Defending the 12th century since the 14th; blogging since the 21st.

Catholicism, Conservatism, the Middle Ages, Opera, and Historical and Literary Objets d'Art blogged by a suburban dad who teaches law and writes stuff.

"Very fun." -- J. Bottum, Editor, FIRST THINGS

"Too modest" -- Elinor Dashwood

"Perhaps the wisest man on the Web" -- Henry Dieterich

"Hat tip: me (but really Cacciaguida)" -- Diana Feygin, Editor, THE YALE FREE PRESS

"You are my sire. You give me confidence to speak. You raise my heart so high that I am no more I." -- Dante

"Fabulous!"-- Warlock D.J. Prod of Didsbury

Who was Cacciaguida? See Dante's PARADISO, Cantos XV, XVI, & XVII.

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Tuesday, January 31, 2006
In the actual, ahem, 58-42 vote, only one Republican voted no: that was the "Missing Linc" himself, Rhode Island's Lincoln Chafee Jr. David Freddoso of Human Events notes that Chafee has a credible conservative challenger in the GOP primary, and may now have to seek reelection as an independent.

So apparently the other pro-abort Republicans voted aye: Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe (the pain in Maine is plainly felt a-gain). Specter too, but no surprise there, as he announced as much at the end of the hearings, which he conducted with dignity and a nioteble lack of patience for liberal grandstanding. Four Democrats voted aye: Robert C. Byrd (WV), Ben Nelson (NE), Tim Johnson (SD -- the Daschle factor!) and Kent Conrad (ND). Neither Byrd nor Nelson are as culturally leftist as other Democrats, and, if memory serves, both of them, plus Conrad, face reelection in states carried by Bush in '84.

And, remember, Alito is now on the Court without having to pledge fealty to Roe in any way, shape, or form -- not even the limited and noncommital way that Roberts did. The post-Bork goalposts have been moved. Of course, having 55 Republican Senators really helps, but don't forget that it was a Democratic Senate that confirmed Thomas, in the face of a more vicious attack than Alito faced.

So, whuddya say? Justice Stevens, how ya feelin'?

And btw, the "nuclear option" is not the anti-filibuster rule change. That's the constitutional option. The "nuclear option" is...

Janice Rogers Brown!

Confirmatus est. 58-72.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Zawahri has now released a tape of his own. What we need now are terrorist leaders tapes dissing other terrorist leaders, like rappers. Then each of them can sign with a label, and Entertainment Weekly can report on the chart action of various Islamist leaders....

Wednesday, January 25, 2006
The Vigilantes are blogging! Don't run -- they're the good Vigilantes!

Thinking on the Right, by Richard Vigilante ("[W]hat I want to make clear is not just that the anti-immigrant side is wrong about some things, but that the low quality of the argument, and particularly the use of low quality of arguments for massive state action of a sort that conservatives ought to be good at detecting, suggests a deeper problem." Rest of post here.)

Desperate Irish Housewife, by Susan Vigilante

Both will be filed here under "Conservative blogs."

Deus Caritas Est

Agamemnon! Agamemnon!
Wo bist du, Vater? Hast du nicht die Kraft,
dein Angesicht herauf zu mir zu schleppen?
Es ist die Stunde, unsre Stunde ist's!....

-- R. Strauss, ELEKTRA

Dunno why I couldn't get that out of my head this morning....

Monday, January 23, 2006
A friend who was a great influence both on my conversion and my views on liturgical matters writes in with these observations on saying the Canon silently in the Tridentine rite:
I am old enough to have received first Communion at a Tridentine rite Mass. Then shortly after the introduction of the New Order, my family started going to Mass at the late Father Gommar DePauw’s Catholic Traditionalist Movement Chapel, where the Tridentine Rite was said in full compliance with Canon Law. So until I went away to college, the Tridentine Rite low mass with the silent canon was for all practical purposes my experience of the Mass.

I remember the days of the silent canon as the most prayerful time of my life, certainly my most prayerful experience of the Mass and I think the silence was crucial. I don’t have any theoretical argument for why silence is “right.” (With obvious exceptions arguing liturgical questions dogmatically is not useful, tending to obscure the real quite practical issues in liturgy). But I think what happened to me is that when the priest prayed the canon silently and by himself, and I read it silently and by myself in translation, I found was no longer following the Mass, or attending the Mass, or listening to the mass, I was personally praying the mass. Of course not being the Priest I was not “saying” the Mass, but I certainly was praying it. I have never since had as intense an awareness of the Eucharist. For me at least, the rap we have heard over and over again about how important it is to sit and listen to the priest proclaiming, rather than reading along seems exactly wrong. Listening to other people pray isn’t a good way for me to pray. Me praying out loud along with others is somewhat better, but still distracting.

