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March 2010

Arvo Pärt: De Profundis

There is a lot happening in the world right now that I would like to comment on, but it seems inappropriate for Holy Week. This is much more fitting:

A translation can be found here. By the way, I probably won't be online much until Sunday, and not at all on Friday.

Bergman Island

You may have noticed that I haven't written much about movies for some time now. That's partly because I haven't been watching them at the rate I was doing for a couple of years there, and partly because nothing I've seen over the past few months has made a very big impression on me. (I think the last one that I was excited about was Solaris.)

Well, here's one that did. This is a documentary about Bergman, and will be of interest to anyone who loves his work. As one of many Catholics who are fascinated by the religious aspects of his films, I was interested to see that he repeats some of the observations he made to another interviewer, in a short film included as an extra on the Wild Strawberries DVD, about his changing conception of the nature and meaning of death. In this one he sounds not just tentatively hopeful that he might again see his deceased wife, but expectant.

As fascinating as the interview is, the main effect of this documentary was to make me want to see the films I haven't seen yet, including some of the more obscure ones, as well as to revisit the ones I know. My interest was further piqued by an additional short film included on the DVD, Bergman 101, which is, as the name implies, a brief introduction to his life and work. It includes intriguing glimpses of a number of the lesser known films, including those before his mature work of the '50s. More info here.

Driver, where you taking us?

In last week's SNJ I mentioned The Doors' first album as an example of the dark side of hippie romanticism. When I wrote that, I was operating strictly from memory. I hadn't heard it for perhaps forty years, aside from the occasional presence of a greatly abridged "Light My Fire" on the radio. Well, I just finished listening to it, closely, from start to finish, and...goodness gracious, what a darkly brilliant piece of work it is.

I wasn't much taken with it at the time--I thought it a little pompous and overblown--and I wonder if that wasn't by the grace of God. Had I followed where it beckoned and pointed, I might not have returned at all. It's a very seductive combination of the desire for transcendence and the simple love, or lust, for pleasure, and it doesn't distinguish genuine transcendence from death. Musically and lyrically, it's simply amazing for most of its 45 minutes—very alluring fleurs du mal, to say the least:

The days are bright and filled with pain
Enclose me in your gentle rain

Et effing cetera. Wow...I think I'll listen to some Bach now.

A Rumor of the Word

A guest post by Janet Cupo, for the feast of the Annunciation

I have been thinking a lot about the Annunciation this past year. For many years, I’ve tried to say the Angelus morning, noon, and evening. This has been really easy to remember since I started working because the day falls naturally into these divisions. However, only recently have I ever thought much about what we are saying.

Of course, this prayer is about something that happened to Mary. Gabriel appeared and asked her to become the mother of Our Lord; she said, “Yes.” But I started wondering if this is the only reason we pray this prayer—to commemorate the Incarnation. It seems to me now that when we pray these words, we are accepting an invitation of our own. We are accepting God’s will for us and when we do, the Word is made flesh in us.

So, I’ve been trying to be more conscious of this—more intentional about accepting this request. More often than not, I forget my intention fairly quickly, but it has been heard and accepted, and the Hearer doesn’t forget. Sometimes there is a little metaphysical tugging of the sleeve—a little rumor of the Word.

Other good Annunciation posts at Castle in the Sea and All Manner of Thing.

Speaking of health care reform...

...yesterday I re-read what I wrote on this subject last summer, and it stands as my basic view on the subject. The only thing that's changed is that the CBO has evaluated the current plan more approvingly than whatever was under consideration in August. And from what I've read this approval depends on a lot of finagling to the timing to keep some costs out of the CBO's picture, excessively rosy assumptions, and promises made by Congress which it is very unlikely to keep.

I did finally read David Goldhill's piece in The Atlantic. It's very good, and I think points in the direction we ought to be going. It's not a cure-all, but that's part of a reasonable approach: there is no cure-all, nothing that will give everybody perfect health care at a cost to no one.

I could almost prefer the more leftward "single-payer" solution to what just passed. Those who wish to see the insurance companies suffer for their sins will be disappointed; it appears that the industry will be well provided for, as the fundamental irrationality of third-party payment for everything is preserved. I predict that this bill will greatly empower all sorts of parasitic entities that have nothing much to do with actually delivering health care.

But, you know, it's...change. I see the president is quoted in the paper this morning saying "This is what change looks like." You just want to say "Dude. Change can look like almost anything, many of them far from attractive."

I’m sure it’s just a coincidence...

...that I ran across this quote from Christopher Dawson on the day the House passed its health care “reform” bill:

It may be harder to resist a totalitarian state that relies on free milk and birth control clinics than one which relies on castor oil and concentration camps.

This appears to be from 1938; it’s quoted in the March issue of The New Criterion and the dating is not 100% clear from the context.

Sigur Rós: Se Lest

(Weekend Music)

Yeah, I know, there hasn't been much here except weekend music--I'm still having to think more about design and maintenance of the blog than writing.

Rob Grano sent me this several days ago (thanks, Rob), and it was only this morning that I finally had a chance to listen to/watch it. It's a strings-and-percussion arrangement of a Sigur Rós song, "Se Lest," from the Takk... album. I don't know that album, which pleases me, because that means there is a whole Sigur Rós album I haven't heard (though I think this song was in that wonderful wonderful concert film).

And here is the song as SR recorded it. I must say, I like this a little better, mainly because of the haunting vocal. And I love this video. Usually I hate the fast-cutting technique that seems to be used everywhere now, but this doesn't bother me, I think partly because most of it is so fast that my eyes don't come to rest at all.  The video hits the same spot that Sigur Rós does, so, warning: susceptible persons may find themselves needing to wipe their eyes.

Maybe when I get dragged off to a nursing home I can take an mp3 player with nothing but Sigur Rós and Bach on it. And Mahler. And Sibelius. And Astral Weeks....