Sunday, December 30, 2007

Ring in 2008

art by Jan Neal
In Four Steps to Wisdom:
You don't have to do anything to acquire happiness. The great Meister Eckhart said very beautifully, "God is not attained by a process of addition to anything in the soul, but by a process of subtraction." You don't do anything to be free, you drop something. Then you're free.
Jan quoting Anthony de Mello quoting Meister Eckhart

" "

And you, liar, teller of tall tales: you trample all the Lord's commandments underfoot, you murder, steal, commit adultery, and afterward break into tears, beat your breast, take down your guitar and turn the sin into a song. Shrewd devil, you know very well that God pardons singers no matter what they do, because he can simply die for a song....

~The Last Temptation of Christ,
Nikos Kaztantazkis

For the Youngsters

Yellow by Coldplay

Fundamentalist Trials

George of The Hour (CBC trying to be hip) recently interviewed AJ Jacobs, a New Yorker who spent a year living according to the tenets of the Bible. While I have often questioned fundamentalists on the convenient compromises they make to suit their lives while claiming to live biblically, I loved hearing about the Jewish embodiment of this quandry. Of particular note was the anecdote about him stoning an adulterer. You gotta love this guy's tenacity. And his wife's for that matter: he was not allowed to sit on a chair sat upon by his wife while she was 'unclean', so she went around the apartment and defiled every last one of them! Ah, the trials of living like our forefathers.... But on a more serious note, his book does address questions about the development of one's prayer life, and the issue of 'cafeteria religion'--picking and choosing what suits us in our faith.
You may know him from his articles and other adventures such as reading all 44 million words of the Encyclopedia Britannica. Here is an excerpt from his website : 'His father is a lawyer who holds the world record for the most footnotes in a law review article (4,824). His wife works for a highbrow scavenger hunt called Watson Adventures. He lives in New York. He wonders if he fooled anyone with this third-person thing, or if everyone knows that he wrote this bio himself.'

Hero of the Week

Ok, so it's not weekly. But I would like to sing the praises of a gentleman who has done me favours and who serves the Christian art scene in Canada with unrelenting passion, energy and support: the very humble John Franklin, executive director of Imago. This organization provides financial, logistical and promotional support to Christian creators of the performing and visual arts. I love it because I constantly find new good Christ-centred art through them, particularly at their Imago Evenings. Imago busts the myth of 'good' and 'Christian art' being oxymoronic terms. And John's quarterly newsletter is a source of theological reflection on new works and issues in art, as well as book reviews, calls for artists and show announcements. To support this very worthy organization, go to their website and use the contact us link at the bottom; I guarantee you your donation will be VERY well used.

Next Jazz Vespers

january 6th is the next jazz vespers at ccdp (1570 yonge st) at 4:30pm. the canadian jazz quartet plays a tribute to milt jackson. come join me in chilling in the pew.

Upcoming Movie Recoms

This year will see recoms for more offbeat, artsy and inde movies. I have a wonderful source, and a Board that always brings new ideas for me to try. So ck back for the popcorn and spilled coke ratings. I recently saw The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988, Terry Gilliam) and wondered how I managed to miss yet another interesting flick. It is completely insane. Note that this does not mean perfect; I am not saying it is the best movie on the planet, but I am always appreciative of artists willing to at least do what they need to do, and in the process not bore me. If you want to ck out the cultness of it, go rent it. I don't think you'll ask me for your money back.

Gross Out for the Kids

Gags for the adults, guffaws for the kids. Here is a link to a recipe that is usually for Hallowe'en, but it is where I am metaphorically dumping 2007. This coming year is looking good, however....

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Advent IV

Advent IV

On the Cusp of Christmas

This fourth Sunday of Advent we light all the candles of the wreath and mark Love incarnate, birthed by Mary.

O Wisdom, holy Word of God, Jesus Christ, all things are in your hands, come and show us the way to salvation.

This is my favourite season of the year: it's about reflection, intensity and delayed gratification. I almost find Christmas too much. It goes against my asceticism, and the peace of Advent is lost. Ah well, I can start counting the days til the beginning of Lent...

