Wednesday, December 31, 2008


Over the next 5 posts (with maybe some others between?) I'm going to share portraits commissioned by a friend as Christmas gifts for his wife: charcoal portraits of each of their 5 boys. Each is 9"x12". To see them at larger scale, click on the image. I'm posting them here for three reasons. Firstly, because I'm hoping some of you like them so much that you would like the same of your kids, your nieces and nephews, grandkids, parents, crazy uncle Sal, friends, etc. and therefore would like to commission one or more of your own; secondly because I would really like constructive feedback so that I can get better. Please feel free to give your honest opinion in the comments section about which ones you like/dislike and why or what aspects you think I should work on; and thirdly because, well, no matter how badly I draw, I still I draw better than I write, so now I'll shut up.

Links to the other boys in this series of portraits here: DAVID, MARK, SEAN, DOMINIC

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

These Waves Are Just Swell

At first I thought I was getting a raw deal because nothing was being cooked, but then was obsessed with naming the tune. I'm not sure, but it rings a bell...maybe I'm confused by the 'Happy Christmas'.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

My Spanish Dancer

I love this time of year. Shopping at stores you don't really like to be at when nobody's there, let alone packed to the gills; decorating trees with lights that don't work and not finding that out until after they're up, because you're too impatient to get it over with that you don't check 'em beforehand; overusing the 'if you don't settle down and mind your manners or Saint Nicholas is going to leave stones in your stocking', all to no avail; and driving back and forth to Ventura 83 times a week for Nutcracker rehearsals.

At least the last part is over. Saturday and Sunday marked Emma's Nutcracker performance, and while I am really, REALLY glad the 3pm Sunday and 5pm Saturday and 6pm weekday rehearsals and practices are over, I can say it was all worth it just to snap this one fantastic, albeit now highly photoshopped, picture of my growing-up-way-too-fast little girl.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Flight into Egypt

Here is installment number 2 of 'Art I made for Maria'. In this sketch, Maria was the (unwitting) model for a version of the 'Flight into Egypt'. Well, I used her face and head, which is an age old tradition anyway. I apologize for the poor quality of the image, but I had to take a picture of it since I don't have a scanner big enough to import it in one pass.

Ordinarily, I'm not very fond of over-explaining my drawings and paintings, because they ought to stand alone, but I've promised a couple friends to describe my process of going about doing a piece, so here we go:

Generally, I'm more of a fan of an active fleeing when it comes to versions of the Flight into Egypt, in contrast to the more familiar 'Rest on the Flight into Egypt' such as that by GERARD DAVID (which I nevertheless have a version of hanging in my living room, because it's so symbolically rich and quite beautiful).

Nevertheless, I prefer the active versions of the flight because they portray the urgency with which the Holy Family had to act- both urgency and motion being a sign of the human realm, rather than the leisurely calm found in the 'rest' versions-lack of motion itself being a symbol of the divine. (Middle term: I prefer to think of the Holy Family in terms of their very regular, human life. Just a personal preference.)

However, in this version, I tried to impart the idea of both Human and Divine characteristics using these aformentioned action symbols of Mary and the Christ-child. Clearly Mary is on the move, her robes and hair being caught in the draft of her kinetic rush from left to right (read left=sinister, right=virtue, so that she moves away from sin: sin being an opponent that will forever try to ensnare her but will never catch this immaculate one) -you can almost sense that Herod's men are upon her as she hurries away.

Yet, her face is serene, full of the confident certainty that can only come with the knowledge that God would care for his Son, who is Himself so calm so as to suck his thumb in peace; for no ill will come of the situation. Moreover, His grace is full within her, and will keep her safe from the opponent sin which chases after her.

There is a baroque tension here between those two simultaneous actions: resting and moving. And as I am wont to say in the practice of architecture: if it's not Baroque, fix it.

My version is based very loosely on, and intended as an homage to, John Singleton Copley's work "THE DEATH OF MAJOR PEIRSON". The woman on the bottom right of the painting, as you can doubtless tell, was the figural model for my sketch in composition and massing, and interestingly enough, it was Copley's own wife and children who were the models for his own work.

I can't leave without drawing attention to the proportional tickmarks...left there just to prove to those few of you who doubt it, that my wife has absolutely perfect proportions.

Friday, December 19, 2008

I Love My Wife

Today is our 10th anniversary. And her 30-something birthday. So you might guess that with Birthday, Anniversary and Christmas all within a week, there's a lot of gift pressure. This is the year of art (Read: I'm a cheapskate and yet need to come up with cool gifts to reflect how much I love her), so here is installment number 1 of 'Art I made for Maria' (Click on it to get the full effect):

I love you, babe!

Oh, and it's not red because she prefers peach roses to red.

Oh, and Brian...the centroid of the rose cuts the composition of the whole into mean and extreme ratio.

The Law of Non-Catradiction

After yesterday's rant against the unfortunate disappearance of the argument ad absurdum from the arsenal of true logic and prerequisite denial of the law of non contradiction, I remembered Schrodinger's cat (Click HERE for a description).

Please remember that Schrodinger intended for his poor little cat's impending doom to be a shocking if not mechanically quantified example of the crazy things that happen when physics leaps from reality to imagination. That is, when physics stops dealing with the practically visible world such as planets and oranges and monkeys, and starts dealing with the invisible and theoretically imagined world of quarks, higgs bosons and dark matter.

In order to illustrate the problem with Einstein's 'matter both is and is not in all possible states at the same time' claim, Shrodinger did what Charles DeKoninck--and any other natural philosopher worth his weight in negative matter would have done-- move from the more known to the less known. What it means for quantum particles to be in all states at the same time is not very knowable, mainly because it's so impractically visible. But, when the same argument is transferred to the more known, i.e. the kind of thing that we humans can relate to on the natural level such as when a cat is both alive and dead at the same time, it becomes immediately apparent that the line of reasoning that got us there is, well, faulty.

The sad thing is that is that many people now use the Shrodinger's cat example in quite the opposite way: rather than saying "Oh, poo. My conclusion is obviously false, therefore my argument must be faulty somewhere along the line, quite possibly at the beginning with poor assumed principles. I shall start over with better principles and more rigorous syllogisms", they actually say: "Huh, would you look at that. The conclusion might seem false but I just can't admit it, therefore it must be true. Therefore your system of logic that says it's false must instead be faulty. Let me devise a new system of logic that allows for the violation of the law of non-contradiction so that I do not need to re-evaluate my world view at greater cost to my belief system that I happen to call science".

Schrodinger is and is not rolling over in his grave.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Dark Sophistry

I love reading about modern physics. It gives so much fodder to rip into. HERE'S a prime example of how far off the deep end some physicists will go in trying to justify their assumption that the modern phlogiston, dark matter, exists:
"Even nothing...weighs something"
he continues:
"and because in our universe we've got a lot of nothing, it has a major effect on our evolution and causes space itself to accelerate".
Really? How could someone say this with a straight face? In two lines we hear of nothing as the cause of something, nothing having being, nothing as a substance, and nothing having accidental qualities. What does NOTHING REALLY MEAN? Clearly, this is another example of 'Scientists' getting so enraptured with their theories that blatant violations of the law of non-contradiction no longer catch their attention.

Apparently, the reductio ad absurdum is no longer a viable recourse as a counter argument, and that's quite sad, because there is no longer a last resort to which we have recourse in logic--with the possible exception of yo' mama jokes.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Flow Charts

More wisdom from XKCD:

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


Lawrence Livermore Laboratories has discovered the heaviest element yet known to science.

