June 27, 2012

A Pilgrim at Euro 2012

Cesare Prandelli

Even though I love this game, I’m not a big soccer fan, except for international tournaments such as the Champions League, the European Championships, and the World Cup. That’s why I’m watching—and enjoying—Euro 2012, and not just because Italy are doing very well, though that helps, of course—by the way, hey German friends, how do you feel about next Thursday?

The Camaldolese Monastery near Krakow
Photo courtesy: Nicko's Photos
Yet that’s not what I want to talk about right now, not strictly speaking, at least. In fact, I want to talk about pilgrimages… Well, in reality the (two) pilgrimages in question are those made by Italy coach Cesare Prandelli and his staff during the Euro 2012 soccer championships. The first time, after beating Ireland and reaching the Euro quarter-finals, they went to a Camaldolese monastery in the middle of the night (a 13-mile walk):

The Camaldolese monks - whose origins are in Italy but who run a monastery outside Krakow - met the squad before the tournament and the team staff promised to make a pilgrimage to the monastery if they got out of Group C.
No one expected coach Prandelli, his backroom team and federation vice president and former midfielder Demetrio Albertini to take the walk at 3am local time, shortly after arriving back in Krakow from beating the Irish 2-0 in Poznan.
The federation said in a statement that the group, who first 'had to deal with the jokes of the players... who went off to bed', took three-and-a-half hours to complete the walk and returned to the team base at 7am - by car. [Mail Online]

The second time, after beating England and reaching the semifinals, they went to a Franciscan convent near Wieliczka (a 7-mile nocturnal walk):

Italy's attacking spirit on the field is proving hard to beat. Coach Cesare Prandelli's religious commitment is also holding strong.
For the second time at the European Championship, Prandelli and his entire coaching staff celebrated a victory with a nocturnal pilgrimage to a monastery near the squad's base outside Krakow.
After the win over Ireland last week, the 14-member group embarked on a 21-kilometer (13-mile) trek at 3 a.m. to a Camaldolese monastery. This time they got a later start and walked only 11 kilometers (7 miles) to a closer monastery.
The reason for the delay and the shorter trip early Monday was because Italy required extra time and a penalty shootout to beat England in the quarterfinals on Sunday. Also, anti-doping authorities held up forward Mario Balotelli for an hour, delaying the flight back from Kiev, Ukraine.
The team plane touched down in Krakow at about 4 a.m. Then once the squad reached the team hotel in Wieliczka, the players went to bed and the staff — including security members and other officials — embarked on their pilgrimage. [SFGate]

The Franciscan Convent near Wieliczka
Photo courtesy: franciszkanie.pl
Nice story, isn’t it? In these times of doubt and skepticism, here is a man of faith. Of true and simple faith. Here is a man who lost his wife—after a long and painful illness—in the middle of a season in 2007, but who did not lost his “center.” Here is how he described—in an interview he gave to Jesus, an Italian Catholic magazine, and eventually republished in la Repubblica newspaper—his own faith experience: “I grew up in a believing family. Then, when they reach adolescence, many make different choices. Instead, I kept on believing and practicing. I live my spirituality by attending Mass, but not only by that.” Asked to explain what he meant by that “not only, he answered: “Well, I’m sorry but I don’t like very much to talk about what I do, they are very private things, talking about them makes me feel ill at ease…, I don’t want to put them on display, nor do I want people to think that I want to put them on display, because I don’t have to sell anything to anyone—I just think people have to do what they feel they have to do…”

Well, what to say? Not that I think that prayers and pilgrimages may grant you victory over your enemies, er, I mean opponents—that would be a bit too easy, wouldn’t it? And yet, it is written: “If God with us who can be against us?” So if I were you, my German (and Portuguese, and Spanish) friends, I’d be very careful from now on—and don’t say I hadn’t told you so! But that being said, may the best team win!

June 18, 2012

"Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down"

Kris Kristofferson
Perhaps, in a sense, “Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down” is not a politically correct song, or at least it’s not a philosophically innocuous one, if I may say so about a country music song, because much more than many other country hits, it (intrinsically) celebrates traditional values—though in its own way and despite its author being a liberal!—as the lyrics show.

