An insightful and amusing article by Anthony Esolen on the banality of modern church music:
Why, when we have a trove of profound, beautiful, and poignant hymns, do we have to endure what is banal, clunky, and silly?
We have a rich treasury of hymn-poems to read, to sing, and to keep close to the heart. Some of them are almost as old as Christianity itself. They come from Latin and Greek, from our own English, from French and German and all the languages of Europe. Some were written by saintly divines with a fine ear for poetry: John Henry Newman (“Praise to the Holiest in the Height”), Charles Wesley (“Love Divine, All Loves Excelling”). Many were written by the great Dr. Isaac Watts, who set the psalms to English meter and rhyme. Some rose up from an anonymous lyricist among the folk: “What Wondrous Love Is This.” Some entered our language by the skill of great translators, like John Mason Neale and Catherine Winkworth. Some were the work of pious laymen who meditated upon Scripture all their lives: so the blind Fanny Crosby gives us “Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross.” Just as many of our most beautiful melodies were written by the finest composers who ever lived—Bach, Handel, Haydn—so too many of our hymn lyrics were written by poets of some renown: George Herbert, Robert Bridges, Gerard Manley Hopkins, John Milton.
So why, then, why do we have verse-by-numbers lyrics posing as real poems in our hymnals? Why, when we have such a trove of the great, the profound, the beautiful, the memorable, the poignant, the splendid, do we have to endure what is banal, clunky, clumsy, dull, vague, and silly?
Sometimes the very titles of the lyrics give them away. They are like the opening sentences of badly written freshman essays. You know the grade is a B-minus before you make it to the end of the paragraph. Let me give some examples from a recent publication:
Who is This Who Breaches Borders? I don’t know—check his passport. Can a border be breached, in English? A wall can be breached; you breach it by breaking it. But you can’t break a border; you can cross it, or trespass upon it. The next lines are worse: “And subverts the social orders, / Crossing chasms that divide.” Political slang, and an absurd redundancy at the end. What, doesn’t he cross all those other chasms that unite?
One of the commenters has it exactly right:
This is not about bad music – that’s the decoy. It’s about bad theology – an at best deistic world view, more likely a fairly Unitarian Universalist type human-centred absence of belief in the supernatural.
Four men who pelted eggs at young Jewish people during racially motivated attacks in Golders Green have been ordered to pay compensation to their victims.
Mohammed Khalifa, 19, Aimen Mohamed, 19, Mohammed Jawad, 21, and Haider Al-Fardan, 21, carried out the attacks as they drove in Golders Green Road on December 9.
Willesden Magistrates Court heard how on that morning, Khalifa borrowed his father’s BMW before driving the other three to Kingsbury where they bought 30 eggs.
The men then headed to Golders Green where they singled out a group of four young girls at 11.30am.
As Khalifa slowed the car down, the men shouted “oi, Jews” and “Jews” while they drove past before throwing an egg, one of which hit a girl in the face.
As the girls continued down the road, the car drove back down the road and they were subjected to more shouting, though one of them was able to memorise the number plate. They also noticed more broken eggs on the road.
Fifteen minutes later, two 14-year-old boys were walking along the same road when the group drove slowly past them.
All the car windows on the passenger side were open and as the car pulled alongside the boys, the occupants yelled abuse at them with at least one voice shouting, “you f***ing Jews”.
Mohammed Khalifa borrowed his father’s BMW. Poor bloke. With that kind of deprivation, no wonder he hates the Jews.
Just one little point. There is nothing in the report above to indicate the attacks were racially motivated. Could it be that Mohammed, Mohamed and Mohammed had something else in common?
Yes Virginia, journalistic integrity used to exist.
But when someone like John Pilger is held up as an example for aspiring journos, things have gotten pretty grim.
Ezra Levant talks about the values of the liberal journalistic pack in this discussion of a Canadian journalist’s decision to move to Cuba to live (via Blazing Cat Fur):
Jane Pitt is the mother of actor Brad Pitt. On Tuesday, the Springfield News-Leader published her letter in support of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
“Any Christian who does not vote or write in a name is casting a vote for Romney’s opponent, Barack Hussein Obama — a man who sat in Jeremiah Wright’s church for years, did not hold a public ceremony to mark the National Day of Prayer, and is a liberal who supports the killing of unborn babies and same-sex marriage.”