The new element, Governmentium (Gv), has one neutron, 25 assistant neutrons, 88 deputy neutrons, and 198 assistant deputy neutrons, giving it an atomic mass of 312.

These 312 particles are held together by forces called morons, which are surrounded by vast quantities of lepton-like particles called peons.

Since Governmentium has no electrons, it is inert; however, it can be detected, because it impedes every reaction with which it comes into contact. A tiny amount of Governmentium can cause a reaction - one that would normally take less than a second - to in fact take from 4 weeks to 4 years to complete.

Governmentium has a normal half-life of 2- 6 years. It does not decay, but instead undergoes a reorganization in which a portion of the assistant neutrons and deputy neutrons exchange places.

In fact, Governmentium' s mass will actually increase over time, since each reorganization will cause more morons to become neutrons, forming isodopes. This, according to some, actually proves the existence of PHLOGISTON. Others say this theory still carries no weight even after 4000 years of experiential data.

This characteristic of moron promotion leads some scientists to believe that Governmentium is formed whenever morons reach a critical concentration. This hypothetical quantity is referred to as critical morass.

When catalysed with money, Governmentium becomes Administratium, an element that radiates just as much energy as Governmentium since it has half as many peons but twice as many morons.

Sorry to disappoint you, Tim-- I did not write this. But, I did edit it and added a few of my own remarks. Can you find them?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Classic Blunder

OK, first, think this:
Ha ha! You fool! You fell victim to one of the classic blunders! The most famous is never get involved in a land war in Asia, but only slightly less well-known is this: never go in against a German when language is on the line! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Ha ha ha...
Then, read THIS

I think the only not funny thing is that stupid kids might just go back to getting tasmanian devil tattoos out of fear of getting something other than intended written on their neck. And I was so happy when the looney toons tattoo fad ended.

H/T Meg & Fr. Barry

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Physics of Santa Claus

As the father of a curious 7 year old, as well as a 9 year old still in denial, I've been having a hard time overcoming these plain facts when confronted with the question of whether Santa really exists:

  1. No known species of reindeer can fly. BUT there are an estimated 300,000 species of living organisms yet to be classified, and while most of these are insects and germs, this does not COMPLETELY rule out flying reindeer which only Santa has ever seen.
  2. There are 2 billion children (persons under 18) in the world. BUT since Santa doesn't (appear) to directly handle the Muslim, Hindu, Jewish and Buddhist children, that reduces the workload to 15% of the total : 378 million according to Population Reference Bureau. At an average (census)rate of 3.5 children per household, that's 91.8 million homes. One presumes there's at least one good child in each.
  3. Santa has 31 hours of Christmas to work with, thanks to the different time zones and the rotation of the earth, assuming he travels east to west(which seems logical). This works out to 822.6 visits per second. This is to say that for each Christian household with good children, Santa has 1/1000th of a second to park, hop out of the sleigh, jump down the chimney, fill the stockings, distribute the remaining presents under the tree, eat whatever snacks have been left, get back up the chimney, get back into the sleigh and move on to the next house. Assuming that each of these 91.8 million stops are evenly distributed around the earth (which, of course, we know to be false but for the purposes of our calculations we will accept), we are now talking about .78 miles per household, a total trip of 75-1/2 million miles, not counting stops to do what most of us must do at least once every 31 hours, plus feeding and etc. This means that Santa's sleigh is moving at 650 miles per second, 3,000 times the speed of sound. For purposes of comparison, the fastest man-made vehicle on earth, the Ulysses space probe, moves at a poky 27.4 miles per second : a conventional reindeer can run, tops, 15 miles per hour.
  4. The payload on the sleigh adds another interesting element. Assuming that each child gets nothing more than a medium-sized lego set (2 pounds), the sleigh is carrying 321,300 tons, not counting Santa, who is invariably described as overweight. On land, conventional reindeer can pull no more than 300 pounds. Even granting that 'flying reindeer' (see point #1) could pull TEN TIMES the normal anoint, we cannot do the job with eight, or even nine. We need 214,200 reindeer. This increases the payload - not even counting the weight of the sleigh : to 353,430 tons. Again, for comparison : this is four times the weight of the Queen Elizabeth.
  5. 353,000 tons traveling at 650 miles per second creates enormous air resistance : this will heat the reindeer up in the same fashion as spacecrafts re-entering the earth's atmosphere. The lead pair of reindeer will absorb 14.3 QUINTILLION joules of energy. Per second. Each. In short, they will burst into flame almost instantaneously, exposing the reindeer behind them, and create deafening sonic booms in their wake. The entire reindeer team will be vaporized within 4.26 thousandths of a second. Santa, meanwhile, will be subjected to centrifugal forces 17,500.06 times greater than gravity. A 250-pound Santa (which seems ludicrously slim) would be pinned to the back of his sleigh by 4,315,015 pounds of force.
Of course, Saint Nicholas could pull it off. But Santa? Apparently not.
Time to reinforce the symbolic nature of Ol' Saint Nick-the bishop, not the Coca-Cola Salesman.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Thursday, December 4, 2008

St. Barbara's Tower of Dour

Today is the feast day of St. Barbara, Patroness of Architects. And she's also the patron of the city where I an architect. So, as you might guess, I have a devotion to the beautiful young martyr.

While she very likely didn't exist, being rather a figment of pious fiction, her story is completely believable and is, in any event, worth following as an example of sacrifice and devotion to the Truth.

Barbara was born in the late 3rd century in Asia Minor near Nicomedia. She was the daughter of a wealthy Roman named Dioscorus. By all accounts, she was incredibly beautiful and very intelligent, and her over-protective father kept her shut up in a tower in order to preserve her from being drawn to one beneath her (his perceived) dignity. She was offered release from the tower on the condition that she marry the man her father recommended, but she refused.

Before going on a long journey, her father commanded that Barbara be instructed in Philosophy and the Liberal Arts. Her instructors Origen and Valentinian-- who were, unbeknownst to Dioscorus, both Christian-- helped her see the truth of monotheism and the triune God. Barbara secretly converted, and with much zeal. During Dioscorus's absence Barbara had workmen increase the number of windows in her tower from two to three, a symbol used as a way to contemplate and worship the Holy Trinity. It is for this reason that she is the patroness of architects. When her father returned and noticed the change in the tower, he questioned her motives. Upon her acknowledgment that she had become a Christian, he first tried to beat it out of her for fear that her embrace of Christianity would reflect on his household, and that he would in turn lose his status with the prefect. The tact of corporal punishment having not succeeded, Dioscorus cowardly dragged her before the prefect of the province, Martinianus, who had her even more cruelly tortured and finally condemned her to death by beheading. Dioscorus himself carried out the death-sentence, in the hopes that this would prove to Martinianus that he did not embrace the faith his daughter did. While returning home, he was struck by lightning, or by other accounts, consumed by fire in a fit of spontaneous combustion.

Barbara is almost ubiquitously represented in art holding a tower with three windows, symbolizing her love for the Trinity. Sometimes there is a cannon in the background representing her patronage of artillery men (by extension of the tower, which is often used for military purposes), and there is often stormy skies in the background, with sunlight piercing through. She always holds a palm branch to symbolize her martyrdom. Barbara is one of the 14 HOLY HELPERS.

