Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Being Communist means never having to say you’re sorry.

The Sunday Times ran an excellent article by a repentant ex-Communist, Neil Lyndon.

In it he laments that few of his former comrades have joined him in apologizing for having “toasted mass murderers, torturers and totalitarian despots.” Yet they've moved on up in society and government.

And he points out a double standard in how we deal with unrepentant Communists and unrepentant Nazis. This double standard has personally ticked me off for a long time.

You could have joined the Hitler youth under pressure as a teen and still get grief for that, as our current pope knows.

But what about those who ran with the Soviet Union? What about those I saw pushing every foreign policy line that came from Moscow? Heck, some of them are in Congress without a simple mea culpa.

What about the World Coven Council of "Churches" who supported that monster Mugabe and has yet to apologize? Yet they are still respected and treated as credible (but NOT by me).

We respect our Nazi hunters, and rightly so. But if any Western Communist hunters are out there, they are branded “McCarthyites.”

Again, this double standard ticks me off to no end.

When I get too ticked and need to calm down, I remind myself that God is just. Unrepentant Nazis, unrepentant Communists and those who perpetuate the double standard will get theirs.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Oxford Beggars

Oxford has a serious begging problem. This comments to this article give you a pretty good picture.

Most beggars here are polite, and I’m polite but usually distant back. But a few can be aggressive. In fact, the other night I felt threatened to the point of coming very close to running to the (thankfully) nearby police station.

I will give money to some “buskers” (performers), however. There are a lot of those in Oxford, too. But if they are trying to earn something and are doing a good job at what they do, I respect that.

As for just straight out begging, it’s a bit problematic how to respond as individuals and as a society. I prefer to give to agencies that are better equipped to effectively address the needs of the poor instead of enabling harmful and often disruptive behaviors.

But in any case, people should not be threatened or harassed simply because they are walking about and minding their business. And Oxford does have a problem in this regard.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Merton College Saves the World (or British Summer Time Ends)

Overnight, British Summer Time (the equivalent of daylight savings time) ended.

Therefore, the students of Merton College donned full academic gown, drank port, and walked backwards around their Fellows Quad for an hour in order to restore the time-space continuum.

And for that we are all thankful.

I’m not that thankful for BST ending, however. Now it will really start getting dark early. In addition to more dearinesss, I very soon, maybe today, won’t be able to take my pleasant shortcut across Christ Church Meadow when walking to Evensong at Magdalen or New College. (The gates close at dusk.)

Oh well. I’ve been in good spirits. And it’s only five weeks until home. The shorter days will serve as a reminder to make the most of what time remains.

And I’m glad to say my days are both fuller and more fulfilling now. But that’s for other posts.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

A Good Day

I’ve been meaning to post on what one of my days is like here in Oxford just to get that out to those who care. So here goes.

Today is unusual in that none of the three main Oxford choirs (Christ Church, New College, and Magdalen) is singing. But I like my habit here of going to a service every day. So I decided to get up early and go to Morning Prayer and Mass at Pusey House. Their weekday morning services are a quiet, prayerful, and excellent start to the day. Afterwards, they have a very English breakfast of coffee or tea and toast with stimulating, wonderfully dry conversation. This morning we had fun testing each others’ knowledge of popes among other things.

(On breakfast, I did cheat a bit and had my usual cereal and O. J. before I walked up to Pusey House. I need more than toast and coffee to function well.)

Then I walked over (I walk everywhere in Oxford.) to the Bodleian Library and up to the Duke Humfrey room to study for and work on my weekly tutorial essay, this week on illuminated manuscripts. The books the DH room has on illuminated manuscripts are amazing. My schedule today was unusually clear, so I decided to camp out there and work.

And that I did. With only a break to eat lunch at my favorite sandwich shop, Harvey’s on High Street, and to intake a much needed extra dose of caffeine (Coke), I was in the DH Room from 9:15am to after 6pm.

That is unusual. I normally konk before then. But I had psyched myself and love illuminated manuscripts anyway. In fact, I came across one wonderful illumination I hope I can find online to post for you all.

And I did accomplish beyond what I wanted to. I only need to fill in some blanks in my essay now. Moreover, I think it will be my best one yet. And without too much more work on, maybe I can recharge my batteries a bit. Even though I’m taking a half-load the pace has worn me down at times. (Again, thank God I had enough wisdom not to take a full load.)

Then, thoroughly brain-dead, I walked over to the Turf, where they happened to have a small beer festival going on out back. So with my dinner I had three half-pints of different ales, two of which were really good and interesting.

Satisfied with everything this day and thankful, I then walked “home” to my flat near Folly Bridge, where I am now and will surely konk for good before long.

