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)

Monday, October 6, 2008

There is No Prayer There.

During A RECENT TRIP up to the San Francisco Bay area, we stopped in at the newly DEDICATED Cathedral of Christ the Light, about which I have even stronger feelings than most other ugly churches, as my Master thesis at the University of Notre Dame School of Architecture was a counter proposal to this very Cathedral.

Originally, under the design of the previous architect Santiago Calatrava, the two walls of the Cathedral were to hands in prayer. So, if parishioners held their head high in prayer, then it would have rained down their noses.

Thank Goodness Calatrava was fired. But who did they hire next? Craig Hartman of the modernist powerhouse firm S.O.M. What were his principles that made him worthy of taking over the second most expensive Cathedral project in America (and $80 million over budget!)? According to Hartman:
"The tradition of the Catholic Church has historically been to apply the most advanced architectural thinking to create works of architecture that illuminate, inspire and ennoble the human spirit."
Right. Because the eschatological goal of the Mass (you know, that thing that happens in this kind of architecture) is for illuminating, inspiring, and ennobling the human spirit. Straight from the mouth of an agnostic comes another historical, philosophical, metaphysical, and theological blunder which erroneously promotes the anthropocentrism of rationalism. Phew. That's much easier to read to yourself than aloud.

I think one of the most important aspects of this issue, and the one that strikes me most now that the Cathedral is finished, is it's presence in the city of Oakland, and the metaphor this becomes for the state of ecclesiastical architecture everywhere. Let us start with calling to mind Christ's words on the mount (especially because we're talking about the Cathedral of Christ the Light):
You are the light of the world.
A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden.
Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket;
it is set on a lampstand,
where it gives light to all in the house.
Just so, your light must shine before others,
that they may see your good deeds
and glorify your heavenly Father.
–Matthew 5:14-16
Of her hometown Oakland, Gertrude Stein famously noted that "There is no there there." But of modern society we can say 'there is no prayer there'. Men and women bustle about downtown skyscrapers, office workers drone on in the vast oceans of concrete found in office parks across the country. Rarely, if ever, do they hear the ringing of the bells marking the liturgy of the hours. Rare is the visual reminder that they are called to higher things as they drive past a church, and when we build churches like the new Cathedral of Christ the Light, we are accentuating the problem. Our churches are not inviting people into them. Most of the time, people don't even know what that building is, and what it's for. 'Is it a dentist's office?' 'Is it a museum?' 'Is it a hospital?' 'Oh, THAT'S A CHURCH?!?!?! I never would have guessed!'

But you may ask 'why is it so important to spend a lot of money on a church to make it look beautiful?' There are lots of reasons, but here are some thoughts that are often overlooked.

One of the arguments that modernist architects often make is that the form, and not ornament, should speak to the viewer. OK. But do YOU really see a VESICA PISCIS in that building? No. You'd have to see a plan drawing of it. And because it's devoid of ornament, there's nothing else to go by. So, a slightly well read modernist would give you the sophistical argument that 'The church buildings of early Christianity were often bare. They were houses. They did not adorn their exterior because they knew it was not what you looked like on the outside, but rather the inside i.e. the state of your soul that counts.

OK, but this is misleading. The very early Church did not adorn its buildings because the people in those domi ecclesiae were being persecuted, and didn't want to call attention to themselves. They did use symbols that were ambiguous, so that they could be argued out of. Later, when Christianity was accepted and promoted, and all of Europe was Catholic, there was no need to call attention to one's self. There was little need to be a 'light' to a world that was already lit.

But with the advent of the protestant reformation, there became an increased need to represent to an increasingly unfaithful population the realities of what exists on the inside of churches-churches that reformers were no longer seeing the inside of. Thus, the genius of Bernini's collonade at St. Peter's, a welcoming gesture to all.

But now, with increased secularism, it is even all the more important for our churches to call attention to themselves to those that pass by. If nothing else, maybe those passers-by will wonder why so much effort was spent in building a beautiful House of God. Maybe they'll stop in, curiously, and find more beauty. And then our city on a hill, our lamp on a lampstand will bring prayer there.