On December 3, 1602-- the eve of St. Barbara's feast day--Sebastian Vizcaino was sailing north from Baja California when his ships were caught in a violent storm. Praying to St. Barbara for safety (Because her father was killed by lightning, she became the patroness of safety from storms, and then sailors. See her many, many other patronages HERE), Vizcaino promised that if his ships survived the storm he would found a city in her honor. Finding a small natural harbor, he did survive the storm, and then 'founded' the city of Santa Barbara (which already had several thousand natives living there).

Above is a sketch painting I did of a tile mural found in the Four Seasons Biltmore in Santa Barbara. It represents an early map of the city, in 1798, just after the founding of the Mission. Click on it to see a larger version.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

They're Not Really Polar Opposites

Apparently, zookeepers in Japan have a difficult time RECOGNIZING THE GENDER of their polar bears. After all, they are rather furry creatures. It wasn't until 4 months after the two were brought together to mate that zookeepers became suspicious that the scheduled mating would not lead to anything fruitful:
"[O]ne day we realized that the two bears urinate in the same way, and we thought, is that how males do it? And once we started to look at things that way, we weren't quite so sure."
Wow. And these are the professionals? Apparently zoology 101 isn't quite so difficult to pass after all. But what peaks my curiosity the most is whether the manual inspection or the DNA tests came first. Surely it's not an easy task to manually inspect a polar bear for anything.

They are currently seeking an annulment for the bears citing the realities of a poorly thought out arranged marriage. Until then, they are living a Josephite marriage.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Hindsight is 20/40

I just ran across THIS article from way back in 2000. Prophetic. It's unfortunate that most everyone wasn't paying attention then. But that's what this post is about...making sure we still learn the causes, not effects. It's a long article, but you should read it. Lot's of anti-ACORN and anti NACA stuff in there. That should make Fr. Barry 'happy'.

But the nice thing is that while the author clearly lays out the blame due to the Carter and Clinton administrations, as well as by ACORN and its activists, and especially Congress and the Community Reinvestment Act, he is also very clear and insightful about human nature. Rather than simply bitching about the government, he's willing to actually say that individual citizens should be responsible for their poor decisions and bad economic habits:
A no-down-payment policy reflects a belief that poor families should qualify for home ownership because they are poor, in contrast to the reality that some poor families are prepared to make the sacrifices necessary to own property, and some are not. Keeping their distance from those unable to save money is a crucial means by which upwardly mobile, self-sacrificing people establish and maintain the value of the homes they buy. If we empower those with bad habits, or those who have made bad decisions, to follow those with good habits to better neighborhoods—thanks to CRA's new emphasis on lending to low-income borrowers no matter where they buy their homes—those neighborhoods will not remain better for long.
The reality of predatory lending practices seems to scream out at you, though, when you hear Bruce Marks talk about foreclosure rates due to low down payment loaning:
If we had a foreclosure rate of 1 percent, that would just prove we were skimming," he says. Accordingly, in mid-1999, 8.2 percent of the mortgages NACA had arranged with the Fleet Bank were delinquent, compared with the national average of 1.9 percent. "Considering our clientele," Marks asserts, "nine out of ten would have to be considered a success."
10% foreclosure rate amongst risky subprime borrowers a success? Stupid. (and 'ouch') ((and 'oh, yeah. We're already there))

Simply put, the CRA is only effective in making things worse. Banks do NOT need regulations and involuntary compulsion to make loans that would be profitable. They'd do that anyways, because it's profitable. But the CRA does require that those banks also aggressively loan to those whose loan will be potentially (and now we see actually) very unprofitable. Banks shouldn't have to do that.

Bush called for a change to the Community Reinvestment Act TWENTY SEVEN times. But still, some serious blame is also due to the Republican Congress that could have fixed this when they had a chance. I just don't understand why they didn't.

I need more hindsight. I found a little bit from Stan Liebowitz HERE. I'm still looking for more. Please help.

Monday, November 17, 2008

8 1/2 Heads High

In my LAST POST, I showed that the male figure is generally 8 heads high. While the general rule of thumb for figure drawing is that the whole body is 8 heads high, male or female, I would take issue with this. Today we look at the proportions of women...and note the female figure is 8 1/2 to 9 heads high. (This one drawn at 8 1/2 to 1)

Of course, all people fall within a range of proportions. And these variances of proportion can carry different connotations, meanings...

Saturday, November 15, 2008

8 Heads High

By Ray Gunner's request, and since I've not been writing regularly, but have been drawing instead, I'm going to post some of the sketches I've been working on. Lately, it's been proportional studies of the human figure, where I'm trying to learn the (almost always) simple whole number ratios that govern the relationship of parts of the body. In this case, the male figure is shown to be 8 heads tall (taking the figure's own head height as the modulus/unit)

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Mouth of a Generation

I just can't find the desire to write lately. There's either too little that's interesting to catch my eye, or way too many important news items to choose from. Either way, I'm bored with ranting, and so I've just been drawing more. Sorry.

But I just couldn't pass up the egotistical remarks by rapper Kanye West, at the tail end of AN INTERVIEW where he claimed to be the 'Michael Jordan of music'. Heh.
West, 31, said life has been difficult since his mother's death. Donda West died last November after having plastic surgery... "I'm just going through balancing that. And I always used to have that support system, you know. My mom would be there; no matter what, she was there before everything," he said. "We were together for like 30 years.
Like 30 years? No way! That's, like, your whole life!

But then again, he just might be the voice of this generation. And maybe that's why I'm so tired of the news that I can't even muster the energy to write.

O! Wait! That's not why. THIS is why. I can't decide if it's really supposed to be Generation Zero. Why is there a new 'generation' every 5 years? Please.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Within the Framework of Boundlessness

I'm seeing a lot of art nowadays in museums and for sale that is frameless. Well, it's not exactly frameless, it's GALLERY WRAPPED.

A gallery wrap is usually chosen by young people and it is often use for modernist paintings rather than classic style painting. Even when a 'classical' theme or style is utilized, a gallery wrap will give a contemporary feel. There are 2 major benefits for using a gallery wrap, the first is the price which is much cheaper than a classical frame. The second is the weight which is much lighter in compare to any other frame style. The downside of a gallery wrap is that it can be used only for oil paintings and for acrylic paintings. These are the two major mediums that are painted on canvases that remain stretched on wooden bars (the underframe). Watercolor washes, Charcoal & Pencil drawings, and Pastel paintings are usually done on different kinds of papers which don't lend themselves to this kind of wrap. Additionally, these papers need glass, which is difficult to impossible to pull off when there's no outer frame.

All this being said, I am not a believer that all design decisions are economically based. While it's true that it has become very common to print photographs on canvas and then gallery wrap them because it makes the print editing process easier and cheaper, and many undiscerning beginners paint this way because they fail to ask themselves why they're doing it, there is nevertheless an ideology at work here and I'm going to take a stab at describing it.

Modernist artists don't like boundaries. They don't like being told that their art should be confined within a certain framework, because they see the metaphorical distinction of a cosmological view which determines reality within a 'framework ' of known or at least understandable principles.

Simply put, modernist artists don't want to give the impression that they are saying "look at this particular scene", which is what happens when a piece of art is conventionally framed. What they want to say is 'The subject or mode of representation of art should have no boundaries, so my piece of art should not have boundaries. The sides and back of the painting are just as important as the front, even if you can't see them'.

So the next time you see a gallery wrap, know that it's tipping its hat to modernist cosmology.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

A Rhetorical Question

Of course, we're all asking 'Why?' and 'How?'.

