Unconfirmed

I spent Saturday morning at a confirmation ceremony, sadly confirming what I’d read here in comments about “contemporary” worship music in Catholic churches.

The word contemporary is in quotes there because, as with the evangelical species of “contemporary Christian music,” the word there doesn’t quite mean what it usually means. It shouldn’t be hard to be contemporary. One would think that writing music that sounds like it comes from another time and place would require additional effort, but that writing music that comes from one’s own time and place ought to be completely natural, yet there’s nothing natural-sounding about this awkwardly “contemporary” music.

Watching Philadelphia’s bishop/cardinal preside over the ceremony I was reminded of something I once heard an Episcopalian bishop say. What happened at Pentecost, he said, was a miracle and a mystery. The disciples didn’t quite know how to describe what they had seen so they described it to St. Luke as something like “tongues of fire” above their heads. Luke wrote that description down and, as a result, the bishop said, “2000 years later I have to wear this funny hat.”

I was also reminded of this bit from comedian Ted Alexandro:

Q: Do you renounce Satan and all his works?

A: Well, I can’t really say I’m familiar with all his works …

Anyway, I was feeling warmly ecumenical throughout most of the ceremony, until the cardinal got to the part in his homily where he urged the kids being confirmed to consider a religious vocation. We need priests, he told the children, because we need the forgiveness of sins and “without priests there can be no forgiveness of sins.”

That’s the sort of thing that makes me want to nail some theses to the door of the church.

* * *

This letter to the editor, which was actually published in the paper, criticizes Rep. Mike Castle for mentioning that the world’s oil supply is “finite.” The letter writer disagrees, writing: “There is no scientific basis for alleging that Earth has a finite supply of oil.”

EarthMy point here is not (exclusively) to laugh at the crazy person who thinks that our planet is infinite. That’s barking mad, of course (see photo), but I’m not so much interested in the writer’s delirium as I am in the fact that such a letter was published.

This raises, for me, two questions that I really don’t know the answer to:

1. Before going to work in a newsroom, I had vaguely assumed that the opinion pages operated according to the old saying, “Everyone is entitled to their own opinion but not to their own facts.” Over the past seven years, however, I’ve seen hundreds of published examples of things that are demonstrably untrue. I’m wondering what, if any, policies or principles guide different newspapers regarding factual errors in letters to the editor and op-ed pieces. I’m not speaking here of matters subject to debate (“Politician X is doing a good job” or “Kids these days!”), but of simple matters of fact. If a letter asserts that Cleveland is the capital of Ohio, or that talc is the hardest mineral according to Moh’s scale, do editorial page editors have any rules or even guidelines for dealing with such mistakes and the letters that contain them?

2. I have attended, monitored, reported on and even conducted organizing meetings for activist groups across the political spectrum. All of these groups encourage their members to write letters to the editor and the advice they give for getting such letters published is remarkably similar. That advice always encourages the writers to get their facts straight and to avoid saying anything as full-gonzo nutty as suggesting that the Earth is infinite. Is that advice wrong?

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  • Froborr

    Kristy: I can accept that you enjoy it. I have no problem with you enjoying it. I don’t enjoy it, and I was asked to explain why, so I did. I may have gotten a little carried away in doing so, but that’s because I *really* don’t like it. Apologies if I did get carried away.
    Ultimately the reasons I give are a rationale; it comes down to an intense, visceral disgust at the WoD in general and Mage in particular that I can’t really explain.

  • pat greene

    Sarah Dylan Breuer, that arrangement you spoke of — where musicians use the sanctuary for practice in exchange for providing music for services — sounds great. The music minister of our parish, in fact, made such an offer to my son — who plays drums at one of the “contemporary” services, and who has been having trouble with some of the neighbors because of practicing — but it fell through, mainly because in the end the powers that be felt uncomfortable leaving a teenager on his own in the church. Even so, he was able to use the drum equipment in the sanctuary to record sound effects for a school project.
    I’m weird: I only like a subset of traditional music, and I only like a subset of “contemporary” music. And some things I thought were contemporary, it turns out are not — I simply heard contemporary arrangements (for example, “Be Thou my Vision”).

  • pat greene

    Sarah Dylan Breuer, that arrangement you spoke of — where musicians use the sanctuary for practice in exchange for providing music for services — sounds great. The music minister of our parish, in fact, made such an offer to my son — who plays drums at one of the “contemporary” services, and who has been having trouble with some of the neighbors because of practicing — but it fell through, mainly because in the end the powers that be felt uncomfortable leaving a teenager on his own in the church. Even so, he was able to use the drum equipment in the sanctuary to record sound effects for a school project.
    I’m weird: I only like a subset of traditional music, and I only like a subset of “contemporary” music. And some things I thought were contemporary, it turns out are not — I simply heard contemporary arrangements (for example, “Be Thou my Vision”).

