Sunday, October 29, 2006

My sembreak TRULY started today...

Whew! FINALLY! I can relax and truly enjoy what remains of the sem break. (sits back and contentedly sips buko juice)

Last week was spent preparing for a singing engagement. Tata and I went to UP twice to practice with Ate Michelle. The gig was last night, and although we had a few minor boo-boo's, it turned out alright. :) Ang galing kasi ng pianista!!! At ng page turner! Bwahahaha!!

Kababawan!! I got to put on make up!! Heehee! I think I've FINALLY figured out how to apply foundation properly... thanks to Kokuryu Summer Cake!! A secret weapon! And it's only Php ~60!!

Plus, I earned some moolah. Yippee!

Tata and I found time to meet up with our good friend Denden in the past week. We had lunch at Cibo's (which I think is WaaaaaaAAAAaaaay overrated... you're SO not getting value for money), window shopped a bit, then bonded over over-sized margarita's and Bailey's at Fridays. We got to talk about LIFE (still a magazine... harhar), and a lot of other things. Our outing put a HUGE dent in my wallet, but it was worth it. :) We get to see Den every so often lang, it's truly a special occasion worth splurging on.

I'd be making more catching-up-dates if it weren't for the fact that i'm so broke... oh hey! Am not THAT broke anymore! *evil grin*

Was supposed to watch the MMCO concert tonight but something came up. :(  Sadness! Was really looking forward to it.

Watched THE PRESTIGE today with the family, after hearing mass. WATCHITWATCHITWATCHIT!! Ang galing! A GREAT movie! Will keep you guessing til the end.

Having a twin is TRULY awesome.

I have so many books to read!?!?!!? They're just lying around in the house. Am starting on ERAGON, it's surprisingly good! I call it "Lord of the Rings for the masses."  I like Paolini's simpler prose.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Been doing some heavy reading...

Having had quite a few hours to while away at my leisure, I decided to read the 400-peso book I had bought from Kuya Randy's stall along AS walk (brand new! it was definitely a good deal)...


Here are excerpts from New York Time's contributing writer Andrew Sullivan's review of the book: (emphasized parts mine)

How can one categorize ''Constantine's Sword''? It is in part a memoir of an American Catholic of a particular generation, a self-confessed ''lefty'' whose political and spiritual awakening came during the Vietnam War. It is also a history of the long and bitter fruits of the schism among Jews two millenniums ago about the meaning of eschatology, messianism and faith itself -- the schism that finds its origin in the life and work of Jesus of Nazareth. And it is a book of a deeper sort -- a rigorous theological and moral dialectic that Carroll never removes from the personal necessity of choice, for good over evil, for memory over denial and for love over power.

Holding this ambitious edifice together is an argument. What Carroll wants to show us above all is that the relationship with the Jews is not merely one issue among many for the modern church. It is the central issue in church history and inextricable from the core of what Christianity is about. To make his case, Carroll has to go back to the very beginning and show an alternative history -- a history of what might have been, a history in which the followers of Jesus were neither hostile to Judaism nor threatened by it.

Carroll begins by restating, along the lines of the revisionist scholarship of the Jesus Seminar, the essential Jewishness of Jesus. Jesus was not, so far as we know, a man alien to the culture or politics of his time. He lived and died in a region controlled by an imperial power, and asserted in that context an intense form of Jewish spirituality, animated by a kind of love that was clearly shocking and inspiring to many of his contemporaries. It was only in the later context of the struggles between Jesus-following Jews and other variants of Judaism that the Gospel story came to be told as a conflict not between a Jewish rebel and a brutal Roman Empire but between the founder of a new religion and ''the Jews,'' a monolithic term that began the process of demonizing the other.

Susan Walsh/ The Associated Press
James Carroll

In Carroll's reading, in other words, Jesus came not to supplant but to renew. The love he proclaimed was the unconditional love that God also displayed throughout the Hebrew Scriptures -- a covenant that could never be broken, since it was unconditional. There is no dichotomy between the God of Law of the Old Testament and the God of Love of the New. The message is seamless, made more whole by the witness of Jesus. The notion that Christian anti-Semitism began with Jesus is therefore meaningless. He would not have even understood such a term. It was Jesus' followers who reshaped Christianity by defining it less by what it was than by what it was not. Carroll somewhat unconvincingly exonerates Paul on these grounds, placing his occasional extremism with regard to the supersession of Judaism in the context of his belief that the end-time was imminent. And Carroll persuasively shows how the concept of opposing religions is a function primarily of hindsight.

Still, there are some theological matters that Carroll too easily elides. Part of the reason for the parting of the ways between Christianity and Judaism in the first centuries of the Christian Era was their closeness. Christianity surely rests on the Hebrew Bible, as indeed the Gospels, more than any other documents, prove. But precisely because of this, the early Jewish indifference toward the notion of Jesus as the Son of God was so threatening. In a world where the fledgling sect of Christianity was attempting to find its way among competing paganisms and cults, the remaining recalcitrance of the very people it was designed to embody was bound to create conflict. Call it the narcissism of small differences. Human history shows that the fiercest conflicts -- from the Balkans to Ireland -- are fomented by estranged members of the same tangled family.

