25 January 2015

Here and there

I attended my first Knights of Columbus meeting last week. I'd tell you about it, but then the Ninjas of Columbus would track me down and make me disappear.

***

I sang at Mass today. The music wasn't anything to write home about, one way or the other. Good and solid, but standard stuff. My wife requested that I sing Be Thou My Vision for Communion, and then Frodo got sick and she stayed home. I also intoned Alma Redemptoris Mater after Communion, as well as the proper antiphon in English before. I won't be singing again until Lent. The down side of Lent is that our hymnal doesn't have much. On the plus side of singing in Lent, I won't be singing that Gloria, so there's that.

***

Speaking of my singing, I don't often get feedback, but the other day a few people told me they wished I sang more often, or even that I became the only cantor for our Mass. They say they like hearing a male voice for a change. (I am one of three or four in a rotation, the only male and the only volunteer.) Being the only cantor would probably be a bad idea. They would get bored of me eventually and start longing for a female voice 'for a change', or I would get bored of me.

On the other hand, if I were the only cantor, I could insist we change the Mass setting from time to time...

***

Found this video last week. It's an example of 'hyperreal art'.



Here, then, is one of the differences between abstract and realistic art. In abstract art, either you get it or you don't; you either see something or you don't, and if you don't, there is nothing else to look at. But in well done realist art, even if you don't 'get it'- after all, a crushed coke can?- you can still admire and wonder at the skill and the technique of a near perfect representation.

Now I want to break out my pencils and try and draw a can of coke.

***

Incidentally, Frodo looked over my shoulder while I was watching that video, and then indicated that he wanted to see more like it, so we spent the better part of an hour together watching more of the hyperreal art videos. I wonder what he saw in them.

***

Lot of death in the news. Another Mountie has died, may he rest in peace. Toller Cranston has died, may he rest in peace. Fr. Richard McBrien has died, may he rest in peace.

***

Anyone else find themselves looking back on their lives and wishing they had told more people to go shove it? Or is it just me? Being nice to people generally just lead to them regarding me as weak and, eventually, screwing me over. Sometimes I think it might have been better to have been rude, struck first. Make them the doormat. Trying to be nice to people, getting along to get along, really never got me anything. On the other hand, it is better to endure a wrong than inflict one.

***

Anybody have anything else to add?

19 January 2015

On the embedded hypocrisy of movements

I saw this article over at Shea's today. In it he linked to this article at the New York Times. The NYT article, written by a man by the name of Frank Bruni and entitled: "Your God and My Dignity: Religious Liberty, Bigotry and Gays" is about the subject of how one person's rights of religious belief rub up against another person's right not to be discriminated against. Bruni's third last sentence is the source of Shea's article: "And I support the right of people to believe what they do and say what they wish — in their pews, homes and hearts."

Shea's response is straightforward:

In short, freedom of religion means religious believers can say and do as their conscience dictates in the public square. Freedom of worship means that religious believers need to go in the Closet and not come out unless Frank Bruni says so. It is piquant that he says this in a piece claiming that he is just all about religious liberty ‘n stuff... I remember when the NY Times was all about Tolerance and people coming out of the Closet. Of course, I also remember when the gay community was all about opposition to Bullying.


I agree with Shea's evaluation, and have little to add, so rather than dwell on that, I would like to move on and consider Bruni's final lines: "But outside of those places? You must put up with me, just as I put up with you."

The first thing I want to point out about these lines, apart from insisting that believers leave their beliefs at home, is his auxiliary verb in the final sentence- "must"- and where it occurs. It is the believers who "must" do as he says. Believers "must" put up with him, whereas there is no such imperative placed upon him. He will put up with believers out of the goodness of his heart, presumably. It is with this lopsided obligation that I will begin in earnest.

I have said before on this blog that I like people, but I don't like movements. perhaps that is weak: I actually despise movements, and I absolutely do not trust them. This includes movements with whom I have some sympathy. Every movement I have met I find to be dangerous- not only to me, but also and perhaps especially their own members. I also find most of them to be fundamentally hypocritical, though they don't seem to recognize the fact.

