September 2017

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Dear and faithful reader,

About fourteen years ago, my friend [ profile] chordam7 and I wrote the libretto to a Jazz-age ragtime Cthulhian opera.

Well, mostly I wrote the libretto and mostly he worked on the music. But only mostly. It was a collaboration.

It was, sadly, a collaboration that we never really finished. The libretto is complete. The introductory material is sort of half-done, the musical themes and tunes are about two-thirds done, and the orchestration... well, the less said about the orchestration, the better.

We had talked over the years about kickstarting the orchestration, with a CD as the end result, but we agreed that more of the music needed to be finished first.

And then, as with so many things, life got in the way.

We had lunch today and decided that we needed to publish the libretto, with perhaps some of the existing music and orchestration as illustrative or supplemental material. It's just dumb that we're sitting on this.

So, there we are.
Clearly, this morning I awoke in an alternate world.

I was jolted out of bed by my clock radio, having reset itself to a hitherto unknown station, blaring the discordant noise of a young man screaming the lyrics to the song stylings known as "heavy metal". It certainly had the same sort of effect one imagines plutonium to the brain might produce.

This was followed by a commercial, where a gentlemen who might have been Mr Gene Simmons earnestly addressed the listener as "dude".

On the way to the train station, I was overcome by the sudden realization - nay, epiphany - that the reason there weren't any ducks in the duck pond in Leadworth is because they were with Londo Mollari, nibbling him to death.

Twice, my train came to a gentle stop without a station in sight. Both times were in farm country. Presumably it had something to do with the cows. Or possibly ducks.

I don't know what any of this means, but I'm looking forward with some trepidation to the remainder of the morning.
Morgan and Destiny’s Eleventeeth Date – The Zeppelin Zoo

On this day in 1828, the mysterious foundling Kaspar Hauser was discovered wandering the streets of Nuremberg. He died of stab wounds on 17 December 1833 in Ansbach, exactly 133 years before my birth.

What this all means, I've no idea.

Abba Lot went to see Abba Joseph and said to him, ‘Abba, as far as I can I say my little office, I fast a little, I pray and meditate, I live in peace and as far as I can, I purify my thoughts. What else can I do?’

Then the old man stood up and stretched his hands towards heaven. His fingers became like ten lamps of fire and he said to him, ‘If you will, you can become all flame.’

(From The Sayings of the Desert Fathers, circa fourth century AD)

Our God is a consuming fire. (Hebrews 12:29)
Feast of Saint Theresa of Avila

Dearest reader,

During my morning commute, I usually do the crossword puzzle in the venerable Tacoma News Tribune. It's usually enough to wake my brain, though they are not so difficult that I can't use a pen to fill them in.

This morning, one of the clues was "Ragamuffin". This immediately put a silly children's counting rhyme into my head:

Ragamuffin, ragamuffin
Hovel for a nest
Tell us now
Who is the best.

It's the sort of thing children use to determine sides or captains for ad hoc ball games and the like.

Except that I don't know whether it actually exists or I made it up.

Has anyone heard of this before?

The experience was made slightly more surreal when the words "hovel" and "nest" proved to be answers in the puzzle - answers I hadn't yet filled in when the rhyme occurred to me.

In other news, today is the feast of Saint Theresa of Avila, one of the great Doctors of the Church. In college I was once called upon to write three essays about her, one from a Marxist perspective, one from a Freudian perspective, and one from a Kierkegaardian perspective.

Needless to say, the sum of the essays was no where near the total of her life and work. I think the Kierkegaard one was the most ridiculous of all. I wrote it without notes from the top of my drunken head on an electric typewriter the night before it was due.

It was my best grade in the class.
Feast of Saint Jerome

Dear friends,

This being the feast of one of the great doctors of the Church, a man famed for his learned commentaries and translations, I thought it best to contribute to the general conversation amongst the literati who read this humble journal (yes, both of you. and the other one.)

In other words, here are some fascinating links.

The largest hoard of Anglo-Saxon gold ever found. - a very informative site indeed.

The Holy Grail of the Unconscious - Carl Jung's Dreamlands Journal?

U.S. scientists net giant squid in Gulf of Mexico - "giant" in this case meaning "six meters long".

...terrifying creatures from the ocean depths - A couple of these would certainly add something to your next Cthulhu Live! game.

'Hitler skull' revealed as female - And far too young to have been him, transgendered or no. Of course, everybody knows that Hitler was spirited out of Berlin alive by Hanna Reitsch in an FI-156 Storch and conveyed to a secret rendezvous with U-2539 in Kiel. From there, he escaped to Neu Schwaben in Antarctica, and thence to the Moon. It all makes sense. Trust me.