Carroll's narrative picks up steam with the arrival of Constantine and the fusion of Christianity with imperial power. He neatly rebuts the notion of Constantine's conversion as some sort of divine intervention, seeing it more as a canny political move, shoring up support in Rome. And from Constantine's sword, designed in the shape of a cross, the fusion of a religion opposed to power with power itself is the core of the corruption of Christianity. When Christians used this secular power to persecute, banish, murder Jews, they were betraying not just the essence of the faith of Jesus, they were embodying the very power that killed Christ -- not the evil Jews, but the power of the state. Mercifully, the injunction to save Jews, to convert them, to see them as pre-eminently worthy of salvation, was a strong check on the demonization of Jews. But under the Inquisition, the church itself innovated another definition of Jewishness -- not of faith but of blood -- pioneering expulsions and then a demarcated Jewish ghetto in a quarter of Rome, to house refugees from elsewhere. The picture of the displaced Jews' arrival in the capital city is as fresh as the images from Srebrenica. One contemporary wrote: ''You would have thought that they wore masks. They were bony, pallid, their eyes sunk in the sockets; and had they not made slight movements, it would have been imagined that they were dead.'' Even then, Christian friars offered bread only on condition of conversion. After creating the ghetto, the church in the mid-16th century laid down what Jews could do and earn and how they could live. By the 17th century, the Jesuits had instituted the forerunner of the Nuremberg Laws, barring anyone from becoming a Jesuit ''who is descended of Hebrew or Saracen stock'' -- a baldly racist provision not formally ended until 1946.

Is there a continuous link between this Jew hatred and the final act of vengeance in the Holocaust? Carroll is wise not to say yes. The uniqueness of Nazi evil, the fact that eliminationist anti-Semitism, to use Daniel Jonah Goldhagen's phrase, found full fruition only in one state at one point in history, places earlier Catholic anti-Semitism in some perspective. Indeed, compared with Luther's vicious rhetoric about the ''pest in the midst of our lands,'' the Jesuits were relatively restrained. But, as Carroll points out, ''the fact is that the Inquisition moved Christian suspicion of Jews to a whole new level of irrationality.'' It was a touchstone for the church at moments of insecurity -- in the 19th and early 20th centuries -- and, although the persecution never regained the insane passion of Torquemada, it certainly never missed an opportunity to acquiesce in popular anti-Semitism.

Carroll's account of Pope Pius XII is particularly damning. His early pact with Hitler was a foundation stone of the Shoah. The church was capable of resisting state power in Germany. It had doggedly survived and prospered under Bismarck's Kulturkampf. But Pius XII's elevation of Catholic self-interest over Catholic conscience was the lowest point in modern Catholic history. That he barely bothered to protest the deportation of Jews from the Roman ghetto within sight of the Vatican is eloquent enough. Yes, there were many instances of Catholic heroism. But no honest Catholic can look objectively at what Pius XII did and did not do without simple shame. The notion that he could be canonized is beyond this particular Catholic's comprehension.

In all this, Carroll does his fair share of breast-beating, but it is remarkable, perhaps, how few jarring notes there are in this book. The story is strong because it is framed within Carroll's own personal story -- his childhood Jewish friend, his years as an Army brat in newly liberated West Germany, his shared grief at the early death of a good friend. But there are times when solipsism nudges in. I could have done with fewer echt-Catholic remembrances of the erotic charge of his pious mother. And there is at times a lack of worldliness that gives Carroll's faith a real edge but his politics a slightly blunted focus. We feel the corruption of faith in the service of power, but we don't get a sense of the inevitability of such power and the acute difficulty religion will always have in reconciling itself to the world. Carroll's inability, for example, to see anything but pure evil in America's Vietnam excursion betrays an ingenuousness that doesn't always capture the intractable political quandary of, say, Paul or Constantine or Pius XII.

But Carroll's love of the church is equally unmissable. His deepest insight, I think, is to see in John Paul II's transforming papacy a deep grasp of how central the Jewish question is to the current state of the church. Karol Wojtyla did not merely attempt to reach out to Jews. He didn't merely apologize. He went to the Western Wall. He shuffled up to it as a Jew might, and prayed, and inserted a small piece of votive paper into its cracks. Here's how Carroll superbly describes it: ''The church was honoring the Temple it had denigrated. It was affirming the presence of the Jewish people at home in Jerusalem. The pope reversed an ancient current of Jew hatred with that act, and the church's relationship to Israel, present as well as past, would never be the same.''

