Δευτέρα, Απριλίου 26

Apres Midi in Peking

Hello from Peking!

Flight was twenty past midnight, 3/4 full (though it was more than made up for by the shopping of the chinese tourists returning to the Mainland).

Weather was 29 yesterday, but today it's dropped back to 10. Half of Peking is down with the cold. We got picked up at the airport by our chairman, as his wife's down with the cold and so is the driver.

China's fascinating, one sees changes with every trip. Much of the general population could do with a good wash and grooming, but there are a few devastatingly goodlooking specimens here and there.

Oh Lordy I'm in the same room as dad for the next 10 days. I'm going to have to take time off to myself every 2 days or so, otherwise I'll either go mad or strangle him.

I mentioned earlier that Blogspot is blocked in China. It's STILL blocked.

We're staying in Tongzhou Binguan - Tongzhou Hotel (more like a resthouse), a Govt run thing that's slightly dodgy but acceptable. It's cheaper for our guys in Peking to put us up there. The chaps behind the counter have never seen anyone who's not from hongkong, korea or china before, and were amazed at the sturdiness and thickness of singaporean passports. They spent some ten minutes scrutinising our passports - they hadn't realised Singaporeans no longer need visas to go to China.

Food's excellent. Lunch in our hotel restaurant - Eggplants stir fried with beef slices; green soybeans stir fried with mustard greens; potato shreds stirfried with oil and vinegar - lots of rice.

Ah, China. I'm typing this from a terminal in our company's Satellite Hub, in case you were wondering. I just got my business cards today - they say "Edward Yong - International Business Development". HA. That's a good one.

by the way, just because blogspot's blocked and I can't view my blog or comments or tagboard doesn't mean you can all be naughty and put wicked comments there! Oh, if anyone wants anything, send me an email - the address is in the previous post.


Κυριακή, Απριλίου 25

Put from you the belief that 'I have been wronged', and with it will go the feeling. Reject your sense of injury, and the injury itself disappears. - Marcus Aurelius

I'm a-trying.

So low has my mind been brought by your faults and whims,
and has so destroyed itself in trying to serve you,
that it can neither regard you benevolently if you behave well
nor stop loving you.

I will be contactable via my mobile phone, on text message for urgent matters. Otherwise, my email address of kyrieATpacificDOTnetDOTsg will work fine. As I mentioned in an earlier post during another trip to China, I can blog while there, as blogger.com is accessible, but not blogspot.com - so I won't be able to read my tagboard or haloscan comments.

I shall be back to regular blogging and making digests of other interesting blogs and stuff on 4th May.

Packing for Peking

Mad Rush. Whole day meetings. AND IT'S SUNDAY.

My room is a mess. Always has been. Always will me. Unto the Ages of Ages.

I can tell my desk is messy. under a pile of random papers sits a booklet "The Services of Christmas". It's been there since... well... Christmas. And we're past Lent and Easter. Well done. Perhaps it'll stay there until next Christmas. Ha.

running around my room. mad rush. packing. panicking like a headless chicken. come un pollo senza capo. sounds rather nice in italian.

Sars has popped up in China again, particularly Peking. Whee.

can't bear leaving my obscenely huge music collection. wish I had an iPod.

can't bear leaving my lute either.

weather there's warmer now, 15-27 deg apparently, even though yesterday was 11 and the day before was 9. wonder how I ought to pack.

Σάββατο, Απριλίου 24

Monastic lifestyle: good for your health?

from Mirabilis:

Researcher Hopes to Find "Secret of Life" with Monks’ Lifestyle

Variety is the spice of life, or so the saying goes, but now a University of Missouri-Columbia researcher believes the true secret of living a long, healthy and satisfying life might be at a nearby monastery.

"Through a systematic review of the scientific literature, we found that individuals who regularly participate in organized religious activities live longer and healthier lives on average," said Daniel Longo, MU professor of family and community medicine. "This effect may be more significant among those who have made a life-long commitment to a religious lifestyle in an organized religious community. For example, a Dutch study found that Trappist and Benedictine monks between 1900 and 1994 experienced a 12 percent lower mortality rate than the general population of Dutch men."

Based on that information, it is likely that monks who live by The Rule of St. Benedict, which includes both Benedictines and Trappist monks, might provide the key to a lifestyle that has numerous benefits to the public, Longo said. Because so many lay people are following The Rule, it’s likely the benefits could be far-reaching outside of the monastery. While in existence for more than 1,000 years, the religious movement of following the Rule of St. Benedict as an "oblate," or a layperson affiliated with a monastery, has grown tremendously during the past several decades. A recent study finds that lay oblates outnumber monks 3 to 1.

The Rule of St. Benedict encourages people to live a life of moderation, obedience, humility and respect for their fellow person. It is focused on a balanced life and provides individuals with guidelines for spirituality that also include behaviors and attitudes conducive to good health. Longo has analyzed The Rule and found more than 50 different references to health, health behaviors, hygiene and a balanced life. Longo presented his findings at the 50th Anniversary Symposium of the Monastic Institute in Rome.

From Mirabilis:

Bumble Bees! - This is a really cute flash game.

Memory Eternal

Today is the 89th Anniversary of the first genocide of the last century - the Armenian Holocaust.

"Adolf Hitler, while persuading his associates that a Jewish holocaust would be tolerated by the west stated... 'Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?'"

May his words be false. Let us pray for all hurt by the Genocide and REMEMBER in hopes of not allowing this to repeat or happen to other people. The French National Assembly has formally recognized as genocide the slaughter of a million and a half Armenians living in the Ottoman empire between 1915 and 1917. Other Declarations of Recognition have come from Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Great Britain, Greece, Italy, Kurdistan, Lebanon, Russia, Sweden, Uruguay and the Vatican. Due to continued political pressure from Turkey which has threatened economic and military sanctions against all who recognize the Genocide, the United States of America -a NATO ALLY- has yet to officially recognize it.

