12 May 2016

Are we getting infinite yet?

.An interesting video about the various versions of Sherlock Holmes. 

The writers claim their view to be more rich and satisfying than that of the purists, who believe the one true  Sherlock is the Sherlock of Arthur Conan Doyle.  The writers claim that Sherlock is a 'palimpsest' (the word comes from the study of medieval manuscripts.  A palimpsest is a manuscript who's original text has been scrubbed off and the pages written over.) and that each version of Sherlock is, in it's own way, a true version, as the character takes a little bit from each new interpretation and moves forward.

The authors claim their answer to this problem is a more satisfying, but fail to contextualize and explain this answer by saying for whom this answer will be more satisfying.  Clearly, not the purists. This is typical of many academics: those who disagree are misguided nonentities.  They may be discounted without apology or explanation.

This is the sort of stuff I used to be taught back in the day.  Authorial intention is gone, no interpretation is perfect, therefore any interpretation will be in part a misinterpretation, and therefore, with a breathtaking and colossal leap in illogic- a misinterpretation is a valid interpretation.
I disagreed with this at least in part, and therefore got roundly condemned by my fellow scholars who believed that disagreeing with them in part was the same as disagreeing with them in the whole.  Logic, I am afraid, was never their strength.  When we say that a book or poem or- to use their over used buzz phrase- 'text' is open to any number or even an infinite number of interpretations, that  may be true, although I cannot say for sure. To the best of my knowledge we have not yet reached infinity in our interpretations, but I am sure someone from the academy will inform us when we do.  But- and here's the catch- any number of interpretations is not the same as any interpretation. 

It seems to me that there comes a time when a new representation of a character is not a representation of that character at all.  He may be called Holmes, or Conan, or Hamlet, or Superman, but he has wandered so far from his originals that he is no longer himself, but a fraud and an imposter, a fanfiction.  Someone has written down the name of a favourite character, and applied it to their own manikin.

At heart, this idea that we can create our own versions of the characters is both liberating, but also stunningly narcissistic.  We are say to the past: what you wrote and what you said is no longer of any consequence to us.  You may have thought what you had to say was important, but we believe that what we have to say is more important.  We don't want to listen to what you have to say, and now we will put our words in your mouth."  Rather than venturing out to encounter the past and to seek out other minds and encounter new ideas,  we have decided to stay at home, and stare into a mirror.

No. Next Question.

NLM asks:  "Is “Contemporary” Church Music a Good Example of Inculturation?"

11 May 2016

Reflection on today in History

Today is the 203rd anniversary of the assassination of Spencer Perceval, the only British Prime Minister to be assassinated. No conspiracy theory here: he was shot by a lone nut.

As I said, he was the only one to be assassinated, but, gaging from the heated political rhetoric that pops up from time to time, there are those who would like to revive and expand the practice, perhaps raising it to the level of tradition.

I feel a twinge of envy for Britain on this matter: though they had but one, they had at least one. We have had none. The only political assassination I remember was that of D'Arcy McGee, a father of Confederation, but officially a member of parliament. George Brown, another 'Father of Confederation' (perennial leader of the opposition, and Prime Minister/Premier of what is now Quebec and Ontario for a few hours) was also killed, but that was after he had retired from politics and gone back to be the chief editor and publisher of the Globe. He was shot by a disgruntled employee he had fired the week before. It is perhaps a measure of the worth of our Prime Ministers that, throughout all our history, no one thought any of them to be worth the price of a bullet.

10 May 2016

Wishing black were blacker

One of the nastier aspects of our politics is the need some have to hate the other party at all times in all things and at all costs. It drives our political discourse into the dirt and degrades us all.

For instance, I have seen a series of posts in my inbox of people condemning Trudeau for not accepting help from Russia and the US. How dare he not accept help in this crisis. Then it came out that Trudeau was acting on the advice of the fire crews actually fighting the fires. Extra help would not be helpful. The crews would start interfering with each other. So, in other words, Trudeau asked the opinion of the experts and acted on their advice. He did what he was supposed to do.

But point that out to some of these people and they still want to hate him. Apparently, he should have acted against the advice of the experts. And should that have backfired, then what? condemn him for ignoring the advice of experts?

I believe I have made it clear that I don't like Trudeau, and I oppose many of his policies, but I can't fault him in this case. He has done what he was supposed to do. He does enough wrong to provide plenty of material for us to oppose. There is no need to oppose him when he is not wrong. Stop standing for parties, and start standing for truth. Listen to CS Lewis writing in the heart of the Second World War:

"Suppose one reads a story of filthy atrocities in the paper. Then suppose that something turns up suggesting that the story might not be quite true, or not quite so bad as it was made out. Is one's first feeling, 'Thank God, even they aren't quite so bad as that,' or is it a feeling of disappointment, and even a determination to cling to the first story for the sheer pleasure of thinking your enemies are as bad as possible? If it is the second then it is, I am afraid, the first step in a process which, if followed to the end, will make us into devils. You see, one is beginning to wish that black was a little blacker. If we give that wish its head, later on we shall wish to see grey as black, and then to see white itself as black. Finally we shall insist on seeing everything -- God and our friends and ourselves included -- as bad, and not be able to stop doing it: we shall be fixed for ever in a universe of pure hatred."

8 May 2016

Mother's Day

I suppose I should say something sappy about my mom here, today. I mean, as a mother, she was decent. I know a lot of people whose mother's were flat out awful, and occasionally narcissistically and psychotically so, so through no virtue or merit of my own, I lucked out in that matter.