It does kind of clear up the reason why the Soviets felt compelled to incinerate "Hitler's" body in 1960. They knew the truth.

Speaking of which, it's Official: Water Found on the Moon.
Feast of the First Martyrs of the Church of Rome
On the Sounder Train, near Sumner, Washington

Dear and faithful reader,

I've been sleeping poorly, mostly due to continuing nightmares in which my son prominently features.

To take my mind from this troubled vale (and perhaps to entertain or excite you, my one faithful reader), I present some interesting links.

Jackson dies, almost takes Internet with him - best recent news headline

Carcosa intrudes: the astounding Amargosa Opera House of Marta Becket.

And speaking of Carcosa, here is an extremely interesting essay on Beauty and Desecration: explaining why "we must rescue art from the modern intoxication with ugliness". Just fascinating.

Yesterday being the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, I was reminded of a place I found beautiful: the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls. Nowadays, you can tour part of it without ever going to Rome.

Those who enjoy maps, or history, or the shady edge of myth may enjoy the Atlas of True Names.

Just when you thought the world could not possibly be any more surreal, here come the superheroes.

Speaking of surreal, go read a few of Greg Homer's book reviews.

And then there's the physicist trying to build a time machine.

I think that should be enough for now.
It has been some time since I've posted here, and longer still since I've posted regularly.

For this, I deeply apologise to you, my one loyal reader.

My only excuse is this: it has been a trying time, and I've been working long hours.

In the past few months, I've spent weeks at a time out of state. I've been to Charlotte, North Carolina; Palm Desert, California; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (twice, thank you); and most recently to Los Angeles, California.

I'm awfully tired of business trips, and there's another one in the offing: a return to Charlotte in the New Year.

In addition, I've been spending some time with Tristan, though probably not as much as I ought.

Numerous responsibilities and projects have fallen to the wayside, including this journal.

So what, you may ask, compels me now to write? What new disaster, what new calamity, has stirred my (electronic) pen?

Just this: today is my 42nd birthday.

I thank all of those who have taken the time, quite unbidden and unexpectedly, to wish me happy returns of the day. Thank you.

Of course, if you really loved me, you would have taken me down to the pub for a beer. But I digress.

Looking back at the past year, as one often does on these occasions, prompts me to ask in a somewhat plaintive wail, "what the hell was that all about?"

There were certainly times of joy: co-habitation gave way to glorious wedded bliss. Chronic unemployment fell to relatively lucrative and more or less creative work.

And yet, there was death and disaster in equal measure, tiring my soul and emptying my bank accounts.

I am so very weary so often these days.

So what can I say at 42? At the age of the Ultimate Answer?

Not much, it turns out.

I can say that God is good to me. There is nothing that has been taken that He has not first given me. Why disaster strengthens faith is beyond my ability to discern, but that it is true is now beyond any ability to dispute.

I can say that there is no earthly thing more precious than friendship, than love. It continues to pour out on to me through all the difficulties and the delights.

And I can say that I am continually astonished that the world is so very different than most people - myself included for a very long time - seem to think.

This world is magical and mythical and musical. And if you, my single and beloved reader, doubt that this is so, I invite you to behave as if it were. A week should do. You will be astonished.


Last week on the bus, I sat across from an elderly gentleman wearing brand new jeans and a clean, unpatched coat. His hair was long, lanky, and yellow, and his face was creased so deeply it looked like furrowed earth.

He had a plastic garbage bag on the seat next to him, filled with precious things. He had a soda can that smelled as if it contained kerosene. I suspect he was flammable.

As I approached, he lurched over and touched two fingers solemnly to the seat I was about to take. Then he sat back upright and polished off whatever was in the soda can.

As we went on, he puffed madly at an unlit cigarette butt and muttered to himself. I made the mistake, I think, of trying to ignore him for some time.

And then I caught some of his words - a fragment, really - "carpe diem".

I began to listen more closely. His muttering was fairly indistinct, and I caught no further words for some time. He did stop, I noticed, every once and again. It finally occurred to me that he was having a conversation with somebody I could not see.

And then I finally caught a solid phrase - "benedicta tu in mulieribus". It was the Ave Maria, the Hail Mary. In Latin.

I looked up at him rather sharply as I caught his words.

He stared back at me, wild-eyed, stopping in mid-sentence.

And then he stood up and got off the bus at the next stop.

What did it mean? I confess, I've absolutely no idea. There was a time when that would have bothered me.

You might think him a sad, mad drunk, and perhaps that's a fair assessment. I don't know.

