31 January 2010

+JMJ+

Punk Catholic Thought of the Week

If one can participate fully in the Mass without singing, then can one who is singing also participate fully if his back is to the altar?

(Yes, I know it's a non sequitur, but I'd appreciate an answer anyway. Thanks!)

From where I sit at Mass, I have a decent view of whichever musical group has been assigned to sing. Though our church does have a choir loft, some of the more recent renovations have made it completely inaccessible to anyone without a long ladder. So all liturgical singers and musicians know to stay near the electric Yamaha organ (Miserere nobis!) at the front right of the sanctuary.

What I don't really care for is the way the singers gather around a central microphone, because when they form that circle, more than half of them have their backs to the altar. (When I was roped into singing with a "folk group" at my Wellington parish, I suffered through the same thoughtless logistics.) It just seems wrong to me.

I guess what I'm wondering is whether I am, once again, "on to something" here or not.

29 January 2010

+JMJ+

Writing Diary, Entry #14

Several Writing Diary entries ago, I mentioned a 1,000-word article I was writing for the October/November (read: Halloween/All Saints Day) issue of Fully Booked Zine. The whole issue is finally available online, in PDF form, for anyone who wants a crash course on today's most popular Paranormal Romance authors.


(No, Noxxtis, Sherrilyn Kenyon isn't one of them--not because she's not popular, but because I've never read one of her Paranormals.)

28 January 2010

+JMJ+

The Alphabet Assignment: A

This is a fun pen-and-paper game that I first tried at Sancta Sanctis with the letter D. I decided to do it again on Shredded Cheddar because I like lists and brackets and such games of enumeration.

The object of this one is simple: List ten things you like that start with the same letter.

Yet it's harder than it seems!

It took me a couple of multi-tasking hours a few nights ago to come up with the following list, which I've put (appropriately enough) in alphabetical order:

1) A+

My favourite mark, though anything from the A family makes me happy, too.

26 January 2010

+JMJ+

Tutor Tales, Volume 12

There is only so much one can blame on a medical condition.

The first time I told Doctor Nemesis' mother that every other word out of her firstborn's mouth was an obscenity, she apologised profusely and promised to talk to him about it. Then she explained that her boy's doctors had told her that his Tourette syndrome makes him say things he might not mean, while his ADHD makes him crave any attention--even negative attention--and she pleaded with me to be more tolerant.

So I bit my tongue and steeled myself to focus on nothing but sixth-grade Geometry (with word problems!)--which I've been doing since that call. In the meantime, Doctor Nemesis has repeatedly told me to f*** myself, go to h***, and suck his c***, with the saucy confidence of one who knows that Tourette, as defined by the adults around him, means never having to say you're sorry.

25 January 2010

+JMJ+

The Punk vs. the Pirates

My youngest brother's favourite band in the world is Green Day--a choice I wholeheartedly encourage. (If he weren't also so attracted to current Emo bands, he'd have great taste in Rock music . . . for an eleven year old.)

Yesterday, he splurged on a copy of Green Day's latest album, 21st Century Breakdown. Two minutes into the first track, I was amazed to realise that the careless Punk of Dookie, which had always been a bright star of my youth, had finally been surpassed by a more competent, worldly, even mature Punk. Not even The Clash ever bothered with themes beyond their initial rebellion. One doesn't expect these things . . .

The hour my brother and I spent lounging on my bed, listening to as many tracks as we could before he got picked up to go home, made last evening the most enjoyable one I've had in months. The simple pleasures of looking at album art, reading lyrics as they are sung, and inhaling the unmistakable smell of brand new CD jacket, were simply priceless. I haven't been able to do any of that since . . . well, since I became a digital barbarian casting my lot with the music pirates.

When my mother and step-father finally arrived, they were appalled to learn their son had bought an original CD when he could have spent a tenth of the price on a pirated copy. He must have got an awful lecture on the drive back to their house. I'm going to have to undermine whatever they told him, the next time I see him.

