A prank turned grim

You have probably heard about those two Australian radio hosts who called the hospital where Kate Middleton, pregnant with a future monarch of England, was being treated for severe morning sickness.  They imitated the voice of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles, the grandparents, and managed to get their call transferred to the hospital room.  Very funny.  But now the nurse who took the call and was bamboozled felt so humiliated and ashamed that she has apparently committed suicide.

Anger at Australian radio station over royal hoax – Houston Chronicle.

This blog’s next step

I started blogging when I wrote small posts for World Magazine’s blog back when blogs were new.  Then I had a blog of my own under World’s auspices, and then, after World changed the way it was doing its website, I signed up with a hosting company and started my independent site.  Thanks to you loyal readers, the blog has grown and grown until we typically get over 2,000 visits a day and some 90,000 page views per month.  Recently, I was approached by the mega-religion site Patheos and invited to let them host this Cranach blog.

If I did, they would pay me for each page view.  No longer would running this blog cost me; rather, it would actually bring in some income.  Not enough for me to quit my day job, but enough to be felt in our monthly budget in these hard times.  (Patheos, with all of its blogs and resources, gets over a million page views a day, which enables them to attract big advertisers and thus to pay their writers.)  Not only that, this blog would be on a server with vast capacity and round-the-clock tech support at my beck and call.  No more crashes!  No more quirky dropping of comments!

And yet, I hesitated.  Patheos is a multi-faith site.  I’d be on their “evangelical channel.”  (That’s all right, since we Lutherans are the first evangelicals.  In fact, just as Calvinists are more properly termed “Reformed,”  Lutherans were always more properly termed “evangelical.”  Then other groups claimed the title.  But it’s a good word, referring to the centrality of the evangel, the Gospel.)  There is also a Catholic channel and a “progressive Christian” channel.  But there are also channels for Mormons and Buddhists and Muslims and just about every other world religion.  Even atheists have a channel (which is a neat trick, making atheists admit that atheism is a religion).  But I was assured that Patheos is NOT “inter-faith.”  That is, it does not pretend that all religions are the same and equally valid, squishing them all together into some syncretistic new religion that would be unrecognizable to any actual religion.  Patheos instead thinks of itself as a religious marketplace, an arena for different beliefs to battle it out, as well as a place for people to learn about the different traditions.  Surely, I reasoned, confessional Lutheranism needs to be in this mix.  I know about altar and pulpit fellowship, but I don’t think there are rules about blog fellowship.  The internet, by its nature, jumbles everyone together, and it won’t really be any different if my blog happens to be on the Patheos server.  (Here is more about Patheos and still more.)

I also worried about some of you loyal readers thinking I’ve sold out to the big corporation, which will take over what was once a down-to-earth small business, whereupon it would change the original recipe and make the gravy taste like wallpaper paste.  (I think what happened to Colonel Sanders.)  But the corporation is not taking over anything.  It’s still my blog.  I will still post whatever I want to.  The hosts exercise no control.  Nothing is really going to change in the way I run things.

So after some prayer and agonizing, I agreed to move the blog to Patheos.

There will be some cosmetic changes.  Patheos will re-work and update my site and its design, something that’s been needed for awhile anyway.   The familiar Cranach banner will remain, though probably tweaked.  The winged dragon, crowned, bearing a ring (Cranach’s seal) will be there as our logo.  (Which some of you, I know, find too scary and would just as soon it fly away.  But I’m trying to hold onto tradition right now.)  The biggest change will be a Patheos banner at the very top.  Also ads, but instead of the pathetic and sometimes embarrassing Google adsense ads for Mormon matchmaking services and the like, there will be advertisements for real products, like cars and hotels.  Also, the comments will be nested; that is, when you reply to someone else’s comments and then someone replies to what you say, the comments will be indented and placed next to each other accordingly.   This will allow digressions and rabbit trails to wander off as people have interest in discussing them, but those who don’t can concentrate on the main thread.  Most blogs have that feature today, and I think this will serve well our particular kinds of discussions.

We will all probably notice the visual changes and complain about them for a few days, but then we’ll stop noticing them.  Your bookmarks should still work.  When you click on the old web address, you’ll be automatically re-directed to the new one.  Your RSS feeds should still work, but if they don’t, they can be easily set up again by clicking a button on the site.  Same with Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks.

I don’t know exactly when the change will happen.  Probably next week some time.  But when you see the new look, you’ll know what has happened.

We’ve got a quite extraordinary little community of discourse here.  I don’t want to lose that.  I do want to share it with other people and draw more people in.  I’ll depend on you to make Patheos drifters feel welcome.  Are you all right with this?


Death of a Christian jazzman

Jazz pianist Dave Brubeck died at age 92.  The man and his quartet showed sheer genius.  My old guitar teacher once sat in with him and it was one of the highlights of his life.  Brubeck was a Christian who composed a great deal of sacred music.  From David A. Anderson:

“I approached the composition as a prayer,” jazz pianist and composer Dave Brubeck said of his “To Hope! A Celebration,” a contemporary setting for the Roman Catholic Mass, “concentrating upon the phrases, trying to probe beneath the surface, hoping to translate into music the powerful words which have grown through the centuries.”

Probing beneath the surface marked all of Brubeck’s music, from the revolutionary 1959 polyrhythmic album “Time Out,” to his oratorio, “A Light in the Wilderness,” and his setting of Thomas Aquinas’ hymn, “Pange Lingua.”