And my last plug for Buy Nothing Christmas:

Back in the Christmas season....

We Will Rock You, the musical

I was recently treated to We Will Rock You, the musical by Queen and Ben Elton. Guess I am stunned, coz I misunderstood what the show was; I thought it was a tribute band. However, I was quickly corrected but then relieved of new doubts. It is actually a storyline that initially is questionable, but you are quickly sucked into the 'world' therein and get into it. While the singing and choreography is good, I would say the writing is the most fun--very clever and very topical. There was one moment, however, where a character gets the equivalent of tasing and you could cut the tension in the hall with a knife. We attended a night with the understudies who were actually better than the main cast members, according to someone who went twice: Breanne Arrigo was endearingly feisty as Scaramouche, and Jewelle Blackman as Killer Queen was reminiscent of Tina Turner. The background multimedia visuals were absolutely fantastic, perhaps my favourite part of the show. There was a poignant nod to Freddie Mercury, a too-short video clip of Queen and tons of good-natured fun-poking at the group. Just completely good fun from start to finish: if you like Queen, you absolutely MUST go see this. You will indeed be rocked. (Even I, with my usual wasp-y reservation, let loose, so you know it must be good.)


If you want a giggle, check out this one of several videos of prison inmates in the Philippines in which they dance en masse to popular music--a new type of rehab for Corrections Canada to try??? I really don't get this and that's what fascinates me. This one is to Queen's Radio Ga Ga . There's also a really weird version of (what else) Thriller. Beats carving shanks, I guess.

from "The Nativity of our Lord"

Then tear the sky apart with light

And with your news the world endow.

Proclaim the birth of Christ and peace,

That fear and death and sorrow cease:

Sing peace, sing gift of peace!

~Carl Schalk

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Welcome to Advent III

We're almost there! It's the third Sunday of Advent, often known and celebrated as Gaudete Sunday, wherein we light the pink candle. Joy is the theme and we read about the pronouncement of Jesus by John the Baptist as the Lamb of God (John 1: 19-34).

O Key of David, Jesus Christ, the gates of heaven open at your command; come and show us the way to salvation.

And I offer this advice, with personal endorsement:

Flying Bow

My best discovery this week was Trevor Dick and the 5th String Blvd Band; our mc told us, as he introduced them, to fasten our seat belts, and he was right! I was not convinced that I would be enamoured of yet more versions of Christmas carols, but this guy rocks. He had great audience rapport too. He reminded me of a cross between Jean Luc Ponty and Oliver Schroer. I have to say I prefer the raucous carol disc over the more low key carols in his double cd, Glory and Peace, but he is a breath of fresh air. Laila Biali was a guest performer, so that was a treat as well. Check out some mp3 clips of Trevor's at and put those boring old Christmas cds you have away!

Sound Art

I generally have little time for Performance Art as a genre, but this week I had the opportunity to watch sound art unfold. I admit I was rather skeptical initially, but the work of the artist sold me on this medium. At a concert by Trevor Dick, as mentioned above, Tina Newlove created a painting which, had I been able, I would have bought. You can see her stuff on her website and also follow the link there to her myspace site. I quite like her urban crowd stuff. One of the works, City Crowd, reminded me of Klimt. If you ever have the chance to watch her, stick around to the end. It's worth it.

Movie Night Recoms

I was watching Marie Antoinette recently, thinking 'This soundtrack reminds me of the one in Lost in Translation'; sure enough (I had popped the dvd in without much study), it was another Sofia Coppola film (2006). Definitely not for my mother's crowd; she would have a fit at what had be "done" to this quirky period piece. It had been recommended to me precisely because its focus was the visuals rather than plot. Like Translation (2003), Coppola used the technique of dampened audio, which has various effects on the audience. Also lost to the traditionalists would be the use of current American accents and vernacular language, mixed in with the sensibilities and expression of the time. A completely cool film. But I love anything different; there is no room or time for boredom. Half a box of popcorn to my next recom, 49Up (2006), which I used in my continued study of the series in my classes. My students and I felt there had not been substantial change from 42Up, so while it was a wonderful film in and of itself, the series does seem to be lacking momentum. What was so eagerly awaited seemed a bit flat. I wonder if director Michael Apted will pursue this longitudinal study and how many of the participants will continue with the project. So, definitely worth watching for its sociological importance, but don't expect the shake ups encountered between, for example, 35Up and 42Up. I plan to watch the director's interview to hear his views.