I speak often of my father, and less so of my mother. That's because dad lived out loud and larger than life, and he was a master story teller, so even the less than epic events in his life sounded fascinating.  It is easy to talk about him. Mother tended to be quiet and lead a life devoted to less dramatic pursuits. She painted, she knitted, she sewed, she prayed and went to church every day. Hardly the stuff great tales are made of. And as for telling her stories- well, Dad was a master. Mom often derails her own stories as she spends five minutes trying to remember some irrelevant character's name.

And yet, in her own quiet way, mom has accomplished great and wonderful things. She has executed thousands of paintings, including portraits of every Canadian soldier who died on the afghan mission, as well as many police and firemen who have died in the line of duty, as well as portraits of people who died in tragic circumstances, all of which she sends to the families free of charge. We- my brother and sisters- all have many samples of her work, family treasures which we will cherish, and, when our time comes, pass on as heirlooms.

And the greatest gift she gave to us was our father.  According to the man himself, Dad was a wild, hard drinking man heading to an early grave before he met mother. Such a man may live a life that makes for great stories ( and many of his best came from that time in his life) but such a man would have made a poor father. I didn't have a poor father. Mother told that hell raising wild man in no uncertain terms not to ask her to marry him, unless he cleaned himself up and quit drinking. I have known many women who have tried to reform men, and I have told my daughters in the strongest terms possible not to try it, because it almost always fails. I know of only one woman who pulled it off, and that was mother. I had a great father, but that was because I also had a great, perhaps a greater, mother.

And so it is that I owe everything to my mother. Any good that I have done in my life, any good that I may achieve, has its roots in her. Thanks, mom.

Sappy enough for you?

6 May 2016

Universities: where reason, logic, common sense and accountability go to cough up blood.

Last night I found myself talking about work to a few friends. I don't often dicuss work. When I do tell a story, I find I am frequently interrupting the story with the words "...and I'm not making this up..."

Case in point: my workplace's official standard of cleanliness. Some years back, the administration commissioned grounds and cleaning staff to conduct a feasibility study on what it would cost... to clean this place. Grounds examined the matter, crunched some numbers, and gave a report. The report listed various levels of cleanliness, and they gave each level a name and a cost. The levels were, as I recall, in descending order: "Pristine" ,"Very Clean", "Clean", I don't know, "Cleanish", I guess. the report was submitted to the administration. They went down the list, saying: "No, no, no. no, no, no," flipped the page "No, no, no....there. That's the one."

And thus the matter was settled, and our official standard of cleanliness is called- and I'm not making this up- "Moderately Dingy".

You read that correctly.

Even better. Moderately dingy is an average. Some places- mainly those used by the administration are pristine. Others, like my area, are almost totally neglected. The level of cleaniliness in my area is somewhere around "Absolutely Disgustin'" and "Well, Those Guys Are Probably Going To Die From Exposure To The Crud Down There Already, So Why Bother?"

5 May 2016

And down the rabbit hole we go

Today the Canadian Parliament will almost certainly vote in the euthanasia bill. The justification for this bill lies solely on an appeal to feelings and emotions, without a shred of reason and logic. Sympathy and fear. So let's talk with sympathy and fear. The bill itself bears some resemblance to the old abortion law that was struck down as unconstitutional, which means that at some future date this law may be struck down, and euthanasia would then be unregulated and unrestricted.

It was also in the news recently that in Belgium and others nations that have similarly adopted euthanasia approximately 30% of those euthanized have given no permission- or, to use the technically accurate term, they are murdered. But no charges are laid. They were simply ending a life unworthy of life, I suppose.

We live in a nation with socialized medicine, with an unsustainably huge deficit, with an even bigger deficit thanks to our new, feckless Prime Minister. They will inevitably be looking for ways to trim the bottom line and avoid expensive treatments, and Parliament is putting death on the table as an option.

Some of us believe in truth, and reason, and logic. Prime Minister Trudeau believes it's 2016. Last year he believed it was 2015. Next year he will believe it's 2017. He is no leader. He is a weather vane, pointing the direction of every ill wind that blows.

3 May 2016

While I'm on the subject of singing

As I mentioned in the post below, I usually go out of the hymnal when picking communion hymns.  Last night, when setting out the hymns for the coming weeks, the director and  suggested that I do a piece we have been working on sporadically for a while: Frank's Panis Angelicus.  You know, the famous one. The really, really famous one.  The one so famous most people are unaware there are other settings for the words.

On the one hand, I have always wanted to sing this piece.  On the other hand, there is no upside to singing this piece.  It has been done  over and over, and there are many, many recordings of it performed by the finest singers the word has to offer.  I cannot imagine coming off well in comparison.

Oh well.  Once again, here goes nothing.

I gotta be more careful about picking Sundays for singing.

I met with the organist last night to practice and set the music for the next four Sundays.  We found acceptable appropriate hymns for the first three Sundays, and then opened the hymnal to see what we had for the fourth, which, as it turns out, is Corpus Christi.

It was horrible.  I had somehow forgotten just how bad the communion hymns are in CBWIII, perhaps because I always pick communion hymns from outside that book.  But here I was, stuck with trying to find some music for communal singing out of that dreadful book.  I would have liked to have just given out some handouts for the day, but we were already doing that for Trinity Sunday (Holy Holy Holy- for some unfathomable reason it was excluded from CBW III) and we can't push it.  I am faced with the realization that Gift of Finest Wheat may be the best the book has to offer.

In all sincerity, the only good thing I can say about CBWIII is that it is slightly better than some other hymnals out there, although their names escape me, and it will most likely be much better than whatever the bishops create to replace it. True story: about a year ago the bishops sent out a survey to people involved in parish music programs, asking what they would like to see in a new hymnal. My response was, in short: "No need for a new hymnal: the old one is bad enough."  My wife's tart response could be summed up as "How about this time not having it edited by a gay paedophile?"