December 18, 2013

Journal du Jour

I heard one explanation claim that the annual trek to hear Messiah is a kind of Protestant fertility rite (never mind that for many of us it happens in December!). Most explanations, however, end up saying little more than that Handel, a very good composer, had in Charles Jennens's compilation of Scripture texts an exceptionally fine libretto that inspired him to a peak performance. But that will hardly do to explain the phenomenon that is Handel's Messiah. Composers at least as good as Handel who have been as much inspired by great texts have written works that have not received a fraction of the veneration that has been bestowed on Messiah. - Handel's Messiah by C. Stapert 

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A languid Saturday morning this past weekend fell by the wayside by 10am and I was off for roadly distractions, my rolling man cave. First went to pick up the ashes of my sis-in-law Marsha's dog Blossom. I went to the vet's office and bluntly said, “I'm here to pick up remains for Blossom.” They were touchingly somber and tender with me, which was nice if misplace given that I had no feelings whatsoever for this dog, not knowing it from Adam since there are so many dogs at Marsha's. They had no way of knowing it wasn't my dog of course.

Then off to Grandview to buy a Christmas gift. Arrived before the 11am opening - surprised by this and by stores that open on weekends at 11 instead of 10; seems awfully late. Went to nearby Grandview Grind - who doth not love a coffee shop?  My dog is in the car along busy Grandview Avenue, and snow is falling outside the myriad of windows. Coffee shops - the new man caves? At least the clientele here is overwhelming male and technopiliac. The sine na qua of the new breed of coffee shop is the presence of comfortable leather chairs, big and inviting. Black and white artistic photos on the walls. Given the risk-aversion of the 21st century, this is likely the answer to 19th century's opium dens.

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I recall what Lino Rulli said yesterday, about how he said he would simultaneously be extremely fun for kids to be with but also hire a nanny to take care of them 95% of the time. 

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Took dog Buddy a short walk in nothing less than frigid weather: 22 degrees but with the punishing 18-20mph winds it has a wind chill of 7. But I was extremely warmly dressed, donning even a ski mask. Buddy seemed pretty inured to the cold. Amazing they can shrug off a 60-degree drop in felt temperature. The highlight for me was witnessing a shocking climatical event: briefly there was a patch of blue sky. Real, live blue sky amid the Victorian gray!

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The annual Messiah concert was excellent as always. In fact it improves with age. Even the slower sections were so much more meaningful and peace-inducing compared to the old days when the music other than the Hallelujah Chorus was unfamiliar.

Wouldn't be the Christmas season without that delicious, inspiring, goosebump inducing masterpiece. And oh these voices, and of amateurs no less! Professional singers deserve so much more money and acclaim than folks who kick or throw balls in sports, given the way great music makes you feel. The chills from the sopranos singing And He Will Purify is as electrifying as a homer in the 9th, but longer lasting.

It's kind of interesting how “mixed” the message of the Old Testament and New is as far as the coming messiah. In one case, you have Isaiah saying, “Who can stand the refining fire?” and in the next, “unto us a child is given”. There's that familiar tension between an awesome, fearsome God who judges and inflicts pain that we may be cured, and the gentle, mild lamb who comes to us and forgives us unconditionally. Funny that tension is even be evident in today's gospel in which John the Baptist sends his disciples to ask if Jesus was the one to come or not. The NAB notes say: “The question probably expresses a doubt of the Baptist that Jesus is the one who is to come (cf. Mal 3:1) because his mission has not been one of fiery judgment as John had expected (Mt 3:2).”

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This interview with bestselling novelist Amy Tan rings with me.:

Q: If you could bring back to life one deceased person, who would it be and why?
A: My grandmother. She’s someone I never met, and I would’ve loved to have met her. She’s been a huge influence on our entire family, not just me. She is a mystery. It’s not clear exactly what about her is truth and myth. A lot has been myth, and I’m uncovering what some of those are. She had attitudes that influenced my mother, and they lie within me. So I wanted to know what in me has been passed to me by my grandmother.
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Just the most fragment of morning moments today reading Goldfinch, a novel getting a lot of Catholic press of late, particularly in First Things and mentioned favorably by one Eve Tushnet. The author is Catholic and the book a bit controversial given the nihilism within (although that seems hardly different from any other modern novel). But the author can write and I enjoyed reliving my Metropolitan Museum of Art visit through the eyes of one of her characters.

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Fondled the NOAB (New Oxford Annotated) some last night and this morning. It's so obvious that my favorite Bible is the last one I've purchased. But really the Knox and the Message are the ones that really give a vivid newness to even familiar Scripture. I always enjoy those little prefaces on different books of the Bible; today read about how the editors of NOAB reconciled Paul's writings with James's.

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Great couple Marian holidays of late! Immaculate Conception on the 8th and then Guadalupe on the 12th. Say what you will about Mexico's dysfunctions political and economic, they'll always have the Virgin of Guadalupe. It feels sort of right that rich North America takes a back seat to poor South America in that way. The first shall be last. But my own tendency to think that “Mexicans have bragging rights” regarding the apparition and tilma is not the way Pope John Paul II or Pope Francis viewed it and instructed us to view it. They both attribute the Marian gift to all the Americas, uniting us North and South. Which seems right. We in the US can participate in the devotion as well! I went out on YouTube and found a 2007 video of the basilica where the tilma image resides and everyone singing a Marian hymn famous to them (not familiar to me). Amazing to think that I'd been to that very basilica and seen that miraculous image!

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