Monthly Archives: February 2006

Carnival!

I’m not doing much to celebrate the Carnival season, I’m afraid. But this page (despite the totally loopy Cinderella solar myth theory!) has some traditional Nice carnival tunes, so enjoy them.

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A Copt’s Blog

It seems that one of my neighbors over here on wordpress.com is of Coptic Egyptian (Christian) heritage. She has posted quite a lot on the various (discriminatory and disturbing) doings in Egypt these days which are making Copts’ lives even more difficult than usual. So you may want to take a look at her blog, The Anti-Socialite.

Also, here’s a word about WordPress’ new tagging system. If you click on the “Categories” in the sidebar of a blog, you get taken to posts on that blog which have the same subject. But if you click on the little tagword links right underneath a post, you will go to a list of posts on that subject from all the blogs on wordpress.com. (A bit Livejournal-y, but guess who owns WordPress?) This can be a useful feature, as long as you know how to use it. or just a good way to surf around at random. That’s how I found my Coptic neighborblog.
(And if I actually categorize my posts over here, which I haven’t yet done… it could now bring me more traffic. It could also bring me sudden attacks of clique-y people or trolls. I guess we’ll see what happens.)

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Chasubles — Why the Heck Not?

Since I’m way too lazy to register to comment anywhere, much less Bettnet, I’m going to comment on this chasuble controversy here.

The basic reason why we have rules in the Church about how to do Mass is not to stifle priests’ or liturgists’ creativity or to make the Mass harder. We have rules because it’s a darned sight easier to celebrate a prayerful, respectful Mass with a quiet mind, if the Church as a whole clearly defines what a respectful Mass is and gives you a manual. Otherwise, everybody has to worry and scurry about what the right thing is to do.

Now, I don’t have vestment names on the tip of my tongue or anything, but it seems to me that, although I like stoles as much as anyone, if the rules say you’re supposed to wear them only on the inside of your chasuble, then that’s the way you should wear them. If people’ve been doing as long as I’ve been alive (and they have), then they really ought to stop.
I suppose you’re still allowed to have a warm feeling of godliness about the hidden beauty of your embroidered stole. Probably your parishioners will not have a warm feeling about it, if they ever find out they raised money for, and gave presents of, liturgically useless stoles. *smile which shows teeth* Yeah, yeah, all the cool priests were doin’ it…. Well, back then, people had a hard time finding copies of Vatican documents. Now they’re as close as our computers. Not to be fashion police or anything, but as the Manolo says, “Do the superfantastically right thing.”
Okay, so now you still want a note of color. Well, as far as I can see, there’s nothing stopping anybody from having all kinds of decorated chasubles, as long as they’re in the right liturgical colors.

But we don’t have any colorful chasubles. Ours are all plain, you say.

And? Don’t you remember Jesus’ injunction to be as crafty as serpents? You have lots of crafty people in your parish, I guarantee.
We used to have vestment guilds for this sort of thing, but that requires dedication and persuasion. My plan is a quick-start plan; you can start the vestment guild from that.
1. Run a vestment-making contest. Provide a chasuble pattern and a list of contest rules. Contest rules will basically consist of the rules and guidelines for chasubles. The contest has two stages — a design contest for what designs go on the chasuble, and a chasuble-making contest which utilizes the designs. All finished entries that follow the rules will become property of the parish — no, part of the parish’s heritage and legacy. If you really hate a chasuble, you do like everybody’s mother does and keep it but put it away.

2. Commission fancy chasubles. Not from some stupid company, either. You go to a seamstress or tailor, or a costumer experienced in making solid, long-lasting costumes. Among your parishioners, you probably include a Civil War reenactor or a medieval/Renaissance one. They will almost certainly know someone with a solid reputation who’s experienced in researching, following the historical rules, obtaining high-quality fabric for cheap, and designing and sewing with materials like brocade, velvet, silk, and linen. Such people often accept commissions for far more complicated projects than vestments. (Hmm. Chasuble versus an Elizabethan dress with a big ruff and all the other accessories. Easy money….) You will pay a good price, but it will almost certainly be cheaper than from a company and better quality, too. Your reenactor vestment maker will get bragging rights, still more clothing experience, and the fun of having a great excuse to work with high-quality fabric. (But don’t forget to oversee their designs, too.)
(And if you were really evil, you’d run an SCA vestment-making contest and get them to do it for free. Or you could get someone to run a vestment-making workshop at your parish, and get them to pay you!)
So don’t let me hear people whining about this stuff. I want to hear people being happy about the wonderful opportunity they’ve been given to follow the rules, show increased honor to Our Lord, and have fun!

