Saturday, 16 March 2013

Maureen Theobald .. a great sister,... our Dad,... and Bizet's Opera "The Pearl Fishers"

I was at the Sarasota Opera’s production of “The Pearl Fishers” by Georges Bizet this afternoon.
As is the case in many operas the plot is a bit thin.  (That’s also the case for many Television “Dramas”.)
So I suspended judgement in order to enjoy the music.  In particular I wanted to hear the famous tenor/baritone duet in which two characters (Nadir and Zurga) pledge eternal friendship.
For you see, I have heard thus duet many times via recordings, but I’ve never before heard it “live”.
I was not disappointed. Nadir (sung by Heath Huberg), and Zurga (sung by Lee Poulis), were very good.
Indeed their singing brought tears to my eyes.
This was partly because of the beauty of the music.
But it was mostly because of memory.
I “saw” myself in the back kitchen of our home in Bristol.  There my dearest Dad would often sit, enjoying classical music from the B.B.C.
My fabulous oldest sister Maureen would sometimes be there.  From time to time I would join them.
And Dad, Maureen and I would always be awed when the Pearl Fishers duet was played.’
My teary eyes this afternoon had something to do with Bizet’s music as I heard it “live” for the first time.
But they had more to do with my memories of a Dad who could make me angry, but who also introduced me to musical beauty; and also to do with my fabulous oldest sister Maureen.  She is the greatest!
I hope that one of these links will work for you/

Friday, 15 March 2013

A new Pope. Why the fuss?

My good cousin Janet asked this question on Facebook:  Am I the only one wondering what all the fuss is about this new Pope?
No Janet, even religious people ask the same question.
Here are my tentative responses.

1.      Whether we like it or not, most people in our world are religious in one way or another.  (Even strident atheism is a religion of sorts)

2.     The Roman Catholic Church is the largest of all organised religions. So when that Church selects a new leader it is not surprising that it makes world news.

3.     The resignation of Pope Benedict and the election of Pope Francis are newsworthy because: 
Benedict retired voluntarily unlike the Pope who resigned 600 years ago -  under pressure!

Pope Francis is the first non-European Pontiff, (though this is a bit of a stretch since he is Italian by his parents and Argentina is the most “European” country on South America).

4.     Lazy reporters do not have much background knowledge about the R.C. Church.   Therefore much of their so called reporting is in fact sheer speculation.  They are “filling air time” (or print space) with incessant chatter.

5.     And it’s always about the “news du jour”.  One day it will be Syria, the next North Korea, the next Queen Elizabeth’s diarrhea or the Duchess of Cambridge’s “bump”.

6.     So “why the fuss?”  Simply because it was the news du jour.  (I check six or seven newspapers from all over the world (on line each day).  They all carry essentially the same international news, and have identical lead stories depending on the day of the week, or the fad of the hour.). But Iask:

a.     Will the new Pope make a difference? Certainly not in doctrine or teaching.  The Roman Church claims (unhistorically) that it was founded by Jesus Christ, and given a sacred deposit of unchangeable truth.  Even the much vaunted Pope John XXIII did not  attempt to  change an iota of doctrine.

b.     Perhaps in emphasis:  John XXII and the Vatican Council did not change the doctrine of the Church, but they encouraged Catholics to think of the Church as “the people of God”, and of Orthodox and Protestant Christians as “separated brethren”.

c.      Please pay no attention to the commentators who speculate that under Pope Francis there will be changes in teaching about celibacy, the role of women. etc. That simply will not happen.  

But "Papa Frankie"  may well try to encourage the Church to be a more humble, modest and serving body. 

That will be better than nothing.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Doppelganger? , Family, Friends.

My good nephew Nick snapped a photo' of a BBC 4 presenter (who was talking about ants). Nick thinks that this man is my doppelganger.

My doppelganger?

My first cousin Chris posted a photo of him with my Aunt Irene.  She has always been my favorite aunt, and is the only one of my five aunts (all by marriage) who still lives. (Some Sarasota friends have met my cousin Janet. She is Irene's daughter, and Chris's brother.)

My favourite Aunt and her son, my cousin Chris.

My dear friends Jack and Pat McLaughlin are once again at their time share on Longboat Key.  I knew Jack, Pat and their children when I was the Rector at St. Stephen's, Pittsfield.

I was always very fond of their younger daughter Jennifer, who was 14 years old when I began my ministry in Pittsfield.(1984)   So I was more than happy to assist at her marriage to Scott Doane back in 1998.

