Jan 212016
 

Usually reading history I feel rather detached from it. The skill of the writer can bring it more to life to me or at least make me interested in the people and events. The usual detachment is not what I felt at all reading The Lost Mandate of Heaven: The American Betrayal of Ngo Dinh Diem, President of Vietnam by Geoffrey Shaw. While the events detailed in this book happened when I was a young kid, the after effects of the Vietnam war were front and center as I was growing up.

One of the things I have heard the most is that it was not our military that lost the war, but our politicians. This might even be true, but not in the context usually meant. This book I think fairly well shows that our government effectively lost the war even before the major involvement of our troops. Another common thing you hear is how the American media undermined our effort there. This also appears to be true to some extent, but that this also happened very early on. The book gives some quite egregious examples of this.

This book relays a kind of history that can break your heart in more than the usual “what might have been” way. Projecting what might have happened is always fraught with problems. Especially since we rarely project what does happen.

The story of Ngo Dinh Diem along with his brother is pure tragedy. Raised in an affluent Catholic family as one of six sons along with three sisters. He slowly rose in his bureaucratic career and was known for his incorruptibility and his support of nationalism. His career might have grown even faster, but he would not be used by the French as he continually supported the cause of Vietnam as its own country. This aim for a time led him to live in the United States after he got some advice on how best to put forward this cause. While living at a Maryknoll Mission Society seminaries he developed political ties with Cardinal Spellman, various senators, then-Congressman John F. Kennedy, and others. While at the same time performing the same menial household chores as the seminarians. He obviously impressed many with his firm stand against both French Colonialism and Communism. He had studied both Marxism and Communism and what it meant for Vietnam.

Throughout you get the portrait of a man who was a devout Catholic and a man who saw himself as a servant with his involvement in government as a means to serve others. That he did indeed have leadership abilities and was resistant to falling to the pursuit of power over others. In a later crisis that precipitated the coup against him his brother Ngo Dinh Nhu shouted that he should have been a monk and not a president.

His time as president of South Vietnam was fraught with difficulties as he tried to steer his country towards democracy in the midst of Communist insurrections and every attempt to undermine any advancements. This was going on along with the sniping of some elites in Saigon. A very unstable political situation and one devastating to a fledgling democracy trying to find its way forward.

As bad as this situation was, American involvement pretty much made it worse. Having to deflect the charges of just being a puppet government to the U.S. along with getting the support it needed. This included the pressure for democratic reforms at a very quick pace as if nothing else was going on.

The real heartbreaking part of the book is what was going on in the Kennedy administration along with the various factions in the state department. So many competing plans were put into operation with no understanding of the Vietnamese culture and no real attempt to understand the situation on the ground for the most part. Although there were certainly people in the government, including the State Department, that were really trying to learn. Frederick Nolting who became an Ambassador to South Vietnam was certainly one of them, but he was later betrayed himself (in one of histories ironies by a man named Trueheart).

The factions in the State Department especially as led by ambassador-at-large W. Averell Harriman make for some frustrating reading. Administrations often have groups running with their own agenda and there were several cases here where they were in direct opposition to President Kennedy’s wishes. Still Averell plans for negotiating an agreement for neutrality with Laos was supported. This agreement as Frederick Nolting predicted was totally worthless other than to help the Communists continue to use Laos. This group was certainly responsible for the betrayal of Ngo Dinh Diem and the setting up of a coup where he and his brother were savagely murdered. This was pretty much the intended outcome of supporting a coup and working with a general who had a grudge against Diem.

Also detailed in the book was how the American press undermined President Ngo Dinh Diem. Not surprisingly they had little understanding of the actual situation and were jumping on stories later discredited. The pinnacle event leading up to the eventual coup was the Buddhist crisis of 1963 and the iconic photos of monks immolating themselves. This book really sets the record straight regarding Ngo Dinh Diem and his actual record regarding religious freedom. Still the reporting in the U.S. put the blame totally on him especially after a battle between Buddhists and policeman that turned bloody. The United Nations eventually investigated whether the government was at fault, but as is usually with them by the time the report was completed the President had already been murdered. They did not find the Ngo Dinh Diem adminstration at fault, but since he was already dead – did not publish the report.

I could probably go on and on about this book, but this summary only scratches the surface. Mostly the lessons learned is that we never learn our lessons. Still as difficult as this book was to read from an emotional standpoint, I am really glad I did. Just learning about the man Ngo Dinh Diem was a good enough reason. Despite some of the villains of the story there are also some real heroes. The book makes the case that Ngo Dinh Diem plans did have a very good chance of succeeding and in fact were making progress. That the extent of the American military involvement would have been much smaller and there was a true path forward for Vietnam.

