{    Cnytr   }

{Thursday, September 27, 2007  }

.:{Liturgical Bling}:.

Hey, remember the stuff in Madrid I found? The stuff that gets a Catholic nerd excited?

The company was at the Place of Employment this morning, and while flipping through its catalogue, I found pictures of the pieces linked above! Huzzah! After three years of not-searching, my laziness has paid off!

For those interested in the company, they are Granda Liturgical Arts. They also do POD interior design for churches.

posted by Lauren, 1:28 PM | link | 0 comments

.:{Pasta Strike in Italy}:.

This post, from The Commonplace Book of Zadok the Roman, is absolutely hilarious, and still so even though I am getting to it rather late:

On the 13 September, there will be no spaghetti, fettucine, farfalle or rigatoni in Italy, as the country goes on its first-ever pasta strike.
Angry Italians are downing their forks in response to a 30 per cent price rise in the nation's favourite food, along with steep rises in the price of coffee, mozzarella, bread, biscuits and schoolbooks.
A second strike over the increase in the price of a cup of coffee in a cafe, from 70 euro cents (50p) to one euro, has also been threatened.
According to Italy's four largest consumer groups, the average household in the Bel Paese will be stung for an extra £700 this year on their shopping.
"Giving up pasta for the day will be a symbolic gesture," said a spokesman for the consumer groups. "Italians should not buy any pasta that day, and try their best not to eat it at home."
Most Italians eat pasta at least once a day, and consume around 54 kilograms over the course of the year.
According to a recent study, many of them prefer pasta to all other pleasures. A survey by SWG, a polling company, found that nearly half of all Italian men and women would never give it up and would rather have a plate of spaghetti than sex.
Consequently, the strike-organisers are prepared for serious withdrawal symptoms. Emergency stands offering free bread and milk will be set up in all major Italian cities for those in need of carbohydrates.

Excuse me, I have to go over here and die laughing now.
posted by Lauren, 1:25 PM | link | 1 comments

{Tuesday, September 25, 2007  }

.:{When Theology is Popularized Excessively ...}:.

... it becomes like magic.

I'll confess I don't know a whole lot of Jewish theology, but I highly doubt it's quite as simple as this Yom Kippur "confession" makes it seem.

Many Christians (and the author of the above editorial) seem to think of religion as "magic" -- you put your prayer coin into the slot and, if all goes well, you get the selected candy bar answer. You do x to get y, or you do x and de facto y happens because "that's the way things are."

But! This is not the case. Even on a strictly natural level.

It is not the case that when we pray, we get answers, or that we change God. "Prayer doesn't change God," says the CS Lewis character in the movie Shadowlands, "prayer changes me." Sacraments, too, are not a tit-for-tat arrangement. It is not the case that every single time a person goes to confession, he is forgiven. Shocking, maybe? But what if one is not sorry? Confession isn't magic -- putting one's sins in the slot does not necessarily get one forgiveness. Sacraments, prayer, confession, etc are not about fulfilling obligations to get the expected results, they're about building, fixing and maintaining a relationship with a person. And relationships aren't about changing other people (no "missionary dating" --tried it, doesn't work), they're about allowing oneself to be changed. This is an absolute requirement: I think it is impossible to be in a real relationship (of any sort) and to remain exactly the same. If one is out to change the other person in a relationship of any kind, then one is not in a relationship with another person, but with one's own wants projected onto the other.

While Sacraments are the established means for us to be imbued with sanctifying grace through baptism/confession/reception of the Eucharist etc., they "work" not because of any "law of nature" arrangement, but because we trust the means established for us by Christ. Otherwise, we might fall into Donatism, fearing that the effectiveness of the sacrament is dependent on something other than the promise of the Holy Spirit to be with the Church, something like (in the case of Donatism) the worthiness of the minister.
posted by Lauren, 10:06 AM | link | 0 comments

{Monday, September 24, 2007  }

.:{Although the title is questionable, this is still hilarious}:.

This just in: Naval academy readies students for combat!

A sister shocked, shocked to discover her brother is being taught about weaponry! So she tried to ... "rescue" him from the Naval Academy?