Because of perception. Perception is very important.

Perception is why actors often go into politics-and do well- for they understand the power of perception. It doesn't matter how weak or strong the economy is. What matters is consumer confidence. It doesn't matter if America is safe or not. What matters is whether America feels safe and strong enough to kick ass.

It's why little guys win fistfights against big guys, and why bumbling fools are capable of running countries-because they project the image of greatness.

Aristotle said that all men seek the good. I say all men seek the perceived good.

Where Obama really lacks refined speaking skills--in the impromptu Q & A-- he has done a brilliant job of masking. He has (and here I mean HIS MINIONS have) developed this persona of a scholar...a good writer, a good speaker, a good thinker, a good leader. You and I know this is not true, but just listen to NPR faun over him for 30 secs and you'll see that this is the image that is being thrown out there for the unexamined mind to settle upon as an unarguable fact.

So his stuttering comes across to you and me as a bumbling fool who needs his teleprompter, but to everyone else as a disheveled intellectual whose words are not fast enough for his thoughts.

If right reason governed people's actions and thoughts, countries would only be run by guys like Alan Keyes. But the reality is, guys like Alan Keyes will never get elected. They don't pay enough mind to 'passion'. They pay too much attention to 'reason'. Yes, humans are essentially rational animals, and it would be aweful nice for people to seek the 'truth'. But we are disordered by the punishment for original sin. We are ruled by our passions. This is especially dangerous when we fill our minds with entertainment rather than philosophy. Besides, people seek the perceived truth. And if it's palpable, they rest there and seek no more.

An uneducated electorate who spends its time watching America's Got Talent and Desperate Housewives will choose to be ruled by the politicians who most conform with what those shows project as 'intelligent leaders'. An educated electorate who spends its time reading Alexis de Tocqueville and Cicero will choose to be ruled by the men who most conform with what those thinkers project as 'intelligent leaders'.

Right now, 90% of America chooses to fill their imaginations with the musings of the former. It's easier. Philosophizing is hard. Daydreaming is easy.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Cicero Was Right

It's all about friends.

Generally, I have a hard time keeping them. But a few patient souls have stood by me no matter how depressed and moody I get, and lift me up with their hope. My wife is amazing that way, whose first concern this morning was getting me out of the depressed funk she knew I'd be in after last night. She sent me THIS from the Priests for Life. I shudder to think where I'd be without her.

Another true Ciceronian friend is Father Barry, whom I have known for a decade but have only gotten to know recently, a fact that is a testament to the good of Instant Messaging, as it allows friends to remain so even when living 1000s of miles away, a situation Cicero advised against not having had the technology to chat.

Today, Fr. Barry once again PUT IT ALL IN PERSPECTIVE, and for that I thank him again. As he says, look to today's reading for an eerie feeling of appropriateness:
My beloved, obedient as you have always been,
not only when I am present but all the more now when I am absent,
work out your salvation with fear and trembling.
For God is the one who, for his good purpose,
works in you both to desire and to work.
Do everything without grumbling or questioning,
that you may be blameless and innocent,
children of God without blemish
in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation,
among whom you shine like lights in the world,
as you hold on to the word of life,
so that my boast for the day of Christ may be
that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.
But, even if I am poured out as a libation
upon the sacrificial service of your faith,
I rejoice and share my joy with all of you.
In the same way you also should rejoice and share your joy with me.

Time To Peel Off the W Bumper Sticker

h/t Fr. Barry

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

It's Prom Night, and Somebody's Gettin' Some

I am very depressed today. Having chosen a career in an 'artsy' field of architecture was a known issue-- it is full of liberals--I knew I'd be surrounded. Having moved to California was a family choice, not a political one, and while I have grown to love my little town in this horrible state, I really can't stand my fellow (Coastal) Californians. But I knew it was coming. Apparently, I am a glutton for punishment.

Regardless of how things turn out today in the election, I will continue to be depressed tomorrow. I will be happy if Prop 8 passes, as well as Prop 4. (As well as the similar props in other states). But only for a time. I will still have to live with changed fellow countrymen. Change is not coming if Barack wins. Change has already come. Barack is only the manifestation of what has become a more liberal society. Even just a couple years ago, the vote on marriage being between only a man and a woman won easily. Today, not so much. Change has been in the air. And it's choking us. We have turned our backs on God.

I envy my friends who work amongst fellow conservatives. I have none. I can't even get a good AM station on the way to work, and am forced to listen to either the hum and whine of static that corresponds to my engine interspersed with blips of speech from angry conservatives, or NPR on FM. Blech.

Today the liberals around me are like wanton, lascivious high school boys the morning of prom night...they are giddy with the titillating prospect of what they think is coming for them after the requisite dinner and dancing has been dispensed with. So, they're bouncing around, full of excitement and energy at the presumption of political intercourse with...anyone. The person doesn't really matter. What matters is that they think they're gettin' some tonight. They're willng to overlook that the one their about to mate is not who she says she is. Sadly, they don't really know what the ramifications are to what they're about to do. They think it'll be all pleasure, but don't see what they're doing to their souls or those around them, and that their moments of awkward self-gratification are more than likely going to be followed with years of suffering and sorrow.

I suppose it shouldn't be surprising that in a society that no longer values marriage and the lifelong commitment it entails, hopping into bed with any ideologue that happens to appear articulate is just another thing one does. If this ideologue turns out to be misleading, I can just divorce him. Nevermind the fact that ideological offspring have been spawned and that a whole other generation has been and will continue to be effected.

The electorate is incredibly uneducated. Rather than filling their minds with the truth and wisdom found in books, they fill their mind with the imaginings of T.V. and Film. We have become a people who is no longer working from the liberation of reason, but the confines of imagination--an imagination whose phantasmagoria is handfed to us by others.

We can no longer see that when we sleep with our prom date, we are sinning. We are preparing ourselves for a habit of sleeping with anyone and everyone. We are bringing ideas into the world through the invalid marriages of imagination and opinion- ideas that we cannot possibly care for or raise properly to full maturity.

Rome was truly great, but she still fell.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Monday, October 27, 2008


I would just like to mention that the world will be a much better place when tonight, THIS WEBSITE will no longer have reason to exist, and will be taken down.

We've been Chasing this for years, but to get that Victorino at home will be well Werth the wait.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Maybe We Should Go Back To Those Days

Very, very funny. And so true. Hmmm. Connected?

h/t The Natalist Diaries

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Tax or Treat

Friday, October 17, 2008

Roasting McCain and Unable

This is absolutely fantastic. I really wish this John McCain were in the debates. There'd be no chance for the Obamanation. Sorry it's in two parts. Couldn't find the whole bit in just one video.

And here's the second part:

But Obama, not so good, until he got to the self-effacing reference to his birth not happening at a manger but on Krypton, and all that followed.

Good Stuff.


Great. All the world needs right now is more social drinkers, social smokers and SOCIAL SOCIALISTS.

A government big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take from you everything you have.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

An Unlikely Proponent of Gay Marriage

I had begun a long post (surprise surprise) on how essential it is that Californians vote YES on PROP 8 this coming November. I had begun formulating two quite extensive arguments, one from a theological point of view and the other from secularist principles, starting with the nature of marriage and how homosexual activity is by its essence contrary to the activity of marriage. And since a species cannot belong to a genus to which its very essence is contrary, it would be impossible to truthfully and honestly claim that the species 'gay marriage' is a legitimate member of the genus 'valid marriage'.

