29 April 2005

god is dead...

I left the RCC when I got out of college. I was raised very RC: family background, 1st - 8th grade parochial schooling, CCD, Newman Center in college, etc. There was always something missing though. My only respite was during college with the Newman Center and my friendships with Jesuits. They were the most real and accessible. Everything else became hypocrisy. I acquired from the Jebbies an affinity for Liberation Theology - change would come from the people; god and theology were alive and involved.

The problems with Liberation Theology arose when the terrorists in South America hijacked it and added the violence aspect and a marxist bent to it. It lost its real focus and became political. Added to this was the reactionary, authoritarian, nationalistic regimes backed by the Latin church hierarchy that turned it into a fight. Liberation theology was based on a socio-economic argument between the middle/upper middle classes and the vast numbers of marginalized peasants/lower class in need of a pastoral need to make change. A church in need of listening in a new way was necessary.

John XXIII was the one ray of hope the RCC had. He had his ear to the people and the foresight that change & modernity were difficult to fight and here to stay. Vatican II addressed these anxieties and began moving the RCC to a true world-wide pastoral focus. Unfortunately, John XXIII died and did not have the chance to set in motion a plan to make sure the change would continue to move forward. JPII put in place security well before he died by nominating 95% of the College of Cardinals and installing men he knew would follow his way of thinking. He stacked the deck in advance to make certain his agenda could move forward.

Wojtyla [JPII] had a communist background and Ratzinger [BXVI] had a Nazi background. Their formative years were spend under totalitarian regimes. They could not imagine anything but fascism because they battled with it all their lives. However, all of their thinking is based on living under fascist governments and they don't realize that they stood against it only to replace it with a "fascism of religion." They traded one dictatorship for the dictatorship of the medieval church: unbending, dogmatic, punishment oriented, infallable, etc.

Nietszche was very right when he put forth the idea that God is dead, but JPII, BXVI, and conservatives didn''t, and still don't, understand that to Nietszche God is dead because most religious and fundamentalists believers will not let God be a living entity for the people. They hold onto "belief" unwavering rather than works of acceptance and change. The messages of the gospels get lost in interpretation when they are really very simple in nature. What interpretation can be given to "Love thy neighbor as thyself?" What better implies that God is not dead than words such as these?

The greatest disaster for the RCC was the invention of Guttenberg's printing press, and they knew it and fought it, as they did Galileo. Knowledge is dangerous; it leads people to think for themselves. The printing press was going to make ignorance obsolete, and has. The ignorant follow: they know what they know; they know what they don't know; but they don't know that they don't know 95% of what is in the universe. Sadly, many many people are still locked into this out of fear and refuse to question. It certainly does throw a monkey wrench into free will. Religious fascism wants free will to be "their" idea of free will, hence, the fear of liberation.

god isn't dead; god just left everything behind because (s)he is confused [pissed]...

24 April 2005

nothing better to do...? part VII

"Justice Sunday - Stopping The Filibuster Against People of Faith"

I don't understand. How did people of faith become the persecuted? The religious right has been attacking anything and anyone who does not agree with it in a reverse type of hyperbole. They have made themselves the martyrs going into the Coliseum to meet the lions. Haven't they been the lions for the last several years. THEY are being persecuted? THEY are at risk of legally being denied rights given by the Constitution? THEY are the ones being identified as evil and worthy of oppression and immanity? THEY are being told that they don't have the right to choose what is to happen to their bodies, where they want to live, who they want to marry, or where they want to work?

As far as this latest movement to do away with the filibuster so that Bush's (and their) nominees can be appointed, what about the nominees they worked against during the Clinton Administration. Clinton nominees were approved at less than a 72% rate. How can they explain that 81% of Bush's nominees in his first term have been approved? If the situation were reversed would they be doing the same thing? You bet...

Sen. Smith, R-NH, said on the floor of the Senate during the Clinton nomination of Richard Paez:

But don't pontificate on the floor of the Senate and tell me that somehow I am violating the Constitution of the United States of America by blocking a judge or filibustering a judge that I don't think deserves to be on the circuit court because I am going to continue to do it at every opportunity I believe a judge should not be on that court. That is my responsibility. That is my advise and consent role, and I intend to exercise it. I don't appreciate being told that somehow I am violating the Constitution of the United States. I swore to uphold that Constitution, and I am doing it now by standing up and saying what I am saying." (March 7, 2000) [Thank you, dailykoz.]

The judges that are being held up are "activist" judges on the extreme right's agenda, but the right is saying that "activist" judges are making law about marriage, sodomy, etc. Isn't that what they intend for their nominees to do? Isn't the judiciary supposed to be held to a definition of law based on fact and not personal belief? Wasn't that the intention of the Constitution's creation of an independent judiciary?

