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Gail over at Scribal Terror has a nifty post up on the origins of the “Do (Ut), re, mi…” familiar to fans of The Sound of Music and anyone else who’s every sung a scale, and their connection with a Latin hymn to St. John.

I was, truth be told, quite unaware of the appropriation of this hymn by the Benedictine Monk Guido Aretinus for use in his work on systemizing musickal notation, perhaps because the course in medieval musick that I signed up for my senior year of college met at 7 ack emma and I slept through so many sessions that I had to grovel hard just to be allowed to drop it.

No matter.

Here’s an interesting little nugget, tho:  Peter Schickele, posing as P.D.Q. Bach, composed a “Missa Hilarious” that contains a “Credo” which plays on this idea.  It begins, “Credo, credo, credo-re-mi-fa-so-la-ti” and so on, the polyphonic voices simply singing the appropriate, ah, Aretinusian notations throughout the rest of the movement.

Now ol’ Prof. Schickele was, of course, going for the easy laugh with this gimmick.  But since, from my observation, what he doesn’t know about musick isn’t worth knowing, I’m sure he also had Brother Guido in the back of his mind as he was putting this thing together.

It would appear that “de-baptism” is the new thing among those who claim† not to believe in God:

More than 100,000 Britons have recently downloaded “certificates of de-baptism” from the Internet to renounce their Christian faith.The initiative launched by a group called the National Secular Society (NSS) follows atheist campaigns here and elsewhere, including a London bus poster which triggered protests by proclaiming “There’s probably no God.”

“We now produce a certificate on parchment and we have sold 1,500 units at three pounds (4.35 dollars, 3.20 euros) a pop,” said NSS president Terry Sanderson, 58.

John Hunt, a 58-year-old from London and one of the first to try to be “de-baptised,” held that he was too young to make any decision when he was christened at five months old.

The male nurse said he approached the Church of England to ask it to remove his name. “They said they had sought legal advice and that I should place an announcement in the London Gazette,” said Hunt, referring to one of the official journals of record of the British government.

So that’s what he did — his notice of renouncement was published in the Gazette in May 2008 and other Britons have followed suit.

Michael Evans, 66, branded baptising children as “a form of child abuse” — and said that when he complained to the church where he was christened he was told to contact the European Court of Human Rights.

Who’s fault is all this? Well, you know the answer:

De-baptism organisers say the initiative is a response to what they see as increasing stridency from churches — the latest last week when Pope Benedict XVI stirred global controversy on a trip to AIDS-ravaged Africa by saying condom use could further spread of the disease.

“The Catholic Church is so politically active at the moment that I think that is where the hostility is coming from,” said Sanderson. “In Catholic countries there is a very strong feeling of wanting to punish the church by leaving it.”

In Britain, where government figures say nearly 72 percent of the population list themselves as Christian, Sanderson feels this “hostility” is fueling the de-baptism movement.

Of course, this is complete bunkum in G.B., where the actual rate of churchgoing Christians is something more on the order of 10% of the population, but never mind.  Apparently, the movement has adherents elsewhere as well:

De-baptism movements have already sprung up in other countries.

In Spain, the high court ruled in favor of a man from Valencia, Manuel Blat, saying that under data protection laws he could have the record of his baptism erased, according to a report in the International Herald Tribune.

Similarly, the Italian Union of Rationalists and Agnostics (UAAR) won a legal battle over the right to file for de-baptism in 2002, according to media reports. The group’s website carries a “de-baptism” form to facilitate matters.

According to UAAR secretary Raffaele Carcano, more than 60,000 of these forms have been downloaded in the past four years and continue to be downloaded at a rate of about 2,000 per month. Another 1,000 were downloaded in one day when the group held its first national de-baptism day last October 25.

Elsewhere, an Argentinian secularist movement is running a “Collective Apostasy” campaign, using the slogan “Not in my name” (No en mi nombre).

This is all such pathetically childish behavior – so closely akin to bratty children pooping their own pants just to show how daring and clever they are – that I can envision God simply ignoring  it all and patiently leaving said bratty children to clean up their own mess.  If so, well and good and no hard feelings.  If not? Well, to deliberately mix the metaphor, Satan will see that they get it cold for breakfast.