In last week's post The Price of Digital Technology, I finally came to admit that the totally "free" and "open" dissemination of art, music and literature is something we, as a culture, simply cannot afford. That is, it's not free, because we pay another sort of price--and by making it more difficult for artists, musicians and writers to ply their trade, it is also not open. I may not be able to do something about all the pirated media that already exists, but I can make sure that the artists, musicians and writers I love get a cut of my money.

Seven Notes on 21st Century Breakdown



24 January 2010

+JMJ+

Punk Catholic vs. Pink Christians

No, I don't mean the Pink Sisters . . .

So far, four people have asked me why I am closing down Sancta Sanctis, which means that I have given four different answers.

Do you know the expression, "Shoot first; ask questions later"? That happens to be my first rule of blogging; it makes things so much more interesting.

Since my first announcement of the end (as in termination) of Sancta Sanctis, I have been thinking more and more about the end (as in purpose) of Shredded Cheddar. To my great horror, the seed of the latter came to me during a weekday evening Mass, when the Gospel reading was about the multiplication of the loaves and fishes. After everyone had been fed, St. Luke tells us, the disciples were able to gather twelve baskets of leftovers: fragmentorum cofini duodecim. And I realised that a "basket of leftovers" is precisely what I want Shredded Cheddar to be.

So there will be--to my own chagrin--no termination-end to "blogging Catholicly" . . . though clarity on its purpose-end probably will not come soon. Yet I am more aware now that my blogging, especially on religious matters, is definitely not something everyone else should take seriously. In that light, all relevant posts will have the tab "Punk Catholic": for I don't represent the establishment; I only speak for myself.

22 January 2010

+JMJ+

Seven Quick Takes
(See the rest of this week's crop of Quick Takes!)



7. Introduction: My objective is to make these my seven quickest takes ever. Given how long my previous attempts were, that's hardly a tough challenge.

21 January 2010

+JMJ+

The Price of Digital Technology

Mr. Lanier was once an advocate himself for piracy, arguing that his fellow musicians would make up for the lost revenue in other ways. Sure enough, some musicians have done well selling T-shirts and concert tickets, but it is striking how many of the top-grossing acts began in the predigital era, and how much of today's music is a mash-up of the old.

"It's as if culture froze just before it became digitally open, and all we can do now is mine the past like salvagers picking over a garbage dump," Mr. Lanier writes. Or, to use another of his grim metaphors: "Creative people--the new peasants--come to resemble animals converging on shrinking oases of old media in a depleted desert."


-- a New York Times article on the "Internet Delusion"

How disturbingly brilliant!

To borrow the best thing anyone has ever said to me: I don't know if he's right; but I do know that he's on to something.

Forget video killing the radio star! Digital technology is trying to do the same to everyone who makes original music. If you thought that being unable to sell good music without a promotional video was a silly, arbitrary convention, then what do you think of being unable to sell good music without a celebrity persona?

For when music is as free and readily available as it is in this digital age, fans aren't going to pay for quality. They might, on the other hand, be influenced to fork over something for celebrity.

20 January 2010

+JMJ+

Reading Diary: The Final Four of Everything

You might not agree that Paul Newman's best role was in Absence of Malice, or that Mary Tyler Moore is the greatest American named Mary--ever! Or that Crunch Berries is the best breakfast cereal or that Mark Twain had the best pseudonym and that a brew from Louisiana named Turbodog is America's best beer. Or that Maine has the most stylish license plate and "This Land Is Your Land" is the best choice to replace our current national anthem. Or that 1941 was the greatest sports year . . . or that Scrabble is a better board game than Monopoly.

If you regard any of the above opinions as fighting words, then you're already enjoying this book in the way we intended . . .

(Oooooh, fighting words! I just love fighting words!)

Brackets are arrogantly beautiful--and they should be. They're lists with an aggressive edge, and all lists are naturally lovely. To think in lists is already poetic, but to think in brackets is to understand that all the entries on the same list don't have to get along with each other, and is therefore both poetic and political.