I then began to describe another point- since Prop 8 is essentially a matter of linguistic semantics, it would behoove us to recognize that loose language is what got us into this problem in the first place, and the subtle effects of it are even found on the website and in the language of Prop 8 itself: this isn't about gay marriage, it's about homosexual marriage. Calling homosexual relationships 'gay' is like calling self-mutilation 'pleasurable'. It might be perceived to be so by some, but only if they are disordered and can no longer recognize what real pleasure is. I abhor the usurpation language by those who wish to undermine its meaning so as to denude it of any moral gravity that would otherwise condemn their unjustifiable actions.

And then a thought hit me, and it sounded so funny, and yet so impeccably truthful that I erased all I had written and began again with this:

I strive for being a husband in a gay marriage.

Yes, you read that right. In fact I would go so far as to say that gay marriage is only possible when one man and one woman, in the words of John Paul II, recognize that their respective masculinity and femininity complete each other in a physical, spiritual and sacramental manner, for it is only via this recognition, either implicit or explicit, that happiness is found in marriage.

Not only is gay marriage acceptable, but should be that hallmark of success in every marriage.

So when you go into the voting booth in 3 short weeks, remember that while it is essential to vote YES that “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.", it is equally as important to restore the idea of 'gay marriage' in the only way it should be used: to describe a happy marriage.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Freedom of Choice Pact

Forget taxes. Forget Wall Street. Forget the war in Iraq. All issues pale in comparison to the issue of life when it comes to which issue carries the most intrinsic weight, and which is the one we must answer first, given the gravity of the subject. IN THIS ARTICLE, Hadley Arkes makes a good case (in fact, a very similar argument to Blaise Pascal's in 'The Wager' for the primacy of Theology given the stakes involved...) for what is the real issue here and in every election till this is resolved:
Every issue in our politics involves the concern for the righting of wrongs, the relief of injuries or injustice. They may involve people threatened with the foreclosure of their homes, the loss of their jobs and their health insurance. All of these cases involve the suffering of hurts and harms. But they also depend on a judgment of the beings who count as “persons,” for if they don’t count, the harms they suffer go curiously unnoticed. In that famous scene in Huckleberry Finn, Huck had contrived a story and told Aunt Sally that his boat was delayed because "we blowed out a cylinder-head." Aunt Sally reacted: "Good gracious! anybody hurt?" "No'm. Killed a nigger." "Well, it's lucky; because sometimes people do get hurt."
Obama, as a man keen on the issue of race, should keep this quote on his wall instead of pictures of Ché Guevara the murderous, wretched mercenary of Communist puppet masters (Obama's new motto: 'Ché you can believe in'...). But he doesn't. He has signed the pact.

And because he doesn't see a fetus as a person either at conception or through birth, Obama can somehow manage to hold his head up and sign the pact with planned parenthood et al. to codify evil:

And he's serious. Because he not only thinks of a fetus as a non-person, but even born BABIES ARE A PUNISHMENT for what would otherwise be to him an acceptable promiscuity. And this is why we must end this vote-for-Ron-Paul-to-send-a-message-to-the-Republican-Party bullshit right here and now. Some otherwise very intelligent people are voting for Ron Paul this November. Let me put it very simply: voting for Ron Paul takes away votes from McCain. I'd love to see Ron Paul on the republican ticket as much as, or more than, the next guy, or even as a viable third party (which wouldn't happen) but the reality is that Ron Paul is doing for Obama what Ross Perot did for Bill Clinton. Now is not the time to make some ideological but impractical stand. Now is not the time to be playing with fire, no matter the policy Ron Paul stands for. Watch this to see what we will be living with for the next four years, and what we'll be missing if good people put naive but true ideological constructs in front of the realities and practicalities of political life:

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Taxognomy and Taxing Ignominy

Recently, I posted a bit by Prof. David R. Kamerschen called BAR-STOOL ECONOMICS. This synopsis of Prof Kamerschen is a basic description of Reaganomics and an essential component in the trickle-down theory of economics. Some questions have been raised as to the validity of this description, and so I thought I'd revisit this subject, especially in the light of Barack Obama's continued insistence that his tax cut to 95% of working Americans is what the country needs, and is a complete turning away from the Bush budgets, where only the rich get tax relief.

Among the middle class and/or uninformed, it is a generally held but wrong opinion that Republicans only give tax breaks to the top 1-2% (i.e. the Rich) and tax the poor (i.e. the rest of the country), while Democrats give tax breaks to the bottom 98%, and tax the rich. The reality is that the Bush tax cuts of 2003 were the most progressive tax cuts for the middle class in quite some time. (Don't get me wrong, I think that Bush is an idiot economist...his tax cuts are good policy, but only when combined with less spending. Unfortunately Bush is a quasi-Republican when it comes to taxation-where he continues to tax the rich and undertax the welfare addicted masses- and a Democrat when it comes to spending. This is the worst possible mix.)

Take a look at the Wall Street Journal's analysis of the Bush tax cuts back in 2003 HERE, and more importantly, HERE.

Overlooking for the moment the role this (unfortunately) plays in (undermining) trickle-down economics, one must be turning a blind eye to the facts if it's believed for a moment that Republicans don't help the little guy. Simply put, the tax on the middle class has been cut significantly, which, as a solid member of such class, I feel not only in rate deductions but also in credits. How is this possible? Because the rich, while getting a tax cut under Bush, will make up a greater portion of the total tax revenue. This is bifurcation of tax revenue at it's worst.
Families with incomes over $100,000 would end up paying a larger share of the total income tax. These families would pay 73% of all federal income taxes. Not to put too fine a point on this income redistribution, but taxpayers with incomes over $200,000 could expect on average to pay about $99,000 in taxes under Mr. Bush's plan.
But take a look at the Obama reality. Under the Obama plan, 95% of working Americans will get a tax 'relief'-but 10% of America will get screwed more than even he recognizes. Howso? Because when he cuts income taxes on the middle class, he'll raise it on the wealthy publicly and on everyone privately- he proposes increases to the social security tax, death tax, capital gains tax, payroll tax, etc. etc. But he's also going to increase spending. So he'll raise taxes even higher (one wonders why the $200,000 earners paying up to 73% in taxes haven't revolted yet. They will soon). This results in wealthy having less money to 'play' with.

'What's the big deal', you ask? 'Who cares if some rich jerk can't afford another yacht?

Simply put, the wealthy spend the greatest percentage of their money investing in American Markets. What they spend on goods is trivial compared to their investments. They do this because they are greedy and they want more money. The poor and middle class spend the greatest percentage of their money on goods (and usually goods which make them 'feel' wealthy like big screen T.V.s and new foreign cars). They do this because they are greedy and they want others to think they have more money. So while the wealthy are putting money back into American markets, the poor and middle class is busy giving their money to China, Thailand, Saudi Arabia, etc. Truly, if Barack Obama becomes president, he will ensure that every single person in America will have a home, two car garage, and 2.5 big screen TVs.

Thus the result of taxing the rich and giving it to the poor is that American companies won't have investors (because the rich can't invest, and they're also not selling goods because the poor are buying cheap foreign crap rather than American goods)

Thus, when Mr. Obama and the Democratic economic machine gets into office, plan on more American companies either going out of business or going overseas. And soon after that you'll lose your job.

And then you won't have to pay any taxes.