Even though it was written by Kris Kristofferson and first recorded by Ray Stevens in 1969, it was Johnny Cash who made it a hit when he released a version of the song in 1970, on his live album The Johnny Cash Show. Most recently Willie Nelson released his own version of the song on his 2011 album, Remember Me, Vol. 1. Yet, my favorite version is the one shown in the video below, performed by Johnny Cash and Kris Kristofferson together: two country music legends.

What to say about the two performers? Well, as for the first, a lot of what I have to say about him, as well as other country music icons, I already said on several other posts—but then again, what could I say about the great Johnny Cash that has not been said better by others more qualified than me? On the contrary, by pure chance and without any design or purpose, I never mentioned Kris Kristofferson before. So, it’s time to right that wrong.

The cover art for Highwayman (album)
Kris Kristofferson is one of the most acclaimed artists of our time and one of the biggest names in the country music realm. The son of Mary Ann and Lars Henry Kristofferson, a U.S. Army Air Corps officer of Swedish descent, and he himself a U.S. Army officer for five years , despite his family’s military tradition Kris is a natural-born artist: singer, songwriter—he is the sole writer of most of his songs—and musician as well as a film actor. In 1985, he joined Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash in forming the country music supergroup “The Highwaymen,” which had a big influence on the Outlaw country subgenre.

As for the song, here is an interesting account:

Kris Kristofferson wrote this song while living in a run-down tenement in Nashville when he was working as a janitor for Columbia Records - a strange occupation considering he had a master's degree from Oxford University and risen to the rank of captain in the US Army. But Kristofferson wanted to be a songwriter, so he turned down a professor position at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and swept floors at Columbia waiting for his break.

In the military Kristofferson learned to fly planes and he worked as a commercial helicopter pilot in Nashville, and the story of how he got his demo tape of this song to Cash has become legend: He flew his National Guard helicopter to Cash's front yard, where he landed and delivered the tape. The story is often skewed to imply that Cash had never met Kristofferson, but they had known each other since 1965. In a 2008 interview with the San Luis Obispo Tribune, Kristofferson explained: "I knew John before then. I'd been his janitor at the recording studio, and I'd pitched him every song I ever wrote, so he knew who I was. But it was still kind of an invasion of privacy that I wouldn't recommend.

To be honest, I don't think he was there. He had a whole story about me getting out of the helicopter with a tape in one hand and a beer in the other.
John had a pretty creative memory but I would never have disputed his version of what happened because he was so responsible for any success I had as a songwriter and performer. He put me on the stage the first time I ever was, during a performance at the Newport Folk Festival."

In a 2009 Rolling Stone article about Kris Kristofferson that was written by Ethan Hawke, it explains that Kris made Johnny Cash listen to the song before removing the helicopter. After hearing it Cash said he "liked his songs so much that I would take them off and not let anybody else hear them."
Cash recorded the song live on The Johnny Cash Show, and before the show, ABC censors asked him to change the lyrics, "Wishing, Lord, that I was stoned" to "Wishing, Lord, that I was home." Cash sang it the way Kristofferson wrote it, and even stressed the word "stoned."

Nice story, isn’t it? And now, enjoy the song!

June 16, 2012

The Lady: Twenty-one Years After

Aung San Suu Kyi gives her Nobel lecture
Often during my days of house arrest it felt as though I were no longer a part of the real world. There was the house which was my world, there was the world of others who also were not free but who were together in prison as a community, and there was the world of the free. Each was a different planet pursuing its own separate course in an indifferent universe. What the Nobel Peace Prize did was to draw me once again into the world of other human beings outside the isolated area in which I lived, to restore a sense of reality to me. This did not happen instantly, of course, but as the days and months went by and news of reactions to the award came over the airwaves, I began to understand the significance of the Nobel Prize. It had made me real once again; it had drawn me back into the wider human community. And what was more important, the Nobel Prize had drawn the attention of the world to the struggle for democracy and human rights in Burma. We were not going to be forgotten.
We are fortunate to be living in an age when social welfare and humanitarian assistance are recognized not only as desirable but necessary. I am fortunate to be living in an age when the fate of prisoners of conscience anywhere has become the concern of peoples everywhere, an age when democracy and human rights are widely, if not universally, accepted as the birthright of all.

~ Aung San Suu Kyi, Nobel Peace Prize speech in Oslo City Hall, Norway, on Saturday, June 16, 2012 (source: The Washington Post).

Sometimes Good prevails over evil, as also demonstrated by the video below. Today was a great day at Oslo City Hall.