Is the silent Canon hard to follow? I must admit that on the rare occasions when I go to a Tridentine Mass now, I find it so. And almost everyone I know who did not grow up with it and who goes only occasionally complains of the same thing. But I think this is for two reasons.

First, compared to the old days when the Tridentine Mass was just the Mass, a hugely disproportionate number of today’s Tridentine Rite masses celebrated under the indult are high or sung masses with a choir blasting away through the canon and most of the rest of the Mass and with the choir and the priest doing quite different bits at the same time (I suppose because if they went turn and turn mass would last three hours.)

The result is not so much a silent canon as an utterly obscured one to which is added the constant anxiety about whether to side with the choir or the priest. High mass isn’t for personal prayer it’s for communal show. It is not helpful to me.

The other reason I think people have a hard time following is that the silent Canon requires a bit of practice. But the good news is that with a priest who focuses on helping people follow, without intruding much on the silence, it does not take very much practice. The bells help, I mean the ones scattered before the Consecration. (At a high mass you probably don’t hear them.) Also, at least with Fr. DePauw, after every few silent paragraphs the priest would say the first few words of the next paragraph in quite a loud voice. Since these words were highlighted in the text I think it was standard practice. With that kind of support, in my experience it really takes only a few weeks to be tracking quite closely. I’d usually beat Fr. to the Consecration by a minute, but that was not a bad thing.

BTW, there is a rite that essentially consists in the priest saying essentially the Tridentine Mass, including the canon, audibly, with the people making the responses audibly with the altar boys. I think this was called the Mass of John XXIII. If I recall correctly it came first in Latin, in the very early years of the Council, and then was translated though whether in whole or part I can’t quite remember. It was the mass we all went to in the few brief years before the New Order was imposed. Unlike the New Order I don’t think it traumatized or chased any one away. My father, who ended up the staunchest of Traditionalists (and until shortly before his death a schismatic) never uttered a peep of protest against those early revisions. I don’t remember the translation being objectionable or controversial, in which case the English might well have been richer and more expressive than the Latin just as it is for most purposes. Certainly the English side by side translation in the old Tridentine missals was very powerful.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006
Jonathan Lee news -- One of the Sergeants writes to the parents:
We have just completed an 11 day operation with pretty much the whole company. It was some long days and some short cold nights during the time. It was a trying time dealing with the weather, terrain, and any thing else you could throw at us, but everyone is back safe, we found some caches to destroy, brought in some detainees to be questioned, some captured weapons, and the BN was very pleased with our work so all in all we had a successful mission.
And Bill Roggio reports here.

Monday, January 16, 2006
"Cacciadelia" is now "Bella," and has her own blog, Catholic Marine Sis. Her blogonym has nothing to do with Harry Potter, and is meant to be pronounced as in Italian: BELLLLLLLL-a.

Your new Defense Against Dark Arts Teacher -- Elinor!

Friday, January 13, 2006
Conversation chez Cacciaguida: ten-age reader

CACCIADELIA: Why is Ron upset that Ginny is going out with Michael Cormer?

CACCIAGUIDA: Big brothers are always upset when their little sister goes out with a guy.


CACCIAGUIDA: Because from their point of view little sisters should stay little.

CACCIADELIA: Heh heh heh heh heh heh heh heh. Very funny.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Birgit Nilsson, RIP

Swedish soprano, force of nature. Able to sing the voice-killing Wagner heroines, with apparent effortlessness (though of course it was actually superb technique), from the early 1950s into the mid-1970s. It was also Nilsson, along with Franco Corelli, who moved Puccini's TURANDOT from oddity to standard repertory. The title character is outside the reach of most sopranos; Nilsson, without irony, called it her "vacation role."

(Once, on tour in TURANDOT, Corelli complained to Met manager Rudolf Bing that Nilsson was holding the high note longer in their Act II confrontation. The time-pressed Bing said simply, "Then bite her." So he did. Bing then gets telegram from Nilsson: "Cannot continue tour. Have rabies." Another story claims that, after a particularly successful season at the Met, especially as Isolde, Nilsson tried to list Bing as a dependent on her U.S. taxes.)

I first saw her as the WALKÜRE Brünnhilde in 1964, and again in 1975. The latter was her last Brünnhilde at the Met, but in 1980 she returned for Strauss's ELEKTRA, still raising the rafters and the armhairs at age 62.

Sopranos who can do these roles well, consistently, over time, are very rare. Nilsson essentially took over the torch from the three-way possession of Kirsten Flagstad, Helen Traubel, and Astrid Varnay (some would add Martha Mödl). Some point to the warmth of Flagstad's and Traubel's voices, and found Nilsson's "cold." But if so, it was the cold of the steel of the steel of Brünnhilde's spear or Siegfried's sword. Since Nilsson's retirement, there has been no one like these divas in that repertory. Hildegard Behrens lacked the power, Deborah Polaski and Gabriele Schnaut lack consistency. I hope I don't undervalue those who can at least get the job done, like Olga Sergeeva at the Met last season, but Nilsson was unique and unrepeatable.

