Sunday, June 29, 2008

Critter Gets A Haircut

The Little Critter got a haircut over the weekend, and only after the grooming could I tell just how little of the Little Critter there actually is. He's the dog version of a munchkin.

Oh, my, what big eyes you have, little one...

With the exception of the last picture, the first two were taken as he was moving or about to move.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Hi Folks!

I've been gone for a while because I've been busy with things important, and with things not so important. Both soak up my time, unfortunately, and the fact that the days are longer during summer doesn't mean that there are more hours in the day to get things completed. I've selected most of my courses for the fall semester, but there is one more class I'd like to get into. Unfortunately, the class is full, and most professors are unwilling to make the exception of letting one more body slip into their already packed classrooms. I'm going to try to charm my way in (more like plead my way in) on Monday. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?

I don't always like to speak about my personal life in great detail, but today I will make a brief allowance. There is someone I've been dating now for sometime. She's a lovely girl. She is three years my senior (a big plus), completed graduate school (Computer Science), and almost likes the same music as I do. Despite the fact that we share a lot in common and that things are going relatively well, there is a difference in our lives that threatens to foil any progression we can make as a couple. I am Catholic, she is not. And she has made a promise to her parents that she will marry a man that follows her religious tradition (I don't know for sure if she actually made that type of promise to her parents, or if pressure from her parents is making her take this position). While she has not explicitly asked me to convert, it seems to me that the prerequisite has subliminally been factored into our conversations.

Would I, starry-eyed, give up my Catholic faith for someone I really liked? No. And she knows this. As a matter of fact, I would be offended if she bluntly requested that I convert to something her parents found suitable. Last week was the last time we spoke about this, and I jokingly suggested that we should go our separate ways if hitting an insurmountable obstacle like that one was inevitable. She smiled, and stated we should continue taking our relationship as far as it goes.

Why do these things happen to me? I think our days together are numbered.

Anyway, that's the gory stuff. Little Critter gets a haircut this weekend. I'll try and post a few pics. Take care and God bless all of you!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Almost July...

And what does that mean? Why, it's almost Christmas!! That's right, grumpy, Christmas is just a few short months away and I GUARANTEE you it will get here before you know it. Oh stop your complaining and your whining. You love Christmas and you know it (or at least I hope you do). Pretty soon- oh I'd say right around Halloween - the commercialization and materialization of my favorite time of year will begin at an all consuming pace, and there is little we can do to stop it (my other favorite time of year is Easter).

Having said that, not everything that is pertinent to Christmas and commercially driven is necessarily evil or superficial. Take, for example, my all time favorite Christmas movie: Scrooge, starring Albert Finney as Charles Dicken's penny-pinching misanthrope. I simply LOVE this film, which also happens to be a musical adaptation. I watch it year round, and the ending fills me with the Christmas spirit even on a Fourth of July!

Here are two excerpts from the film:

In this video, Ebenezer is visited by the Ghost of Christmas Past and is taken back in time to a period when he worked for Mr Fezziwig. The song is called "December the 25th!" (I wish that everyday could be December the 25!) and it's fabulous! All of us want a Mr.Fezziwig for a boss (Cathy, I hope you find a job with a Mr.Fezziwig).

This second clip comes towards the end of the film when Ebenezer experiences a conversion of a sort, and leaves his loathsome ways behind. He forgives all of his debtors and they in turn sing with him "Thank You Very Much." Earlier in the film (not shown here), when Ebenezer is visited by the Ghost of Christmas Future, he is taken to a crowd that gathered outside his residence. The crowd begins to sing this same song, and poor old Ebenezer thinks it's to show their appreciation for some wonderful humanitarian act on his part. Little did he know their jubilation and cheerful singing comes from the fact that he is dead.

Okay, that's enough of Christmas in the middle of the year (I think Elton John has a song with that title). I hope these videos have put you if not in the Christmas spirit, then at the very least in a good mood.

BTW, I listen to Christmas carols year-round as well. The more traditional the song the better.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Shifting Gears

I'm thinking of getting one of these little guys as a replacement for my cantankerous 40 gallon contraption. But do men drive these?

I've read a little about the MINI Cooper, and it appears that it comes with side-impact airbags (which would be a must have for a car of this size), overhead airbags, 4-Wheel ABS, and miscellaneous add-on's that probably do nothing more than drive up the price. listed the MINI Cooper as one of top 13 most Fuel efficient cars.