A good resource for learning more about the Armenian Holocaust is cilicia.com

Enver Pasha, one of the triumvirate rulers publicly declared on 19 May 1916, "The Ottoman Empire should be cleaned up of the Armenians and the Lebanese. We have destroyed the former by the sword, we shall destroy the latter through starvation."

Talat Pasha, in a conversation with Dr. Mordtmann of the German Embassy in June 1915, "Turkey is taking advantage of the war in order to thoroughly liquidate (grundlich aufzaumen) its internal foes, i.e., the indigenous Christians, without being thereby disturbed by foreign intervention."

After the German Ambassador persistently brought up the Armenian question in 1918, Talat said with a smile, "What on earth do you want? The question is settled. There are no more Armenians."

from Paradosis:

Preparing to knock down a communist monument in Bucharest to make room for an Orthodox Cathedral! I never tire of seeing such things.

Bulgaria's MUCH cooler version of "In God we Trust"

Rodent Revival

Click on it; I dare you. I double dare you. I double-dog dare you:

rodent revival

The First Orthodox Church in Antarctica

Now isn't that cute?

"All The Ends Of The Earth Have Seen The Salvation Of Our God..."

Bells at St Sergius' being blessed

During Stalin's violent campaign against religion, 40 bells were destroyed at the Trinity St Sergius monastery. This is the blessing for the third one to be replaced. Glory to God!

Punctuation Geek Stuff

Americans use "Mr." and Brits use "Mr" - what's the difference?

Most Singaporeans can't grasp the difference, so here's your chance to learn something.

There are abbreviations, where the last letter of the abbreviation is not the last letter of the unabbreviated word. There, the full stop indicates "there's actually more letters after this":

Professor -> Prof.
Opus -> Op.
Chapter -> Chap.
From -> Fr.

And there are contractions, where the last letter of the contracted form is the last letter of the uncontracted word (and hence no full stop is required):

Saint -> St
Road -> Rd
Mister -> Mr
Block -> Blk
Father -> Fr

In English usage, abbreviations take a full stop but not contractions.
In American usage, both take full stops.

Anglophile that I am, I prefer the English usage - it's grammatically clearer. However, I wish writers would simply be consistent and stick with one or the other and not mix usages - it's highly annoying.

Star Wars Denominations

From St Stephen's Musings:

Charismatics are R2D2. They live in their own universe, no one understands anything they say, and they hang out with the Arminians a lot.

Anglicans are Lando Calrissian. You're not sure whose side they're playing for, but when they get their act together, they usually come out with the good guys.

The Catholics are the Storm Troopers because there are basically eight quadrillion of them, so you really can't ignore them. The Pope is the Emperor.

The Orthodox are the Ewoks. They're really weird and do weird things, no one really knows much about them, but you gotta love 'em because those hats are just so cute. And the Storm Troopers tried to kill them once.

Oh yeah...and the megachurches are the Trade Federation from Episode I. They're huge, there are a lot of them, but man, they're just not that cool and you wonder why they even got written into the plot at all because the Storm Troopers are way cooler.

Televangelism is Jabba the Hutt.

Παρασκευή, Απριλίου 23

I feel like doing a pompadour in my hair. It'd be perfect with the 1950s black leather biker jacket which I don't have. Heh.

Help. Dad's done it AGAIN.

I'm supposed to have lunch with Graeme on sunday, and what does Dad do? He signs himself and me both up for an E-commerce seminar at 2 p.m., ostensibly to network. He says this is more important.

I want to strangle him, for the sixty-third time this week.

Τετάρτη, Απριλίου 21

Christian peacemakers report killings of women and children by US troops in Fallujah - Oh, Lord. - from Serge.

Doc today at the allergy centre says he thinks I have Chronic Idiopathic Urticaria. In other words, the hives that appear seem to have no immediate cause, and it's just my immune system playing tricks on me. Being on Prednisolone, a steroid, on a tailing dose of 30 to 5 mg over 3 months hasn't been kind to me... I've gained ten kilogrammes, had skin breakouts all over, and had horrid mood swings. To put it another way, I've been a spotty, grumpy, WHALE.

So now I'm on Telfast (Fexofenadine hydrochloride), another antihistamine, this time at 120mg daily for now. Let's see if it works.

Doc said if this doesn't work, he'll have to put me on something stronger. I asked "such as Cyclosporin?", and he went "oh! You've heard of it?". I said "oh, I read widely". He explained that it was rather strong a medication and he'd rather not put me on it as a first course of action, and I added "plus it's not cheap either" and he went again "oh, you know!". I once again replied, "I read" and grinned.

Dad has been hoping it's the blue hair dye that I'm allergic to. Doc says absolutely not. Dad's a tad annoyed, as this means he hasn't an excuse to get me to stop colouring my hair. Ha!

I really hope this works for my hives - they're REALLY annoying.

Just so you read it here first - Dad and I are off to Peking on Monday for slightly more than a week, for an important series of business meetings.

from Serge:

High Passions - Normally critical of the Catholic artistic tradition, Russian Orthodox Christians have found much to admire in Mel Gibson's controversial new film.

Global Eye - What a sickening spectacle George W. Bush and Tony Blair presented last weekend: piously kneeling in prayer on Easter Sunday while ordering missile strikes on crowded cities.

Easter 1945 in Dachau - beautiful.

Τρίτη, Απριλίου 20

Which Video Game Character Am I?

What Video Game Character Are You? I am a Gauntlet Adventurer.I am a Gauntlet Adventurer.

I strive to improve my living conditions by hoarding gold, food, and sometimes keys and potions. I love adventure, fighting, and particularly winning - especially when there's a prize at stake. I occasionally get lost inside buildings and can't find the exit. I need food badly. What Video Game Character Are You?


What Video Game Character Are You? I am Pacman.I am Pacman.