James Taranto, from whom I took the story (3rd item down), notes that if these people really didn’t believe in God, then the gesture is utterly meaningless.

chesterton Christine puts up a wonderful post about how G.K. Chesterton’s Father Brown Mysteries helped Sir Alec Guinness come to the Church.

I happen to be on a bit of a Chesterton kick at the moment.  As is becoming my habit during Lent, I just finished rereading Orthodoxy and have now re-plunged into The Dumb Ox.

Reading Christine’s post, it occurred to me that I’ve never read the Father Brown stories.  As I noted in comments, I’d never even heard of them when I was younger and by the time I did, I had got it into my head that they were somehow only for Young Persons.

Well, enough of that!  I’ve just now nipped over to the devil’s website and scooped up the lot of them.  I also picked up Manalive into the bargain, another work I have not yet read.

gingerYou probably already know that this is ginger root.

Ugly little spud, isn’t it?

I post about it because last Friday was the first time I’ve ever had any direct culinary dealings with one of these things.  And as I worked with it, I couldn’t shake the notion that it looked like the diabolical creature that held Planet Theta Upsalon V in its thrall, waiting for the moment when Captain Kirk was busy getting to know the scantily-clad green-skinned babes that loitered about the planet’s seemingly Paradisical setting, so that it could suddenly leap out from behind a rocky ledge, get rid of a couple of Red Shirts and start eating Spock’s brain.

Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on whether I was to be cast in the Kirk, Spock or Red Shirt role), nothing of this sort occurred in my kitchen.

I was gingering up in preparation for trying out Mrs. P’s shrimp recipe.  And I can tell you that this recipe was an instant success at the Port Swiller’s House, enjoying a solid 4 to 1 endorsement.  (An 80% success is awfully good at the PSH.  The lone dissenter, the nine year old, said to me, “Weeeeell, Dad, you know I’m not really into seafood that much.”  What about the rice, I asked.  “Weeeeell, Dad,” she said, “I don’t really like rice, either.”  Weeeeeell, too bad.  The dish is yummy, easy and Friday-friendly, so it goes into the reportoire.  The gel can eat saltines for all I care.)

In response to my previous post announcing my intention to try the dish, something of a discussion brewed up in the comments about the proper way to go about grating ginger root.   Resident chef Boy Named Sous recommended that one freeze the ginger beforehand, thus making it easier to grate.   Sistah said that when she had tried this, it just came out slimy.

Not knowing this trick, I grated mine at room temp.  It certainly came out moist, which made me awfully glad I had decided to grate it into a bowl.  At the end, I had a pretty respectable amount of ginger juice in the bowl, which I simply went ahead and added into the sauce.  As I say, the whole thing was quite tasty.

This leads me to another question about ginger root, though.  Before grating, I peeled mine like one would a carrot.  Was this wrong or right?  Did this save me from having bits of nasty ginger skin gritting in my rice, or were my instincts incorrect, thereby depriving me of the opportunity of an even more flavorful experience than I actually had?

Most importantly, did my stripping the ginger of its outer self deprive it of the power to fill my kitchen with scantily-clad green alien babes in order to put me off my guard while it started to tuck into brains?

The world wonders.

charlie-brown5 Well, the softball season starts two weeks from Friday.  Surprisingly enough, despite all the rain we’ve had the past few days, we managed to get in practice yesterday afternoon.   A few random thoughts on the subject:

♦  Overall, I think the team is beginning to shape up pretty well.  Most of the drills that I’ve been doing have really been designed to help me figure out the gels: what they can do, how hard they’re willing to try, etc.   Most of them are much more closely bunched together in terms of talent than I had feared.

The team bookends are the Long Lanky Veteran I wrote about a while back and the dear, sweet, gawky little thing whom I believe I also mentioned.  The LLV quickly dropped most of her opening session sarcasm – which leads me to think it was prompted mostly be shyness – and has slotted in well with the team.  I plan to make her my starting 1st base because of her reach and experience.   The DSGLT is proving, well, maybe not to be athletic material.  I plan to play her a lot, however, simply because she goes at it like a hero and never stops smiling.

In between them is an assortment of chatty, pleasant, (sometimes) energetic kids, most of whom are not necessarily consistent, but all of whom every now and again have pulled off something pretty durn good.  What I’m hoping for is to build up the consistency. That’s what will win ball games.  You betcha.