Interesting to me was a story when Ngo Dinh Diem was captured by Ho Chi Minh, who tried to convert him to the cause of Communism. He refused, but must have impressed Ho Chi Minh with his courage that he was released. This story was more interesting to me since after reading Church of Spies: The Pope’s Secret War Against Hitler regarding Josef Müller who had also been captured by a top Nazi official and released after showing his courage in resisting him.

Jan 202016
 

pope-francis2-300x187This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 29 November 2015 to 19 January 2016.

The Weekly Francis is a compilation of the Holy Father’s writings, speeches, etc which I also post at Jimmy Akin’s The Weekly Francis. Jimmy Akin came up with this idea when he started “The Weekly Benedict” and I have taken over curation of it.

Angelus

Daily Homilies (fervorinos)

General Audiences

Messages

Speeches

Papal Tweets

  • “Every Christian community should be an oasis of charity and warmth in the midst of a desert of solitude and indifference.” @Pontifex 15 January 2016
  • “The Gospel calls us to be close to the poor and forgotten, and to give them real hope.” @Pontifex 19 January 2016
Jan 182016
 

Trump is going to make God great again! Take that Christopher Hitchens..

I am sure most people would balk at Donald Trumps “great” relationship in God, but in the service of charity I will try to explore the topic.

So how exactly did Donald Trump develop his great relationship with God? Well few know this but he meets regularly with Joel Olsteen for spiritual direction. Trump maintains both his health and his wealth so this is obvious Olsteenian proof of Trumps great relationship with God.

Trump respects the sanctity of marriage so much he employed this great institution three times. He possibly could respect it even more in the future. In fact while married to Ivana he started a romance with the women who was to become his “second” wife among the pews of a Manhattan church. This also shows that Trump does not find church boring and seeks to reach out. Trump is really a model Christian as he has “married” three models.

Some have doubts about Trump’s humility, but he lists the Bible in front of his own book “The Art of The Deal,” as his favorite book. In his amazing humility today he said “the Bible blows it away”. When first asked about his favorite verse and why he replied.

“I wouldn’t want to get into it because to me that’s very personal. You know when I talk about the Bible it’s very personal.I don’t want to get into it.”

This shows that Trump has a personal relationship with this favorite scripture verse. Although a month later he did manage to come up with a vague reference regarding envy in Proverbs and his aids eventually managed to find one that fits. So The Donald is willing in humility to give us his personal favorite scripture verse despite how personal it was to him.

Proverbs 24:1-2: “Be not thou envious against evil men, neither desire to be with them. For their heart studieth destruction, and their lips talk of mischief.”

Now at first glance this might seem quite an odd choice as a personal favorite. This just proves that Donald Trump has studied the scriptures much more than we have and us willing to go obscure instead of pandering with perhaps John 3:15. In fact today he was at ease referring to “Two Corinthians” instead of “Second Corinthians” showing his fresh look at scriptural references.

Trump is also not afraid to show that he is a renaissance man and talk about art, movies, and scripture comparisons. Here is compares the bible to the Mona Lisa and a movie.

“it doesn’t look as great at the beginning and by the time they see it many, may times they can’t take their eyes off it” — and to watching a “great, incredible movie.”

Another area where it seems Trumps actions are at odds with his great relationship with God is that the Trump Taj Mahal could make history early next year by opening the first strip club inside an Atlantic City casino. He hopes that it would “take off” showing his adeptness with both political language and strip clubs. I’ve heard rumor though that he plans to tithe ten percent of the stripper’s tips to charity. Yeah it will all be mostly dollar bills, but so are the collections in many churches.

Another proof is Trump’s conversion to the pro-life cause. This is an amazing story regarding how he went from being fervently pro-abortion to pro-life. Now he has never mentioned what changed his mind, but it must be a great story and as good as Mitt Romney’s or Charlie Crist’s – oh wait scratch Charlie Crist. I find it amazing how running for President as Republican causes such deep conversions and reflection on previous culture of death views. On same-sex marriage he said “The Supreme Court ruled on it” and previously he had attended a same-sex marriage. This bodes really well for appointments to the Supreme Court just as long as you are not a social conservative in any way. Still he has no definitive comment on “same-sex marriage” proving once again he is so humble as to not give an opinion on an issue of the day.

Trump is also a great ecumenist and is willing to reach out and attack the faith of other Presidential Candidates such as Ben Carson and Ted Cruz “not too many evangelicals come out of Cuba.” No doubt as a Presbyterian he sees the losers competing against him as predestined to loose. Not to mention inter-faith dialogue – or as The Donald calls it “in your face” dialogue like with Muslims. Well actually he has never called it by that term, but I am sure he would approve.

Today Trump said “We’re going to protect Christianity”. Hopefully it is from Donald Trump. Now who would be a good intercessor to pray for Donald Trump? I mean besides St. Jerome.