Surviving New York City's Summer (Without Air Conditioning)

Photo: The New York Sun
Hey, fellow Europeans, have you ever been in New York in July and/or August? It’s unbearably hot and muggy, even to those who are familiar with the sweltering, humid summers in the Po Valley, Italy.

As far as I am concerned, I will never forget that August day when streams of sweat were flowing down my fingers while I was walking across the Brooklyn Bridge—I had never seen anything like that before and thought I was going to die of …desiccation!

Well, have you ever wondered how New Yorkers handled it several decades ago without air conditioning or even fans? If so, here is the answer, or at least part of an answer…

HT John Podhoretz, our special (Facebook) correspondent from the Big Apple.

June 15, 2012

Roman Britain

Hadrian's Wall - Picture: Alan Novelli / Alamy

A look at the ruined reminders of the Romans’ time in Britain. In the Telegraph.

June 13, 2012

How the Wild West Really Looked

Shoshone Falls, Idaho - 1868 - Timothy O'Sullivan photo (Mail Online)

In the Mail Online a magnificent series of 19th century sepia-tinted pictures show the American West as it looked when it was charted for the first time. The photos, by Timothy O’Sullivan, one of the most famous photographers of his time, are the first ever taken of the rocky and barren landscape.

Timothy O'Sullivan, who had earlier covered the U.S. Civil War, worked with the Government teams as they explored the land in the 1860s and 1870s. The collection includes the first pictures ever taken of Native Americans. (HT Norm)

Tornado in Venice (Yes, You Read It Right!)

Wow, I wish I were there—well, er, I never got to see one “in the flesh”…

Venice, June 12 - A dramatic funnel cloud swept over Venice on Tuesday and narrowly missed the center of town, striking instead the outskirts and uprooting trees and overturning dozens of boats.

Read the full Ansa report here. Eyewitness report by Cat Bauer at Venetian Cat - Venice Blog.

June 10, 2012

Oooops, Backfire and Disarray

~ “LETTERS FROM AMERICA” - by The Metaphysical Peregrine ~

President Elect Obama created an “Office of the President Elect”, had a seat on his plane with a logo for the imagined office, and spoke with Greek columns as his stage. He promised to be post partisan, post political, post racial, and even slow the rise of the oceans (yes he really said that, there’s a vid).

Instead of lollipops and roses we have our country in an economic death spiral, riots by pampered whiney white kids (Occupy movement), a deepening nasty racial divide, skyrocketing energy costs (done by design, there’s a vid of him saying that too), crony capitalism ($trillions of taxpayer money going to businesses), blatant attacks on Christians, and a culture of intolerance and hate (from the Left) that is promoted by his political party and his propaganda division, the Main Stream Press.

Because of all that, the lollipops have melted and the roses are dead. His shine is off, even with a growing number of the leadership in the Democrat Party, including Bill Clinton several times, criticizing him publicly. Because he’s a Statist ideologue, he can’t, like Bill Clinton did, “triangulate” and change course.

His campaign started with an attack not only on Mitt Romney’s venture capital company, Bain Capital, but on capitalism itself. That caused several prominent Democrat leaders to speak against him. Obama’s team attacked them and made them recant. After his spending $trillions (taxpayer dollars, printed dollars, borrowed dollars from enemies of the US) on businesses, his “investment record” has a massive failure rate. Over 80% of his “loans” to “green energy” companies were to big donors to his campaign. Can’t find the total number of failed companies he “invested” in, but most have failed, and $trillions lost. Bain Capital under the leadership of Romney had only 22% of his investments fail, and he used real money from private citizens.

Then there’s the “Republican’s War on Women”. That isn’t working out so well because most Democrats recently voted for selective sex abortions, very unpopular with citizens. Like Communist China it seems Leftists in this country would abort baby girls until they get a son. (Counter intuitive; if men are so rotten why create more of them by killing baby girls?)  It turns out too that several Democrat women congressional staffers get paid substantially less than men holding the same job. Democrat Senator Patty Murray pays women on her staff about $21,000 less than men. It turns out that women working for Democrat politicians made an average salary of $60,877 in 2011; men made on average $6,500 a year more. Democrats have been unable to pass equal pay acts even when they controlled both houses of congress, and this latest “Paycheck Fairness Act” they brought up just so they could use it as part of their campaign to buttress their claim of Republican’s ‘war on women’.  By the way, analysis that adjusts for such things as hours worked, time taken off and other variables show pay is equal for equal jobs in the private sector. Now the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports there are 766,000 fewer women in the workforce than when he took office. Another backfire for the Obama campaign was his using his attack on the Catholic Church and their opposition to contraception; as that being part of the Republican war on women, was actually perceived by the citizens for what is was, an attack on religion, the Catholic Church, and freedom generally. Who knew the Republican Party controlled the Catholic Church? 

