Monday, March 31, 2008

The Opera - Part IV - "La Traviata"

The last, but, most certainly not the least, of the operas that I attended in the Smithsonian Madness at the Met program was "La Traviata", produced and with the sets designed by none other than Franco Zeffirelli.

Of all the operas that I wanted a picture of, I wanted "Traviata" the most, because of Zeffirelli's gorgeous sets, but since this is not a new production at the Met, I couldn't find pictures anywhere. I searched and searched, but no picture. In lieu if that, I chose the picture of the Grand Tier Restaurant in the Metropolitan Opera House, where we ate dinner the evening we saw "Traviata". The food and the service were quite good. I had an excellent salmon dish, one of the best I've ever had. I'm picky about my salmon. And it's so convenient to go unhurriedly to the seats afterwards.

There are those who don't like Zeffirelli's opera sets, because, in their opinion, they overwhelm the whole production, but I loved them. Yes, they're de trop, but so is "La Traviata". The two were a good fit. The ballroom and the country house were feasts for the eyes. We saw some of the pieces of the set up close on our backstage tour, those that could be pushed to the side. The audience, including me, gasped when the curtain opened for the first time.

"Traviata" is my favorite opera of all, and it was the first that I ever heard. When I was in high school, a friend had an extra ticket, and she begged me to go. I said no, but she continued to ask, until I gave in, and we went to hear the opera. I thank her to this day for practically forcing me to go, because I fell in love. The music is so beautiful. The story is a simple, tragic love story, the libretto taken from La Dame aux Camélias by Alexandre Dumas, fils.

To my mind, there is no way that the sets could take away from the beautiful music, the lovely coloratura voice of Ruth Ann Swenson as Violetta, the courtesan, the tenor, Matthew Polenzani, as Alfredo, her aristocratic lover, and the wonderful baritone voice of Thomas Hammons, singing Germont, Alfredo's father. The orchestra, under the direction of Marco Armiliato, did its part to make the evening an absolute joy for me.

Before hearing "Peter Grimes" the first evening, we dined at SanDomenico. The food and service there were quite good, too. The soup course consisted of a purée of fresh borlotti bean soup with unshelled spelt. It tasted very much like New Orleans style red beans, but it was, of course, more liquid. I told that to the chef, and he didn't appear too thrilled. I guess he did not realize what a high compliment that was. My main course was fillet of Chilean sea bass, which was delicious. It was the whitest fish I have ever seen, almost glowing in the semi-darkness.

This is the last of the opera posts, and I do not want a second career as a music critic. Writing about opera is hard work for me, because the great gaps in my knowledge make me fearful of making a terrible gaffe. For whoever may be interested, I will gather all four posts in a group and post them on the sidebar as a tribute to my short life as an opera critic.

Production and Set Design - Franco Zeffirelli
Conductor - Marco Armiliato
Violetta - Ruth Ann Swenson
Flora - Leann Sandel-Pantaleo
Germont - Thomas Hammons
Baron Douphol - John Hancock (How about that?)
Dr. Grenvil - LeRoy Lehr
Gastone - Eduardo Valdes
Alfredo - Matthew Polenzani

Please Pray, Invisible Friends

Wormwood's Doxy said...

Mimi--I'm going to ask your prayers for my David today. His father died rather unexpectedly yesterday afternoon. He was 85 and had Alzheimer's---but he had not been ill, so it was something of a shock. Thanks.

David is a junior, so his dad’s name is David too. His mom’s name is Doris. They celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary this summer---I can only imagine how hard this is for her.

Thanks for your prayers…I have come to have great faith in the prayers of my Invisible Friends…

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Good News From San Joaquin!

From Episcopal Life:

A jubilant celebration of Holy Eucharist concluded the March 29 special convention in the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin and made official Bishop Jerry Lamb's role as provisional bishop.

"What you have been about and what I have been about these last months, weeks, days, even hours is not really about building a new diocesan structure," Lamb said during his sermon. "As I understand it, what we are about is the proclamation of the Good News that Jesus is the Christ and that we do this from within the base of our Episcopal and Anglican tradition because that's who we are: members of the Episcopal Church and members of the Anglican church."

Half of the offertory was assigned to Lamb's discretionary fund and the other half, Lamb told the congregation to loud and sustained applause, would be given to the Diocese of Louisiana, which continues to rebuild after hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori led Lamb and the congregation through his formal seating as provisional bishop. That part of the service included recognition that Lamb had been duly chosen and accepted by the members of the diocese.

I had tears of joy in my eyes as I read about the glorious weekend of the convention and the installation of Provisional Bishop Lamb and tears of gratitude in my eyes as I read of the sacrificial giving by the Diocese of San Joaquin to the Diocese of Louisiana, my diocese, at the time that the people of San Joaquin have such great needs of their own in rebuilding their diocese.

"It is about how you and I will rebuild this Episcopal diocese so that at its core it will proclaim and live the Gospel or Jesus Christ," he said. "The diocese must have its roots firmly in Christ Jesus and live out the baptismal promises we all have renewed in one way or another this past week."

Lamb acknowledged that "there is no getting around the point that this is a very, very unique situation in the life of the Episcopal Church and in the life of this diocese."

"These past years and months have left hurt and confusion. We came together both last night and today to heal and seek God's will for our next steps in the journey to wholeness in the body of Christ and to answer our call to proclaim the Good News."

Everyone involved heeds "God's presence and grace," Lamb said.

"We also need each other and we also need those who are not here for one reason or another," he added. "Whether they are hurt or confused or fearful, I believe our first obligation is to reach out to others in this diocese and to invite them to come home. And when they do come home, brothers and sisters, they must be welcomed with the love of Christ and into the open arms of the community. And it will not be easy. There is much re-structuring -- re-building -- to be done. We will begin in an attitude of reconciliation."

From another article in Episcopal Life:

[Presiding Bishop] Jefferts Schori had told the participants earlier that the convention had been called because Bishop John-David Schofield had been deposed or removed from his diocesan seat after having abandoned the communion of the Episcopal Church, and because the Standing Committee removed because it took actions "which violated their ability to hold office in this church."

No Church Today

I didn't go to church today. Yesterday, I got up at the crack of dawn to go to New Orleans for my grandson's First Communion mass and celebration. I was happy to do so, because I truly wanted to be there with him. But getting up and rushing out in the morning (my definition of "rushing out" is quite broad to include anything earlier than 9:30) definitely makes me cranky, and I tend not to recover until I've had another night's sleep. Even though the church service that I attend is not until 10:30 AM, today I just could not get going, even for that. Maybe that makes me a bad Episcopalian and even a bad Christian. I do feel some guilt, because I am a regular pew warmer on Sundays. There you have it.

I went online to read "The Daily Office" and to the "Lectionary" for the daily readings and read them all and said the prayers. I especially like the prayer quoted below from the "The Daily Office". And yes, I know that this is not the same as the gathering of believers to worship God. I believe firmly that the gathering of the faithful is essential to my life as a Christian, but I trust that an occasional miss for no particularly good reason may be forgiven.

Psalm 146

Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord, O my soul!
I will praise the Lord as long as I live;
I will sing praises to my God all my life long.

Do not put your trust in princes,
in mortals, in whom there is no help.
When their breath departs, they return to the earth;
on that very day their plans perish.

Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the Lord their God,
who made heaven and earth,
the sea, and all that is in them;
who keeps faith for ever;
who executes justice for the oppressed;
who gives food to the hungry.

The Lord sets the prisoners free;
the Lord opens the eyes of the blind.
The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down;
the Lord loves the righteous.
The Lord watches over the strangers;
he upholds the orphan and the widow,
but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.

The Lord will reign for ever,
your God, O Zion, for all generations.
Praise the Lord!

John 14:1-7

‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling-places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going.’ Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.’

Thomas reminds me so much of myself. Had I been present with Jesus, if I had not understood his' words, I would have asked for an explanation, just as Thomas did.

Prayers of the People

We pray to Jesus who is present with us to eternity.

Jesus, light of the world,
bring the light and peace of your Gospel to the nations ...
Jesus, Lord of life,
in your mercy, hear us.

Jesus, bread of life,
give food to the hungry ...
and nourish us all with your word.
Jesus, Lord of life,
in your mercy, hear us.

Jesus, our way, our truth, our life,
be with us and all who follow you in the way ...
deepen our appreciation of your truth,
and fill us with your life.
Jesus, Lord of life,
in your mercy, hear us.

