Corrido de San Judas

31 07 2010

The Rake’s Progress

30 07 2010

I am pretty sure this is from the production that my wife and I saw at the San Francisco Opera a couple of years ago now.

Some First Things stuff

29 07 2010

First, a political post I can finally get fully behind:

I too have a fervor—a fever, in fact—for political inactivity. I want to be part of a movement that makes electoral politics so boring that rather than having term limits, we’ll need laws requiring politicians to serve their full term. I want to join a party that make politics and government work so dull that political journalists and elected officials dream of leaving their fields for the exciting worlds of actuarial science and telemarketing.

I want to thrown in my lot with others who want to throw a wet blanket over politics and whose desire is to dampen the enthusiasm for all forms of political activity. I want to consort with citizens who are willing to arrest the ardor, dash the devotion, sap the spirit, and zap the zeal from anything that remotely resembles political enthusiasm. I want to create a new party, dedicated to the mastery of the art of anti-propaganda and committed to the conscientious devotion of alert inactivity.

I consider myself to be profoundly a-political, yet with sensibility of a European-style social democrat. As an ex-Trotskyist, I am well aware of the tendency of my fellow ex-Trotskyists (Burnham, Irving Kristol, etc.), to become right-wing hacks after leaving the movement. I have sought to avoid being an apologist for the capitalist leviathan without being under any illusions that the international working class shall be the human race. I still sing the Internationale to myself sometimes. I think it’s pretty catchy, especially if you can sing it in three languages.

I suppose now I am a Platonic republican.

Also, I found this post that I put in my “gangsters need God too” file regarding the Calabrian mafia:

According to a report in Britain’s Telegraph, Bishop Giuseppe Fiorini Morosini of the Calabrian Diocese of Locri-Gerace has written an open letter to the bosses of the ’Ndrangheta—the Calabrian Mafia—“imploring them to stop using holy shrines for their initiation ceremonies.” The bishop, says the Telegraph, decided to speak out “after more than 300 alleged mobsters—including the 80-year-old ‘Godfather’ Domenico Oppedisano—were arrested in a police blitz earlier this month.” The Telegraph article is accompanied by a screen capture from an Italian police surveillance film showing Oppedisano “being ‘sworn in’ under a statue of the Virgin Mary at Polsi near Reggio Calabria.”

I think one difference between Italy and Latin America is that Italy was more “clericalized” in its Catholicism than Latin America. On the one hand, the clergy had more supervision over what the people did, so the symbols that people employ even in expressing their “folk Catholicism” are the same as those of “clerical Catholicism”. On the other hand, people will employ those symbols in the exact same way that the Latin American, “un-clerical” Catholic does. In this case, while mobsters in Mexico will pray to Jesus Malverde or Santa Muerte for success in their criminal endeavors, the Italian mobster will use an image of the Virgin Mary for the same purpose. Also, even such figures as St. Jude or St. Dismas will also be used for these less than Christian purposes. So the whole idea of a “folk saint” may itself be a construction, for even “approved” saints will be used for unapproved intentions.

Notes on historic Neoplatonism

29 07 2010

Just jotting some stuff down…

It seems to me that the birth of modern religiosity in the West was born out of two condemnations: one of Meister Eckhart’s mystical premises, and the other of Pico della Mirandola’s magical theses. In the former, we have various ideas that reflect the monistic mysticism of Plotinus, such as “one sees God with the same eye by which God sees him”, or something like that. In the condemnation of Pico della Mirandola, you have the condemnation of the last vestiges of theurgy in the West; the idea that supernatural intervention could penetrate the human reality outside of the direct supervision of the Church. This premise was particularly problematic for those pious ears:

There is no science that assures us more of the divinity of Christ than magic and Cabala.

Since then, we have had a particularly dualistic view of these phenomena. While it is true that such a purifying tendency has always existed in the Christian religious consciousness, it is in these two condemnations that one side of the argument got the upper hand. From there we are led to the Reformation, the Counter-Reformation, the birth of modern science, and the rest. The paranoia is that if Christianity in general, and Catholicism in particular, look like anything else in the history of the world, they would be false and pagan. “Natural revelation”, “natural contemplation”, and “natural magic” were thus topics that had to be taken off the table.

On musical authenticity

28 07 2010

Here’s a good article on classical music. There are a lot of interesting issues here, but I liked this in particular:

Over the course of the nineteenth century, the concept of a musical canon emerged and displaced the zeal for new music in concert programming. Yet the updating of scores continued. Gustav Mahler added new parts for horns, trombones, and other instruments when he conducted Beethoven’s symphonies. An influential edition of Beethoven’s piano sonatas by the pianist and conductor Hans von Bülow recommended that pianists substitute Liszt’s ending of the Hammerklavier Sonata for Beethoven’s own, “to give the closing measures the requisite brilliancy.”