  • Reynard

    Posted by Froborr: Reynard: I understand your discomfort, but in practice it is unavoidable that some statements believed at one time to be facts will later turn out not to be. This is an inevitable consequence of the advance of knowledge.
    I’m not talking about History Book-style facts (perhaps I should have clarified this earlier), I’m talking about people who use facts (i.e. actual, provable knowledge of an event, person or concept) when it’s to their advantage to do so and “facts” (i.e. making-shit-up-and-calling-it-fact-type “facts”) when they think (or know) they can get away with it — kind of like the current Administration, Rush, Billo, Talib-Ann, etc. do when they open their mouths.
    Plus, some apparent oxymorons are not such within specialized jargons — “negative reward,” for example, is seemingly an oxymoron, but in psychological jargon it has a consistent meaning, “removal of an unpleasant stimulus in response to a desired behavior.”
    Hmmm. In my day, “negative reward” meant a spanking.

  • Reynard

    Posted by Froborr: Reynard: I understand your discomfort, but in practice it is unavoidable that some statements believed at one time to be facts will later turn out not to be. This is an inevitable consequence of the advance of knowledge.
    I’m not talking about History Book-style facts (perhaps I should have clarified this earlier), I’m talking about people who use facts (i.e. actual, provable knowledge of an event, person or concept) when it’s to their advantage to do so and “facts” (i.e. making-shit-up-and-calling-it-fact-type “facts”) when they think (or know) they can get away with it — kind of like the current Administration, Rush, Billo, Talib-Ann, etc. do when they open their mouths.
    Plus, some apparent oxymorons are not such within specialized jargons — “negative reward,” for example, is seemingly an oxymoron, but in psychological jargon it has a consistent meaning, “removal of an unpleasant stimulus in response to a desired behavior.”
    Hmmm. In my day, “negative reward” meant a spanking.

  • Iorwerth Thomas

    My problem with the new Mage is that there are no Etherites (or wacky faction jumping Euthantos spin-offs who join the Order of Reason as their angel-wielding enforcers, then defect to a Hermetic House… — at least in the rule book as written). The distinct lack of dragons and gatling pistols during the Wars of the Roses is also a disappointment…
    New Changeling and Werewolf are made of win and shiny, though, and I’m warming to the new Vampire (Vampire was the game that had the least wrong with it — discounting the sillier bits of the metaplot — so I was uncertain as to what the new version offered that was different [1]).
    [1] Turns out it’s a lot more bleak. Which is no bad thing, considering.

  • Iorwerth Thomas

    My problem with the new Mage is that there are no Etherites (or wacky faction jumping Euthantos spin-offs who join the Order of Reason as their angel-wielding enforcers, then defect to a Hermetic House… — at least in the rule book as written). The distinct lack of dragons and gatling pistols during the Wars of the Roses is also a disappointment…
    New Changeling and Werewolf are made of win and shiny, though, and I’m warming to the new Vampire (Vampire was the game that had the least wrong with it — discounting the sillier bits of the metaplot — so I was uncertain as to what the new version offered that was different [1]).
    [1] Turns out it’s a lot more bleak. Which is no bad thing, considering.

  • Jeff

    This is entirely White Wolf’s fault, by the way. Before them, RPG books were stapled or glued plain paper, black-and-white, with few or no illustrations. They introduced hardbacked, glossy, color books crammed with illustrations, none of which enhanced the actual gameplay in any way but which allowed them to get away with charging a LOT more for the books. TSR followed suit, and everybody else followed them. Except for Guardians of Order, who published the core BESM book in both a hardbacked glossy edition and a vastly cheaper black-and-white paperback with shrunken illustrations. They’re out of business now.
    Not exactly. As I recall, the earliest D&D books (before they became “advanced”) had a ton of illustrations. B&W, but they were there. I think the first hard-back AD&D book came out before any of ones from White Wolf.
    You left off Steve Jackson Games, which publishes cheap games (full games under $20, mini games under $10).

    Our best-known games include GURPS, the “Generic Universal RolePlaying System”; Munchkin, the irreverent game of dungeon crawling; Chez Geek, the game of apartment life; INWO, the trading card game of world domination; the original Illuminati game on which INWO was based; Car Wars, about battle on the highways; and OGRE, the classic simulation of future war.

    Not included was Toon, which I love.

