27 March 2018

Savoring Sakura on the Potomac

The 6821 Quintet concert at the National Gallery of Art, March 26, 2018
The 6821 Quintet performing at the National Gallery of Art, March 26 2018


For the last few years, the National Cherry Blossom Festival has been privileged to feature the 6821 Quintet, an ad hoc group of musicians, which was formed in 2015 and is comprised of members from Japan, New York and Philadelphia with through the support of the Ryunji Ueno Foundation. The 6821 Quintet derives its name from the distance between Washington, DC and Toyko, Japan.   This year’s ensemble is comprised of violinist Mayu Kishima, violinist Eric Silberger, violinist Meng Wang, cellist Clancy Newman and pianist Jason Solounias.


Sakura on the Potomac, which premiered at the 2018 National Cherry Blossom Festival was composed by Japanese composer and producer Kunihiko Murai.   Sakura is the Japanese word for Cherry Blossom Tree, which includes the twelve species of Cherry Blossom Trees that encircle the  Tidal Basin in the Nation's Capital since Japan’s generous gift to America in 1912.



The 6821 Quintet also played Songs of Spring and Portraits of Sakura– our memories of bloom, which were respectively the prior two years commissions for the National Cherry Blossom Festival.

During the final performance at the National Gallery of Art, two of the three composers of National Cherry Blossom Festival commissions were present.  Michael Djupstrom had performed with the 6821 Quintet for a couple of years, but also composed Songs of Spring for the 2016 Cherry Blossom Festival.  Mr. Djupstrom commended the 6821 Quintet for their remarkable cohesiveness in their artistry, especially since they only perform together one week a year.


Kunihiko Murai had written over 300 songs and 30 film scores, so composing a tone poem like Sakura on the Potomac was a new adventure.  Mr. Murai revealed that he associated lyrics in his head for Sakura on the Potomac but did not reveal them.  The composer, however, noted that he was inspired by the T.S. Eliot quotation “April is the cruelest month, breeding lilacs out of the dead land”.  This seems apt as the blossoming of the Sakura on the Potomac signals Spring in the District of Calamity (sic), a.k.a Washington, DC.


Meng Wang, Kunihiko Murai, Clancy Newman, Eric Silberger, Jason Solounias, Mayu Kishima
The 6821 Quintet pose with Sakura on the Potomac composer Kunihiko Murai 

18 March 2018

Shamrockfest 2018 Memories



Despite the mostly mild winter in the DMV, St. Patrick's Day 2018 had weather which mimicked the Emerald Isle as it was chilly, overcast with a touch of rain.  Still hearty partiers shook their fists at the sky and danced a jig at Shamrockfest, which was held on the grounds of RFK stadium.




Shamrockfest featured three stages.  The Electric Isle featured DJs spinning tunes under a big tent. DJ Clinton Matthews kicked things off at what became quite the popular venue. 


DJ Clinton Matthews spinning tunes at Shamrockfest
Watching DJ Clinton Matthews while wearing the green at Shamrockfest


The Shamrock Gold and Shamrock Green stages rotated with bands playing high energy rock with a touch of the Irish.  One had to marvel at the guitar playing prowess demonstrated by Reel Big Fish.  


Reel Big Fish performing at Shamrockfest
Reel Big Fish performing at Shamrockfest


And it was craic to rock to Carbon Leaf.


Carbon Leaf playing at Shamrockfest
Carbon Leaf playing at Shamrockfest 


Of course there was plenty of festival food and libations to enjoy, with plenty of Guinness and Jamison. 


A Guinness toast on St. Patrick's day at Shamrockfest


Shamrockfest is said to be one of the largest outdoor St. Patrick Day festivals around.  People really try to dress to impress to show their Irish.   Some chose to sport some udderly crazy costumes (sic) to have a good time. 
Having an udderly good time at Shamrockfest 2018
Having an udderly good time at Shamrockfest 2018



Shamrockfest is produced by Red Frog Events.  In mid June, they will hold Firefly Music Festival in Dover, Delaware, which is a four day music extravaganza which will feature scores of bands, headlined by Eminem, the Arctic Monkeys and The Killers. 



