30 September 2008

quote of the day ...

Posted by at 4:59 PM

[...] I feel sorry for Sarah [Palin]. McCain has sucked her into an "opportunity" akin to a sub-prime mortgage situation on a house she cannot afford.

some guy named Larry on a forum


22 September 2008

a few statistics ...

Posted by at 11:53 AM

Did you know? . . .

  • There are over 13 million Mormons worldwide?
  • There are more Mormons in the CIA and the FBI than members of any other religion?
  • There are 3,000 Mosques and Muslim community centers in the U.S., over half of which were founded just in the last twenty years . . . and that there are over seven million Muslims in the U.S.?
  • One third of incarcerated African-Americans are converts to the Muslim faith?

Did you know? . . .

  • The second largest belief group in the U.S. is "the non-religious" or the "un-churched" (i.e. secular, humanist, atheist, agnostic). The total number of non-religious or non-affiliated is roughly 16%, or 48 million people. That outnumbers Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, and every other faith tradition except Christianity. It's also more than the number of African-Americans or gays and lesbians in this country. 

Did you know? . . .

  • There is only one openly agnostic/atheist or secular congressman or senator? Rep. Bernie Sanders (Vermont independent—go figure :) 

Did you know? ...

  • 73% of Statesians responded in a Gallup poll in 2005 that they believe in the paranormal?
  • 41% believe in E.S.P?
  • 37% believe that houses can be haunted by ghosts?
  • One quarter of all Statesians believe in astrology?
  • The poll also shows that 42%, nearly half, believe that people can sometimes be possesed by the devil?


15 September 2008

a proposition for those who won't vote ...

Posted by at 1:21 AM

I've heard a couple of people say that they won't vote in the presidential election this time around.

If for whatever reason (anger, disillusionment, apathy) this is you, I'd like to propose the following solution.

If you are reading this then you are on a computer and have access to the internet, which means that you have access to millions and millions of people around the world. We all have had occasion to interact online with people from remote parts of the world. Friends, colleagues, religious fellowships. Surely we all have some person whom we like and trust to some degree and whose friendship we value. 

My challenge to you, if you insist on not casting a vote this November, is simply this:

Choose a single non-american you trust and/or love (and possibly whom you haven't discussed the issue with yet, though this need not be a prerequisite—I'm just brainstorming here ;) and give your vote to that person. In other words, ask the person you choose who they would vote for if they could vote.  Then resign yourself to voting on their behalf. That way, no American is given two votes. 
Or perhaps you can give your vote to your American son or daughter who is not yet old enough to vote. Or perhaps to a former convict who has lost his right by a court mandate. 

You get the idea. 
Find someone who doesn't currently have a voting privilege and give THEM the power to influence the immediate future of history, albeit in some miniscule, seemingly insignificant way. They will appreciate the opportunity. There are people in the world who would kill or die for the right to vote for the powers that be.
It matters to them, even if it might not to you.
Ultimately, giving your vote to a trusted soul is infinitely better than cynically choosing to not vote at all. 
Don't you think?

Please consider it.




14 September 2008

two concertos and Transylvanian folk

Posted by at 4:51 AM

I attended a performance by the Phoenix Symphony last night. It was my first time in at least two or three years and my first time since they completed construction of the new Symphony Hall. Nice place. Good acoustic design. The sound of the orchestra was clear, focused.

The concert was part of the inagural World Music Festival. First up—a gesture of patriotic solidarity:

  • John Stafford Smith (1779—1836) - The Star Spangled Banner (arr. Toscanini)

The audience was encouraged to sing along, so I did, timidly at first, but more forcefully by the time the rockets red-glared.

  • Töru Takemitsu (1931-1996) - "Day Signal"
    from Signals from Heaven I
  • Takemitsu - Three Film Scores
    1. "Music of Training and Rest" from Jose Torres
    2. "Funeral Music" from Black Rain
    3. "Waltz" from Face of Another
  • Takemitsu - "Night Signal"
    from Signals from Heaven II

I was previously unfamiliar with the work of this Japanese-born composer. I particularly enjoyed the film music pieces, one of which reminded me of Gerwshin harmonically and melodically, but with an understated rhythmic vagueness which made it delightfully ambiguous. The waltz piece was interesting in that it was simultaneously traditional (none of the motifs would have sounded out of place in 19th century Vienna) yet harmonically adventurous, modulating between keys freely.

  • Lou Harrison (1917-2003) - Concerto for Pipa
    Wu Man, pipa

I quite enjoyed watching Ms. Wu Man play her pipa, a pear-shaped four-stringed fretted Chinese lute. I love to watch a musician really get into it like she does. The concerto was written especially for her and her flawless confident execution shows an intimate familiarity with it. Particularly notable is the fact that this is not a patchwork quilt of traditional Chinese folk melodies accompanied by orchestra; this is a texturally-rich piece which utilizes chromatically shifting harmonies in a way that evokes Chinese music while expanding its traditional pentatonic palatte. I suspect that the tone of the instrument itself is a major contributing factor in this evocation of the far east in the listener.

A master of her instrument, Wu Man's playing is nuanced and complex.


  • Musical Selections (announced from the stage)
    featuring Romashka, a gypsy folk troupe

Romashka played several tunes from the eastern European traditions, including Romania, Transilvania, Hungary and Russia. Although I enjoyed their enthusiasm and I am a big fan of Easter-European folk music, the ensemble had to be amplified (unlike the orchestra, needless to say) and it felt like the sound was not quite dialed in at first. This was a slight distraction but once whoever was mixing sound got it together they pulled off a pretty good performance.