  • http://mikailborg.livejournal.com/ MikhailBorg

    Something interesting, and vaguely on-topic, is the fact that the ‘magic’ systems of most of these games, actually reflect applied sciences in those universes. People have researched, experimented, and formulated rules and procedures, so that they know that the sequence of actions that cast a fireball yesterday will produce basically the same fireball today. They have formulated hypotheses, tested them, found some incorrect and some accurate, and formed further hypothesis from the results. That’s science.
    Much of our modern science comes from the study of magic. Chemistry from alchemy, astronomy from astrology, computer programming from voodoo. (Wait. Strike that last.)
    A game world where magical effects occur truly randomly, unpredictably, and with no rules or sense, is more frustrating than entertaining.

  • http://mikailborg.livejournal.com/ MikhailBorg

    Something interesting, and vaguely on-topic, is the fact that the ‘magic’ systems of most of these games, actually reflect applied sciences in those universes. People have researched, experimented, and formulated rules and procedures, so that they know that the sequence of actions that cast a fireball yesterday will produce basically the same fireball today. They have formulated hypotheses, tested them, found some incorrect and some accurate, and formed further hypothesis from the results. That’s science.
    Much of our modern science comes from the study of magic. Chemistry from alchemy, astronomy from astrology, computer programming from voodoo. (Wait. Strike that last.)
    A game world where magical effects occur truly randomly, unpredictably, and with no rules or sense, is more frustrating than entertaining.

  • http://gryphon-warrior.livejournal.com Kristy, Devourer of Worlds

    Froborr: I can accept that you enjoy it. I have no problem with you enjoying it. I don’t enjoy it, and I was asked to explain why, so I did. I may have gotten a little carried away in doing so, but that’s because I *really* don’t like it. Apologies if I did get carried away.
    Lol, no apologies needed, I didn’t mean to give the impression that I was fussed! I was just remarking on it b/c I’m amused that I do enjoy it so much even though there’s some pretty glaring flaws with the setting and mechanics.
    Iowerth: really? I kinda think it’s less bleak, meself. I felt like the biggest change was in the addition of the covenants – a more complicated dynamic than clan alone.

  • http://gryphon-warrior.livejournal.com Kristy, Devourer of Worlds

    Froborr: I can accept that you enjoy it. I have no problem with you enjoying it. I don’t enjoy it, and I was asked to explain why, so I did. I may have gotten a little carried away in doing so, but that’s because I *really* don’t like it. Apologies if I did get carried away.
    Lol, no apologies needed, I didn’t mean to give the impression that I was fussed! I was just remarking on it b/c I’m amused that I do enjoy it so much even though there’s some pretty glaring flaws with the setting and mechanics.
    Iowerth: really? I kinda think it’s less bleak, meself. I felt like the biggest change was in the addition of the covenants – a more complicated dynamic than clan alone.

  • http://profile.typekey.com/boldfacelie/ practicallyevil

    The L.A. Times article makes no mention of AIDS or condoms. Did I miss something?
    -Tonio
    Second source, skip to 1:06, do they go to the same place for you? I may have made a mistake.

  • http://profile.typekey.com/boldfacelie/ practicallyevil

    The L.A. Times article makes no mention of AIDS or condoms. Did I miss something?
    -Tonio
    Second source, skip to 1:06, do they go to the same place for you? I may have made a mistake.

  • Jeff

    Hello? Hello? Is this thing on?

  • Jeff

    Hello? Hello? Is this thing on?

  • Tonio

    Second source, skip to 1:06, do they go to the same place for you? I may have made a mistake.
    Sorry, I should have said that I wasn’t able to view the clip until this evening. I searched Parade’s site and could not find the article mentioned. If I understood correctly, what was stated on the program was that the Church was considering changing its condom policy for married couples if one partner had AIDS.

  • Tonio

    Second source, skip to 1:06, do they go to the same place for you? I may have made a mistake.
    Sorry, I should have said that I wasn’t able to view the clip until this evening. I searched Parade’s site and could not find the article mentioned. If I understood correctly, what was stated on the program was that the Church was considering changing its condom policy for married couples if one partner had AIDS.

  • Amaryllis

    Tonio: that’s pretty much right.
    As I understand it, when Benedict first took office, he made some statements about condoms and AIDS that echoed those of his predecessor. He was met with howls of anguish from Catholics, including priests and bishops, who were dealing with the real-world consequences: “Holy Father, people are dying here! Maybe it’s time, with a new pontificate, to re-think this?” So, about two years ago, the Vatican announced the formation of a committee to study the issue. That study was widely expected to defend the use of condoms where one partner is infected. However, since then, there’s been only an interesting silence from the Vatican. (I might even call it a loud silence.)
    At his press conference on World AIDS Day last December, for the first time, the Pope didn’t mention condoms at all: not approvingly, but not negatively either. This was hopefully interpreted, at the time, as the first sign of softening attitudes, but since then, more silence.