But as today is December 17th, I invite you, my single dear, dear reader, to pray for the wisdom to see the world in all of its hidden splendour.

I pray for that most every day.

Of course, it's part of a very long list.
Dove milk chocolate wrappers have little sayings in them, meant to be romantic suggestions or thoughts.

This morning mine said "whisper in the dark".


This is the second one of these I've received.
I have to blame this on [ profile] pax_draconis. What could be better than Antarctic space Nazis ?

Happy Friday!
Desperately in need of amusement, and, having found some things that amused (or amazed) me recently, I thought I'd share them in this forum with you, my one reader.

The deeply weird platypus is even weirder than you thought.

Gregorian chanting can reduce blood pressure and stress.

And finally, I recommend to you, my dear reader, this essay: C. S. Lewis and the Star of Bethlehem: Recovering the medieval imagination.

Try to get over the fact that Mr Lewis was a Christian, and this essay by Mr Michael Ward appears in Christianity Today. This essay is Important.

[T]he medieval universe was "tingling with anthropomorphic life, dancing, ceremonial, a festival not a machine".
Somewhere along the line, our western view of the universe changed from Mythopoeic to Mechanical. Fair enough; I like my electric toaster just as much as the next fellow.

But our mode of imagining the universe largely changed in the same way, and something vital and wondrous in our civilization died.

Or perhaps it only slumbers, and raises again its hoary head from time to time and shakes the rime from its beard. Or perhaps the whole idea of the universe as a metaphor for itself in anything but mathematics is irrational.

Frankly, I've sometimes found myth more rational than math, but perhaps that's just the way my imagination works.

Anyhow, read the essay. Then come back here and tell me what you think.

And, if possible, relate it to the platypus. And Gregorian chant.

Edited to add: Mr David Brooks writes an essay about the essay that pegs it.
From the Telegraph we have this bit of nineteenth century news:

A century-old mystery surrounding the fate of the “Mad King” who built Bavaria’s celebrated fairytale castles has taken a new twist after an historian claimed that he was murdered.

The allegation comes from an art expert turned sleuth who claims that contemporary portraits of Ludwig II prove that far from killing himself in a fit of melancholy, he was assassinated to put an end his extravagant spending.

Ludwig’s body was found on June 13, 1886, in the knee-deep waters of a lake not far from Neuschwanstein Castle, his most fanciful creation, whose soaring towers and turrets now draw tourists from all over the world.

After a cursory investigation, the death was declared suicide by drowning - a verdict fiercely protected by his successors, who have forbidden any modern scientific examination of his remains.

But art historian Siegfried Wichmann now claims that he can prove that Ludwig was murdered, after an investigation that has taken up half his life and has drawn upon his own wartime experience. “I can say that, professionally, I have never been wrong in all my career,” said Mr Wichmann, who is the leading authority on Bavarian paintings from the late 19th century. ...

A secret Bavarian society known as the Guglmänner, whose members dress in capes and hoods and claim to be guardians of the German monarchy, has long questioned the official version of his death. But the calls for Ludwig’s body to be exhumed and given a modern autopsy have now grown louder. Last month, Detlev Utermöhle, a Bavarian banker, made a sworn statement claiming that he had seen the coat Ludwig was wearing on the day of his death, and that it contained two bullet holes.

As far as I'm concerned, the only revelation in this article is the existence of a "secret" monarchist society with some gumption. Not to mention an incredibly bad sense of fashion.


28 Jun 2007 08:07
thomryng: A Sepia Man in a Hat (Emperor Rudolf II)
It's warm and it's muggy. The kind of weather where jackets are shed and hats left behind.

It's also raining.

In the morning at my bus stop, there are three women who beg for change. They're never all there at once; this morning was the first time that I've seen two together.

They are three very different women. The oldest is an enormously overweight black woman with close-cropped hair. She typically wears brightly-coloured muumuus and oversized hoop earrings that dangle nearly to her shoulders.

The second is a thin, middle-aged Hispanic woman, hair coiffed and carrying a briefcase. She, like the first, is well-groomed (and professionally dressed). When they ask for money, you are always surprised.

The third is a twenty-something Anglo, stringy blonde hair, sweat pants and a dirty tee-shirt. Each time I see her, she has a different physical ailment. Once she had her leg in a brace. Most recently, she sported a freshly-broken nose with two black eyes.

As different as these women are physically, they always ask the same thing. They always ask for 75¢ to ride the bus. Mind you, the bus fare is $1.50, but they always ask for 75¢.