Actually, the sister was more a tool of the mother. Both mother and sister seem to be totally out of touch with the squid in question who, after the rigorous application process, surely knew what he was getting himself into. Having gone through a West Point application process, I've found that you can't not know. Somehow mother and sister missed out on this.

The mother returned from Annapolis, wrote the daughter, “scared by the extent to which her son had suddenly become the property of the U.S. Navy.” Mom forced daughter to try to retrieve the son — by telephone. Daughter failed, despite reminding the officer whom she reached that her brother had “signed the oath after he had been yelled at all day and his hair just been shaven off during his first day there.”

The daughter expressed surprise that leadership seminars in the course catalog were “seminars about weaponry and leading troops into combat.”

Was Ms. Leppla brought up in a cave?

I do have to say, in her defense, this sort of thing probably goes in one mom-ear and out the other.

Indeed, one is so much the property of the branch of military in question that receiving a sunburn (a fairly severe one, I guess) can be considered "damaging government property" and carry with it a heavy penalty.

Yep, ma'am, your son is in the Navy and his derierre is owned, and not by you anymore.

HT: Cacciaguida.
posted by Lauren, 11:55 AM | link | 1 comments

.:{Newsweek on Odd Kids}:.

Newsweek has an article on kids who are like little, quirky professors.

A 10-year-old talking about Baroque architecture? That's awesome! But some parents want to put that sort of not-exactly-socially mobilizing phenomenon into a form of "high functioning autism."

Problematic. These kids aren't sick they're just weird. Probably because they have weird parents and/or are smarter than their parents/peers/everybody/you have a genius kid. Genius is quirky. Most people deal with it.

Yeah, it's hard for kids, but that's when you teach them how to build character. Everybody is different, and you learn to function in society that way. The world does not now nor will it ever drop everything to specialize and revolve around one person (Jesus doesn't count in this example). Hence, when the kid's screaming in the grocery store for something and it's not past the kid's bedtime (Steph's kids get up at 6am and go to bed at 6pm. She runs a tight ship. That's the way to do it, I think), you don't take the kid to the car to give him what he wants. Everybody will stare and think that you're a bad parent, but if it gives your 2-year-old that he can get whatever he wants just by screaming about it, you will pay more later (and so will he!).

Yar. Real autism, as mentioned in the article (although they don't call it "real autism") is much easier to spot.

This is also like my attitudes towards most bodily discomfort relating to some form of annoyance or trauma: even if the owie doesn't go away after a minute, you're fine unless you're bleeding or so seized with pain that you're unable to function (i.e. sprained ankle, broken arm; my only fear is the concussion, because those fall outside this spectra of You're Fine Walk It Off and I have no idea what to do with them).

It's also an approach in classifying "disorders" to put into something like the DSM-IV. If it's not disrupting your life (like really disrupting your life), you're probably fine. Talking to oneself does not qualify as multiple personality disorder, unless you talk to yourself and somebody talks back.

I think the last paragraph was great:

Every child is, of course, unique (quirky children, a little more so) and every individual situation calls for its own set of rules. But the challenges for parents with kids who are different—whatever their glitches and eccentricities may be—are remarkably the same. Can we make the world they're going to grow up in sufficiently kind and welcoming to them and their quirks, and can we provide them with the basic skills they need to navigate in that world? I eventually did consult experts. Some of what they said was helpful, but they offered no great, demystifying insights. I never really did expect anyone to totally peg my son; the fascinating little man changes on a daily basis. One day we call him Space Cookie, the next day Sweet Pea, the next our Tasmanian devil. But he is a whole person, the sum of all his average, stellar and quirky parts, and my job is much like any other parent's—to guide him when necessary, let go when I overdo it and constantly sweep for minefields (even ones I have inadvertently laid in his path) that threaten to obliterate his incredibly unique spirit. I can't wait to see who he becomes, this boy in a bright yellow canary suit, who insists on dancing to his own tune.

That's fantastic and wonderful.
posted by Lauren, 11:41 AM | link | 2 comments

{Friday, September 21, 2007  }

.:{A few quick notes on graduation}:.

I forgot to mention anything at all about what actually happened after I spent an entire sleepless week writing my thesis.

Advice for people: Don't do that. It's. A. Bad. Idea.