  • Amaryllis

    Tonio: that’s pretty much right.
    As I understand it, when Benedict first took office, he made some statements about condoms and AIDS that echoed those of his predecessor. He was met with howls of anguish from Catholics, including priests and bishops, who were dealing with the real-world consequences: “Holy Father, people are dying here! Maybe it’s time, with a new pontificate, to re-think this?” So, about two years ago, the Vatican announced the formation of a committee to study the issue. That study was widely expected to defend the use of condoms where one partner is infected. However, since then, there’s been only an interesting silence from the Vatican. (I might even call it a loud silence.)
    At his press conference on World AIDS Day last December, for the first time, the Pope didn’t mention condoms at all: not approvingly, but not negatively either. This was hopefully interpreted, at the time, as the first sign of softening attitudes, but since then, more silence.

  • Amaryllis

    Anyway, back on the “letters to the editor” thread:
    This morning I read a letter to our local community paper in which the writer agreed with last week’s editorial by saying that it had expressed “his sediments exactly.”
    Now, I’ve heard that said as a joke, but this seemed to be in all seriousness.
    Was it merely a typo? (Because nobody needs to proofread their own or anybody else’s typing now that we have SpellChecker, right? And this particular Gazette is particularly egregious about that.)
    Or is this creeping into the language? (Sometimes my sentiments are rather muddy, it’s true.) Anybody else been hearing this usage?

  • Amaryllis

    Anyway, back on the “letters to the editor” thread:
    This morning I read a letter to our local community paper in which the writer agreed with last week’s editorial by saying that it had expressed “his sediments exactly.”
    Now, I’ve heard that said as a joke, but this seemed to be in all seriousness.
    Was it merely a typo? (Because nobody needs to proofread their own or anybody else’s typing now that we have SpellChecker, right? And this particular Gazette is particularly egregious about that.)
    Or is this creeping into the language? (Sometimes my sentiments are rather muddy, it’s true.) Anybody else been hearing this usage?

  • Chris

    [i]I just have to say that I sprayed water on my keyboard with the “see photo” comment.[/i]
    Should’ve used Holy Water.

  • Tonio

    (Sometimes my sentiments are rather muddy, it’s true.)
    That’s the first groan-worthy pun I’ve heard in years.

  • Tonio

    (Sometimes my sentiments are rather muddy, it’s true.)
    That’s the first groan-worthy pun I’ve heard in years.

  • Iorwerth Thomas

    I kinda think it’s less bleak, meself. I felt like the biggest change was in the addition of the covenants – a more complicated dynamic than clan alone.
    It’s mainly the impression I got from Requiem for Rome and Fall of the Camarilla; mainly the latter, where the only likeable characters are Justinian and Theodora, and they’re not even part of the main campaign! The local rather than global emphasis (with no metaplot as such — metaplot always lightened things up because it often had some hilariously wacky bits relating to bad or strange decisions way back in 1st or 2nd Ed), the de-emphasising of mystical escape routes [1] and the fact that at least three of the Covenants indulge in seriously Humanity draining behaviour without Paths of Enlightenment as safety net kind of add to it. I don’t think it’s a bad thing, though, on the whole.
    I miss Mithras [2] and Archbishop Moncada of Madrid, though.
    [1] Such as Golconda or regaining one’s humanity — though to be fair, those have been downplayed ever since V:tM Revised.
    [2] Mainly because one can’t hang elements of the fictional UK city one has created off of obscure facts relating to his rather strained relationship with the Camarilla in Requiem, for obvious reasons…

  • Iorwerth Thomas

    I kinda think it’s less bleak, meself. I felt like the biggest change was in the addition of the covenants – a more complicated dynamic than clan alone.
    It’s mainly the impression I got from Requiem for Rome and Fall of the Camarilla; mainly the latter, where the only likeable characters are Justinian and Theodora, and they’re not even part of the main campaign! The local rather than global emphasis (with no metaplot as such — metaplot always lightened things up because it often had some hilariously wacky bits relating to bad or strange decisions way back in 1st or 2nd Ed), the de-emphasising of mystical escape routes [1] and the fact that at least three of the Covenants indulge in seriously Humanity draining behaviour without Paths of Enlightenment as safety net kind of add to it. I don’t think it’s a bad thing, though, on the whole.
    I miss Mithras [2] and Archbishop Moncada of Madrid, though.
    [1] Such as Golconda or regaining one’s humanity — though to be fair, those have been downplayed ever since V:tM Revised.
    [2] Mainly because one can’t hang elements of the fictional UK city one has created off of obscure facts relating to his rather strained relationship with the Camarilla in Requiem, for obvious reasons…