On several occasions, I've given them some change. On each occasion, the woman in question has walked (or hobbled) immediately to the convenience store on the corner and come out with a can of beer in a brown paper bag and a bottle of Pepsi. In each case, they've calmly sat back down at the bus stop and opened both, drinking alternately.

In one case, the woman in question thanked me for the bus fare while she sipped her Pepsi.

Needless to say, I don't give them change any more.

I've never seen any of the three actually get on the bus. Sometimes, they wander up MLK Ave. (always going south, the direction from which the bus comes), or they just stay on the bench.

It's like they took the same class or something.

All three of them wear sandals in all weather.

What brought this to mind was this: today two of them were at the bus stop. In the three minutes I waited for the bus, both the woman in the enormous lime-green muumuu and the woman in the charcoal grey suit asked me for 75¢.

As the bus arrived, the lime-green muumuu trundled south down MLK. The charcoal grey suit sat down on the bench.

Both wore the same type of sandals.

As I was getting on the bus, I had the distinct impression that they were the Norns, slumming in Tacoma.

So what was your morning like?
Posting from Tully's with a cup of good English tea to calm my shattered nerves.

The morning began inauspiciously enough with a weather report on the radio dimly filtering through my post-dreamlands haze informing me that there were going to be ice storms in the Puget Sound today. And this, a mere week since I dug in the garden in short sleeves.

In retrospect, I should have called it a day right then.

No ice storms so far, but the day has already gone notably askew. I left early for a discussion with the local chef de pâtisserie at "Le Donut" regarding a cost estimate on 25 dozen or so doughnuts for Sunday. No, that is not a typo.

The discussion took rather longer than I anticipated, and I missed my bus. This is in itself not a horrible thing, as the #2 downtown bus runs every twenty minutes, and it takes about ten to actually walk down the hill into downtown.

Mind you, in that ten minutes today I was somehow passed by two #2 buses.

There aren't a whole lot of people walking down Ninth Street in Tacoma at 6:30 on a Tuesday morning. In fact, I only passed one gentleman today. He was wearing a dingy yellow hooded parka. Head down, he walked uphill towards me with one of those horribly noisy leaf-blowers in his hand. Fortunately, it was off. I can't imagine anybody being happy with that machine running at 6:30 in the morning, even on a Tuesday.

As is my custom, I bid the gentleman good morning. He raised his head to, I assume, return the greeting.

He was wearing a gas mask.

A full-faced gas mask, eyes hidden by dark glass. He nodded slowly to me and walked on by.
This story in the New York Times actually made me cackle with glee:

What began as a routine training exercise almost ended in an embarrassing diplomatic incident after a company of Swiss soldiers got lost at night and marched into neighboring Liechtenstein. ...

Interior ministry spokesman Markus Amman said nobody in Liechtenstein had even noticed the soldiers, who were carrying assault rifles but no ammunition. ''It's not like they stormed over here with attack helicopters or something,'' he said.
This will probably only make sense to one person out there, besides me.

Still, I predicted it a decade ago. Well, sort of.
Remember, remember the fifth of November,
gunpowder, treason and plot,
I see no reason why gunpowder treason
should ever be forgot.
Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes,
'twas his intent
to blow up the King and the Parliament.
Three score barrels of powder below,
Poor old England to overthrow:
By God's providence he was catch'd
With a dark lantern and burning match.

And on a related note, happy birthday [ profile] rhonan!

After this I had a vision of a great multitude,
which no one could count,
from every nation, race, people, and tongue.
They stood before the throne and before the Lamb,
wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands.
They cried out in a loud voice:

“Salvation comes from our God, who is seated on the throne,
and from the Lamb.”

(The Revelation of Saint John, 7:9-12)

This is a portion of today's Mass reading, which I will be proclaiming im my capacity as a lector at my parish later this evening. In a few moments, the school will attend the same Mass.

How to explain? It amazes me to be a small part of this "great cloud of witnesses". On a number of occasions, I've felt their presence at Mass, particularly during the Sanctus. I am reminded that the "pilgrim Church on Earth" is but a small portion of the Church Universal.

Or, as I've previously quoted from Chesterton:

"[Tradition] is the democracy of the dead... Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about. All democrats object to men being disqualified by the accident of birth; tradition objects to their being disqualified by the accident of death. Democracy tells us not to neglect a good man's opinion, even if he is our groom; tradition asks us not to neglect a good man's opinion, even if he is our father."

There's a Deep Truth I'm struggling to articulate here. Perhaps someone can help?
Comment with your username (or some other witticism) and I'll give you an honest compliment. Then post this in your journal and spread the love.

And if I don't know you, um, well...I'll do my best. Don't be surprised if some of them are a trifle... odd.