Again I ask, is this a car men drive (even though in the video a man is driving)?

Let's face the facts, folks. This country - perhaps the entire planet - but especially this country, is in and energy transition. Fuel is going to continue to go up and up and up and it's NEVER going to come down to the 1980's price-per-gallon amount. Today, it was announced that China is finally raising it's gas prices, which in turn brought down the price of crude oil. But you know this dip in price is both fleeting and ephemeral. The staggering gas prices that we are paying now are less than what we will be paying next year.

Also thinking of the Toyota Prius.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Traitor or is this just a game?

Becky Hammon is a WNBA all-star who plays for the San Antonio Silver Stars. She recently generated great controversy when she decided to play for the Russian basketball team in this upcoming summer Olympics. She's been called a "traitor" by some of her colleagues, and lost favor with some of her fans. Becky states that it has been a life-long dream of hers to play in the Olympics, and that the American team had not asked her to try-out until after she had already signed up to play for the Russian team.

But is the criticism warranted? Is basketball nothing more than a game, and the critics mere over-zealots who need to calm down? Or is that sense of betrayal justified as she now becomes an athletics adversary to the American team, contributing to a potential American defeat, and subsequently to a Russian victory.

Yes, there is a cold-war overtone contributing to this story.

Two things that I know:

1) In some pics., Becky is pretty doggone good-looking
2) I'm NOT watching the Olympics

Saturday, June 14, 2008

You tell me what this is

Let me start out by giving you the name: Church of the Most Holy Trinity, but sometimes referred to as "Wotruba Church." It is located in Vienna, and was designed by famed twentieth century Austrian sculptor Fritz Wotruba.

Despite the fact that some of those "blocks" have some kind of aesthetic redemptive value, when I look at the image of Most Holy Trinity Church, I feel like I have to forgive someone.

As I stated in a previous post, I DO like modern architecture. Some of the most inventive, hypnotizing, and dynamic structures societies have erected fall under the "modern" or "post-modern" classification of architecture. For a sacred environment, I also have made no qualms about passionately preferring traditional edifices over the more progressive arrangements that characterize so many churches this day and age (especially in Europe).

MIT's Stata Center

For those of you who find secular avant-garde architecture appalling, please turn away immediately. The following images might be too disturbing.

Below is MIT'S Stata Center. Opened for occupancy in 2004, the center houses the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, the Laboratory for Information and Decision Systems, as well as the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy.

For me, the Stata Center symbolizes a society within a society. The design implies that what takes place inside this structure is different than what takes place anywhere else, and that conventional thought is turned completely upside down within it. It has whimsical, structural allusions to fairytale cottages or to something you might see inside Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory. Unfortunately, in 2007 MIT sued Frank Gehry - the designer of the center - as well as the construction company who built it for supposed design and structural flaws.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

What to do, what to do...

Let me pose to you this hypothetical scenario. Let's pretend a guy named Tom was giving serious consideration applying to a make-believe school of architecture, at a make-believe university situated in the make-believe city of Las Vegas. Tom is having difficulty making a decision because he is uncertain about this coarse of action on many levels. Perhaps the biggest befuddlement for make-believe Tom is whether it's prudent to judged an entire career in a specific field by the classes that ultimately yield a degree in that same field. See, our hypothetical Tom isn't sure he might enjoy the classes, but thinks that after graduation the career itself might be considerably more creative and satisfying than the courses he took in the make-believe school.

So, what should Tom do? If he begins to work towards a major in architecture but doesn't like some of the courses, should he stick to it nonetheless in the hope that the subsequent career that follows might yield the opportunity to be creative, contributive, and (to some degree) autonomous? Or, if he finds the path to a degree in that field monotonous, intricate, and challenging, should he bail out immediately and conclude that the classes are a prelude to the career?

Tom has not made up his mind as to what specific field in architecture to follow. This has no bearing on the scenario put forth. Either continue with the degree program because it gets better in the real, day-to-day, outside the classroom setting, or abandon all efforts because the classes are a foretaste to the career itself.