Jesus, Good Shepherd who gave your life for the sheep,
recover the straggler,
bind up the injured,
strengthen the sick
and lead the healthy and strong to new pastures.
Jesus, Lord of life,
in your mercy, hear us.

Jesus, the resurrection and the life,
we give you thanks for all who have lived and
believed in you ...
raise us with them to eternal life.
Jesus, Lord of life,
in your mercy, hear us.

Living God,
for whom no door is closed,
no heart is locked:
Draw us beyond our doubts,
till we see your Christ and touch his wounds where they bleed in others.
This we ask through Jesus Christ our Savior,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and forever. Amen.


Almighty and everlasting God, who in the Paschal mystery has established the new covenant of reconciliation: Grant that all who have been reborn into the fellowship of Christ’s Body may show forth in their lives what they profess by their faith; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


AM Psalm 146, 147; PM Psalm 111, 112, 113
Exod. 14:5-22; 1 Joh 1:1-7; John 14:1-7

A Note From Michael Moore

So? ... A Note from Michael Moore

Monday, March 24th, 2008


It would have to happen on Easter Sunday, wouldn't it, that the 4,000th American soldier would die in Iraq. Play me that crazy preacher again, will you, about how maybe God, in all his infinite wisdom, may not exactly be blessing America these days. Is anyone surprised?

4,000 dead. Unofficial estimates are that there may be up to 100,000 wounded, injured, or mentally ruined by this war. And there could be up to a million Iraqi dead. We will pay the consequences of this for a long, long time. God will keep blessing America.

And where is Darth Vader in all this? A reporter from ABC News this week told Dick Cheney, in regards to Iraq, "two-thirds of Americans say it's not worth fighting." Cheney cut her off with a one word answer: "So?"

Read the rest here. And watch the video from Think Progress.

Bu hey! Michael Moore is fat and wears a baseball cap. Plus he's from a working-class background. We really shouldn't pay attention to him, right?

Thanks, Ann.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Off To First Communion Celebration

I tried to find a cute First Communion picture to post, but no luck. My next to youngest grandson will be receiving his First Communion tomorrow this morning in New Orleans. We'll be eating out afterwards at one of the Chinese restaurants where they cook right at the table. The kids love that. The chef tosses food to them. It's OK, because we're in a closed room, so if the chef misses, he doesn't hit other customers.

Also, say a prayer for my son's cat, Stormy, who has urinary track problems. He's pretty sick, and the children will be upset if anything happens to him. Although he is a mixed breed, he looks just like a pure-bred Russian blue, and the breed is genetically predisposed to have the urinary problem.

UPDATE: I found a picture. That's a pretty accurate representation of the children, but the priest didn't look quite like the one in the pictures. Too treacly?

UPDATE 2: This is not a picture of Stormy, but it looks very like him.

Friday, March 28, 2008

The Great Disconnection

Yesterday, I took the time to read the whole of Bush's speech at the National Museum of the Air Force in Ohio. Yes, the seven pages of drivel, stupidity, and mendacity from the Bizarro World of Bush. I'm not linking, but you can find the whole of it at the White House web site.

Here are a few quotes from our dear leader:

On the security side, the surge has brought important gains, which I discussed in detail last week in a speech at the Pentagon. In Baghdad, we've worked with Iraqi security forces to greatly diminish the sectarian violence and civilian deaths. We've broken the grip of al Qaida on the capital. We've weakened the influence of Iranian-backed militias. We've dramatically improved security conditions in many devastated neighborhoods in what some have deemed a "re-liberation."

We liberate them, and then we re-liberate them. How much more of our liberation can they take?

Initially, the United States paid for most of the costs of training and equipping the Iraqi security forces. Now Iraq's budget covers three-quarters of the cost of its security forces, which is a total of more than $9 billion in 2008. And soon, Iraq should, and we expect them, to shoulder the full burden of their security forces.

Yes, but we're still spending $12 billion a month there.

Some, however, seem unwilling to acknowledge that progress is taking place. Early in the war, they said the political situation wasn't good enough. Then, after Iraq held three historic elections, they said the security situation wasn't good enough. Then, after the security situation began to improve, they said politics, again, wasn't good enough. And now that political progress is picking up, they're looking for a new reason.

No, it's an old reason, Mr President. It seems to be security again, not to be nitpicking or anything.

You know, when I mentioned justice of the cause, you see that when Americans in full battle gear hand out books to children, hand out books to total strangers. You see it when they defuse bombs to protect the innocent, or help organize a town council meeting. And you see that, there could be no doubt that America is a force for good and decency. (Applause.)

So to give books to the children, we had to invade their country. Many of the children's schools are now destroyed, and if the schools are standing, because of violence in the area, attending school may be too dangerous for the children. Were there bombs to be defused before we invaded?

Four thousand of our finest citizens have sacrificed their lives in this mission. Every one of them was loved. Every one is missed. And we thank God for the gift of these brave Americans

-- and we ask Him to comfort their families. Every one of them will be honored throughout our history. But the best way to honor the fallen is to complete the mission, and lay the foundation of peace. (Applause.)

To honor the fallen and the maimed, we must allow more troops to die and be maimed.

Earlier yesterday, I had read Today I read in McClatchy of the violence in Iraq:


12 mortars hit the Green Zone starting at 10 am until this report was prepared at 2 pm, Thursday, said Iraqi Police. The U.S. Embassy said no one was injured.

Updating Sadr City news, since the fighting started on Monday until now, the toll has reached 38 killed and 47 wounded, Iraqi police said.

Random fire by gunmen passing in a speeding car killed a father and his son, 13 years old in Talbiyah, north Baghdad at 5 this afternoon.

4 mortar rounds hit the US military base in Rustamiyah at 6.30 pm. No casualties were reported and no comment was available from the US military at the time of publication.

5 unidentified bodies were found in Baghdad by Iraqi Police today. 1 in Ur, 1 in Zayuna, 1 in Husseiniyah, 1 in Mansour, 1 in Alawi al-Hilla, Sheikh Ma'roof.


Fighting in Basra between the Mahdi Army and the security forces has been ongoing since early Tuesday, and the toll of the fighting is at least 97 killed and around 300 injured, a medical source in the Directorate of Health in Basra said.


5 unidentified bodies were found in a mass grave by security forces in al-Zor area, Muqdadiyah district, 25 km to the east of Baquba.


Gunmen attack a Sahwa, US sponsored militia, member's house in al-Khadhraa neighbourhood, downtown Samara and kill both him and his son and injured his wife and one of his daughters. Joint forces, Iraqi army and US military announce a curfew in order to search for the armed group, said First Lieutenant Muthanna Shakir. US military did not include this report in their release.

I have included only a sampling of the violence reported by McKlatchy.

The president's disconnection from the reality of Iraq is astounding. How can anyone treat him with any seriousness? How do any of us live our lives as though none of this is happening?

What Happened To The Pink Elephants?

From the Telegraph:

A New Zealand man who claimed he was raped by a wombat and that the experience left him speaking with an Australian accent has been found guilty of wasting police time.

Arthur Cradock, 48, from the South Island town of Motueka, called police last month to tell them he was being raped by the marsupial at his home and needed urgent assistance.

Cradock, an orchard worker, later called back to reassure the police operator that he was all right.


Police prosecutor Sergeant Chris Stringer told the court that alcohol played a large role in Cradock’s life.

From Lapin labeled, "This week's silliest story!"

More Prayers, Please

Blogger Kate Morningstar said...

My Dad's in hospital as of yesterday. I thought it would be a very short stay, and he'd die in the next few days. But there's something they can do that will make him more comfortable and able to breathe, without fixing the problem. They're saying, after they've done it, they're planning to send him home early next week. It will still be soon.

Dad's illness is a logical consequence of what he's done in his life. I believe that in the next phase of his existence, whatever that is, he will be offered healing he wouldn't or couldn't take in this phase. And that at some point, he'll be able to move into that healing.

A big part of the problem is -- he is completely unwilling to accept the possibility that there is a Source of All Healing and Help, or a next phase of existence.

I made his favourite kind of cookies this morning, and I'm going now to deliver them to the hospital. We do what we can.

Kate, you did good with the cookies. Prayers for your dad that he finds healing, comfort, consolation, and the peace that passes understanding, and that he finds hope in the Source of all hope. Prayers for you and your family, too, that the love of God surround you all.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

From The General(s) To The Particular

The two articles from the Associated Press appeared one beneath the other in my local newspaper, just as I post them here.