A few responses from the love-o-sphere (with apologies for language):
Some thought starters from Ben Peter Terpstra’s blog Weekend Libertarian:
1. Government schools aren’t necessarily public schools. BP quotes from an article by John Stossel:
Politicians claim that education and health care are different — too important to leave to market competition. Patients and parents aren’t real consumers because they don’t have the expertise to know which hospital or school is best. That’s why they must be centrally planned by government “experts.”
They should be called government or union schools, because those are the two groups whose interests come first, and in whose ideas and values your children will be inculcated, rather than those of ordinary people – the public.
More from John Stossel:
Teachers’ hourly wages exceed what most architects, accountants and nurses make. (Unions and government) .. constantly demand more money, but tripling spending and vastly increasing the ratio of staff to student have brought no improvement.
They claim that public education is “the great equalizer.” Rich and poor and different races mix and learn together. It’s a beautiful concept. But it is a lie. Rich parents buy homes in neighborhoods with better schools. As a result, public — I mean, government — schools are now more racially segregated than private schools. One survey found that public schools were significantly more likely to be almost entirely white or entirely minority. Another found that at private schools, students of different races were more likely to sit together.
James Tooley spends most of his time in the poorest parts of Africa, India and China. Those countries copied America’s “free public education,” and Tooley wanted to see how that’s worked out. What he learned is that in India and China, where kids outperform American kids on tests, it’s not because they attend the government’s free schools.
Government schools are horrible. So even in the worst slums, parents try to send their kids to private, for-profit schools. How can the world’s poorest people afford tuition? And why would they pay for what their governments offer for free?
Tooley says parents with meager resources still sacrifice to send their kids to private schools because the private owner does something that’s virtually impossible in government schools: replace teachers who do not teach. Government teachers in India and Africa have jobs for life, just like American teachers. Many sleep on the job. Some don’t even show up for work. As a result, says Tooley, “the majority of (poor) schoolchildren are in private school.” Even small villages have as many as six private schools, “and these schools outperform government schools at a fraction of the teacher cost.”
It has never been clear to me why government needs to be involved in the delivery of medical and educational services at all, except perhaps in very small or remote communities. They don’t do a very good job of either.
2. On the religion of organic food. Quoting from an article by David Leyonhjelm in The Land:
It is assumed that organic food is free of pesticides. In fact, certain pesticides are permitted under the various organic codes and many organically grown plants produce endogenous pesticides that are chemically similar to man-made pesticides. And there are also occasional organic farmers who are forced to apply pesticides to save their crops. Not surprisingly, they don’t talk about that much.
It is assumed that organic production is better for the environment. That this is false is shown by the approach to controlling weeds. A conventional farmer will use herbicides to kill weeds and avoid disturbing the soil to conserve moisture, minimise erosion and preserve topsoil organic matter. Organic farmers are not permitted to use herbicides, so they have to use cultivation.
I remember reading somewhere that while ‘organic’ food constitutes about 5% of total food supply in the UK, it accounts for some 25% of food poisoning cases, because of the far higher incidence of highly allergenic mould and insect residues. It is all very well for cosy well-off Westerners to talk about the importance of being organic, but if everyone did as they asked, half the world would starve. Modern scientific agriculture, with its very carefully applied and non-toxic fertilisers and pesticides, allows high levels of productivity which provide affordable food for the majority of the world’s people. But I guess they don’t figure for the organophiles.
3. On gay divorce and gay marriage; an article worth reading in full. A couple of sample paragraphs:
In the National Review, Charles C. W. Cooke writes, “In Norway, male same-sex marriages are 50 percent more likely to end in divorce than heterosexual marriages, and female same-sex marriages are an astonishing 167 percent more likely to be dissolved. In Sweden, the divorce risk for male-male partnerships is 50 percent higher than for heterosexual marriages, and the divorce risk for female partnerships is nearly double that for men.”
