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Saturday, January 29, 2011

Henryk Mikolaj Gorecki: Requiescat In Pace

I recently discovered that Henryk Mikolaj Gorecki died on November 12, 2010. May his soul, and all the souls of the Faithful Departed, rest in peace.

Henryk Gorecki, born in 1933, was a Catholic Polish composer of what some refer to as contemporary classical music. I don't know enough about music to have an opinion about the kind of music he composed. All I shall ever remember about him is that he composed one of the most stirring, beautiful pieces of music ever: the Symphony No. 3, Opus 36, better known as the Symphony of Sorrowful Songs.

I first heard this song in the late 1990's when we were living in San Antonio. This was while I was still in the Air Force, and it was on a day when I was on call and didn't have to go to work until 3 p.m. I was listening to the classical music station they had, and Gorecki's Symphony No. 3 was playing. I stopped to listen to it, figuring I could leave as soon as the piece was over.

I ended up being late for work that day.

I had never heard such a captivating piece of music before in my life. Samuel Barber's 'Adagio for Strings' is the only other composition which comes close to it. I called the radio station to find out the name of the piece of music as well as the composer. At first I thought his name was 'Gretzky,' as in the hockey player Wayne Gretzky.

The Symphony of Sorrowful Songs consists of three movements; the first is just shy of 30 minutes, the second is about nine minutes, and the third is about 15 minutes long. The theme of all three movements is loss and death, and the lyrics reflect this. All of the lyrics are in Polish, with the inspiration for each movement's words coming from different sources.


The first movement is based on a lamentation written in a Russian monastery during the 15th century. The voice is that of Mary, seeing her Son Jesus dying on the cross:

My son, my chosen and beloved
Share your wounds with your mother
And because, dear son, I have always carried you in my heart,
And always served you faithfully
Speak to your mother, to make her happy,
Although you are already leaving me, my cherished hope.

These words come along halfway through the first movement. The music is arranged in what this amateur critic would say is a peculiar fashion. There is a symmetry to the music if one is looking at it along a timeline. The piece begins with the double basses playing a melody, which is taken up by the other instruments or groups of instruments. Each addition to the melody includes an increase in volume, until the midpoint of the piece, where the melody pauses for the lyrics to be sung in Polish. At the conclusion of the lyrics, the melody is resumed, with each type of instrument dropping off, until once again only the double basses are playing.


The second movement is the shortest, and features the words of a young woman written on the wall of a Gestapo prison during the Second World War:

No, Mother, do not weep,
Most chaste Queen of Heaven
Support me always.
"Zdrowas Mario." (*)

(Prayer inscribed on wall 3 of cell no. 3 in the basement of "Palace," the Gestapo's headquarters in Zadopane; beneath is the signature of Helena Wanda Blazusiakówna, and the words "18 years old, imprisoned since 26 September 1944.")
(*) "Zdrowas Mario" (Ave Maria)—the opening of the Polish prayer to the Holy Mother

What struck me about this piece is that the prisoner was a Catholic; I doubt anyone else would be writing the opening words of the Hail Mary on the wall of a prison. The other thing that strikes me is that, in contrast to the first movement, here we have the child consoling the parent. Perhaps Helena took some unnecessary risk which resulted in her incarceration. One will never know what her fate was.


The third movement is the hardest one for me to listen to, especially after Theodore's death. In this piece, a mother mourns the loss of a child. Not only is the child dead, but his body cannot be located. The mother, accepting that she will never see her son again, prays that at least he will rest in peace. While the lyrics describe an earthly resting place, one would expect that the mother was thinking more of her son resting in a heavenly place:

Where has he gone
My dearest son?
Perhaps during the uprising
The cruel enemy killed him

Ah, you bad people
In the name of God, the most Holy,
Tell me, why did you kill
My son?

Never again
Will I have his support
Even if I cry
My old eyes out

Were my bitter tears
to create another River Oder
They would not restore to life
My son

He lies in his grave
and I know not where
Though I keep asking people

Perhaps the poor child
Lies in a rough ditch
and instead he could have been
lying in his warm bed

Oh, sing for him
God's little song-birds
Since his mother
Cannot find him

And you, God's little flowers
May you blossom all around
So that my son
May sleep happily

Henryk Gorecki dedicated this symphony to his wife; when asked why, he responded, "To whom else should I dedicate it?" He wrote it in the mid-1970's, and it wasn't until the 1990's that it started to get more play on the radio. He never tried to capitalize on the fame of this piece; instead, he continued to teach and write.