In the meantime, there’s a world of difference in the question, “Where should I play her?” depending on whether you are considering maximum tactical advantage or minimum tactical disadvantage.   The former is a delight to ponder, the latter a headache.

♦  And what of my own child? Well, I’m beginning to wonder if the sight of ol’ Dad mixing it up with a gang of the Other hasn’t awakened some jealousy in the gel.  Several times she has started sniping or griping at me on the practice field, leading me to threaten benching her if she doesn’t knock it off.  I will, too.

♦  On the other hand, the gel has also joined in on something that I believe is a sure sign that the team is starting to mesh: They’ve started giving each other nicknames.  Another thing – they are increasingly going out of their way to say goodbye and thanks to me when practice is over.  And I still love being called “Coach”.

♦  One nice thing so far: I don’t seem to be plagued by any hypersensitive parents.  We’ve had to make one or two tweeks here and there, but for the most part when I say come they cometh, and when I say go they goeth.

♦  Is there such a medical condition as “Manager’s Shoulder”?  I crocked mine last weekend hitting grounders and I seem to have re-aggravated it yesterday throwing flies.    I know that Charlie Brown once suffered “Manager’s Elbow” but my aches are higher up my arm.

♦  As well as a spot of fielding, we had our first session of batting practice over at the cages yesterday.  I confess to you that of all the skills, the one I know least about (or, I should say, am least able to teach) is batting.   “Keep your eye on the ball, get the bat-head around quickly and don’t try to kill it” is about the extent of my transferable knowledge at this point, and I find that I am going to have to do some fast reading.  I covered yesterday by telling the gels just to have fun and do their stuff, as I wanted to (again) figure out where everyone was.  This got me musing on the question of how much teaching is a matter of staying just a step or two ahead of your student.  Rayther a lot, I would suspect.

♦  The batting cages were a hive of activity.  Despite the fact that we all have nominal reserved time, the league commissioner was still running about like an air traffic controller left alone in the tower at O’Hare during the holiday rush.  We were a bit late and somebody else was in our cage when I got there.  When I politely inquired if they were with the team the next cage over, the coach said agitatedly, “Yeah, yeah. I’m just finishing, okay? I’ll be out soon, okay? I know it’s yours but I’m just about done, okay?”

Juuuuust a little defensive.  Makes me think he’s been caught poaching before.

I smiled and said, “No problem – we’re not in a hurry.”  I felt like saying, “Jeez, pal, chillax a bit.”

♦  I have found that the biggest challenge of managing so far has been avoiding what I have come to think of as “Conscience of the King” Syndrome.  This manifests itself in all sorts of ways:  Somehow feeling responsible for the weather; worrying whether you are teaching the gels everything they need to know, and teaching it correctly; feeling like all the parents can see through you and your pitiful attempts to look as if you know what you’re doing (and are comparing notes);  constantly having to remind yourself that no, they are not a group of highly trained and dedicated athletes, they just are a mob of ordinary elementary schoolgirls.

Then again, these are the same sorts of neuroses that I tend to have in general.  So perhaps learning to dispel them at the ballpark will help me combat them elsewhere as well.

Of course, I suppose that will depend on what kind of season we have.

[WARNING: Gut-reaction post to follow.  I have not sorted this through yet.]

In case you missed it, word is out that Newt Gingrich is to be accepted into HMC at Easter.

Well, now.

On the one hand, far be it from me to start throwing rocks at other people or to pretend that I know what is really going on in their heads.  If Gingrich is sincere about what he’s doing, then welcome and God bless him.

On the other hand, I would be lying if I denied that this news gives me the same feeling of vague uneasiness as did Tony Blair’s much-celebrated swim a few years ago.

One thing in this case:  Gingrich states that he is converting in order to be closer to his wife, who is described as a “devout” Catholic.  Well, if memory serves, this is Mrs. Gingrich #3, whose prior extra-curricular escapades with the Newt-ster led to the throwing overboard of Mrs. Gingrich #2.  And then, of course, there was a Mrs. Gingrich #1 back in the mists of time somewhere.

I mention this because it seems to me that Newt must have done some pretty serious tap-dancing around the rules governing divorce and annulment in order to go through both with wedding #3 and his planned conversion, and that this tap-dancing must have been pretty seriously aided and abetted by forces within HMC herself.

