Arimathea
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In Greek mythology, the muses were the daughters of Zeus the king of the gods and Mnemosyne the goddess of memory. The muses inspired men to create what we commonly call the fine arts. In this digital realm, you will find music of both high and low culture, from literature to the visual arts to what we narrowly call music in English. Enjoy and be grateful for being human; for the muses have richly blessed our race.
Thursday, January 21, A.D. 2016
The Zaleskis Have a Drink at the Eagle and Child

Last spring, I read an interesting article about the Inklings in The Chronicle of Higher Education that may interest you: “Oxford’s Influential Inklings.” Philip and Carol Zaleski explore this famous bunch of dons and contrasts them to the Bloomsbury Group. It is a fascinating read.

The Inklings feature significantly in my intellectual and spiritual formation. I have made two Inkling-focused pilgrimages to Oxford (those stones on Beren and Lúthien’s grave—yeah, those are from me; they surely outlasted the flowers that I bought at the petrol station for the Lewis brothers’ tomb), and I delight to learn more about these veritable gifts to us English-speaking people living in the twilight of our civilization.

Posted by Joseph on Thursday, January 21, Anno Domini 2016
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Thursday, June 25, A.D. 2015
Waldstein

May all of you have a blessed summer!

Last year, I became a bit obsessed with Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 21, named “Waldstein” in honor of one of his patrons, Count Ferdinand Ernst Gabriel von Waldstein. It is pure joy! Below are two renditions that will please you.

Claudio Arrau, Bonn, A.D. 1977:

Daniel Barenboim, Berlin, A.D. 2006:

Marvelous!

Posted by Joseph on Thursday, June 25, Anno Domini 2015
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Thursday, June 4, A.D. 2015
Esolen on the Subhumanities

Anthony Esolen continues to show why he has become one of my favorite contemporary writers: “The Subhumanities: The Reductive Violence of Race, Class, and Gender Theory,” in the current Intercollegiate Review. It is easy to ridicule the Left’s stupid obsessions, but Esolen excels in showing the real horror—and loss—in leftist reductionism. He is brilliant.

Posted by Joseph on Thursday, June 4, Anno Domini 2015
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Tuesday, January 13, A.D. 2015
Common Core Critique

Merry Christmas to my fellow Orthodox who continue to celebrate the Nativity season! Also, I wish my nephew a happy birthday, and I wish him well in his studies.

Appropriate for such wishes, I offer an essay in Salvo Magazine by Robin Phillips, “School Deform: How Common Core Promotes Cultural Engineering by Killing the Imagination.” I am rather ignorant about the Common Core State Standards Initiative, but I mistrust pretty much any trend that gains traction in contemporary education. That field is full of confusion. It is therefore not surprising to read Phillips’ assessment of common core. In short, it is an educational program designed to mold minds to be useful pegs in the machine. What else could education be?

One example of the core’s folly is that it prescribes texts based on textual complexity—not complexity as profundity, but simply grammatical and terminological complexity. Hence, bureaucratic regulations and technical manuals are just as appropriate for students as the prose of Melville or Wilde. Phillips writes:

Moore also notes that Common Core elevates “informational texts” and articles by journalists above literary works through a computerized process for determining “text complexity.” Readings that are found to use technical jargon are rated higher in the complexity scale than works that use more simple language. Complexity thus becomes purely quantitative, without attention being paid to the quality of texts.

How could this happen? Imagine how many people had to have been involved in the crafting of common core—how many “educators,” school administrators, and civil servants. The rot is pervasive. And certainly well paid for.

Posted by Joseph on Tuesday, January 13, Anno Domini 2015
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Wednesday, September 10, A.D. 2014
Νicοle Ρesce’s Happy Birthday

To celebrate the birth of my first niece, I offer the following charming video in which Νicοle Ρesce renders the “Happy Birthday” tune according to various composers’ styles.

Χρόνια Πολλά, little one!

Posted by Joseph on Wednesday, September 10, Anno Domini 2014
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Wednesday, July 23, A.D. 2014
Bach Saves Lives

It is funny that just as one is seriously considering swerving off the bridge, Brandenburg Concerto 3 comes on the radio and reminds him that life can be pretty wonderful.

Posted by Joseph on Wednesday, July 23, Anno Domini 2014
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Tuesday, May 6, A.D. 2014
Bethena

Χριστός Ανέστη!

And to those who follow the old calendar, may you have a blessed feast of Saint George!

To celebrate, I would like to showcase a gorgeous piece by Scott Joplin: “Bethana.”

According to Wikipedia, “Bethena” was ignored until the Joplin revival forty years ago. How unfortunate. A prophet is not without honor, but in his own country—and the same seems to hold true for artists. Consider the initial reception of Swan Lake. People often behave as swine.

You may know of my fondness for Joplin from “Instant Maple Love,” “Saint Louis,” and “History in Saint Louis.”

Posted by Joseph on Tuesday, May 6, Anno Domini 2014
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Friday, March 21, A.D. 2014
Nena e Tereshenjte

My Albanian-yoked friend sent me the following Shqiptarët version of “O Pure Virgin.” The video visual is just a sideshow of Albianian Orthodoxy.

Have a safe weekend.

Posted by Joseph on Friday, March 21, Anno Domini 2014
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Thursday, March 20, A.D. 2014
Pasha’s Lullaby

Yesterday, I received a link to “Pasha’s Lullaby” from Ella’s Song by Kurt Sander. Ella’s Song is about Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna Romanova, a saint famous for her charitable work in Russia. Elizabeth was the last tsarina’s sister, and Elizabeth’s husband was the last tsar’s uncle; Nicholas and Alexandra met at Elizabeth’s wedding to Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich. Communists killed all of them—Sergei in A.D. 1905 and the others in A.D. 1918.