Monday, October 13, 2008

A Dreadful Evening

2 tickets to the NLCS in the left field bleachers, full of vocabulary challenged idiots sporting faux-Manny dreadlocks with a penchant for chanting "PHILLY SUCKS, PHILLY SUCKS" all freaking night, merely because the Dodgers got lucky with a 5 run first inning: $250

Replacing your shirt after being pelted with peanuts, condiment bags, ice cubes,mystery missiles, waterbottles, nachos, half-eaten dodger dogs and beer all night: $30

Being the only ones wearing Philly red in a sea of drunken and belligerent Dodger blue when the benches cleared in the third: Priceless.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

One Last Thought On Modernist Architecture

No matter how hard you push the envelope, it's still stationery.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Typological Errors Gone Awright

THIS is too funny:
Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama's last name is spelled "Osama" on hundreds of absentee ballots mailed out this week to voters in Rensselaer County, NY.
but it's not all bad news for the Democrats.
''This was a typo,'' said Republican Commissioner Larry Bugbee. ''We have three different staff members who proof these things and somehow the typo got by us.''
Republicans will have to face the fact that three of them together couldn't catch it. 'How many Rebublicans does it take to screw in a lightbulb?' will be a joke of the past. Although, the Dems got to proof it as well...

So, was it a purposeful ANTISTHECONIAN METAPLASM, Freudian slip, or honest mistake?

I don't care.

Missing the Middle (or Central) Term

In reference to my happiness over the location of the tabernacle in the Cathedral of Christ the Light, a misinformed reader commented that:
"...the 1967 document Eucharisticum Mysterium, section 53 advises the placement of the tabernacle in a separate chapel."
This is absolutely false. Actually, it's almost true, which is a special kind of falsity. This is indicative of the kind of misreading of texts that has lead many to misunderstand the wisdom and beauty of the spirit and letter of the Second Vatican Council, yet this kind of mishandling of the real intent is so widespread that people often take it for fact without second thought. So the question is, do you know where the tabernacle belongs in a church? Even the most orthodox often get confused in their answer. So if you're interested in my take on the Church's stance, read on.

The actual TEXT (including the context of the whole section on The Place for the Reservation of the Holy Eucharist):

52. The Tabernacle
Where reservation of the Blessed Sacrament is permitted according to the provisions of the law, it may be reserved permanently or regularly only on one altar or in one place in the church. Therefore, as a rule, each church should have only one tabernacle, and this tabernacle must be safe and

53. The Blessed Sacrament Chapel
The place in a church or oratory where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved in the tabernacle should be truly prominent. It ought to be suitable for private prayer so that the faithful may easily and fruitfully, by private devotion also, continue to honor our Lord in this sacrament. It is therefore recommended that, as far as possible, the tabernacle be placed in a chapel distinct from the middle o
r central part of the church, above all in those churches where marriages and funerals take place frequently and in places which are much visited for their artistic or historical treasures.

54. The Tabernacle in the Middle of the Altar or in Some Other Part of the Church
"The Blessed Sacrament should be reserved in a solid, inviolable tabernacle in the middle of the main altar or on a secondary altar, but in a truly prominent place. Alternatively, according to legitimate customs and in individual cases to be decided by the local Ordinary, it may be plac
ed in some other part of the church which is really worthy and properly equipped.

"Mass may be celebrated facing the people even though there is a tabernacle on the altar, provided this is small yet adequate."

55. A Tabernacle on an Altar where Mass is Celebrated with a Congregation
In the celebration of Mass the principal modes of worship by which Christ is present to His Church are gradually revealed. First of all, Christ is seen to be present among the f
aithful gathered in His name; then in his Word, as the Scriptures are read and explained; in the person of the minister; finally and in a unique way (modo singular) under the species of the Eucharist. Consequently, because of the sign, it is more in keeping with the nature of the celebration that the Eucharistic presence of Christ, which is the fruit of the consecration and should be seen as such, should not be on the altar from the very beginning of Mass through the reservation of the sacred species in the tabernacle.

56. The Tabernacle in the Construction of New Churches and the Adaptation of Existing Churches and Altars
The principles stated in nos. 53 and 55 ought to be kept in mind in the building of new churches.

The adaptation of existing churches and altars may take place only according to the principles laid down in no. 24 of this instruction.

57. The Means of Indicating the Presence of the Blessed Sacrament in the Tabernacle
Care should be taken that the presence of the Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle is indicated to the faithful by a tabernacle veil or some other suitable means prescribed by the competent authority.

According to the traditional practice, a lamp should burn continually near the tabernacle as a sign of the honor paid to the Lord.

The particular text which is in question is this: "It is therefore recommended that, as far as possible, the tabernacle be placed in a chapel distinct from the middle or central part of the church"

To spell it out, this does NOT mean that a separate Eucharistic Adoration Chapel is required. What is required is that it be truly prominent and given due respect within the framework of the hierarchical arrangement of the liturgical furnishings, is capable of keeping the Body of Our Lord safe, and yet does not become a distraction or hindrance to participation within the framework of the Liturgy of the Eucharist (by physically getting in the way, or by calling too much attention to itself out of proportion to the rest of the sacred furnishings esp. the altar).

Part of the confusion is determining what is actually meant by "distinct from the middle or central part of the church". Just in case paragraph 54 didn't already clarify things, I submit to you some diagrammatic doodles to illustrate what is meant by paragraphs 52-54 in spirit and letter (and by extension, what is not intended) Click on the images to enlarge them.

And just in case anyone has difficulties moving from the universal to the particular, here's the same idea using a traditional cruciform plan and the plan from the Cathedral of Christ the Light.

Placing the tabernacle in the middle or central part of the church creates a physical and visual obstacle to the altar, places disproportionate prominence upon it (makes it appear more important than the altar), and can create an unsafe situation should someone come along and want to do harm to His Body, not to mention that it gets in the way of processions especially those in weddings and funerals (Sorry, Grandma, but we can't get Grandpa's coffin to the altar because Jesus is blocking the way). And since these things are what Eucharisticum Mysterium is trying to prevent, this scheme should and must be avoided.

Placing the tabernacle outside of the church is satisfactory because it keeps the Body of Our Lord safe, and also allows for private and intimate adoration, and obviously doesn't get in the way. But because only one tabernacle is allowed, this scheme is lacking because the prominence of the place of reservation is lost or diminished at best. Often because of renovations, this means that reservation takes place a great distance from the altar, and this is unfortunate because the altar and tabernacle should be visually and spacially linked to reinforce the fact that they are metaphysically and theologically connected.

Placing the tabernacle along the perimeter of the church but axially centered is best because all of the requirements are met. In an axially or linear plan, this is best along the major axis, in a radial plan this is not as important, but the geometry of the plan should help dictate the best location.

So you see, misreading the text (either purposefully or accidentally) of the directives of Vatican Council II and other pertinent documents of the Apostolic See can be detrimental, because mistaken liturgical design consultants use that misinformation to (either purposefully or accidentally) move Our Lord out of his home and into the Guesthouse where no one remembers He's there, or if they do, they think He is visiting their home.

The Cathedral of Christ the Light actually does a fantastic job of dealing with this issue. By placing the tabernacle behind the altar and yet viewable from the adoration chapel behind the sanctuary, there is an intimate, private adoration chapel AND the tabernacle is prominently displayed, with the small caveats DISCUSSED YESTERDAY. (and this is in fact an increasingly popular solution, and similar to the one which I proposed for the cathedral):

I'm glad we had this opportunity to look at these doodles. It helps shed light on some of the various good (and perhaps even orthodox) qualities of the Cathedral.