I am an aggressive sort of personality, out to get what I can, when I can. I prefer to avoid confrontation, but sometimes when it's called for, I can be a powerful character. I tend to be afflicted with munchies constantly. What Video Game Character Are You?

Ancient Greek Music!

from Rogue Classicism:

A lovely page on Ancient Greek Music, with reconstructed extracts. Also related is the Homeric Singing site, with a reconstruction of Demodokos' song, very pleasant to listen to.

An article and more on the Subservient Chicken.

I don't know about you, but I find it creepy. Have a look at what the Old Oligarch has to say about it.

Δευτέρα, Απριλίου 19

Subservient Chicken!

Someone please tell me HOW on earth this helps Burger King sell more sandwiches?

Batman and Robin fighting crime - in Whitley

From mirabilis.ca:

Two mystery men dressed as Batman and Robin have been fighting crime and saving damsels in distress in a small English town.

The pair have been spotted springing into action a number of times in recent weeks on the streets of Whitley, near Reading.

The Reading Evening Post asked readers for news of the duo after they dealt with a pair of streakers at a local football cup final.

And the newspaper was besieged with calls from residents who claimed to have seen the 'superheroes' in action.

Michelle Kirby was stranded when her Peugeot 206 ran out of petrol on Easter Sunday - until Batman and Robin appeared out of nowhere and pushed her car to the nearest petrol station.

She said: "They just appeared. I saw them running down the road in Batman and Robin outfits - I was laughing so much.

"It was like a scene out of Only Fools and Horses and they stayed in character the whole time.

"They said, "I'm Batman, I'm Robin" and I said, "No, you're not" and asked them if they were going to a fancy dress party but they said they were going back to Gotham City."

Κυριακή, Απριλίου 18

What Sort of Villain Are You?

I did this one twice and I got:

What Type of Villain are You?


What Type of Villain are You?


Hmm don't they have a Cad character? That's me.. the evil dandy.

From Marcus Aurelius

Soundtrack: "No More 'I Love You's" by Annie Lennox.

That men of a certain type should behave as they do is inevitable. To wish it otherwise were to wish the fig-tree would not yield its juice. In any case, remember that in a very little while both you and he will be dead, and your very name will quickly be forgotten.

Put from you the belief that 'I have been wronged', and with it will go the feeling. Reject your sense of injury, and the injury itself disappears.

(begin rant)

Wretch thou art. A thrice-wretched ingrate. How I would have loved thee, this thou knowest. Didst thou lack for anything whilst under my wings and in my love thou sheltered? Unto the ends of the earth I would have walked and shed every drop of my blood - solely for love of thee.

(end rant)

Σάββατο, Απριλίου 17

From Lew Rockwell and Serge:

How Much Does a Bacterium Weigh? - 665 femtograms!

Bush's War and Osama's
- Joseph Sobran on the complete futility of the war on Iraq.

The Pluperfect Is Doing Nicely
- Don't despair for the classics, says James Morwood. "THE SPECTATOR CUP: In order to do what little we can to turn the clock back, The Spectator hereby announces a monthly prize for composition in Latin or Greek. Readers are invited to submit versions of any excerpt of the magazine of roughly 300 words. The version may be in either language, prose or verse. We offer a bottle of champagne for the winning entry. At the end of this year the judges will reward the most distinguished composition with a cup." In Latin and Greek! God bless them.

Poor Little Us - We help out a country by shooting them up, and they don't appreciate it. Article by John Pilger.

Going postal - by Ryan McMaken.

Let us not forget that the stated reason behind the terrorism of 9-11 was American meddling in Saudi Arabia and Israel. And whether or not Bin Laden believes these are the only good reasons for killing American civilians is immaterial, for what we do know is that the millions of Muslims who see their countrymen killed by American missiles in Palestine or their neighbors beaten to death by American soldiers have become more sympathetic every day toward striking back at the United States the only way they can.

What we have right now is an American government that seems to honestly believe that they have a right to interfere worldwide, but they have no responsibility in preventing the predictable blowback from killing Americans here at home. In other words, for the foreseeable future, Americans need to be prepared to sit around waiting patiently for terrorists to strike while thousands of young men and women in the Middle East are driven to joining terrorist organizations by endless wars care of Uncle Sam.

ԱՐԱՐԱՏ - Ararat

"Who remembers the Armenians?" said Hitler to encourage his officers in the work of exterminating the Jews.

Today I watched Atom Egoyan's Ararat - a very meditative film that interweaves the story of the Armenian Genocide with various subplots here and there. I'm not sure it's entirely successful as a film, but it deals with a worthy subject that most people haven't a clue about.

For those who aren't aware, the Turkish government systematically murdered the ancient native Christian populations of Anatolia in Asia Minor during the years 1890-1930, soaking the land red with the blood of Greeks, Syrians and Armenians. I'll save most of the information for later as we get closer to 24th April, which is Armenian Genocide Day. In a nutshell, some 3 million Christians were murdered by the Turks in those years - a Christian Holocaust. Here's a website and a fact sheet on this.

Amazingly enough, the Turkish government continues to deny to this day that it ever happened.

One day, when my Armenian's good enough, I shall learn how to sing the Armenian service for the departed. Thus when I visit Turkey again, and visit the places where the the Armenians and othe Christians were martyred, I shall be able to sing the appropriate prayers for their repose.

Who remembers the Armenians? I do. MEMORY ETERNAL!

Science proves its worth

A team of scientists has proven that bubbles in Guinness stout really do sink.

Now close examination has revealed that, as a pint settles, bubbles touching the walls of the glass experience drag, similar to that a person feels sliding their finger along glass, and that prevents them floating up.

The bubbles in the middle however, are free to rise, creating a circular flow within the glass that causes bubbles at the edge to be pushed downwards on the inside surface of the glass.

