Monday, March 24, 2008

International Violence Against Women Act

As a follow up to yesterday's post, I would like to urge anyone who reads this to take a moment to support the passing of the International Violence Against Women Act. It is a senate bill that would help to promote the equality of women around the world.

Use the Amnesty USA website to send emails to your senators urging them to support it, if they're not already co-sponsors, and if they are co-sponsors, thanking them.

If you prefer a more personal approach, please do write your senators letters to the same effect. Either way, it is important that we spread the philosophy of human equality to all reaches of this planet, especially those horrific places where women are treated as less than human.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Guatemalan Women

There was a documentary on the Documentary Channel a few weeks ago called Killer's Paradise, and I strongly urge you to watch it. It is on again tomorrow night. It details the current situation in Guatemala regarding the killing of women. It is an atrocity of an unimaginable scale. The documentary is chilling.

3,000 women and girls have been killed in Guatemala since 2000. Nearly all of the murders go without an investigation, and for the ones that are investigated, the forensic and investigative methods employed are horrifically inept, and they often boil down to a pile of languishing paperwork. There have been 20 convictions from 2001 to 2006.

The police themselves have been implicated in several of the murders, rapes, and mutilations.

One story is told by a father whose daughter was kidnapped from in front of their house. The neighbors ran over to tell him what happened, and offered him their car to chase the kidnappers. He and his son tried to search for them, then went to the police station to report it and ask for assistance. He tells how he begged them to send out an APB, put up road blocks, anything, and they treated him with complete disdain. Then he and his son went back out looking for her. Hours later they came back to the police station and asked if there had been any news. The sergeant looked at him and said, "What missing girl? You have not filed a report."

No woman is safe in Guatemala. If a dead body is found, the woman is presumed to be a prostitute, and nothing is done. The injustice is so far beyond imagination, it is difficult to comprehend. The streets are crawling with rapists and murderers who openly admit what they have done. They practically brag about it.

The United States has sent forensics experts to Guatemala to train them on how to secure a crime scene and collect evidence, but nobody applies what they have learned, and the Guatemalan government does not provide funding for investigative resources.

The Senate has recently, on March 10th, passed a resolution expressing sympathy for the families of those who have been murdered, and to "encourage" and "urge" the Secretary of State, the President, and the Attorney General to assist the Guatemalan government in establishing law, order, and justice, with respect to these atrocities. We can all pray that it will help.

Some blogs on Amnesty USA have entries that tell more stories.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Miller, Vonn, Ligety Making it Happen

If you have not been paying attention the the Alpine Skiing World Cup, it is time to wake up and smell the victory! Bode Miller, Lindsey Vonn, and Ted Ligety are three Americans who are tearing up the World Cup circuit, and showing the world what US racers are capable of.

Miller and Ligety both grew up with access to fairly large mountains, but Lindsey Vonn grew up racing at Buck Hill in Minnesota. It's a relatively small hill that has produced many great US females, including Kristina Koznick, and more recently, Sterling Grant.

I'm getting off track, but I mention Buck Hill because it is a small hill, like our own Hidden Valley. On Saturday, we had a former Hidden Valley skier, Robby Reid, come to visit us. He is now the conditioning coach for the Norwegian National Ski Team (maybe you've heard of them). One of the things he stressed with us was that most of the Norwegian racers come from around Oslo, where there is nothing but small hills, like Hidden Valley. You don't need a big hill to build great racers if you know how to use what you have. In fact, Aksel Lund Svindal came from a small town 25 km north of Oslo, and he won the overall World Cup title last year.

So I guess what I'm saying is big time skiers can come from small hills. People like Vonn and Svindal prove it. Watch out!

Anyway, getting back to topic, Miller and Vonn lead the men's and women's overall World Cup standings by relatively comfortable margins (about 160 each), and Ligety just took the red bib for GS (meaning he's #1 in Giant Slalom).

Julia Mancuso is 7th in the overall points standings for women, which is outstanding, and Resi Stiegler is 39th, even though she hasn't raced since getting injured in December. She had already collected 111 points in slalom by that point. Watch out for her next year!

Ligety is in a tight race with Raich and Moelgg for the GS title, but if he can pull it off, he will accomplish what he set his mind to do at the beginning of the season. He said he wanted to focus on winning the GS globe. Let's hear it for setting a goal and making it happen!

If Miller can wrap up this season with the overall title, it will be his second, pushing him up the list of overall globe winners to join Stephan Eberharter and Lasse Kjus, who also had two overall globes.

