Progress

11 05 2020

My entire adult life has been a refutation of the liberal idea of progress. (By liberal, I mean the intellectual principles coming out of the Enlightenment.) That’s a bit exaggerated, but I’m running with it. The first real historic milestone in my life was the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Iron Curtain: this brought about the unenthusiastic prosperous years of the 1990’s. These were my teenage years, and also the time I was most “politically active”. Having put that aside, I was welcomed into adulthood by 9/11, which took place around the age I would have graduated college (had I not dropped out). That was the first indication that rumors of the the End of History were greatly overblown. Read the rest of this entry »





The past I never lived but prefer to forget

5 04 2020

As an introverted teenager, I watched a lot of TV. Watching TV in the 1990’s without cable (too poor for that), you didn’t just watch snippets of things here and there. If something was on and you wanted to watch it, you ended up watching the entire series, some episodes multiple times. One of the basic cable channels we got was A&E, which became my second favorite channel after PBS. It was on this channel that I binge-watched the 1981 Australian series, The Brides of Christ. The story of the mini-series follows two young women who enter the novitiate of a religious order during the Second Vatican Council. They get to experience the changes in Catholic life happen over a very brief period. Both women are faced with the choice of staying in the order (and perhaps the Church itself) or leaving altogether. Overall, it’s bad melodrama in the same league as a Hallmark Channel movie or Mexican soap opera. Having grown up with the latter, I can stomach such maudlin story lines, but I would still counsel conservative and traditional Catholics to look into watching this mini-series. Read the rest of this entry »





Poor people’s religion

7 08 2019

There is a difference especially in the First World between religion as concern for the poor and religion of the poor. In my experience, especially in Mexican-American barrios in the United States, when people get religion or return to religion, they often never stray back into Catholicism but instead go to evangelical churches in storefronts or megachurches. These churches often lack a “social conscience”. Though most of the people who attend them are poor or working class, that’s not the focus of their identity or mission. While they are often built on social aide or prison outreach, the focus isn’t on the societal causes of their condition (think Archbishop Camara’s idea of helping the poor vs. asking why there are poor people), but rather on how Jesus can help people out of their condition, how their condition was caused by bad or sinful decisions, and so forth. Read the rest of this entry »





On Catholic authors

16 05 2019

A perhaps unpopular take that I had recently is that, in the English-speaking world, erudite Catholics used literature to replace an actual Catholic culture. Or perhaps a better way to put it is that they use literature to make up for the fact that English does not have a Catholic culture in which to speak. While certain convert authors seem to be popular elsewhere (for example, I know Tolkien and Chesterton have a following in the Catholic right in Latin America, mainly for their fiction), in general the concerns of the Catholic mind elsewhere have little to do with authors who originally wrote in English. I don’t really think that people in Catholic countries consider certain authors to be “Catholic authors,” but mainly just authors, or the role of literature is somewhat muted viz. their Faith. Read the rest of this entry »





The Benedict Option

6 02 2019

I have mulled over doing a review of this book that I recently read, and I am still not sure I can do it justice. The difficulty that I am finding is addressing the complexity and nuance of Dreher’s description of the problem of the contemporary conservative Christian malaise. The book draws inspiration from the last line of Catholic philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre’s book, After Virtue, wherein he contrasts the violent revolutionary Trotsky to the humble quiet movement of the monastic founder, St. Benedict. Dreher visits monastic communities as well as quasi-monastic lay communities that are trying to live a devout traditional life in the midst of the maelstrom of change that is 21st century society. Dreher, both in this book and on his widely-read blog, continues to document the perceived persecution of conservative Christians (Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox) who refuse to go along with the liberal sexual politics of the modern era, among other changes. Read the rest of this entry »





Pop

4 01 2019

This could be a contrarian post about how I once hated pop music but now I sort of like it (in moderation), but that would be expected. Recently I got around to reading John Seabrook’s book, The Song Machine, that is inside look at how most Top 40 songs have been made in the last two decades. Briefly, many of these songs are the work of a group of Swedish producers who work in a highly formulaic and methodical manner. Many of them are the product of a superior musical education program in that country, and some like Max Martin didn’t even start out in pop music. Seabrook even confesses at the beginning of the book being more of a rock critic, but saw an opportunity to investigate a phenomenon that he found obnoxious.

If pop music sounds like it’s in a bit of a time warp, as in songs haven’t changed much in the past 20 years, it’s because it’s probably because of the same people producing them. Compare music from 40 years ago on the radio to songs from 20 years ago and you might start getting the gist of this. From groups like Ace of Base and the Backstreet Boys forward, we are talking about the same cadre of producers, with some additions here and there. We also see that music has been revolutionized due to digital downloads, the Internet, and YouTube.

These are commonly known problems. The question I am left with is: Is the music any good? Is it a profound affront to actual music, as many people adamantly protest? I think a more interesting question concerns its universality. We all know the secrets if we forced ourselves to think about it: familiar beats, an infectious hook, and near-obnoxious mass marketing. It turns out that people like hearing what is familiar, even if they hate a particular song at first. How does one measure a song that has been viewed, listened to, or downloaded millions of times against a work by Bach or Couperin that may have been performed in a church a couple of times during their lifetimes, and perhaps only occasionally in concert halls now? Does scale ever factor into the consideration? Can one at least admire a little the global apparatus that is the “Song Machine”? Is that not a tremendous work of art in itself?

 





Dudamel

22 11 2018

I remember being quite moved at a YouTube video of Dudamel conducting Mahler’s Eighth. A very laudable endeavor.





Pandit Pran Nath

20 04 2018

Finally, people are posting stuff on youtube regarding the master of Indian vocal music.





Some Golijov

13 04 2018

From The Dreams and Prayers of Isaac the Blind





Who knows?

13 01 2017

Who knows what is going on on the other side of each hour?

How many times the sunrise was
there, behind a mountain!

How many times the brilliant cloud piling up far off
was already a golden body full of thunder!

This rose was poison.

That sword gave life.

I was thinking of a flowery meadow
at the end of a road,
and found myself in the slough.

I was thinking of the greatness of what was human,
and found myself in the divine.

-Juan Ramón Jiménez, as translated by Robert Bly

found on this site

image found on this site