In calling the church to an accounting with its past, the current pope [referring to Pope John Paul... this article was written 2001] has not been perfect. There is still a reluctance to confront the horror done to Jews in the name of Christian faith. But he has put his finger on a vital element in the church's possible renewal.
~ ~ ~

It is not mentioned in the review the several far-reaching implications that this book raises. Some controversial (?) points the author raised are:

"Truth is not the highest value for us... because our knowledge is imperfect... Truth is subjective. Therefore, dialogue/conversation is far more relevant to truth-seeking than conformity to dictation from above."

"Religious pluralism begins with this acknowledgement of the universal impossibility of direct knowledge of God. The immediate consequence of this universal ignorance is that we should regard each other respectfully and lovingly."

Wouldn't it be wonderful if the Church could, in James Carroll's words, "embrace a pluralism of belief and worship... that honors God by defining God as beyond every human effort to express God?"

"God is the horizon... equally bidding all people to approach, yet equally distant from all people, Christians included."

I end this post with a quote from Rabbi Heschel: "GOD IS GREATER THAN RELIGION... Faith is greater than dogma."

Nothing like the sem break to review one's beliefs.

Friday, October 20, 2006

My first recital!!!

Wow! I can't believe it's over! An entire sem's worth of preparation... finished, just like that *SNAPS FINGERS*

Last night was my first undergraduate solo recital. :) And it was a blast!!

At first I was so nervous, and I think my teacher sensed it too. She went backstage to fix my hair (IDOL! She was able to fix my hair in a neat bun with only FIVE hair pins and a scrunchie)... and guided me through breathing exercises. It helped me A LOT.

I was still nervous when I went onstage for the first song, but come the second song I warmed up already. And everything went smoothly from then on. :)

Thank you to Ate Michelle Nicolasora! It was such a privilege working with you and making music together! I look forward to the next time we do so. :)

THANK YOU SO MUCH to Papa and Mama! For providing every kind of assistance imaginable (financial, emotional, etc.)... thanks also to my make up artist and emcee-of-sorts, my clone Tata... thank you to my personal bodyguard and bouncer, my witul brother Ogot! I LOVE YOU GUYS!!!

Thank you also to my beautiful Lola Lolita and Uncle Digoy, coming all the way from Alabang... for the gorgeous flowers!

Thank you also to everyone who took time off from their busy schedules to come see my first recital... Sir Eudy, Ma'am Vina, Ma'am Luci, Ma'am Sherla, Sir Queano, Sir Aureus, Ate Maricris, Jaime, Christian and Francis from Archi, Raymond, Domini, Feon, etc.

And of course, to my teacher, Ma'am Aileen Cura... THANK YOU PO SO MUCH!

(Boy this acknowledgement post is getting pretty long)

Waaaaa!?!?! As Tata and Ogot would say, "I am FREEDOM!"

Of course, I still have to prepare for a little performance next Saturday. Have to memorize 12 songs, whew! But aside from that, I'm freeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.....

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Tapos na!?!?!?!??!

I think I mistakenly posted some time back about having only two more things to do for the sem... namely

1) The Ensemble Recital

and 2) my own recital

I forgot to include our THEATER 130 Class Production for our FINALS!?!?!?!?!?

Thanks to Sir Dexter Santos and the past few weeks, I've had a taste of what it's like to be a Theater major in UP Diliman.

A typical day:

4 am. Wake up and rush to eat breakfast, then run like mad to UP

6 am -- 8 am. First practice of the day at FC Lobby

8 am -- 10 am. Rush off to SC to type a paper (deadline: tomorrow!!!)

10 am -- 11 am: Watch a Dance Recital at your home college, Music

11 -- 11:30: A quick catnap at the LR (thank goodness for the wooden sofa!)

12 noon-- 10 pm: THEATER REHEARSALS!!! (with only 15 minutes break)

10:30 pm: Get picked up by parents (good thing, the darkness and the silence at AS steps was starting to get creepy)

11:30 pm: Get home, and barely have enough energy to eat dinner

12 midnight: take a bath

12:45: Go to bed. ZzzzzZZZzzzzz

4:30 am: Good morning! And the cycle begins again...

Buti na lang at TAPOS NA SIYA!!!

We presented our 9 minute movement piece last night, along with 4 or 5 other classes under Sir Dexter.

Will write a more detailed account of yesterday (one of the most INTERESTING days of my life) and of backstage moments when I am less sleepy...

Saturday, October 7, 2006

What a time to get my FIRST SORE THROAT

(Er, I may have had sore throat before... but I sure can't remember...)

It hurts to swallow. I can't breathe because my nose is clogged. And I CAN'T SING.

This wouldn't really be a big deal if it weren't for the fact that my voice finals are 50 something hours away...

I've had this sore throat since Wednesday, and it's not getting any better.

I want to have it checked by a doctor but I don't have the time.

I need a miracle. Pray for me?

Shelfari: Book reviews on your book blog