That’s a little different than a typical day for me here, but a good one indeed. Thanks be to God!

Monday, October 22, 2007

I Receive.

After having given up hope of receiving the Sacrament until I got back home, I finally received this morning.

I found a place* that is very orthodox and independent enough of Canterbury that I could conscientiously receive. It might be going too far to say their communion with Canterbury is impaired, but it definitely would not go too far to say that it’s not 100%. And that’s good enough for me.

So, though it was dawn on a Monday morning, I walked with a spring in my step to go and take my first communion in almost exactly a month (in spite of going to services just about every day).

Though very solemn, this Mass wasn’t tinged with sadness for me like other Eucharists I’ve attended in the past month. There wasn’t that sense that I was missing out, that I was only a partial participant. A number of the prayers of the Mass are such that they remind you that you are not receiving if that is the case. And I’ve felt that loss each of the few times I’ve attended a Eucharist in the past month.

But not this morning.

After I received and sat down, I felt a deep peace, like a sense of relief. And after the Mass ended I had to pause to regain my composure before going to breakfast.



*(I think it best I not identify the place. The nature of their relationship with Canterbury was given in a confidential conversation. So I think it best to be extra safe for their sake and keep it confidential.)
Quiet Evensongs at New College

Two of the New College Choral Evensongs I’ve attended have been unaccompanied, no organ or instruments. Both were excellent services. The quiet in the spaces and just having voices for the prayers and anthems definitely adds a certain atmosphere in the dark chapel.

And the choir is more than good enough to pull it off. They are amazing.

In the past I thought the Choir of New College was excellent, but not quite my style. I generally prefer a lighter style of singing, such as that of King’s College, Cambridge. But I’ve found I like New College more in person than their recordings. In fact, they may be my favorite Oxford choir right now. (Magdalen is a very close second and probably better some nights.)

And I think I’ve figured out one reason why New College sounds different – the boys sing at closer to full volume than other choirs.

By the way, I consider the liturgy at New College superior overall to that of Magdalen or Christ Church, which is interesting coming from me given that the chaplain, Dr. Jane Shaw, could probably be considered in the reappraiser camp. Last night, we “miserable sinners” even did the whole 1662 confession.

One thing that helps is that she doesn’t preach mini-sermons to introduce prayers. A number of English priests have a bad habit of doing so I’ve noticed.

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There’s so many moments here I could write about. I need to put more of them down here, as much as for me as for you.

Like last night, I was about to leave the main quad of New College after an excellent Choral Evensong when I heard a piano.

Oxford is a very musical place. Often you’ll hear music when you least expect it. Well, there’s this piano practice room right by the way out of the quad. And this student was practicing. He, playing a complex piece, was obviously quite good. So without him knowing I stopped and listened, turning back toward the quad.

There was the least bit of light remaining from dusk outlining the quad and the pinnacles of the chapel and hall. Light dimly showed through the stained glass windows. And it was quiet, just the piano providing a stirring background.

After a while, distant bells began ringing. For once, Oxford bells were out of place, at least then and there. And the student pianist paused to regain his bearings on the piece.

I took that as the time to walk on, content.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

World Cup Rugby Final

I’m relaxing by watching the World Cup Rugby Final, England vs. South Africa. England’s going a bit crazy over this, so I thought I might as well watch. However, it doesn’t look terribly interesting so far.

There’s a benefit for me though. One of my favorite pubs, The Bear, had plenty of seating though it’s a Saturday night. . . . They don’t have a television.

I have to say I find the field goals in rugby interesting.

And the England fans' big song? Swing Low, Sweet Chariot. I'm not kidding.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

So Much to Blog. So Little Time.

Yes, my blogging frequency has gone down. Researching and writing a 6-8 page essay a week kinda puts a crimp on other writing. I bet I’ll be so glad when my last essay is done. I’m already getting a bit tired of them. And I’ve only done two with six to go!

By the way, I’m so glad I’m taking a half load. There is no way I could handle a full load. No way. Well, I guess I could do a half-baked job on everything. But that’s not my nature. And I would burn out anyway.

I mentioned a while back about the Oxford malaise that had caught me. I haven’t posted on it much because I didn’t want to get too personal and depressing. But let’s just say “malaise” was understating things at times.

But a week ago as I was in Magdalen College chapel for choral evening prayer, I prayed that God would “restore a right spirit in me.”

And he did. I sensed it as soon as I left Magdalen.

With the exception of a dark mood brought on by a certain college dining hall malnourishing me (a situation now resolved.), I’ve been upbeat even during gloomy rainy days that were getting me down before.

Part of the new positivity is I’m enjoying the Englishness around me more. For example, one of my tutorial readings is from The Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, which is basically a journal. I love that sort of thing.