First seen at [ profile] ladyeuthanasia but apparently widespread.
Yesterday I left work early to await delivery of our new refrigerator. Purchased from the Sears Outlet, it is enormous and relatively inexpensive (just over 25% off - a feat accomplished by virtue of a ding in the door about the size of... a small refrigerator magnet).

After missing my initial bus and the connecting bus, I arrived at the house roughly fifteen minutes in advance of the earliest part of the delivery window.

I needn't have bothered. It was hours before Andrey arrived. To pass the time, I ripped up carpets and pulled carpet tacks and staples out of the wood floor. It turns out that throwing a carpet from a second-storey window is a lot tougher than it looks.

Much later than I'd hoped, Andrey's truck arrived. Andrey's delivery service was recommended by a helpful lady at the Sears Outlet. Andrey only accepts cash, and Andrey speaks fluent Russian but entertainingly - nay, maddeningly - imprecise English. His assistant speaks no English at all.

Andrey looks like a lot of Union guys back in Chicago; he's a large man with perpetual stubble and rough, dirty fingernails. If you called central casting looking for Lech Walesa's foreman for "Solidarity: the Television Movie", they'd send you Andrey. Heck, paste a moustache on him, he could play Lech Walesa himself.

All business, Andrey takes a tape measure to the front door, to the kitchen door, eventually to all the doors on the first floor. Every now and then he mutters something and shakes his head sadly. Finally, he notices me. He shrugs, an elegant gesture that one expects to see accompanied by him pulling out a cigarette. "No fit", he says.

He casually gestures to the door between the entry hall and the kitchen with his imaginary cigarette. "Take off frame off", he says. Then he walks into the dining room and waves vaguely into the parlour. "Or take two door off, both of them. Expensive."

My head is swimming with the idea that we might damage the glorious wood in taking off the doors - I'm certainly not going to remove a frame, if that's even what he meant.

"OK?" he asks.

What choice have I? I point to the doors-not-frame route and nod. "OK".

We walk out to the truck, where his assistant is manhandling the refrigerator onto a dolly. I immediately see the problem. It's not my refrigerator.

Mind you, it's beautiful brushed aluminum and simply gi-normous. But it's not mine. Andrey puzzles over his clipboard and discovers the tag on the refrigerator doesn't match the number on his manifest.

We sort it out. After a testy exchange in Russian between Andrey and his assistant, the correct refrigerator is found in the TARDIS-like interior of the truck.

And it fit perfectly.
Late have I loved you,
Beauty so ancient and so new, late have I loved you!
Lo, you were within,
but I outside, seeking there for you,
and upon the shapely things you have made
I rushed headlong – I, misshapen.
You were with me, but I was not with you.
They held me back far from you,
those things which would have no being,
were they not in you.
You called, shouted, broke through my deafness;
you flared, blazed, banished my blindness;
you lavished your fragrance, I gasped; and now I pant for you;
I tasted you, and now I hunger and thirst;
you touched me, and I burned for your peace.

(from The Confessions, Saint Augustine of Hippo)
Pluto loses status as a planet (BBC)
Amid dramatic scenes which saw astronomers waving yellow ballot papers in the air, the IAU meeting voted in criteria that define the exact nature of a "planet".

They agreed that to qualify, a celestial body must be in orbit around a star while not itself being a star. It also must be large enough in mass "for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a... nearly round shape, and has cleared the neighbourhood around its orbit."

Pluto was automatically disqualified because its oblong orbit overlaps with Neptune's.
So that's it then. Before we can find Planet X, we have to find a planet IX.

I'm feeling a bit Plutonian myself just now.

Of course, I've got nothing on the folks from the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement (VHEMT). The name is startlingly self-explanatory, but like some of the medieval heresies, it is a movement that contains the seeds of its own destruction. If the folks at VHEMT practice what they preach, they'll be gone within 70 years or so.

Not unlike Pluto's status as a planet.
Casilda (sic) of the Rising Moon

"A Tale of Magic and of Faith, Of Knights and a Saint in Medieval Spain"

Edited to add: In response to [ profile] crosstherubicon's question, a bit of clarification.

The King in Yellow (previously published in hardcover by Armitage House) is a play based on the works of Robert W. Chambers, while Eidolon perhaps recalls the poetry of H. P. Lovecraft. It was certainly once used as a player prop for a Call of Cthulhu game. Eidolon is strictly a self-publishing whim (mostly to find out how the system worked), while The King in Yellow is being distributed through Armitage House. Provided they ever update their web site.

Hmm. That probably doesn't answer the question. Let me try again.

