July 8th, 2004


Personal/Musical: Summerfest; Five For Fighting

I hit the Five For Fighting concert Sunday night as my finale for Summerfest this year. Although I don't know the music terribly well, I plan to buy it and to listen much more closely in the future: the songwriting quality was high all around, with only one song not having much of an impact on me. My cousin Ben and I went down to the grounds early to hear a school buddy of his playing bass for a cover band called Little Debbie and the Tone Gods on one of the small stages. We just relaxed there for two hours and I found myself glad that I'd given the group my time: these were people who weren't out to "make it big," or even to "make it local" with their own stuff: they were just good musicians who loved rock, and that kind of pleasure came out and infected the audience, many of whom stayed for the entire set. And you gotta love a female drummer, always, especially one that looks like Everybody's Mom.

After grabbing some dinner and running into Christie--the hippest young nurse who took care of me nights at Froedtert after my surgery--we ran into Pat Clemins and his old roommate Amanda. I had run into them the previous year about 100 feet from that very spot. We talked for a while and listened to locals Goran at the North Shore Bank stage until they finished and moved in at the vacated benches. We had decent seats, about eight rows back in front of the speakers on the audience's right. After another fifty minutes of chatting, right on time at 10pm, Five For Fighting came out to generous approval from the crowd, except from the squad of drunken idiots who, naturally, were right in front of us. Other than my being (justly) irritated with them the rest of the night--"Good theologians don't stab people, no matter how thankful everyone would be," I reminded myself--the show went off without a hitch. Everything could be heard clearly and the band gave the crowd quite a show in 80 minutes, with John Ondrasik being notably attentive to his audience. Especially since I didn't know several of the songs, it was refreshing to be able to catch the lyrics easily and to hear a bit of the singer/songwriter's thoughts on some of them as they strolled along to their next piece. The setlist, as best as I could figure, was something like:

NYC Weather Report
Devil in the Wishing Well
Bella’s Birthday Cake
If God Made You
Angels and Girlfriends
100 Years
Easy Tonight
The Taste
Maybe I
Something About You


The last few days were quiet by comparison. I finished Brideshead, talked with some absent friends, worked on the ongoing recording of "Listen To You," flipped out and cut my hair, had dinner tonight with Dan Kern down on the river (too cold!) at the Rock Bottom Brewery, and then we relaxed to a showing of Terminator 3: The Rise of the Machines. See? All low-key.

Personal: Running into John Kerry, Michael Ferry, Michael Fahey

I just opened my mailbox and have what appears to be a faux-handwritten letter from John Kerry. McKenna, if you've gone and registered me for all of this stuff.... >:-[ ... well, I'd probably just have a good chuckle. I haven't opened it yet.

Much more cool, I just ran into a former student, one Michael Ferry, who is starting at Marquette this year, along with--he tells me--Pete Hamann and Christine Sweeney. That'll be fun to see some familiar faces: there was only one St. Joe student here in last year's class, and she hasn't been terribly fond of me since I gave her detention at the end of her sophomore year....

Just coming in from a lunch with Michael Fahey, SJ (the fellow I came to Marquette to study with) over at the Jesuit residence. He's been really concerned and interested about my surgery, having had colon problems himself, and so we had a long, fine talk about colons, popes, his current list of those electable, and the current state of the College of Cardinals (down to 124 eligible to vote with Cassidy of Australia just hitting 80), Jamaica, Victoria BC, music, and dissertation topics. He shot my idea from May to pieces (he's good like that--said it'd make a fine book, but not a dissertation), but gave me some sound suggestions for me to continue meditating upon. We also had some good talk on my presentation ideas for the "Arts in a Post-Christian Culture" conference, which--I note--none of you took up when I suggested it (see July 1st entry). I'm surprised: I really thought some of you would get a charge from the idea.

Theological Notebook: Reading Christopher Dawson-Religion, Culture and Islam

Stepping in from my continued reading of the historian Christopher Dawson. In his Religion and Culture he notes that "it is only when the religions of different cultures come into touch with one another ... that real contact is made" between the cultures. Despite the evangelicalism that is a big influence on Bush himself, I'd argue that American engagement with Iraq is really a function of secular America, with secular motivations and goals. However a problem with secularism--and American secularism in particular--is that, being an anti-religious philosophy, it fails to recognize itself as being effectively a religion unto itself. So when Muslim culture encounters a secularized Western culture you have the peculiar clash, as it were, between a religion and a religion that denies its own religiosity, as well as all other religions. Dawson argued that real contact between cultures is made in the contact of their religions, but what happens when a religion comes into contact with an anti-religion?

If you thought Christians in the West and the secularized had problems communicating with one another, I don't know that I can hold out any hope of Islam and the Secular West communicating. Islam will believe (more-or-less correctly) that their culture is under direct assault, and the Secular West will deny that it is doing anything so crass as being "culturally insensitive," and will keep on trying to convert Muslims through the missionaries of television and commerce to the Truth of Secularism, which will free Muslims' minds from their cruel Allah and allow them to embrace economic prosperity and themselves in freedom, "whatever that means for them." Sex, drugs, and rock 'n roll? Good luck.

In other words, I suspect we may have to settle in for a quagmire that will make the simple logistics and lack of national will of the Vietnam War look like a game of Risk.

Personal: Bastille Days with Dan Kern and Terry Crowe

Just dragging myself in from the first night of the "Bastille Days" French Festival down in Cathedral Square. Went down with Dan Kern and Terry Crowe and largely just wandered around. There wasn't a great deal that was particularly French, especially when you compare it to a Milwaukee staple like the Irish Fest, which is the largest Irish Fest in the States and has oodles of artists over from Ireland. I had a glass of a Beaujolais that was a bit too bitter in the middle for me, but nevertheless got me pleasantly buzzed on an empty stomach. Most of the booths selling food were no more French than anything else, and I expect that you can see them at the German Fest or the Arab Fest virtually unchanged except the theme on the sign.

We heard the tail end of a set by a mildly goofy local pixie-in-petticoats of a singer-songwriter named Stephanie Dosen, who seemed to have a pleasing "thrum" to the songs that I heard, and then later, after some chicken for me, we took in a loud, rambunctious set with plenty of people hopping up to dance by local blues favourites Reverend Raven. After an hour of that we cut out as the crowd was becoming too big to bother at around 10 and called it a night. Have you noticed that if you listen to the blues for too long it will all start to sound the same? When you're having a good time with it, we thought, you don't want to say so long that you blow it like that. And I can't believe how tired I am. So much for Frenchness.