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Lebanese-American Catholic Novelists

Conventional wisdom apparently holds that Zeinab 1914, a novel by an Egyptian man named Mohammed Hussayn Haykal which was published in 1914 in Cairo, was the first novel written in Arabic.

However, at least 13 earlier novels written in Arabic have been found. Mostly written by women. (Heh!) The earliest, Husn Alawqab (The Best Results), was written by a Lebanese woman, Zeinab Fawaz, and published in Cairo in 1899.

Many of the others were written by Lebanese Catholic women, and serialized in New York’s Al-Huda newspaper. Labiba Sawayya wrote one called Hasna’ Salunik, which I can’t find anything more about. Afifa Karam (aka Mrs. Afifa Hanna, or Mrs. Afifa Karam John) wrote Badia and Fouad, published in 1906. In the context of a shipboard romance on a boat sailing from Lebanon to New York, it apparently examines all sorts of concerns of women and immigrants.

Afifa Karam herself apparently gained some literary notice as a writer of several novels, reporter, magazine owner/editor, and translator. She’s mentioned in the old Catholic Encyclopedia, has her bio mentioned here, and had a very nice obituary in her retirement town, Shreveport, Louisiana.

It sounds as though we have some hidden treasures of our Catholic and immigrant heritage which we might like to explore. So if anybody out there knows Arabic and needs a subject for his or her thesis….

Beyond that, UD points out that there are tons of early American Catholic novels which were serialized in the various ethnic or religious newspapers and magazines. Kathy Shaidle has a point about the sometimes-excessive American and Canadian Catholic love for Chesterton and Belloc and Lewis and Sayers and Tolkien. But we don’t have a lot of alternatives to them in accessible form, now, do we?

Well, maybe a few, as this article points out. And a few folks who are famous writers who are from Catholic backgrounds, or became Catholic. But I sure didn’t learn about those folks’ Catholic connection in English class, did you?
So the thing to do is to find out which books are Catholic literature that you didn’t know were, and which forgotten books are “lost classics”, and then let people know about both categories. I don’t know that there are a lot of lost literary gems there, but… there’s something to be said for actually getting to read anything that’s decent American Catholic fiction. A little comfort read, a little potboiler… yeah, I could go for that.

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Many Voices

I don’t usually get to do much reporting or reviewing on my blog. Tonight, however, I attended a rather unique event. What was wrong with it can probably be predicted by its excessively long title: “One Body! One Voice! A Musical Celebration of Diversity and Unity”. But what was right with it was in that title also. It really was a celebration of diversity and unity.

Over the last decade, the Miami Valley Catholic Church Musicians have done some pretty amazing things. There’s a choir festival every year, an organ festival sometimes, and there have been church musicals put on. They run several combined choirs, too. Perhaps most importantly, they raise money for music scholarships for Catholic kids. However, we also tend to get a lot of Haugen and Haas from them, which is not so great. So I was a bit dubious about going to said choir festival this year. (Our choir wasn’t in it, but our music director does try to let us know about what’s going on.)

However, the choir festival this year was going to feature the Lithuanian choir from Holy Cross, the Vietnamese choir from Sacred Heart, the Rwandan Catholic Choir of Dayton (which I hadn’t known existed), the gospel choir from St. Benedict the Moor, and the Hispanic Catholic Ministry Choir from Holy Trinity. So I was pretty sure that the “Rock’n Soul” choir from the rock LifeTeen Mass over at Immaculate Conception could be survived.

So I persuaded my parents to come with me. Holy Angels was crowded with parents, friends, and other church music rubberneckers like me, but we found a pew. The annoying thing was that so many parents and friends were gretting each other that it drowned out the cello prelude. Even shushing didn’t work. Sigh.