Now I know nothing of the particulars, so I will say nothing specific about, ah, the Gingrich trail.  But in general, I find this sort of thing appalling.  Both the Bible and Church doctrine itself are pretty durn clear-cut on the subject of Marriage: Sanctity Of.   Of course there are always exceptions and provisos, but it seems to me that they have often been stretched to the point where they make a mockery of the sacriment.  Not only is this violative of the purity of the Faith, it also makes the Church look ridiculous in the eyes of those bent on finding ways to discredit her.

A glass of wine with Mrs. P for the original tip-off.

I think I caught a chill yesterday morning as I slogged to work in the rain.  By the time I got to the office, my feet were positively soaked.  I’ve been dragging ever since.

Fortunately, I have the day off today, so as I look out my basement window at the gentle fog (while hiding from the vet who is dealing with Mrs. R and the cats upstairs), a few lazy thoughts:

♦  The cats’ check-up reminds me that it must be mouse mating season, as several times this week I have awoke in the middle of the night to hear a peculiar high-pitched shriek coming from somewhere within the woodwork.  It seems silly to think of “bull mice”, but I suppose that they fight it out amongst themselves just as savagely as any other males on the planet.

♦  Speaking of males, it isn’t often these days that I find myself interested in a movie, but I must say that I Love You, Man looks like it has some real possibilities.  I’ve been a Paul Rudd fan since The Forty Year Old Virgin and Mrs. R likes him, too – says he reminds her a little of me.  I’m not quite sure how to take that, but it’ll do.  (She’s also occassionally made the comparison to John Cusack and Andrew McCarthy.  I suppose there’s a bit of a pattern here.)

♦  And speaking of movies, whenever I see one advertised as a “must-see”, my reaction is “Go to hell”. 

♦  Speaking of hell, I understand that the eldest gel asked Mrs. R yesterday, “How do we know that our God is the real one? I mean, the Greeks and the Romans believed in their pantheons just as much.  How do we know they were wrong?”  Quick! Activate the Pope-signal, Commissioner!  (Actually, I believe there’s something about this in the Catechism.  So I’ve got my research assignment taped out for me.)

♦  Speaking of such things, I relayed the whole Notre Dame-invites-Obama flap to Mrs. R this morning.  Although not an RC herself, even she was appalled.

♦  Speaking of appalling, I suppose I have no choice but to finally sit down this weekend and do the damned taxes.  This is the latest I’ve left it in some years.  (Our second year of marriage found us driving to the local postal sorting station at 10:00 pm on April 15 in the midst of a violent thunderstorm.  Mrs. R never quite forgave me for that one.) 

♦  Speaking of taxes, I can’t help wondering if I am the very last soul in the country who a) does the forms himself, and b) simply sits down with a pencil, a calculator, a scratch-pad and a box full of receipts and statements.   I’ve thought about turbo-tax from time to time and about electronic filing, but some Luddite sensibility buried deep keeps me from going that route.  I know it’s irrational and perhaps silly, but so be it.

♦  Speaking of the refund I hope to get if my tax math is right, I need to buy a new weed-whacker this spring as my old one gave up the ghost in the fall.  I have found myself recently at the hardware store standing in front of the Steihl display, gently drooling over the machinery.  Mmmmmm……lawn care products…….Mmmmmm……….

♦  Speaking of the grass, although softball practice was cancelled due to the rain yesterday, I at least had the gratification of receiving a couple of emails from parents noting that their daughters were disappointed (one used the term “bummed”) by this fact.  I assume this means I’m doing something right out there.

♦  And speaking of doing something right, I have been waiting patiently to try out Mrs. P’s ginger shrimp recipe.  Since it’s Friday and since I have the time to both run up to the store for the fixin’s and to prepare the dish myself, today is the day.   The question is whether taking a few “cook’s tax” nips at the vino whilst cooking with it violates my Lenten abstinence from the gargle.   Were I a Cradle Catholic, I’m sure I’d simply sweep right over the question, but since I’m still a newbie, I can’t help feeling that I have an extra obligation not to try purser’s tricks to get round the pledge.

At any rate, I’ll let you know how it works out.

  ♦  And speaking of having some time, I must be off.  I am closing in on logging twenty hours of “Wii Fit” time on our machine and want to hit that mark today.   You may scoff if you like, but even the gels are beginning to remark about my appearance.  Plus, the thing consistenly tells me that my “Wii Fit age” is somewhere between 25 and 33.  (I am actually 44.)  Now I know nothing about the accuracy of its formulae for calculating this figgah, but I’d be lying if I denied that I enjoy the ego-strokes.