Kids' Stuff

Two things for kids this week:
I was referred to a group called the Go Fish Guys, and they have some worthy music for children that goes beyond the usual potty-training and monsters subjects. You can check out various things on their site at but one song I liked was It's About the Cross which you can find on their index of sample mp3 clips along with other Christmas songs: . I like the fact that they don't dumb things down for kids.
Also of note is a hot-off-the-press book (I was at a launch by the author) which I bought as a Christmas present for certain young people I know (can't ruin the surprise here): Jim's Grandiose Big Bible Picture Book. What is different about this one is that it is witty (yay! something unboring about the Bible for kids!) and it has a pretty cool, age-appropriate key at the back about symbols and references. A good stepping stone for the 8-12 age group in terms of Bible acquisitions. Good fun. You can find out more about Jim Paterson's book and order it via or .

Another Kind of Good News

As we enter the season of Good News, it is fitting that I found this website: on which only positive new stories are found. Now many will counsel you not to take a media fast, especially as Christians, because we should not turn a blind eye to suffering and should continually pray for those who need it. I believe that is true. However, if one must read the regular news (which is 99% bad), I think it is balanced to look at this good news source. I love it.

Blogger's--not My--Bad

Just noticed that Blogger has inserted automatically a new Video Bar which usurped my YouTube Beauts. Somehow, some weird video was attached and as yet I have been unable to remove it from the html. Please ignore that one ('sweet rose' something or other) and do not think that it has any connection to me. Thank you!

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Welcome To Advent II !

Today we light the second (and first) candle of Advent. This candle represents Peace, and the scriptures and focus today are about the prophets' foretelling of the Messiah's coming.

O King of all nations, Jesus Christ, only joy of every heart, come and save your people.

If you can handle a bit of tongue-in-cheek about Jesus, but which is really about what he would say about our consumerism, check out Jesus Shops for Sandals:
There is some hoopla about a line in it about Jesus not knowing what to pray, but I would suggest that some people need to relax. Nevertheless, check out the feedback at Then, join me in this
Advent Prayer on Consumerism
Slow us down, O Lord, this Advent, So we may understand the darkness we are in, The darkness of fear that comes with wanting more, And the fear of having less. Grant us the light of transformation, As we wait for your true abundance— The love of the Incarnation, A love that brings us true dignity and security, A love that embraces all, that enriches all, That calls us all to share justly and celebrate joyfully. (author unknown)

From Over the Pond

From blogger Dave Walker, some cartoons about Advent:

and this, which I tripped upon as soon as I had put up our lights:

Non-Christmasy News

CONTACT Photography Festival is sponsoring an exhibit of some of the Malcolmson Collection of 19th century photographs at Lennox Contemporary gallery. The show runs from Dec 14th through the 23rd (Th-Sun 12-5pm), 12 Ossington Ave. just north of Queen St. Call 416 924 7964 or for more info.

The Nativity

Last year saw the release of the film The Nativity. I would like to recommend the related book The Nativity Story: Contemplating Mary's Journey of Faith, edited by Rose Pacatte, FSP (Pauline Press, 2006). It is a collection of reflections on Mary by various women, one of whom is my best friend: Marily Elphick wrote the chapter entitled "Mary's Journey of Love". Don't just take my word for it--the book is presently being translated into Italian, with more translations sure to come. You can purchase it at Pauline Books in Toronto; email for info or go to

Christmas Specials on TV

I noted a glitch with the link to the CBC tv guide listings last week, so although it is corrected below, I am repeating the address here:

Concert Reminders

Sunday December 16th at 4:30, there are two options: The Festival of Light at St. Clement's church--carols, pageant and living nativity scene--or for those of us with grown up kids, head over to Jazz Vespers at Christ Church Deer Park ( where the Barlow Brass and Drums will present a Christmas Vespers. THEN, for even more fun, go to the Church of the Messiah (240 Avenue Rd, N of Bloor at Dupont) for a Christmas Concert and Show that will include jazz, gospel, rock, choral and celtic music, highland and step dancing, and carol sing-alongs! 7pm, freewill offering.And that's just the people I know! For more concert listings, see

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord!