From the AP via MSNBC:

In the confidential confines of a Pentagon conference room known as "the Tank," President Bush moved one step closer to temporarily halting U.S. troop cuts in Iraq.

No decisions were announced at the closed-door session Wednesday, but officials said later that the heads of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps indicated they would go along with a halt.

The chiefs stressed, however, their concerns about the accumulating strains caused by an Iraq war that is now in its sixth year and that has forced the Army and Marine Corps in particular to keep troops in combat longer and on more frequent tours than officials believe can be sustained in the long term.

The chiefs' concern is that U.S. forces are being worn thin, compromising the Pentagon's ability to handle crises elsewhere in the world.

From the AP via USA Today:

FORT STEWART, Ga. — Army Staff Sgt. Robert Brown's third deployment Iraq was also his longest -- he was 39 when he left, and he turned 41 the day before he returned to Fort Stewart on Wednesday.

His wife, Taura Brown, and 4-year-old son Jacob had a cake waiting for him at home that said, "Happy Birthday and Welcome Home."

Brown was part of the first Army division tapped for a third combat tour in Iraq. He was among 500 soldiers from the 3rd Infantry Division's 1st Brigade returning Wednesday from a 15-month deployment to Iraq. The rest of the brigade of 4,000 troops will return in the next two weeks.

"The only thing I want to do is just go home and be around nobody but them," said Brown, of Chatham, La., as he pulled off his helmet and flashed a wide smile at his wife and child.

At least 75 soldiers from the 19,000-soldier division died during the latest deployment, the military said.

The division helped lead the charge to Baghdad in the 2003 invasion, and returned to Iraq in 2005.

During their third deployment, division soldiers had their tour stretched to 15 months -- compared with the typical 12 month rotation -- as the Pentagon boosted troop levels in Iraq to crack down on violence from insurgents.

"It seemed like forever," said Spc. Bradley Glasscock, 33, of Wilmington, Ind. "We were already three months into the deployment when they told us we'd get an extra three months. So it seemed like we stopped and started over again. We were just biting at the bit to get home."

I was going to comment, but res ipsa loquitor.

Prayer Request For Naomi

From Caminante:

As Kris Carr author of "Crazy, Sexy, Cancer" would say, Get your posse going.

So, you all, you are Naomi's prayer posse. She needs your prayers. Spread them far and wide. Put her on whatever prayer list you know. Just pray. Pray for her, her mother, father, four sisters and brother.

She wrote tonight on her website:

"So, not so great news. I’m going to finish radiation and try a chemo for two weeks. The chemo wont cure it but we’re hoping that it’ll slow or shrink it a little. It is Ewings and it is growing and being very aggressive. After radiation and chemo they will do an assessment but after that they said that there is nothing else they can do. After the assessment they will be labeling my case as terminal. My parents and I have talked about it and decided to try eveything out there to fight this beast. We’re going to research alternatives and holistic approaches. If anyone has suggestions or knows anything please let me know. I’m hoping things work out but now I really begin my fight."

I can't believe they told her that they would be calling her case 'terminal.' It's so harsh.

If you all know of anything that might help, write me in the comments and I will pass it along.

Our prayers can make a difference. I don't know for what to pray but God knows. Thanks.

Prayers for healing for Naomi and for comfort, consolation, and peace for her and for those who love her.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Blogging for Doorman-Priest

While Doorman-Priest is away at Vicar School this week, he gave the key to his blog to The Reverend Boy and to me, and asked us to post while he was gone. When I said yes, I had no idea how daunting the task would be when the time came to actually write a post. I struggled and discarded and finally posted at The World of Doorman-Priest. If you'd like, you can read my post there. RB's post will be later in the week.

The task was difficult, because I believe that DP is quite good at what he does, and I didn't want to disgrace him on his own blog. I wonder if he realized the risk involved in handing me the key. I've already been tempted to put up something naughty.


Doorman-Priest's humble servant (aka Grandmère Mimi)

20th Century Martyrs - Westminster Abbey

Statues of 20th-century martyrs on the façade above the Great West Door of Westminster Abbey. Those commemorated are Maximilian Kolbe, Manche Masemola, Janani Luwum, Grand Duchess Elizabeth of Russia, Martin Luther King, Óscar Romero, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Esther John, Lucian Tapiedi, and Wang Zhiming.
Thanks to Lapinbizarre who sent me the links with this comment:
It is a wonderfully "catholic" assembly, isn't it?
Indeed, it is a "catholic" assembly. That's the best of Anglicanism, the catholic, embracing Anglicanism, contrasting with the narrow, exclusive Anglicanism that certain members of the leadership in the Anglican Communion are presently advocating.

Image from Wiki

UPDATE: Links to biographies of the martyrs can be found here. Scroll down to the section labeled "Commemorated".

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Feast Day Of Oscar Romero (Missed)

Yesterday, I missed the feast day of Archbishop Oscar Romero. Mea maxima culpa!

Óscar Arnulfo Romero y Galdámez (August 15, 1917 – March 24, 1980), commonly known as Monseñor Romero, was a priest of the Roman Catholic Church in El Salvador. He later became prelate archbishop of San Salvador.

As an archbishop, he witnessed numerous violations of human rights and began a ministry speaking out on behalf of the poor and victims of the country's civil war. His brand of political activism was denounced by the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church and the government of El Salvador. In 1980, he was assassinated by gunshot while consecrating the Eucharist during mass. His death finally provoked international outcry for human rights reform in El Salvador.

What wise words in this prayer from Archbishop Romero:

It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.

The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,
it is even beyond our vision.

We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction
of the magnificent enterprise that is God's work.
Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of saying
that the kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the church's mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.

This is what we are about.
We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted,
knowing that they hold future promise.

We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.

We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation
in realizing that. This enables us to do something,
and to do it very well. It may be incomplete,
but it is a beginning, a step along the way,
an opportunity for the Lord's grace to enter and do the rest.

We may never see the end results, but that is the difference
between the master builder and the worker.

We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.

"No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends."
John 15:13

Archbishop Romero is under consideration for sainthood by the Roman Catholic Church, but the Episcopal Church has moved ahead and given him a feast day. Thanks be to God.


Almighty God, you called your servant Oscar Romero to be a voice for the voiceless poor, and to give his life as a seed of freedom and a sign of hope: Grant that, inspired by his sacrifice and the example of the martyrs of El Salvador, we may without fear or favor witness to your Word who abides, your Word who is Life, even Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be praise and glory now and for ever. Amen.

Picture and biographical quote from Wiki.

How Smart Is Your Right Foot?

This is not new, and I have already tried it, and it is true, but I needed a laugh. From my well-trained daughter, who knows when her mama needs a laugh:

I could not believe this!!! Just try it!

It is from an orthopedic surgeon [?]............ This will boggle your mind and you will keep you trying over and over again to see if you can outsmart your foot, but, you can't. It's preprogrammed in your brain!

1. Without anyone watching you (they will think you are GOOFY......) and while sitting where you are at your desk in front of your computer, lift your right foot off the floor and make clockwise circles.

2. Now, while doing this, draw the number "6" in the air with your right hand. Your foot will change direction. I told you so!!!

And there's nothing you can do about it! You and I both know how stupid it is, but before the day is done you are going to try it again, if you've not already done so. Send it to your friends to frustrate them too!

My friends, here is my gift to you today. I am frustrated about a good many large issues, today. Here's a small frustration to take your mind off the big ones.

PS: The left foot is just as smart.

Coal And Wood 'More Damaging Than Thought'

From the The Guardian:

So what are you going to do about it? I know what I'll do. Since I don't burn coal or wood and can't help with that, I'll start thinking a lot less.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Automatic Confession

Thanks to Doug (who else?) for bringing this to my attention.

US Troop Deaths In Iraq Rise To 4000

From the AP via The Advocate in Baton Rouge.

BAGHDAD (AP) -- The overall U.S. death toll in Iraq rose to 4,000 after four soldiers were killed in a roadside bombing in Baghdad, a grim milestone that is likely to fuel calls for the withdrawal of American forces as the war enters its sixth year.

The American deaths occurred Sunday, the same day rockets and mortars pounded the U.S.-protected Green Zone in Baghdad and a wave of attacks left at least 61 Iraqis dead nationwide.

Tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians also have been killed since the U.S.-led invasion on March 20, 2003, although estimates of a specific figure vary widely due to the difficulty in collecting accurate information.

One widely respected tally by Iraq Body Count, which collects figures based mostly on media reports, estimates that 82,349 to 89,867 Iraqi civilians have lost their lives in the conflict.

President Bush has insisted the decline in violence shows his strategy is working and needs more time, a position taken by Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain.

At least 10 civilians were killed and 20 more were wounded in rocket or mortar blasts in scattered areas of eastern Baghdad, some probably due to rounds aimed at the Green Zone that fell short.

UPDATE: Picture from The Memory Hole. It dates to 2003, because the Pentagon no longer allows photographs of the flag-draped coffins that arrive at Dover Air Force Base.

UPDATE 2: Perhaps instead of the flag-draped coffins, I should have posted this.

The Opera - Part III - "Lucia di Lammermoor"

Walter Scott's The Bride of Lammermoor is the source of the libretto for "Lucia" by Gaetano Donizetti. It's a tragic story of star-crossed lovers, stolen letters, madness, and murder that takes place in the Scottish lowlands. The families of the lovers, Lucia and Edgardo, have been engaged in a long-running feud, and the two have been meeting in secret on the grounds of Lammermoor Castle. Lucia's brother, Enrico, sung by Mariusz Kwiecien, wants Lucia to marry Arturo, a man of great fortune, to save the family's property and honor.

The performance by Natalie Dessay, as Lucia, is possibly the most outstanding singing and acting that I have ever experienced at an opera. Dessay is quite small in stature, and to hear that great voice come from a petite woman was astonishing. I'm aware that a singer's size has nothing to do with strength of voice, yet it was surprising to me to hear such power come forth from her. Her acting, especially in her mad scenes and those in which she is forced to marry a man she does not love, is masterful. As she stands up with Arturo, she is faint, seemingly near to death, trilling her notes softly and beautifully. Dessay showcased her lovely coloratura voice to excellent effect in this bel canto opera.

Enrico, upon finding out about his sister's clandestine meetings with his mortal enemy, becomes enraged and, in fact, remains enraged through the greater part of the opera. He was excellent, demonstrating his anger in both his singing and acting with great verve and realism. Edgardo and Lucia were perfectly believable as lovers, however, none of the male characters in the opera, including Edgardo, seemed to take note of Lucia's fragility, and all contribute, in some manner, to push her over the edge into madness. The chaplain and Lucia's tutor, Raimondo, should have taken better care of her, but I suppose he was no match for Enrico's rage. Watching the angry Enrico, I could not help but wonder why he didn't find himself a rich heiress to marry to save the family fortune and honor, instead of forcing his sister into a marriage to a man she did not love. I have never, ever, been so emotionally caught up in the drama of an opera, as I was with this performance of Lucia. I was lost in it, mesmerized, outside of time and place.

Joseph Colaneri, replaced Joseph Levine, who was to have conducted the opera, at the eleventh hour and made an excellent work of it.

The Met production returned to the original custom of using a glass armonica in the orchestra during Lucia's mad scene. The instrument's volume is quite low, therefore the flute is most often used for the brief bit of music. I was told that amplification was most likely used, because we would not have been able to hear the armonica without it.

As Lucia came down the stairs after stabbing Arturo, I noticed that her blood-stained dress (or, perhaps, that of an understudy) was one that we saw during our backstage tour of the Met. Our guide told us that paint is used to great effect on the costumes to show blood, mud, etc.

Altogether a magical evening! My knowledge of opera is limited, and I am, most certainly, not a music critic. I'm probably making a mess of this, but I'm giving you my impression of the evening, strictly an effort by a dilettante. (I joke that the word was coined for me, with my knowledge of a little bit about a lot of things.) However, our lecturer, who is an expert, thought that it was an excellent production, too.

Conductor - Joseph Colaneri
Normanno - Michael Myers
Lord Enrico Ashton - Mariusz
Raimundo - John Relyea
Lucia - Natalie Dessay
Alisa - Michaela Martens
Edgardo - Guiseppe Filianoti
Arturo - Stephen Costello

Picture from the New York Times.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

"Do Not Be Afraid - Of This Risen Life"

The children in our church planted the garden at the beginning of Lent, and here it is bursting with new life in bloom on the day when we celebrate the new life of the Risen Christ. Once again we are called to remembrance that we share this new life with Jesus Christ.

Ann sent me the link to this post from the Urban Hermit:

We share in the great awe and joy of the women at the tomb as we celebrate with all creation and make visible the new life that pulses through all creation.

So, the Resurrection greeting, “Do not be afraid”.

“Do not be afraid – of this Risen life.”

The entire post is surely worth a read. Thanks, Ann

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Alleluia! Christ Is Risen!

"The Resurrection" - Fra Angelico - San Marco Museum, Florence

Mark 16:1-8

The Resurrection of Jesus

When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. They had been saying to one another, ‘Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?’ When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, ‘Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.’ So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.


Almighty God, who through your only-begotten Son Jesus Christ overcame death and opened to us the gate of everlasting life: Grant that we, who celebrate with joy the day of the Lord's resurrection, may be raised from the death of sin by your life-giving Spirit; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


SLEEP, sleep, old sun, thou canst not have repass'd,
As yet, the wound thou took'st on Friday last ;
Sleep then, and rest ; the world may bear thy stay ;
A better sun rose before thee to-day ;
Who—not content to enlighten all that dwell
On the earth's face, as thou—enlighten'd hell,
And made the dark fires languish in that vale,
As at thy presence here our fires grow pale ;
Whose body, having walk'd on earth, and now
Hasting to heaven, would—that He might allow
Himself unto all stations, and fill all—
For these three days become a mineral.
He was all gold when He lay down, but rose
All tincture, and doth not alone dispose
Leaden and iron wills to good, but is
Of power to make e'en sinful flesh like his.
Had one of those, whose credulous piety
Thought that a soul one might discern and see
Go from a body, at this sepulchre been,
And, issuing from the sheet, this body seen,
He would have justly thought this body a soul,
If not of any man, yet of the whole.

Desunt Caetera

Painting courtesy Christus Rex.

Silence And Stillness

Since today is a day of silence and of rest, I'll let others speak for me. So far the others are but one, Ann Fontaine, who has a lovely essay at the Episcopal Café.

Holy Saturday brings a Sabbath from noise. We sit in the stillness of grief wondering. Where has he gone? What has happened? How can this be?

Is it a time of rest as the Holy Saturday collect from the Book of Common Prayer proclaims?

"O God, Creator of heaven and earth: Grant that, as the crucified body of your dear Son was laid in the tomb and rested on this holy Sabbath, so we may await with him the coming of the third day, and rise with him to newness of life; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen."

Do read the essay in its entirety.

The Day Before

From Ann:

My favorite Easter poem by John Niehardt, 1908 (author of "Black Elk Speaks")


Once more the northbound Wonder
Brings back the goose and crane,
Prophetic Sons of Thunder,
Apostles of the Rain.

In many a battling river
The broken gorges boom;
Behold, the Mighty Giver
Emerges from the tomb!

Now robins chant the story
Of how the wintry sward
Is litten with the glory
Of the Angel of the Lord.

His countenance is lightning
And still His robe is snow,
As when the dawn was brightening
Two thousand years ago.

O who can be a stranger
To what has come to pass?
The Pity of the Manger
Is mighty in the grass.

Undaunted by Decembers,
The sap is faithful yet.
The giving Earth remembers,
And only (we) forget.

Thanks, Ann. I like it.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Good Friday

"Crucifixion (Corpus Hypercubus)" - Salvador Dalí (1954)


AM Psalm 95 [for the Invitatory], 22; PM Psalm 40:1-14 (15-19), 54
Lam. 3:1-9, 19-33; 1 Pet. 1:10-20; John 13:36-38 [AM]; John 19:38-42 [PM]


Almighty God, we pray you graciously to behold this your family, for whom our Lord Jesus Christ was willing to be betrayed, and given into the hands of sinners, and to suffer death upon the cross; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Did You Die For Me?

Did you die for me,
Jesus, did you?
Did God raise you for me?

Why? Why for me?
What good am I?
What use to you?

You say because you love me.
Why do you love me?
Because you are love, you say.

I must love my brother.
I must love my sister.
As you love me, so must I love.

Spirit of God,
Dove of love,
Fill my heart to overflowing.

