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Archive for February, 2013

Conclave watch: Italian job or Asian pivot

Tuesday, 19 February, 2013 1 Comment

After seeing the last two pontificates going to a Pole and a German, the Italians are said to be eager to see one of their own wearing the Ring of the Fisherman. The Ring of the Fisherman In all discussions, three names dominate: Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, President of the Pontifical Council for Culture, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, archbishop of Genoa, and Cardinal Angelo Scola, archbishop of Milan. Of the three, Cardinal Scola, 71, is said to have the most impressive CV. If, however, someone younger is needed, Francesco Moraglia, the Patriarch of Venice, is waiting in the wings, He’ll be 60 in May, but the problem is that he’s not a cardinal. Of course, nothing prohibits the election of someone who is not part of the Sacred College, but tradition is central to the rites of the Catholic Church.

If youth is an issue, and Benedict XVI has certainly put the matter of age into play by way of his renunciation of the Papacy, conclave historians will note that Karol Wojtyla was a mere 58 when he became John Paul II. That being the case, it may well be worth keeping an eye in the coming weeks on a young cardinal who has enhanced his theological credibility by helping to author the huge history of Vatican Council II. As well, his doctrinally correct pastoral work is said to be pleasing to Benedict XVI and his simple lifestyle and outreach to the poor have impressed the faithful. Step forward, archbishop of Manila, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle.

Backgrounder: He’s 56 and he’s got 118,000 likes on Facebook. More importantly, he’s from the Philippines, which is the only Asian nation with a Catholic majority. Rome would like to see that state of affairs change in our life time and just as the USA is said to be pivoting towards Asia, the Vatican is aware that the Pacific and not the Atlantic will be the decisive ocean in the 21st century. Cardinal Tagle might just be the person to lead the new wave of evangelization, about which we’ll have more here on Friday.


Giovanni Trapattoni kicks off our Italian week

Monday, 18 February, 2013 0 Comments

Italy is very much in the news these days. For instance, there’s a critical general election next weekend and that will be followed by the papal conclave in Rome as a result of the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI. True to form, these major events have been preceded by the arrest of the former head of the country’s third largest bank for alleged fraud and bribery, and the arrest of the chairman of the air defense group Finmeccanica over his alleged involvement in a corruption scandal.

Life goes on, however, and that symbol of a kinder, gentler Italy, Giovanni Trapattoni, will today preside over the opening a new shopping mall in Munich. Trap, as fans call him, managed local team Bayern Munich for two seasons and he remains very popular in the Bavarian capital because of his style, charm and cryptic use of German. The expression “Ich habe fertig!” (“I’m done!”) is a legendary Trapattonism that owes its linguistic fame to his usage of the verb habe (have) instead of bin (am) during an emotional press conference and has since become part of spoken German.

Fertig!

Beneath the jolly exterior, beats a canny heart and Trapattoni struck a one of the century’s best deals in 2008 when he convinced the Football Association of Ireland to appoint him as manager of the national squad on a munificent salary of €2 million a year, plus €750,000 a year for his backroom team. It was this kind of profligacy that saw Ireland seek an EU bailout in 2010 and in a selfless gesture of burden-sharing a year later, Trapattoni agreed to have his pay cut to €1 million per annum. Odd jobs like opening a shopping mall in prosperous Munich helps Trap to cope with that sharp drop in income.

Whilst in Munich, the devout Catholic Giovanni Trapattoni will, no doubt, find time to pray for the Bavarian Pope, Benedetto, who is the subject of tomorrow’s post here.


Old town graffiti

Sunday, 17 February, 2013 0 Comments

“The truth was that for some months he had been going through that partitioning of the things of youth wherein it is decided whether or not to die for what one no longer believes. In the dead white hours in Zurich staring into a stranger’s pantry across the upshine of a street-lamp, he used to […]

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The soul of Matthew E White

Saturday, 16 February, 2013 0 Comments

Faith is one of the themes of Big Inner, the new album by rising star Matthew E White. The closing track, Brazos, tells of two fleeing slaves and how they turn to the religion of their former owners for protection It ends with a gospel mantra: “Jesus Christ is our lord / Jesus Christ, he is your friend.” The country-soul of Matthew E White is original and for those in need of an antidote to the Beyoncé hangover, Big Inner is the cure. White, from Virginia, is a son of the American South and if you listen closely, you’ll hear echoes of Games People Play by Joe South here.


They eat horses, don’t they?

Friday, 15 February, 2013 0 Comments

In the magazine business, the less-is-more pivot is executed when the jovial publisher cuts the number of pages but keeps the cover price as it is. The consumers won’t notice the difference, is the theory. The gangsters behind the horse-meat lasagna scandal have borrowed this page, as it were, and European supermarkets are now filling up with products whose ingredients have been cheapened to maintain the price. As with the magazine with fewer pages, nobody noticed a difference in the taste when horse replaced beef in frozen lasagna.