The program was apparently planned to teach theology, because the first few numbers were definitely Purgatorial. “One Spirit, One Church” was performed by the Festival Choir. They did a good job with it, but the song itself just didn’t work. I mean, what songwriter in his or her right mind would contrast his or her own choruses with a classic, by alternating them with verses from “Come, Holy Ghost”? And even if you felt that maniacal — how could you even contemplate writing first about “we are the church” before praying “Come, Holy Ghost”? Without the Holy Spirit, it’s a bit hard to be the Church! Sigh.

The next song was a very nice “Ubi Caritas” in Latin by one James Biery. I liked it.

The next feature was repeated throughout the evening. The “Jubilee Singers” sang various Alleluia settings to cover the time spent changing choirs. Not the worst idea to do something like this, especially since people were so chatty and prone to noise. But. First off, the alleluias usually grated, since many of the settings were Teh Ch33z, and sung even more cheesily. Second, the musical styles fought with each other. Third, most of them either stole momentum by slowing things down drastically, or broke an atmosphere of tranquillity by doing something loud and happy clappy. Sigh.

On the gripping hand, I did learn some new alleluias which will probably be coming my way sooner or later, the cheesy singers made me feel better about my own skills, and there was an extremely lovely setting which was sung very beautifully, toward the end. So.

The next group was the aforementioned LifeTeen Mass group. I will say first off that they had decent musical skills, and performed with great earnestness. It is not their fault that they gave me flashbacks to the early eighties. And if power ballads and soft rock have a high place in people’s devotion, clearly it’s not my business to quarrel with how God reaches their hearts. However, they really really need to choose better music. Really. “With You by My Side” and “Better Than Life” were…

Well, there’s a band out in DC called Da Vinci’s Notebook. Said band does a song called “Title of the Song”, which carefully lays out the standard songwriting principles of how to write a boy band ballad. The arrangement likewise epitomizes every cliche’d riff needed by a boy band song.

“With You by My Side” and “Better Than Life” perform a similar service for soft rock and power ballads, respectively. It was amazing how no detail was neglected. Unfortunately, they were intended to be serious church music. Sigh.

But then it was time for Holy Cross Lithuanian Choir. They sang from the back of the church, against the back wall of the nave, and they didn’t need any steenkin’ microphones. (With Holy Angels’ acoustics, nobody should, really.) They were just amazing, and brought tears to my eyes with the Marian hymn “Sveika Marija” (in Lithuanian), “Hymn to Our Lady of Siluva” (in English), and “Pergales Kristui” (a patriotic hymn in Lithuanian, and to the tune of “Ode to Joy”). “Hymn to Our Lady of Siluva” was particularly moving because it told of a Marian apparition calling people to come back to the Church, and prays for that in the final verse. Obviously, this is very moving in today’s world. I also liked the line about “bring us to our Mother’s house, where we eat the Bread of Life”.

Next came the combined children’s choir. The kids did a wonderful job with some fairly intricate material. They also did a spiritual which had been white breadified, but… aeh. If you direct a kids’ choir, I suppose that resistance to the cute factor is difficult.

Dianne Coble and the Gospel Sounds is an interdenominational choir (aimed at prison ministry, but also singing at nursing homes, churches, etc.) hosted at St. Benedict the Moor. The parish also has its own choir, but for unknown reasons, it didn’t show. (Possibly cut for length.) “Midnight Cry” and “The Best Is Yet to Come” were both good songs done well.

Here we enter the weird zone. The same people who clapped along like maniacs for the Immaculate Conception band… didn’t clap along with the gospel songs. They listened, they seemed to like, but they didn’t clap. Or sing along when directed. Sigh. Now I did follow directions, mostly because I have been trained by participation in my company’s Black History Month gospel choir. (Apparently defunct this year, the first year in years I’ve had time during February. Sigh, sigh, sigh.) Because I did what I was supposed to do, my mother kept poking me and telling me not to clap or sing! I’m telling you, you can’t win. (Or sway. Or put your shoulders into clapping, even.)

Then we got the Sacred Heart folks, who tonight were actually some sort of Dayton/Cincinnati Vietnamese choir. (The Sacred Heart folks will do the Sunday performance.)

