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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Sunday, April 30, 2006


So I listened to the Met's broadcast of LOHENGRIN yesterday. It was the "A" cast, not the cast I'm going to see on Wednesday. I chose the "B" cast for several reasons. We'll get the debut of a new tenor (Klaus Vogt) in the title role, and in the pivotal role of the villainess Ortrud, we'll get Margaret Wray, not Luana DuVol. I mean really, who wants an Ortrud who looks like this, when you can get an Ortrud who looks like this?

And it's not just looks. In yesterday's performance, DuVol showed dramatic power, but also an annoying wobble, not uncharacteristic in a soprano of a certain age. Wray, otoh, sang a Sieglinde last year that was very well received.

Yesterday, Ben Heppner, as Lohengrin, sounded his usual heroic self for the most part, but with some fraying around the edges. Karita Mattila was a glorious Elsa, and will be in the "B" cast too. (Btw, she looks better when she doesn't take make-up hints from Debbie Harry.)

Richard Fink sang Frederick of Telramund yesterday; on Wednesday that part will be taken by Greer Grimsley. Now, both of these singers appeared in last summer's Seattle RING cycle. But Fink played the Nibelung-dwarf Alberich, while Grimsley sang the god Wotan. Which do you think will do better as the disgraced but proud knight Telramund? Fink is a great Alberich, but it's the fate of great Alberichs not to be good at much else.

2. Velvet Underground and Nico

New acquisition; I like it. I can see how the folks who later constituted Blondie were inspired by this.

Sunday Morning -- nice; perhaps a bit too Joni Mitchell, though? (The less Joni Mitchell one is, the better.)

I'm Waiting for the Man -- meh

Femme Fatale -- great song! Cool intervals and harmonics. Clear progenetrix of Blondie's Little Girl Lies, Rip Her to Shreds, and perhaps even Maria.

Venus in Furs -- very good. "Celtic" sound, like several on this album; perhaps it's that electric viola they use.

Run Run Run -- meh

All Tomorrow's Parties -- sad and beautiful. Another instance of that "Celtic" sound.

Heroin -- Probably an anti-drug song: the singer rejects human connections in favor of illusions; doesn't sound tempting.

There She Goes Again -- meh

I'll Be Your Mirror -- nice

The Black Angel's Death Song -- nice; not Goth, despite the title and some of the lyrics

European Son -- eh??

Saturday, April 29, 2006
Slanderous "praise" of Fr. Jim

G. Jeffrey MacDonald, a Religious News Service reporter, writes in a piece that appeared in The Washington Post (and probably elsewhere) that Fr. Jim Tucker, of the Arlington Diocese and St. Blog's, is one of those "dissenters" who are using blogs to challenge "traditional authorities."

"What. An. Idiot." MacDonald, that is, not Fr. Jim. Fr. Jim is a sound and orthodox priest who, if he must be assimilated to any certified trend, exemplifies the conservatism of the rising generation of priests, not dissent. Oh sure, he's two sandwiches short of a picnic on the question of the global Islamic threat, but hey, freedom in opinionable matters, right?

There's damning with faint praise, and there's praising with faint damns; then there's damning with erroneous praise, as if, for example, it were the '50s and a Communist hack were trying to discredit a conservative politician by praising him in an article in The New Masses. Don't believe it. "Fadda Jim is to da good," as they might say in a Wodehouse New York gangster tale.

Hat-tip: American Papist

Friday, April 28, 2006
Cornell is worried about its image. No, really? SUNY Ithaca, worried about its image? With its world-famous institution for the training of publicans?

Wednesday, April 26, 2006
Conversation chez Cacciaguida: the Romans

BELLA: The Egyptians were greater than the Romans.

CACCIAGUIDA: The Romans were great!

BELLA: They were bloodthirsty!

CACCIAGUIDA: No more than --

BELLA: They were always fighting wars!

CACCIAGUIDA: They -- well, yeah, we, um, did that....

