Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Jimmy Fallon On Why He Doesn't Go to Church

Comedian and former altar boy Jimmy Fallon talks with Terry Gross (story) (transcript) about why he doesn't go to Church anymore:
GROSS: Do you still go to church?

Mr. FALLON: I don't go to - I tried to go back. When I was out in L.A. and I was like kind of struggling for a bit I went to church for a while, but it's kind of, it's gotten gigantic now for me. It's like too, there's a band. There's a band there now and you got to, you have to hold hands with people through the whole mass now, and I don't like doing that. You know, I mean it used to be the shaking hands piece was the only time you touched each other.

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Mr. FALLON: Now I'm holding now I'm lifting people. Like Simba.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. FALLON: I'm holding them (Singing) ha nah hey nah ho.

(Speaking) I'm I'm doing too much. I don't want - there's Frisbees being thrown, there's beach balls going around, people waving lighters, and I go this is too much for me. I want the old way. I want to hang out with the, you know, with the nuns, you know, that was my favorite type of mass, and the Grotto and just like straight up, just mass-mass.
Sure, some of this is comic bluster, but it's not all shtick.

Monday, May 23, 2011

"The Best Guitar Mass"

This past Sunday, we had a Solemn Mass and Benediction (with a Te Deum) in the afternoon at Holy Innocents (no Vespers this week) in thanksgiving for Fr. James Miara's 10th anniversary of ordination.  

The choir sang Palestrina's Missa Papae Marcelli for the ordinary and the schola (including your faithful correspondent) the Gregorian propers.  At the offertory, the choir sang Gregor Aichinger's Regina Cœli with accompaniment on lute and baroque guitar, causing a friend to quip, "That's the best guitar Mass I've ever attended." I'd embed a performance of the piece from YouTube, but I don't like any of them.

Picture above via Teddy Barboza. I'll link to more photos if they become available.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

This Beats the Submerged Gong

The New York Times reported last Sunday on a production of "Sonntag", the final opera in Karlheinz Stockhausen's seven opera "Licht" cycle.

The article notes that
Despite several attempts no company has found a way to pull off “Mittwoch” (“Wednesday”), partly because it incorporates Stockhausen’s infamous “Helicopter String Quartet,” in which each member of the ensemble flies in a separate helicopter, but also because the music is so fiendishly difficult.
However, while the opera that contains it has not been mounted, the string quartet itself has been. A 1995 article from the Times describes a performance of the work:
As part of this summer's Holland Festival, the composer staged the premiere of the Helicopter Quartet, written for four string instruments and, no less, four helicopters.

The work took off from a field on the outskirts of Amsterdam, at the Westergasfabriek, a former gasworks that has become a theater. Here, in the gentle evening light last month, Mr. Stockhausen said goodbye to the members of the Arditti String Quartet as each went off to his own helicopter and pilot.

Somewhat bemused, the audience stayed behind in the theater, with Mr Stockhausen in their midst, directing the event. At a large control table, he mixed the video images and the haunting tremolos that were sent down from the heavens and projected into the theater. Other sets of microphones picked up the whir of the motorblades, also delivering them to the composer's mixing desk. The audience could follow the event through banks of loudspeakers and television monitors that carried images from cameras aboard the aircraft.
The concert's four helicopter pilots belong to a stunt team of the Dutch Air Force known as the Grasshoppers, but the composer declared them to be musicians because the sounds of their engines were an intrinsic part of the highly detailed score. The pilots "played," so to speak, as their aircraft changed speed or turned, maneuvers that to the keen ear yielded different timbres from the rotorblades. It had taken several days of testing to know which microphone position on the rotor would yield the most desirable rendering.
Here's some video from another performance:

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The American Colonel Who Spared Chartres

Chartres Cathedral is (as you all know) one of the world's greatest architectural and spiritual monuments. It survived a plot to blow it up during the French Revolution. Less well known, is that it came close to being badly damaged by shelling during the Second World War. Worried that its tower was being used to direct attacks against the allied forces, an artillery attack was planned. Colonel Welborn Griffith volunteered to go enter the city and determine whether the Cathedral was occupied by Axis forces. It wasn't and the Cathedral was spared further damage, unlike the ancient Abbey of Monte Cassino, which was leveled in the fighting in Italy.

Shortly after his reconnaissance, Col. Griffith was killed in action. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross:
The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress July 9, 1918, takes pride in presenting the Distinguished Service Cross (Posthumously) to Colonel Welborn Barton Griffith, Jr. (ASN: 0-16194), United States Army, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed enemy while serving as Operations Officer (G-3) with Headquarters, XX Corps, in action against enemy forces on 16 August 1944 at Chartres and Leves, France. On 16 August 1944, Colonel Griffith entered the city of Chartres, France, in order to check the actual locations and dispositions of units of the *** Armored Division which was occupying the city. Upon observing fire being directed at the cathedral in the center of the city, with utter disregard for his own safety, Colonel Griffith, accompanied by an enlisted man, searched the cathedral and finding that there were no enemy troops within, signaled for cessation of fire. Continuing his inspection of outlying positions north of the city, he suddenly encountered about fifteen of the enemy. He fired several shots at them, then proceeded to the nearest outpost of our forces at which point a tank was located. Arming himself with an M-1 rifle and again with complete disregard for his own safety, Colonel Griffith climbed upon the tank directing it to the enemy forces he had located. During the advance of the tank he was exposed to intense enemy machinegun, rifle, and rocket-launcher fire and it was during this action, in the vicinity of Leves, France, that he was killed.

