October 2008

Dark Side of Islam

The Dark Side of Islam, R.C. Sproul & Abdul Saleeb ★★
This book, written by the well-known theologian R.C. Sproul and an ex-radical Muslim, A. Saleeb, actually talks very little about the dark side of Islam. It is mostly a conversation between the two authors regarding some of the theological differences between the Islam and Christian faith, mostly dealing with the nature of God, sin, salvation, and the person and work of Christ. I found it contained only limited information, and thus not terribly helpful for my poor inquisitive mind, which is asking for a more precise analysis of Islam/Christian differences, which tend to be quite significant. Since I’m now reading “Answering Islam” by Norman Geisler, I might have my questions answered.

Treading Among Immortals

OK. I have a confession to make. I’m absolutely nuts about J.S. Bach. And the more I listen to his music, and learn about him, the more I appreciate the absolute genius of his character. I’ve spent some time re-listening to the Greenberg lectures on Bach and the High Baroque (www.teach12.com) and remain amazed at the sheer complexity of his compositional technique, engaging in musical styles that took until the 20th century to grasp, such as Stravinsky’s technique of having two simultaneous key signatures being played (and sounding great!), odd-metered timing, 12-tone rows of Schönberg, and the likes.
I don’t review all the music that I listen to, and notice that over the last 30 days, I’ve listened to over 84 hours of music, just while sitting at my desk, reading or doing the computer. These have included the symphonies of Glazunov (well worth hearing & owning, though they still don’t come in a compiled set), and much of the piano performances of Alfred Brendel, including the Beethoven piano sonatas, and Schubert piano sonatas. Both are wonderful performances by a superb Wiener Klavierspieler. I know of no better Schubert interpreter than A. Brendel.
Now that autumn has arrived, I have my bicycle mounted on a trainer. The summer was wonderful for cycling but very disappointing for backpacking. Maybe next year will be better. I have a new bicycle on order, a steel-framed bike with Campy Chorus components and Campy Neutron wheelsets, that hopefully will arrive by early February. I am ordering this wonderful little machine from a friend of a friend, Mike Brown, who is just opening up a bicycle shop in Tacoma. The frame is coming from California, and you can look over their website at www.steelmancycles.com. This cycle should last me the next 20 years unless it gets stolen or run over by a car.
I’m nearing the end of call  –forever. October 28 is my last call day. I will never again take call under the conditions that we have been having to endure. It will be either 12-hour shifts or hospital call with substantially more assistance. For two months, I’ll be winding down my practice, in preparation for the year Sabbatical starting 01 January 2009. More on that in future blogs. For now, I need to prepare for a month at the Goethe Institute in Düsseldorf. I’m also doing a little brush-up on my French while teaching myself the Sanskrit style of writing of Bengali.
It is the political season. I hate politics. I’ve just read a blog of a relationship that makes them sound like a little commie pinko freak. Scary! I didn’t think that we had that in our blood. Amerika seems hell-bent on socialism. Though the public has massive distrust for our “leaders”, they wish to put even more responsibility on their laps. The Gov is now responsible to make sure we never have an economic downturn and so is taking possession of our banks (i.e, our money, our wealth). The Feds are responsible for “educating” our kids. We want to give them the care (and control!) of our bodies in the form of health care for all. We don’t respond in horror when a near-president suggests that we have to “spread the wealth around”. Lenin, Stalin, and Mao were effective at spreading wealth. It looks like Amerika will be re-inventing their failed experiments in economics. Plan on a 10-20 year depression.
It’s not fair to end on a depressing note, since I don’t really feel depressed. Probably best to end by quoting the prophet Habakkuk…
Though the fig tree should not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
and there be no herd in the stalls,
yet will I rejoice in the Lord,
I will take joy in the God of my salvation,
God the Lord, is my strength,
he makes my feet like the deer’s;
he makes me tread on high places.

Bluebeard’s Castle

Bluebeard’s Castle, Bela Bartok, conducted by Georg Solti ★★★★
Bluebeard’s Castle is another piece whose music is not approachable when listened to without the visual. The music works very well with the added visuals. The visuals in this case are on the opera stage, but reality scenes. This is Bartok’s only opera, based on an early 17th-century Hungarian tale, unknown whether it was based on any historical event. The opera consists of only two singers, Bluebeard and Judith. Bluebeard introduces his new bride to his castle, a dark foreboding place. There are seven doors that Judith is forbidden to enter, though in the course of the opera, Judith has Bluebeard open each of the doors, as she learns of Bluebeard’s tyrannical past. She finally learns about Bluebeard’s other wives. I find Bartok to be a tad bit challenging to get to know, yet becomes with time a very likable composer. This piece runs about 56 minutes but is very accessible when heard with the accompanying video.

From the House of the Dead

From the House of the Dead, Leos Janacek, Pierre Boulez conducting ★★★
An opera based on Dostoyevski’s “Memoirs from the House of the Dead”, is a storyline of men within a prison camp. I’ve heard the music before without the video, and it really doesn’t work — you must have the vision to see what’s happening. There are no arias or linear music such as one might be accustomed to with classic opera, but the music definitely fits the part. The staging is quite nicely done to form a very effective storyline of life in a Russian prison. This is not a “fun” opera, and you would not watch it, as though you were watching “The Marriage of Figaro”. Janacek’s other operas that I have on video, “The Cunning Little Vixen” and “Jenufa”, tend to not be so morbid, with CLV being a fun little comedy. This DVD had in addition an account of the making of the opera. I found it most interesting that they would spontaneously transform from German to English, to French, and then back to German, as though it were all one language.