Well, I’d say more, but like I said . . .

Monday, October 15, 2007

Rigged.

Kendall Harmon very graciously, but quite clearly has blown the cover off the railroading of the Joint Standing Committee Report, which gave the Episcopal Church a pass, of course.

At this point, I think one has to be either na├»ve or a foaming liberal not to see that the whole so-called “Windsor Process” is rigged. And it probably has been rigged from the start.

I’m now convinced that Eames, the Blarney Bishop, Rowan Williams and friends started the whole process with the Lambeth Commission and the Windsor Report to buy time. They never intended to hold the Episcopal Church to the modest requirements of Windsor.

And when the Primates tried to push things along and assist the orthodox, Rowan threw sand in the gears. The Primates asked, as a matter of urgency, for a Panel of Reference to help relieve the orthodox. Rowan dragged his feet, then appointed a committee of foot-draggers chaired by a rank liberal. The Primates drew a line in the sand of September 30th . Rowan fuzzed it into “a starting point.” Etc., etc, ad nauseum.

Yes, Rowan Williams has been an active party to this charade, to this rigging of “the Windsor Process.” Behind his pretense of supposedly being even handed and letting the Primates decide, he has subverted them every step of the way.

Rowan has strung the orthodox along for four long years. Now he’ll leave North American orthodox hanging out to dry. Rowan’s answer to those who can no longer conscientiously stay in the Episcopal Church? Stay in the Episcopal Church. Oh, and your bishops are “illicit.” And all the TEC bishops (save one, and he’ll probably get invited, too) are invited to Lambeth for tea.

We’ve waited four long years for that? We’ve been fools and played for fools. And if you’re waiting for some covenant to bring a decent resolution, you’ll get fooled again.

But not me anymore. I’m through waiting for Rowan. And, yes, I’m still not taking communion from anyone in full communion with him.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Edwardtide Glory (and fun) in London.

Last night, I took the Oxford Tube (my first double-decker bus) to London. The main reason was a Sung Eucharist on the Eve of the Translation of St. Edward the Confessor at Westminster Abbey.

King Edward was the founder of Westminster Abbey (hence, their celebration of “Edwardtide”) so I thought it would be special. And was I right!

First, I got off the bus early on a whim to walk through Hyde Park. Broad green spaces are therapeutic for me. It became a bit warm though. I guess I better stop complaining about cold, grey days.

The service at Westminster was excellent. Of course, I could nitpick like any traditionalist neophyte liturgist. But the usher, without any prompting from me, guided me to the “Canada” seat on the back row of the choir. And it was a very comfortable, relatively private, and excellent place to hear and view the service. Heck, I was right next to one of the lectors. Arriving early has its perks. And I guess I’ll have to stop blaming Canada . . . for a while.

The choir sang Byrd’s Mass for Five Voices very well. The organ pieces, mainly from Bach, were very well selected and played. (By the way, Bach’s organ pieces can really speak to me.)

I liked the sermon from the Dean, which pointed out that we celebrate King Edward in part because England is not a (nasty) secular state like France.

We sang excellent hymns in praise of St. Edward. Yes, I love that sort of thing.

And after the service, the screen was opened for us to go behind it and circumnavigate the shrine of St. Edward. Very medieval.

The bells were ringing like crazy, which only increased my joy from the service when I stepped outside. I was so happy as I walked to the excellent Italian dinner I stumbled upon (Spaghetti House near St. Martins-at-the-Fields is expensive, but good.).

Then I attended my first ever London theatre to see Spamalot. I bought the ticket online during a discount promotion. It was A-10, so I thought it would a good front row seat in the balconies. Wrong! It was FRONT ROW, PERIOD!

(Now, be warned that Spamalot is more bawdy than the Monty Python and the Holy Grail it “lovingly” rips off. But, with that caveat, it was good fun.)

Yes, it was an auspicious evening.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Turkey has no shame.

I need to run off and get going on academics, but I can’t let this pass.

Turkey truly has no shame. They still get oh-so-outraged when light is shed on their genocide of Armenians 1915-17.

If you want a good history lesson on that, the Daily Mail had an excellent article a few weeks ago. Be warned that it’s not easy reading.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Flummery is fun.

The past four nights, I’ve gone to three special services with extra doses of ceremony and flummery.

First at Christ Church was the installation of two professors as canons of the cathedral. I was really going there for the choral evensong part of it. But there was a man in a funny wig and the reading of Letters Patent from Her Majesty, the Queen.

It also happened to Be a Chorister for a Day night. So the choristers-for-a-day gathered haphazardly in the aisle in the midst of the choir to help sing the opening introit. The informality was quite a contrast with the installation of canons later.