Nilsson as Brünnhilde in DIE WALKÜRE,
in an old-fashioned production

Alito is doing very well, but, between natural bile and the need to please activists, the Democrats are being vicious, and it's rough on the decent and mild Mrs. Alito. Drudge is reporting:
Judge Samuel A. Alito’s wife Martha left the confirmation hearing room in tears this evening, the DRUDGE REPORT has learned....

One senior Republican in the hearing room said of the situation: “After three full days of attacks against her husband’s character, Mrs. Alito had enough. Democrat behavior during this hearing has not only been wrong, it’s been embarrassing. Ted Kennedy is nothing but a bully.”


It's not that I'm not following the Alito hearings; it's just that others are blogging it better. I'm following it on C-SPAN and reading the comments at Confirm Them, National Review's Bench Memos, Human Events's Alito Blog, Professor Bainbridge, and Ninomania, and I suggest you do too. (Prof. Bainbridge says: "Everything is proceeding as I have foreseen. Schumer and Leahy's feeble skills are no match for the power of the Dark Side....")

Sunday, January 08, 2006
Takin' care o' Lizzness: the new Pride and Prejudice movie

So any new dramatization of P&P has to compete with the one that has proved definitive, the one that launched Colin Firth's career, including his career as a modern Darcy knock-off in the Bridget Jones franchise. That version, of course, is the Arts & Entertainment Network miniseries, in which Firth starred opposite the wonderful Elizabeth of Jennifer Ehle. (Hereinafter "A&E version.")

Comes now director Joe Wright, offering the same tale in a two-hour movie starring Keira Knightley and Matthew MacFayden. (Hereinafter "Joe Wright version.")

Obviously, now feature film can compete with a miniseries at the level of nuance and detail. That said, Joe Wright, using a screenplay that tracks the novel's dialogue closely (and was edited by Emma Thompson, uncredited, s'il faut en croire IMDB), has done a remarkable job of telling the whole story in two hours.

Performance for performance, everyone in the Joe Wright version is good, though not quite as good as their counterparts in the A&E version. First of all, Keira Knightley is completely, utterly Lizzielicious.

Yes, I'd be "knightly" too. (Button your shirt, dude.)

Contrary to what might reasonably have been feared, her gorgeousness does not detract from her portrayal. Elizabeth Bennet is beautiful, but primarily she is bright, witty, and wise beyond her years, though not quite enough to avoid the "prejudice" of the title. And so was Keira Knightley.

Book ever in hand, Hermione-style,
Knightley's Elizabeth casts a
critical eye on the situation

Her make-up. This has been an issue. All actors wear makeup so that the camera lights don't wash out their faces. Here, it seems, the artistes who were working on Keira sometimes just couldn't resist the little extra master touch. In only one scene, however, did I find this intrusive -- but it's a big one: the big reconciliation/proposal scene with Darcy. There, her make-up was almost a third character.

I greatly admire Colin Firth, but Matthew MacFayden can go toe to toe with him without embarrassment. Where Firth stressed the "pride" of the title, McFayden stressed a certain melancholy. And that voice -- like a young Alan Rickman.

As Mr. Bennet, A&E's Benjamin Whitrow completely captured the character, while Donald Sutherland, coming out of retirement and Brit-ing up to do this part for Joe Wright, is a quirkier gent. However, the warmth of the Lizzie-Dad relationship was very well done.

The American and British versions of the Joe Wright version have different last scenes. The Brit version ends with a bemused Donald Sutherland saying to himself, "If any young men come for Kitty or Mary, I am quite at my leisure." The American version moves on to a major Darcy-Lizzie smooch. (So I'm told -- I saw the Brit version.)

Mrs. Bennet and Mr. Collins. These characters were less stark in their aggressive repulsiveness in the Wright version (Brenda Blethyn, Tom Hollander) than in the A&E version (Alison Steadman, David Bamber). Some may say that Steadman and Bamber were cartoons. Well, so are these characters, albeit (the divine Jane wouldn't lie!) realistic cartoons of her time, place, class, and class anxiety. Furthermore, Mrs. Bennet's insufferable dead-commonness and raging self-pity are actually driving forces of the plot. Darcy's reaction to them must appear reasonable, because it is. Advantage: A&E.

Lydia. Well played in both versions. Directors seem to know they have to go for star-quality in the under-age temptress market in casting this character. So in A&E we get Julie Sawalha, for whom it must have been a relief to do the ultimate un-Saffie; and in the new movie we get Jena Malone (Saved; Donnie Darko).

