you know we are not always going to be together like this. It's a beautiful autumn day, and we're in the backyard of our home and the leaves are falling, just look around. We won't always be able to work together like this, father and son."

The last time I experienced a major life change, was somewhere between mid-2003 and mid-2004. I can feel another one coming on, which might have to do with turning fifty-five at the end of the year. On that day, I'm going to IHOP, where I can finally get a senior discount. I'm having a steak-and-egg breakfast. That's probably not nearly as interesting as today's feature.

Maybe that's why epiphanies always surprise us. They happen while we're making other plans.
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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

One Minute Theatre: Periodic Table of Elements

Okay, this one is a bit more than one minute. Closer to one and a half. But what the hey, people, I'm running out of fresh product here!

Tom Lehrer is a perennial favorite when it comes to novelty songs. This one dates to 1959, when it appeared on his second studio album, "More of Tom Lehrer." It is sung to the tune of the "Major General's Song" ("I am the very model of a modern major-general...") from the Gilbert and Sullivan musical The Pirates of Penzance. Lehrer's musical career was at its most active in the years 1945 to 1965. While he has come out of retirement since then from time to time, he is a mathematics professor at heart.

This most excellent animation is the work of "TimwiTerby" who has his own YouTube channel. Enjoy.
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Traditional Mass in Arlington

I get asked from time to time, about a particular local issue, which is why I decided to include it here.

In the wake of the Holy Father's 2007 motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, which removed any juridical and other silly-nonsense-bureaucratic impediments to the celebration of the "extraordinary form" of the Roman Mass (also known as the "Traditional Latin Mass" or the "Tridentine Mass" or simply the "Old Mass"), there are currently seven parishes in the Catholic Diocese of Arlington which celebrate it every Sunday. They are:

Holy Trinity, Gainesville, 12:30pm
Saint John the Baptist, Front Royal, 12:30pm
Saint John the Beloved, McLean, 12:00pm
Saint John the Evangelist, Warrenton, 12:30pm
Saint Lawrence, Franconia, 12:30pm
Saint Michael, Annandale, 6:15am
Saint Patrick, Fredericksburg (Chancellorsville), 1:30pm

This is an increase from two locations before the motu proprio was released.

While admittedly celebrated at times that are less than convenient, it is a reflection of the demand for this form of the Mass, usually from members of the faithful who come from outside the parishes in question. This will change when the demand for the Old Mass comes from inside the parish, and/or once it is better attended, not to mention supported financially. Presently, it is estimated that the total attendance at all locations on a given Sunday, is around one thousand. This represents less than one-fourth of one percent of the total faithful of the diocese.

There has been talk in some corners of the diocese, that the Bishop of Arlington is working to prevent the Old Mass from being more accessible. This is a flat-out lie. Priests who want to learn this form of the Mass in the last two years, have been accommodated to a fault. In addition, pastoral assignments have been arranged specifically to facilitate continuation of the Old Mass in at least one location.

It has also come to the attention of this writer, that one priest of the diocese is propagating this slander, and has gained a small but tenacious following among the laity. He does not represent the views of his confreres, nor have his followers been able to back up their claims when pressed to do so.
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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Bishops’ Bash in Baltimore (Oh Boy!)

I had lunch recently with a priest, a noted author and lecturer, from whom a number of American bishops have sought counsel over the years, including during the proceedings of the US Catholic Bishops Conference annual meeting, now going on in Baltimore this week. With the move of the location from Washington DC to Baltimore a few years ago, the costs of lodging and meals were cut considerably. But still, by our calculations, and adding the cost of transportation, travel, and other incidentals, the total bill comes to over two million dollars. And that's before the meeting is even called to order.

For a number of years, the proceedings were carried on EWTN. This year, the cable channel of the Diocese of Rockville Centre is providing free satellite feeds of the main portions of the meeting. As a major agenda item is approval of the revised English translation of the Missale Romanum (the ordinary form, or the reformed liturgy), the outcome of which is already a done deal as far as Rome is concerned. Yet the expert commentary is being provided by some so-called expert on liturgy, who is known to disagree with said outcome. (Yeah, it's a nun. Go figure.)

