18 September 2010

Some thoughts on Pope Benedict XVI's speech at Westminster

Full text of the Holy Father's address here.

It is certainly quite a diplomatic piece of writing in the first few paragraphs, managing to establish common ground with his hosts on their own historical terms while still asserting the mythology associated with martyrs such as S. Thomas More; Prince Metternich would indeed be proud. However, one sees here the sheer driving power of this Pope's considerable academic intellect at work as he addresses the mutual need of social systems for the leaven of moral norms - in his case, arising from Christian thinking and those norms associated with Catholic social teaching. I'm certainly happy that the Pope is devoting his attentions to the need not only for humanitarian aid but also for effective implementation of that aid. It's a message to which I am immensely sympathetic, and which I think needs to be heard on a much broader scale.

One of the problems - and I say this as a party sympathetic to the Roman Church - is that the Pope's own moral voice (and this Pope's in particular) has been compromised by the grievous ethical breaches that have taken place within the Roman Church over the past several decades. For evidence of this one need only examine the protests against the papal visit. There is certainly a great measure of just cause in those protests emphasising the child abuse scandals, and I would like to think that the Pope, in beginning to actively cooperate with secular authorities to bring the criminals in the clergy to justice, is making an earnest and wholehearted endeavour at repentance. I say this because I want the Pope to be recognised for the worthy message he has to offer here about the need for a fairer and more egalitarian economic playing field in which labourers and small landowners are not subject to the avaricious whims of big investment banks, and I want him to be recognised for his contributions outside the clique of his own faithful (as his predecessor Pope John Paul II was).

Anyway, just a loosely-organised collection of thoughts here. I'll probably have more to add later.

17 September 2010

Pointless video post - 'To Holmgård and Beyond' by Turisas

Who is ‘I’ without a past?
A river without a source?
An event without a cause?


That’s where the winds will us guide!
For fame and for gold,
Set sail for those lands unknown!

12 September 2010

Tired old meme

Apparently there's an old Internet meme called Wikipedia names your band that I came back to recently during a study break. The rules are as follows - do a random search on Wikipedia; the first page you come to will be the name of your band. (This was what I got.) Then do a random search on quotationspage.com and take the last few words of whatever quote comes up at the bottom of the page (which turned out, for me, to be this quote from Sr Mary Corita Kent). Finally, take a look at the past seven days on Flickr and use the third image you come across as your album cover. I can't link again to the photo I'm using, but I can display the finished product:

Turned out sadly well, actually, since it actually suggests the sort of band I might listen to in real life.

Choir went pretty well today, actually. First Sunday in choral vestments - I forgot how sweaty those things could get... but the songs we were singing were fun: William Byrd in The Oxford Book of Tudor Anthems.

06 September 2010

Labour Day in the US + some photos

(American) Labour Day’s an interesting time in Pittsburgh, that’s for sure. The buses are infrequent this weekend – certainly understandable, but it meant yesterday that I missed church and the first hour of WMA / heavy weapons practice. It should be noted that I don’t object to being grounded as much on a Monday.

Just in time for ALD, though, came a report from the Freedom House on labour rights in the countries of the world. The United States comes in as a ‘Mostly Free’ country with regard to labour rights (lagging somewhat behind most of the countries of the European Union, Norway, Switzerland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Korea), but the report makes note of the substantial and alarming weakened state of American trade unions (from 35% of employed labourers to below 8% over the past 50 years), the steady judicial erosion of collective bargaining rights, the measures taken against managers who violate labour laws which amount to little more than slaps on the wrist, and the public hostility toward any manifestation of labour activism or civil organisation. As an industrialised society with great power and wealth, more ought to be expected of us in both generosity and in concern for the common good, particularly as we run up against problems of resource scarcity in a rising multipolar era.

I wasn’t able to get out and take a great number of photographs, but here are some that may be of interest within my own neighbourhood:

The house I live in, currently. Overall a fairly nice place.

The five-way intersection at Liberty and Baum where I catch my bus most often. Note the Cathedral of Learning in the distance in the first photo, as well as the no-pedestrian-crossing sign which is conveniently ignored by drivers and pedestrians alike.

The centre of Morrow Triangle, with a monument to those who lost their lives in the Second World War.

The First United Methodist Church on Centre Ave and S Aiken Ave. Not the best example of the sooty patina on old buildings, but you can tell the stones used to be a lighter colour, particularly on the tower and beneath the windows. Oh yes, and they do spell ‘Centre Ave’ correctly. Just one of the things I love about this place!

See; wouldn’t lie to you!

Some better examples of the Pittsburgh patina effect: Evaline Lutheran Church (top) and another house on my block (bottom). Evaline Church in particular is quite striking; makes it look quite ancient, in fact.

And here’s a modest example of the terrain in Pittsburgh. I’m taking this shot from the top of a slight incline (Penn Ave), looking downhill and then up toward the cemetery.

That's all the photos I have for now; I’m sure I’ll be back with more soon!