Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Requiem for a Parish

"Requiem for a Parish" by Emily Stimpson appeared in First Things back in February 2006. I had been meaning to post about it but I realized after a while that some articles speak for themselves. It is about the closing of St. Stanislas Catholic Church built by Polish immigrants in Steubenville, Ohio.

Monday, August 21, 2006

An Early Hot Stove Season

It looks like the Hot Stove season has already begun for the Boston Red Sox. Going into last Monday, they were only 1 game back of the Empire in the AL East:

W L Gb
New York 68 46 -
Boston 68 48 1
Toronto 63 55 8

The Sox’s “big showdown” at home against the Central-leading Detroit Tigers (77-41) and the East-leading Yankees last week provided some “classic AL East baseball” that I haven’t seen in a while. (Detroit used to be in the AL East before MLB went to three divisions in each league.) If you love baseball last was the week to be at Fenway Park or follow the games on T.V. or radio. However, it was also the “classic” late season collapse for the Red Sox. Let's document this one well for posterity...

Monday: Detroit 7 Boston 2
Tuesday: Detroit 3 Boston 2
Wednesday: Detroit 4 Boston 6
Friday (1): New York 12 Boston 4
Friday (2): New York 14 Boston 11
Saturday: New York 13 Boston 5
Sunday: New York 8 Boston 5
Monday: New York 2 Boston 1

This afternoon the AL East standings are:

W L Gb
New York 75 48 -
Boston 69 55 6.5
Toronto 66 58 9.5

With 38 games yet to play it's all but official: hope is lost in Beantown and throughout Red Sox Nation. I suppose after winning the World Series in 2004 things are back to “normal.” For Red Sox fans the 5 game sweep by the Empire will go down as the “Collapse of ’06.” "It was a nightmare," said David Ortiz. The current situation seems to be analogous to the Red Sox being down 3 - 0 to the Empire in the 2004 best-of-seven American League Championship Series.

Why the collapse? We can't blame the manager Terry Francona. Overall, he has done a great job with this team. The Red Sox made no trading deadline moves. Their pitching is shaky. Pitchers Curt Schilling and David Wells have been pretty solid but they have had little run support and no support from the ‘pen. Unlike the 2004 team, they have no set rotation. Their bullpen is shot. Trot Nixon, Jason Varitek, and Matt Clement are all injured. GM Theo Epstein basically conceded the season yesterday. He, along with the rest of us, has an eye on '07 already! We still have 4 games in the Bronx in September to perhaps, sweep back the Empire iff —that's if and only if — the Sox can get some arms on the mound.

Reliever Mike Timlin gave his perspective on last week's devestating events:
"We are going through the fire. We are going through the low times. Character's not built on top of a mountain, it's built in the valleys where you can really see it and that's where we are right now. We're in the low valley. When you're on the bottom of your game, it shows what kind of people you are as a team when you come together to play and we're trying to come together in a low time." ("No rest coming for weary Red Sox" by Howard Kussoy /

Red Sox fans certainly want a team with character. We also want a team with wins.

Photo: David Wells Monday August 21, 2006 (
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Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The First Photograph

Have you ever wondered what the first photograph made by man was? I never really have wondered about this but I recently discovered that it was by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce in 1826. It was taken at his country house in Burgundy, France and made on on pewter. It is currently in an oxygen-free case at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin. The Ransom Center features a nice on-line exhibition of photographs, including "The First Photograph."

The significance of the "photography revolution" seems always to take a back seat to the revolution that Johannes Gutenberg's printing press started in 1447 in communicating information, in telling stories, and in documenting history and so forth. Post-modern debates in linguistics (or more accurately, "the philosophy of language") commonly challenge the philosophical notion that "the sign really is a signifier for the absent now present" in an attempt —perhaps, unintended— to explain interpretation which leads ultimately to an underminding of the understanding of the reality of being and of objective truth, etc. Perhaps, more thought on the reality "captured" and re-presented to us through photography (and other visual medium) will lead post-modern philosophers and others to a rediscovery of reality and things as they are: A truth independent of impressions, experiences and the like.

Read more about Joseph Niépce and "The First Photograph" here .

Photo: "View from the Window at Le Gras" (1826)
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Saturday, August 12, 2006

To Make Present the Ultimate Mystery

The Liturgy is at the heart of Catholic life. Those who have an active interest in the Liturgy, in terms primarily of going deeper into this reality, may be hard to find. Nevertheless, there are many diverse opinions of the concrete form the Liturgy should take “in practice.” Regardless of variations or changes in external form (e.g. from Latin to vernacular, i.e. English in English-speaking areas, and the orientation of the priest after the Second Vatican Council) Catholics should always approach the Liturgy with serenity and clarity.