On the bright side, they're using Twitter.

I don't know why they even bothered showing up, which is why I won't bother following the meeting this year. Later this year, however, mwbh will provide a summary of the aforementioned translation revisions, including some of the complex terminology that some bishops think you riff-raff will have a problem understanding.

Words like "ineffable," "consubstantial," and my personal favorite, "dew."

UPDATE: WDTPRS writes: “A riveting report is being delivered by an expert from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice ... An increase in the number of homosexuals entering seminary in 70’s lead to an increase in abusers.” Hey, sometimes people surprise me, what can I tell ya?
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Monday, November 16, 2009

Never Again?

People who think the Holocaust perpetrated by Nazi Germany could never happen again, should see the 2008 British film The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, where they will learn how people can paint a pretty picture of just about anything, no matter how sick and depraved. And if hearing reports of people resigning from Planned Parenthood over pressure to procure record quotas of abortions isn't convincing enough, LifeNews.com has an item for consideration:

Washington, DC (LifeNews.com) -- Borrowing a page from the playbook of pro-abortion members of Congress who recently used the myth of illegal back alley abortions to oppose the Stupak amendment, grassroots pro-abortion activists are sending coat hangers to Congress to urge taxpayer funding of abortion in the health care bills ...

In other words, if you don't want something horrible to happen again, you not only depict constant reminders of it, you romanticize it. This means that Jews should fly Nazi flags in front of their houses on Yom Ha-Shoah (the Holocaust Memorial Day, on the 27th of Nisan, in late April or early May), adding new meaning to "keeping kosher." Such is the natural conclusion to the reasoning of pro-infanticide activists.

And if that's not sick enough, in the early 90s, I knew a guy from Pittsburgh who sold jewelry at a pro-choice rally -- in the form of dangling earrings shaped like coat hangers.

I'm surprised the idea hasn't made a comeback.
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“Somewhere, beyond the sea ...”

Sal has been back in the "old country" since early September. It was bad enough that she chose the rainy season, but between two big tropical storms and one lesser one, The Philippines has suffered its worst flooding in over forty years. The water reached the family homestead for the first time, but they managed to save just about everything. The past month has hardly been a vacation, as she has been supervising the laborers doing the recovery work.

She was one of the lucky ones, as many in that country suffered much worse. In the midst of this tragedy, the one bright spot of late has been the victory of welterweight boxing champion and national hero Emmanuel Dapidran "Manny" Pacquiao, over Miguel Cotto of Puerto Rico. "The Pac Man" thus became the first boxer to win a world title in seven different weight classes.

Manny has also been very generous to the people of his homeland, many of whom have lost everything. We here at mwbh want to give a shout to the many relief organizations who are working tirelessly in the Philippines. We want to give a special Tip of the Black Hat to Cathoilc Relief Services, which has pledged $250,000 to the relief efforts. To find out more, click here.

Meanwhile, Sal is running out of excuses (to say nothing of money), so after changing her mind at least four times, and finally ignoring the pleas of her ostensibly grownup daughters to remain in a country where she has no future whatsoever, other than to stay home and take up knitting -- oh, yeah, kittens, she's an American citizen now, go figure! -- she is returning to her adopted homeland one week from today. If I can just sweep everything under the rug in time, she'll think I didn't revert to living like a crazy old bachelor. I've seen what happens to guys like that.

Never again.
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Sunday, November 15, 2009

Surprised by Tallis

Imagine if you will, being seated in a room with eight sides. On each side is a chorus of five voices -- soprano, alto, tenor, baritone, bass -- making a total of forty voices, and each one has their own part. Thus would be the setting for a motet by the English Renaissance composer Thomas Tallis (1505-1585) entitled Spem in alium nunquam habui. It was composed in 1570, supposedly for the occasion of the Queen's 40th birthday in 1573, and is considered to be one of the greatest pieces of Renaissance polyphony.