Scott and Jennie adopted two children, Emma and Meghan.  I met Emma when she was two years old in 2002.  I was back in Pittsfield ( for Deacon Jack Fickling's funeral?) .  I'd never met Meghan.

Scott, Jennifer, Emma and Meghan are with Jen's parents at the time share this week. I joined them all for lunch today.  It was a "glory hallelujah" reunion!

Dear young Emma could hardly get it around her mind when I told her that I knew her mother (Jen)  when she was 14 years old - for she (Emma) will be 14 next year!

Emma, Jennifer, Scott, Meghan.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Monday, 11 March 2013

If you knew Sushi like I know Sushi

As was the case with many British, Irish and American folks of my generation I grew up with a very bland diet.
Dinner often consisted of over cooked beef or lamb, and vegetables which had been boiled to death.
There were saving graces. We ate roasted potatoes which were all crispy on the outside, and fluffy within.
We enjoyed wonderful steak and kidney pies or puddings.  And our Mum made fabulous stews.
British Fish and Chips (fried in lard) were second to none.
But we never encountered pasta, pizza, curries, or rare steaks.
We’d never heard of hamburgers until a British chain restaurant known as “Wimpy Bars” introduced us to what were called “Beefburgers”.
Bit by bit we expanded our options.
My youngest brother Martyn and I were the first to be adventurous. I remember when he and I ordered “escargots” in France many years ago.  Damn they were good!
But with my native gastronomic reserve I drew the line at Sushi.
A couple of years ago I was at a big buffet party at which there were trays of various kinds of sushi.  I tried it and I liked it.  My host told me that it was from a SRQ restaurant known as “JPAN”.
My good pal Ben is very fond of sushi but he has next to no friends who share his passion.
But today, after two or more years (I move slowly) I took Ben to SRQ’s  JPAN restaurant for lunch.
Lordy, lordy it was good.  Ben ate a Sashimi Combo and devoured every mouthful with obvious pleasure.
I had a more conservative meal – a Maki Combo:  with a tuna roll, a salmon roll, and a crunch (tempura) roll. I scoffed it all down with great enjoyment.
My foodie boundaries are expanding!

(JPAN is at Paradise Plaza, 3800 South Tamiami Trail, and at Lakewood Ranch at 8126 Main St).

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Blood at boiling point in Church today

He prays it every week when he is at Church:  “For the safety and success of our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan”.
I have no problem with the “safety” bit.  But I am not sure what “success” means.
That’s probably because former President George W. Bush was never able to articulate why we were at war in those countries.  He inferred that it had something to do with “the war on terror”, but we never knew what he had in mind as to  what could or might happen in those countries once we had won that “war”.
In the meantime we are bailing out of Iraq with no clear sense of “mission accomplished”, and we are (off the record of course) negotiating with the Taliban in Afghanistan.
President Obama has been no more successful than former Pres. Bush in articulating a rationale for our war loving ways.  Indeed he has upped the ante with his enthusiastic endorsement and engagement in a war from the skies via American drones.

How in heaven’s name do we measure “success” in those two lands?
Neither Bush nor Obama has been able to address this question.

 When the man prayed his prayer at St. Boniface this morning I began to get very agitated. For it seemed to me that his prayer was so one-sided. 
How can we as gospel people pray for the safety and success of American forces without also praying for the victims of American violence?
I wanted to follow his prayer with words such as “We pray for the little children who have been killed by missiles fired from American Drones, and for their grieving parents”.
My gut was groaning. But I decided not to voice that prayer lest our prayer time become a battle ground for duelling beliefs.

Some of my gut groaning had to do with the fact that my Church advertises itself as being “progressive”.  I doubt that!
Our music is very good, but it is rooted in the 19th C.
Our liturgies are well expressed, but they are “safe”, and never “push the envelope”.
Most sermons are good enough, but they are often so bland and un-controversial.  In five years I have not heard a sermon which made people mad!
Maybe we are progressive because we welcome a score or two of old queens such as I.
But we are regressive when it comes to allowing the challenge of Jesus’ teachings to confront “American Values”.
In five years I have not heard a single sermon which has placed Americanism under the microscope of the teachings of Jesus.
It’s sad to be in an otherwise good parish where Americanism trumps the Gospel.
The parish will not be truly progressive until and unless it knows that following Jesus is more important that saluting the American flag.