Kiss me, I'm Catholic.

Monday, June 28, 2004

Apologia... Cell Phone Hatred... Apologia for Cell Phone Hatred...

An intriguing excerpt from William Luse's blog:

"This could go on a long time, Father. I've given my promise. What more do you want?"

He slammed his fist against the desk in a tight, swift gesture that caused Liz to flinch. "I want more than your promise! I want to know there's something holier in your life than your own damn opinion. I'm sick and tired of my Catholic children coming in here with their pagan fianceés, all of them, of course, like you, pledging undying love, and then a year or five years later," he snapped his fingers, "it's over." He ceased, allowing the heat beneath his collar to subside, his voice to calm. "Of course," he admitted, "I see quite a few pagan Catholics as well, and they have no cloak for their sin. But it comes to the same thing: many of my flock now live their days in great sorrow because a promise wasn't enough." He leaned forward to fix me with the blue eyes. "What I want to know is that after God joins you beneath the roof of his house, the walls of your marriage will not come tumbling down with the next change in the weather. With any change in the weather. That's what I want to know."

Is this from the Steven King novel he mentioned a while ago? Anyone know? It's pretty righteous anyway.


Cell phones must be the fasting-growing cause of death in America today. Last Sunday, no less than three telefonini started jangling at Mass, and I thought I would have a heart attack. You'd think that after the first one went off, people would be awed and chastened by this solemn example of obnoxious stupidity, contemplate the Four Last Things, and amend their lives. But nooooooooo. The fools persist in their folly and perish in it! YEEEEARGH!!!

::recovers composure:: Ahem. Once a cell phone even went off at the consecration. Seriously, we were all kneeling in absolute silence, the priest raised the chalice slowly... and then a tinny rendition of Eine Kleine Nachtmusik drowned out his words.

Such cell phone trolls are the aural equivalent of the man who attacked the Pietá with a hammer. I will illustrate further.

The worst cell phone offense I have ever witnessed happened during my symphony's annual benefit concert in San Jose. We were playing for a big crowd at the Civic Auditorium. It was an all-Russian program - Mussorgsky, Glinka and Tchaikovsky. (Dr. Kolchinksy finally achieved self-parody in this, but who cares, it was great!) John Nakamatsu was playing the Tchai. Piano Concerto No. 1, and we were all in awe of his lightning fingers... The Auditorium has a weird setup that allowed us to put nice tables with flowers and candles on them right up front, so that the *special* people could practically reach out and touch the piano. And feel special. About having contributed all that money. Anyway, after we finished the hyperactive Ruslan and Ludmilla, we launched into the concerto and for some minutes the world revolved around John Nakamatsu. Then - in the quietest, tenderest, most spellbinding point in Nakamatsu's cadenza - An oboe player's cell phone went off backstage! He had left it right behind the curtain and there was no way to turn it off. It blared and jarred and jangled its wretched canned Mozart or Tchaikovksy or whatever it was for minutes, all the way through the cadenza, and it was loud. The audience was muttering and gasping, and when the orchestra came back in I was so angry I could hardly play. If I were the oboist, I would have made myself scarce after the concert. I don't know what became of him... hopefully he became a Trappist monk in Siberia and chants the penitential Psalms every day.

I heard of a violinist who stopped performing to run down the aisle and grab a ringing cell phone from a hapless patron. He threw it on the floor and stomped its miserable sillicon guts out.

Cell phones: 32937395353, Musicians: 1. May this happen many times more!

Look, if you're going to Mass, or a movie, or a concert - turn off your #$@!%& cell phone. Or I will come turn it off for you, with a great big anvil marked Acme Co.

Friday, June 25, 2004

The Chartres Pilgrimage

Pentecost is long over, but I just found another great cache of photos from the Chartres Pilgrimage.

It's supposed to be incredibly grueling, but how often do you get to be a part of something like this?

The pilgrimage is not merely an epic walk. It is many things, described
in many ways: As "a difficult happiness"; "physically the hardest thing
I've ever done"; by a former NFL player as being "like six weeks of
training camp rolled into three days." At times it is almost
ridiculously romantic; at others it is most certainly pure misery. It is
truly and wonderfully medieval, not in a costumed, play-acting sense,
but in its essence as a visceral action, a three-day living of the
Catholic faith, as concrete an expression of our love for Our Lady as
the two cathedrals which bookend the pilgrimage.

