I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, both in the media and in personal comments—always from citizens of a close sister-nation that is often called our mother-country—that “Americans can’t do irony.” That’s meant as a putdown, but it’s actually a compliment that I wish we deserved more than we actually do. Verbal irony is a negative and often cruel thing. It establishes distance from its object and allows us then to tear the object apart from that safe distance. It simultaneously undoes the thing criticized and raises up the one doing the criticizing. I’d say we have more than enough irony and that when we boast about excelling at it we might profit from some self-examination of our motives.

Advertisements

Eschew Cynicism

August 16, 2017

1000

Scandal emanating from the White House is now so rife, that we are bound to become either wounded by it or hardened to it. As never before in my time, we are in danger of becoming merely cynical, which is not a humane state to operate in. A friend of mine has just published these words:

People tend to think of scandal as any public embarrassment that results from misbehavior. It’s a term of art for public relations, as people and institutions seek to “manage” scandal.

But the Catechism of the Catholic Church has a more exacting definition: “Scandal is an attitude or behavior which leads another to do evil.” Far from being merely a misdeed held up for public opprobrium, a shocker, or a public relations nightmare to be managed, a scandal is specifically a wrongdoing which causes another to stumble and fall. The Greek word “scandalon” from which our English word scandal is derived means a snare of an enemy.

She is referring to scandals in the Church, but the problem is also acute in United States political life to an extent that I’ve never known before. We “stumble and fall” when we become coldly cynical.

Screen Shot 2016-04-29 at 01.12.29
J.S. Bach wrote these fifteen Inventionen for his own children. This wonderful Dutch series had the enchanting idea of having eight young musicians (ranging from 7 to 16 years) perform them for “All of Bach,” presented by De Nederlandse Bachvereniging/The Netherlands Bach Society, which publishes a new recording of a work by Bach every Friday on http://allofbach.com, online for free, until they will have collected all of Bach’s works on their 100th birthday in 2021.
 Click to hear these pieces and admire the players:

More than Fair

September 17, 2015

1000

A couple of hours ago, my friend Lluis Torras posted on Facebook in celebration of the 21st anniversary of his marriage to Laura Villanueva Calduch. I naturally wanted to congratulate them and normally should have done so in the Catalan language that he had used. But there was only one word, an English word, that seemed right as a comment on what he’d said. And that was “beautiful.” As I typed that, though, I remembered one reason why the word is so evocative in English. The word fair had been the normal adjective for the concept of beauty in English until Tyndale’s translation of the Bible into English (1525). It seemed that “fair” simply didn’t suffice for some of the images that he was reading in Hebrew and Greek, so he used (maybe for the first time in literature) the word beautiful.

Tyndale was executed for his pains, but we can be grateful for having such a fair word as beautiful in our language.

More TV

July 25, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-07-25 at 12.59.00
You naturally expect me to recommend this talk show because of its scintillating content, but I do so mainly because I’ve lost 17 pounds (8 kilos) since my last appearance on the program. (Actually, the discussion isn’t bad,either, because the other guys are substantial conversationalists.)

Homesickness

June 16, 2015

1000

This subject is interesting to me because I have to accept on faith the existence of a malady that I’ve never been prone to. In fact, the closest thing to it that I’ve ever felt is my insistent urge in adulthood to get back to the place that is my current home. People often say to me, “Going so early? Why?” to which I answer, “Because I want to go home.” Which sometimes gets another “Why?” And the answer is: “Because I like my home,” wherever it is.

1000 Though he’s very much out of fashion now, I have a special admiration for one of the greatest musicians in history, Camille Saint-Saëns, who died in the same year of my father’s birth. (That may not mean a thing, but I always like to remember it.) This report from the great 1915 Exposition in San Francisco gives a fresh but respectful American view of the great Frenchman who was there to head the Republic’s delegation to the Exposition.

Global Media et Moi

June 4, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-06-04 at 22.07.17

Are you on television a lot less than you think you should be? Have you considered moving to another country? In the past three years, I’ve been on Barcelona TV eight times, which would have been very unlikely ever to happen in New York. The nice surprise in today’s show was that, for the first time, there was another person of U.S. origin—from Baltimore specifically— who is speechwriter for the Catalan Minister of Culture. The host gratified me by introducing my new book in the first segment, and we talked about some issues with implications beyond Catalonia.

A college friend asked me, via Facebook, “How did you become a political pundit?”

My answer: “By being a person of foreign origin who keeps himself informed about local issues and tries to be balanced in his consideration of them, maybe? But don’t exaggerate: I’m still but an humble minstrel who also writes about music and stuff!”

Here’s today’s show:

http://www.elpuntavui.tv/video.html?view=video&video_id=129794825