The Edinburgh team, working with researchers at Stanford University in California have produced high-speed video footage of the sinking bubbles -- to put at rest the minds of any drinkers who might have felt they were seeing things.

The next fashionable liquor?

Beijing-based Red Star Co had signed a deal with an undisclosed U.S. alcohol sales company to distribute its high-end Diamond Erguotou brand of "baijiu," a high-proof spirit made from sorghum, the China Daily newspaper said Friday... While standard-size bottles of base-grade erguotou cost less than a dollar in Beijing, the company plans to price its top-end white bottle Diamond product at $30 in the United States. full story here.

WOO HOO! That stuff rocks. It's cheap and good in China, and is sold in plastic tanks of some 10 litres.

Thomas Fairchild: "Democracy can be a wickedly unfair thing, Sabrina. Nobody poor was ever called democratic for marrying somebody rich."
--John Williams, "Sabrina" (1954)

Another Resurrection Icon

This time, Russian!

From the Old Oligarch's Painted Stoa

Now That the Fasting Is Over...

- from A Saintly Salmagundi

Πέμπτη, Απριλίου 15

Gay Bear
Gay Bear

Which Dysfunctional Care Bear Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla


Let's Go To Molvania!

I don't know how many of my readers have seen this, but it looks like a scream. www.molvania.com - some Eastern Europeans think it's an outrage and extremely insulting, but I think it's hilarous.

Has Bush Completely Lost It?

President George W. Bush, breaking with decades of U.S. policy has outraged Palestinians, when he said Israel could keep part of the West Bank in a future peace deal that now appears more distant than ever. Bush coupled what Israel hailed as a historic statement on Wednesday with an endorsement of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's unilateral Gaza pullout plan and a negation of any right of return of Palestinian refugees to what is now Israel. - full story here. More from Palestine Daily.

Is he NUTS??? Palestianian PM made a comment that was shown on Singapore media, but doesn't seem to have made it to most international news - "This is ridiculous. It is like the President of Mauritius dictating and giving away land in Texas!". Even China doesn't attempt to tell foreign countries what to do. Υβρις εστιν...

When Islam Breaks Down - by Theodore Dalrymple. EXCELLENT!

Spent the morning and lunch in a meeting with the architects of our Tower of Babel (my nickname for it) project in Peking, slated to be the world's tallest building, a golden spike some one kilometre tall. Then spent the afternoon at Dominic's place - Teeheong has come back from 6 years in Melbourne, where he's been playing Bassoon and doing postgrad, and is very annoyed with the immigration laws about foreign talent - he's easily the best bassonist in Australia and he can't get a position because he doesn't have PR (and conversely he can't get PR unless he has a regular job). I've not seen him in 6 years, so it was lovely catching up again.

Next, the National University of Singapore's decided to can the Piper's Guild - seems we're not making enough money. The same university that's annouced extra funding for the arts and built a spanking new Arts Centre that cost millions... cuts back on fledgling groups. Brilliant. Never mind, we did fine for over a decade before we went under the University's wing, and we'll be fine without them - just without the thousands of dollars each term to spend on instruments and a room to call our own.

Dom and I had dinner at Adam Road - briyani... yum. Rented Gattaca to watch - I'm surprised I hadn't watched it before. It's excellent - the soundtrack by Michael Nyman is to die for... and Ethan Hawke is adorably handsome in there ;)

Τετάρτη, Απριλίου 14

Random Thoughts

So we had a power outage last night. I actually enjoyed it - no computer distracting me, no TV for dad to turn up at high volume and thus driving me nuts... only the lack of airconditioning or fans and not being able to charge my mobile phone was a tad annoying.

When keeping a blog, how far does one self-censor? It's far easier keeping a diary, wherein all of one's most personal and honest thoughts may be recorded, because there at least one may have some measure of control over the readership. A blog however, is vastly different - one never quite knows who might be reading. Some things simply aren't said in public, and to the faces of certain people.

Had a power outage just now, lasting about an hour. Quite unusual, I can't remember when the last time it happened was. I sent a text message to Bryan, asking "hey, is the power out at your side too?" and got the reply "yes, fucking hell. Dad says Osama probably bombed the power station".

How amusing.

Τρίτη, Απριλίου 13

Grammar God!
You are a GRAMMAR GOD!

If your mission in life is not already to
preserve the English tongue, it should be.
Congratulations and thank you!

How grammatically sound are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

Onward Christian Soldiers?

Washington Times special report on the American Evangelical Protestants who are streaming into Iraq, seeking to convert the Muslims and Iraq's Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Christians. It appears these Protestants focus on converting native Christians rather than the Muslims. Shame on them, for stealing sheep from the ancient churches! I was rather amused by what an Iraqi bishop had to say about them and their penchant for passing out bulk-rate Bibles to the Iraqi Christians:

"Do we really need this huge amount of Bibles? Do they think we don't know Jesus Christ? Let them go to the Muslim areas and distribute their Bibles. If they do it in Muslim neighborhoods, the Muslims will kill them."

As I sit at the computer, I'm listening to J.S. Bach's Easter Oratorio - glorious stuff!

Two links from Yahoo News:

Eats, shoots and leaves sounds interesting - the author's a punctuation pedant, and mostly likely also a grammar pedant - just like me. Someone has to keep the standards of language up!

Deep Fried Chocolate Sandwich: LONDON (Reuters) - Chocoholics seeking to indulge their passion this Easter will appreciate a British hotel chain's diet-busting chocolate sandwich, which boasts the added attraction of being dipped in batter and deep-fried. ... - from the land that gave us the deep-fried Mars Bar.