Especially since I had two other papers (one requiring a presentation) due a day or two after my thesis was due. Fortunately, both were topics that had been germinating in my mind for quite a while, with sources more or less gathered. With the aid of JSTOR and a Classics PhD Candidate friend, this was easily accomplished and quickly, finishing the paper in Starbucks about an hour before I had to present it. And, thanks be to God, it held up to strenuous debate: unbeknownst to me, one girl had written her paper/presentation on the same topic but with the opposite point of view. I was, of course, right and she, misguided. As my paper showed. Haaa.

But I did it. I graduated. And the most surreal week of my life was spent the following week, not really working, not in school, yet unable to leave the school as I was waiting for the following Saturday.

Graduation robes are kind of fun. They make me feel like Harry Potter. Advice to people again: no matter how much graduation robes make you feel like Harry Potter, don't pose with your newly-graduating friends on the steps of the Basilica waving a tree-branch "wand." You will look stupid, as I discovered.

Graduation itself was kind of boring, especially as I have a last name beginning with an early letter of the alphabet and had to then sit through the rest of the alphabet. I think I read the Commencement program three times over. Sigh.

It was bittersweet, too. As a transfer student, I didn't come to CUA with droves of friends, and nor, since I was working and going to school (advice to people: bad idea. Don't do it), I didn't make a whole lot. My two other best friends were in the school of Theology and in the school of Philosophy, two schools which had separate graduations from Arts and Sciences (my school). I didn't get to see them walk across the stage. They didn't get to see me, either.

But it was fun being in graduation robes with them. Just chillin', hanging around in robes -- when does anyone ever get to do that?

After graduation, I was practically handed a full-time position and thus was able to move out of my apartment to the apartment next door (yay!).

And I got a bunny. His name is Jerry.

I graduated. I got an apartment (I'm cooking so much now!). I got a bunny.

I saw a movie (Ratatouille -- a lovely movie, and fairly complex in the character department. High-quality stuff that we've come to expect from Pixar). I read some more of A Series of Unfortunate Events, which I intend to review when I finish Book 13 (at present, I'm on Book 11). I went contradancing at Glen Echo. I danced at an Irish ordination reception (funnest time ever!).

(By the way, homily from that first mass: here. And excelent.)

And as for the drinking something strong, I'm out of the whiskey I got on my 21st birthday.

Life is good right now, even if my apartment is messy and I'm so busy that my bunny is shedding because he MISSES me (*cuddlecuddle*).

posted by Lauren, 11:36 AM | link | 1 comments

.:{The Post admits something is bad!}:.

In a most amusing fashion, too:

What a Piece of Work . . .

The idea was born over dinner in 18th century London. John Boydell, a prominent and well-to-do publisher and politician, was convinced that England lacked a suitably accomplished and vigorous tradition of history painting... So, after consulting with the eminent artists of his day, he decided to jump-start it -- by commissioning dozens of paintings of scenes by Shakespeare.

The gallery opened with 34 canvases. By the time it went belly up in 1805 -- after Boydell had invested a fortune, more than 100,000 pounds -- there were 167 paintings, and at least one for each play.

The fascinating thing about the current show is how awful most of them are. Boydell was trying to instill the values of history painting, with its strong geometrical form, its condensation of energy and importance in towering figures set against epic backdrops. But often his artists produced small domestic dramas, willowy young men courting pale women in flouncy dresses, surrounded by the markers of domesticity one might expect in a Dutch scene of daily life. [...]

William Hamilton's "The Duke of York Discovering His Son Aumerle's Treachery" is typical. The scene is from "Richard II"; the subject, a father's uncovering of his son's participation in a plot to the kill the king. He tears from the young man's neck a seal that proves his complicity; he berates him; and he ignores his wife's plea not to denounce and destroy their child.

The painting feels decidedly stagy. The action is contained within a small space, a window drapery looks suspiciously like a theatrical curtain, and the young man's gesture -- right hand thrust to his forehead, his torso inclined backward as if buffeted by a gusty wind of melodrama -- is something one might find on the cover of an old penny dreadful.