Wickham: A&E's Adrian Lukis has it all over Wright's Rupert Friend. Bingley: A&E's bluff and hearty Crispin Bonham-Carter was much more loveable than Wright's willowy and shy Simon Woods. Otoh, the latter interpretation may better explain why Bingley basically does whatever Darcy tells him to; indeed, whatever almost anyone tells him to. Also, the shy approach set up a funny scene in which Bingley and Darcy, both filmed from a distance, were practicing for Bingley's proposal to Jane, with Darcy, a great straight-man, "playing" Jane.

Jane. Wright's Rosamund Pike was pretty enough and blonde enough, but I, personally, found it hard to understand why any gentleman's eye could light on her rather than on Lizzie across a crowded room. Besides, no one can hold a candle to A&E's Susanna Harker (Maddie in House of Cards, btw).

So the Wright movie is an excellent addition to the Austen filmography, though A&E will remain the gold standard. Jennifer Ehle's Elizabeth in the A&E version was charming, brilliant, and just what the author ordered. However, I will be getting the movie tie-in paperback, the one with Keira's face on it.

Thursday, January 05, 2006
An Italian appeals court rules that there is a triable issue of fact as to whether Fr. Enrico Righi violated Italy's laws against "abuse of public credulity" and "substitution of persons." The alleged abuse of public credulity consists in publicly maintaining that Jesus Christ exists. The alleged "substitution of persons" derives from the plaintiff's belief that Jesus was someone else. (Hat-tip: Auto da Fe.)

The trial judge seems to have thought the case absurd, but the appellate court ordered him to hear it, so the judge has now done what must have seemed to him the only logical step under the circumstances: subpoena the priest-defendant to prove that Jesus exists! (I'm using American legal terms, but I don't think I'm misrepresenting the Italian procedure as described in the linked articles.)

The Reuters report puts the case more starkly: "An Italian court is tackling Jesus -- and whether the Roman Catholic Church may be breaking the law by teaching that he existed 2,000 years ago."

This is the same judiciary, btw, that wants to try Oriana Fallaci for offending Islam.

That's damaging to recruiting. It's damaging to morale of the troops who are deployed and it's damaging to the morale of their families who believe in what they are doing to serve this country.
It's sad when a Marine officer has to say that about any other Marine. But Gen. Peter Pace, USMC, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, had to say it today about another Marine, Rep. John Murtha.

Commenter Mark R. wrote re the Tridentine Mass:
[I]t is difficult for me to see what all the fuss is about if I can hardly hear the priest and if I am not supposed to respond.
Quite so! What is the defense of (a) saying the Canon inaudibly, and (b) having the servers, not the congregation, say the responses? Does anyone know? I'm open-minded, but until I hear a good explanation, it will be my view that, while the Tridentine Rite, reformed or not, should be widely available, it would be better if it were reformed so that the Canon can be heard, and so that the congregation can say the responses. I'd also throw in doing the Scripture readings in the vernacular (Douay, of course).

I know saying the Canon audibly would be harder on the priest. Ask me if I care. All our jobs have their difficult parts; I just got through grading exams. Just give Father a nice lavalier-mike, so I can listen to the Canon, not to his complaints.

Monday, January 02, 2006

A nation of philistines who think Elgar is German -- Britain, that is, but I think you'd get some pretty funny results here too. Over there, it's said to be a result of
"this extraordinary forcefield of inverted snobbery in this country," said Peter York, the social commentator.

"On the one hand you have the attitude that high culture is not for the likes of us. On the other hand, you had for a long time this philistine attitude among the upper classes that it was better to go out and kill an animal or get drunk than listen to classical music.

Sunday, January 01, 2006
Happy New Year and Merry Chrisbris!

When I posted a few days ago on the Holy Father's boffo retro togs, commenter Kurt remarked:
[W]hy didn't the previous pope, during his 25+ year pontificate ever--not once!--put on a mozzetta or camauro. Not to make too much of it, but Papa Ratzi must have known he would be making a statement by wearing these pre-Conciliar "threads."
I think so too. But I think part of the statement is that these things are useful as well as antiquarian (and hence culture-war-charged). I.e., it's not so much a matter of doing old things because they're old, as doing them because they're practical, and not letting the fact that they're old get in the way; getting rid of the "oh but we don't do that anymore" mentality.

In the same category would be -- liturgical Latin. It's way too late in the day to deny that use of an ancient sacral language enhances worship. Of course we know all Catholics with baggazh from the '50s who do deny it, but they're irrelevant. Good gosh, if even Reform Jews have rediscovered the value of Hebrew -- and I caught 'em at it this weekend -- we have no excuse not to figure out that Latin keeps you God-centered just as a mazzetto and a camauro keep the Pope warm.