I am telling you, this Vietnamese church music wasn’t like anything else you’ve ever heard. Imagine a lead soprano with an incredibly pure and flexible voice, a little kid playing pretty darned good violin, and a choir singing music with a dash of France and a big helping of the Orient. I could have listened to them forever. As a matter of fact, they only did two songs: “Cao Voi Khon Vi” (Incomparable Greatness), which they described as having the same sort of cultural significance as “Amazing Grace” does; and a “Vietnamese-style chant” setting of the Magnificat. Seriously, folks, do not miss any chance you have to hear choral Vietnamese church music. It had me crying again.

Then we got the Rwandan Catholic Choir of Dayton. They turned out to be equally amazing, in their own way. Their first song, “Ni Iki Watanze”, was a thanksgiving to God for saving them from the massacres. It had that sort of field recording tribal folk song sound, but was accompanied by a tape of a zydeco-style accordion. I have to admit that I would love to learn this one. Next, they sang a Latin “Sanctus”. The French influences showed up more strongly in this one, but it was still very distinctly Rwandan. Finally, they sang a Marian hymn called “Tuzabyina Neza” (We Will Dance). And they did dance, too, first the women and then the men. Their liturgical dance didn’t look stupid. But it didn’t look like anything someone in generic American culture could do without looking stupid.

The Hispanic Catholic Ministry Choir sang “Alabare”, “Pescador de Hombres”, and “Humilde Nazarena”. They had the same gentle vocal style you often hear from mariachis singing slow songs. (Of course, it’s a lot easier to get that gentle vocal quality if you’re not singing bad English translations of those songs. And mariachis do sing Mexican hymns, too.) I remember hearing the choir back years ago when it had first started, and the vast improvement in quality between then and now is a tribute to the choir’s hard work and dedication.

The MVCCM folks started to ask for money, and the MVCCM Instrumental Ensemble got to do something by themselves after accompanying everybody else all night: “Dank Sei die Herr” by Handel. It was wonderful.

Finally, the Festival Choir returned with a very nice and non-seventies arrangement of “Make Me a Channel of Your Peace”, and then wrapped up with everybody singing along with Christopher Walker’s “Laudate Dominum”. I like it. Everybody likes it. And everybody apparently sings only the Latin version of the refrain. Heh.

So that’s what happened. Big thumbs up to the Vietnamese, Rwandans, and Lithuanians, and a reasonably decent job done by all. I wish I’d tape-recorded it, though, because then I could have started learning the really nifty songs tomorrow, or even tonight. Sigh.

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My Favorite Winter Olympics Sports

1. Biathlon. After years of horrible non-coverage, we finally get to see decent camera work and get decent commentary on the world’s only skiing-and-shooting sport. (The practicality of which was demonstrated by the Finns in WWII.) What’s more, they’re even running it all in real time, like an actual race! Unfortunately, they’ve been running it at five in the morning. But who cares! Getting to see biathlon — and even women’s biathlon, for once! — is incredible! Makes me want to get skis and sling a rifle on my back. (Despite my total lack of hand/eye coordination or athletic ability.)

The interesting bit is that you can’t ski too fast, or you’ll be breathing so hard that you miss your shots! For every shot you miss, you add a whole minute to your time….

2. Curling. Possibly a little too much commentary on this one, but at least the commentators have cute accents and deep knowledge of the sport. Computer graphics were a real breakthrough for coverage.

3. Figure skating and ice dancing. If the people actually, like, move to the music, instead of just doing their tricks and moves mechanically.

4. Ski jumping. Hey, what’s not to like?

5. Luge, et al. Hey, it’s sledding. What’s not to like? Also, it includes the world’s only positive meaning for “chicane”.

6. Slaloms. So fun to watch! So fun to say!

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Olympics Blogs!

DFL — a blog about last place finishers at the Olympics. This is a brilliant idea, and I’m sorry I missed it during the Athens Summer Olympics. After all, it really is an honor just to participate at the Olympics. And as the blog slogan reminds us, “they’re there, and you’re not.”

The Gold Rush, for all your other Olympic blogging needs. Somebody’s spending a lot of time with news aggregators and Technorati.

The Knitting Olympics. Dang, I wish I had thought of that! (Of course, I also wish I was craft-y like that….) If you’re going to be sitting in front of the TV anyway, you might as well be doing something with your hands.

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