Without a genetic fix, the banana may be history

"...bananas and plantains are in trouble. Imperiled by pests that they cannot fend off, they need a genetic fix. Otherwise, many varieties may one day become extinct...The problem is that bananas have not had sex for 10,000 years. Edible bananas are mutants with three sets of chromosomes instead of the two found in wild bananas, causing the edibles to be seedless and therefore sterile." From sfgate.com via SauteWednesday

Conversing in a Second Language

Here's a neat article on the dynamics at work in second-language conversation. (Link via mirabilis.) Many monoglots assume that speaking a foreign language is merely replacing one set of words or grammar rules with another. It actually involves all sorts of strange and wonderful processes that get you to interpret reality and look at the world in completely new ways.

Random thought: If the Last Supper was the first Mass/Divine Liturgy/Communion Service, then that would make Judas Iscariot the first person to leave Mass early. Food for thought, I say.

Mexican woman performs own Caesarean to save baby: now THAT is what I call courageous fighting for the gift of life!

From Serge's Blog:

Endangered Languages Project
: Theres a facinating article (registration required) from the Philadelphia Enquirer about language conservationists who record endangered languages, and Serge, like me, is a language geek. It's quite fascinating, as the article says:

About 500 years ago, humans spoke 13,000 languages. Today, only about 6,500 languages remain. In a few centuries, there could be as few as 500.

That alarms linguists, who are scurrying to record languages and describe their grammar before they are lost for good.

"If we let them go extinct, valuable knowledge will be lost," Harrison said. "Many preliterate cultures have immense knowledge, which they hand down by way of their language."

Tofa, another Siberian language that Harrison has studied, provides an example. He said Tofa-speaking reindeer herders have devised a highly efficient way of sharing information about their herds. They have an individual word for every conceivable combination of attributes to describe a reindeer. Using just a single word, a Tofa speaker could describe, say, a 2-year-old, brown, castrated male reindeer.

Languages also impart something else, less tangible. They reflect different perspectives on life and the physical world.

The English words snake and fish indicate no perceived connection between these living things. But in Tofa, the word for snake is translated as ground-fish. An interesting choice - it helps an English speaker see the similarity between how a fish moves in water and the slithering of a snake over land.

The Abolition of Grandparents:
by Gary North
Because there was so little housing space under Communism, it was common for grandparents to live in the same small apartment. So, when the children came home from school, grandma was there to tell them stories and thereby transfer part of the pre-revolution culture to them.
-snip snip-
My father-in-law was alert to this factor because he was an Armenian. He was the seventh in a line of sons in his family who served the community as their minister. There was never any other occupation that his father had wanted for him. Until the Turkish genocide of a million Armenians in 1915–16, his family had stayed in the same town: Van. He told me that it was possible to trace his family back to the 13th century in the church graveyard. In the church Bible that had been left behind in the exodus in 1915, his father had told him that there was a notation in the margin: "Today, the Mongols came through." That is what I would call cultural continuity. WOW. Talk about continuity.

Since it's Bright Week (as we Byzantines call it) or Easter Octave (as the Latins call it), here's a lovely fresco from the Church of the Saviour "in the Country" in Constantinople (also known as the Χώρα or Khora/Chora Church), depicting Christ yanking Adam and Eve out of Hades!

Some comments from the Scotsman about the decline of Latin, here's what they say about the Catholic Church:

The international institution that formerly sustained Latin - the Catholic Church - has largely sold out that great intellectual heritage. In 1962, at the first session of the Second Vatican Catastrophe, the American bishops complained that they could not understand the debates being conducted in Latin. So they installed, at their own expense, simultaneous translation facilities. Instead, they should each have been handed a copy of North and Hillard and been told to come back when they had attained the level of literacy appropriate to any bishop of the Holy Roman Church.

from Rogueclassicism:

On Passion:
Last night, however, the wife and I went and it was a pretty good movie. Not great -- if Zefirelli and Mel got together and made the movie, it would be great.

Now since no one in the popular press seems to comment on the Latin -- other than to mention how it probably wasn't historically the language which would have been spoken by the various folks who speak it -- I will. It's not as bad as some folks have suggested. Some of the pronunciation is ecclesiastical, which is kind of strange in context ("Chaisar"?). I did detect (imagine?) that the common soldier types were using a more 'English' word order than Pontius Pilate, who was rather more 'Wheelockian'. Either way, though, it was generally understandable, once you caught on to the accents -- Jesus' Latin was somewhat difficult to understand, but that might have been deliberate, given that it wasn't his 'first' tongue. My only real quibble with the 'Latin' side of things was the way Caiaphas addressed Pilate. Most often, it was as "gubernator", which I don't believe would have been appropriate. Similiter, he once addresses him as "Consul", which also seems out of place. Only once does he address him as procurator. [update: a reader -- thanks RH! -- has reminded me that Pilate's official title was Praefectus; in the Passion, he is never addressed as such as far as I recall] In passing, though, I note that Pilate seems to be portrayed as understanding various non-Latin languages. I'm not sure how accurate that would be ...

Some interesting bits of Latin that caught my ear were the soldier saying "Faciam musicam" (I shall make the music) prior to Jesus' scourging and the centurion's "Interfecimus deum" when the earthquake hits.

Bushiad and Idyossey - This was mentioned on the Classics list ... it's a parody (obviously) of Homer's works with George Bush as the central character in both. Clearly not written by a Republican ... Some folks will like it, others will hate it, but you've got to at least acknowledge the effort.

Classicolor: Okay ... a couple of folks have sent this to me and the first time I shuddered and thought ... no. But it keeps popping up in various fora, so we might as well get it over with. At the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek in Cophenhagen, there is an exhibition called "Classicolor", which presents copies of assorted Classical pieces painted as they would have been originally. Someone has put a page of photos up. Shudder redux. Not sure about the accuracy of the colours, but they're probably not too far ... they all seem to have Anime/Manga style eyes (especially the Caligula) ...

More Thoughts on Scotland and Classics
: And an impassioned plea for the classics comes from Valerio Massimo Manfredi, Italian archaeologist and author of a trilogy of novels on Alexander the Great as well as The Last Legion, all of which have inspired and informed films currently in production.