The message included the following quotation from the composer’s note’s:

The lullaby is a literary genre which plays a fascinating role in the culture of the Russian people. Often, the infant “listener” is actually symbolic of much larger idea, namely a culture or people in a given time or circumstance.

This movement, titled “Pasha’s Lullaby,” is named after one particular orphan, Paraskeva “Pasha” Korina, whom St. Elizabeth knew from her days as abbess at the convent of Martha and Mary. It was not uncommon for a mother housed at the convent ward to die from consumption or some other disease. So moved were these women by the love that St. Elizabeth showed to them that they would entrust their children to the care of the “Great Mother.” It was an annual custom for St. Elizabeth to bring two or three young orphans to the convent for Christmas to celebrate the feast with a small group of people. When she asked the girls what they would like for Christmas, one little orphan named Pasha pointed to the small bell at the top of the tree. Without pause, the Grand Duchess carried a ladder from the closet and climbed up to the top and brought down a little bell for the girl.

Today, Russian lullabies are still sung to babies according to traditions that have been passed down from generation to generation.  The lullaby in this particular song cycle serves two functions: first, it conveys on a surface level the depth of love and compassion St. Elizabeth had for the orphans who were placed in her care. Second, it speaks to the coming tragedy of Holy Russia amidst the persecution by the Communists. St. Elizabeth seemed to know that the days ahead would be tragic for all.

I was able to venerate the relics of Saint Elizabeth at the Convent of Mary Magdalene in the garden of Gethsemane. It is a lovely place.

Troparion:

Emulating the Lord’s self-abasement on the earth,
You gave up royal mansions to serve the poor and disdained,
Overflowing with compassion for the suffering.
And taking up a martyr’s cross,
In your meekness
You perfected the Savior’s image within yourself,
Therefore, with Barbara, entreat Him to save us all, O wise Elizabeth.

Kontakion:

In the midst of worldliness,
Your mournful heart dwelt in Heaven;
In barbaric godlessness,
Your valiant soul was not troubled;
You longed to meet your Bridegroom as a confessor,
And He found you worthy of your martyric purpose.
O Elizabeth, with Barbara,
Your brave companion,
Pray to your Bridegroom for us.

Posted by Joseph on Thursday, March 20, Anno Domini 2014
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Friday, February 28, A.D. 2014
Cave Man

Enjoy the last days before Lent. If you intend to watch the Academy Awards on Sunday, you may be interested to know the backstory of one of the nominated documentaries, Cavedigger. A few months ago, I read about the documentary’s subject, Ra Paulette the cave sculptor, in “How a modern caveman could win an Academy Award.” It is worth your time to visit just to see the incredible work that the man does. From the article:

The caves are not enormous; mostly, their square footage would be comparable to rooms or perhaps small houses. His ambitions for them are outsize, though, as he describes in a new documentary shortlisted for an Academy Award, “CaveDigger,” directed by Jeffrey Karoff:

“These caves are designed as transcendent spaces. The fact that the cave is underground and you feel the earth around you yet the sun is pouring in: Those are the juxtapositions of the two metaphors of our life, the inside, the within, and the without. it’s a perceptual trick that brings out deep, expansive emotionality.”

And when he says “transcendent,” he isn’t just being flowery. “I want to subject mercilessly a person to the aesthetic in a way that stimulates a deep emotionality to the point where it becomes a transformative tool. That’s a big goal, but I’m ready for it.”

He doesn’t do it for glory, and he certainly doesn’t do it for money: When he’s been paid at all for his work, he’s generally earned perhaps $15 or $20 an hour.

“I don’t put any energy into being a success in the world,” he says. “My strategy is to wait for something from heaven to come along and lay it on me.”

He has taken a few commissions, not all of which have gone well.

“Ra’s not your typical person, which is what I like about him,” says his close friend, ex-girlfriend and onetime patron, Liz Riedel. “He doesn’t do things for himself, he does things for art. He does things for other people”—meaning the viewer of his art, not necessarily the person paying for it.

Riedel and her husband, Shel Neymark, commissioned a piece from him that was supposed to take two months and cost $2,000. They knew what they were getting into, though: They privately doubled his estimate, figuring that Paulette being Paulette, he’d take four months and $4,000.

It took two years—during which Riedel learned that she had cancer. She underwent grueling treatments. The couple asked Paulette many times to stop, and even believed once or twice that they’d convinced him. Still he refused to leave the project.

“When he has a shovel in his hand, he’s like a coke addict with piles of coke. He just loves to keep going and going,” Neymark said.

They admit, though: The work he produced for them was transcendent.

Paulette’s story reminds me of one of my first lessons in college, though I did not learn it at the time. In a freshman American political philosophy course, the professor (one of many Straussians in my formation) explained the liberal commercial republican ideal of bourgeois self reliance and then asked about the people who do not fit well into such a regime—like artists. I considered myself a libertarian at the time, and I reckoned that such a man would just live in poverty if not starve. I didn’t give it much more thought than a Social Darwinian sigh and a nonchalant tant pis pour lui. If our hypothetical man wanted to flourish, he would have to play the game like everyone else. Over time, though, I came to realize that a society impoverishes itself by not furnishing niches for human diversity in disposition and talent. Of course, the breadth that a regime can allow depends on its strength; a civilization under constant threat of martial annihilation necessarily focuses on making its people soldiers rather than artists. Yet, it is the less for it. Sparta is a fact to behold, but its excellence came at great costs. Regimes—and their lawgivers—must weigh such benefits and costs in trying to maximize the excellence of their people. A nation of shopkeepers has its value, but it offers a very narrow path for human fulfillment.

Posted by Joseph on Friday, February 28, Anno Domini 2014
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