This is a huge story involving a continent-wide web of slaughter houses in Romania, traders in Cyprus and the Netherlands, companies in France, including a subcontractor of Findus, which shipped the horsemeat to Luxembourg where it was turned into the lasagna that then filled freezers across Europe. But what started as a beef-burger scandal in Ireland and then became a lasagna outrage in Britain is now expanding exponentially. In France, cannelloni, spaghetti bolognese, moussaka and hachis parmentier have been pulled from shelves at six supermarket chains. On Wednesday, the French brand, Picard, found horse meat in its chili con carne.

Findus is full of surprises

Catherine Brown, chief executive of the Foods Standards Agency in the UK, called for retailers to test their dishes containing ‘pork,’ ‘chicken’ and other meats. Retailers are currently focusing on ‘comminuted‘ beef, she said, calling it ‘the stuff where meat is ground up to the point that it is not readily recognizable.’

Because horsemeat is cheap, the gangsters in the food industry decided to mince it up, stuff it in the lasagna, call it ‘beef’, freeze it and then laugh all the way to the bank, safe in the knowledge that the consumers sticking it in the microwave will never taste the difference. Findus and lots of other companies in the food industry are now playing the “It wasn’t me guv” card, but it won’t work. If they had wanted to know what that cheap meat was and where it was coming from they could have found out and refused to use it. They didn’t want to, of course. What mattered was keeping those profit margins up.

Yesterday’s news that Greek unemployment had hit a new record of 27 percent in November means that price pressure is becoming unbearable for consumer product companies in the EU and some of them are responding to this pauperization by producing food that is being debased constantly. This just in: “Irish food group Greencore became the latest company to become embroiled in the horse meat scandal when it confirmed it manufactured bolognese sauce that British retailer Asda has withdrawn from the shelves after it was found to contain horse meat.”

This one is going to run and run.


Geronimo

Thursday, 14 February, 2013 0 Comments

And the Best Actress Oscar goes to Jessica Chastain for her performance in Zero Dark Thirty as a CIA agent ferociously fixated on finding the courier bringing messages to Osama bin Laden’s lair. The director-writer team of Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal have made an enthralling chronicle of the hunt that ended in Pakistan on […]

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The Pope’s heart

Wednesday, 13 February, 2013 0 Comments

According to people who know about these things, congestive heart failure leads to serious loss of energy because the heart can’t pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs. A knock-on effect is that mental capacity starts to be impacted. Congestive heart failure was one of the ailments that affected Franklin D. Roosevelt and towards the end of his presidency it robbed him of vitality in debate.

The papal heart Yesterday’s revelation that Pope Benedict XVI had been fitted with a pacemaker focused attention on his declining health, and his brother had this to say to the BBC: “When he got to the second half of his 80s, he felt that his age was showing and that he was gradually losing the abilities he may have had and that it takes to fulfil this office properly.” That’s worth pondering because as we now know, many Popes have served the final part of their papacy with some sort of dementia. Benedict XVI will be one of the Popes who will not do that. And by virtue of being alive, compos mentis and in the ‘hood, so to speak, he’ll exert a significant influence over the selection of his successor. In this way, his decision to renounce his office acquires a new dimension of wisdom.


Germany is glad to see the back of Benedict

Tuesday, 12 February, 2013 0 Comments

Pope Benedict resigns

A sigh of relief swept across much of Germany when the news of Pope Benedict’s resignation became public yesterday. His papacy was marked by a drumbeat of criticism that displayed contempt for his office and willful ignorance of the pontifical role. It was clear from the outset that Benedict was going to dedicate himself to correcting the theological aberrations that had developed since the Second Vatican Council, while reminding the 1.2 billion faithful that the heritage of the Catholic Church extends far further into the past than 1962, the year the Second Vatican Council was convened. Both of these goals enraged the elites that manufacture popular consent in Germany because they wanted a green, feminist, socialist, post-religious Pope who would conform to their warped interpretation of the world. They didn’t get what they wished for in April 2005, and they most certainly will not like what’s coming in March 2013.


Argo again

Monday, 11 February, 2013 0 Comments

The producers of Argo, George Clooney, Grant Heslov and Ben Affleck, had a fine time in London last night when their drama about the Iranian hostage crisis in 1979 stole the show and won the Best Film and Best Director gongs at the BAFTA Awards event. The British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) ceremony is the final major film occasion before this year’s Oscars, which will be handed out on 24 February in Hollywood, in a show hosted by Seth MacFarlane. The Big Mo is certainly with Affleck now. Go Argo!

The producers of Argo


Rat race run

Sunday, 10 February, 2013 0 Comments

You think: That one’s too clever, she’s dangerous, because I don’t stick around to be slaughtered and you think I’m ugly too despite my fur and pretty teeth and my six nipples and snake tail. Rat Song by Margaret Atwood.

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Bosworth Field and Fay Hield

Saturday, 9 February, 2013 0 Comments

It was the week in which the bones of King Richard III, one of the great villain of British history, were confirmed to have been unearthed in a carpark. The last Plantagenet monarch died at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485 and the recovery of his remains has thrilled the King Richard III Society, which now hopes “to secure a more balanced assessment of the king.”

On her last album, Looking Glass, Fay Hield sang not of King Richard III, but of King Henry. Her new album, Orfeo, contains a song called “Henry”. There’s something about that name, obviously. Anyway, here’s King Henry.