Mr. FLG has got himself a comment debate going about the invitation extended to Obama to go speak at Notre Dame’s commencement and the backlash it is provoking among conservative RC’s, given Obama’s well-documented lack of concern for fetal life.  (You will hardly be surprised to learn that I think it was a terrible idea.)

I’ve already contributed a bit, but I wanted to emphasize in my own post here the danger of bandying about the word “rights” in this debate.

If we are speaking of the First Amendment, we must be very careful to remember its limitations.  It reads:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Emphasis on “Congress”.   That means the Guv’mint.  It does not mean anybody else.  There are plenty of instances where even if the guv’mint cannot abridge the free exercise of religion or speech, some other non-governmental authority can.  Otherwise, for example, parents would be powerless to shut up their children or make them stop watching tee vee and would have no choice but to kill them.

Now I think that this concept of 1st Amendment rights often gets turned inside out these days.  People believe that freedom of speech or religion actually means a positive obligation on the part of the guv’mint to ensure that nobody curtails what they say or hear, and when or where they say or hear it.   (And following the Orwellian logic of our day, that usually translates into a belief that the guv’mint has a positive duty to suppress expressions of religion in favor of a semi-official state secularism.)  My favorite example of this attitude occurs almost yearly at Christmastime.  There’s a middle-aged Korean guy who likes to get on the metro and sing hymns between stops.  On several occassions somebody has started shouting at him “You have no right to do that here!” –  presumably on the mistaken belief that the singer is somehow infringing on everybody else’s freedom of religion or speech when, in fact, he is only exercising his own.

From a 1st Amendment point of view, Notre Dame can choose to invite whoever the hell it wants, without guv’mint interference.  Conversely, though, from a 1st Amendment point of view other non-governmental agents may seek to influence that choice – also without guv’mint interference.  So far as I know, Notre Dame is a private university with ties directly to the Church.  It certainly holds itself out as a “Catholic” institution.   If there is any meaning left in that term, then this is exactly the kind of debate that ought to be had.

But as I say, this is God’s fight, not Uncle Sam’s.  There is absolutely nothing legally wrong with orthodox RC’s or the Church itself opposing the bringing of Obama to campus, and of doing everything they can to get the University to reconsider its invitation.   Nobody’s rights – not the students, not the faculty’s, not the Church’s, not Mr. Obama’s – are being infringed one way or the other.  It isn’t even a question.

I have started to be bombarded here by spam comments for “procopia” or whatever it is.

One of the bells n’ whistles that I like about WordPress is the fact that when you delete a spam comment, it flames up red before disappearing.

Sort of a little foretaste of hell on the way there.

Those Tolkien geeks among you may be interested in hearing how my reading of The Lord of the Rings to the eldest gel is progressing.

Well, now.

You may recall my recent post about how I planned to adopt Mako’s “Sorcerer” from the Conan movies as my model for rendering the voice of Ghan-buri-Ghan?  I was really quite excited about the prospect, thinking I had some solid material from which to work.

Alas, it didn’t turn out the way I had hoped.  I couldn’t get the gravelly quality right.  In the end, Ghan-buri-Ghan came out sounding like Tonto.

Oh, well.

On the other hand, last evening we got to the Houses of Healing in Minas Tirith.  I had not given any thought at all to how I was going to deal with the Master of the place, except that I wanted to capture his qualities of ineptitude and chattiness.

andydevineImagine my surprise, then, when as I started reading him I realized that the voice I was gradually adopting was that of Andy Devine’s Marshall Appleyard from The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.

All I can say is that it worked.  By the time I got through his bumblings about the liguistic history of kingsfoil and athelas, like Gandalf and Aragorn I was ready to strangle him myself!

I suppose that the moral here is not to try and plan too far ahead of time but just to go with the natural flow and rhythms of the characters.

Which leads me to another observation:  Either I have just utterly muffed my rendition of him, or else Aragorn doesn’t sound anywhere near as well as he reads.   I was looking forward to trying out his teasing of Merry about his pack, but it came out both flat and pompous and I was completely unable to convey his subsequent confession that he had been joking.


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March 2009