"Let’s imagine that in 500 years’ time, or a thousand, English has become a dead language, replaced, perhaps, by Chinese. And let’s imagine that it is learned only in schools and universities, much as ancient Greek and Latin are now. At that point someone might claim that the study of English had become completely useless because it is a dead language and should be abolished in favour of other subjects, more functional and suitable to the times.

"In theory, this wouldn’t mean much; in practice it would be a disaster. No-one would be able to read Chaucer,Shakespeare, Milton, Blake, Dickens, Joyce, etc, any longer.

"This is why it would be a serious mistake to close the last institutions which cultivate the study of these so-called ‘dead’ languages."

We neglect Latin and Greek at our peril, warns Manfredi, who goes so far as to point to Ray Bradbury’s novel Fahrenheit 451 - about a future society that bans books. Greek and Latin, he argues, like music, poetry and art, are "vaccines against homogenisation, globalisation … the subjugation of minds."
The full original article here.

An ancient Greek joke, from Philogelos:

"'I had your wife for nothing,’ someone sneered at a wag. ‘More fool you. I’m her husband, I have to have the ugly bitch. You don’t.'"

In case you didn't know, it's the single jokebook survives from ancient times: the Philogelos, or “Laughter-Lover,” a collection in Greek that was probably put together in the fourth or fifth century A.D.

More about it here. The whole Philogelos may be found here. or visit Michael Hendry's Ioci Antiqui pages for jokes from a variety of ancient sources.

Incipit rant Eduardis malcontenti.

I've been surfing Friendster and I'm constantly amazed by the number of people who, under the "favourite books" section, proudly announce "Books? Yuck!" or "Who needs them? I don't read!". Who'd have thought anyone would consider illiteracy a badge of distinction? Ah yes, but then I live in Singapore, an island with less culture than a pot of yoghurt, and where the vast majority of citizens are dumb illiterate cattle without the capacity to think and reason, without common sense, without manners or any graces at all.

Here endeth today's rant.

From Lew Rockwell:

Three Cheers for Intellectual Honesty: How Freedom Is liberating China – and How the College Left Ignores It - this one's good.

Eet Mor Chocolate I've always believed and taught that. In my school of Theology, good chocolate, as well as perfect roast lamb, are among the most important proofs for the existence of God.

Δευτέρα, Απριλίου 12

Persecution of Christians in Kosovo and Egypt

Remember a week ago I blogged about NATO forces in Kosovo attacking an Orthodox Priest and his son, leaving both in a coma?

Here's an account from the Priest's wife and pictures.

SHAME on Nato. Shame on those who demonise Serbs in this conflict and support the Albanian terrorists who destroy our churches and work for the destruction of Christendom. The Western media has demonised Serbia in the last decade or more, while virtually ignoring the fact that Bosnia-Hercegovina's first president Alija Izetbegovic spoke of creating a pure Islamic state in the region prior to independence, brought in fundamentalist Moslem guerillas who carried out anti-Christian pogroms against both Orthodox and Catholics in several areas, and of course he provided his buddy Osama Bin Laden with a Bosnian passport.

Sadly, where the Serbs were considered the villains in Bosnia-Hercegovina, they are now viewed similarly in Kosovo by many Western governments.

Meanwhile in Egypt, Coptic Pope Denounces Forced Conversion Of Coptic Girls In case you didn't know, the Christians of Egypt trace their lineage back to St Mark the Evangelist, and have been relentlessly persecuted by the Mahometans since Egypt was so cruelly wrested from the Christian Roman Empire, of which it was a part, in the 7th Century by the invading Arabs, who enforced their religion and decimated the Church. Fierce persecution has been the lot of the Egyptian Church, and it's a wonder they're still going after over a thousand years of oppression, murder, forced conversions and rapine. For more information, visit www.copts.com

Again we pray for the suffering peoples of Kosovo, Egypt and Palestine, that the Lord our God would hear their cry and deliver them from their great distress: hear us, O Almighty Lord, and have mercy!

Again we pray that the Lord would turn aside all evil intentions and malice directed against His faithful people, preserving and sustaining them in the midst of enmity and cruel violence: hear us, O gracious Lord, and have mercy!

Again we pray that the Lord will stop the hand of those raised up against His Holy Church, softening the hearts of our enemies: hear us, O most merciful Lord, and have mercy!

Again we pray that the Lord would confirm His persecuted people in Christian witness, granting them the grace to bear their sufferings in His Holy Name and to His glory: hear us, O most holy Lord, and have mercy!

now that Pascha and Holy Week are out of the way, I can go back to regular blogging again! Expect the usual updates and articles once more!

Oh, and now that Pascha's over, I can eat anything I want for the next 50 days! Mua ha ha ha ha!

Amusingly enough, my chanting in various languages over Holy Week and Pascha scored lots of points with the 'ethnic' Orthodox. *GRIN*

Now, a small selection of articles:

The Real Battle over The Passion - the REAL reason why those Jews hate the film.

In Praise of Cowardice - why the French are right and the Americans should learn from them.

Vengeance - Something liberal 'modern' Americans won't ever understand - the culture of honour and revenge, and why America's making a mess of Iraq and the Middle East.

Church and State: The New Anti-Catholicism - an interesting article on how the separation of Church and State usually ends up with the State trying to swallow up the Church.

Κυριακή, Απριλίου 11

Pascha - The Resurrection of Christ

Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life! (Troparion)

Greetings to all on the radiant feast of the Resurrection. If you're wondering what the icon shows - it's what we traditionally call "the Harrowing of Hell". Christ, doing down into Hades, has broken the chains and gates of Hades (notice below Christ's feet), and pulls Adam and Eve out of the grave (other icons show him grabbing both Adam and Eve). In this icon, showing the same thing, one notices the angels above Christ's head holding the banner of victory - the Cross. On either side, kings and prophets of the Old Testament look on in amazement.