Aidan Nichols, O.P. has a nice treatment of the Liturgy in Christendom Awake (©1999 T&T Clark Ltd). He writes about the unfortunate “secularization” of the Liturgy and that “The ‘re-enchantment’ of the Catholic Liturgy is the single most urgent ecclesial need of our time.” Fr. Nichols counters the idea —one that I have heard so often from both Catholics and non-Catholics — that external beauty is self-serving.

Too often we hear that the Mass as celebrated should be ‘more like the Last Supper’. It is little likely that the Last Supper bore a close resemblance, in, for instance, its seating arrangements, to the idealized and ‘modernised’ iconography offered in such famous paintings as da Vinci’s Ultima Cena. Was Leonardo making a covert proposal for the liturgical reordering of the Eucharistic assembly? To my knowledge, no art historian has suggested this. He understood better than his later twentieth-century co-relogionists that the Mass is not a repetition of the Last Supper but a celebration of what Christ instituted on that occasion — something significantly different.

Behind that appeal to render the Mass ‘more like’ what happened in the Cenacle there lies, one fears, a hostility to the ritual integument with which the Catholic instinct, in both West and East, has ever clothed the Church's worship. The still-Anglican John Henry Newman answered the objection well in advance:

Did our Saviour say that magnificence in worshiping God, magnificence in His house, in its furniture, and in its decorations, is wrong, wrong since He has come into the world? Does He discourage us from building handsome Churches, or beautifying the ceremonial of religion? Did He exhort us to niggardness? Did he put a slight on architectural skill? Did He imply we should please Him the more, the less study and trouble we gave to the externals of worship? In rejecting the offering of Herod, did He forbid the devotion of Christians?

This is what many persons think. I do not exaggerate when I say, that they think the more homely and familiar their worship is, the more spiritual it becomes. And they argue, that to aim at external beauty in the service of the Sanctuary, is to be more like the Pharisees, to be fair without and hollow within; that whereas the Pharisees pretended a sanctity and religiousness outside which they had not inside, therefore everyone who aims at outward religion sacrifices it to inward…

Persons who put aside gravity and comeliness in the worship of God, that they may pray more spiritually, forget that God is a Maker of all things, visible as well as invisible; that He is the Lord of our bodies as well as of our souls; that He is to be worshipped in public as well as in secret.

Our tongues must preach Him, and our voices sing of Him, and our knees adore Him, and our hands supplicate Him, and our heads bow before Him, and our countenances beam of Him, and our gait herald Him. And hence arise joint worship, forms of prayer, ceremonies of devotion, the course of services, orders of ministers, holy vestments, solemn music, and other things of a like nature; all of which, as it were, the incoming into this world of the Invisible Kingdom of Christ…

There words were addressed to Evangelicals. But a century and a half later, within Catholicism itself, a primate of France, Cardinal Albert Decourtray, in an essay ‘Mystère et morale’, found worse: a liturgical horizontalism reinforcing and reinforced by a secularisation mentality.

After twenty-five years of conciliar reforms, would it not be as well to take stock? Can we dare accept they hypothesis that this great movement, so beneficial in itself, might partly be at fault? … We are turned so much towards the assembly that we often forget to turn ourselves, together, people and priests, towards God! Yet, without this essential orientation, the celebration no longer has any Christian meaning.

The purpose of the Liturgy is to make present the ultimate Mystery — not to explain it away.

In addition to Liturgy, Aidan Nichols' Christendom Awake presents topics such as "Faith and Culture", "Doctrinal Consciousness", "Christian Philosophy", "Ecumenism", "Feminism", "Material Culture" and the "Priestly Mission." This text is certainly not a Stephen King "quick read". A "Doctrinal Consciousness" post may be coming soon...

Photo: Catholics at Mass in Shaanxi province (CNS/Sean Sprague)
Quotes: J.H. Newman, ‘Offerings for the Sanctuary’; J.H. Newman, ‘The Visible Temple’; A. Decourtray, Documentation Catholique 21 June 1992
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Monday, August 07, 2006

Web 2.0 “Kids”

BusinessWeek this week (August 14,2006) features Kevin Rose on the front cover. He is the feature of the lead article ”How This Kid Made $60 Million In 18 Months” by Sarah Lacy and Jessi Hempel. Rose we learn started . We also learn that (Version 3) launched on June 26th and is now the “24th-most popular Web site in the U.S.”.