By the way, the only commonalities that the Tom writing this post has with the Tom of the hypothetical scenario are appearances, DNA, and very, very similar aspirations. I just don't want you to get the two of us mixed up.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Censures & Excommunications

I have heard in the past - as I'm sure have you - reports of elements from within several religious orders clashing with Vatican authorities over issues dealing with Church teachings and tradition. It has been the policy of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to counsel those individuals who publicly oppose or stray from Church teachings, and, after a series of initiatives, apply measures that may include defrocking and excommunication. Not all of those who were called heretics or prevaricators while alive retained those pejorative titles posthumously. After the death of some of these agitators, their names and standing were fully restored. Others, however, endured the penalty of excommunication.

Matthew Fox (Defrocked and ousted)
Matthew Fox was a former Dominican priest who received his religious education (all the way up to his PhD.) from Catholic institutions. In the 1970's he developed a type of spirituality called Creation Spirituality that was pantheistic in nature, and replaced the term "original sin" with "original blessing." He calls himself a feminist theologian, and is currently a member of the Anglican Church where he conducts "techno-masses." Read interview. Mathew Fox is no fan of Pope Benedict, since it was Cardinal Ratzinger who - as Prefect of Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith - tossed him out in 1993 for his heretical unorthodoxy. In 2005 Matthew Fox reenacted the famous protestation of Martin Luther when he nailed his own 95 Theses just outside the door of Castle Church in Wittenburg, Germany. Fox has always maintained that his condemned views have always been in the tradition of the mysticism of medieval visionaries Hildegard of Bingen, Thomas Aquinas, Meister Eckhart and Nicholas of Cusa.

Anthony de Mello, S.J. (Works condemned)
Anthony de Mello was a Jesuit priest born in Bombay, India in 1931. Ecumenicalism is the word that best describes the works of Father de Mello, unless of coarse you dislike his convictions, then "heretic" might be to your suiting. Father de Mello drew from many religious traditions, primarily from Eastern faiths, and combined tenets from those Eastern traditions with Christian beliefs. In 1998, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith condemned his works for “relativizing” faith and thus leading to “religious indifferentism.” The odd thing about this condemnation is that it came 11 years after de Mello's death, which means he had no way of defending himself from the charges that were brought against him. Father de Mello's books have since been accompanied with the insertion of a caution: “The books of Father Anthony de Mello were written in a multi-religious context to help the followers of other religions, agnostics and atheists in their spiritual search, and they were not intended by the author as manuals of instruction of the Catholic faithful in Christian doctrine or dogma.”

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (Censured)
Born on May 1, 1881 Teilhard de Chardin was a French Jesuit who was trained as a paleontologist and as a geologist. Always fascinated by the evolution of life on earth, Chardin proposed that human biological evolution not only had taken place here on earth, but that it was also something sacred and not just a mere biological process. Because of these assertions, he was forbidden to teach and his works censured by his superiors. To Chardin, life began on this planet with simple quotidian structures and over time complexified until the emergence of consciousness. Chardin also saw Jesus Christ as the most perfectly evolved human being. In Christ, he saw matter and the spirit of God definitively combined but not in a pantheistic context. He also did not subscribe completely to the doctrine of Original Sin. Chardin's censure was lifted posthumously, and his books an essays were subsequently published to the delight of many within the Catholic Church. In a speech given sometime in the late 1990's, even Pope John Paul II quoted from them.

Was the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith a bit heavy handed when dealing with these folks? Despite the wavering on Original Sin, Chardin's spirituality is profoundly beautiful and has enjoyed enthusiastic approbation among very conservative Catholics since their publication. Supporters of Anthony de Mello argue that his condemnation is completely unjustified since 1) they were never meant to be used as instructions of Church dogma or tradition, and 2) he is deceased and unable to defend himself from the accusations leveled against him by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Mathew Fox's "The Coming of the Cosmic Christ" was recommended to me by a Jesuit with traditional lineaments and in good standing with the Church. Although one must admit, Matthew Fox's views at times can be both whimsical and convoluted. He comes across as some one who is both unstable and angry over his removal. What to make of all this?