That's awesome! It brings to mind the scene from Little Women where Jo is trying to get Amy to be as melodramatic as her home-made play requires the fainting princess to be. "Rodrigo!" she cries, demonstrating to Amy, "Rodrigo! Save me! Save me!" And she puts her hand to her forehead and faints.

Amy says it looked painful.
posted by Lauren, 11:31 AM | link | 0 comments

{Sunday, September 16, 2007  }

.:{La Boheme at the Washington National Opera}:.

Nicole Cabell as Musetta, plus three backup dancers(?) for Quando men vo.

Adriana Damato as Mimi and Vittorio Grigolo as Rodolfo in the Washington National Opera's production of La Boheme.

Last night, thanks to Generation O, I was able to attend tickets to the opening night gala of La Boheme (read: I got $600 tickets for $50, suckas!).

Aside from the most fascinating people-watching experience I've ever had (it was a black tie event), it was a wonderful and different production of the opera. I had the opportunity to see La Boheme for the first time this February since falling in love with it in high school. The production I saw was very classical, and, especially in the Cafe Momus scene, contained all the pomp and circumstance that delighted the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries of the heyday of opera. The sets alone got applause. Musetta wore her red dress, and Mimi her dirty, rose-colored one. All beautiful, all lovely, all very traditional.

This last night's performance was not at all traditional. Sets by Boris Kudlicka and costumes by the company-debuting Wojciech Dziedzic, it was unclear whether it was Euro-trash Paris or, as my companion seemed to think, Soviet Russia (in Soviet Russia, opera watches YOU!). And, to be fair, red boxes did figure prominently in act II...

It was very different. In some ways I thought the modern interpretation -- right down to Schunard's translated "It's friggin' cold out!" -- worked very well. The happy group of goofing-off guys in their bachelor pad with only a couch to their name was like some people I knew. The We-Go-Broke-At-Express look was also fantastic, though as aforementioned companion noted, they spoke as if it were Siberia but dressed as if it were summer in Rome. The happiness of the broke Bohemian existence in act I contrasted very well with act IV.

On the other hand, there was quite a lot that was like Rent. As the guy sitting next to me noted, as Rent does La Boheme, La Boheme seemed to be doing Rent in a never-ending vortex of feedback, right down to the camera Rodolfo uses to film Mimi singing her title aria.

It was artsy. It was different. It was kind of annoyingly like Rent, but also kind of cool. I'm rather conflicted.

However, I unambiguously state that act II needed help. And I am unanimous in that.

The interpretation of Cafe Momus was that of a booming Eurotrash -- and, evidently, costumed -- nightclub. Ridiculous costumes abounded -- Marcello had a multi-colored skeleton emblazoned upon his suit, either Colline or Schunard was dressed like the Indian Chief from the Village People. Parpignol was a dancing gentleman with horns and a silver tail in a silver, sequined corset.

I'm 22. I've been to a club or two. In Washington, DC and in various places in Europe. That was freakin' weird, man.

But the interpretation of Mimi's pink bonnet, bought for her by Rodolfo, was a pink pinstriped fedora. That was cute. And, in fact, it brought out the sweetness between Mimi and Rodolfo that in other productions (esp. the recorded Pavarotti/Freni version) comes off as kind of gross. But ... not as gross as Musetta.

Yes, our dear flirtatious Musetta.

In this production, she entered the club dressed in head-to-doe in black leather, with a short white wig. She had her latest boytoy on hands and knees, whilst she cracked her whip and held his leash.


I'd even be willing to look past my initial reception, considering my fairly sheltered life. However, it genuinely artistically bothered me when it came to Musetta's big number.

Musetta is hott, and for a 19th century character, she's also pretty sexy, especially musically. She has you on edge with her sensuous voice from the very start of her number, and it only gets bigger and bigger until it climaxes in the gorgeous greetings between her and Marcello of "Marcello!" "Sirena!".

And a siren she is. But in this setting, it tragically just didn't work. In a club setting, even for a non-frequenter, one expects the booming, thumping techno associated with Eurotrashy glitz and clubby glam. Although she's singing about how gorgeous she is and the attention she receives, a dance on stage with three similarly-clad men overpowers the point. Musetta's beauty is like the beauty of a geisha -- not prostitute-like, but she can still stop a man with a single glance.