-Notes on the 16th Pilgrimage

Crowds of French youths were already gathering outside the Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris before 5am.... We would not have gained admittance to the Cathedral but for the fact we accompanied Father Michael Cahill, who was to say his private Mass before the 18th traditional Paris-Chartres pilgrimage began with Mass on the High Altar of Notre-Dame. I found myself among the Ukrainian Chapter, identifying themselves by crossing themselves from the right shoulder to the left in the Greek manner, rather than from left to right. Aside from this, there was no mistaking the fact we were in a distinctly western environment. Again Latin chant arose around the Gothic stones.......

Druids worshipped here once, then Franks built a church. The Frankish church decayed and the cathedral was built and became a great shrine to Our Lady. The revolutionaries tried to eradicate Catholicism here, but did not succeed. Napoleon famously remarked that Chartres was no place for an atheist. Indeed it is not. Today the Latin chants of the thousands of pilgrims assert the creed of resurrection at the Mass that refuses to die.

-Chartres and the Mass: the Heart of Christendom

An article on this pilgrimage was the key that unlocked the world of traditional Catholicism for me. During an HLI conference at my parish, my mom picked up a copy of Latin Mass Magazine that was lying on one of the display tables, and it contained a story on the pilgrimage. I was fascinated, and I started searching Google for more information. I immediately turned up this site, which proved to be the loose end of Ariadne's thread, leading me through the whole online labyrinth of trad sites, not to mention St. Blog's! Whether it led me in or out I am not quite sure. Documents like this blew my mind, and I began to piece together an idea of the last fifty years of Church history, an area in which my knowledge was hopelessly vague. Things became (at least superficially) more complicated. But I was so relieved to be rid of the "splinter in my mind," so to speak; the maddening intimation that something was seriously wrong, that there was a gap or rift in my understanding of the Church that I just couldn't bridge. Before I started reading about the Chartres Pilgrimage, I didn't know that the text of the Mass had essentially been scrapped and re-written, then subjected to the depredations of ICEL to produce the version we use today. In my innocence, I thought that it had been translated lovingly, word by word from the old rite, into faithful English. Sigh.

Although it has been three years since it discovered it, the idea of the Chartres Pilgrimage has not faded in my mind. It's the largest traditionalist event, of course, but it's more than numbers. It's like a fountain in the desert, like green shoots growing after fire. Radiant with hope.

Someday I will make it. Maybe a year from now, maybe five years. Maybe ten; life is uncertain. I would drink from that well of grace, though, the mere idea of which refreshed my faith and opened my eyes.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Adding to My Belloc Collection

My aunt gave me a copy of The Cruise of the Nona yesterday. Hooray! It was discarded from Los Gatos Public Library, and it was printed in 1955, but once I had pried off the horrible plastic cover and peeled off all the moldering yellow tape, it turned out to be in very good condition, dust jacket and all. In better condition than my old copy of The Path to Rome, I must say. I got that book used from Amazon, and it is now no more than a neat stack of kindling on my bookshelf. It was also printed in the fifties, and I still feel a twinge of vicarious nostalgia when I see the "85¢" label on the cover (If Belloc had ever told the story of the Hungry Student, the price of books should have been a critical point). It is one of those "Image Books," and the catalogue of other titles in the back is interesting: classic books like The Diary of A Country Priest (65¢!), The Everlasting Man, and Waugh's study of Campion; really classic books like the Imitation of Christ and Summa Contra Gentiles; and more evanescent period literature - Father Malachy's Miracle, Joyce Kilmer's Anthology of Catholic Poets. The last volume contains "some 250 poets." Does anyone anthologise "Catholic poetry" anymore? I'm sure that most of the 250 weren't very enduring, but such an anthology would at least be fun to page through...

I recently bought the nice new Ignatius Press edition of The Path to Rome. Somehow it manages to be twice as big and three times as heavy as my old copy. The pages are dense and creamy... the margins generous... the font crisp... the cover evocative... Some of the best pictures have been redone in delicate ink washes, and there is an introduction by Joseph Pearce, who spends his eight pages telling you all the works of Belloc that you must read next. At the top of each page there is a little summary of what comes underneath, such as "Andiamo," "Theological Digression," "Why 'Decimo?'," "Unimportant," "Rome Calls Me" and the like. I suppose Belloc wrote them, but they are not included in my old copy.

Thank you, Ignatius Press!