Most movements I am aware of begin with a simple sentiment, which can be expressed as follows: "You can't tell me what I can and cannot do." The sentiment is seemingly simple, but it is simultaneously doing two things. First, and obviously, it is telling the addressee that the addressee cannot tell the speaker what the speaker can or cannot do. With this part of the sentiment, I am actually in total agreement. I have no interest- none, zilch, nada- in telling another person what they can or cannot do (except my kids, but that's only temporary.) But hidden within this seemingly simple sentiment is another assumption, for even as the speaker tells the addressee that the addressee cannot tell the speaker what they can or cannot do, the speaker is assuming for themselves the right and the power to tell addressee what they can or cannot do- because they are doing that in the very act of telling them so. "You can't tell me what I can or cannot do." Taken to its extreme, this declaration that no one has power over the speaker is also a declaration that the speaker has power over all. Look at Bruni's final line: it is not far from the sentiment of Thrasymachus: The strong will do as they will, and the weak will accept what they must.

This contradiction, or, more accurately, act of hypocrisy seems to be embedded in so many movements from the very beginnings, though I don't believe most members of the movement see it. They begin in earnest: they are only protecting their rights. However, they cannot escape the effects of their hypocrisy. Over time, if the movement is successful, the members become more and more comfortable in telling others what they must do, even under the guise of merely not letting anyone tell them what they can or cannot do. Judging from Bruni's article, he has become very comfortable indeed with that role. We must accept him and people like him as they are, just as he will accept us, as long as we do exactly what he says. That blindness and malice is one of the end products of the hypocrisy of movements. The argument breaks down into power, and who has it. In claiming that we have no power over them, they are claiming great power over us.

9 January 2015

A brief note on moderate muslims

Events like the recent massacre in Paris inevitably resurrect  a few talking points.  One is to point out that not all muslims are terrorists.  A second is to say the moderate muslims need to do *something* (what is never actually specified) about the nuts in their midst.  A variation of  this is to wonder why oh why haven't they done *something* already.

I'm going on a limb here, but I'm going to guess that the reason they don't do *something* about the nuts in their midst is because of the nuts in their midst. They know what those people are capable of better than we do.

Remember the war on drugs and the war on gangs?  We wondered why the people living in the gang ridden neighbourhoods weren't more co-operative with the police. It was because the police were only around sometimes, but the gangs were always there.

8 January 2015

Prayer request

My sister, whom I mentioned a few posts down, is being operated on her wrist today. It is worse than we originally thought. Her wrist is broken in seven places, and she left it unattended for a long time. If the surgery cannot repair the damage, they will have to amputate. Please pray that her doctors have the skill necessary to save her hand.

UPDATE: It took ten screws and a metal plate, but the surgery was a success, and we will not be calling my sister 'Lefty'. Thank you for your prayers.

6 January 2015

Prayer Request

A friend's garage burned down today. He is a sculptor, and the garage was his workshop, with his models, his plans and mock ups for bids he was making, and his uncompleted work. His tools were all in there. All destroyed. I don't think I have to tell you that 'artisan' is a hard, poor road to pursue. He has a wife and a child. He did not need this.

5 January 2015

Here and there

The furnace cut out last Tuesday night. We managed to get a repairman in on New Year's Eve. He told us the problem was a fried motherboard. He went out to try and get a new one, but he warned us that most of the stores closed early that day, and he might not be able to get one.

He hasn't returned since then.

On the whole, the experience could have been worse. We live in a townhouse, so we are protected on two sides, not to mention we draw some heat off our neighbours. (Sorry guys, and thanks.) The south end of the house warms up nicely when the sun is out and we have managed to get by with extra blankets and a space heater I could ill afford but bought for the occasion. Plus, I have been doing a lot of baking to get some heat off the oven. On the whole, the temperature has remained in the high fifties low sixties range. Which begs the question: Why am I paying so much for heating just to raise the the temperature a measly ten degrees or so?

***

One of the organists at my church suggested I get my name on the wedding/funeral rotations. I suppose that is the only way I will be able to get any money out of this racket, but at the same time, the music people choose for those occasions is uniformly horrible. Plus, I don't know if I would have the heart to do funerals. I have trouble seeing myself saying to the grieving family: "I am deeply sorry for your loss. That will be $250."