Hope to see you at the Woodlands.

12 February 2018

On What Propaganda is Condemned and Countenanced at Pyeongchang Winter Olympics

The 23rd Winter Olympiad in Pyeongchang, South Korea had a reoccurring theme of Peace, as was evident from the Opening Ceremonies.  It was well known that athletes from North and South Korea would march as a unified team into Pyeongchang Olympic Stadium.  





One of the draws for casual sports fans to watch the Olympics is the Opening Ceremonies. The pageantry of the Opening Ceremonies, as expressed through artistic expression as well as thematic choice sets the mood for the Olympic Games.  Afterwards, there is the Parade of Nations, when all of the competitors gather in a gesture of unity and good will.  During this long march of nations, television viewers often have to endure commentary from NBC announcers to add color and context to the visuals.  Often this dialogue is pap or seems scripted.

However, when the Japanese team made their debut at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, NBC Asia correspondent Joshua Cooper Ramos offered an incredible generalization.  Ramos claimed that Koreans looked with admiration to Japan as an important example of cultural, economic and technological transformation.




Several hours after uttering this insensitive and insulting insinuation, NBC Sports issued a hasty apology.


NBC offeres shame faced apology for Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony insulting commentary


NBC paid $967 million for broadcast rights for the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, and it would seem that they did not want to insult their hosts.

With that in mind, one wonders why NBC keeps pushing North Korean propaganda while covering the Winter Olympics.  No doubt that a unified Korean team marching during the Parade of Nations was a big story.  It epitomizes the international aspiration of brotherhood and exemplifies the Pyeongchang Game's theme of Peace.  



[Front Center] Vice President Mike Pence [Back Center] Kim Yo Jung, sister of DPRK dictator Kim Jun Un
It is understandable that an Olympic broadcaster would want to capitalize on controversy by showing how close Vice President Mike Pence was seated to North Korean Kim Jong Un's sister Kim Yo Jong during the Opening Ceremonies.




The coverage of the North Korea cheerleaders during the womens' hockey game between Korea and Switzerland does raise eyebrows.  It was a cute featurette to have a piece about the some of the 200 woman squad of  the North Korean "Army of Beauty" cheerleaders leading chants during the 0-8 rout of Korea.  Some say that the synchronized chants of the North Korea Beauty Cheerleaders stole the show. But what what telling is what they chanted and how they performed.  These NPDK cheerleaders chanted "Unity" waving "neutral" flags of a unified Korea. After each goal by their opponent, they chanted: "Cheer up!".  Perhaps that exemplifies a cultural trait.  


What has been shown but little explored are instances in which the female Beauty Squad use big heads of a Korean man.  Hmm.  Who could this be?  


It is dubious that it was an everyman Korean.  The Big Head looks rather like an idealized image of North Korea dictator Kim Jong Un. What does it say about the consequences of  "Unity".  Is that something that all Koreans also believe?


UPDATE 02/12/2018  BBC News quotes Korean media that the DPRK Army of Beauties cheerleaders were holding up big heads of Kim Il-sung, the grandfather of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un (the first of the Hermit Kingdom's Juche post World War II dictators).  Yet the South Korean Unification Ministry insists that the cheerleaders were just holding up cut outs of "a good looking man". 

09 February 2018

Being At Peace With Different Measures of Glory





Athletes from Unified North & South Korean Team at Winter Olympics
The 23rd Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea are themed to be the games of peace.  This was accentuated by athletes of the Republic of Korea (South Korea) marching with their Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea (North Korea) counterparts under a unified flag.