June Butler - 3-20-08

Thursday, March 20, 2008


As I said in my earlier post, Spreading Ashes, my brother-in-law, Frank, (husband to my deceased sister, Gayle) and I went to New Orleans to spread a few of her ashes in City Park, because the place had meaning for us, since we had spent time there as children and because the park was the place where Gayle and Frank met.

The picture above shows the spot in City Park where Frank spread Gayle's ashes, somewhere between the palm and the oak tree. It's a beautiful place, across the lagoon from the Peristyle. I didn't think to say a prayer, but I believe that the whole outing was a prayer, including lunch and a later visit to Audubon Park to put ashes in the lagoon there. I hope that Frank won't mind my sharing this, but they used to park and talk at Audubon Park after school - trust me, it was mostly talk, because it was often daylight. Sometimes, the police would come by and drive them away from their talk.

Altogether, Saturday was a lovely day. We felt somewhat sad, but mostly we experienced a sense of rightness about what we were doing, leaving a part of Gayle in the city that she loved to visit in places that were meaningful for her and us. Frank and their children and I all feel the ache from Gayle's absence in our lives every day, Frank and the children more than I, I'm sure. We'll never stop missing her, however, all in all, it was a good day.

Pictured below on the left is the restaurant, La Vita, where Frank and I had a delicious lunch of Italian food after the spreading of the ashes in City Park. The picture on the right shows the bar in the restaurant, made of what look to be rough, old barn boards cut to size. It's a funky thing of beauty.

Maundy Thursday

"The Sacrament of the Last Supper" by Salvador Dalí.


AM Psalm 102; PM Psalm 142, 143
Lam. 2:10-18; 1 Cor. 10:14-17, 11:27-32; Mark 14:12-25


Almighty Father, whose dear Son, on the night before he suffered, instituted the Sacrament of his Body and Blood: Mercifully grant that we may receive it thankfully in remembrance of Jesus Christ our Lord, who in these holy mysteries gives us a pledge of eternal life; and who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The Last Supper

Come, my friends, it's Passover night.
Find the room; prepare the table.
Buy the bread; get the wine.
One of you will betray me.

Take and eat. This is my body,
Given for you.
Drink the cup, my blood shed for you
And many.

We'll not eat together again
Till kingdom come.
Sing with me now, for you'll run
When they take me.

"Oh, no, Lord, not I!"
Peter, my friend, you will,
And deny me, too.

June Butler - 3/12/08

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Prayer Request From Kate Morningstar

Kate Morningstar said...

Mimi -- I'd e-mail you directly, but I'm not having any luck. I'm requesting prayers for my Diocese, and the senior clergy of the diocese, for tomorrow, Maundy Thursday. You can see why here.

From Kate's blog:

Late in February, three parishes of the Diocese voted to secede from the Diocese and the Anglican Church of Canada, and receive Episcopal oversight from the Province of the Southern Cone. They intend to take the real property of the parishes with them. Ownership of the property has gone to court, and the court granted temporary, sole occupancy of the premises to the parishes, which belong to something called the Anglican Network of Canada. The issue is scheduled to go back to court tomorrow, Maundy Thursday. We don’t know what time. The Diocese holds the position that the Diocese owns all parish property, and that the people who gave money for their purchase in the first place intended for the parishes to be part of the ACC.

Please, hold us in your prayers tomorrow: the Diocese of Niagara, Bishop Michael Bird, Executive Archdeacon Michael Patterson, and Secretary of Synod, the Rev. Canon Dr. Rick Jones. I’m a secretary in an Anglican parish, and doing a pre-internship M. Div. student placement in the same parish. I’ll be putting in at least an 11-hour day tomorrow. Also, I’ve got the flu, and may not have energy to make a blog entry. Please, keep the diocese in your prayers, and you can check for updates at this link.

Were You There?

Our man in black, Johnny Cash, and the Carter family. They were young, weren't they? That's Mother Maybelle Carter on the right, June Carter second from right, and perhaps, Anita Carter second from left. I don't know who the other woman is. Please correct me if I'm wrong here, because I'm guessing.

Thanks to Ormonde at Through the Dust for calling the video to my attention.

UPDATE: Ormonde Plater said...

As someone (Susan S) on my blog advised, the four Carter girls are (from right): Mother Maybelle, June, Anita, and Helen. I'm guessing the date is 1968 (the year Johnny married June) 1963 or thereabouts.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Iraq War Blogswarm

Statement of Purpose

This blogswarm will promote blog postings opposing the war in Iraq and calling for a full withdrawal of foreign occupying forces in Iraq. Five years of an illegal and catastrophic war is five years too many. On the March 19 anniversary of the conquest of Iraq by the Bush Administration, there needs to be a loud volume of voices countering the pro-war propaganda from far too many politicians and corporate media outlets.

You can believe the number of 1,000,000 Iraqis dead or not. I've had folks argue with me about the number. No one is really counting, but I'll wager the number is, at least, in the high hundreds of thousands. There are untold numbers of wounded, many with horrible wounds, loss of limbs, blindness, brain damage, with not much in the way of good medical care, since many medical facilities have been destroyed. Doctors and other medical workers have been killed and kidnapped, with the result that a good number have fled Iraq.

Much of the infrastructure in Iraq is destroyed. Once the war stops, it will be a decade or more until life returns to anything approaching normal in the country. The task of rebuilding will be daunting and extremely expensive - but not until the war is over can the rebuilding begin.

The numbers of refugees inside and outside Iraq total between 2 million and 4 million, many of them living desperate and dreadful lives in refugee camps. The countries which admitted them do not have endless resources to care for them. We should be helping those countries more than we are now. We should be taking in more refugees ourselves, if they want to come here, especially those who have cooperated with the US and will be likely targets when we leave.

On Democracy Now, I watched the testimony of three young men who served multiple tours in Iraq, members of Iraq Veterans Against the War, on what they had seen and done, the orders that they had been given, and the "rules of engagement" of the US troops in Iraq. It was difficult to watch, because the three that I saw were obviously traumatized, each in his own way, by the war, and again by recalling the memories and giving their testimony.

At Iraq Coalition Casualty Count, I learn that 3990 3992 3996 American troops have been killed - getting close to the 4000 number. Nothing significant about the number, except the passing of another thousand mark.

I note this at ICCC:

Wasielewsk, Anthony Raymond 08-Oct-2007
Cassidy, Gerald J. 25-Sep-2007
Richards, Jack D. 29-Jul-2007
Salerno III, Raymond A. 16-Jul-2006
Smith, John "Bill" 01-Oct-2005
Note: The soldiers listed above died from wounds received in Iraq, however, the DoD has not included their deaths in their official count.

What's with that? Why aren't they counted?

The total number of wounded at ICCC is 40,229. Again, many of these troops suffer from terrible wounds, lost limbs, blindness, deafness, brain damage, but that number does not include many of the wounded in soul and spirit, nor does it include the numbers who suffered from undiagnosed concussions, with resulting brain damage, which are only now being given attention. That's not counting many cases of PTSD resulting in ruined lives, divorce, and homelessness amongst veterans.

We've learned that many are not receiving the best of care in military hospitals. We hear of difficulties and neglect of the veterans after they're discharged from military hospitals. Many of the disabled must fight long and hard to get their disability pensions, if they get them at all. In gratitude for serving their country, this is what the vets get from the government who sent them to war.

John McCain says that the surge is working. It's true that the incidents of violence have decreased, but the numbers may now be creeping back up. However, our troops are worn out, their equipment is worn out. We don't have the resources to continue in the increased numbers of the surge.

Does anyone see signs that Iraq will have a functional government in the near future? That was the purpose of the surge, a last-ditch opportunity for the Iraqi leadership to make progress in forming a workable government. John McCain is prepped for a hundred years war in Iraq if it takes that long. What will be left for the government to govern, if the war goes on for much longer?

It's time to begin to bring the troops now. Make a responsible plan for withdrawal - complete withdrawal, with no US military bases left in Iraq. Give Iraq back to the Iraqis. End the occupation.


UPDATE: please read Johnieb's essay at Here Still Running. He's been there. He knows. No, not in Iraq, but in Vietnam. Don't say they're not the same. War is war. War is hell.

Please Pray

Blogger susankay said...

A wonderful pregnant moon,

And, please, once again --pray for Molly-the-WonderDog. She is see-ing or hearing things I cannot hear. They terrify her, I guess it may be a brain tumor. She loves you all as I do.