This is important to note, for many reasons, if one values children’s welfare. But first, and most obviously, it appears as though many gay-marriage activists don’t respect society’s time-honoured institution of marriage, period. After the honeymoon period, they fly. Within only years, many divorcing gays, in media-approved progressive nations are already beating broken straights to Splitsville.
The claim that high rates of infidelity, divorce and domestic abuse among homosexual couples don’t matter because those things happen in heterosexual relationships as well, is so dishonest as to be farcical. Rates of infidelity, violence and breakup are not just slightly higher in homosexual relationships; they are much higher. It is monstrously wrong to refuse to consider this when placing children for adoption.
Just one little note on marriage breakup. It is sometimes claimed that 50% of all marriages now end in divorce. This is (almost) true. But it is also highly misleading. Only (only! – still far too high!) one quarter to one fifth of marriages between previously unmarried heterosexual partners will end in divorce. If you and your spouse have never been married before, the chances are very good that you will be together for life. The overall figures for divorce are dragged into disproportion by serial divorcers – those who divorce and remarry more than twice.
Why should we in Australia care? Well, many of us have friends and family in Europe. That is reason enough. Many of us also care about reason and democracy.
Another key reason is that Europe is China’s biggest market. If the Euro collapses, as now seems almost inevitable, Europe’s buying power will also collapse. China’s exports will crash, and China will stop buying Australian coal and iron ore. Australia not in good financial straits now, thanks to the most incompetent government in its history. It will soon be worse, thanks to the EU.
I had a very odd message on my home phone tonight from someone with a Scottish accent, I think. I couldn’t tell whether it was fake or genuine, and I couldn’t make out exactly what he was saying.
It sounded like he was ringing about his sister. I had, I think he was saying, linked to something that said something about her she didn’t like, and he wanted the link removed. But he didn’t say who she was or what the post was.
If whoever it was is reading this, please leave a comment on the post you were talking about, tell me what concerns you about it, and if what you are saying makes sense, I will probably do as you ask.
From the Daily Mail:
At 14, Britney Marshall is apparently going through something of a ‘funny phase’. She works hard at school and dreams of going to university one day. And if that isn’t strange enough, she has absolutely no desire to have breast implants. This disturbing state of affairs has left her mother Chantal, who had great hopes for her youngest child, wondering where she has gone wrong.
‘Britney is going through a funny phase at the moment and saying she doesn’t want to get her boobs done,’ said Mrs Marshall, a 53-year-old mother of nine.
Britney, however, dreams of being the first in the family to go to university, making her way in business and travelling the world beyond the family home in Kirkby in Ashfield, Nottinghamshire. ‘I’m too young to be thinking about having a boob job – I just want to work hard at school,’ she said.
Plainly, Britney is some sort of weirdo. Either that, or she is the only member of her family with a brain.
Here they all are:
When I say bullying I don’t mean the annoying schoolboy who looks down on the other boys and finally gets a slap around the ear. That’s not bullying.
I don’t mean the girl who demands everyone do everything her way, and then finds that she is being excluded because no one will play with her. That’s not bullying.
Bullying is deliberately causing harm to others for the fun of it, or as a means of getting your own way.
Bullies do not bully because they are lonely, need attention, or have low self-esteem. Every reliable study shows that bullies have no problems with self-esteem. Bullies bully because they enjoy it.
Corporations can be bullies as easily as individuals.
I wrote a couple of weeks ago about my experience with the National Australia Bank.
We asked for a simple (but expensive for us) mistake to be fixed. Our request became a complaint, then a dispute.
There was only one response from the NAB to my blog post. It was a misleading comment, sent using a false name and fake email address. That pretty much exemplified the level of integrity in the bank’s interactions with us following our complaint.
The NAB has a bullying, if not sociopathic, corporate culture; a long standing attitude of disregard for the needs and rights of its customers.
Based on our experience, and that of many others (see my earlier post on this) no matter how many nice people you know at the NAB, sooner or later you will come up against the corporation, to your cost. I recommend choosing another bank. However, just because the NAB’s corporate culture is sociopathic does not mean everyone who works for the NAB is a bad person.
There are no nice people working for scam businesses like JBC Global, CFS-live, or ESL Trader.