Spem in alium numquam habui praeter in te,
    I have never put my hope in any other but in you,
Deus Israel
    O God of Israel
qui irasceris
    who can show both anger
et propitius eris,
    and graciousness,
et omnia peccata hominum in tribulatione dimittis.
    and who absolves all the sins of suffering man.
Domine Deus
    Lord God,
Creator coeli et terrae,
    Creator of Heaven and Earth,
respice humilitatem nostram.
    be mindful of our lowliness.

The Latin text was originally a responsory in the Sarum Rite (at Matins, for the 3rd Lesson, during the V week of September), adapted from the Book of Judith. In the reformed Liturgy of the Hours of the Roman Rite, it appears in the Office of Readings (formerly called Matins) following the first lesson on Tuesday of the 29th Week of Ordinary Time.

Those moderately boring details aside, it sounds totally awesome when heard as described above, or even remotely that way. Of course, the Concert Hall at the Kennedy Center only had four sides and not eight, but that didn't stop the Choral Arts Society from giving it a go today, and it was (oh, yes, it was) awesome. I obtained a copy of the score for my music library a couple of years ago, but never had a chance to hear it. Then a gentleman from the Society extended an invitation to one of the priests. It seems the good Father needed a driver, and after a very hectic week in which I had little time for my writing, I found an opening in my schedule.

There were other great works sung today, including those by Gabrielli, Tavener, and others. But this one was my favorite. A commentary on the piece by Wikipedia describes it thus:

Though composed in imitative style and occasionally homophonic, its individual vocal lines act quite freely within its fairly simple harmonic framework; allowing for an astonishing number of individual musical ideas to be sung during its ten-to-twelve minute performance time.

The work is a study in contrasts: the individual voices sing and are silent in turns, sometimes alone, sometimes in choirs, sometimes calling and answering, sometimes all together, so that, far from being a monotonous mess, the work is continually presenting new ideas to the listener.

The effect on the listener of the sheer number of ideas contained in the work, compounded with the unusual performance practice of surrounding the audience with performers, is that of inundation, or of being completely overwhelmed.

The work is not often performed, as it requires at least forty singers capable of meeting its technical demands.

The discipline that comes with performing the masterpiece is highlighted in the importance of the conductor and the performers alike. Whilst performers are distributed throughout a venue, the conductor becomes truly the hub for the piece throughout, as often there is little or no visibility between the performers, and a large venue will present acoustical challenges, not regarded with traditional choirs co-located.

Various editions of the score are available from the Choral Public Domain Library. To get a peek at the full score, click here.
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Friday, November 13, 2009

I am loathe to be too hard on Larry King. After all, when I was working through many nights on projects in college, back in the late 1970s, it was his all-night talk show on WPFB-AM that kept me going. Unfortunately, he makes it hard to resist the urge. On his recent CNN program, he had difficulty understanding what Carrie Prejean meant when she said, "Hey, pops, my lawyer said I can't talk about it, which means if you ask me about it, I still can't talk about it."

Or words to that effect.

Poor Larry. So many ex-wives, so little post-alimony. But we'll cut him a break, and give one to the rest of you, by showing Greg Gutfeld's interview with the lovely lass on the Fox News program "Red Eye" which ALSO runs during the night. This we do for our usual Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy.

Unfortunately, if you want to see it, you have to click here. (CONTENT ADVISORY: Mature subject matter.)
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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Final Inspection

The soldier stood and faced God,
Which must always come to pass.
He hoped his shoes were shining,
Just as brightly as his brass.

"Step forward now, you soldier,
How shall I deal with you?
Have you always turned the other cheek?
To My Church have you been true?"

The soldier squared his shoulders and said,
"No, Lord, I guess I ain't.
Because those of us who carry guns,
Can't always be a saint.