And yet, if you turn the image 90 degrees, almost all of the alien qualities about the Cathedral come to light as well.


Cathedral of Christ the Blight (written prior to visiting the Cathedral)

There is No Prayer There (commentary on the exterior of the Cathedral)

Cathedral of Christ the Blight part II (replies to objections to my commentary)

Raiders of the Lost Art (commentary on the interior of the Cathedral and its art)

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Raiders of the Lost Art

It has been so nice to read and write about things other than the failing economy and the upcoming obamanation. Having the mistakes made at the new Oakland Cathedral to rant about has been a wonderful respite from the news of the day, if only for me. So here we are in the fourth installment of my critique of the Cathedral.

I think it abundantly clear that the exterior of the Cathedral of Christ the Light is inadequate as a visible sign of heavenly realities. But what of the interior? Certainly it is true that many churches can be quite ugly on the outside, yet indescribably beautiful on the inside, such as one of my favorites: San Vitale in Ravenna (See two images above. This church also happens to be one of the two most important churches in Christendom for the development of western iconography). Who knows? Perhaps $190 million buys you interior beauty in Oakland. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend Mass at the Cathedral, and any full critique of the interior would necessitate the critic to see the building used in the intended fashion as a sacramental in the service of the liturgy. At any rate, judging the building qua building and art qua art is fine enough for now.

The first question any Catholic pilgrim asks when venturing into a new church is "Where is the tabernacle, so that I might cross myself before Him." In more recent buildings this usually amounts to a frantic visual scanning of all four corners of the room for anything that looks like a red candle to signify His Presence, or more frequently a sign that indicates the hallway one must traverse to find the Eucharistic adoration closet. Here, the Tabernacle is front and center. Right behind the altar. Yes, it's a bit insignificant in size, especially in the presence of a 80 foot tall quasi-corpus, but I was happy to see it hierarchically disposed nonetheless.

If one's eye is not immediately taken by the 'Omega Point' (the 80 foot Christ image in the 'apse'), then it is taken by the first real proof of the existence of the mystically reported traditional symbol of Christ: The Vesica Piscis. Truly, for most people who are not used to visually examining the geometry of a building, looking skyward and seeing the almond shape is the first hint that this is in fact a symbol at all employed here dispite the hype, and yet is more reminiscent of the eye of Sauron than the Ichthys.

The scale is in fact intimate, and I must say that having been in the place I am reconsidering the appropriateness of scale that I assumed for my counterproposal. While my proposal seated 500 more, it would have been twice as big. Although to be clear, theater-based seating and planning is notoriously less volumetric than the more traditional cruciform or basilica plans. But that is a whole book unto itself.

The materials are, well, sterile at best. The lower register, amounting to about the first 12 feet of the outer walls, is Brutalist: raw concrete. This brutalism is reminiscent of the master of the genre, Le Corbusier, and you all know HOW I FEEL ABOUT HOW CORBU RUINED CATHOLIC ARCHITECTURE. There is no decoration at all with the exception of the occasional green glowing exit sign, and there is no indication that this is a valuable building housing valuable 'goods'. These things, of course, make one want to, well, exit. It is, in fact even less detailed than the chancery less than 200 feet away which holds only paper. The sterility, accentuated by the lack of liturgical presence at the time, was overbearing, and I even found myself, God forgive me for saying this, thinking that the other quasi brutalist monstrosity in California-- the L.A. Cathedral-- would be a welcome visit after this, if for no other reason than because the colors are much warmer in the L.A. Cathedral, and the feeling is therefore much more inviting and comfortable. But here, it is cold and barren, a feeling that is heightened by the arid grey of the dais and altar: upon which life itself is given to us, so it was disappointing that the design of the altar was so disconnected with the reality of the glory that happens on it. There is of course, abundant wood, but it must have taken great skill to ensure that the wood would do so little for the design. There is no detail. Seriously, it's a bunch of stacked 2 x 6 in el cheap-o Douglas fir. How did this church cost so much with bare concrete and Home Depot lumber? Oh yeah. The infrastructure of the underground parking. Great use of money.

There is, with the exception of the mediocre stations of the cross, no art at eye level (although my wife very rightly pointed out that it's nice to have the stations at the eye level of children because they are often missed by kids) There is a side chapel dedicated to the Holy Family with some fairly decent work, and traditional in mode, but it is nothing exceptional. Opposite the Holy Family Chapel is the Chapel of the suffering Christ, and I must say that the thought crossed my mind that Christ is suffering precisely because this artwork is hidden in a back corner and not in the nave. Most unfortunately, Our Lady of Guadalupe is stuck in the very back, behind the sanctuary in a proto lady chapel that doubles as an Eucharistic Adoration Chapel. A very undignified setting for the patroness of the Americas.

But, when it comes to art, there is that 800 lb gorilla (Oh, my Lord, I am so sorry for so flippantly referring to images of you in that way), which is called the 'Omega Point', a.k.a Christ PANTOKRATOR. Of all the things about this Cathedral that are to be discussed, this image really bothers me not because I am coming into this with an a priori decision that it is that bad, but because I cannot decide whether I love it or hate it. I am a huge fan of images of Christ Pantokrator in the apse, on axis. It really is the most fitting icon that can be placed in a sanctuary. The eschatological goal of the Mass is paramount, and is also something regularly forgotten or overlooked, which is why we rarely see Pantokrators in churches anymore. Referring to the West Façade at the Chartres Cathedral for the image is a stroke of genius, because that particular Pantokrator is among the least frightful in the genre of Christ-as-Judge, but the representation here is quite horrible. PIXEL ART is usually just a waste of creative intellect, and this is no exception. The angular projection of the apsidal wall distorts the image, and there is something quite eerie about it. From straight on it looks like a TV projection, and because there is no other art to be easily seen, I am tempted to christen this image as 'iconoplasma'. (interesting phrase, that...christening an image of Christ) But, after reflection, I must say that the good Bishop Vigneron was a champ for getting the artwork in that he did, and doing it with as much meaning as possible. Certainly he chose the Chartres Pantokrator because copying something from the past kept something despicable from being designed by lesser artists from today's artistic cesspool, so kudos for that.

Before I end this ridiculously long post, I must mention one last bit. My critiquing of architecture has only one steadfast principle: If it can be given a funny nickname, it sucks. There's the BATMAN BUILDING, FRED AND GINGER, or THE LIPSTICK BUILDING as some secular examples, while THE YELLOW ARMADILLO and THE MAYTAG CATHEDRAL represent the ecclesiastical typology (Hmmm. and both in California...). That being said, take a look at the Cathedral's Confessionals in the picture on the left. Wow. This 2 x 6 blocks of wood motif really began to bug me after a while. It's in the sanctuary, throughout the mausoleum, and here in the confessional. It was everywhere. Needless to say, it was when I was studying this confessional that I was overcome with the desire to play Jenga. I can just imagine the long lines at reconciliation hour when Fr. Whosit is in the winner's bracket for this year's Jenga championship.

And so I smugly sat in that confessional chair and jotted down the note to remind me to come back home to my Oh-So-Important-and-Witty-Blog and nickname this place the Cathedral of Christ the Blight, or maybe Our Lady of the Igloo or St. Laundrybasket's.