If Vonn can tie it up, she will be only the second US female to win the overall title. The first was Tamara McKinney in 1983. A notable difference is that Tamara won hers in the technical disciplines, slalom and giant slalom. Lindsey is a speed specialist, and in particular, she is the standard for women's downhill, utterly dominating that discipline with 755 points! The nearest competitor is Renate Goetschl with 448.

Lindsey's downhills this season go: 1st, 4th, 2nd, 1st, 1st, 1st, 5th, 1st, 2nd, 1st. Yeah, I call that utterly dominating. I'd like to also mention that she is totally hot.

Here come the Alpine World Championships!

Sunday, March 09, 2008

The St. Louis Jesuits

The musicians at my parish, St. Margaret of Scotland, are so amazing, and fun to listen to, that they've actually made me rather fond of church music. Of course, if you go to church regularly, and you're a fan of music, you're going to eventually have some favorites, and I have several, but I've never gone out to actually purchase church music.

OK, so I guess you've figured out by now that I have recently purchased some church music. Yes, I actually bought a bunch of MP3s off of Amazon. I can pick and choose the songs I want that way, and don't have to buy a whole album. I credit St. Margaret's excellent Music Ministry. I walk home after mass singing the songs to myself, like We are Called, and We Remember.

For my family, growing up, it was songs like "Though the Mountains May Fall," "All the Ends of the Earth," "Sing a New Song," and "Lift Up Your Hearts." And now comes the reason I write this blog entry. It turns out all these songs I have just mentioned, and many others we liked, have a common set of authors. They are called the St. Louis Jesuits, and I just learned this today while surfing through Wikipedia.

Additionally interesting to note is that I now live about two miles away from SLU's campus. The music has gone full circle with me.

All those songs were brought to our parish when I was growing up in St. John Bosco parish in West Virginia. They were brought by a group of three guitar-strumming women who would vigorously belt out these great tunes with their 70s guitar straps and their capos. Their arms would swing fast and hard, interposing an extra strum here and there, and you could really feel the energy coursing through the pews. You always walked out of church with an extra kick in your step on those days. They would come during the summer weeks when Deanery Camp (church camp) was happening... or was it Camp Tygart? One of those.

So as I'm looking up all those old favorites online, and discovering that they're all written by the St. Louis Jesuits, I'm also finding that there is apparently a significant portion of conservative Catholics who feel that their music is "liberal" and inappropriate for mass. Ha! Their popularity has suppressed "the authentic sound of Catholicism." Are you kidding me? No, I am not. These people believe that Catholic mass should be accompanied by latin polyphones and Gregorian chants. I guess that's what they believe is the "authentic" sound of Catholicsm. Mmmkay.

You know, I think those guitar women were wearing sandals. Oh my gosh, were they... liberals!? Gasp! What would Jesus think!?

So, obviously I'm going to speak against that kind of draconian approach to liturgical music. Especially given that I have so many fond memories invested in the "liberal," "inappropriate" music of the St. Louis Jesuits. So here it is: why can't you have both? It's not like you can only have chants, or only have guitar pickin'. Shouldn't the music for each mass be chosen to suit the message of that mass? So if it's a meditative message, use meditative music. If it's a message of being called to service, sing We are Called. If it's a message of joyous celebration, then get to strumming that guit-fiddle!

One last thing before I wrap up this rant. I like to find out who composed each song that's being sung in church. It's just something I do. I notice that we sing a lot of music by Marty Haugens and David Haas. It turns out they are probably the two most prolific liturgical music composers for Catholic and Lutheran service in the past 50 years. The thing is, there are again some people who believe there should be a moratorium on their music. What!?

On the website for the Society for a Moratorium on the Music of Marty Haugen and David Haas, they quote a priest saying "What a shame for a young person to grow up thinking that Marty Haugen is the traditional music of the Catholic church!"

What young person grows up not knowing about historical Catholic music? That sounds like a failing in his education, not Marty Haugen's or David Haas's music. If you dislike a piece of church music that much, don't sing. It's just a song, dude. I don't like them all either, but I mean get a life.

One final thing... of all the songs I purchased today, one recording stands head and shoulders above all the others: Hosea (Come Back to Me) by Steve and Sarah Bell. It is outstanding. All other recordings I purchased were lacking in quality, musicianship, or just sounded too... um safe, I guess. There seems to be a pretty significant need for quality production in this genre. I like a more contemporary sound. I would love to hear Clannad cover some of these tunes. Could you imagine? Or Alison Krauss with Union Station. That kind of thing.