Saturday, March 30, 2013


Easter Changes Everything!

The Angel Rolling the Stone Away from the Sepulchre, William Blake, 1805

Thine be the glory, risen, conquering Son;
endless is the victory, thou o'er death hast won;
angels in bright raiment rolled the stone away,
kept the folded grave clothes where thy body lay.

Thine be the glory, risen conquering Son,
Endless is the vict'ry, thou o'er death hast won.

Lo! Jesus meets us, risen from the tomb;
Lovingly he greets us, scatters fear and gloom;
let the Church with gladness, hymns of triumph sing;
for her Lord now liveth, death hath lost its sting.

No more we doubt thee, glorious Prince of life;
life is naught without thee; aid us in our strife;
make us more than conquerors, through thy deathless love:
bring us safe through Jordan to thy home above.

Holy Saturday

Christ in the Sepulchre                              William Blake, 1808

For Holy Saturday . . .

Friday, March 29, 2013

Good Friday

Christ Crucified Between the Two Thieves  William Blake, 1800-03

Opening chorus, St. John Passion, Johann Sebastian Bach
Herr, unser Herrscher, dessen Ruhm
In allen Landen herrlich ist!
Zeig uns durch deine Passion,
Dass du, der wahre Gottessohn,
Zu aller Zeit,
Auch in der größten Niedrigkeit,
Verherrlicht worden bist!

Lord, our master, whose glory
Is magnificent everywhere!
Show us by your passion,
That you, the true son of God,
At all times,
Even in the deepest humiliation,
Are glorified.

Illustration: the collection of Harvard Art Museums

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Maundy Thursday

Detail of Christ, The Sacrament of the Last Supper            Salvador Dali, 1955

Our Lord Jesus Christ, on the night when he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples and said: Take, eat; this is my body, which is given for you. This do in remembrance of me. In the same way also he took the cup after supper, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them saying: Drink of it, all of you; this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.

A new command I give you: Love one another.  (John 13:34)

Favorite Scenes From A Century Of Cinema - 15

Coincidences are always interesting. Sometimes they're downright creepy.

At the very hour I was considering posting the scene to follow, my nephew - 400 miles away -  posted a brief comment on Facebook about its compelling significance in the film. I'll be thinking about this one a long time.

Apocalypse Now (1979) is both a landmark cinematic study of human behavior and an essential film for a very wide audience. If you want to explore the theme without the potential conflicts arising from the Vietnam War controversy, read the source for the screenplay, Joseph Conrad's novella, Heart of Darkness.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Georgia's Flannery O'Conner: "A Careful And Dignified Investigator"

Today is the birthday of the American writer,Flannery O'Connor. She was born in Savannah in 1925 and spent her early childhood there. She lived on Lafayette Square with its moss-draped live oaks, colorful azaleas, abundance of birds, and towering spires of The Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. Things haven't changed much on this beautiful square. I'm sure it still has a interesting spectrum of regular visitors. Children play on the sidewalks and lawns. And every day, the cathedral bells remind the people of God's love and their obligations as His children. I think as long as you can visit Lafayette Square, say on a pleasant Sunday afternoon, you can know O'Connor well.

The family moved to Atlanta in 1938, where her father was diagnosed with lupus. Soon after, they moved to her mother's family home in Milledgeville, about 100 miles southeast of Atlanta. After his death in 1941, O'Connor moved a few miles north of town to her uncle's farm where she lived with her mother. Eventually, the farm would be called Andalusia, and it would become a refuge following her own diagnosis with lupus in 1950. At Andalusia, she would weave her rural Georgia experience and her childhood memories into some of America's finest literature.

O'Connor introduced the magnificent peacock to her farm in 1952 and quickly came to adore them. In time a large flock roamed freely about the place and the birds were often referenced in her stories. Today the stately bird has come to symbolize O'Connor and her work.

Lupus took Flannery O'Connor from us in 1964 when she was in her 39th year. You can visit both her childhood home and Andalusia thanks to foundations that preserve the landscapes and memories she cherished. And, thanks to her, you can visit the South anytime by simply opening one of her books.

"...a careful and dignified investigator."

Versions of this post first appeared in 2009 and 2010.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Picking Our Poison: Huxley or Orwell?