JONATHAN LEE: "Oui. We sure did that thing."

My favorite line in Gaston Leroux's novel The Phantom of the Opera reads thusly in the original:
“Ton âme est bien belle, mon enfant,” reprit la voix d’homme grave, “et je te remercie. Il n’y a point d’empereur qui ait reçu un pareil cadeau. Les anges ont pleuré ce soir.”
The standard English translation reads:
"Your soul is a beautiful thing, child," replied the grave man's voice, "and I thank you. No emperor ever received so fair a gift. The angels wept tonight."
This is a good translation. Bravo for not importing the "my" of mon enfant into English, as "my child" would sound like a priest talking to a penitent. As it stands, "child" captures the very French combination of paternalism and deep-background eros that is implied by mon enfant. (N.B. The noun enfant is masculine regardless of the sex of the person referred to.)

A more literal rendering of Il n’y a point d’empereur qui ait reçu might be "There is no emperor who may have received," but that's clunky, and in translating literature, unlike translating philosophy, I approve of minor departures from literalness in order to capture better the feel and flow.

Un pareil cadeau is literally "an equal gift" or "a comparable gift" -- except that pareil has connotations of equality and comparability at a high level of wonderfulness. (Think of the archaic borrowed English word "nonpareil"-- the incomparable, the nothing-else-like-it.) "So fair" is a stroke of inspiration.

I trust it's obvious that the weeping of the angels is not for sorrow, but for joy at the "child's" achievement (in context, a debut in a starring role at the opera), which the "grave man" receives as a "gift."

My reasons for blogging this today are confined to the oral tradition.

Friday, April 21, 2006

L.Cpl. Jonathan Lee Morris, USMC, is back from the wars!

To a festive greeting by moms, dads, wives, girlfriends, a d.j., a refreshment tent, and a playspace for the littlest, two busloads of Marines completed their journey home from Iraq's Haditha Dam (via Kuwait, Frankfurt, Reykjavik, and New Hampshire) and pulled up in front of their barracks at MCB Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, at about ten this morning.

Waiting with us was a six-month old baby girl, with her mom and (very young-looking) grandma. Grandma confirmed to us that this would be the first time dad and daughter had seen each other, this having been a seven-month mission. It was emotional enough when we hugged JL, sure -- but I didn't lose it utterly until I saw that tall young Lance Corporal just off the bus and holding his baby girl for the first time.

Many military moms have only a picture to show the growing child. Let's pray for them, and give thanks for what I saw today.

Jonathan Lee remains at Lejeune for a few more days, before transferring to his unit's base and living, once again, at home.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006
Anniversary of Pope Benedict's election! Greg reminisces here.

I was in New York with Bella. She said she thought she saw white smoke. I jumped up from the lunch table and over to the TV. At first the smoke looked sooty -- remember? -- but soon I remarked, "It's whiter than the driven snow."

Then it took forever. The future of the Church was in the balance, and my Jewish parents were looking on. I know we like life to be exciting, but come on.

Then Cardinal Medina Estevez stepped out. As those who were reading this blog at the time know, I hadn't thought Ratzinger was a serious candidate. I thought he had been Merry del Val to John Paul's Pius X, and Merry del Val failed to become a serious candidate later on. I thought the journalists who had been floating his name as a favorite over the previous few days were maliciously setting him up for a fall -- him and everything he stands for.

But as soon as Cardinal Medina articulated "Iosephum," you knew. Man, you knew -- you didn't even have to wait for the intonation of "Rrrrrratzinger." And soon thereafter I blogged up Elektra's greeting to the long-lost, long-dreamed-of, long-despaired-of Orestes in Strauss's ELEKTRA -- the "recognition scene" -- because nothing else in my mental world expressed so well how I felt.

And in case you're wondering, my folks were pleased too, because my dad had read this wonderful book by Ratzinger and liked it very much.

Bobby Kennedy, conservative?