Still... this is not the volume that I took on my own path to Rome, the little faded book that I read on the long bus rides south, that added new perspectives of clarity and complexity to everything I saw, that finally fell to pieces in a Roman hotel room where I was perched in a high window on the top floor, reading the final pages. That's why I never threw it away.

But I have gotten away from my original subject. The Cruise of the Nona is a little disapointing; it isn't as inspired as The Path to Rome. Belloc muses interminably on British politics and the Prussian War or what not, and a lot of it is as opaque as Anne Coulter's books will be in 75 years. But the subtle, terse descriptions of the vagaries of sailing and the moods of the sea are worth reading. The best parts are the Dedication and the ending...

My Dear Maurice -

I have dedicated to you two books: one was a book "On Nothing." This I dedicated to you because, being on nothing, it dealt with what is better than the fullness of life.

Another book I dedicated to you was the "Green Overcoat," and this I dedicated to you because you had written a play called the "Green Elephant," and we thereby held communion in green things.

I now dedicate you this book, because you also have written a book upon Things That Come to Mind, and this book may well turn into something of the same sort. Yours was called "The Puppet Show of Memory," and dealt with the things and people you had seen and known. What mine will be called I do not yet know, for I hold that a child should be born before it is christened.

And it continues for pages, all pure Belloc - dropping wild names and tantalisingly odd and insufficient explanations, mocking pedantry, and ending with the choice of the title: The Cruise of the Nona.

And the ending... I will use at a later date, because I am tired of typing.


Monday, June 14, 2004

Free at Last!

Cue 'Pomp and Circumstance': I've finished serving my time in Californian Public Education! Hoorah!

I still have to figure out how I'm going to get the floppy disk with my work on it back from my English teacher... But other than that - I have officially escaped from high school! Now I have to get ready to go off to Virginia and Christendom - but not just yet. Now it is summer in California and that is all that matters. The other day I went outside to look at the plum tree... I touched one of the plums with the tip of my finger and it fell to the ground. My pet rabbit came out onto the lawn, casting a long afternoon shadow, and then went behind the glossy leaves of the grapevine to nibble on twigs. I picked seven plums and went back inside. They are delicious plums, much better than the ones from the store. They almost justify that stupid poem by William Carlos Williams.

* * *

After graduation, my friends and I had a party. My best friend's mom gave me an iron and a tabletop ironing board for college, which made me insanely happy for some reason: I like ironing. What can I say, I'm easily amused. We went swimming and listened to the Two Towers soundtrack... It was great.

* * *

Just remembered this: My brother had to perform a scene from Romeo and Juliet for his English final last week, and my mom thought it would be good for him to watch the Zeffirelli film version. It is a beautiful movie, but it gave me a start when I realized that the famous love theme was actually the tune to the Salve Regina! It sounds nice, but it seems irreverent somehow. I didn't notice a lot of the detail the first time I saw it... back in 9th grade. Sigh. The sets are so gorgeous, and Olivia Hussey is the perfect Juliet. Not so sure about Leonard Whiting as Romeo. Though to be fair, I always thought that Juliet was marginally more sensible and gutsy than Romeo. Anyway, this is a great adaptation. (If you ever come across that thing with DiCaprio in it, run like hell. It is too bizarre for words.)

* * *

And to wrap up this unusually freeform post...

For any fellow violinists out there, here are some useful links:

All About Violin Strings - This is a great page comparing string brands, with good tips on maintenance. I use Obligato myself; she's right about the quality of the E-string. (And that rosin she uses sounds like it's worth trying.) The Casa del Sol link is broken, but I found it: String Tips.

And here's a useful article on rosin: Rosin Decoded. Some of the things they put in rosin are really amazing: gold, tin, silver, meteoric iron (!)... Ifshin Violins sells a formidable range of the stuff. How is anyone supposed to choose? A lot of people say that Jade rosin is good; maybe I'll get that. Right now I'm using an ancient lump of Hildersine. By the way, Ifshin Violins has great prices; I always buy my strings from them. Jade rosin is only ten bucks there. (If you have no qualms about buying French rosin from a store in Berkley...)

This website sells tons of sheet music. Looks useful. I must have found six versions of Mozart's 3rd violin concerto alone.

And just because: the El Camino Youth Symphony, which I just graduated from. (Now there's something I regret having to leave...) Nota bene the pics from our Italy Tour.

That's all for tonight.

Sunday, June 13, 2004

Happy Corpus Christi, Everyone!