If you read dystopian novels from the first half of the twentieth century, the two most likely to end up on your bookshelf are Aldous Huxley's Brave New World and George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four. In these books, society is assuredly on the road to ruin, but the methodology along the way could hardly be more different. Stuart McMillen, blogging at HighExistence, presents us with a short series of cartoons exploring the question of which novelist nailed the future.  It's an interesting, thought-provoking question, and a significant one for those of us experiencing the evolution of the great experiment called the United States of America.

Hat tip goes to Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Music For Lent

Lutherans love to sing, and tonight our midweek Lenten service included a hymn, a favorite, so great that it had to be shared. Fans of J.S. Bach will recognize the music immediately. It is his arrangement of a tune by Hans L. Hassler (1564-1612). The text is attributed to Bernard of Clairvaux (1091-1153) or Arnulf of  Louvain (c.1200-50) and translated by Paul Gerhardt (1607-76).

Many variations of the lyrics exist, but all of them express the profound emotion of the season of the Passion.

Here is the last verse from a Lutheran lyric:

Be Thou my Consolation,
My Shield when I must die;
Remind me of Thy Passion
When my last hour is nigh.
Mine eyes shall then behold Thee,
Upon Thy cross shall dwell,
My heart by faith enfold Thee.
Who dieth thus dies well!

Spring Is Here - Somewhere

Spring                                                  William Blake

Most of us were probably happy to see Spring arrive this morning around 7:00 o'clock. It's cold and cloudy in Atlanta and it really feels like just another day in Winter. But who among us expects seasonal doors to close and open abruptly. Most times, the changes are comfortably gradual. There are thousands of songs written about the promise of this new season. Some of the best deal not with the fullness of the season, but with the anomalies and the worlds turned upside down when snowfall covers the tulips.

In 2009, Barbra Streisand covered one of these songs written by the late poet and lyricist, Fran Landesman in 1955. Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most - music by Tommy Wolf - really captures the winters we all have experienced in our spring times.

Great singer. Too bad she's such a mindless leftist. Reminds me of Spring with snow showers.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Favorite Scenes From A Century Of Cinema - 14

John Ford's The Searchers (1956) is rightfully high on "best film" lists around the world. It is a masterpiece from several perspectives. Many of its scenes are notable, but none is more powerful than its last, a mere seventy seconds of genius.

How The Federal Cabaret Tax Of 1944 Killed The Great Swing Era

For fifty years I thought the end of the Swing and Big Band eras was simply a result of the evolution of popular culture in a nation well-known for reinventing itself. Though my wife and I were toddlers when those eras ended, we both came to embrace the music and enjoy it to this day. How stunning it was for me to learn  today that this music did not die a natural death. It was killed by something called the Cabaret Tax of 1944.  Given a federal government desperate for revenue following World War II and the astounding success of the cabaret industry since the mid-1930's, it's reasonable to see ballrooms with their dancing, orchestras and alcohol as a tax target. So desperation on the part of the government led to a 30% tax on cabarets in 1944. The industry wobbled for three years, bearing its tax burden and other issues involving unions and music rights, then died like a goose, along with the golden eggs, in 1947. A few bands survived, but most were broken up, often reforming into smaller groups that played non-dance music. The Age of Bebop was upon us. There's superb music there, but I'd say 99% of Americans today wouldn't know Bebop if it hit them in the ears.

And what is to be learned from all of this? It's always a good lesson to remember that actions have consequences, especially when a government goes looking for money when money is tight. This afternoon, while panicked Cypriots try to empty their bank accounts before their government confiscates the cash, you can bet there are more than a few Americans wondering if our "leaders" s had the nerve to try confiscation here.

There's no doubt we've come a long way from the Founding Fathers's intentions of a citizenry shaping a government. Thanks to our friends at Instapundit, here's your link to the story of how our government tax policy unintentionally destroyed a multi-billion dollar industry that was enjoyed by millions of Americans. Be sure to click on the "cabaret tax" hyperlink in the fourth paragraph to be taken to a 2010 article that provides more information on the story.

For your enjoyment, here is Benny Goodman's band at Carnegie Hall in January 1938, one of the most important musical events in the U.S. in the 20th century. Piano improv at the end always leaves me speechless. BTW this recording has never been out of print since its issue in 1950.