Tuesday, April 18, 2006
Say: is Hannah Arendt as overrated -- and is Books and Culture: a Christian Review as anti-Catholic -- as both would appear to be from this?

Sunday, April 16, 2006
Gregory was confirmed last night! Being named after one great Pope ("Gregory Magnus" = Gregory the Great), he took as his confirmation name Leo, after Pope Leo the Great.

Says his godmother/sponsor: "Two great Popes that go great together!"


Ever since that morning, these words have not ceased to resound
throughout the universe as a proclamation of joy which spans the centuries
unchanged and, at the same time, charged with infinite and ever new resonances.

...Jesus is risen, and he gives us peace; he himself is peace. For this reason
the Church repeats insistently: “Christ is risen - Christós anésti.” Let the people of the third millennium not be afraid to open their hearts to him. His Gospel
totally quenches the thirst for peace and happiness that is found in every
human heart. Christ is now alive and he walks with us. What an immense
mystery of love! Christus resurrexit, quia Deus caritas est! Alleluia!

Full text of the Holy Father's Easter Urbi et Orbi message

Friday, April 14, 2006

Thursday, April 13, 2006

"Poof -- you're a dove! (I love my job!!)"


We got the news Wednesday afternoon. Jonathan Lee and his unit are expected back at Camp Lejeune sometime in the April 18-23 window! He is already at Al Asad Air Base, just waiting for the plane home!

Wednesday, April 12, 2006
In England, graduating from a military academy is called "passing out." Prince Henry has "passed out." (I'm sure Jonathan Lee will remember the Marine who ill-advisedly wore long undies for the indoor graduation ceremony at Camp Geiger....) (No, it wasn't JL!!)

Conversation chez Cacciaguida: fun with the Paulist Press sale catalogue

CACCIAGUIDA (reading from the dang thing): "The Paulist Liturgy Planning Guide." Omg. "A compact, easy-to-use, and comprehensive resource" -- arrgh -- "for all ministries" -- ackk -- "involved in Sunday planning." Shoot me now. "Contains information and tips for musicians, lectors, Eucharistic ministers, liturgical planning committees" -- hey, I'll join! I wanna be empowered and vibrant! -- "homilists, and celebrants -- all in one volume."

ELINOR: It's all the result of the death of amateur theatricals.

Sgt. Grit: fun source for Marine tchatchkes. Motto: "If we don't have it, Chesty wouldn't want it." Be sure to check out the bumper-stickers.

Monday, April 10, 2006
In Condi Reggia

Time-out on our usual ban on The New York Times. We learn from its music critic Anthony Tommasini -- actually, that's news in itself; but specifically: we learned yesterday from NYT music critic Anthony Tommasini that Condi Rice plays in a chamber music group, and that she has some decided tastes in opera:
Ms. Rice, who lives a short walk from the Kennedy Center, said she was looking forward to attending the Washington National Opera's new production of Wagner's "Rheingold" when she returned from an overseas trip.
And why not, considering the valuable pointers one can pick up in that opera about pawning goddesses, shafting giants, and wresting potentially world-dominating power away from malevolent gnomes (watch out, Ahmadinejad -- isn't your name Farsi for "Alberich"?)
In February she took in the Kirov's production of Puccini's "Turandot," when the company visited the capital. She spoke of how impressed she had been by the innovative staging. By the music, too.

"That's about the only Puccini opera I can take," she said. A couple of us, led by this Puccini lover, stuck up for him. But Ms. Rice is not alone in her opinion.

I take it this means Condi is not excited by the more conventional Puccini heroines -- Mimi, Butterfly, even Liu, the secondary heroine of TURANDOT -- those self-destructive, suicidal, all-for-love chicks so admired by opera queens. Oh of course I love Liu; everybody loves Liu. But I'll bet kick-ass ladies are more Condi's type. She should find Tosca at least tolerable.
Her favorite opera is Mussorgsky's epic "Khovanshchina," not surprising, given her expertise in Russian culture, language and history. It may have special resonance today: it tells of bloody factional strife at the time of the ascension of Peter the Great, made worse by the intransigence of the Old Believers, a fundamentalist Orthodox group opposed to reform.
Which demonstrates again why Tommasini had better stick to reviewing "strapping" tenors, and how the NYT misunderstands the world.