"I've had to work most Sundays,
And at times my talk was tough.
And sometimes I've been violent,
Because the world is awfully rough.

"But, I never took a penny,
That wasn't mine to keep ...
Though I worked a lot of overtime,
When the bills got just too steep.

"And I never passed a cry for help,
Though at times I shook with fear.
And sometimes, God, forgive me,
I've wept unmanly tears.

"I know I don't deserve a place,
Among the people here.
They never wanted me around,
Except to calm their fears.

"If you've a place for me here, Lord,
It needn't be so grand.
I never expected or had too much,
But if you don't, I'll understand."

There was a silence all around the throne,
Where the saints had often trod.
As the soldier waited quietly,
For the judgment of his God.

"Step forward now, you soldier,
You've borne your burdens well.
Walk peacefully on Heaven's streets,
You've done your time in Hell."

-- Author Unknown (h/t to "D.W.")
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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A human being should be able to ...

... change a diaper,
plan an invasion,
butcher a hog,
conn a ship,
design a building,
write a sonnet,
build a wall,
set a bone,
comfort the dying,
take orders,
give orders,
cooperate,
act alone,
pitch manure,
solve equations,
analyze a new problem,
program a computer,
cook a tasty meal,
fight efficiently,
and die gallantly.
Specialization is for insects.


-- Robert A Heinlein (1907 – 1988)

(H/T to "Alan" in Vancouver, Washington.)

Monday, November 09, 2009

“Wherever we were going, well, we’re here.”

Well, maybe not yet, not in this world. But twenty years ago tonight, in a city that was divided by a stone wall for over a generation, the world appeared to a jubilant crowd to be on the verge of Valhalla. On that night, the infamous "Berlin Wall" was finally, if somewhat spontaneously, dismantled.

To understand the reason for its existence, is to understand history; not just that which followed the Second World War and the partitioning of Germany, but that of Russia, and her own view of its western frontier. Most nations are separated by borders of geographic significance; a river, a valley, a mountain range. Russia lacks the benefit of natural borders to separate it from the west, only a vast frontier, one that in spite of its breadth, gives way to a sense of vulnerability. The attempted conquests by Napoleon, among others, has compelled Russia to extend its influence on more than one occasion, into the Baltic States, and onward into eastern and even central Europe. The "Great Patriotic War" in the 1940s was the catalyst for the most recent incarnation of the ancient Russian Empire.

When Germany was occupied and divided into American, British, French, and Russian sectors, at the end of World War II, the capital city of Berlin, located well within the Russian sector, was similarly divided. So the Russians built a wall between their sector of Germany, and that of the other three. Thus the two parts became East and West Germany. In 1962, Berlin was divided in like manner, thus the two parts became East and West Berlin. A documentary of that year, an excerpt of which appears in the first clip, gives us a closer view of life surrounded by walls, at the cost of freedom.

In June of 1987, President Ronald Reagan stood at the Brandenburg Gate, and posed a challenge to the Soviet empire, and to Communist Party leader in particular: "Mister Gorbachev, tear down this wall." Two years later -- twenty years ago tonight -- that is exactly what happened, as seen in this ITV Newsreel from 1989.

We've heard a great deal about hope in the past year, haven't we? Most of us really don't know the meaning of the word. We think of "hope" in terms of wanting something that someone else has, which was a sympathy exploited in the previous general election. The Church teaches us that the theological virtues (faith, hope, and charity) differ from the cardinal virtues (prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance) in that the former can not be obtained by human effort, but only through Divine Grace. This alone raises the discussion of hope far above the American political fray.

Hope is the theological virtue by which we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ's promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit. "Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful." (Hebrews 10:23) "The Holy Spirit ... he poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life." (Titus 3:6-7) (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1817)

With faith in God through Christ, in the manner revealed to us through the Holy Spirit in the constant teaching of the Church, we aspire to our eternal reward in Heaven, and in the hope that comes through Divine Grace. Accepting this by means of the human will, and processing this through our intellect, it is imparted to our fellow man through charity which comes from the heart. So then, hope is the bridge that ties faith and charity together, and binds them as one.