I won't say anything of my own on the topic of the Resurrection, but will quote from the Paschal Homily of St John Chrysostom (the Golden-Mouthed), Archbishop of Constantinople. This sermon dates from about the year 400 A.D. and according to Tradition, the clergy of the Orthodox Church do not preach their own sermon on Easter, but rather read St John Chrysostom's excellent sermon. Here it is:

The Paschal homily of St John Chrysostom

If any be a devout lover of God,
let him partake with gladness from this fair and radiant feast.
If any be a faithful servant,
let him enter rejoicing into the joy of his Lord.
If any have wearied himself with fasting,
let him now enjoy his reward.
If any have laboured from the first hour,
let him receive today his rightful due.
If any have come after the third,
let him celebrate the feast with thankfulness.
If any have come after the sixth,
let him not be in doubt, for he will suffer no loss.
If any have delayed until the ninth,
let him not hesitate but draw near.
If any have arrived only at the eleventh,
let him not be afraid because he comes so late.

For the Master is generous and accepts the last even as the first.
He gives rest to him who comes at the eleventh hour
in the same was as him who has laboured from the first.
He accepts the deed, and commends the intention.

Enter then, all of you, into the joy of our Lord.
First and last, receive alike your reward.
Rich and poor, dance together.
You who fasted and you who have not fasted, rejoice together.
The table is fully laden: let all enjoy it.
The calf is fatted: let none go away hungry.

Let none lament his poverty;
for the universal Kingdom is revealed.
Let none bewail his transgressions;
for the light of forgiveness has risen from the tomb.
Let none fear death;
for death of the Saviour has set us free.

He has destroyed death by undergoing death.
He has despoiled hell by descending into hell.
He vexed it even as it tasted of His flesh.
Isaiah foretold this when he cried:
Hell was filled with bitterness when it met Thee face to face below;
filled with bitterness, for it was brought to nothing;
filled with bitterness, for it was mocked;
filled with bitterness, for it was overthrown;
filled with bitterness, for it was put in chains.
Hell received a body, and encountered God. It received earth, and confronted heaven.
O death, where is your sting?
O hell, where is your victory?

Christ is risen! And you, o death, are annihilated!
Christ is risen! And the evil ones are cast down!
Christ is risen! And the angels rejoice!
Christ is risen! And life is liberated!
Christ is risen! And the tomb is emptied of its dead;
for Christ having risen from the dead,
is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.

To Him be Glory and Power, now and forever, and from all ages to all ages.

Σάββατο, Απριλίου 10

So what's Great and Holy Saturday about? The Western Church knows all about Good Friday and who doesn't know what Easter is about? But yet, to most of the West, Great Saturday is a bit of a limbo period. Not quite Easter yet, but not quite out of Good Friday.

This is the day on which our salvation was effected. This is the day when the "gates of brass" of Hell were broken. This is the day Christ lay in the tomb - the day God himself rested, that's why it's Great and Holy Saturday. As the hymns for Great Saturday tell us:

He who shut in the depths is beheld dead, wrapped in fine linen and spices. The immortal One is laid in a tomb as a mortal man. The women have come to anoint Him with myrrh, weeping bitterly and crying: "This is the most blessed sabbath on which Christ has fallen asleep to rise on the third day.

Life itself is Great Saturday, to put it one way - we've gone through Great Friday, and we're waiting for the General Resurrection - for eternity, because Sunday and Pascha (Easter) is the eternal Eight Day.

I could use a good rest myself. I've been on my feet all week chanting for the local Chalcedonian Byzantine Orthodox (I know that's a curious way of describing them) parish - some 5 hours on Palm Sunday, then 2 hours on Great Monday and Great Tuesday, 4 hours on Great Wed and Great Thursday, then 5 on Great Friday.

It's been an exhausting week - not only does this parish lack a chanter, they don't have the music for Holy Week. While I have much of it, there are certain essential pieces I don't have, so I've ended up emailing chanters and clergy of various traditions and they've faxed and emailed me Galician, Russian and Greek music, which I've had to set English words to - great fun. I usually sing the stuff in English and also in the original language, whee.

I'm nowhere near being a trained chanter, but I have the benefit of having been soaked to the bone in Orthodox services, so I know how the services work, as well as music from various traditions (from being a dilettante and hanging around real chanters from various traditions). The result is that while I'm not drilled in any one tradition, I know enough music to bluff my way as a singer (tho not necessarily chanter) through any services that aren't in a single language or tradition.

The stuff that's in regular tones I can handle easily, but then there's the "special melody" stuff... and the ones I've had to learn from scratch for this week are (for those of you who are liturgical enthusiasts):

Behold the Bridegroom Cometh/Se Zhenyk Gryadet Polyunoshchi/ - for the first few services of Holy Week. First in English, according to the simple Russian Obikhod melody, then in Slavonic, according to the slightly more meandering (and thus more interesting) Galician melody.

Of Thy Mystical Supper/Vecheri Tvoyeya - the hymn for Great Thursday. The English version I find best sung to the simple Russian Obikhod Tone 6 melody. Just for effect, at Communion time I threw in the Slavonic version, using the melody from the 1904 Lviv Irmologion.

Noble Joseph/Blagoobrazny Iosif - for the Good Friday services, repeated ad infinitum during the veneration of the Epitaphios (grave cloth of Christ). The melody I used was the most complicated of the melody variants - the Russian one. The music was faxed to me the morning of the service, and I ended up fitting the English words to it, singing those as well as the Slavonic.

Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silent/Da Molchit Fsyakaya Plot - replacing the Cherubic Hymn on Great Saturday for the Vesperal Liturgy of St Basil. The easiest thing to do for English is to use the words and melody (Picardy) found in any traditional western hymnal. During communion I decided to use the Slavonic version, to Galician chant from the 1904 Lviv Irmologion.