I wish I could have seen it at night--we were there at 10 in the morning--because apparently it lights up like a lightbulb. The reality is no one, absolutely no one, is anywhere near that part of Oakland at night. It won't be able to succeed in inviting people in because there's no one there to see the invitation. And in the daytime, when people are there, it fades away into the same blah urban landscape with all the other glass and aluminum buildings (some also done by the same architectural office). So it's ugly or at best unnoticeable on the exterior. So what? The interior is inspiring, right?

Well, what I can know with absolute certitude is that if my wife the saint forgets to genuflect, it's probably because it doesn't feel like a Church at all, and certainly doesn't exude 'inspiration'. In fact, during the 2 hours or so we were exploring the Cathedral, I didn't see a single person in prayer. Not so surprising. I don't feel compelled to pray at office buildings, either.

Certainly, there is no Prayer there.

More on this to come.

Cathedral of Christ the Blight (written prior to visiting 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)

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

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Bar Stool Economics

Suppose that every day, ten men go out for beer and the bill for all ten comes to $100. If they paid their bill the way we pay our taxes, it would go something like this:

The first four men (the poorest) would pay nothing.

The fifth would pay $1.

The sixth would pay $3.

The seventh would pay $7.

The eighth would pay $12.

The ninth would pay $18.

The tenth man (the richest) would pay $59.

So, that's what they decided to do.

The ten men drank in the bar every day and seemed quite happy with the arrangement, until one day, the owner threw them a curve. "Since you are all such good customers," he said, "I'm going to reduce the cost of your daily beer by $20."Drinks for the ten now cost just $80.

The group still wanted to pay their bill the way we pay our taxes so the first four men were unaffected. They would still drink for free. But what about the other six men - the paying customers? How could they divide the $20 windfall so that everyone would get his 'fair share?' They realized that $20 divided by six is $3.33. But if they subtracted that from everybody's share, then the fifth man and the sixth man would each end up being paid to drink his beer. So, the bar owner suggested that it would be fair to reduce each man's bill by roughly the same amount, and he proceeded to work out the amounts each should pay.

And so:

The fifth man, like the first four, now paid nothing (100% savings).

The sixth now paid $2 instead of $3 (33%savings).

The seventh now pay $5 instead of $7 (28%savings).

The eighth now paid $9 instead of $12 (25% savings).

The ninth now paid $14 instead of $18 (22% savings).

The tenth now paid $49 instead of $59 (16% savings).

Each of the six was better off than before. And the f irst f our continued to drink for free. But once outside the restaurant, the men began to compare their savings.

"I only got a dollar out of the $20,"declared the sixth man. He pointed to the tenth man," but he got $10!"

"Yeah, that's right," exclaimed the fifth man. "I only saved a dollar, too. It's unfair that he got ten times more than I!"

"That's true!!" shouted the seventh man. "Why should he get $10 back when I got only two? The wealthy get all the breaks!"

"Wait a minute," yelled the first four men in unison. "We didn't get anything at all. The system exploits the poor!"

The nine men surrounded the tenth and beat him up.

The next night the tenth man didn't show up for drinks, so the nine sat down and had beers without him. But when it came time to pay the bill, they discovered something important. They didn't have nearly enough money between all of them to even come close to paying the bill!

And that, boys and girls, journalists and college professors, is how our tax system works. The people who pay the highest taxes get the most benefit from a tax reduction. Tax them too much, attack them for being wealthy, and they just may not show up anymore. In fact, they might start drinking overseas where the atmosphere is somewhat friendlier.

Hat tip to:
David R. Kamerschen, Ph.D.
Professor of Economics
University of Georgia

Saturday, October 4, 2008

No More Reason to Diet?

Ok, well I had to drink a couple glasses of water to get it just right, but right now I weigh:

1.61803398874989484820 x 101 STONES.

So this is probably the only time in my life I could say with all honesty that I've got DIVINE PROPORTIONS. (And it's all thanks to taking extra portions)

Next up: Lean and Ex-creme Ration

Friday, October 3, 2008

Ahead of the Cuervo

They say tequila is strong enough to solve all your problems, but I want to see the proof...

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Theory vs. Practice

In Mathematicks he was greater
Than Tycho Brahe or Erra Pater:
For he, by geometrick scale,
Could take the size of pots of ale;
Resolve, by sines and tangents, straight,
If bread or butter wanted weight;
And wisely tell what hour o' th' day
The clock does strike by algebrae.

-From Samuel Butler's Hudibras.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008