General Orders: Headquarters, Third U.S. Army, General Orders No. 75 (1944)

Action Date: 16-Aug-44

Service: Army

Rank: Colonel

Company: Headquarters

Division: XX Corps
via Jay Nordlinger's post to The Corner. Citation via Military Times.

Monday, May 09, 2011

An Extreme Test

I came across a waiver for participation in a sporting event that starts with this language:
I acknowledge that this sport is an extreme test of a person’s physical and mental limits and carries with it the potential for death, serious injury and property loss.
What sport you ask? Ski jumping? Paragliding? NASCAR? Nope, it's Pétanque.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Sandburg the Surrealist (and other attributes...)

Last Sunday, I picked up a copy of the Carl Sandburg anthology, Harvest Poems: 1910-1960 from one of the booksellers who have tables on the west side of Broadway in the 70's.

Though others of his poems, particularly "Grass"—and his biography of Lincoln—are well know Sandburg is perhaps best remembered by the wider public for his widely anthologized poem "Fog":
THE fog comes
on little cat feet.

It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.
That's not entirely typical of the poetry in this anthology though, much of which is closely observed and focused on industrial, not natural, topics.  For instance in "Psalm of Those Who Go Forth Before Daylight"
The rolling-mill men and the sheet-steel men are brothers of
cinders; they empty cinders out of their shoes after the
days work; they ask their wives to fix burnt holes in the
knees of their trousers; their necks and ears are covered
wit a smut; they scour their necks and ears; they are
brothers of cinders.
[Sadly I don't have the html skillz to reproduce the formatting. Each line after the first is indented.]

The tone of some of these poems compares in a way to Peter Maurin's Easy Essays, but without the direct didacticism.  I think this is partly a result of their shared fondness for the word "they".  For instance in Maurin's "Selling Their Labor"
When the workers
sell their labor
to the capitalists
or accumulators of labor
they allow the capitalists
or accumulators of labor
to accumulate their labor.
And when the capitalists
or accumulators of labor
have accumulated so much
of the workers’ labor
that they do no longer
find it profitable
to buy the workers’ labor
then the workers
can no longer sell their labor
to the capitalists
or accumulators of labor.
And when the workers
can no longer
sell their labor
to the capitalists
or accumulators of labor
they can no longer buy
the products of their labor.
And that is what the workers get
for selling their labor.
I found an amusing irony in "Number Man". Sandburg dedicates this poem "for the ghost of Johann Sebastian Bach".
He was born to wonder about numbers.

He balanced fives against tens
and made them sleep together
and love each other.
He mananged eights and nines,
gave them prophet beards,
marched them into mists and mountains.

He added all the numbers he knew,
multiplied them by new-found numbers
and called it a prayer of Numbers.
He knew love numbers, luck numbers,
how the sea and the stars
are made and held by numbers
The irony is that Bach's music is highly numerical and Sandburg, despite paying tribute to this quality in Bach, writes free verse that aggressively spurns meter, the analogical quality in poetry.

So finally the surrealism, which prompted this post in the first place, it's a bit from "Arithmetic". After reading a whole bunch of poems like "Psalm of Those Who Go Forth Before Daylight" (quoted above), I was not expecting something like this:
If you have two animal crackers, one good and one bad, and you eat one and a striped
zebra with streaks all over him eats the other, how many animal crackers will you
have if somebody offers you five six seven and you say No no no and you say Nay
nay nay and you say Nix nix nix?
Wrapping up, a couple words on this edition. It features an adequate preface by Mark Van Doren (who was an important influence on Thomas Merton and who is perhaps today not as much remembered as his son Charles Van Doren) focusing on Sandburg's humor and a valuable excerpt from Sandburg's own "Notes for a Preface" from his Complete Poems.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Trees and the Abbey

On their blog, the Sons of the Most Holy Redeemer have an interesting angle on the trees used to decorate Westminster Abbey for the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge:
It is related of the confessor Dom John Baptist de Feckenham, the last Abbot of Westminster, that he was engaged in planting Elm trees when he was handed the message which, by an act of Parliament, dissolved his monastery and exiled the monks.

The bearer remarked, with a significant smile, that he had planted those trees in vain; for neither he nor his monks would enjoy them.

“Not in vain,” answered the saintly Abbot. “Those who come after me may, perhaps, be scholars and lovers of retirement; and whilst walking under the shade of these trees they may sometimes think of the olden religion of England and the last Abbot of this place.” And he went on with his planting.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

May Day!

A Friend's Photo

This year we hit the flowering tree sweet spot for Easter.