Even in the canon-revering twentieth century, the teleologists remained cheeky. Arnold Schoenberg explained his reorchestration of Handel’s Concerti Grossi, op. 6, as remedying an “insufficiency with respect to thematic invention and development [that] could satisfy no sincere contemporary of ours.” At the start of a 1927 recording of Chopin’s Black Key Étude, the pianist Vladimir de Pachmann announces: “The left hand of this étude is entirely altered from Chopin: it’s better, modernized, more melodic, you know.” A contemporary listener, drawn to Beethoven, Handel, and Chopin precisely for what is unique in their voice and sensibility, can only marvel at the confidence with which earlier generations declared such music in need of improvement…

The naysayers pointed out that the context of musical performance has changed so radically from the pre-Romantic era that we cannot hope to re-create its original meaning. For most of European history, music belonged to social ritual, whether it accompanied worship, paid homage to a king, or provided background for a feast. A large concert hall filled with silent listeners, focused intently on an ensemble of well-fed professionals still in possession of most of their teeth, has no counterpart in early-music history. Early-music proponents, the detractors added, are highly selective in their use of historical evidence. No one today conducts the operas of Jean-Baptiste Lully, for example, by pounding a staff on the floor, as conductors did in the court of Louis XIV to try to keep time in an ensemble of less-than-perfectly trained musicians.

These paragraph echo Foucault’s idea of the modern birth of the author. We seem to be very obsessed with originality, plagiarism, and the right interpretation of the original author. It is interesting that people in the past saw art more as craftsmanship belonging to the common deposit of society.

Disaster porn

27 07 2010

Some scattered musings on American apocalyptic messianism

(above: a far more plausible look into the future. Notice the lack of white Christians with Internet access.)

Lately on the Internet, I have seen an increase in what I have denominated, “disaster porn”. No, this is not your run-of-the-mill apocalyptic Hollywood movie, but rather reflections on how society will be better once it collapses and bullets become more valuable than food… once the “gummint” gets out of our business and all nation-states are dissolved into Mad Max-style fiefdoms, only with homemade jam and crocheting.
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On castes

27 07 2010

In all Traditional Civilizations, and not just the Hindu, the castes existed. Most recently in the West, this could be seen in the Christian Middle Ages. Christians saw the three classes of clergy, noble, and merchant/peasant (the bourgeois were first seen to be in the same class as famers) as a perfect civilizational expression of the tripartite soul of man: spirit, soul, and body. The claims of Republicans and Constitutionalists that they have attained the Christian form of government are the result of the modern deviation and should not be seen as ‘improvements’ on Old Europe’s civilization. Evola points out that both Saint Thomas and the reformer Luther agreed that God “assigns to each and every one his or her own state” and to “go from one profession to another” contradicted his law.

-from the Gornahoor blog

Also, with unrelated bonus quote:

Instead, our approach to studying traditions should be neither the romanticism of the new age believer, nor the skepticism of the academic debunker, but should contain both the openness of the former, and the discernment of the latter.

To some extent, the belief that there must be somewhere where human beings do and are better than here is an expression of the intuition that the divine is real, and that we ourselves can be better. In the world of Tradition, this intuition and longing found expression in the idea of a better world in the ancient past, in the coming future, or in another realm…

Pious impiety

26 07 2010

…Or: How some would say that religion is bad for virtue, and the sense in which they are right

Previously posted on my old blog at the beginning of 2008

As I have mentioned in a previous post, I am hacking my way through Matthew Stewart’s book, The Courtier and the Heretic on the philosophical journeys of Baruch Spinoza and Gottfried Leibniz. My philosophical studies have been very informal, and I have a distaste for meticulous arguments. As always, however, there are certain aspects of philosophy that do interest me, and one of them is the relationship between religion and virtue in the philosophy of Baruch Spinoza. In my opinion, this philosopher helped to found a spiritually deadly anti-pious piety that even contaminates religious people to this day often without their knowing it. I should know, because I too was affected by it once.
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Nothing like a narcocorrido to start your week…

25 07 2010

We’ve been catching up on episodes of the AMC series, Breaking Bad on Netflix. In a rather macabre but original way to open an episode of the second season, a narcocorrido of the trajectory of the show is shown. Jesus Malverde, the Mexican folk saint, makes a cameo appearance.

The Sleeping Beauty

23 07 2010

An excerpt with Margot Fonteyn