Also, my companion and I agreed that Mimi's jacket in act III (think: shiny Matrix-like black trenchcoat) was just ugly.

But the interesting interpretation did not cease with the costumes and settings. For example, the majority of traditional interpretations has Rodolfo discovering Mimi's presence after he sings about her illness. In this production, he pulls her from offstage to sing to her about her illness, and then seems to suddenly reverse his decision, telling her he worries about nothing. My companion thought it worked: for me, the jury is still out.

A few years ago, Baz Luhrmann did La Boheme on Broadway, setting the play in the 1950's and using the same "l'amour" sign seen in his Moulin Rouge. What I discovered from the recording (alas! only excerpts) was that this was an opera great for young talent. As much as I love Pavarotti, God rest his Italian soul, he never made for a convincing broke college student. And great young talent abounds in this production. The strongest two performers were our Rodolfo and also Nicole Cabell, both of whom have out new recordings and who will be signing their work on the 23rd. Grigolo, making his company debut, unfortunately deprived us of some of his lower notes in the first scene. However, as the opera went on, he only got better and better for an absolutely gorgeous smorgasboard of Puccini vocals.

Bravi, Washington Opera.

But, nix the leather.

Update: The Washington Post has its review up today. We seem to agree:
Musetta has been remade as a whip-cracking dominatrix out of Cruella deVil: All she needs is a spotted coat and a cigarette holder to complete the illusion. The great teeming cityscape of Act 2 has been reduced to seamy goings-on within a trendy nightclub, circa 1980 (Divine and the Village People would seem to be habitues). If the Broadway hit "Rent" is commonly understood as a derivative of "La Bohème," then this "La Bohème" may stand as a vulgarization of "Rent."

I risk making this all sound entertaining, but it really isn't.


But my favorite part, probably because of the hamsters:

And the staging is leaden, combining brutalist urban noir with disco trash and tinsel, complete with costume angel wings that appear assembled from dozens of squashed hamsters.

One thing I forgot to mention: the coat song.

Paolo Pecchioli sang Colline's gnomic "Coat Song" with dignity and resignation, although the coat to which he bade sad farewell looked far too studiously groovy to appeal to any philosopher more weighty than Andy Warhol.

It was beautiful. But about the coat itself ... yes.

However, I thought this part was unfair:

...perhaps the director of his next "Bohème" will permit him the indulgence of embracing his lost Mimi instead of having him fuss, twitch, slouch and then ram himself into the wall.

Rodolfo's reaction to Mimi's death was, I thought, moving and full of powerful grief and angst. There was something so gut-wrenching about him slamming into the wall in anger and grief and shock.

A little harsher than I would have gone, but pointed out some valid points. Mostly because I said them first.
posted by Lauren, 9:53 PM | link | 2 comments

.:{Bad press for Catholics}:.

Hanging out with Theology Grad Students (or just one) as I have been lately, I've been discovering the weird and wonderful world of contemporary theology. Or rather, Theology Grad Student was reading Roger Haight (know thy enemies), and I was making fun of him (Haight, that is). Here, I was introduced formally to the Notificatio, to which I had an informal introduction at the CDF in 2001.

I thought the idea of the notificatio was pretty cool -- the modern office of the Inquisition putting the smack-down on heresy, word. But while I was emoting over the heavy-handedness of said approach, I noticed Theology Grad Student was silent. I asked him what he thought about the notificatio. Theology Grad Student said that the notificatio made him feel "solemn."

Good point. I ceased my bloodthirsty rejoicings.

However, instead of abandoning my original point of view, I've taken his into consideration. The notificatio, a solemn reality. Cool that the Vatican is doing its job (or one of the parts of it, anyway), but it's sad that it's necessary.

Lately it seems like quite a few notificationes have been handed out. In fact, in one of the worst press opportunities for Catholics ever, the Washington Post has decided to cover the latest (some inflammatory rhetoric bolded):

Vatican Makes Inquiries Into Professor's Writings

The Vatican and U.S . Catholic bishops are reviewing the work of a Georgetown University theology professor who writes about religious pluralism and are talking with him about whether his writings conform with Catholic teachings.

The inquiries into the Rev. Peter Phan, former president of the Catholic Theological Society of America, reportedly focus on his views of Jesus as savior of the world and the value of non-Christian religions, among other things.