I should add that there are genuine businesses with these or similar names. That is part of the scam. But none of the genuine businesses sell useless stock trading software. The stock trading software scammers JBC, CFS and ESL attempt to trade on the names and reputations of others, even claiming support by producing fake press releases in the name of people like Anthony Green, and other well-known financial sector personalities.
The people who run JBC, CFS and ESL are thieves, con men, sociopaths.
If you are a con artist, you are a sociopath. You cannot be willing to lie, to cheat people out of thousands of dollars of hard earned money and savings if you have any regard for the needs and feelings of others.
Confronting such people is dangerous, because sociopaths have no compunction about saying and doing things would not even occur to normal people. Like Anton Chigurh in Cormac McCarthy’s masterful ‘No Country for Old Men,’ they will happily destroy you and your family, just for inconveniencing them.
Nonetheless, stand up. We must. But take care.
First trailer for Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby:
Visually impressive, in the usual (except for the dire Australia) Luhrmann style.
It will be worth seeing, but it is not Gatsby.
The July New English Review is online.
A couple of highlights:
Geoffrey St John on why a nuclear Iran is a risk Israel cannot take.
The argument that Iran is justified in seeking nuclear weapons because it cannot trust the US or Israel seems to me to be utterly bizarre. The US has profited not one iota from its costly and painful interventions in Kuwait, Somalia, Iraq and Afghanistan. It has tried to build peaceful stable societies, and has largely failed, because it is not possible to build a peaceful democratic society where people do not want a peaceful democratic society.
Israel has a history of responding successfully to attacks on its borders and people. It has no history of attempts to enlarge its borders, or of unprovoked attacks on anyone. As St John points out, that is not true of Iran, which already supplies weapons to Hezbollah and Hamas.
And contrasting but equally insightful articles by Theodore Dalrymple on Haydn and the relationship between talent and its fruits, and character:
The difference between the significance of the work and conduct is likely to increase with time, at least if the work survives the death of its author. If it were to be shown conclusively from impeccable sources that Shakespeare had been a villain all his life, it would hardly affect our estimation of his work at all. A man can be a sublime artist but an unattractive figure, and in the long run it is the former that counts.
One of the most admirable causes taken up by Mr. Scruton over the years has been his crusade against the hideousness of modern architecture. In much of his work on this topic, he has argued persuasively that the totalitarian impulse which has deformed so much of modern politics manifests itself as well in the overbearing concrete structures of modernist architecture. That is to say, Mr. Scruton has recognized that in the case of modernist architecture, style is not philosophically neutral, but rather embodies a certain perspective and way of approaching the world. ..
This is also true of literature and music; character affects the work so deeply (how could it not!) that the work necessarily marks the reader, listener, watcher with that same character.
Matthew Walter’s review of Lucas’s Style, the Art of Writing Well makes the same point:
Lucas admiringly quotes Anatole France’s recipe for good style (“First, clarity; then again clarity; and, finally, clarity”), but it is not one that he endorses. Character, according to Lucas, is the true “foundation of style.” Why did Lancelot Andrewes, Dr. Johnson, and Jane Austen write better prose than, say, John Donne, Jonathan Swift, and George Meredith—consistently? Simply put, to their rivals and contemporaries, they were morally superior.
Here I think Lucas is correct. Certainly Lucas’s style—vigorous, free of cant, occasionally playful but never frivolous—seems to owe a great deal to his own admirable character.
I doubt whether Jane Austen was really morally superior to Jonathan Swift. She was inclined to a kind of smug judgementalism, as this excerpt from a letter to her sister Cassandra demonstrates:
I am proud to say that I have a very good eye at an adulteress, for though repeatedly assured that another in the same party was the She, I fixed upon the right one from the first. A resemblance to Mrs. L. was my guide. She is not so pretty as I expected; her face has the same defect of baldness as her sisters, and her features not so handsome; she was highly rouged, and looked rather quietly and contentedly silly than anything else.
But whether Swift or Austen was the more honourable, the purposes of art are truth and beauty. The expression of those things depends on the ability to identify them, and that ability depends on the artist’s depth of character; his commitment to truthfulness in all things.