On the other hand, would $250 be enough to be stuck singing "On Eagle's Wings" over and over and over?

***

My elder sister came up from the States for Christmas (actually, since she lives in Minnesota, her move along the north south axis is more of a downward direction). Her wrist was in agonizing pain due to a fall she took while skating in her backyard rink in Minnesota just before she left for here. She went to a hospital in the States to have it looked at, but left after waiting for more than an hour and seeing no one. She convinced herself she had twisted some tendons, or had a very bad sprain. While she was up here (that's that confused direction thing again) she adamantly refused to go to another hospital and insisted it was nothing despite the fact she could not use her right hand.

Upon returning home, she had an appointment with her chiropractor. While there, she asked if they could do her a favour and x-ray her sprained wrist. I imagine the technician's jaw dropped. Her wrist was -is- broken in multiple places, and now, because she went so long without having it looked after, she must have surgery, along with some plates screwed into her wrist, etc etc.

Point 1: sis is a health nut. She has jogged for as long as I can remember (wrecked her knees in the process) played softball (actually required surgery on her knees because of that one) always eats right (has the same health issues she had when she wasn't eating right) and has repeatedly broken bones, torn ligaments, twisted, sprained, etc etc.

Point 2: sis lives and works in the States in- wait for it- wait for it- wait for it- the health industry. She is a PhD (no really) in biological sciences and biochemistry and works on developing new medicines and such.

Geniuses. Go fig.

***

I mentioned to my other sister that I have begun work on a full size version of my angel ornaments(scroll down to my bazaar stuff page). By "full size" I mean it will be about 8"x11". I am not making a life sized angel, whatever that would be. I told her I would be doing this the proper way. Instead of cutting all the pieces out of one piece of wood and colouring them appropriately before assembly, I will be making the pieces out of different species of wood, and allowing the natural colours come through. My sister snorted at me.

"You woodworkers think it's all about the wood," she said. "It isn't." By the way, she is an interior designer, and works often with woodworkers. She says I'm the only one she knows with all his fingers.

I was about to protest that it is all about the wood when I realized that she was right. I am to close to my own medium to judge it aright. I know wood intimately and choose my woods carefully- even though, yes, I am working with stuff I pull from the garbage- for their strength, their workablility and their appearance. I work hard to do as Michelangelo did, and display the beauty that lies within my medium. But that is because I know my medium. Others do not. And that is a large part of the reason why Ikea will always outsell me.

I'm still going to finish that angel. And maybe a few others. I've grown used to being a failure. Why change now?

***

During the same conversation with designer sis, I asked her how her friends liked the angels she bought from me for them. "They loved them," she said. "They said to me: 'wow, everyone in your family is so talented!'"

I take some issue with that statement. I do have some talent, but in my work, what you see is not talent, but skill. It is skill learned through years and years of careful practice and devotion. I didn't just pick up my saws and make this stuff, no more than Yoyo Ma picked up a 'cello at age five and immediately fired off Bach's 'cello suite. (For the record, Yoyo is far more skilled in his field than I am in mine. I am just invoking him to make a point.) I am not the most silled worker out there, not by a long shot. But I possess skills in this field because I pursued the skills in this field. Believe me, it would have been easier to watch television.

I don't know why people immediately write off some hard achievement as the product of some inborn talent. Yes, I believe there is such a thing as talent, but it needs to be worked and honed if it is ever to be of any use. A sonnet, or a painting, a piece of music, or an intricately made and carved chair is not the immediate product of a moment, but the culmination of years of work not always seen, of practice in the lonely hours and the patient correction of countless mistakes and failures, of wastebins fille with crumpled attempts and castoffs. I think people may subconsciously sense this, but they prefer to think of it as 'talent', for then they can relieve themselves of the burden of ever trying, and forgive themselves for never bothering.

31 December 2014

Happy New Years

I guess. It is the habit of some to reflect upon the year that was and resolve upon the year that is to be. But not me. The black dog has returned again and whispers in my ear that in the last year I accomplished nothing of note, and that I can look forward to the same next year, and I have no reason to doubt his word.