May God send the love that heals to Molly and Susan.

Pastor Wright, Obama, And The Media

For several days now, I have been appalled at the news coverage of the tempest in a teapot, the molehill turned into a mountain, that is the sermon of the Reverend Jerimiah Wright. That's the Rev. Wright who is recently retired, but was, for 20 years, pastor to Barack Obama at Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. He preached a sermon recently which included words that some deemed offensive or, at the very least, inflammatory. I watched those parts of his sermon on video, and I did not find them offensive.

I do not agree with everything the Rev. Wright said, nor have I agreed with everything I have heard in sermons preached in the predominantly white churches that I attend, including one in a Roman Catholic Church recently, in which the congregation was called upon to applaud President Bush.

The best responses to the sermon and the coverage by the media that I have read are from bloggers.

From Rmj at Adventus, the Beatitudes from the Scholar's Version.

Congratulations, you poor!
God's domain belongs to you!

Congratulations, you hungry!
You will have a feast.

Congratulations, you who weep now!
You will laugh.

Damn you rich!
You already have your consolation!

Damn you who are well-fed now!
You will know hunger.

Damn you who laugh now!
You will learn to weep and grieve."

Rmj adds:

The congratulations are pretty risible, whether you translate makarios as "Congratulations" or "Blessed." And the ouai, rendered here as "Damn you!" is not really a nice reflection on the rich and powerful, no matter how you slice it.

Rmj has another good post here in which he includes this quote from a press release from Trinity UCC:

"Dr. Wright has preached 207,792 minutes on Sunday for the past 36 years at Trinity United Church of Christ. This does not include weekday worship services, revivals and preaching engagements across America and around the globe, to ecumenical and interfaith communities. It is an indictment on Dr. Wright's ministerial legacy to present his global ministry within a 15- or 30-second sound bite," said the Reverend Otis Moss III, pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ.

To which Rmj responds:

It is not only a cheap shot, it's pretty damned stupid to think that 15 seconds sums up a person's entire thought over 36 years. But, of course, this is politics, not a graduate seminar on theology or hermeneutics, so what else can we expect? And other than accept Jeremiah Wright as their spiritual leader and pastor for 36 years, what has Trinity UCC-Chicago done?

From Pastor Dan at Street Prophets:

Rev. Wright is I'm sure sharply aware that poverty and repression are daily realities for many of those seated in Trinity's sanctuary. The anger of his sermons is not his own invention, but grows from the unhappiness and frustration his parishioners feel. He must be responsible to those feelings even if he doesn't endorse them, even as he tries to move his community beyond them. It isn't his responsibility to comfort the privileged overhearers of his message, nor is it to speak "respectfully" of the outside world. His job is to articulate the good news for his congregation, which often means articulating a message of hope, liberation, and justice, even if that upsets the outside world.

In short, Wright eschews the feel-good comforts of religion and poses difficult questions about whether things in America are just and equitable.

This, of course, makes Sean and Tucker and Anderson and all the other fatuous f*cks who control our popular discourse pop a gasket. They are invested almost like no others in propping up the ways things are. It's how they make a living in the world of the corporate media.

About the media, I could not agree more with Pastor Dan, but the name that I would name would be Chris Wallace. He was sick-making.

Thanks to Fran at FranIAm for calling my attention to Pastor Dan's post and for letting me vent at her blog.

I read the transcript and watched a replay of Obama's speech today. I thought it was a fine speech. He distanced himself from certain of the Rev. Wright's words, but not from the pastor himself, which would have been quite unworthy. In the speech, Obama gave a brief and eloquent history of our country, including parts of the history that are often neglected. He's quite the speechmaker, and it's a true pleasure to watch him. Here's a link to the video from MoveOn.

Here's the text of Obama's speech from the New York Times.

A quote from the speech:

This was one of the tasks we set forth at the beginning of this campaign – to continue the long march of those who came before us, a march for a more just, more equal, more free, more caring and more prosperous America. I chose to run for the presidency at this moment in history because I believe deeply that we cannot solve the challenges of our time unless we solve them together – unless we perfect our union by understanding that we may have different stories, but we hold common hopes; that we may not look the same and we may not have come from the same place, but we all want to move in the same direction – towards a better future for our children and our grandchildren.

This belief comes from my unyielding faith in the decency and generosity of the American people. But it also comes from my own American story.

I am the son of a black man from Kenya and a white woman from Kansas. I was raised with the help of a white grandfather who survived a Depression to serve in Patton’s Army during World War II and a white grandmother who worked on a bomber assembly line at Fort Leavenworth while he was overseas. I’ve gone to some of the best schools in America and lived in one of the world’s poorest nations. I am married to a black American who carries within her the blood of slaves and slaveowners – an inheritance we pass on to our two precious daughters. I have brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, uncles and cousins, of every race and every hue, scattered across three continents, and for as long as I live, I will never forget that in no other country on Earth is my story even possible.

It’s a story that hasn’t made me the most conventional candidate. But it is a story that has seared into my genetic makeup the idea that this nation is more than the sum of its parts – that out of many, we are truly one.

Very good, Mr. Obama. Now if you can get elected and if your deeds match your words, we just might be on the way to better times.

An Italian Boy's Confession

Tomorrow is St. Joseph's feast day, the day the Italian-Americans set aside for celebrating their heritage day with St. Joseph altars and food, food, food. I will be blogging on another subject tomorrow, so here's a bit of Italian-American humor one day early.

From my daughter, whose boys are half Italian-American. Did I train her up right?

This could only happen with a little Italian kid..
Bless me Father, for I have sinned. I have been with a loose girl". The priest asks, "Is that you, little Joey Pagano ?"
"Yes, Father, it is."
"And who was the girl you were with?"
"I can't tell you, Father, I don't want to ruin her reputation"
Well, Joey, I'm sure to find out her name sooner or later so you may as well tell me now.
Was it Tina Minetti?"
"I cannot say."
"Was it Teresa Mazzarelli?"
"I'll never tell."
"Was it Nina Capelli?"
"I'm sorry, but I cannot name her."
"Was it Cathy Piriano?"
"My lips are sealed."
"Was it Rosa Di Angelo, then?"
"Please, Father, I cannot tell you."
The priest sighs in frustration. "You're very tight lipped, Joey Pagano, and I admire that. But you've sinned and have to atone. You cannot be an altar boy now for 4 months. Now you go and behave yourself."
Joey walks back to his pew, and his friend Franco slides over and whispers,
"What'd you get?"
"4 months vacation and five good leads."

I know. I'm naughty, naughty, naughty. You needn't tell me.

Monday, March 17, 2008

The Opera - Part II - "Otello"

Verdi's "Otello", with Renée Fleming, of the gorgeous voice, was one of the major lures for me to bite and schedule the Smithsonian opera program. The opera schedule seemed made for me, with the exception of "Peter Grimes", which turned out to be a wonderfully pleasant surprise.

Renée Fleming was as beautiful in appearance as her voice was beautiful. She looked lovely. Her voice is incredible, full, rich, smooth, sweet, and seemingly effortless. Of course, I know that it's not effortless, but that's how it seems when the sound comes forth. Her poignant portrayal of the loving, good, and loyal Desdemona was quite moving.

Johan Botha, as Otello, is a rotund man, which, in this case, reinforces for us his image of himself as unworthy of the good and beautiful Desdemona. I'm told that singing the role of Otello is incredibly difficult, and Botha made it through the opera with flying colors, seeming as fresh at the end of the opera as at the beginning. His voice left a bit to be desired, and his acting even more. I wanted more power in his voice and acting. More's the pity that he was outperformed by both Fleming and Guelfi (as Iago), although I will give him points for stamina.

On the other hand, Carlo Guelfi, as Iago, was magnificent in voice and in acting. His singing was powerful, as was his stage presence. The air was electric when he was on stage. As the scheming, malevolant deceiver, his performance was outstanding. I part company with the reviewer in the NYT on Iago, but he saw a different performance than I. Perhaps Guelfi was better the second time around. Wendy White was excellent as Emilia, and both Ronald Naldi and Garrett Sorenson were strong in the parts of Roderigo and Cassio.

Of course, I love the lyrical and beautiful music of the opera. "Otello" is thought by many to be Verdi's greatest opera. The libretto follows Shakespeare's drama fairly closely, with the exception that certain parts of the play are omitted.