Hope, O my soul, hope. You know neither the day nor the hour. Watch carefully, for everything passes quickly, even though your impatience makes doubtful what is certain, and turns a very short time into a long one. Dream that the more you struggle, the more you prove the love that you bear your God, and the more you will rejoice one day with your Beloved, in a happiness and rapture that can never end. (Teresa of Avila, Excl 15:3)

The world has changed around us in a manner unimagined only a quarter century ago. And even though various crises at home and abroad, remind us that the Kingdom of God has yet to be reached, we hold out for the real hope that only comes from above. Contrary to what the slogan-writers and spin doctors tell us, the real world that is ours has yet to be realized.

But where there is life, there is hope. And where there is genuine hope, God is already among us.
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Sunday, November 08, 2009

Proficiscere

As part of our remembrance of the month of November, as that which Catholics associate with intentions of the dead and the Life Beyond, we devote this piece to the preparation of the dying.

Catholics in the health care professions, particularly those devoted to home and hospice care, may have a unique opportunity to bring their commission through Baptism to the fore. But it is no less so to friends and family of those who perpare for the Inevitable.

Here at "Chez Alexandre" we have a silver troika, consisting of a crucifix between two candlesticks. When a patient under Sal's care has passed away, we have been known to recite the Psalms together while the crucifix with lit candles is on the table before us. We have found the so-called "penitential psalms" also known as the "psalms of confession" to be quite suitable. They are: Psalms 6, 31(32), 37(38), 50(51), 101(102), 129(130), and 142(143). (NOTE: The numbering system from the Latin Vulgata is given preference here. Most modern usage employs the Greek, or Septuagint numbering, which appears here in parenthesis.) Of these, Psalm 50(51), the Miserere is the most appropriate:

Have mercy on me, God, in your kindness.
    In your compassion blot out my offense.
O wash me more and more from my guilt
    And cleanse me from my sin ...

Every Catholic home should have a "sick call set" handy, for the use of the priest or deacon who visits the sick or dying. It consists of a crucifix and two candles on a white tablecloth by the bedside, along with a vial of holy water, and a dish of regular water with a small white cloth for ablutions. The use of the palm from Palm Sunday, and a bell to announce the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, is optional. It has become common to have such a set self-contained in a wall crucifix, the top portion of which can be detached, to access the accessories contained in the base. (See image at left.)

The priest who comes to the door with the Sacrament does so in silence, and should be greeted by a person carrying a lighted candle. He will say, "Pax huic dómui." ("Peace be unto this house.") The greeter should respond, "Et ómnibus habitántibus in ea." ("And all who dwell therein.") The cleric is led to the room in silence. All genuflect or kneel in the presence of the Sacrament. In the event that the patient needs to confess his sins, all must leave the room, including the primary caregiver. A priest is trained to know when other assistance is needed. In the event that the patient lacks capacity to confess, a general absolution may be given.

If a priest or deacon is unavailable, the faithful are nonetheless able to help prepare a soul for the journey. A page devoted to this is found at Fisheaters.com. A prominent feature to this guide is the prayer known by its beginning word in Latin: Proficiscere.

Go forth, O Christian soul,
    out of this world,
in the Name of God the Father almighty,
    Who created you;
in the Name of Jesus Christ,
    the Son of the living God,
        Who suffered for you;
in the Name of the Holy Ghost,
    Who sanctified you ...
... may your place be this day in peace,
    and your abode in Holy Sion.
Through Christ our Lord.
Amen.

Of course, circumstances may dictate the length or brevity of such preparations. The communal praying of the Rosary, particularly the use of the Sorrowful Mysteries, is most commendable whatever the circumstances.