Processions for All

Because it is so comforting (but mostly because it is nearly midnight and I have nothing to say), I give you this from The Path to Rome:

Then I looked down from the bridge across the plain, and saw, a long way off beyond the railway, the very ugly factory village of Thayon, and reached it at last, not without noticing that the people were standing branches of trees before their doors, and the little children noisily helping to tread the stems firmly into the earth. They told me it was for the coming of Corpus Christi, and so proved to me that religion, which is as old as these valleys, would last out their inhabiting men. Even here, in a place made by a great laundry, a modern industrial row of tenements, all the world was putting out green branches to welcome the Procession and the Sacrament and the Priest. Comforted by this evident refutation of the sad nonsense I had read in Cities from the pen of intellectuals—nonsense I had known to be nonsense, but that had none the less tarnished my mind—I happily entered the inn, ate and drank, praised God, and lay down to sleep in a great bed.

And so should I. Lie down to sleep, I mean. What a day! I didn't get to the Corpus Christi procession because my poor mother was sick and I had to drive her to the clinic. The last few days have been crazy in general... Expect more posting tomorrow!

Monday, June 07, 2004

My Poetry

I wrote this a few years ago after being very moved by 'The Loss of the Eurydice' (Gerard Manley Hopkins)...

How many years to Walsingham?
When comes the fullness of time when we shall clear the long grass?
When shall I see you again, gathering stars and clouds
of incense in your vaults, and us gathered all,
dry under roof, laved in the light that breaks its heart against the wall
of glass? And before rebuilt high altar sing the Mass?

For now, we lay our heads against your last grey arch,
where birds fly through the tracings of the rose bereft,
and pray God that we live until this come to pass,
or if not, that our children not forget.


Synonyms and Sugar

This blog has one of the coolest designs ever. Check out chibi-Sparrow. Woo hoo... I've been whining for Catholic anime since seventh grade, and maybe this lady is thinking of creating some. Oh well, one can always dream.

The site counter starts in December, but I can't find any archives on this blog. No comment boxes either. Argh! I'm tempted to click on that "Contact Me" link and ask her where her archives are... but maybe I'm just missing something. I don't want to bug her.

More cool designs: Ink and Penwipers, Florilegia, Vivid, Wonderblossom... and Jelly Pinched Theater, which belongs to Kashi's husband! All gorgeous.

And this is one cool name: Katolik Shinja

So many blogs, so little time. How can I read them all? Ah, the wonder of being finite...

Saturday, June 05, 2004

"You go, hein? We drink the Slivovitch. It warms you after so much beer."

Dvorâk and Mozart have the distinction of being two composers who have never bored me, not even once. They always have something important to say. They share the same quixotic blend of levity and pathos; songs that inspire not happiness, not sadness, but something proceeding from both - Joy, Sehnsucht, or whatever those feelings were that C.S. Lewis was always trying to figure out.

I have been listening to a lot of Dvorâk lately. I really need to get the New World Symphony, considering Charles de Nunzio's recent thoughts. I have been listening to the Stabat Mater, but it is very long and I keep getting sidetracked and losing my place on the CD. I did find a fantastic article on the Stabat Mater, with lots of information about Dvorâk in general for good measure. There is also Direct Testimony. Or, for analysis, quotes, and anecdotes: Program Notes. Because I like to rhyme!

Most things remind me of Belloc sooner or later, and Dvorâk does, unmistakably. Why? Perhaps it is the delicious mix of pathos and frivolity in his art - that, and his ability to drink everyone else under the table...

From music critic James Huneker:

Old Borax, as Dvorâk was affectionately called, was handed over to me by Madame Thurber when he arrived [in New York]. He was a fervent Roman Catholic, and I hunted a Bohemian church for him as he began his day with an early Mass. Rather too jauntily I invited him to taste the American drink called a whiskey cocktail. He nodded his head, that of an angry-looking bulldog with a beard. He scared one at first with his fierce Slavonic eyes, but was as mild a mannered man as ever scuttled a pupil's counterpoint. I always spoke of him as a boned pirate. But I made a mistake in believing that American strong waters would upset his Czech nerves. We began at Goerwitz, then described a huge circle, through the great thirst belt of central New York. At each place Doc Borax took a cocktail. Now, alcohol I abhor, so I stuck to my guns, the usual three-voiced invention, hops, malt, and spring water. We spoke German, and I was happy to meet a man whose accent and grammar were worse than my own. Yet we got along swimmingly - an appropriate enough image, for the weather was wet, though not squally...