My hope to hear Renée Fleming live was realized, and what a joy it was! Fortunately, our seats were fairly close to the stage. I had seen pictures of Fleming, and I knew that she was beautiful, but to see her and hear her in real life was a pleasure that I'll never forget.

Conductor - Semyon Bychkov
Montano - Charles Taylor
Cassio - Garrett Sorenson
Iago - Carlo Guelfi
Roderigo - Ronald Naldi
Otello - Johan Botha
Desdemona - Renée Fleming
Emilia - Wendy White
A herald - David Won
Lodovico - Kristinn Sigmundsson

Picture of the two principals from the New York Times.

Whither Goeth David Vitter?

Nowhere, apparently, because, as Vitter says, "Anybody who looks at the two cases [his and Eliot Spitzer's] will see there is an enormous difference between the two of them. The people that are trying to draw comparisons to the two cases are people who've never agreed with me on important issues like immigration and other things."

Well, now we all understand. That explains why Sen. Vitter is still in the US Senate and why his fellow family-values Republican senators seem OK with that. There are prostitution scandals and prostitution scandals, and, according to Vitter and the Republicans in the Senate, Vitter's prostitution scandal doesn't meet the resignation test.

Sen. Vitter's quote taken from the Times-Picayune.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Here's another of the Irish jokes sent to me by you-know-who, our Doug, of course. Doug is not fictitious, you know. I met him in New York.

An Irishman who had a little too much to drink is driving home from the city one night and, of course, his car is weaving violently all over the road.

A cop pulls him over. "So," says the cop to the driver, "where have ya been?"

"Why, I've been to the pub of course," slurs the drunk.

"Well," says the cop, "it looks like you've had quite a few to drink this evening."

"I did all right," the drunk says with a smile.

"Did you know," says the cop, standing straight, and folding his arms across his chest, "that a few intersections back, your wife fell out of your car?"

"Oh, thank heavens," sighs the drunk. "for a minute there, I thought I'd gone deaf."

And since it's the very day when we all join to celebrate the Irish, whether we're Irish or not, here's another:

Mary Clancy goes up to Father O'Grady after his Sunday morning service, and she's in tears. He says, "So what's bothering you, Mary my dear?"

She says, "Oh, Father, I've got terrible news. My husband passed away last night."

The priest says, "Oh, Mary, that's terrible. Tell me, Mary, did he have any last requests?"

She says, "That he did, Father."

The priest says, "What did he ask, Mary?"

" She says, "He said, 'Please Mary, put down that damn gun..."

Yeah, that one has a little touch of the black humor, doesn't it?

As Doug says, "AND THE BEST FOR LAST!"

A drunk staggers into a Catholic Church, enters a confessional booth, sits down, but says nothing.

The Priest coughs a few times to get his attention, but the drunk continues to sit there.

Finally, the Priest pounds three times on the wall.

The drunk mumbles, "Ain't no use knockin, there's no paper on this side either."

That Doug! He's wicked, isn't he?

Photo by Keith I. Marszalek at

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Palm Sunday

"The Entry of Christ into Jerusalem" mosaic by the Master of the Cappella Palatina in Palermo, Italy

The Coming Ruler of God’s People

Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion!
Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem!
Lo, your king comes to you;
triumphant and victorious is he,
humble and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
He will cut off the chariot from Ephraim
and the warhorse from Jerusalem;
and the battle-bow shall be cut off,
and he shall command peace to the nations;
his dominion shall be from sea to sea,
and from the River to the ends of the earth.

As for you also, because of the blood of my covenant with you,
I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit.
Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope;
today I declare that I will restore to you double.

Zechariah 9:9-12

I was struck by how eventful the life of Jesus is between his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, which we celebrate on Palm Sunday, and his victory over death which we celebrate on Easter Sunday.

From the "Litany of the Palms", Book of Common Prayer:

Assist us mercifully with your help, O lord God of our salvation, that we may enter with joy upon our contemplation of those mighty acts, whereby you have given us life and immortality, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Image from Wiki.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Kishnevi's Wallpaper

Kishnevi, thank you. This is lovely.


Periostyle at City Park in New Orleans.

My brother-in-law, the husband of my sister and best friend, who died almost two years ago, is visiting us. Today we will go to New Orleans and spread a few of her ashes near the Peristyle, pictured above, or somewhere in the park - clandestinely, of course, because I believe we're not allowed to do that. Don't tell.

When we were children, we often picnicked at City Park, Gayle took dancing lessons through high school and, on Sunday afternoons, the dance school students performed at the Peristyle. My sister met my brother-in-law after one of the dance recitals there, and they went on to get married and have three children. They were due to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary later in the year she died.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Prayer Request From KJ (That Nice Boy)

I'm zapping off a quickie prayer request before heading to lunch with a woman from my past Evangelical life. She and I were the pianist and organist at our little church of infamy (There actually is a book about it!). Anyway, I've not seen her in years, so that makes it a coming out event, which always comes with its challenges in the given demographic. However, she has gone through a divorce, and that often tempers the evangelical in the Evangelical, but hopefully does not kill the Evangel. I trust that makes sense. Thanks for praying!

Peace of Christ,


When I asked KJ if he wanted this kept private he responded:

Oh no! The more praying the better. I'm hoping she'll come out to me as a lesbian! That would make things really simple. :-)

KJ, tell us more about the book, please.

The Opera - Part I - "Peter Grimes"

Finally, John D and NancyP, here is the first episode.

For a long time I have wanted to hear an opera at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York. I've tried several times to get a ticket, but I have been unsuccessful in matching an opera ticket for a performance that I wanted to hear with the time that I was to be in the city, because my visits are usually short. Then, too, most times Grandpère was with me, and he doesn't like opera.

Since I am 73 years old, going to an opera at the Met was on my list of things I want to do before I die. A brochure arrived from Smithsonian Tours offering four operas in four nights with lectures from an opera expert before each opera, Renée Fleming as Desdemona in "Otello", and a backstage tour of the Met. I jumped in. I have longed to hear Fleming in a live performance after hearing her gorgeous voice only on recordings. I could not resist. It was expensive, but I gave myself a treat.

Our first opera was Britten's "Peter Grimes", which I considered would be my least favorite of the four. However, I found it to be much more compelling than I expected. The tenor, Anthony Dean Griffey, who sang the part of Peter Grimes was excellent and strong both in voice and acting. He's a powerfully built man and totally believable in the part of the ostracized fisherman in the small, claustrophobic English fishing village. The other singers were also quite good, especially Patricia Racette as Ellen Orford, who wants to save Peter, and Felicity Palmer as Mrs. Sedley, the gossipy widow who eggs the others on to turn against Peter.

The opera reminded me of Arthur Miller's "The Crucible", with the small community, which includes a good many small-minded folks, inclined to the herd instinct, with the resulting recipe for tragedy. Not that I didn't know the story, but the portentousness from the first moment was palpable in the opera, in a manner which reminded me of the play.

The opera includes the "Four Seas Interludes" orchestral pieces, which divide the acts and serve to set the scene for the next act, and are often performed in concert on their own. The first of the interludes I found especially beautiful.

From the first moments, I was caught up in the story and the music, and I enjoyed it far more than I expected to. The singing and the acting in "Peter Grimes" were both excellent. I appreciate an opera in which the acting is treated with the same importance as the singing, since opera is, after all, a dramatic presentation.

Apparently, quite a few did not like the set, which consisted of large moving rectangles, covered with material to resemble the rough boards of a fisherman's shack, nearly as high as the very tall opening of the Met stage, with doors at different levels, in which the characters appeared to perform from time to time. The doors swung open and closed spookily on their own and, to me, worked to good effect to help set the mood. Most of those who did not like the set had seen other performances of the opera, with the set consisting of a more realistic representation of a fishing village. All in all, a good evening.

Photo from the New York Times.

Conductor - Donald Runnicles
Hobson - Dean Peterson
Swallow - John Del Carlo
Peter Grimes - Anthony Dean Griffey
Mrs. Sedley - Felicity Palmer
Ellen Orford - Patricia Racette
Auntie - Jill Grove
Bob Boles - Greg Fedderly
Captain Balstrode - Anthont Michaels-Moore
Rev. Horace Adams - Bernard Fitch
Two nieces - Leah Partridge, Erin Morley
Ned Keene - Teddy Tahu Rhodes

Eugene Robinson Says It For Me

From the Washington Post:

...But what was she thinking?