Below is the first part of the the first movement. Recall that YouTube limits videos to 10 minutes, so that is why it is split into parts. If you are inclined, you can follow the video below to hear the rest of the Symphony of Sorrowful Songs:

Here is the complete Second Movement for your listening pleasure. This piece features a different soloist, and was filmed in Auschwitz:

Regardless of your opinion of Gorecki's music, I ask you to remember to pray for the repose of his soul today.

Monday, January 24, 2011

A Tale of Two Stutzens

You probably wonder, as I sometimes do, which Stutzen is better: the Gamo Stutzen or the RWS Diana Stutzen? Tonight, before dinner, I had a hankering to figure out what the differences are between the two air rifles.

Below are the two air rifles; the Gamo Stutzen is above and the RWS Diana is below. The Gamo is a Spanish airgun; RWS Diana is German. They are both 0.177 caliber, single stroke underlever spring air guns. This means that cocking a lever beneath the barrel will pressurize air which is released when one pulls the trigger. The rifles shoot 0.177 caliber pellets, which are shaped like a badminton 'birdie.' Like the beloved 'birdie' of elementary school physical education, most of the weight of the pellet is in the tip of the projectile. The tail end consists of a cup shape, with thin walls, so the air is trapped when released by the air rifle to send the pellet downrange. Air gun pellets are made of lead, so they flatten when they strike an object rather than ricochet back at you. BB's do that, and we avoid them and any air rifle which fires them.

The badminton birdie is not the most aerodynamic projectile; neither is the airgun pellet. This means that at velocities greater than 1,000 feet per second the pellet tends to wobble and lose accuracy. Most manufacturers know this and try to keep the maximum velocity of their air rifles under 1,000 feet per second. Both of these rifles claim to shoot 0.177 caliber pellets at 900 - 950 feet per second.

These rifles are heavy, about eight pounds. I would not want to use one for hunting. They are very well made, with a full length wood stock which is referred to as the 'Mannlicher' style. They both have cheekpieces for right-handed shooters. The finish is good on both of them, with the wood stained a bit darker on the Diana. They are both nearly all metal construction. They weigh more than conventional firearms because of the spring mechanism, and I installed a scope on each because I can shoot better with a scope than with iron sights.

They cost more than a lot of firearms, but they have one trait which makes them very desirable where we presently live: they can be shot on our property without having the pellets leave our property. This means we can shoot at any kind of target in our own back yard.

The grip and forearm of the Diana have very fine checkering, while the Gamo only has it on the grip. This makes holding the Diana a little easier. I think it is peculiar that I prefer air rifles with wood stocks, but I insist on synthetic stocks on my conventional firearms.

The RWS Diana Stutzen was up for testing first. As one can see above, the goddess of hunting, Diana, is shown discarding her trusted bow and arrow in favor of this excellent air rifle. After shooting it, I can see why.

I must have sighted in the rifle in the past, because I put about 10 out of 10 pellets into an empty Coke can. I was firing at the target at a distance of 50 feet. The sun had set long before I came outside, so I only had the light from one of our outside floodlights to guide me. Unfortunately, none of my shots knocked over any of the cans I hit. This is one of the biggest problems with the 0.177 caliber pellet: it is fast and accurate, but its light weight means that it does not have the kinetic energy needed to knock things down. This goes for varmints shot with the 0.177 pellet as well. The small pellet will not kill them immediately, but will likely set them up for a slow death instead.

The Gamo logo is not as exciting to look upon, but shooting it was a bit more fun. The first few shots were as loud as the crack of a rifle, and I noticed that this Stutzen got all the dogs for miles around barking. I asked the children who had gathered if they noticed any flames coming out of the end of the barrel. I was concerned about this because I remembered that my oldest son had shot this gun while he was home for Christmas break. I know this because he was cleaning the rifle while sitting on the floor of my closet when I got home from work one day. I figured he had left a little bit of oil in the barrel or mechanism of the rifle, and the rifle was 'dieseling.' Dieseling is a process where oil in an airgun can actually ignite when subject to the sudden compression of air behind the pellet. This ignition can actually increase the power and velocity of the pellet, so some people actually add a little oil to each pellet to make them go faster. THIS IS A VERY VERY VERY BAAAAAD THING TO DO, because it can also make the mechanism of the rifle blow up in the face of the operator. I have no desire to become permanently disabled, so I looked over the rifle for any signs of excess oil.