Once the soul has passed on, a different set of prayers is appropriate. As the time before death is devoted to preparation, that which follows requires intercession from on high. One most appropriate form is the Responsorium, the responsory for the dead:

V. Do not remember my sins, O Lord.
R. When you come to judge the world by fire.

V. Direct my way in your sight, O Lord, my God.
R. When you come to judge the world by fire.

V. Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord,
    and let your perpetual light shine upon him.
R. When you come to judge the world by fire.

V. Lord, have mercy.
R. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.

Our Father ...

Our series continues next week, with a reflection on Catholic funerals, and the practices associated with them.
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Saturday, November 07, 2009

The Boys of Summer

My first job was in the fourth grade, as a newsboy with The Cincinnati Enquirer. For getting five new customers in early 1965, I got two tickets to see the Reds play the Chicago Cubs (I think) for the Opening Day game. Now, a lot of baseball towns have opening day games. But everyone knows that the REAL one can only take place in the city that gave the world professional baseball. Not only that, but getting tickets to the game was considered an excused absence.

So I took my Dad (hey, somebody had to drive) to old Crosley Field. I remember the smell of "red hots," the best I ever tasted. How did they make those? The organ played a mournful tune during one of the breaks, and an old man in a dark suit stood up and removed his fedora. They were playing his song, "My Old Kentucky Home."

I stopped following the game as closely as I once did when I moved to DC. I was never that good at it anyway. This is why I was too busy this year to pay any attention at all to the World Series. So the Yankees won again. Big deal. Another reason for New York to think it's the center of the known universe.

But over in Korea, they seem to have a different attitude toward the game. It's hard to tell exactly how, because I don't speak Korean. But if anyone out there does, I'd love to know if the commentators in this clip can explain what's going on. Peter Schiller of The Dugout Doctors calls this "the strangest thing I have ever seen in a baseball game." We've all seen plays where the pitcher accidentally hits the batter. Here's how they deal with it in Korea.

Apparently.
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Friday, November 06, 2009

“Jump Around” is the first and most memorable hit, by the Irish-American hip-hop trio (huh???) known as House of Pain. It reached number three on the USA charts in 1992. A re-release the following year reached number eight in the UK. VH1's “100 Greatest Songs of Hip Hop” clocked it in at number 66. We are not in a position to display the lyrics here. You can barely make them out in the recording. It's just as well, as the song appears to have taken on a life of its own beyond the lyrics.

The University of Wisconsin blasts this one over the speakers at every home football game at the end of the third quarter. Those cheeseheads know how to have a good time, yessiree Bob! Do you think they care one way or the other what the words say? Or course not. That's because the important message here is not the personal struggle of an angry young man from the suburbs who romanticizes living in urban poverty, while making more money than he knows what to do with. What matters here, is that there are times when everyone needs to "jump up, jump up and get down," know what I mean?

But wait, this gets better!

Such a phenomenon would not be complete without the Bollywood remix. The past year has seen a number of movies come out of India's cinematic mecca, for the benefit of general audiences in America. Maybe it's because we all went ga-ga over Slumdog Millionaire, but it's more likely because Americans will buy anything if the price is right. And so, this third piece culminates our latest offering for the Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy.

After viewing all three clips, you probably won't be able to get this song out of your head for several hours.

I love it when a plan comes together.
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Thursday, November 05, 2009

Guitar Workshop: Four Chords Revisited

Last week, we featured an amusing piece entitled Guitar Workshop: The Song Remains The Same. You remember that one, right?

There has been quite a reaction on the internet to the "four-chord medley" phenomenon. A young man named Jonathan, formerly identified as "Tea Junior" but now known as "JayDee" produced a medley of covers which is easy for the beginning guitarist to make his own. (You might check out the links in this paragraph to his YouTube channels, to see if he demonstrates certain "open" chords in his medley.)

We continue to find other examples, in this next case performed on the piano, by a guy who presumes the inability of his audience to count to four. After two or three examples you're saying, dude, I get it already, okay? If you click here, you can see the captions on YouTube showing you the various chord progressions. You also get to see Mister Happy Fingers insult your intelligence up close.