If you didn't tap your feet, you need to see a doctor stat!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

St. Patrick's Day: A Reprise

Pleasant surprises abound across this great country, some of them in the most unexpected places. Savannah will host one of those wonderful annual surprises today. At 10:15, rain or shine, the Saint Patrick's Day parade will step off for the 185th time. Almost half a million people will line the streets and squares of this historic city to watch a family-friendly event. Organizers have worked hard over the past years to keep the "Saint" and sanity in the holiday, confining most of the adult revelry - drinking and excessive partying - to River Street following the parade. That was fine with me even in my early thirties during my second adolescence. It's only since the arrival of "the book" and the discovery of Savannah as a significant tourist destination that issues with irreverent activities became serious. [See my "A Night[and Day] in Old Savannah," August 23, 2008, for details.]

My first parade there was in 1977 when I lived in the historic district. Over the years, I lost count as the events merged one into the other during my tenure in the Coastal Empire. Eventually, my children became Irish for a day and were part of the parade. They sat on the folded top of a hot convertible and waved their green, white and orange flags to the crowds. They have plenty of ancient Celtic ancestry, just not Irish, but no one was keeping score. It was simply great fun, often complemented with fine spring weather and thousands of azaleas blooming throughout the city.

Those were the good old days? To be honest, the parade is a fond memory, but life has moved on. Haven't been to the parade for several years, although I plan to watch it on the Internet. Still, I would put this event on a list of things to do before you die. That said, better make your reservations tomorrow before March 17, 2010 becomes "No Vacancy."

This post first appeared on March 17, 2009. Its sentiments remain unchanged.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Favorite Scenes From A Century Of Cinema - 13

Koyaaniqatsi (1982) is Godfrey Reggio's - with cinematographer, Ron Fricke -  mesmerizing audiovisual feast examining the interface of people, technology, and nature. Phillip Glass's score for this film has become a signature piece, one that he and his ensemble have performed around the world for three decades. Here is a portion of "The Grid," one of the most well-known and best liked scenes:

Koyaaniqatsi - now a cult classic - was the first of three films that have become known as the Qatsi Trilogy. Readers who enjoyed the clip may want to investigate further.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Thoughts On Restarting The Mind Engine

A Julia set,  a fractal related to the Mandelbrot set

OTR was surfing Facebook tonight, a practice he rarely pursues. The activity was inspired by a conversation at the conclusion of tonight's Lenten service. The ride brought him face to face with a close but long-lost friend in a fraternity of searchers. The brothers called their salon the Mind Engine. By 1974, their intellectual technology was dispersed by graduation, careers, marriages, and one flight to Canada. In its time, the Engine survived through the best and worst of times. It seems the components have done the same.  Today, OTR's found friend is a retired, renowned Shakespeare scholar who, like many of the Bard of Avon's characters, suffered profound personal loss in the course of his life. He's proud to describe himself as a hippie who succeeded. The photographs and lengthy entries connote abounding love for and pride in his two daughters,  his late wife, and her family. His spiritual journey has taken him deep into philosophical Buddhism. His Facebook journey includes a long list of friends unknown to OTR. 

Now what is one to do? Tonight's discovery is very much like coming upon a hidden chapter in a long-lost diary. There is risk in revelation and safety in memory adorned with imagination. OTR will think about it.

In the interim, he pays homage to his brother by posting this entry his friend quoted at length in 2009:

Outside looking in.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Favorite Scenes From A Century Of Cinema - 12

The multi-talented Christopher Guest has provided us with three decades of entertainment in the form of the "mockumentary," a genre he perfected with the help of a superb ensemble cast. Together, they have given us  gems including This is Spinal Tap (1984), Waiting For Guffman (1996), and A Mighty Wind (2003). Best in Show (2000) is a gem, as well, and it's a favorite in the OTR household. Here are two clips from the film featuring Meg and Hamilton Swan, an uber-yuppie lawyer couple and their uber-neurotic Weimaraner, Beatrice.

Beatrice competes with four other entrants and their handlers at the Mayflower Dog Show.  Fred Willard deserved an Oscar for his performance as the show announcer.  Don't miss out on the fun.