While inspecting the Gamo, I recalled that this was actually my second Gamo Stutzen. Shortly after buying my first one, I had to return it for repairs. This was back in 2005. I sent it to an address in Miami, and around the same time it arrived at the repair center a hurricane struck the city. A couple months passed, and I had not heard anything about this gun. When I called them, they tersely informed me that there were some other things going on in Miami after that storm, and my air rifle was very low on their priorities. Within a week they sent me a new rifle.

As I mentioned above, I was soon joined by a group of children wanting to participate in my testing. I did not want to let the younger boys shoot the big Stutzens, so I promised them that after dinner I would let them shoot if they got their cleaning done quickly.

I picked two smaller air rifles for their shooting. One is the Crosman 2100 in 0.177 caliber. This gun shoots BB's or pellets, but we only use pellets for it. It has a metal receiver and tough plastic for the stock. It is the gun in the picture below which has the iron sights. I like to shoot it too.

The other rifle is a Daisy Powerline S22 in 0.22 caliber. It has a cheap sight on it. It also is well built, with real wood for the stock. Another fun gun to shoot.

Both of these guns have the same drawbacks. One is that they are pump rifles. It takes ten pumps to fully charge them, and for a little guy that is a lot of work. It's not as hard to pump as a Benjamin Sheridan Blue Streak, though. The other problem is that dropping the pellet into the chamber in the correct orientation can be challenging, especially if one has fat little fingers like me.

The antique pistol in the bottom of the pictures is just a toy; Zelie insisted that I include 'her' pistol in there.

So the testing became a family shoot. Here Gus shoots the RWS Diana:

Bernard even got into the action, shooting a toy gun with Zelie coaching him.

Cornelius loads up the Daisy Powerline 22:

Zelie shoots her 'sword gun:'

Max is all elation after shooting a bottle full of water with the Daisy Powerline 22:

Here is his winning stance for target practice:

Marc shows off the Crosman 2100 for the camera:

One of the boys brought out their air shotgun. This is a Gamo air shotgun which can shoot either 0.22 caliber pellets or little shot shells. We started loading our own shells, using toilet paper and some #9 shot. One puts a wad of toilet paper into the cartridge, drop in some shot, and then cap it with another bit of toilet paper. It is neat to see the toilet paper shoot out of the end of the barrel. Here I am holding the air shotgun. It has a single bead at the end of the barrel, but it still can hit target with pellets very well.

Before this test of the two Stutzens turned into a family shoot, I had already decided that I like both guns. Both were fun to shoot, and target practice is one of those things which the boys and I always like to do together. While I wrote this, I looked up information on these two guns online and found out that they are both discontinued. It reminded me that my sons won't always be here to join me in a little bit of backyard plinking, and that I have to spend more time with them while they are still around.

Saturday, January 22, 2011


We choose life around here. We choose to have more children if God will bless us with them.

In the meantime, a few of us went to the March for Life in downtown Dallas on Saturday, January 22, 2011. It has been 38 years since abortion was legalized in America, and this last week we saw a surrogate mother called a 'gestational carrier' (sounds like a disease, doesn't it?) and an abortionist is accused of murder and collecting gruesome little keepsakes of his smallest victims. We've come a long way, baby.

The March for Life started at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Guadalupe in the Arts District. See the picture below:

Here is the church, there is the steeple. Open up the doors, and see all the people!

We went to the Extraordinary Form of the Mass at Mater Dei Catholic Church at 8 a.m., partly to avoid the crowd at the Cathedral. There were a lot of people, and not much respect for the Mass going on inside(we could hear it on the speakers located outside the front of church). Many of the people waiting outside were not Catholic, and probably did not realize Mass was going on, so I can't blame them. But some of my children did see people who had just received Communion go right back to visiting with others out on the courtyard. Sad way to start a march for life.