Then the Obama campaign attacked Romney for his employment record when his was governor of Massachusetts; the claim being that he left office with a high unemployment rate. The backfire on that is when Romney left office the Massachusetts unemployment rate was 4 point something percent, and Obama’s unemployment has been 8% - 10% the whole time he’s been in office.

The Obama campaign attacked Romney for being a hypocrite by his attacking the Solyndra failure; Obama lost $millions when the “green” company went under. There was a solar company in Massachusetts, Konarka Technologies that was given a $1.5 million loan two months after Romney was sworn in; he had no part in the loan. Romney also tried to get rid of the state’s “green energy” investment program. Konarka repaid the loan in full. It later went bankrupt, years after Romney left office. In short, Romney had nothing to do with it. Another backfire and oops.

In the recent failed recall election of the Wisconsin Governor and Lieutenant Governor and a few Republican legislators by Leftists, Unions and the Democrat Party, Obama didn’t enter the state and did no campaigning on their behalf. Unions and Wisconsin Democrats are seriously unhappy with him for that. Governor Walker scored a decisive win over them all.  Oooops.    

There was the incident raised by the Obama campaign about how in high school (in the 1960’s! when he was a teenager!) Romney bullied some other kid. Nobody, not even the family and friends of the man (deceased) remember the incident. The family is ticked off because their family member was being used as a political pawn.  Then it turns out in one of his books, Obama wrote about bullying an overweight girl.  Ooops and backfire.

Obama can’t run on his record. He’s tried. He has an ad saying he’s employed over 4 million people in the private sector. All except his hard core supporters recognize that with over eight percent unemployment, 22 million unemployed, it shows this to be a blatant lie and doesn't fly.

When he ran against McCain’s inept campaign, along with the excitement generated by the possibility of our first black president, general well wishing, no record, and not being vetted by the Press, it was all unicorns and rainbows. Now he has a record, has proven incompetent, shows a lack of leadership by blaming his problems on everyone and everything else, has been shown shrewd but not smart, and has a seriously competent campaign running against him. Leaders in his own political party and other Leftists are turning against him. That translates into low Democrat voter turnout. 

Lots of mistakes, lots of backfires, lots of lies, lots of oooops. After his post everything presidency, his opposition is looking forward to him being post president. The Romney campaign, Republicans and Conservatives must, in any case, keep the pressure up, and keep kicking Obama when he’s down.


Recent years have seen an increased interest in issues of national identity throughout Europe. The United Kingdom is no exception, even though in that country multiculturalism may have been abandoned as government policy, but its legacy is everywhere. In this post Norman Geras enters the debate recently started by the Labour Party’s Hilary Benn and Ed Milliband, ans shows why, in his opinion (and on the basis of “general philosophical considerations”), those who think there is no such thing as “English identity” are wrong.

June 8, 2012

Here Are the Gates of Paradise!

Lorenzo Ghiberti’s “Adam and Eve” (The Gates of Paradise,  detail)
Photo courtesy Museo dell'Opera del Duomo, Florence
It took Lorenzo Ghiberti 27 years—from 1425 to 1452—to complete the 10 gilded bronze reliefs that decorate the doors of the Baptistery of San Giovanni in Florence, and it took restorers as many years to complete the restoration of the work. I’m talking about one of the treasures of the early Renaissance, the 17-foot-high doors that Michelangelo dubbed “the Gates of Paradise.” The restored originals will go on display (see also here) in the city’s Museo dell'Opera del Duomo in September in a temperature controlled environment (copies have stood in their place on the Baptistery since 1990). Three of the ten panels, however, were already shown in 2007 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