Olympic Athletes from Russia for 2018 Winter Olympics 
Due the doping ban on Russian Federation, the 169 clean Russian athletes marched as neutrals in red and grey uniforms as neutrals.  Any gold medal winning "Olympic Athletes of Russia"  will be feted with the raising of the Olympic flag and anthem. 

While the  2,952 athletes participating in the Pyeongchang games are the best winter sport athletes in the world, but only a few make it up to the medal stand to receive their glory. For most, marching in the Winter Olympics opening ceremony is the highlight of their careers. 
This makes Eric Liddell's admonition about glory all the more poignant.
This makes Eric Liddell's admonition about glory all the more poignant. 


Eric Liddell on Glory

What is particularly noteworthy of Eric Liddell is not that he was the the Flying Scotsman was the first  British Gold Medal winner in track from 1924, or that he was the basis of the film Chariots of Fire (1981), or his steadfast Sabbath keeping, but for dying as a missionary in a Japanese internment camp in China in 1945. 

We should all be inspired to run a good race in life and doing our best.



02 February 2018

Connecting Candlemas to Groundhog Day

An old English rhyme celebrating Candlemas, the Presentation at the Temple of Jesus, the light of the world


February 2nd marks 40 days after Christmas.  On the liturgical calendar we celebrate the Presentation of Our Lord at the Temple, the traditional close of the Christmas season. It is also known as Candlemas, as the faithful traditionally processed into the church sanctuary with Candles. This ceremony re-presenting how the Mary and Joseph brought Jesus, the Light of the World, into the Temple.



On the secular calendar, we celebrate Groundhog Day, awaiting the predictions of Punxsutawney Phil from western Pennsylvania on whether there will be six more weeks of winter (not Black History Month as some wags have wondered).  This makes sense as it roughly is midwinter (especially prior to the Gregorian calendar adjustment of 1752).  Unbeknowst to most, Groudhog Day has a direct connection to Candlemas.

In eastern Europe, which focused on light and candles, there was a folk association between how much light was in the sky on Candlemas and God's providence in the months to come. Thus they believed that if there was a lot of light in the sky on February 2nd, there would be 40 more days of winter.  Germanic peoples used an animal as their light detector, typically a hedgehog or a badger.  When they immigrated to America, they adapted their instrument and used the plentiful groundhog. 

25 January 2018

On the Politicization of Church Life


Cardinal Raymond Burke on the Politization of Church Life under Pope Francis

Cardinal Raymond Burke gave an extended interview with Christopher Altieri for "Thinking With the Church" about matters of controversy among Catholics.  Burke's interview was recorded as a podcast and the transcript was published in the Catholic World Reporter. The Patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta expressed anguish that some consider his request to the Holy See for clarifications (dubia) about the  apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia (2016) are motivated to create a schism in the Catholic church.  

Cardinal Burke is concerned that the interpretation and application of Amoris Laetitia contradict long standing traditional teachings on the Sacrament of Marriage.  While Cardinal Burke scrupulously avoided ideological labels in his Altieri interview, he noted the Bishop of Malta's innovation regarding irregular second marriages, which clearly are progressive in nature.


One of the characteristics of Pope Francis' reign is the injection of secular progressive politics into papal pronouncements.  In Laudato Si' (2015), Pope Francis implored world leaders to approve the Paris Climate Change Accords.  Pope Francis' visit to the Mexican-US  border was a pointed ploy to champion open borders, counter to the platform of then  candidate now President Donald Trump. Even Pope Francis' annual announcement for World  Communication Day  railed against "fake news"





Pope Francis' advocated a journalism of peace, which the Holy Father defined as:

A journalism created by people for people, one that is at the service of all, especially those – and they are the majority in our world – who have no voice,” A journalism less concentrated on breaking news than on exploring the underlying causes of conflict, in order to promote deeper understanding and contribute to their resolution by setting in place virtuous process. A journalism committed to pointing out alternatives to the escalation of shouting matches and verbal violence."