Brubeck is best known in the secular jazz world for his startling compositions using different time signatures, such as 5/4 time in the classic “Take Five,” or the mixture of 9/8 time and the more traditional 4/4 rhythm of “Blue Rondo a la Turk.” Both pieces are on the “Time Out” album, the first jazz album to sell 1 million copies and still one of the best-selling.

Religious faith, however, was never far from Brubeck’s creative mind. . . .

In a 2009 interview with the PBS television program Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly, Brubeck said his service in World War II convinced him “something should be done musically to strengthen man’s knowledge of God.”

That experience gave him the idea of an oratorio based on the Ten Commandments, particularly the “Thou shalt not kill” part.

But he did not act on the idea of writing sacred music until 1965, when he wrote a short piece, “Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled,” to comfort his brother, Howard, whose son had died of a brain tumor at age 16.

That piece was incorporated into 1968’s “A Light in the Wilderness,” his first full-scale sacred composition.

That was followed by a series of pieces including 1969’s “The Gates of Justice,” a choral work using words from Martin Luther King, Jr.; “Truth is Fallen,” in 1971; “La Fiesta de la Posada” in 1975; and “Beloved Son,” in 1978.

“When I write a piece, a sacred piece, I’m looking hard and trying to discover what I’m about, and what my parents were about and the world is about,” he told Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly.

Raised a Protestant although never baptized, Brubeck became a Roman Catholic in 1980 after completing “To Hope!”, a Mass setting commissioned by the Catholic periodical, Our Sunday Visitor.

via The sacred ran through jazz legend Dave Brubeck’s music – The Washington Post.

Brubeck shows that it’s certainly possible and desirable to have contemporary Christian music, even to have it used in worship–if it could only be rich and complex and artistic and in accord with the Christian sensibility, unlike much of what passes for that genre today.

Here is his “Celebration” Mass. It’s just over 10 minutes, but keep listening for the choral parts and for when his quartet breaks in (around the 4 minute mark).

Here is “Take Five,” Brubeck’s most famous piece.  (Pick out the 5/4 time.)  Brubeck right now is taking five before the Resurrection.

Pearl Harbor day

Today is the 71st anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, plunging the United States into World War.

See Attack on Pearl Harbor – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Do you think we will ever again have a world war; that is, war on a global scale?

The Mormons’ Heavenly Mother

Mormon author Warren Aston writes about that religion’s other deity:

It is Gospel Doctrine 101 that we are the children of God. Our spirits are the children of a Heavenly Father and a Heavenly Mother in the most literal sense possible. We have within us the genes of Godhood, the potential to develop and grow into the glorious, exalted beings they are. We lived with them before coming to earth to gain physical bodies in their likeness, male and female.

God’s whole work is to bring to pass our immortality and eternal life, bringing us back into God’s presence, redeemed and sanctified through our obedience and discipline. The laws and covenants that mark our progress on that journey home comprise the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The framework for that journey, and much-needed support, is provided by the Church.

When Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Twelve spoke some years ago in General Conference about the heavenly home-coming that the obedient can look forward to, he noted that our Mother in Heaven would surely have a role.

via Meridian Magazine – The Other Half of Heaven: Debunking Myths about Heavenly Mother – Meridian Magazine – LDS, Mormon and Latter-day Saint News and Views.

Mr. Aston goes on to criticize some of his fellow-Mormons for not emphasizing the Heavenly Mother as much as she deserves.  Notice the other Mormon doctrines we see here:  We have the genes of Godhood and will grow into deities ourselves, just like our Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother.  We are redeemed and sanctified by our “obedience and discipline.” The Gospel of Jesus Christ consists of laws.

Does any of that sound like Christianity? But notice the potential for popularity today.  Postmodernists would love the notion of a Heavenly Mother and the promise that we get to be gods ourselves.

Suing negative reviewers

You know those user reviews on online sites like Yelp, Angie’s List, Yahoo, and all those restaurant and travel sites?  Some businesses are striking back at negative reviews by suing the reviewers.

A Fairfax County woman being sued for defamation over negative reviews she wrote on Yelp and Angie’s List must delete certain accusations and is barred from repeating them in new posts, a judge ruled Wednesday.

The preliminary injunction was hailed as a victory by a D.C. contractor, who took the woman to court claiming that her online reviews of the work he did on her home were false and cost him $300,000 in business. He is suing her for $750,000.

“It’s a win on morality, integrity and truthfulness,” contractor Christopher Dietz said after the hearing in Fairfax County Circuit Court. “This is permanent damage. I can’t undo what she did.”

Jane Perez hired Dietz to perform cosmetic improvements in June 2011 on her newly purchased townhouse, but she quickly soured on Dietz and gave him a scathing one-star review on Yelp and a similar treatment on Angie’s List.

The list of accusations over the job were long, but included damage to her home, an invoice for work Dietz did not perform and jewelry that went missing when Dietz was the only other person with a key to her home. Dietz denies those claims. . . .

In Virginia, someone can be found liable for defamation if he states or implies a false factual statement about a person or business that causes harm to the subject’s reputation. Opinions are generally protected by the First Amendment. . . .

Lawyers say legal actions over reviews on Web sites such as Yelp are on the rise, as the sites have grown in popularity and online reputations have become more important for doctors, dentists and a host of other professionals.

Some reviewers and free speech advocates view such suits as attempts to stifle freedom of speech, while business owners say they are being forced to fight back because a false post online can cause serious damage to their businesses.

via Judge says homeowner must delete some accusations on Yelp, Angie’s List – The Washington Post.

Should consumer reviewers have the freedom to say whatever they want?  Or do businesses need some recourse against exaggerating individuals who can ruin their reputation?