Welcome to the first Sunday in Advent! You will notice that this image has purple and pink candles; that is because I am renegade and refuse to switch to the modernized blue and white and pink adaptation (apparently my preference was too Lenten; never mind that the purple is a symbol for royalty). So for you traditionalists, the first purple candle of the season signifies hope. Of course, the circular wreath represents God's completeness, the greenery reminds us of renewal of life. A prayer for the lighting of this first candle:
O Emmanuel, Jesus Christ, desire of every nation, Saviour of all peoples, come and dwell among us. Amen.
To kick start your advent season, why not use some cues? Play the soundtrack from Godspell, or the quintessential Christmas piece, A Ceremony of Carols by Benjamin Britten. Start an Advent devotional (see God With Us post on November 18th, below). A neat thing for the kids is to host a party where they get to make a Jesse Tree (see or do your own version); my kids didn't have birthdays en masse, so this was a chance for them to have a party with their friends. Try and get a permanent (not chocolate) advent calendar for your family; there are quilting and sewing patterns for them, or see the variety of store bought ones at Delay putting up your really Christmas-y decorations to mark this season. An advent calendar, Jesse tree and the wreath are simple ways to declare the season. Finally, start your Christmas baking and gift making now, so that you can enjoy Christmas when it comes. And save a tree and ditch the Christmas card madness.
Veni veni, Emmanuel
captivum solve Israel,
qui gemit in exsilio,
privatus Dei Filio.
Gaude! Gaude! Emmanuel,
nascetur pro te Israel!


Christmas Specials on TV

As a CBC brat, I bring you access to listings of old favourites this month only on Channel 6: there's a nice pdf of the month's Grinch/Charlie Brown/Muppets etc. specials at Don't miss the Vinyl Cafe's inevitable Dave and the Christmas Turkey story on the 18th! Remember to watch A Christmas Carol/Scrooge (the only acceptable one, with Alastair Sim), and please do yourself a favour and read The Polar Express to your (grand)children; like Jumanji, some things should stay on paper only.
~Buddy the Elf

Concert Recommendations

Okay, so I'm slightly biased in this post, since I have friends in and connections to these groups, but I can guarantee superlative musicianship! Due to the busy Christmas concert season, I am posting some two weeks in advance.

Saturday December 8th~dear I Furiosi help those with a blue Christmas with an irreverent look (as always) at loneliness: Solo includes guest percussionist Graham Hargrove. Calvin Presbyterian Church on Delisle (Yonge and St. Clair) 8pm (

Sunday December 9th~first at 3pm, Brother Heinrich's Christmas, a Christmas story with music by John Rutter, at St. Clement's Church, 59 Briar Hill Ave. ( Then after a skate and a bite to eat, head over to Blessed Sacrament Church (south of Yonge and Lawrence) for Aradia's Et Exultavit Christmas Concert, at 7:30pm (

The following week, you'll have to pick between church and church:
Sunday December 16th at 4:30, there are two options: The Festival of Light at St. Clement's church--carols, pageant and living nativity scene--or for those of us with grown up kids, head over to Jazz Vespers at Christ Church Deer Park ( where the Barlow Brass and Drums will present a Christmas Vespers. THEN, for even more fun, go to the Church of the Messiah (240 Avenue Rd, N of Bloor at Dupont) for a Christmas Concert and Show that will include jazz, gospel, rock, choral and celtic music, highland and step dancing, and carol sing-alongs! 7pm, freewill offering.
And that's just the people I know! For more concert listings, see