The King in Yellow is a play about the tendency of people to play chess in burning houses, while Eidolon contains the fragmentary remains of the holy book of a mediæval witch-cult*. More or less.

The King in Yellow features an introduction by John Tynes.

Both are available on Amazon; just click the cover images.


* in the Lovecraftian sense.

Which of Henry VIII's wives are you?

this quiz was made by Lori Fury

It figures, eh?

Into Great Silence, which we saw at SIFF last week, is ostensibly a documentary about the Carthusian monks of Grande Chartreuse.

I say ostensibly, because it is actually a great deal more and less than that. Like the lives of these monks themselves, this film is a meditation on silence. If you are looking for a typical documentary, with history facts and figures, a stirring orchestral soundtrack, and the earnest voice of Ken Burns or James Burke, you will, I fear, be sorely disappointed.

The film intead, documents in the purest sense. The camera follows the monks through the routine of their day and the seasons. They pray, they work, they eat; they do all the ordinary things you might expect a monk to do. But these monks do them in silence.

This film is two hours forty five minutes, of which there are perhaps fifteen minutes total of interview and dialogue.

Instead we hear the ordinary sounds of the world, sounds so common we normally don't hear them at all. In the darkened theatre, however, the shuffling of feet and the opening and closing of doors echo in the seats and begin to take on meaning beyond mere words. We hear the monks at chapel, chanting the hours. We hear birds in windblown trees, singing the days. And the bells, always the bells calling the monks and the audience to prayer.

The rasping sound of scissors cutting cloth was positively terrifying.

A handful of people in the audience couldn't stand the silence. They left.

The film is, as you might expect, intensely visual. We explore the faces of the monks as if they were the surfaces of alien worlds. Sometimes the camera will focus on an odd bit of the monks' world; the warm eggshell plaster wall of a room, the soft red glow of the tabernacle light in the darkened chapel, the stark white of snow, the intense green of the springtime garden.

At some point, it began to dawn on me that the film was not just a meditation on auditory silence, but also on visual silence. Silence isn't quiet by any means; there are always ambient sounds in nature because nature is alive and moving all the time. The silence we seek is the silence in our own heads and own hearts so that we may listen for God in the breeze.

In the same way, the world of these monks is visually silent. Set amid the stunning beauty of the alps, Grande Chartreuse is a world of stone and plaster and wood, of natural colours and shapes rough-hewn to human purpose. But if we think for a moment that this is a stark black and white and grey place of puritan sensibilities, the camera invites us to look closer.

Because in even the most basic things, there is a meticulous attention to detail that I found breathtaking.

Wooden floors are carefully inlaid in stately patterns. We catch a glimpse of a ceiling, painted with portrait cameos of long ago abbots. The seats in the choir are intricately carved.

And this meticulous attention to detail doesn't stop with the stately and the permanent. We see the monks exercise this intense mindfulness in everything they do, whether it's carefully fixing a hiking boot or measuring and cutting wood for the stoves or digging the snow from the garden. They are careful; they are methodical; they are living the hell out of the moment they're in.

What a contrast this was when we walked out of the theatre onto University Street in Seattle, with its cacophany of colour and noise. Every human projecting their lifestyle and image and style in what they wore and how they talked. Constant talk. Bright clashing colour. Jarring street noise. Everyone and thing projecting noise.

I was disoriented and had a hard time taking it in. Like I was stoned. It was just too much to process.

In fact, I rapidly discovered that the only way to function was to ignore huge swaths of it, to just not see the danger green dumpster in the alley or the constant crush of faces desperately trying to project their uniqueness.

I found I could only function in the city when I deliberately discarded that silence and mindfulness that we had just spent three hours cultivating. Ultimately, this film is not really a documentary about monks at all, but rather a damning indictment of the pace and frenzy of the modern world.

Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. (1 Kings 19:11-12)
In the Middle Ages between the Ancient Empire and the so-called Age of Reason, men of property and wealth typically took a motto to their arms.

In particular, the Holy Roman Emperors had some wonderful mottos. Charlemagne started it off with a particularly triumphalist bit, Christus vincit, Christus regnat, Christus triumphat (Christ conquers, Christ reigns, Christ triumphs).

Move along a few centuries to Otto the Great and you get Satius est ratione aequitatis mortem oppetere quam fugere et inhoneste vivere (It is better to die for a good cause than to flee and live without honour). A trifle wordy, perhaps, but a suitably noble sentiment.

From Konrad II we have the wise instruction Omnium mores, tuos imprimis observato (Watch the conduct of everyone, but watch your own the most), and Heinrich IV observes Multi multa sciunt, se autem nemo (Many know much, but no-one knows himself). Albrecht I has the pithy (if somewhat inaccurate) Fugam victoria nescit (Victory knows no retreat).