The works of an artist who is also a liar, whether in commercial dealings, his relationships with women, or his politics, may be convenient for a time, but can never have lasting value.
The trouble is, we have all failed. We all fall short. This does not mean that none of our works have value. It does mean that if we want to better artists, we must first try to be better people.
Ray Evans & Tom Quirk have a comprehensive article on the folly and ruinous expense of so-called renewable energy in the current issue of Quadrant Magazine.
A few sample paragraphs:
The low-cost electricity we once enjoyed was obviously of great advantage to ordinary families, whose standard of living was thereby enhanced. But it was of greater importance to commercial and industrial consumers, who were able to offer goods and services at lower prices, and to employ more people. Cheap electricity is a major contributor to national prosperity and to economic diversity, and the increases in prices that have taken place, with more in the pipeline, will spread through the economy with continuing deleterious consequences. We will see the closure of industries which have relied on cheap electricity for their international competitiveness.
The mechanism through which electricity consumers pay greenmail to the owners of windmills and solar panels is the mandatory Renewable Energy Certificate, introduced by John Howard in his 2001 MRET legislation. As James Delingpole explained in the Australian on May 3, writing about the ghost town of Waterloo in South Australia (now depopulated by the impacts of the sub-audio frequency vibrations generated by the nearby wind farm), a 3-megawatt wind turbine, costing $6 million, will be lucky to generate electricity worth $150,000 in a year, but will receive $500,000 in RECs, paid for by the hapless electricity consumer.
The Commonwealth’s responsibility has been both direct—as in Howard’s MRET legislation of 2000 and Rudd’s legislation of 2010—and just as significantly indirect, as the continuing attack on coal, both under Howard12 and more recently under Rudd and Gillard, has made investment in new coal-fired power stations far too hazardous for private investors to contemplate. The MRET scheme, on its own, has led to so-called investments, mostly in South Australia but also in New South Wales, of at least $3 billion in wind farms. These wind farms are economically worthless13, in that their output is unpredictable and cannot be sold without government coercion. So the NEMMCO system operators who allocate output, on the basis of competitive bidding, to the generators for the next day, have to arrange for at least 90 per cent back-up for whatever wind-farm output is proposed by the owners. Because of the MRET legislation this output gazumps all other generators, as the coal and gas-fired generators have to purchase the RECs required by the Act.
Solar panels are much worse than wind-farms. They are at least four to five times as costly as coal-fired power. They only operate when the sun shines. They are a mechanism for transferring large sums of money from poor families to rich families, who not only receive hugely inflated sums for electricity they feed into the grid, but who advertise their green piety with large solar installations on their roofs. These solar installations are rarely seen on modest homes; they are the green equivalent of the Mercedes in the driveway.
Now the Gillard government’s tax on energy production has come into effect, the impact of this madness will be multiplied. Every aspect of the Australian economy will be less competitive; primary industry, manufacturing, retailing and service industries.
This graphic from Andrew Bolt’s blog shows a doubling in the wholesale price of electricity in the two days since the carbon tax began:
Does anyone really think a couple of hundred dollars in bribes is going to compensate for this? If you wanted to undermine an entire economy, you could hardly come up with a better plan.
This is economic terrorism, and Labor and the Greens are the suicide bombers.
Last November Herbert London wrote an article about Israel and just war theory. It is worth reading in full; it perfectly summarises the difference in the philosophies of Israel and its enemies.
A few paragraphs:
There were even times when the Israeli soldiers put their own lives at risk to avoid killing an innocent person. Time after time a known terrorist hiding behind “human shields” in an apartment complex was spared to avoid the death of people who were innocent. Rockets launched from a school roof remained untouched until children had left the premises. In the heat of battle Israeli forces maintained a level of moral behavior that was exemplary.
Many commentators on this subject point to an Arab boy of about fifteen crying as he approached a checkpoint. Soldiers on the scene went into high alert. It seemed clear that this distraught youngster was recruited to be a suicide bomber. One Israeli soldier, recognizing the boy’s agitation, called out to him, “Brother” in Arabic. He could not be sure when or whether the boy would set himself ablaze. Nonetheless, the IDF soldier continued to walk to the boy, took him in his arms and disarmed the explosive device around his waist — all the while knowing that often the Palestinians use a remote control device to explode suicide bombers. The episode also tells a great deal about the Israeli military psychology.