The "activist" judges that the right has been attacking were all nominated by Republican presidents - Justice Kennedy being the prime example. These justices have intelligence and the interpretation of law based on the Constitution - they have not been attacking the Constitution that I can tell. Oh, and they haven't been fostering an "agenda" of any particular group that I can identify either.

I strongly defend the right's freedom to believe what they want, behave as they see is best for them, worship how is best for them, and to discuss anything they want to discuss. What I do not defend is their thinking that they have the right to deny me these exact same things nor to tell me that I should believe and behave as they do. Democracy is not based on this premise. It's based on certain inalienable rights given to the people by the people. Don't they...

...have anything better to do...?

23 April 2005

how time flies...

I hadn't realized how long it's been since I lasted posted I've been so busy and there have been lots of things going on - popes, economics, sanctioned discrimination, religious bigotry, racial animosity... oh, wait, we live in the modern world. These things happen all of the time...

i'm confused...

13 April 2005

be careful what you say...

After working with kids for 30+ years I've learned that you have to be very careful what you say to them. They don't understand a lot of idioms and they tend to take things that you say literally. It causes worry and concern for adults, but it's always hilarious. Here's a true story from one of the other principals.

A father came in to school to get an early dismissal to take his 7th grade son to the doctor. The principal called the boy down to the office. When she saw him she told him to go get his jacket for an early dismissal. The boy left the office and when 10 minutes passed and he hadn't returned everyone started to get worried. Fifteen minutes passed; no boy. Twenty minutes and everyone start to look for him.

Shortly after they searched everywhere in the building the boy walked into the office. When the principal asked where he had been he replied, "You told me to get my jacket. I didn't wear a jacket today. So I went home and got it."

a 7th grader is 13 years old...!

the idiot son of an a**h***...

If you like Bush, you'll be offended, so click on the link...


and if you don't like Bush, you'll love it...

Thanks, Floyd!

11 April 2005

be afraid.... be very, very afraid... part II

Andrew Sullivan today [www.andrewsullivan.com] commented on what I cited yesterday concerning the recent judicial conference, Justice Kennedy, and Vierra, Cornyn et al and then added this:

Last week also saw the meeting of something called the Judeo-Christian Council for Constitutional Restoration. Christian reconstructionists play a part in it - they want to abolish the Constitution and put Biblical precepts as the only source of American law. They have an agenda, as cited by the National Journal:

According to [organizer, Don] Feder, the manifesto will call for a plan to begin impeachment proceedings against federal judges; remove judicial jurisdiction over issues key to religious conservatives, including marriage and the separation of church and state; limit courts' jurisdiction over the establishment clause of the Constitution, which has been used to enforce the firewall between religion and government; initiate a process for defunding courts that defy these new rules and continue to overstep their authority and eliminate the ability of Democrats to filibuster Bush's judicial nominees.

The manifesto is based in part on legislation introduced early last month by Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., and Rep. Robert Aderholt, R-Ala., known as the "Constitution Restoration Act." Their bill would limit federal courts' jurisdiction and would enshrine a recognition of God in federal law -- a provision the bill would make nonreviewable.

He ends with this:

Theocracy? Only hysterics think that's going on, don't they?

Judeo-Christian sharia?

it might be time for the rest of us to become hysterical...

10 April 2005

marche aux puces...

Marche aux Puces
Originally uploaded by jmichaeli.

Literal translation: flea market.

The Marche aux Puces at St. Ouen on Paris' northern border is a trip. It has things for sale from pure junk to antiques that are worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. It is a real trip.

It also can be a little dangerous with pickpockets and scam artists, but it is the real Paris in action. You see people from rags to mink walking down the cobblestone allees. You can find bargains and pay up the nose.

It is a very special place for me. I bought my first Patric LaRoche pieces here. Beautiful bronze nudes made in the old way of wax casting. They are all nudes but each has a special use. I have one piece that is a wine server that you put a bottle of wine into the arms of the woman who is dancing. I also have a set of knife rests designed as female nudes in yoga-like positions. They are marvelous.

Each day I think more and more of moving to Paris. It is a dream I have, but there is a lot of thought that has to go into it.

i'm just thinking out loud...

09 April 2005

be afraid.... be very, very afraid...

...via Ameriblog Out of Control... Absolutely out of fucking control , we are coming closer to what the right-wing is really after.

The right wing nut jobs have gone over the deep end when it comes to their hatred for judges. Read this article in today's Washington Post - "And the Verdict on Justice Kennedy Is: Guilty". Then, read it again. You know the situation is scary when the article, written by Dana Milbank, starts:

Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy is a fairly accomplished jurist, but he might want to get himself a good lawyer -- and perhaps a few more bodyguards.

Conservative leaders meeting in Washington yesterday for a discussion of "Remedies to Judicial Tyranny" decided that Kennedy, a Ronald Reagan appointee, should be impeached, or worse....