In The Flesh Thou Didst Fall Asleep/Plotiyu Usnuv - for the Paschal Liturgy. I'm singing this tonight in English to the 1904 Lviv Irmologion melody - the other singers can hold an ison (drone) for this, I'm singing this solo because it's too difficult for anyone not musically trained to pick it up quickly.

After this morning's Vespers and Liturgy, I met Howard for lunch and we watched Passion together. 'twas his 18th birthday, and he chose to spend the afternoon with me, how sweet.

Comments on Passion? Beautifully made, visually stunning. Gibson has some truly breathtakingly inspired moments. On the other hand, certain inconsistencies with the Gospel accounts, as well as intentional historical inaccuracies marred the film for me. I won't bother posting the review now, but perhaps later in the week when I've caught my breath. Nevertheless, well done, Gibson. Amusingly enough, I find a priest I've known for many years is actually Gibson's chaplain - yes, in Gibson's little chapel in California, so I've asked him to send Gibson my little nitpicks.

I wish I were in Dublin with Fr Serge for Pascha this year- Andrij's there.

Great and Holy Saturday

Epitaphios in gold-thread embroidery, early 14th C., Thessaloniki, Museum of Byzantine Civilization

Today hell cries out groaning: I should not have accepted the Man born of Mary. He came and destroyed my power. He shattered the gates of brass. As God, He raised the souls that I had held captive. Glory to Thy cross and resurrection, O Lord.

Today, hell cries out groaning: My dominion has been shattered. I received a dead man as one of the dead, but against Him I could not prevail. From eternity I had ruled the dead, but behold, He raised all. Because of Him do I perish. Glory to Thy cross and resurrection, O Lord.

Today hell cries out groaning: My power has been trampled upon. The Shepherd is crucified and Adam is raised. I have been deprived of those whom I ruled. Those whom I swallowed in my strength I have given up. He Who was crucified has emptied the tombs. The power of death has been vanquished. Glory to Thy cross and resurrection, O Lord.

Παρασκευή, Απριλίου 9

I find myself stuck in Singapore this Holy Week, so I'm helping out the Oecumenical Patriarchate's parish here, Holy Resurrection Orthodox Church - they have no chanters or anyone familiar enough with the complicated Holy Week services- I thus function as chief chanter. The services are long and complex, and I'm singing in English, Romanian, Greek and Slavonic - trying to fit music to words in various languages is not easy. I shall be very glad when Pascha (Easter comes).

Great and Holy Friday

The Crucifixion of Christ

Today He Who hung the earth upon the waters is hung on the tree.
The King of the angels is decked with a crown of thorns.
He Who wraps the heavens in clouds is wrapped in the purple of mockery.
He Who freed Adam in the Jordan is slapped on the face.
The Bridegroom of the Church is affixed to the cross with nails.
The Son of the Virgin is piecrced by a spear.
We worship Thy passion, of Christ, We worship Thy passion, O Christ.
Show us also Thy glorious resurrection.

Antiphon XV, after the Third Gospel Reading, Holy Friday Matins

Troparion in tone 2 -
The Noble Joseph,
When he had taken down Your most pure Body from the tree,
Wrapped it in fine linen,
And anointed it with spices,
And placed it in a new tomb.

Πέμπτη, Απριλίου 8

The Bridegroom of the Church

Great Week

The Hymn chanted in Bridegroom Matins as the Priest carries this icon through the Church (Tone 8)
Behold the Bridegroom comes in the midst of the night; and blessed is the servant, whom He shall find vigilant; and unworthy is he, whom he shall find heedless. Beware, therefore, O my soul, that you will not be overcome by sleep, lest you be given up to death, and be shut out from the Kingdom. Wherefore, rouse yourself, crying out: "Holy, Holy, Holy art Thou, our God, through the prayers of the Mother of God, save us!"

Here we see Christ as the Roman guard adorned Him in purple, with the crown of thorns and a reed for a staff. His hands are bound loosely, signifying that He bore the humiliation willingly. All of Great Lent and Great Week look forward to Pascha (Easter). At Pascha, we celebrate the Bridegroom coming at midnight, that is Christ's coming again in victory. Let us prepare ourselves lest we be caught like the foolish virgins who were not able to join the Wedding Feast.

Great and Holy Thursday

"When Thy glorious disciples were enlightened at the washing of their feet before the supper, then the impious Judas was darkened by the disease of avarice, and to the lawless judges he betrayed Thee, the Righteous Judge. Behold, O lover of money, this man because of avarice hanged himself. Flee from the insatiable desire which dared such things against the Master! O Lord who deals righteously with all, glory to Thee!" Troparion of Holy Thursday.

Of Thy mystical supper, 0 Son of God, accept me today a communicant, for I will not speak of Thy mystery to thine enemies, neither like Judas will I give Thee a kiss, but like the thief will I confess Thee: Remember me, O Lord, in Thy kingdom.

Σάββατο, Απριλίου 3

Orthodox Priest & Son In Coma After Nato Attack

Bravo Nato. Have a look at this news report. Can any still doubt that Nato is helping the forces of Mahomet against Christendom?

From the OCA website:

Petitions for insertion in
the Litany of Fervent Supplication
Crisis in Kosovo
March 25, 2004

Again we pray for the suffering peoples of Kosovo, that the Lord our God would hear their cry and deliver them from their great distress: hear us, O Almighty Lord, and have mercy!

Again we pray that the Lord would turn aside all evil intentions and malice directed against His faithful people, preserving and sustaining them in the midst of enmity and cruel violence: hear us, O gracious Lord, and have mercy!

Again we pray that the Lord will stop the hand of those raised up against His Holy Church, softening the hearts of our enemies: hear us, O most merciful Lord, and have mercy!

Again we pray that the Lord would confirm His persecuted people in Christian witness, granting them the grace to bear their sufferings in His Holy Name and to His glory: hear us, O most holy Lord, and have mercy!