I left him swallowing his nineteenth cocktail. "Master," I said, ratherly thickly, "don't you think it's time we ate something?" He gazed at me through those awful whiskers which met his tumbled hair half-way, "Eat. No. I no eat. We go to a Houston Street restaurant. You go, hein? We drink the Slivovitch. It warms you after so much beer." I didn't go that evening to the East Houston Street Bohemian café with Dr. Antonin Dvorâk. I never went with him. Such a man is as dangerous to a moderate drinker as a false beacon is to a shipwrecked sailor.

Nineteen cocktails. As StrongBad likes to say, "Holy crap!"

But I was going to talk about his music, wasn't I?

I think I'll look at the 8th Symphony, which my youth symphony played in Italy last summer. The third movement has an especially mysterious beauty. Its structure is easily discerned; it can be divided into four parts. First there is a passionate, unsettled dance, in 3/8 time and a minor key. Strong but confused desires, rising hopes that are inevitably dashed. "All mere complexities,/ The fury and the mire of human veins." This dance ends, and a new theme begins suddenly in a major key. The change from minor to major has the effect of an epiphany. The strings keep up a quiet staccato that mirrors the listener's own joyful shivers of anticipation, while soaring over them, a clarinet plays a melody of pure yearning. Then the strings leap up into a crescendo of aspiring, impatient desire. The violins climb to a high register, peak at fortissimo - and then sink in pitch and volume, rebuffed. The single clarinet repeats its longing melody. It cuts deeper the second time; it seems to have gotten a step closer to the revelation it desires. Then the strings repeat their storming of heaven. And something wonderful happens...

The clarinet's melody is taken up by the violins, who turn its yearning into something close to ecstasy. The first time I played it at symphony practice I was completely taken by surprise, and I actually wept. The more keen, raw, open sound of the violin and the addition of harmony make the melody transcend itself. This part of the third movement is simply soaked in Sehnsucht. You could practically call it the Blue Flower Theme. It reminds me of something from All Quiet On the Western Front. Why do German authors seem to understand this feeling so well? Is it because they have a special word for it?

The noises without increase in volume, pass into my dream and yet linger in my memory... a clear voice utters words that bring me peace, to me, a soldier in big boots, belt, and knapsack, taking the road that lies before him under the high heaven, quickly forgetting and seldom sorrowful, for ever pressing on under the wide night sky.

A little soldier and a clear voice, and if anyone were to caress him he would hardly understand, this soldier with the big boots and the shut heart, who marches because he is wearing big boots, and has forgotten all else but marching. Beyond the sky-line is a country with flowers, lying so still that he would like to weep. There are sights there that he has not forgotten, because he never possessed them - perplexing, yet lost to him. Are not his twenty summers there?

How satisfying even this desire can be, unfulfilled...

But somehow we have to get down from this emotional high. The strings become lower, slower, quieter, slipping the melody line to the woodwinds who turn it to a minor key and bring it to a funereal halt. The vision has been taken away. The dance from the beginning is repeated as if nothing had happened.

Then the fourth part: an unexpected coda, played molto vivace at 2/4 time, which wrenches the music back into a major key. It is fiery, energetic and light-hearted, and its ebullience changes everything.

Instrumental music, unless you're talking about something like the Four Seasons, doesn't seem topical enough for us to "find its inner meaning." (Though that doesn't stop idiot Gender Studies people from saying stuff like, "Beethoven's Ninth is about rape.") Music like the Firebird Suite, Francesca da Rimini and Pictures At An Exhibition are telling stories; Capriccio Espagnol and Night on Bald Mountain evoke definite atmospheres - but your average symphony or sonata doesn't come with a storyline. (I was just thinking the other day that Mendelssohn could have switched the titles of the Scotch and Italian Symphonies, without anything clashing.) Still, composers like Dvorâk and Mozart choreograph such a variety of human emotions in their music that you feel sure they have some message, that they describe a real scene - as though you're listening to a soundtrack for a movie that was never filmed. Maybe this is where you should head over to Erik's Rants and Recipes and read his post on musical semiotics.


Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Choruses From "The Rock"

Matthew Anger made this really cool flash video combining music, images and TS Eliot's poetry. It's very arresting.

Speaking of multimedia, this sounds like the ultimate Catholic Nerd Project. The preview is kinda creepy, though. Everyman meets The Matrix?

Something to look into.

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