It's not unlike fingernails on a chalkboard. Try not to let that distract you though.
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Grandpa’s (Most) Original Tractor

The first photograph is of a tractor owned by my maternal grandfather, Walter James Rosselot. Dating to about 1940, it may have been his first one, but it was definitely the first he ever constructed himself. It was built with the frame of a 1923 Dodge, with a 1916 motor of the same make. The gas tank is from a Model T Ford, vintage unknown. The rear wheels were made from scratch, while the brake drum at the center of the wheel is from an old truck of unknown origin. It was used for seven years to plow corn, using a 1936 Oliver plow.

The second photograph dates from 1965, of an unidentified man pulling a land leveling device, invented by Grandpa earlier in the decade, and for which he earned a US Patent. After briefly manufacturing the first units out of his garage (which was essentially a home-built tool and die factory), he eventually sold the patent to a company in (as I recall) Indiana.

At the time he left the farm with Grandma to live in the city with my aunt, he had a patent pending on a can crushing machine.

(Images courtesy of the Rosselot Family Archives. Used with permission.)
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Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Another Day After

It might be a sign that I'm getting on in years, but yesterday afternoon, I couldn't remember where I voted this time last year. That's hard even for me to believe, because now that I do remember, there was a huge line for getting in that time. I did manage to find out where my polling place was, though, and there wasn't a line. But there was a victory for the Republicans last night, as McDonnell won the governor's seat, and other GOP candidates won the contest for both Lieutenant Governor and Attorney General.

Closer to home in Arlington, the GOP didn't even bother to run anyone for the open seat on the County Board of Supervisors (the executive branch of county government in Virginia). I resisted the urge to pick the Green Party candidate, and cast myself as a write-in. It may have been the slightly better choice.

As to whatever happened elsewhere, I believe it was ABC's Jake Tapper who said it best:

NBC's "The Biggest Loser" is at the White House tonight. This is not a joke.

No, but David Axelrod is trying to make the best of it. He told Fox News that the race for Congress in the New York 23rd (where a Democrat won, barely) was the one that really mattered on the national scale, while the governor's races in New Jersey and Virginia (where Republicans won, handily) do not.

By the way, Axeman, your boy Rahm Emmanuel didn't feel that way about that situation four years ago, did he now?

I'm not so sure myself. If you look at the last two Presidential elections by county, you see very little difference between 2004 and 2008. The Dems ran a super-smart campaign; they knew exactly where to concentrate their efforts to win the popular vote, and kick ass with the electoral vote. (The latter is the one that counts, because in America, the people do not elect their President; the States do, through electors.) That way to victory may not work the next time, if New Jersey is any indication, as two counties which went to Obama were decisive in securing victory for the GOP's Christie.

Meanwhile, Republican National Committee chairman Michael "What Up, Dawg" Steele continues his massive egg-laying program across America. At a press conference today, he took Sarah Palin to task for ... well, being Sarah Palin.

"If you don't live in the district, you don't vote there, your opinion doesn't matter very much," Steele said while assessing the intra-party strife that resulted in a Democratic pick up of a seat held by Republicans since the Civil War.

Now, if we follow Steele's line of (and we use the term guardedly here) reasoning, his opinion doesn't matter very much either. Especially since he wanted to play ball for the New York 23rd with that Fake Democrat who turned around after pulling out and urged her supporters to go for the REAL Democrat.

Yo, Dawg! Word up, two of 'em: Alren. Specter.

I think we can safely say that the Man of Steele can get in line behind Newt Gingrich at the door to the National Foot In Mouth Disease Clinic. But it could take a few more on the chin before these golf-club swinging cake-eaters learn the most valuable lesson here; that Americans will go for someone who stands for something, over someone who will fall for anything.
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One Minute Theatre: Labyrinth (Frans Hofmeester)

For this week's midday Wednesday installment of “One Minute Theatre” here at mwbh, we are featuring a film by Frans Hofmeester entitled “Labyrinth.” The piece is an exploration of composition with charcoal-on-paper drawings, something I haven't done since high school. It won a “One Minute Award” at the 2008 Holland Animation Film Festival.