A detail from “Adam and Eve”
(Librado Romero/ The New York Times)
Needless to say the doors are an absolute masterpiece. They had a lasting influence on Ghiberti’s successors. Not by chance, in fact, to carry out his work he set up a large workshop in which many artists trained, including Donatello, Masolino da Panicale, Michelozzo, Paolo Uccello, and Antonio Pollaiuolo. As it was not enough he had re-invented the lost-wax casting of bronze-casting—his St. John the Baptist is the first application of that technique—as it was used by the ancient Romans, which made his workshop special to young artists. In other words, in him native genius was aided by reflection and theory. After all, Ghiberti was also a collector of classical artifacts, a historian and an intellectual who was actively involved in the spreading of humanist ideas. His unfinished Commentarii are a valuable source of information about Renaissance art and contain an autobiography, the first of an artist. Last but not least, Ghiberti’s sense of the beautiful stamps him as the precursor of Raphael.

The restoration was carried out by Florence’s Opificio delle Pietre Dure, which is widely considered the world’s leading laboratory for the restoration of Renaissance sculpture.

June 5, 2012

One and Triune God

Andrei Rublev, Trinity - Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow

Does not wisdom call, 
And understanding lift up her voice?
On top of the heights beside the way,
Where the paths meet, she takes her stand;
Beside the gates, at the opening to the city,
At the entrance of the doors, she cries out:

“The LORD possessed me at the beginning of His way,
Before His works of old.
“From everlasting I was established,
From the beginning, from the earliest times of the earth.
“When there were no depths I was brought forth,
When there were no springs abounding with water.
“ Before the mountains were settled,
Before the hills I was brought forth;
While He had not yet made the earth and the fields,
Nor the first dust of the world.
“When He established the heavens, I was there,
When He inscribed a circle on the face of the deep,
When He made firm the skies above,
When the springs of the deep became fixed,
When He set for the sea its boundary
So that the water would not transgress His command,
When He marked out the foundations of the earth;
Then I was beside Him, as a master workman;
And I was daily His delight,
Rejoicing always before Him,
Rejoicing in the world, His earth,
And having my delight in the sons of men.”

~ Proverbs 8:1-3, 22-31 (New American Standard Bible).

Last Sunday the Catholic Church celebrated the Solemnity of the Holy Trinity, otherwise known as the Trinity Sunday. The Trinity is one of the greatest and most profound mysteries of the Christian Faith. It’s also one of the most controversial theological issues among Christian scholars, to the extent that, as St. Augustine puts it in introducing his De Trinitate, “In no other subject is error more dangerous, or inquiry more laborious, or the discovery of truth more profitable” (De Trinitate, 1.3.5.).

In other words, despite the difficulties, we must not be tempted to think that there is no way to say anything about it. As again St. Augustine puts it, addressing his readers, let’s “enter together upon the path of charity, and advance towards Him of whom it is said, Seek His face evermore” (ibid.).

And yet, says St. Thomas Aquinas, silence is the best way to talk about Trinity. Are the Doctors of the Church contradicting themselves? Well, it depends on what kind of silence we are talking about...

God is honored by silence, but not in such a way that we may say nothing of Him or make no inquiries about Him, but, inasmuch as we understand that we lack ability to comprehend Him. Wherefore in Sirach 43: 32-34, “Glorify the Lord as much as ever you can, for He will yet far exceed, and His magnificence is wonderful. Blessing the Lord, exit Him as much as you can: for He is above all praise. When you exalt Him put forth all your strength, and be not weary: for you can never go far enough.” [St. Thomas Aquinas, Super Boetium De Trinitate, Quaestio 2, Prooemium]

June 1, 2012

Is This Where New Yorkers and Americans in General Are Heading?

Both Michelle Obama and Michael Bloomberg want people to eat healthy. That’s why their restaurant of choice might look like the one shown in the video, where Brian tries to order lunch at “Nou Nou D’Enfer”…

H/T John Podhoretz

Emmylou & Willie

Take one of the best (if not the best) female country singers of all time—who is also a wonderful woman—and a true country music genius, put them together on a stage, make them sing a very special song and you have the answer to the question, “What is country music?” The first is Hammylou Harris, the daughter of a career military family; the latter is Willie Nelson, born during the Great Depression to a poor family of English, Irish and Cherokee descent. The song, by Rodney Crowell, is “Till I Gain Control Again,” first recorded in 1975 by Emmylou Harris. The video below is from the 2002 live album Willie Nelson & Friends – Stars & Guitars. Great rendition and superb performance. Enjoy it!