The organizers had the march led by a Flag detail, followed by strollers - one for each year abortion has been legalized. The strollers were empty, except for a placard with a year written on it. Once again, my iPhone showed its limits, when it obviously closed down the shutter because of the brightness of the white cards in the strollers. This was only the beginning of bad pictures:

We marched from the Cathedral to the Earle Cabell Federal Building, where the case of 'Roe v. Wade' was first tried. I did not notice until after we left that there were a large number of DHS (Department of Homeland Security) vehicles parked outside the building. Perhaps they thought a Pro-Life Rally would be the seedbed of violence and revolution on a cool January day in Dallas.

The crowd was peaceful. We walked along with some folks who were praying the Rosary in Spanish. Bishop Kevin Farrell made a few remarks at the rally, followed by some singing and some other speeches given by some of the other denominations represented at the rally. Here is a crowd scene:

Here is a slightly different camera angle, giving one some appreciation for the size of the crowd:

On the walk back to the Cathedral, I got this shot of this sign:


Oh, yes.

People are always offended by the images which we pro-lifers are supposedly fabricating and then shoving into the faces of innocent children. I won't be doing that, but I would wager that most abortion advocates would be more upset by the following pictures than they would if they saw a dismembered baby in a dumpster.

The first picture is of a building along the parade route, which is obviously undergoing renovation:

The second picture is that of my right third molar, or 'wisdom tooth.' I was at a gun show last weekend, and while eating a soft pretzel I broke off a piece of my third molar. I was amazed that it did not hurt - yet. On Monday morning, I called my children's dentist, and they made an appointment for me that afternoon. After looking at the tooth and the x-rays, they took it out under local anesthesia.

This is what it looked like:

Neat, huh? I have a matching one somewhere in my dresser, and my oldest daughter promised me that she would throw them out before I am even buried. I told her they just might be valuable as first class relics someday.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Laws Concerning Food and Drink; Household Principles; Lamentations of the Father - The Atlantic

Laws Concerning Food and Drink;
Household Principles;
Lamentations of the Father - The Atlantic

by Ian Frazier

This article contains some great suggestions for disciplining the children. Enjoy.

Of the beasts of the field, and of the fishes of the sea, and of all foods that are acceptable in my sight you may eat, but not in the living room. Of the hoofed animals, broiled or ground into burgers, you may eat, but not in the living room. Of the cloven-hoofed animal, plain or with cheese, you may eat, but not in the living room. Of the cereal grains, of the corn and of the wheat and of the oats, and of all the cereals that are of bright color and unknown provenance you may eat, but not in the living room. Of the quiescently frozen dessert and of all frozen after-meal treats you may eat, but absolutely not in the living room. Of the juices and other beverages, yes, even of those in sippy-cups, you may drink, but not in the living room, neither may you carry such therein. Indeed, when you reach the place where the living room carpet begins, of any food or beverage there you may not eat, neither may you drink.

But if you are sick, and are lying down and watching something, then may you eat in the living room.

And if you are seated in your high chair, or in a chair such as a greater person might use, keep your legs and feet below you as they were. Neither raise up your knees, nor place your feet upon the table, for that is an abomination to me. Yes, even when you have an interesting bandage to show, your feet upon the table are an abomination, and worthy of rebuke. Drink your milk as it is given you, neither use on it any utensils, nor fork, nor knife, nor spoon, for that is not what they are for; if you will dip your blocks in the milk, and lick it off, you will be sent away. When you have drunk, let the empty cup then remain upon the table, and do not bite it upon its edge and by your teeth hold it to your face in order to make noises in it sounding like a duck; for you will be sent away.

When you chew your food, keep your mouth closed until you have swallowed, and do not open it to show your brother or your sister what is within; I say to you, do not so, even if your brother or your sister has done the same to you. Eat your food only; do not eat that which is not food; neither seize the table between your jaws, nor use the raiment of the table to wipe your lips. I say again to you, do not touch it, but leave it as it is. And though your stick of carrot does indeed resemble a marker, draw not with it upon the table, even in pretend, for we do not do that, that is why. And though the pieces of broccoli are very like small trees, do not stand them upright to make a forest, because we do not do that, that is why. Sit just as I have told you, and do not lean to one side or the other, nor slide down until you are nearly slid away. Heed me; for if you sit like that, your hair will go into the syrup. And now behold, even as I have said, it has come to pass.