Arab attempts to paint a different picture of the IDF have been successful. Many in the Arab world see these well-trained and disciplined troops as amoral. That, however, is far from the truth. These Israeli eighteen and nineteen year olds are told from the first day of national service that they carry the banner of a civilization that puts a premium on life. Their job is to protect and defend. They are given a green light to kill only when other methods to stop an enemy fail.
At a training session for IDF entrants at Ammunition Hill in Jerusalem, teenagers drafted into military service discuss the roots of war, the conflict in the Middle East, the history of this new nation. But most significantly, they study just-war theory and a moral stance for fighting those who rely on terror methods. Of course, no system is foolproof; occasionally a soldier will act improperly. This, however, is the exception. Israel is in a daily struggle. After all, 250 million Arabs in 22 Arab and Muslim countries want to destroy this nation. But Israeli leaders do not modify their moral code one iota. As the commander of this training center noted, “If we altered our approach, what effect would it have on soldiers when they leave military service?” One fights not only to save a nation, but to save values.
A magnificent homily from Pope Benedict XVI on Friday morning. A couple of paragraphs:
Christian tradition has always considered Saint Peter and Saint Paul to be inseparable: indeed, together, they represent the whole Gospel of Christ. In Rome, their bond as brothers in the faith came to acquire a particular significance. Indeed, the Christian community of this City considered them a kind of counterbalance to the mythical Romulus and Remus, the two brothers held to be the founders of Rome. A further parallel comes to mind, still on the theme of brothers: whereas the first biblical pair of brothers demonstrate the effects of sin, as Cain kills Abel, yet Peter and Paul, much as they differ from one another in human terms and notwithstanding the conflicts that arose in their relationship, illustrate a new way of being brothers, lived according to the Gospel, an authentic way made possible by the grace of Christ’s Gospel working within them. Only by following Jesus does one arrive at this new brotherhood: this is the first and fundamental message that today’s solemnity presents to each one of us, the importance of which is mirrored in the pursuit of full communion, so earnestly desired by the ecumenical Patriarch and the Bishop of Rome, as indeed by all Christians…
.. in today’s Gospel there emerges powerfully the clear promise made by Jesus: “the gates of the underworld”, that is, the forces of evil, will not prevail, “non praevalebunt”. One is reminded of the account of the call of the prophet Jeremiah, to whom the Lord said, when entrusting him with his mission: “Behold, I make you this day a fortified city, an iron pillar, and bronze walls, against the whole land, against the kings of Judah, its princes, its priests, and the people of the land. They will fight against you; but they shall not prevail against you, for I am with you, says the Lord, to deliver you!” (Jer 1:18-19). In truth, the promise that Jesus makes to Peter is even greater than those made to the prophets of old: they, indeed, were threatened only by human enemies, whereas Peter will have to be defended from the “gates of the underworld”, from the destructive power of evil. Jeremiah receives a promise that affects him as a person and his prophetic ministry; Peter receives assurances concerning the future of the Church, the new community founded by Jesus Christ, which extends to all of history, far beyond the personal existence of Peter himself…
In the light of these parallels, it appears clearly that the authority of loosing and binding consists in the power to remit sins. And this grace, which defuses the powers of chaos and evil, is at the heart of the Church’s ministry. The Church is not a community of the perfect, but a community of sinners, obliged to recognize their need for God’s love, their need to be purified through the Cross of Jesus Christ. Jesus’ sayings concerning the authority of Peter and the Apostles make it clear that God’s power is love, the love that shines forth from Calvary. Hence we can also understand why, in the Gospel account, Peter’s confession of faith is immediately followed by the first prediction of the Passion: through his death, Jesus conquered the powers of the underworld, with his blood he poured out over the world an immense flood of mercy, which cleanses the whole of humanity in its healing waters.
And from the entrance procession at that morning’s Mass:
The Westminster Abbey and Sistine Chapel Choirs together. Sound quality in this clip is not very good, sadly, but the voices are wonderful.