You can get quite a look into the personalities of these men through the mottos they chose, from Charlemagne's bombast to Konrad's caution.

But then you have Friedrich II.

Good old Friedrich, who has the dubious distinction of being the only person ever excommunicated by the Pope upon returning from a successful crusade. (I will note in passing that Friedrich negotiated the return of Jerusalem to Christian hands without a single battle being fought, which was generally not the way things were done in those days.) He is the only Mediaeval monarch to write a book (On Falconry). He spoke at least eight languages, and he was literate in Latin, Greek, and Arabic.

And what was the motto of this Mediaeval Stupor Mundi?

Comluriuum thiorium ego strepitum audivi (I have heard the wind in the fig trees).

I have heard the wind in the fig trees? Fig trees? What the hell is that supposed to mean?

The lame excuse given by modern historians is that this wistful saying recalls the Emperor's youth in Sicily.

I'm not buying it. Charlemagne's motto wasn't "The Seine scintillates in the springtime". Lothar II didn't opine "My, the cowbells in Bavaria sure are melodic" under his coat of arms.

So what's the deal?

For the record, I'm thinking of adopting "Jefferson never finished Monticello" as my motto. Can anybody put that in Latin?
Having promised to explain Pod Parishes, not to mention the whole bears and hoops of flame thing, and bearing (ha!) in mind that my office is roughly 85°F right now and my brain has decided that this means it's time for it to go on holiday to Portugal and leave me gibbering at my desk, I decided that explanations were in order, my lack of brains notwithstanding.

To begin with the questions:

Do Parish Pods involve aliens or mind control? Only in the best case scenario.

The phrase was coined to refer to what is more properly called a Parish cluster. The Parish that sponsors the school where I work has (as of July 1) been assigned to such a cluster. Previously, this particular cluster was called a "triad" by the three Parishes involved, so of course now we are a "quad". It's just one slip of the consonant to "pod".

In the interests of dispensing with the alien takeover and whaling scenarios, we've begun using the proper term now. If mind control were actually involved, my job (in the words of a noted miserable failure) would be a heck of a lot easier.

Bears: Someone asked whether it was a grizzly bear or a polar bear. The answer, of course, is both. And no, that does not make it a "pizzly bear" because that would just be silly. It's a Grolar Bear, of course. Duh.

Well look at that - I'm all out of time. Thank you, you've been a wonderful audience.

Next time we'll get to the part with the bears and the hoops of flame. Promise.

Remember, Deus Carnitas Est: God is shredded pork. Peace.

Edited to add: I note with some vague disappointment that Amazon has fixed the text on their page to the correct title. Fear not, intrepid Meatist heretics! An image of the original page may be found here.


9 Mar 2006 08:27
thomryng: A Sepia Man in a Hat (Contemplation)
I was walking past Wright Park, with its dark green trees and quasi-victorian statuary, while the snow fell in swirling ragged clumps around me. (Let those who have eyes, see.) The plaintive, melancholy chant of a throat-singer filled me, thanks to the magic of iPod. (Let those who have ears, hear.)

A startlingly pure and beautiful moment.

Even with the sound turned off, it would have been arresting.

Cars, buses, people mad-dashed all around me, bent on their destinations, impervious to the world and indifferent to the moment.
This is just wonderful.

Victoria Springitt lifted up the slimy mess blocking her garden drain and screamed after realising it was not just mud and leaves clogging it up. The 37-year-old Staffordshire University student watched in horror as her nine-year-old son Isaac then pulled out what they believe was a dead, black octopus, using fire tongs....
City of Angels? More like City of Shoggoths.

Los Angeles officials were still scratching their heads today over what caused a mysterious black goo to burble from streets downtown, forcing the evacuation hundreds of apartment dwellers.

A Los Angeles Fire Department spokesman said investigators had yet to identify the "black tarry substance" more than 24 hours after it erupted at Olive Street and Pico Boulevard. ....

Who can get me samples?
Again, much weirdness courtesy [ profile] chordam7

Get your own spectral analysis from Area 23®

Nope, I've no idea what it means either.

Edited to add:

Writery Quiz Thing from Jason )

Flattered, but I'm not buying it.
Well, this was brought to my attention this morning.

Go ahead, click on the tiny little image of the cover picture for the enlarged version. Take a look at the man on the cover.

Nah, it's just a coincidence.
Not what I would have picked, but I'll go with it. As I often say, "words create worlds", perhaps this is truer than I suspected.