Keeping with the poetry analogies, if the Top 5 List is an acrostic, then a Tournament Bracket is a villanelle. Both of them are also centos! (Hmmmm. Which would you rather read: Top 5 Forms of Poetry or a Poetry Bracket Smackdown?) I love poems, lists and brackets alike because they let a writer take the pieces of the universe and put them together in new ways. They are variations in a game of synthesis, for which Shredded Cheddar shall be my personal virtual play area.

19 January 2010

+JMJ+

Team Taylor: Fifteen . . . and Other Ages



Now I hope you're not expecting a lesson! I haven't been covering playing Taylor's songs for my own amusement lately, so I have something else for you today. (Yes, we're full of surprises here at Shredded Cheddar.)

When did we start romanticising certain ages? Are these songs rooted in memory or in wishful thinking? Perhaps a little of both?

Taylor's songwriting has been disparaged by some teenagers who say that today's fifteen-year-old girls aren't as likely to be getting their first kisses as they are to be losing their virginity. As someone for whom neither event marked her own fifteenth year, I remain moved by the naivete of the lyric--

When you're fifteen and somebody tells you they love you/
You're gonna believe them . . .

Then the track ends and I wonder whether a nineteen-year-old girl who has led a charmed life by most standards is sage enough to distill the essence of "fifteen" in a song. Then again . . . it has always been a popular conceit among songwriters of all ages.

The most popular age in music must be sixteen! The musical odes to sixteen year olds or one's own sixteenth year range from the reverential to the jaded. Taylor was smart to subtract a year and stand out with Fifteen. Another blonde princess decided to buy into the cliche and recorded one of the worst pop songs ever. I didn't even consider her when it was time to pick my Definitive Sixteen Song for our next list . . .

My Top Five Arbitrary Age Songs:

1) Sixteen Going on Seventeen



I almost chose Johnny Burnette's You're Sixteen (my personal favourite of all "Sixteen" songs) . . . but then had to admit to myself that it's not the worst culprit of the lot.

This song, on the other hand, has sixteen, seventeen, and a cordial nod to eighteen--and milks them all. I listened to it over and over in the year I watched my family's Betamax copy of The Sound of Music every day, and it completely convinced me that life and love would begin at sixteen . . . in a gazebo . . . by a river . . . under moonlight . . . with waltzing.

What a lie that turned out to be, aye? (Even Agathe von Trapp, on whom Liesl was based, thought of this fabricated romance as "rubbish.") I currently consider this song the most annoying Rogers & Hammerstein showtune ever. Yet it totally crowns this list . . . so let's all endure it one more time.

17 January 2010

+JMJ+

The Non-Confidential Proust Questionnaire
(See Dylan's answers on his own blog)

There is a scene in John Hughes' Sixteen Candles in which the birthday girl is filling out The Confidential Sex Ed Questionnaire. Someone wrote the questions by hand, leaving spaces for the answers, and Samantha is also answering by hand. The first time I watched it, with my friends, Ninjapeps pointed out that, these days, high school students answer those sort of things on the Internet . . . and we all laughed.

What we call "memes" were cool long before we had not just the Internet but also that industrial, Prussian idea known as high school. Back in the late 1800s, there were already popular personality interviews: short questions meant to draw out sweet answers. The most famous of these is the "Proust Questionnaire," which takes its name not after its creator, but after its most famous interviewee, Marcel Proust.

(If you want to know whether "memes" go back any further in time, you'll have to do your own research. I'm going to answer the questionnaire now.)

16 January 2010

+JMJ+

Once a Disney Baby

Today, I'm more of a Disney Boycotter . . . and if you've seen anything produced in the past decade and shown on the Disney Channel, then you won't need me to explain.