  • Béla Bartók - Concerto for Orchestra

This being the only one of the pieces that I was familiar with before the concert, and considering that it's already a standard of many (if not most) orchestra repertoires, I won't say much about it, except to say that I was impressed by this orchestra's range and control of dynamics. Well done.

For an encore, the orchestra was joined by Romashka AND by Ms. Man (who approached the music with the same verve as she did in the concerto which featured her) for a rendition of an old Hungarian folk tune arranged for both the ensemble and the orchestra. At the end of the piece, Romashka continued playing, segueing into what sounded like the familiar klezmer theme that opens "Fiddler on the Roof" and proceeded to keep playing as they walked off the stage toward the lobby where the audience was invited to join them for another set of music and dance.



12 September 2008

namings . . .

Posted by at 12:57 PM

I recently perused Tal Ilan's catalogue of naming frequencies in ancient Judea after reading Bauckham's "Eyewitnesses" book. The fact that the people in that place and at that time seemed to have held to a traditional naming convention with a relatively limited pool of names to choose from makes an interesting contrast with a list of names in use by the English Puritans of the late sixteenth/early seventeenth centuries. They were so obsessed with scripture that they chose words and phrases from Holy Writ as names for their children. Lower's English Surnames reports that a jury list from Sussex County included these specimens:

  • Faint-not Hewitt
  • Redeemed Compton
  • God-reward Smart
  • Meek Brewer
  • Peace-of-God Knight
  • Kill-sin Pimple
  • Be-faithful Juniper
  • Seek-wisdom Wood
  • Make-peace Heaton
  • Stand-fast-on-high Stringer
  • Search-the-scripture Moreton
  • Weep-not Billing
  • Fight-the-good-fight-of-faith White

I can't help but imagine some somber plainly-clad parishioner opening the good book and randomly pointing to a verse to use as a name of his/her newborn child.

My mom recently told me that there's a Dominican immigrant couple in her neighborhood that, although they don't speak English, decided to name their child "Christophertwelveseventeen" just because they liked the sound of it. The couple's name-choice seems a strange decision until one stands away a step or two and realizes that it is essentially a cargo cult-like expression of their hope for their child. Its "sounds" like success in the American dream to this couple and so they go with it. I've often wondered how much the names we give our children can affect their lives. I have a friend whose name is Dowell (do-well) and he's done pretty well, I must say, so maybe there is something to it.




Bartók at the Phoenix Symphony ...

Posted by at 3:32 AM
The Heritage of World Folk
Saturday, September 13, 2008, 8pm
at Symphony Hall
  • Romashka Gypsy Folk Troupe, Special Guests
  • Michael Christie, Conductor
  • Wu Man, Chinese pipa
As a part of The Phoenix Symphony’s inaugural World Music Festival, the orchestra explores folk music from across the globe including the exotic sounds of the Chinese pipa and the Hungarian folk songs disguised in Bartók’s mesmerizing Concerto for Orchestra. The concert also features colorful songs from the Romashka Gypsy Folk Troupe.

TAKEMITSU - Signals from Heaven
TAKEMITSU - Three Film Scores
HARRISON - Pipa Concerto
BARTÓK - Concerto for Orchestra

11 September 2008

victimology (and other hypocrisies)

Posted by at 6:00 AM

The latest revealing of Carl "Turdblossom" Rove as a two-faced knave in the beginning of this video is (once again) spot on.

Why is it that the only commentators to dare to be this perceptive—to be this honest—are on a comedy network? Don't the news media realize how ridiculously sycophantic they are by comparison?



08 September 2008

weird Jesuses #4

Posted by at 5:12 PM

I love this woodcut I came across.

(from Deeper in me than I)


07 September 2008

quote of the day ...

Posted by at 7:05 PM

"I think our third child is this campaign."

Michelle Obama, wife of Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama, when asked by Ellen DeGeneres whether they would have another child.

06 September 2008

Open question for NT scholars #2 ...

Posted by at 10:12 AM

The passion narratives contain a little detail which I'd like to focus on: the high priest tears his own garments upon hearing Jesus blaspheme.

GMatt's version (26:62–65 . . . c.f. GMark 14: 60–62)
"And the high priest stood up and said, "Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?"
But Jesus was silent.
And the high priest said to him, "I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God."
Jesus said to him, "You have said so. But I tell you, hereafter you will see the Son of man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven."
Then the high priest tore his robes, and said, "He has uttered blasphemy. Why do we still need witnesses? You have now heard his blasphemy."

I first heard this story as a child and have always thought that this was an expression of righteous indignation on the part of the high priest, that it was a response to Jesus' blasphemy, and indeed, it is just that in the gospel narrative. However, I recently searched the Hebrew scriptures for instances where this symbolic gesture appears. It turns out that in the Tanach there are many places where people tear their garments, but in every single case this act is an expression of deep sorrow—(1 Samuel 15:22–23, and 1 Kings 11:29–35 for a couple of examples). Never is it an expression of anger or indignation.

So I come to yet another crossroad:

  • Either the author of GMark was completely uninformed (or misinformed) about the meaning of this symbol in the scriptures . . . . . or
  • He is deliberately coopting the symbol to add drama to the narrative (incorrectly though it may be)—to add injury to insult, so to speak.
The former shows a lack of understanding of the written traditions. The latter reveals a bit of guile.
Coincidentally, these were the same conclusions I came to in my previous open question #1. As in that post, the "question" is not really technically a question. The question mark lies instead in the anomalies involved in each. The question, in effect, is a general, "what gives?"


© quixotic infidel (the) is powered by Blogger - Template designed by Stramaxon - Best SEO Template