Novak (novak) wrote,

Personal/Theological Notebook: Tea with Moon-ju; Summerfest; Barnes and the Latin West

Some busy last few days. I got together for tea with Moon-ju Shin before she takes off for Seoul and spent an hour or two talking, hearing some of her plans for taking American poetry, especially her Emily Dickinson, home to a Korean context, talking Trinitarian theology, and accent and dialect nuances of American and South Korea. She laughed as she surprised me with a gift of a "how-to-dissertate" book she'd found helpful, and a loaf of oatmeal raisin bread which has been very yummy to snack on. Moon-ju was always a kind presence in the Fides group and around campus, and she'll be missed.

Later that evening I met Diane down at Artasia after her Ju-jitsu class got done and we drove around and pretty quickly found a parking space reasonably close to Summerfest after rescuing her car at the last second from being ticketed in the totally-illegal space she left it in while she was fetching me from in front of the store. We worked our way down the length of the festival grounds once we arrived, chattering about things like people-watching, for which opportunities naturally abounded. She was arguing that there was a trend of very stylish and attractive people dating the surprisingly-plain. Idly wondering where one went to facilitate such arrangements, I almost immediately saw a few women dressed to the nines with what appeared to be their auto mechanics or personal computer technicians in tow, and so I had to tell Diane that maybe she was on to something. We stopped by Umphrey's McGee for the latter part of their first set ("All In Time"), and quickly moved on to hear what remained of the B.B. King show.

I apparently missed an extended version of a fav gospel tune of mine that he recorded with U2 on Rattle and Hum, "When Love Comes to Town," which would have been interesting to hear him do on his own, along with such faves as "Why I Sing the Blues." But the 81 year-old Master continued belting out soulful and well-hooked blues that kept the immense crowd yelling for more, like "All Over Again" and "Ain't that Just Like a Woman." We were both struck by how incredibly polite he was as he spoke to and thanked the crowd. Compellingly so. It was an example of the kind of forgotten power manners have as well as music, where both these arts have the power to transform their recipients by transplanting something of themselves. We know this with music: our society has largely forgotten it about manners, being too taken with the cheap democratizing or humour of informality or rudeness. His polite speech was, oddly enough, as powerful as his music in persuading the audience to put themselves in his hands.

We scooted back to Umphrey's as soon as King was finished with his long last number, settling in for a long set of the kind of tightly-coordinated improvisation Umphrey's has mastered. There was a fairly vast crowd there for the band, and we made our way into the left side of the mob, and joined into the movement of heads and and feet pulsing to the beat of the band. I was rather curious to see these guys for the first time in years – since they left South Bend, in fact – and they certainly didn't look quite as I remembered. But they were still cheerfully goofy, with farcical moments finding their way into the music just as much as creative and rocking moments did. Not knowing their music in any serious way, I had to look up the setlist on Umphrey's website to see the names of what-all had been done:
Set One
August, The Crooked One* –>
Eat, E.T.I. –>
"Jimmy Stewart"** –>
All In Time

Set Two
Der Bluten Kat –>
Kabump –>
Der Bluten Kat
Cinnamon Girl
Syncopated Strangers –>
Chitlins Con Carne –>
Syncopated Strangers
Andy's Last Beer

Resolution –>
Wizard Burial Ground

Donna the Buffalo and Railroad Earth played first
* with One Nation Under A Groove jam; unfinished
** with Soul Food II jam
As with Phish, my inability to get entirely into the style is that the music is hands-down awesome – great improv with progressive rock smarts and incredibly-tight and well-rehearsed changes – but the lyrical quality didn't seem all that strong to me. I had always ranked the Freeks as the more compelling band at Notre Dame because the songs were so strong, as songs. Diane made an interesting point, though, that a more defined set of songs – with clearer narratives, ideas, visions or whatnot – would potentially defeat the kind of community-experience the jam music can build, where the audience are all so easily able to bring their personal content to the music without overmuch content from the band itself getting in the way of the raw, easily-positive experience of the band. I thought that sounded plausible: the exact opposite of the experience of a musician or band hammering you with some politics that you find off-putting, for example. So we, like everyone else, then, were able to just enjoy the raw musical experience and chat happily about it while scarfing pizza afterward. We made it down only to the very last song of Rusted Root, but counted it as not much loss because Umphrey's had been so fun. The moon was rising over the Lake and the Art Museum as we walked back to her car and so we talked about the dramatic look of that, too.

Saturday had me taking in Live Free or Die Hard with Barnes and Harris, which was the fun adrenaline rush one expects. Mike and I should have gotten an hour's doctoral credit for the cool conversation we had in the parking lot afterward. I had followed Barnes' instructions to get him a copy of Justice Society of America #1 at the comic shop before he arrived back in town from Virginia, and I was getting that for him out of Mike's car when we got to talking about the paper Barnes was delivering at the Oxford Patristics conference this year. There's apparently oodles of untranslated Latin, fourth century, reception-of-Nicaea material that Barnes thinks will re-write the narrative of the reception of Nicene trinitarian theology in the West. We also talked a great deal about the vanishing of Irenaeus in the Latin West, and that the use and disuse/vanishing of Irenaeus would make a good dissertation topic in itself. His influence continued for a time in the Greek East, into the third century with the Alexandrians, but his vanishing in the West – even from the Roman church, which could have really profited from his arguments and evidence regarding teaching authority as Roman influence grew – set the Latin church to having to re-invent or re-discover so much of what we could take for granted as having been established in Lyon, in the West, by Irenaeus.
Tags: america, barnes, books, cultural, dc universe, ethical, george and the freeks, historical, historiography, musical, mysticism/spirituality, notre dame, patristics, personal, setlists, theological notebook, trinity, writing

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