Yet it's only fair that I post this tribute to the Golden Age of Disney. I tricked Noxxtis into creating her Top 5 Female Vampires when she thought I was doing research for a list of my own, so now I believe I owe her an answer to something she asked me at XYZ Tutorial Centre:

"Teacher Enbrethiliel, who are your favourite Disney guys?"

Knowing that at least one person in the whole universe cares, I share with you--

My Top 5 "Disney Guys"

1) Robin Hood of Robin Hood

So he's a critter. How does that matter? He's also funny, kind, loyal, brave, romantic, and beloved of all the children in England. (He likes them back, too . . . and knows how to make them feel special on their birthdays.) All his soft, fluffy fur is actually a bonus. Yes, he's a real fox! ;)

Then there's the archery! I'd say, "Chicks dig the archery," but I think I should keep animal metaphors at a minimum when discussing such a character.

If Disney had made this movie after its 90s "Renaissance," the producers would have hired someone with a plucky "boy band" voice and completely ruined the character. As it stands, Robin is voiced by veteran theatre actor Brian Bedford, who has played virtually every good role in Shakespeare but Hamlet. I think this movie planted the seeds of what is now a full-blown fatal attraction to character actors who can read Shakespeare: Jeremy Irons . . . Tobias Menzies . . . David Tennant . . .

14 January 2010

+JMJ+

A Blog is Born!

I wish I could open this post with the introduction, "Please meet one of my students . . ." but Noxxtis is not, as I used to say in the faculty room, "one of mine."


You might have noticed that her debut post totally blames me for her first Top 5 List: Top 5 Female Vampires.

So I guess I'm a sufficiently bad influence, anyway, though I may not be her official tutor. =)

And now you know what kind of work tutees really do at XYZ Tutorial Centre.

13 January 2010

+JMJ+

Tutor Tales, Volume 11

Some time last year, while browsing in a thrift bookstore near my home, I came across a book written by a parent who was highly indignant at one response many teachers gave when they were polled about the biggest hindrances to teaching. Ranked even higher than the expected answers of budget cuts, school bureaucracy and student hoodlums (!!!) were . . . parents.

I had to laugh. I spent two years as an English teacher in a private Catholic school and am currently tutoring students from other private Catholic schools--and I, too, would have put parents in my Top 5 List of Stuff That Makes Teaching Difficult (and Tutoring Hell). For it's true! (Oh, the stories I could tell you . . .)

It is rare to find a parent who "gets it." That is, it's rare to find a parent who can either appraise his children with the cool eye of a teacher or be open-minded enough to listen to a teacher's appraisal of his child. That's perfectly normal, of course, and the only time it ever becomes a problem is when parents refuse to admit that they just might have a blind spot.

11 January 2010

+JMJ+

Quo Vadis, Cheddar?

In my personal experience, blogging has always been aspirational. I joined the Catholic blogosphere because I thought the coolest people on earth were the "Fun Lovin' Catholic Nerds from Notre Dame" . . . and over six years later, they've all graduated and still don't know who I am. (Yeah, I wasn't cool in high school, either.)

Now that I'm on the brink of closing my Catholic blog down, I find myself flailing about for a sense of identity. Is there any other corner of the blogosphere where I'd like to be invited to sit at the cool kids' table?

Well, of course there is!

09 January 2010

+JMJ+

These Dreams: The Desk That Was an Organ

They may call Nick Rhodes the "Synth God" . . .
but we all know that title really belongs to Thomas Dolby.

Most of my dreams are set in houses I have lived in--houses that no longer exist in the waking world.

This includes my the Time Travel dream: the flat in [English City] where my friend and I stayed bore an unmistakable resemblance to an aunt's townhouse, which developers demolished over a decade ago.

Early this week, I dreamed that I was back in my childhood home--the house where I lived for the first twenty years of my life and which I barely recognised after the new owners were done remodeling it. Of course, in my dream it looked exactly the same as it did when I was a child . . . except that most of the clear glass in the windows had been replaced with glowing stained glass.