You are The Magician

Skill, wisdom, adaptation. Craft, cunning, depending on dignity.

Eleoquent and charismatic both verbally and in writing,
you are clever, witty, inventive and persuasive.

The Magician is the male power of creation, creation by willpower and desire. In that ancient sense, it is the ability to make things so just by speaking them aloud. Reflecting this is the fact that the Magician is represented by Mercury. He represents the gift of tongues, a smooth talker, a salesman. Also clever with the slight of hand and a medicine man - either a real doctor or someone trying to sell you snake oil.

What Tarot Card are You?
Take the Test to Find Out.

I just got to work and opened my e-mail, as I do every morning.

I sorted through the spam and assorted automated messages from the archdiocese and the NCEA.

Spying a letter from Kazimeras Emer with a subject of "doctrinarian", I hazarded to open it, thinking there was a slight chance it wasn't spam. I still don't know.

the text )

And that's it. It cuts off right in the middle of a sentence.

Never mind who this was from or what this was in aid of, I want to know what happens next.
Snow today. School was cancelled, but time and newspaper deadlines wait for no man. I'm at work, though I'm hoping to wrap up in the next hour or so.

I just saw the most amazing trailer.

The movie is a documentary, filmed in a cloistered monastery of the Carthusian Order. There are no words. No interviews. Only silence, the ordinary sounds of movement, and chant.

I found it breathtaking.

Break's over; back to work.

Edited to add: The film was reviewed by Variety, and is apparently going to be at Sundance in 2006. Here's hoping for a distribution deal...
Remember, remember the fifth of November,
gunpowder, treason and plot,
I see no reason why gunpowder treason
should ever be forgot.
Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes,
'twas his intent
to blow up the King and the Parliament.
Three score barrels of powder below,
Poor old England to overthrow:
By God's providence he was catch'd
With a dark lantern and burning match.

And on a related note, happy birthday [ profile] rhonan!

So, the book itself is cool enough, but whoever decided to use a scalloped shell to hold open the pages for the photographer is a geeenius.

At least, I think it's a scalloped shell...

Oh, and here's a meme I stumbled into...

Leave your name and
1. I'll respond with something random about you.
2. I'll tell you what song/movie reminds me of you.
3. I'll pick a flavor of jello you should wrestle in.
4. I'll say something that only makes sense to you and me.
5. I'll tell you my first/clearest memory of you.
6. I'll tell you what animal you remind me of.
7. I'll ask you something that I've always wondered about you.
8. If I do this for you, you must post this on your journal.



16 Aug 2005 21:58
thomryng: A Sepia Man in a Hat (Emperor Rudolf II)
My cat is licking his own shadow.

It seems like that should be a portent of... something.
Somehow managed to fit a novel into the nooks and crannies of time in my life the past two days.

Reorganized chapters 9 and 10 into 9, 10, 11 and sketched out two bits that get inserted into them. Made a grim little joke with the word "ineffable". Looking foreward to another apocalypse tearing history totally loose of its moorings very soon.

I just realized that I don't care whether or not that makes sense.

Let's settle for two words, then: progress and hope.

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
24,345 / 60,000

It's all been tumbling out of head since a Wednesday morning mass. Thanks be to God. I should be able to write 35,000 words in four weeks, right?

And somewhere in this mess, I put together a web site for a local political candidate. Francine did the logo, which looks far better than the content.

Yesterday's mail proved to be a stack of bills and (another) story rejection. Huzzah.

Best news headline this week so far:

Roman ruler's head found in sewer

"You see the animals crawling on the ground, swelling and then exploding," German conservationist Werner Smolnik told AFP news agency.... The site - which has been dubbed "the pond of death" - has been closed to the public.


Mmm. Exploding toads.
For more than a century, it has caused excitement and frustration in equal measure - a collection of Greek and Roman writings so vast it could redraw the map of classical civilisation. If only it was legible.

Now, in a breakthrough described as the classical equivalent of finding the holy grail, Oxford University scientists have employed infra-red technology to open up the hoard, known as the Oxyrhynchus Papyri, and with it the prospect that hundreds of lost Greek comedies, tragedies and epic poems will soon be revealed.

In the past four days alone, Oxford's classicists have used it to make a series of astonishing discoveries, including writing by Sophocles, Euripides, Hesiod and other literary giants of the ancient world, lost for millennia.

Source: The Independent


15 Aug 2003 08:31
thomryng: A Sepia Man in a Hat (Earth and Moon)
Today on the way into work, I saw a huge white rat rooting around the bushes. But this is supposed to be about what woke me up last night.

Dream )