Oh, and after the service, all the vested clergy escorted the new canons around Tom Quad to their new lodgings.

The following night, the new head choristers were installed at Magdalen College with the President of the College reading the installations to the two kneeling choristers . . . in Latin.

Then last night at Christ Church was the Court Sermon (formerly known as the Assize Sermon). Lots of funny wigs and outfits in procession, as the local judges were there.

What was most surprising, however, was the Court Sermon itself. When I saw that a Rev. Dr. Michael Spence, Fellow of St. Catherine’s College and Head of the Social Sciences Division (uh oh) was giving it, I thought it might be one I quietly slip out of (especially since the choir’s duties were pretty much finished at that point).

But it was actually a good sermon from what I could hear. (I was sitting behind a column.) And he actually preached the gospel. Yes, you read that right. In fact, his whole sermon was a winsome gospel presentation. And (except for a quibble or two) he did it well.

And that impressed me more than all the flummery.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Random Oxford Thread

The Choir of New College is sounding good . . . really good.

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I think the favorite part of Christ Church’s services for some of the choristers is actually after the service when two of them come out during the organ voluntary and put out the candles of the choir stalls.

One chorister in particular, the tallest one, has a look of pure entranced delight when he does this. The pyro.

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If Brasenose College isn’t a snooty little place, you could have fooled me. I’ve been here about six weeks now. And I can’t recall ever seeing it open to the public.

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One of the big events of “Naught (0) Week” (which was this past week) is the Freshers Fair. (“Freshers” is Oxford for Freshmen.) Other new students are invited, too. Hence, I had a ticket to go in.

It is quite a crowded ordeal, not unlike a cattle drive.

For some reason, the first section you go through is that of left-wing politicos. When I saw a sign proclaiming Bush the world’s number 1 terrorist, I said, “Ah, this must be the looney section.”

Yes, I somehow made it through that section intact.

I did find some interesting and worthwhile organizations. I’m definitely getting involved with the chess club . . . and the Real Ale Club. Yes! And it will be good to get involved with some people. I’ve been a bit lonely at times.

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I am now also a member of the Oxford Gregorian Chant Society.

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You know the way English children sound like in the movies?

They really sound that way. It’s delightful.

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I know this isn’t an Oxford matter, but I’ve neglected to mention something not yet generally known: the Choir of King’s College will be doing a U. S. tour this coming Spring. One of their stops will be Dallas in April.

I heard it from Mr. Cleobury himself.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Very Interesting

This bit of news posted over at Stand Firm is very interesting, particularly this from reporter Jonathan Petre:

Sometime in November, a conservative archbishop is planning to announce radical plans to adopt a breakaway group of conservative American dioceses,and the resulting collision could prove very messy indeed. Under the plans, between three and five dioceses will - over a period of time - opt out of The Episcopal Church and affiliate with the conservative province thousands of miles away. The proposals, which I have seen, have been drawn up over a number of months and follow extensive consultations between the bishops of the American dioceses and their counterparts in the province concerned.

As if that’s not interesting enough, then comes this in the comments:

++Venables is the patron of FACA which is having a meeting of bishops next week. . . .

I did not know that. Since most of the members of FACA are also in Common Cause, that will likely be discussed.

Then I chime in on who the “conservative archbishop” might be:

I’m betting on ++Venables. Just a hunch.

And do note who soon concurs.

Like I said – interesting.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

By the way . . .

I’m not ignoring the statement from the Common Cause bishops meeting, which sounds like good progress. I just don’t have anything profound to say about it at the moment.

However, it so happens I’ve been elected a delegate to the 2008 REC General Council next summer. Since Common Cause and its efforts will almost certainly be on our agenda, it just might be interesting.
Peaceful Islam

This needs no elaboration from me:

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - Taliban militants hanged a teenager in southern Afghanistan because he had U.S. money in his pocket, and they stuffed five $1 bills in his mouth as a warning to others not to use dollars, police said Monday. Taliban militants elsewhere killed eight police.

The 15-year-old boy was hanged from a tree on Sunday in Helmand, the most violent province in the country and the world's No. 1 poppy-growing region.

"The Taliban warned villagers that they would face the same punishment if they were caught with dollars," said Wali Mohammad, the district police chief in Sangin.

Dollars are commonly used in Afghanistan alongside the afghani, the local currency, although the U.S. currency is more commonly seen in larger cities where international organizations are found.

Militants often justify their attacks and executions as a response to U.S. meddling in Afghan affairs.

In Sangin on Saturday, the Taliban shot and killed another man who had sought farm assistance and seeds from an international aid program, Mohammad said. The militants accused him of being a spy.