The review, revealed yesterday in the National Catholic Reporter, comes two months after the Vatican released a document reasserting the primacy of the Catholic Church. The document, issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, called other Christian communities defective, separated and suffering from a "wound" because they do not recognize the dominance of the pope.

For a list of what is actually being criticized, see the end of this blog post (shame, shame on the Post. Poor research, inflammatory rhetoric, keep reading):

Similar issues were at the heart of previous censures of theologians such as the late Jacques Dupuis of Belgium, as well as Roger Haight of the United States and Jon Sobrino of El Salvador, according to the Catholic Reporter.

The article cites unnamed sources as saying the Vatican review focuses on Phan's 2004 book, "Being Religious Interreligiously," and began with a July 2005 letter from the Congregation for the Doctrine for the Faith. The letter noted a long list of items and charged that Phan's book "is notably confused on a number of points of Catholic doctrine and also contains serious ambiguities."

The congregation asked Phan to write an article correcting the problems, the newspaper reported, and to instruct the publisher, Orbis, not to reprint his book. Phan wrote back in April 2006 offering to comply under certain conditions, and, according to the Catholic Reporter's sources, has not received a response.

In May, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Doctrine began a parallel "dialogue" with Phan, said Bishop William Lori of Bridgeport, Conn., chair of the committee. Lori declined to characterize Phan's writing or what potential problems might be, saying that could "threaten the integrity of the dialogue . . . and we are very serious about having a good dialogue."

Phan declined to comment to The Washington Post.

Asked whether Phan is obliged to alter his writings, Sister Mary Ann Walsh, a committee spokeswoman, said "he'd be obliged to clear up any inaccuracies."

Calls to Orbis and the Dallas diocese, Phan's home diocese, were not immediately returned.

Georgetown University officials declined to comment on any specifics of Phan's writings or his correspondence with church officials. It issued a statement saying the school "embraces academic freedom and supports the free exchange of ideas in order to foster dialogue on critical issues of the day, especially those related to faith, ethics and international affairs."

Phan wrote about the challenges and goals of religious pluralism in a January essay for Commonweal, a journal run by lay Catholics.

But, here's the part I love. The parts -- without knowing what exactly the problems actually are -- they themselves pick out to be heretical. This is especially problematic coming from people who are obviously non-Catholics and therefore have no idea what they are talking about:

He wrote: "It is only by means of a patient and painstaking investigation of particular texts, doctrines, liturgical practices, and moral precepts that both differences and similarities between Christianity and other religions may emerge. Only in this way can there be a mutual understanding, full of challenge, correction, and enrichment, for both Christians and non-Christians.

"For even if Christ embodies the fullness of God's self-revelation, the church's understanding of this revelation remains imperfect, and its practice of it remains partial, at times even sinful."

Because Catholics are opposed to ecumenism and dialogue. Not like we invented the term "ecumenism" or anything. And not like we're completely in the know about the Incarnation. The whole God-man thing? Completely understandable and knowable. Doesn't everybody know this?

Boo, the Post. Shame.

Now, we turn to another source to find out what actually were the problems with Phan's work (note: the theological work, not the theologian himself) :

Among the most serious charges in the CDF observations are that Phan's book can be read to suggest that:

* Non-Christian religions have a positive role in salvation history in their own right, and are not merely a preparation for the Christian Gospel;
* It makes little sense to try to convert non-Christians to Christianity;
* It would be better to avoid terms such as "unique," "absolute" and "universal" for the saving role of Christ;
* The Holy Spirit operates in a saving way in non-Christian religions independently of the Logos (meaning Christ as the Word of God);
* The Catholic Church cannot be identified with the church of Christ;
* God's covenant with the Jewish people does not find its completion in Jesus Christ.

From Why is Fr. Peter Phan Under Investigation?"

A poor attempt to make Catholics look like unintelligent, anti-rational Neanderthals.

In short, the Post might have loved a Catholic with a view like mine towards the notificatio. Makes bad press for good Catholics. With the careful dialoguing process considered, the Post's treatment is all the more ridiculous.
posted by Lauren, 8:46 PM | link | 2 comments