We may be featuring more works of Hofmeester in the future. Stay tuned ...
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Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Hope and change begins ...

... with the letter “V” tonight. But hey, don't just take MY word for it.

Welcome to ABC's V, the final, the most fascinating and bound to be the most controversial new show of the fall television season. Nominally a rousing sci-fi space opera about alien invaders bent on the conquest (and digestion) of all humanity, it's also a barbed commentary on ...

Can't you just feel the tingle up your leg? Stay tuned.
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Monday, November 02, 2009

Dia(s) De Los Muertos

November is the month in which the Church devotes herself especially, to the remembrance of those who have died in the previous year. As we remember the communion of saints already "raised to the altar" in Heaven, we also pray for those among the righteous of this life, who nonetheless part from this earth with sufficient imperfections, so as to remain in a state of purification, at the end of which they are released to witness the Beatific Vision, to see their God face to face in Glory. And so, as is said in the Book of Maccabees: "It is a good and holy thought to pray for the dead." The chorus of both the "Church Suffering" (the souls of purgatory) and the "Church Triumphant" (the saints in heaven), along with the choirs of angels, are among the assembled at every Mass with the "Church Militant" (the rest of us).

As today is All Souls Day in the western Church, it is also known as "dia de los muertos" (day of the dead) in Spanish-speaking countries. But since the celebration usually begins the day before, on All Saints Day, it is often referred to in the plural. Yesterday, for instance, Sal was still in the Philippines, and went with her family to the cemetery where their deceased loved ones are buried, for a picnic. That sounds rather bizarre, unless you consider the mayhem we make out of Halloween here in the States. Customs associated with this holiday include building private altars honoring the deceased, using sugar skulls, marigolds, and the favorite foods and beverages of the departed. It is likely that such confections were brought with Sal's family to the graves.

The human skull is a favorite image associated with the feast. Homemade candies in the shape of skulls are given as treats to children, and adults are known to parade in the streets in costumes featuring their faces painted accordingly.

The holiday's origins have been traced back thousands of years, to indigenous observances dedicated to the Aztec goddess Mictecacihuatl. We can surmise that the Spanish colonizers "christianized" the observance in the manner that we know today.

In the month to come, mwbh will feature other writings on matters of what Catholic teaching refers to as "The Last Things."
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Sunday, November 01, 2009

Obligatory “NaBloPoMo” Entry

“NaBloPoMo.” Huh???

Today is the beginning of National Blog Posting Month. “NG” of Alice's Adventures Underground throws down the gauntlet:

The rules of NaBloPoMo are simple: post at least once every day for the entire month of November or feel like a sad, pathetic failure ...

Now we all know I'm no pathetic failure. So I've gotta write something, okay? How about All Saints Day? Nah, did that last year. I know, let's do something on my personal heroine, Sarah Palin.

During the vice-presidential debate last year, that cute wink of hers was enough to give MSNBC's Rachel Maddow the creeps, which was all I needed to know. Then I learned that comedian Lewis Black started his latest tour called Stark Raving Black. So I decided to include one of the clips from the tour, one of the few that I can show here because Lewis Black is such a potty-mouth.

You know, like I am when I'm off the record.

By now you're aware that her ex-son-in-law, Levi Johnston, is hitting the talk show circuit saying all kinds of trashy things about her. And he gets to pose for Playgirl magazine, where you get to see everything. More than you really want to. And he'll get paid and everything.

This is all just typical white-trash nonsense. Trust me, I heard stories like this one when I went home last month. Stuff I can never repeat here. Something about the city council elections. Or was it for the mayor? I don't remember, but imagine Wasilla, Alaska, without the cyrstal meth trafficking.

Now you've got the idea.
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