Why did Silda Wall Spitzer literally stand by her man, not once but twice? What compelled or inspired her to accompany Spitzer on Monday as he responded to the breaking story with a terse apology, and then again on Wednesday, when he announced his resignation?

CNN's resident curmudgeon, Jack Cafferty, put the question best: "The other thing I don't understand about this story is how these guys always get their wives to go stand on the podium with them when they cop to this stuff. I remember during the Monica Lewinsky thing, some member of Congress -- I don't remember who it was -- said, you know, if that was my wife, she'd be standing over my bleeding body in the kitchen saying, 'How do you reload this thing?'"

Exactly. I have spoken in the comments at various blogs about the wives who literally stand up in the spotlight at the podium with their wayward husbands, apparently giving their full support to their waywardness just so the men express proper remorse. Whatever comes afterwards in the marriages is a whole different question to be worked out by the couple in private, but I can tell you that I would not be in the lights beside my man sharing the public shame with him. You did it; you go face them. I'm shamed enough by your actions, but I will not share that public moment of shame with you.

Robinson lists the names of other wives who have shared the shameful moment with their husbands:

Wendy Vitter, wife of Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana
Carlita Kilpatrick, wife of Kwame Kilpatrick, mayor of Detroit
Suzanne Craig, wife of Sen. Larry Craig of Ohio
Dina McGreevy, wife of Gov. James McGreevy of New Jersey

Robinson ends his column with these words:

No one deserves the kind of public humiliation that Silda Wall Spitzer had to endure. The governor says he wants to regain his family's trust and respect. He should have begun that process by facing the cameras alone.

My emphasis.

Is There No End To The Venality?

From the Washington Post:

The Environmental Protection Agency weakened one part of its new limits on smog-forming ozone after an unusual last-minute intervention by President Bush, according to documents released by the EPA.
This Story

EPA officials initially tried to set a lower seasonal limit on ozone to protect wildlife, parks and farmland, as required under the law. While their proposal was less restrictive than what the EPA's scientific advisers had proposed, Bush overruled EPA officials and on Tuesday ordered the agency to increase the limit, according to the documents.

"It is unprecedented and an unlawful act of political interference for the president personally to override a decision that the Clean Air Act leaves exclusively to EPA's expert scientific judgment," said John Walke, clean-air director for the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Bush is not only an expert in diplomacy, military strategy, and the economy, expert enough to overrule his advisers, but he knows more than the scientists about environmental science. Amazing!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

For Jane R - Who Wants A Joke

From Doug again. This one is a bit naughty:

Into a Belfast pub comes Paddy Murphy, looking like he'd just been run over by a train. His arm is in a sling, his nose is broken, his face is cut, and bruised, and he's walking with a limp.

"What happened to you?" asks Sean, the bartender.

"Jamie O'Conner and me had a fight," says Paddy.

"That little O'Conner," says Sean, "He couldn't do that to you, he must have had something in his hand."

"That he did," says Paddy, "a shovel is what he had, and a terrible lickin' he gave me with it."

"Well," says Sean, "you should have defended yourself. Didn't you have something in your hand?"

That I did," said Paddy, "Mrs. O'Conner's breast, and a thing of beauty it was; but useless in a fight."

Dining With Friends - Part Two

After attending services at St. Thomas Church in New York City, I flagged a cab to head downtown to meet with Terry aka Queer For Christ, Gabe, and their friend Lynn at Maroons, for a cool jazz brunch. Terry has a job, works as an actor on occasion, is writing a play, and has a blog. I told him that I definitely wanted an invitation to the opening night, once his play is produced. Gabe aka U.C. or Ultimate Concern, is a seminarian at General Theological Seminary. He has a blog, too, and he writes beautifully, but not often enough.

For our gathering in New York last October, Gabe had kindly arranged a room for us to meet in at the seminary, after which we attended Evensong as a group. On the Sunday following, several of us met at St. James in Fordham, Tobias' church, and Terry, Gabe, Klady, and I went to lunch afterwards and had a lovely time. When I knew I would be in New York, I emailed Terry, and we made our plans to meet.

Gabe is a smart, sweet, gentle man, and I believe that he will make a fine priest. Judging from the writing at his blog, I'm certain that he will be a wonderful preacher, too. Terry is gracious (he's from the South) and kind, full of fun and quite the wit. He also has a law degree, so if all those other efforts don't work out, he can always fall back on that - maybe. The way Terry tells it, it would be a last resort.

At Maroons, Gabe recommended that we order a dish of waffles and fried chicken, which we did, and it was absolutely delicious. I believe the waffles were covered with orange butter, but I could be wrong about that. The dish may sound like a strange mix, but it was quite tasty. In the background, or the foreground, sometimes nearly drowning us out, we heard real jazz - not some of the second-rate noise that is, on occasion, called jazz. Gabe and Lynn had to leave early to get Lynn on a plane, but Terry and I lingered and talked for a while and had a lovely tête-à-tête.

When we left the restaurant - it's the kind of place that allows lingering after the meal - Terry was quite solicitous about assuring that I got the right subway back to the hotel. In fact, he went down into the station and sliced his own subway card to get me through the turn-style, since I had not purchased a pass. He had to slice it over and over through the slot to get it to work. I hope that I didn't put gris-gris on it. It was great to see Gabe and Terry and meet their friend Lynn, who is on her way to becoming a doctor. Oh, and they treated me to brunch, too.

Later that afternoon, I went to the Museum of Modern Art, particularly to see the Lucian Freud exhibit, which included etchings and paintings, often of the same subjects. Freud, who is the grandson of Sigmund, does not idealize his subjects, but portrays them just as they are, warts and all, without prettifying them. Women in the area who are not satisfied with their own bodies should hasten over there. Some of Freud's women are downright obese, and I guarantee that you will come away feeling absolutely svelte.

The highlight on Monday was lunch with PJ and Johnieb. They arrived right on time, despite PJ's getting them lost and headed in the wrong direction after getting off the subway. That happens to me often, too, since I have absolutely no sense of direction. I'm always pleased to meet fellow sufferers of the same malady. It makes me feel not quite so stupid.

Since PJ had a recommendation to The Eatery, the same restaurant where I had eaten with David, aka Reverend Boy, and which I had enjoyed, we decided to walk over there. We had a very good meal. PJ and I had meal-sized salads, and Johnie had a very large dish of I can't remember what, except that it was a lot of food. Then he ordered dessert! It was a scrumptious mixture of chocolate and cheesecake, I believe, and he did share with us, as he was pretty much forced to do, since the waitress had pointedly brought three spoons.

At the meeting in October, I hardly had a chance to talk to PJ. In fact, for a good portion of the time, I didn't know who she was, and then we sat at different tables for dinner, so we didn't have a chance to talk much. PJ won't like my saying this, but she's a beautiful woman, and her hair is absolutely gorgeous.

Johnie and I sat next to each other in October, and we had a chance to talk, so I knew him a bit better before our lunch. We chatted like old friends throughout the meal and then returned to the lounge in my hotel to continue the conversation. Once the bar opened, the barmaid asked what she could bring us, but we didn't really want anything, so we had to move along if we were not going to spend money. It was time for them to get to their train and time for me to move to my other hotel for the opera program. What a pleasure to meet Johnie again and to spend more time with PJ. They are two great people, and I am proud to call them friends.

Again, it was amazing how we dove right into conversation as though we had known each other for a long time. We had a few gaps to fill in about our personal lives, but other than that, I felt as though I was with old friends. Communities that form online and then turn into friendships are fairly new phenomena, and it will be interesting to see where they go.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Anticipating St. Paddy's Day - From Doug

Six retired Irishmen were playing poker in O'Leary's apartment when Paddy Murphy loses $500 on a single hand, clutches his chest, and drops dead at the table. Showing respect for their fallen brother, the other five continue playing standing up.

Michael O'Conner looks around and asks, "Well, me boys, someone got's to tell Paddy's wife. Who will it be?" They draw straws. Paul Gallagher picks the short one. They tell him to be discreet, be gentle, don't make a bad situation any worse.

"Discreet??? I'm the most discreet Irishmen you'll ever meet. Discretion is me middle name. Leave it to me."

Gallagher goes over to Murphy's house and knocks on the door. Mrs. Murphy answers, and asks what he wants. Gallagher declares, "Your husband just lost $500, and is afraid to come home."

"Tell him to drop dead!", says Murphy's wife.

"I'll go tell him." says Gallagher.