First, the Old Believers were not "fundamentalists" (and neither is Osama bin Laden), because "fundamentalism" was and is a movement within American Protestantism in the early 20th century. Oh, I know as well as you do how valuable the term is a signifier for the sum of "religious" and "bad," but that's a tendentious and misleading usage, perfectly suited for the New York Times.

Second, KHOVANSHCHINA dramatically ends with a band of street-thugs, called the Streltsy, being pardoned by that lovely progressive Czar Peter, while the Old Believers, whose idea of what do when things get rough is to sing a hymn, get burned to death in their church. Sort of an ideal NYT regime.

Nessun dorma, nessun dorma.
E tu, o Segretaria di Stato,
Nella tua fredda stanza,
Guardi le stelle....

Good on Cardinal Mahony. I'd be even more enthusiastic if I didn't suspect his real agenda is to sign them all up as Democratic voters and liturgical dancers.

More Letterman on kitties: Top Ten Signs Your Kitty is a Genius.

Friday, April 07, 2006
Opportunistic copyright trolls lose lawsuit against Da Vinci Code author Dan Brown.

This is the right result. Not that I hold any brief for Brown -- I hope he gets eaten by sharks, preferably after repenting but I'll take it either way -- but as a matter of copyright law, Baigent and Leigh's theory would have made it virtually impossible to write about anything that anyone else had ever written about.

I'm glad Brown has been put to the expense and trouble of defending a lawsuit, and would encourage others to sue him too; but it's a good thing he didn't lose this one.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006


More ungrateful, insubordinate blather from Lefebvrist Bishop Bernard Fellay.

Say -- if Bernard Fellay married Fides et Ratio, would he be -- ? Naa, never mind.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006
In less than two hours from this post --on Wednesday, April 5, at two minutes and three seconds after 1 a.m. -- the time and date will be 01:02:03 04/05/06. That won't happen again for another thousand years.

Just thought you should know. (Hat-tip: the Man for All Fausts.)

Immigration (i.e., of Hispanics into the United States, because we all know the Senate isn't debating any other kind this week)

1. Bill Kristol, in a Weekly Standard editorial:
Okay. Let's not talk about substance--since the pro-immigration forces have in fact been winning that debate easily. Let's talk about ballot boxes.

Dana Rohrabacher has represented a safe GOP seat in Orange County for almost two decades. He's chosen never to run statewide. In California, Republican governor Pete Wilson exploited the immigration issue to help get reelected in 1994, and the voters passed a Republican-backed anti-immigration measure, proposition 187. No Republican candidate except the idiosyncratic Arnold Schwarzenegger has won statewide since.

Virgil Goode has a safe GOP seat in Southside Virginia. He's never run statewide. Last fall, the Republican gubernatorial candidate, Jerry Kilgore, tried to exploit illegal immigration by denouncing a local community that wanted to build a shelter that might accommodate some illegals. He lost, in a red state, a race he had been favored to win.

Anti-immigration yahoo Tom Tancredo carried the sixth district of Colorado comfortably in 2004 (though running slightly behind pro-immigration George W. Bush). But in Tancredo's state, the GOP did miserably in 2004, with Democrat Ken Salazar winning the Senate seat and Democrats gaining control of both houses of the legislature. Meanwhile, in the safe fifth district of Iowa, Steve King did run two points ahead of George W. Bush in 2004. King was able to outspend his challenger 10-1, while Bush faced a huge Kerry effort in that swing state.