Laws Pertaining to Dessert

For we judge between the plate that is unclean and the plate that is clean, saying first, if the plate is clean, then you shall have dessert. But of the unclean plate, the laws are these: If you have eaten most of your meat, and two bites of your peas with each bite consisting of not less than three peas each, or in total six peas, eaten where I can see, and you have also eaten enough of your potatoes to fill two forks, both forkfuls eaten where I can see, then you shall have dessert. But if you eat a lesser number of peas, and yet you eat the potatoes, still you shall not have dessert; and if you eat the peas, yet leave the potatoes uneaten, you shall not have dessert, no, not even a small portion thereof. And if you try to deceive by moving the potatoes or peas around with a fork, that it may appear you have eaten what you have not, you will fall into iniquity. And I will know, and you shall have no dessert.

On Screaming

Do not scream; for it is as if you scream all the time. If you are given a plate on which two foods you do not wish to touch each other are touching each other, your voice rises up even to the ceiling, while you point to the offense with the finger of your right hand; but I say to you, scream not, only remonstrate gently with the server, that the server may correct the fault. Likewise if you receive a portion of fish from which every piece of herbal seasoning has not been scraped off, and the herbal seasoning is loathsome to you, and steeped in vileness, again I say, refrain from screaming. Though the vileness overwhelm you, and cause you a faint unto death, make not that sound from within your throat, neither cover your face, nor press your fingers to your nose. For even now I have made the fish as it should be; behold, I eat of it myself, yet do not die.

Concerning Face and Hands

Cast your countenance upward to the light, and lift your eyes to the hills, that I may more easily wash you off. For the stains are upon you; even to the very back of your head, there is rice thereon. And in the breast pocket of your garment, and upon the tie of your shoe, rice and other fragments are distributed in a manner wonderful to see. Only hold yourself still; hold still, I say. Give each finger in its turn for my examination thereof, and also each thumb. Lo, how iniquitous they appear. What I do is as it must be; and you shall not go hence until I have done.

Various Other Laws, Statutes, and Ordinances

Bite not, lest you be cast into quiet time. Neither drink of your own bath water, nor of bath water of any kind; nor rub your feet on bread, even if it be in the package; nor rub yourself against cars, nor against any building; nor eat sand.

Leave the cat alone, for what has the cat done, that you should so afflict it with tape? And hum not that humming in your nose as I read, nor stand between the light and the book. Indeed, you will drive me to madness. Nor forget what I said about the tape.

Complaints and Lamentations

O my children, you are disobedient. For when I tell you what you must do, you argue and dispute hotly even to the littlest detail; and when I do not accede, you cry out, and hit and kick. Yes, and even sometimes do you spit, and shout "stupid-head" and other blasphemies, and hit and kick the wall and the molding thereof when you are sent to the corner. And though the law teaches that no one shall be sent to the corner for more minutes than he has years of age, yet I would leave you there all day, so mighty am I in anger. But upon being sent to the corner you ask straightaway, "Can I come out?" and I reply, "No, you may not come out." And again you ask, and again I give the same reply. But when you ask again a third time, then you may come out.

Hear me, O my children, for the bills they kill me. I pay and pay again, even to the twelfth time in a year, and yet again they mount higher than before. For our health, that we may be covered, I give six hundred and twenty talents twelve times in a year; but even this covers not the fifteen hundred deductible for each member of the family within a calendar year. And yet for ordinary visits we still are not covered, nor for many medicines, nor for the teeth within our mouths. Guess not at what rage is in my mind, for surely you cannot know.

For I will come to you at the first of the month and at the fifteenth of the month with the bills and a great whining and moan. And when the month of taxes comes, I will decry the wrong and unfairness of it, and mourn with wine and ashtrays, and rend my receipts. And you shall remember that I am that I am: before, after, and until you are twenty-one. Hear me then, and avoid me in my wrath, O children of me.

Our Lady of the Mysterious Decapitation

Our Lady of the Mysterious Decapitation
Now restored with the help of some cement!

Prayer to Our Lady of the Mysterious Decapitation

Mary my mother, take my hand today, and all days.
Lead me away from all occasions of sin.
Guide me in fulfilling your last words in the Gospel,
"Do whatever He tells you."

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