A true faith ought to be challenged and should not be confined to the sanctuary of the Church. There is the danger , however, that the Catholic faithful are being shepherded to take sides on secular political issues which are outside of the aura of competency of the Petrine office) and sometimes seem counter to traditional church teachings).  Those who object to this progressive polarization and stand fast to the Magisterium have increasingly been scorned, ostracized or dismissed as getting with today's program, even if the innovation is not magisterial.


For example, Chicago's Archbishop Blase Cardinal Cupich interpreted Amoris Laetitia as being a development of doctrine which the Petrine office has loosened requirements when pastorally addressing irregular marriages. But the apostolic exhortation did no such thing.  

Paragraph 3 of Amoris Laetitia indicates that the document was not doctrinal and was intended to start the conversation.  The controversy over Amoris Laetitia involves footnote 351 regarding Paragraph 305 which suggests that there might be some pastoral means of curing irregular second marriages.  But Pope Francis has refused to answer dubia's regarding the implementation. And progressive powers in the Church are attempting to steamroll their will, in a jesuitical manner, speaking with great force but not having the facts on their side.

As we grapple with the politicization of Church life, we ought to heed 16th Century Lutheran theologian Peter Meiderlin's wisdom that we ought to have "[U]nity on necessary things, liberty on dubious things and charity in all things." 


18 January 2018

Will It Take Courage to Win the Arizona Senate Primary in 2018?

Rep. Martha Mcsally announces her bid for US Senate emphasizing combat courage



Congresswoman Martha McSally (R-AZ 2nd) announces her candidacy for the U.S. Senate to replace Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ). 

The Republican field is already populated by Dr. Kelli Ward, a candidate endorsed by Steve Bannon, and Joe Arpaio, the 85 year old long-time ex Maricopa County sheriff renowned for his tough treatment of criminal aliens who was recently pardoned by President Trump.


[L] Dr. Kelli Ward [R] Ex Sheriff Joe Arpaio, Arizona GOP candidates for US Senate

Although Democrats need to defend 25 of 33 Senate seats in the 2018 election cycle, including in 10 states in which President Trump carried in 2016, Republicans are worried about losing their slender control of the Senate.  Senator Jeff Flake's (R-AZ) decision not to stand for re-election puts another "safe" GOP seat up for grabs.

In some respects, the GOP primary might be made up of voters with trollish Trump-eteer tendencies (infamously redubbed by Hillary Clinton as the "Basket of Deplorables") who think that strong immigration stances are the way to win via Arpaio's reputation and rhetoric.  Kelli Ward had positioned herself to be a Bannon disruptor of the GOP Establishment,  but now is backing away from "Sloppy Steve" after his fall from grace in the "Fire and Fury" fiasco.  

Establishment Republicans hoping to avoid a repeat defeat akin to the Alabama special electionseem to favor McSally to keep the seat as she has legislative experience and is not an agitating lightning rod. However, when an ex fighter pilot urged her colleagues to "grow a pair of ovaries and get the job done", such a candidate might not be exactly safe for the go along to get along in the so called Senate country club in the District of Calamity (sic).




[This piece originally was published at DistrictofCalamity.com ]

17 January 2018

Some Thoughts Should Be Kept Close to the ScotteVest (sic)

Scott Jordan is an entrepreneur who developed a line of clothing which allows for fashionably carrying gadgets within the garments.  Jordan even went on ABC's Shark Tank in 2012 in a bid to raise funds for his technology enabled clothing (but Jordan  rejected the the offers). 




ScotteVest snowballed into a $10 million company by 2015.

ScotteVest's pricey e-commerce product line  were often seen advertised on Fox News, presumably to appeal to geeky traveling businessmen who tired of fumbling gadgets when they went through TSA lines.



ScotteVest CEO Scott Jordan may have unraveled this fashion market niche by oversharing on social media.  Scott Jordan had developed a reputation of being an outspoken CEO on social media, pumping products and pimping his progressive politics. However Jordan recently shared on Facebook a smarmy post which revealed marketing strategy while denigrating his customers.