But it gets better...or actually worse:

Not to be outdone, lawyer-author Edwin Vieira told the gathering that Kennedy should be impeached because his philosophy, evidenced in his opinion striking down an anti-sodomy statute, "upholds Marxist, Leninist, satanic principles drawn from foreign law."

Ominously, Vieira continued by saying his "bottom line" for dealing with the Supreme Court comes from Joseph Stalin. "He had a slogan, and it worked very well for him, whenever he ran into difficulty: 'no man, no problem,' " Vieira said.

The full Stalin quote, for those who don't recognize it, is "Death solves all problems: no man, no problem...."

This is close to getting out of control. They want to destroy the Constitution, do away with "majority rule, minority rights," and change democracy to theocracy. They want to codify discrimination, prolong keeping the poor poor, and disenfranchise if they can. We are approaching fascism faster and faster.

i'm becoming more and more frightened...

Diana's revenge?

Diana's revenge?
Originally uploaded by jmichaeli.

Camilla: "First a bird shat on my head, and now I shat my pants. This wedding must be cursed. Fuck you Diana!"

I love this from PageSixSixSix.com

life is fair...

06 April 2005

the pope's life (death)...

In an earlier post, I wrote about how without modern medicine neither Terri Schiavo or the pope would still be alive. Now they have both died. Ms. Schiavo is in a better place being free from her vegetative state, as is the pope. His staying alive at all cost was a prolonging of life through suffering.

Having been raised in the Catholic church the thought of "suffering" sends chills up my spine. We were always told by the nuns and priests that suffering like Jesus would reward and guarantee a place in heaven. However, the thought of being crucified is not my way of guaranteeing anything, and we were told to model Jesus' suffering. There are many stories of mystical saints who carried out what they thought were Jesus' wishes by performing "suffering," eg. self-flagellation, hair tooth clothing, and fasting.

I don't think that this is what Jesus had in mind. If my reading of the gospels (I put no credence in most epistles - especially Paul's) bears any truth, what Jesus actually talked about is that doing good works came above all else. This is what I have always believed is the major difference between Catholicism and Protestant faiths, especially the evangelicals. They put their emphasis on what they believe as being stronger than the works they do in Jesus' name. It's a major difference to me. Even though I am no longer a member of the Catholic faith, I find myself acting rather than believing to this very day.

It leads me to the real point of this entry. John Paul did not practice what he preached. He didn't always do good works. He talked and wrote things that were the antithesis of this idea. He preached intolerance and hatred in the name of his religion and Jesus.

I have tried, since hearing the news of his death, to come up with a way of saying what I have been thinking, but Father Robert Warren Cromey, Rector of Trinity Episcopal Church in San Francisco, sums it up the best to me:

The dead Pope's failures speak volumes. He spoke out against consumerism and materialism and lived and dressed in magnificent splendor. No one paid any attention to him. He spoke out against homosexuals, and millions agreed with him continuing the rancorous prejudice that persists in the world against gays and lesbians. He spoke out against poverty, hunger and homelessness, yet he condemned birth control and abortion, so that the poorest people in Africa and India continue to suffer from over population. He prayed for peace but received warmly heads of state whose government's
continually killed others to exercise their will. He called for the rights of women so long as they did not want to become priests and bishops. He is called a symbol of unity in a church sliding down in numbers of clergy and fleeing, disillusioned lay people. Whatever good he stood for is diminished by the pain and suffering caused by his obdurate pronouncements.

The networks are talking about John Paul's legacy, but they are not saying anything about his failures. The interim leader of the church has already pronounced him "John Paul the Great," but he is not saying anything about his smallness and intolerance. Others are pointing out his importance in the modern world, but he took the Catholic church backward into the Dark Ages, "freeing" people from totalitarianistic governments but replacing them with a religious dictatorship.

can't help but wonder what Terri Schiavo said to him when she saw him after his death...

04 April 2005

the ring cycle surprise...

This actually has nothing to do with the actual Ring Cycle, but at the performance of Die Walkure one of my greatest dreams came true.

I turned around at the first intermission and standing there was Renee Fleming. She not only is probably the reigning soprano in the opera world today but my personal favorite. One year I saw her 5 times: twice at the Lyric, once at Ravinia, once in Paris and once at a Chicago Symphony recital with Barenboim. I'm not a stalker but I think her voice is like butter. Her latest album of Handel music is perfection.

At the second intermission I became unreasonable and approached her. [I don't like to be an intruder with famous people. I've met many from Walter Matthau to June Anderson to Sir Richard Attenborough from having worked at one of Chicago's previous best resaurants - Jimmy's Place - and they are all regular people who need their privacy. It might seem lame but it's how I think.]

She walked by me and all I said was, "Excuse me. May I just say thank you?" Her response was, "How very sweet." I then said, "Especially for the new Handel. It's become my favorite. I've almost worn it out." She responded with, "Mine, too."