I was walking downstairs to the formal living room, where my grandmother's social climbing tastes had been allowed free rein, and which one of our poltergeists claimed for its own after our family fortunes took us from "new rich" to "impoverished rich" and could no longer afford to entertain so lavishly. It was also where we ended up moving the Yamaha organ which my grandmother had bought in the 70s, to impress the neighbours, when she really should have bought a piano. It was a room full of all sorts of ghosts, at least one of them literal, but in my dream it was bright with coloured sunlight and not frightening at all.

And in the corner, instead of an electric organ, there was a desk . . . a desk with a cabinet full of books . . . all books by "Bad Catholic" authors: Father Andrew Greeley, Bud McFarlane, Diana Gabaldon. The book jackets of their novels were glowing as enchantingly as the stained glass in the windows.

Then I woke up and knew exactly what the dream meant.

07 January 2010

+JMJ+

Writing Diary, Entry #13
. . . and Twelve Things about a *Special* Cult Classic

Now that I've finally announced the imminent end of my main blog, I really should start posting better content on this blog.

As I said last week, writing work has been more steady than my silence on the subject has let on. Yet it has been a steady trickle from only one source. My Fully Booked Zine editor didn't take my pitch for the December-January issue; and after she asked me to write something for the next issue, her silence since then makes me conclude that she must have decided to assign it to someone else instead. Ah, the fickle world of magazine publishing!

At least my Atlas TV Guide editor still seems to like me. What that has meant, however, is that I've had to write articles on Reality TV for the past two months. (I still don't know how I managed to pull off those 500 words on The Biggest Loser Asia.)

Only this week did I get a commission really worth blogging about . . . Would I please, the e-mail requested, write a 300-word review on one of the following "Valentine" movies:


A Guy Thing, Miracle Beach, Love Bites, Rockula, Dr. Heckyl and Mr. Hype, Nobody's Perfect, The Boyfriend School, Impromptu

So . . .
can you guess which one I picked?

You probably already know it
if you're a "Follower" with a Reading List,
but just in case you aren't . . .
can you guess?!?!

05 January 2010

+JMJ+

Team Taylor Tuesday: Spotted!

Oooooh, I feel like Gossip Girl!

As it's been over a year since I read my only Cecily von Zeigesar novel, however, I can't write like Gossip Girl.

So let me just say that even though it seems that "T-Squared" have broken up, they certainly look cute together in their Valentine's Day cameo.


04 January 2010

+JMJ+

Fifteen Things about Shake, Rattle & Roll XI


15. This is the first Horror movie I've watched on the big screen since . . . Let me put it this way: Does Alien3 count?

14. As soon as the blood-on-white opening sequence began, people around me started tittering, laughing and murmuring about what they expected to see. I was rather annoyed . . . until we all started yelling stuff at the screen together.

13. Do you have any idea how proud I feel to have supported the Metro Manila Film Festival with my own hard-earned money? =D Also, please note that despite the general panning tone I take, I had a great time at the cinema!

12. On Diablo: What kind of Mass has the Ama Namin (Pater Noster) before the Consecration?

11. And what kind of exorcists say the Mass in Filipino and then say (what is supposed to be) the Rite of Exorcism in English??? Remember the general rule of Horror movies: Everything is better in Latin.

03 January 2010

+JMJ+

A Troll of My Very Own!

If you're wondering where this post has gone, you can keep wondering forever. =)

What shall it profit a Catholic Punk to gain every troll on the Internet and lose his soul?

To everyone who left comments of support: Thank you very much! I appreciate your friendship. (I also saved and hid--rather than deleted--your comments.) Let's move on now, shall we? ;-)

01 January 2010

+JMJ+

Seven Quick Takes: Hello, 2010!
(Be sure to read the other Seven Quick Takes for the week!)



7. Introduction: There is sweetness in structure. I've decided to give each Quick Take its own special theme or identity, as our fingers get when we sing Where is Thumbkin? That way, I won't be scrambling for topics come Thursday night, but can just play word association with myself.