While one could certainly see a small time celebutard who is full of himself to contemptuously sneer at the little people on whom you've made your millions while taking  a chair lift in Ketchum ski resort.  But it is almost unfathomable that he would share this "burn" on social media. It really makes one wonder, to use Jordan's parlance, who is the "f**king idiot?

After Jordan's Facebook faux-pas festered for a few days, the ScotteVest CEO posted an incomplete apology on Twitter, which linked to the original Facebook post. Unfortunately, the Facebook post had been deleted.  





No doubt that this story certainly won't make ScotteVest's media buzz page. But the internet never forgets. The question is whether ScotteVest's customers will be willing to forget that they are considered to be gullible f**king idiots" by the guy profiting from their sales.

Social Media is a wonderful way for companies to reach customers. One need not be "Always Be Closing" when sharing on social media and genuineness is a way to cement bonds with fickle customers of an expensive, niche products.  But denigrating the demographic which lined one's pockets is an odd way to reach out to customers.  A smart CEO would have kept his crass critiques of customers closer to his ScotteVest. 

Enjoy your  après-ski  canapés and hope that your cup is not forever full of sour grapes. 

Knob Hill Ski Lodge, Ketchum, Idaho 





18 November 2017

Greeting the Beatification of a Simple Priest--Blessed Solanus Casey

Blessed Solanus Casey on Life

"Barney" Solanus Casey is being beatified in a ceremony  in Detroit, Michigan on November 18, 2017.  Casey will be the second  American born male to be beatified. Cardinal Angelo Amato, the head of the Congregation for the Cause of Saints will celebrate the Beatification Mass. Among the 70,000 in attendance at Ford Field will be four Cardinals and 218 Capuchin Friars.

The beatification of Fr. Solanus Casey is remarkable for a  Wisconsin farm boy born in 1870.  When Casey was called to the priesthood, he academically struggled at the seminary since instruction was in German.  Thus, Casey was just ordained just a sacredos simplex and served in the early and mid-Twentieth Century as a lowly porter for the Capuchins friaries in Yonkers, Harlem, Manhattan and for 21 years in Detroit.  


Despite not being able to give homilies or hear confessions, Fr. Casey had a remarkable impact.  His reputation grew as a compassionate holy man who founded a soup kitchen in Detroit in 1929.  Casey became well known as a priest  who could relate with people. Fr. Casey was also known as an ordinary Detroiter who enjoyed Coney Island hot dogs and the Detroit Tigers.  

Yet Fr. Casey drew people to him from his holy reputation and as a miracle worker who had a knack at helping get prayers answered.   In his vocation as porter, Fr. Casey lent a listening ear and a caring heart to those who came to him. Fr. Casey would also offer visitors an opportunity to join a Capuchin Mass Memorial Society, in which he scrupulously wrote down their petitions and updated the log with how prayers were answered.  

In 1954, Fr. Casey suffered a severe case of eczema over his entire body and was transfered back to Detroit to receive better medical case.  Alas, complications set in and he died of untreatable psoriasis.  It was estimated that 20,000 people showed up to mourn Fr. Casey's passing from this world. But when Fr. Casey's remains were exhumed in 1987, his corpse was incorrupted, save for a little decomposition around the elbows.  

After Fr. Casey's death, lay friends of the Capuchins sought permission to create a Father Solanus Guild.  As early as 1966, there were 24 reports of cures attributable to Fr. Solanus. Fr. Casey was named Venerable in 1995. 

Normally, the Catholic beatification process involves the recognition of a miracle associated with a Servant of God.   The Miracle which was recognized by the responsible Vatican  dicastry is from 2012 when a Panamanian woman who visited Fr. Casey's tomb who suffered from an incurable skin disease but was healed by praying for Solanus Casey's intercession.