From the title of the article alone we expect an eleven year-old “business genius” to be featured. From the front cover photo in addition to the title we expect to read about an eighteen year-old “business genius.” After “digging” (pun intended) into this article, we also learn that this “kid”, Kevin Rose is 29 years old. You have to be kidding me. You HAVE to be kidding me.

I know that maturity comes later in life for many in our contemporary culture and that adolescence is now defined by the psychological professions near twenty-five. Now, we have a twenty-nine year-old “kid”. You have to be kidding me!

Lacy and Hempel’s Bweek article describes’s business model, the “fear” that they are putting into “Old Media” and the drama of the “geek life” of Rose and some other new internet entrepreneurs.
Rose grew up in Las Vegas. His father is an accountant, and his mom “just chills,” he says. They lived in a three-bedroom house on a cul-de-sac. Standard middle-class America. His computer love affair drew scorn from schoolkids so Rose transferred to a public vo-tech in 1993 to study computers and animation. “It was a chance to be with other nerds,” he says.

In 1999 he dropped out of the University of Las Vegas to join the action in Silicon valley, where he took coding jobs for dot-coms. That led to his gig as the TechTV host, which transferred him to Los Angeles in 2003. But Rose was bored. He hated L.A. If it hadn’t been for his friendship with [Marc] Adelson [of Netscape fame], he might never have pursued the Digg idea. The two met when Rose interviewed Adelson, 35, founder and chief technology officer of data center company Equinex, on TechTV in 2003. Here was another guy actually doing something. Rose and Adelson quickly hit it off. Adelson played the grown-up, a role he still relishes, saying things like, “Kevin, you’re 29 now you need to stop wearing your pants lower than your boxers” (advice Rose still ignores). But he believed in Digg from the beginning.

Well, there your have it: A homemaker mother who “just chills”. An education of computers and animation. Boredom. Equating “doing something” with growing a business. Having colleagues play the “role” of a grown-up and not seeing Peter Pan in the mirror.

Photo: BusinessWeek August 14,2006
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Saturday, August 05, 2006

Two Lights

The “adult contemporary”, f.k.a. “soft rock”, king, Five For Fighting, a.k.a. John Ondrasik, is back with a new ablum Two Lights (Columbia Records). His last two efforts America Town (2000) and The Battle for Everything (2004) featured the hits “Superman (It’s not easy)” and “100 Years”, respectivly. Outside of the Superman-theme context, “Superman (It’s not easy)” has perhaps the most absurd lyrics (e.g. “It’s not easy to be me”) apart from The Who’s Baba O’Riley (“I don't need to be forgiven”).

Two Lights is continuity with his previous work that features a familiar soft sound and observational lyrics. However, this time around, “Two Lights” gives way to a less self-absorbed worldview. There are hopeful signs that he is attempting to grow beyond the exclusive Philistine genre that forms the malaise of most contemporary popular music that seeks “to present a message” rather than “just be fun.”

John Ondrasik makes an effort through music to support our men and women — strange days indeed for women— who are in the military in service to our country and others.

Freedom Never Cries

I Saw a man on the TV
In a mask with a gun
A man on the TV
He had a ten-year old son
I Saw a man on the TV
His son had a gun
He says that he's coming for me

I never loved the soldier until there was a war
Or thought about tomorrow
'til my baby hit the floor
I only talk to God when somebody's about to die
I Never cherished Freedom

Freedom never cries.

I Wrote a song for a dead man
To settle my soul
A song for a dead man
Now I'll never grow old
I Wrote a song for a dead man
Now I'm out in the cold
What's a song to a dead man to me?

Two Lights

He was young just 23
Didn't have to go
But it was the man he wanted to be
Like every son he was an only one
One day he came to me, said
Freedoms nothing to look over
Till each man can stand upon its shoulder
I'll right you mountains of letters
Each one a little bit better
And know I'll never be alone

Ondrasik’s voice can be a bit disconcerting but it’s refreshing to hear a nice range including his characteristic falsetto that’s not a falsetto. I can’t really point out any duds on Two Lights. It may take a few spins to warm up. “Easy Tonight” (a nice acoustic version is available on iTunes) and other songs from America Town required such a “warm up” here, very close to the Southern New Hampshire border.

You may visit Five For Fighting here.

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