Ah, but alas, there was more to the story. Here we have a correctly placed tabernacle; one of the only contemporary uses of Christ Pantokrator in memory; a hierarchical arrangement of sacred furnishings; an organ for use in Sacred Music, even if right now it's not chant; and even some contemporary (not modern) paintings and sculpture that doesn't make you vomit--all things that I fight for in my own practice. And even if the design is horrible (really well done horrible, but horrible nonetheless), I must admit these are qualities I praise when present in other styles.

So perhaps, when he inherited $60 Million of previously fundraised capital and an ugly as sin design for a church 5 years ago from the more liberal Bishop Cummins, Bishop Vigneron actually pulled off something quite helpful in the bigger picture of ecclesiastical design and helped other bishops and pastors to feel like they, too can do these things right, no matter what their dumb liturgical design consultant says, and that while this particular church is not that good, good things are coming for Catholic architecture because of its lead.

Perhaps he kept reins on what would have been a much worse project.

Perhaps he just dedicated the 'Cathedral of Christ the Light at the End of the Tunnel'.

I sure hope so.


Cathedral of Christ the Blight (written prior to visiting the Cathedral)

There is No Prayer There (commentary on the exterior of the Cathedral)

Cathedral of Christ the Blight part II (replies to objections to my commentary)

Missing the Middle (or Central) Term (commentary on the placement of the Tabernacle in the Cathedral)

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Cathedral of Christ the Blight part II

Not surprisingly, there are some who take offense at those of us who are not taken in by the emperor's new clothes. ONE SUCH PERSON is, both in religion and in this case metaphor, a man of the cloth; so I will uncharacteristically refrain from my normal tone and acerbic retorts. Fr. Keyes' comments are:
Many bloggers who write from a distance have the audacity to judge a building based on pictures and news reports. Both Whispers and the American Papist are young catholics who seem to make gossip their hobby, and they are host to many comments calling the Cathedral hideous, and a monstrosity. Well, last Thursday I was a participant in one of the most beautiful liturgies I have ever been part of. It was an amazing event.

First of all, the building sings. The acoustics are wonderful andf the sound of singing in the place is worthy of any cathedral.

Secondly, the heart of any worship space is the people. No one who was there had a single word of complaint.

Yes, I am a bit more traditional. This might not have been what I would have built. But I believe this is a place for the ages, and future ages will judge it differently after it has had years of experience. Cathedrals are built over hundreds of years.

But for now, at the dawn of the 21st century, the Cathedral of Christ the light is the jewel of Oakland.


To the first- It is true that I was unable to be present at the dedication Mass with Fr. Keyes et al., but I have actually been at the Cathedral, having visited it last weekend, so my comments are not misinformed by distant optics and a lack of physical evidence. Moreover, and as I shamlessly plugged in my previous post, I spent upwards of 16 hours a day for 11 months on a counter-proposal to this very Cathedral for my Master's thesis. It is quite possible that I know that Cathedral and that site in Oakland better than anyone with the exception of the project team at Skidmore Owings and Merrill. Architecture is my career, and I am in active practice designing several Catholic churches across the country. I am not a gossip mongerer (in this regard), without authority. Those things said, I will also concede that I'm not always right, but please consider my own arguments for why that building is not as great as you wish to think.

As to your experience with the liturgy, I am happy you report such beauty. The liturgy is the heart of the active Church. But here, we are critiquing the building housing Our Lord, and giving place for that liturgy. Truly, members of Karol Wojtyla's 'środowisko' youth group have claimed their most inspiring liturgies came under the Polish mountain air when on kayak trips with their future pontiff, but that does not mean that the Polish mountainside is per se an acceptable church merely because beautiful liturgies were said there. The Rite of Dedication of a Church and Altar is an absolutely beautiful liturgy, and one which most people--even priests-- don't get to witness because of the infrequency of dedicating new churches. Perhaps some of the beauty you took in was influenced by the breathtaking grandeur of the Rite rather than the breathtaking grandeur of the site?

To the second- It just might sing. Not having had the chance to hear a choir in action, I cannot lay claim to the ineffectualness of the building as an arena for Sacred Music. In fact, I'd bet my bottom dollar it's acoustically is a relatively simple geometry with thousands of regular acoustic dampeners, and with that pricetag I'm sure at least $2-3 Million was spent on acoustic models and testing-the same as any opera hall. But this only satisfies its requisite acoustical qualities...and represents a personal experience only...i.e. what the music sounds like to the individual listener. This is a good quality to be certain in any church, modern or traditional, but the personal edification of the ears of a parishioner is not the raison d'être of a church.

To the third- I cannot speak to the personal opinion of those present at the dedication Mass. BUT, I'd bet on two things: First, even I, who am a most vocal opponent of modernist architecture, especially modernist ecclesiastical architecture, can recognize when to keep my mouth shut. In deference to the good Bishop Vigneron's trials and tribulations with this church, I would never have badmouthed the building on the day of its dedication, and I suppose those at the Cathedral for it's dedication would not do so either, if for no other reason than out of respect for the Bishop. Second, who gets invited to dedications? Donors and priests. Are the donors going to criticize the design they paid for? Of course not. Are the priests? Reread the previous sentence above.

To the fourth-Here is the view of the Cathedral from across Lake Merritt that I snapped last week. As you look at this and the following image, please keep this quote in mind from the Rite of Dedication of a Church and Altar:
"Because the church is a visible building, it stands as a special sign of the pilgrim Church on earth and reflects the Church dwelling in heaven."

And here is my counterproposal from the same vantage point:

Which of these is a 'visible sign'? Can you even locate a visible cross or any other sign at all that tells the viewer that the Cathedral as built is even a Church? How do each stand as a 'special sign of the pilgrim Church', or 'reflect the Church dwelling in heaven'? I shudder to think of downtown Oakland as a reflection of the heavenly Church.

Future ages will not see what is currently there, in part because it will only last around 60 years. Modernist architecture is not built to last longer because ideologically modernist architects think it morally abhorrent to impose their own zeitgeist on the future, in the same way they do not wish to impose past ages on the present, and so they habitually specify details that are untried and untested. So they fail, and the planned obsolescence of the building takes shape. And I'm sorry to say, but glass façades have a funny way with dealing with 'experience': the older they get, the worse they look. This building is only going downhill from here.

But if a church is built for the ages via a tradition that transcends time and place, then a particular building of this or that time and place can be appropriate beyond itself. Traditional buildings take on a patina with age that actually enhances their beauty. They only look better with age.

To the fifth- "The Cathedral of Christ the light is the jewel of Oakland." The jewel of Oakland? I'm so sad to say this, but you are absolutely right. So unfortunate.
"The very nature of a church demands that it be suited to sacred celebrations, dignified, evincing a noble beauty, not mere costly display, and it should stand as a sign and symbol of heavenly realities."
--Dedication of a Church and Altar II.1.iii
The real question here is whether the Cathedral satisfies these qualities, and is an appropriate resting place for the Body of Our Lord. From the outside it is not. And we can do better. We can build right. We can build traditional. We can honor Our Lord with a Domus Dei. We must only have the will to do it, and then we can build functional, durable, and beautiful churches.

Tomorrow we'll take a tour of the interior, and seek redeeming qualities.


Cathedral of Christ the Blight (written prior to visiting the Cathedral)

There is No Prayer There (commentary on the exterior of the Cathedral)

Raiders of the Lost Art (commentary on the interior of the Cathedral and its art)

Missing the Middle (or Central) Term (commentary on the placement of the Tabernacle in the Cathedral)