Now, here is a short list of the demented and the absurd who have been excommunicated in recent times. IMHO, no one can argue that this type of action was unmerited:

1) Sinéad O'Connor - Ordination in a schismatic church, the Palmarian Catholic Church.
2) Fidel Castro - Dictator; proponent of communism.
3) Sister Mary Theresa Dionne and five other nuns of Our Lady of Charity and Refuge in Hot Springs, Arkansas - Believe their founder is the reincarnated Virgin Mary.
4) Some members of the Irish Republican Army
5) Ed Cachia - Canadian priest. Started a new church.
6) Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre - Apposed Vatican II reform. Defied Pope John Paul II and consecrated four bishops.
7) Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo - A whole slew of crap.

Friday, June 6, 2008

When I hear this song...

I'm reminded of these images:


Lute Players

Cinderella Griselda



Jason and His Teacher


Displayed above are a few of the works by twentieth century painter and illustrator Maxfield Parrish (1870-1966). Note the striking colors ("Parrish blue"), the romance, and paradisiacal setting of each of these pieces. By developing a technique that combined the usage of oil, varnish and photography, Maxfield Parrish was in a league of his own.

While the words of Nessum Dorma might bear little relevance to any of these paintings, with it's sweeping romanticism and beautiful note progression, it provokes an Elysium evocation that is also recognizable in Perrish's works.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

I don't mean to offend...

Have you heard the music I've got playing to the right side of this blog? For me, the one characteristic the songs on the playlist poses (for the most part) is Mystery and Mysticism. Sacred music, if it is truly is sacred, should not have its own self-interest in mind. By that I mean it should not have been composed with the intention of making it so cute, you focus entirely on the SOUND of the song without going beyond it. Sacred music should get your attention, and quickly point you towards something bigger than itself. It should remind the listener that there is a Mystery, both ineffable and incomprehensible, which Christianity is centered around.

Below are two examples of music I feel take you in the opposite direction of traditional sacred music. I don't mean to say that they make you sin or bring you to occasions of near sin, but rather they emphasize (perhaps inadvertently) the earthly, the dusty, and all things that decay. While I enjoy the opening measures of the first song in the first video (it has a nice R & B arrangement), none of these songs take you beyond them to the Mystery that consumes all mystics. Take a listen.

To avoid cacophony, please pause the music player on the right.

Yes, I reckon this quartet sounds mighty nice, which is why some of you like this stuff. You like to hear it, clap your hands to it, sway and tap your feet. You might even prefer it to the music I have playing on my playlist, or to other traditional Catholic pieces not listed there. I respect your opinion and your taste. But for this humble listener nothing takes me away further and faster from the Mysterious and the Mystic, and delivers me to an earthly auditorium full of hairspray and the Old West faster than the type of music in these two videos. I call it the Hee Haw Benediction, and it's not my cup of tea.

I note in this type of music the same false sense of simplicity that also accompanies the methodology of Christian fundamentalists. The songs are uncomplicated, and the faces of those who are carried by it seem to imply that all in life will be just fine as long as I quote the Bible enough and declare publicly that Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior. The sacred music that I prefer, and that has accompanied Catholic worship for over a thousand years, already implies those things and much, much more. With traditional sacred music, we are taken to a Mystery and are asked to lose ourselves into it. We feel a sense of the undecayed, perpetual, incomprehensible, and unimaginable presence of God, and what will wait for us, hopefully, at our journey's end.

Imagine for a second a monastery where monks sing, sway, clap and tap the tunes of this foursome.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Rosaries: A Fashion Accesory?

In terms of things that are going on in the world and in the Church, this topic is of low importance but nonetheless baffling. Since when do we wear Rosaries around the neck? Never (and I'm going all the way back to my childhood) have I been instructed or taught that it was okay to wear the Rosary around your neck, or, even more unacceptable, as a fashion statement. Yet I'm seeing more and more of this practice than ever before.

Actor Mark Wahlberg is Catholic and has a Rosary tattooed around his neck and on his chest. Is this anymore acceptable than if it had been a real Rosary instead of a painted one? Don't ask me what's at the end of it.

What about this guy? Singer George Michael wears not one, but TWO Rosaries around his neck. Is he even Catholic? Is he making a political statement? This type of Rosary-wearing reminds me of some of the sacrilegious stunts Madonna used to pull off in the early to mid eighties during her incipient fame.

Sister Mary Martha wrote a post dealing with this same topic not too long ago. According to her, it might not be as wrong as you think. It might depend on the intentionality of the person who wears it.