That was it. Short. Sweet. Simple. I said exactly what I wanted.

I wonder if anyone ever does "thank" artists for what they do. I know that in watching the famous people I've met over the years, everyone seems to "gush" over them, ask for autographs, or make comments about what they have seen or heard. I have thanked a number of those I have had the good fortune to meet but mostly I have only interacted with them as individuals. [Sir Richard Attenbourough was a stitch!] I guess that is why I view them as people first and famous second.

Actually, the only time I got excited about meeting someone and asked for an autograph, Jimmy, my boss, and my co-workers were really stunned. The autograph? Franz Grundheber! Huh?

I'll leave it up to you to find out who he is...

03 April 2005

the ring cycle...

I've put off writing about Lyric Opera of Chicago's Ring Cycle - Der Ring des Nibelungen - by Richard Wagner until I saw the entire Cycle. I've always said that after you listen to or see the ring you feel like one of two things: either thinking you're Wotan or wanting to invade Poland.

This is the second time I've seen this particular production and it is the last time the Lyric is going to do it. The production was put together by August Everding, the German director, with Zubin Mehta conducting. Everding directed the first one, but he died in 1999. This one was restaged by Herbert Kellner, who assisted Everding in the first go-round. Instead of Mehta conducting, Sir Andrew Davis, Lyric's music director, held the baton. One of the unique things about it is that it was choreographed by Cirque du Soleil’s Debra Brown with bungee jumping rhinemaidens, trampoline riding Walkuries and Kabuki style puppet dragons and giants. In fact, the entire production is Kabuki-like along with a sense of playfulness, family disfunction, and fairytale myth.

The artists were James Morris as Wotan (both productions), Jane Eaglen as Brunnehilde (she did one cycle the first time), Placido Domingo as Sigmunde, Michelle DeYoung as Sieglinde, and John Treleaven as Siegfried. Of course there are many more singers, but these are the major characters throughout the entire Cycle. [I also heard Eva Marton as Brunnehilde in the individual operas leading up to the original Cycles in 1996. I chose the one with Jane Eaglen the first time because Marton should not have been singing it. In fact, you don't hear about her singing anymore at all. She SCHREECHED!]

Comparing the two productions, the second was by far the better. It was better, in my opinion, for a number of reasons. First, though Everding's directing was genius, Kellner's was much, much smoother. He took Everding's notes and ideas and made it more logical and connected. The Rhinemaidens actually looked like they were swimming rather than bungee jumping. The angst between Wotan and Fricka made me almost feel sorry for her this time - almost!

Second, the acting was integral to the music and, yes, I know that this comes from the singers, but the direction emphasized the saga as much as the music. Eaglen has gotten much better than her stand and sing act; Morris has to be the penultimate Wotan; Domingo is a natural at showing emotion; and Michelle DeYoung surprised everyone. She and Domingo were superb as the incestuous star-crossed brother/sister/lovers.

Third, Andrew Davis' conducting of Wagner's masterpiece was both monumental and perfection. What is amazing is that this was the first ever complete Ring Cycle he has ever conducted. He has formed a relationship with the Lyric orchestra so that each member anticipates his every thought and follows him with trust.

The fourth reason comes directly from this - the Lyric Opera Orchestra now owns the music. This was a world class performance and everyone from the audience to the staff knew it. As a matter of fact, Lyric took the unusual step of having the complete 120 piece orchestra onstage for the curtain call - complete with instuments and one member holding Nothung up high in the back! This Ring should be recorded.

The nuances of the music and the staging were integrated to the point that each complimented the other. They were married one to the other. There were minor flaws, of course, but 15+ hours of music over four nights in a single week around recurring motifs one would expect them, the amazing thing is that there were so few they fit on one hand. Probably the biggest was Eric Halfvarson as Hagen. I'm not sure he was completely warmed up when he first appeared and consequently I'm not sure he was singing the right notes; they didn't fit the music the orchestra was playing. It was brief and he rang loud and strong very soon after. Both Eaglen and Treleaven in Gotterdamerung wavered a bit at the beginning, but they both had a lot of difficult music in front of them. They may have been saving it for what was an unforgettable musical ending for both of them.

One of the most important accomplishments of this Ring was the idea that Wagner's music is very "lyrical." Many people think it is grating and monotonous. Far from it. It is a work, when done correctly, that is poetic, prosodic and epic. Or to borrow from Wordsworth's The Excursion. Book vii

wisdom married to immortal verse....

There are two more Cycles to go. For more information go to Lyric Opera of Chicago. For the review by the two major Chicago Music critics go to Second time around, 'Ring' is even better by Wynn Delacoma of the Chicago Sun-Times and A 'Ring' ends and the world is redeemed by a woman's loving sacrifice by John von Rhein of the Chicago Tribune.