Four GOP senators voted in the Senate Judiciary Committee for the comprehensive immigration bill these blustering House members believe is electoral suicide: Arlen Specter, elected and reelected in blue state Pennsylvania; Mike DeWine, elected and reelected in swing state Ohio; and Lindsey Graham from South Carolina, and Sam Brownback from Kansas--both very popular in their red states. John McCain, lead sponsor of a bill that resembles the Senate Judiciary Committee bill, has a pretty impressive electoral record in Arizona, a competitive state. George W. Bush, a pro-immigration Republican, has won two presidential elections--as did another pro-immigration Republican, Ronald Reagan.

2. Ed Gillespie, in the WSJ:
...researchers at the Academy of Sciences for the U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform have demonstrated that immigrants add about $10 billion annually in net economic output due to the increased supply of labor and resulting lower prices. Furthermore, a typical newcomer pays $80,000 more in taxes than he takes out in benefits over the course of a lifetime.

From low-wage workers who pick oranges to high-tech workers who lend their engineering expertise to American companies, immigrant labor provides critically important human resources. Eliminating them from the labor force will not result in more Americans filling those jobs. Our nation's unemployment rate is at 4.8%, and 243,000 new jobs were created last month. Without comprehensive reform, we are likely to see Florida orange groves being sold to developers as citrus companies plant new groves south of our border, and U.S. technology companies moving employment centers from Boston and Silicon Valley to Bangladesh and Shanghai.
3. Daniel Henninger, also WSJ:
Most Americans understand their heritage and do not want now to be "anti-immigrant." They don't want to be party to an 11-million-person round-up and deportation. What they want is a politics that takes seriously their anxieties, anxieties that involve not just immigrants but general unease about the direction of a turbulent, constantly changing U.S. culture, as in that 2004 presidential vote. So amid all that, along comes a major social movement--11 million "undocumented" workers. Assimilation? Heck, people who've lived here all their lives don't feel assimilated into their own culture anymore.

It's not a coincidence that the first push-back Immigration Act emerged in the Roaring Twenties, another period of abrupt social disruption and anxiety with heavy immigrant inflows from southern Europe. It may be too much to hope, but the purpose of political leadership in such times is to find a path toward our best lights rather than our darkest impulses. At the moment, Senator Frist of Tennessee isn't measuring up.
4. Fr. Jim Tucker:
One quick thought, especially for those who are objecting to current levels of immigration (legal or otherwise) on the grounds of costs to our social welfare system. This argument presumes that net costs to the system outweigh net gains, as well as presuming that the undocumented don't have taxes taken out of their wages. A more common argument is that the aliens come in and free load off of our government programs, and that is basically theft. Not only is that not the case for all of these immigrants, there are plenty of citizens who have been doing precisely that for generations. If I shouldn't have to pay for public programs for undocumented immigrants whom I don't know, neither do I see why I should have to pay for public programs for American citizens whom I don't know. I would submit that these particular arguments are not so much arguments against freer immigration as indications of the massive problems with the American welfare state.
5. And finally: I have always maintained that, in the U.S. context, anti-immigrationism is rooted in anti-Catholicism -- and now, with the elegance and wit that have made him famous, radio's most braying jackass, Michael Savage, comes along to make the point for me (hat-tip: Greg, whom I told so):
...the greedy Catholic Church was behind the demonstrations because the people of America walked away from the molesters’ dens and they need to bring in people from the Third World who are still gullible enough to sit there and listen to the molesters … the Roman Catholic Church was behind this, the Roman Catholic Church started this a year ago. The Roman Catholic Church flooded the streets because they cannot get parishioners anymore amongst educated white people who have caught onto the racket and instead they need to import dummies to sit in the church pews. That’s the story and it is not difficult for you to understand — I’m telling you the truth. It’s all about greed. It’s greed at the top of the Catholic Church.
Of course, when you're Michael Savage, nothing is difficult to understand, because you understand very little. Like Bob the Dinosaur, only without the good manners.

Moussaoui Lawyers Now Face Fight for Life. Well that's nice -- so did the 9/11 victims.

Sunday, April 02, 2006