References and quips:

Jan 152016
 

I was glad to see this from my Bishop.

The Catholic bishop of the Diocese of St. Augustine wrote this week to Mayor Lenny Curry and the City Council that any expansion of the city’s anti-discrimination law to cover sexual orientation must have “strong conscience exemptions” for churches, religious organizations and private businesses.

The Most Rev. Felipe J. Estevez said while the church is opposed to “unjust discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation,” a change in the law must ensure that people providing employment, housing and public accommodations can still make decisions guided by their “sincerely and deeply held religious beliefs.”

Estevez’s letter highlights the contentious question of where to draw the line on religion-based objections to expanding the anti-discrimination law to cover lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

A bill supported by City Councilmen Tommy Hazouri and Aaron Bowman would exempt any “religious corporation, association or society” from being subject to the anti-discrimination law regarding LGBT people.

Estevez’s letter says the exemption should be broader to cover church entities, religious nonprofits, professionals, and the private businesses of “people with strongly held contrary religious beliefs.” Source

A necessary letter considering the trend of the narrow view of religious liberty as espoused and enforced by the Obama administration. Very glad the Bishop mentioned private businesses.

The authors of the law talk about striking the “right balance”, as if rights can be taken a way or shifted to make everybody even as Procrustes would do.

Jan 132016
 

pope-francis2-300x187This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 14 December 2015 to 11 January 2016.

The Weekly Francis is a compilation of the Holy Father’s writings, speeches, etc which I also post at Jimmy Akin’s The Weekly Francis. Jimmy Akin came up with this idea when he started “The Weekly Benedict” and I have taken over curation of it.

Angelus

General Audiences

Homilies

Messages

Speeches

Papal Tweets

Jan 122016
 

Jimmy Akin has written a commentary on the Gospel of Mark that is available through Logos. Logos is software used primarily for scripture study with a linked library of references and tools. Verbum is the Logos Bible Software with a library specifically for Catholics.

The Gospel of Mark usually doesn’t top of list as anybody’s favorite Gospel. The fact that it is the shortest and little apparently unique within it compared to the other Gospels. Not that any of the Gospels will ever be ignored.

The format of this commentary is not just to have the text of Mark with commentary by footnote. This is a more free-flowing commentary that goes through each chapter and delves into interpretations regarding the text. The format reminded me specifically of Pope Benedict XVI books “Jesus of Nazareth” which is sometimes quoted in this commentary. That is questions are explored with multiple possible interpretations from the current state of scripture study (Protestant and Catholic sources). Jimmy Akin at times will give weight to the interpretation he favors or thinks is the more probable. Still this commentary bring the reader into an exploration of the texts and is not meant to provide definitive interpretations. Exploration is a good term to describe this since you feel like you are indeed going on a journey with a tour guide marking (puns always intentional) the way.

This commentary had me thoroughly engaged over a period of nightly reading. If I had give short-shrift to the Gospel of Mark before, this is no longer the case. There really is so much to explore and tease out of the text. Plus there are intriguing aspects of Mark such as his intended audience down to the way he ordered information such as the fairly well-known Marcan sandwiches. As with most commentaries there is a good amount of comparisons with other scriptures, especially the Gospels. So often these comparisons help to come to a better understanding.

What I especially like about Jimmy Akin’s commentary and the general way he teaches is that possible interpretations are not presented as “pick one.” As he often notes throughout, that these interpretations are often not mutually exclusive. In Catholic circles we sometimes hear of the “both/and” approach and this is often the best approach

This study on Mark is actually a three volume set with the main volume being the commentary. Included is a “Liturgical Study Guide” that goes through this Gospel as it appears in the liturgy along with a verse-by-verse study guide intended for both further personal and group study.

Jan 042016
 

Well just to add to all the year end posts (even a week late). Here is one regarding favorite apps that I use in various categories. I have placed them in groups by platforms and then just alphabetically. Probably some of my favorites are too geeky for a general audience, still there is something for most everyone here.

Apps/Services on Multiple Platforms (Windows/Mac/iOS/Android)

  • 1Password is a password manager which supports Windows, OSX, iOS, and Android. I have used this for years and it just keeps getting better. They maintain browser extensions to make it easy to enter passwords in the different browsers. On iOS they incorporate a browser in their app to also do this. In addition to creating/managing passwords there are also secure notes, software registration, etc. It does not maintain your passwords and other information on it’s own site, instead uses iCloud, Dropbox, etc in a secure vault.

It’s one weakness is that it is pricier than other password managers. Others like LastPass have a annual subscription fee. Despite that I think it is worthwhile since it has superior integration and is actively updated.

  • Atom is a free text editor available across Desktop OSs. This is what I use to write posts, create notes, program with, etc. What makes it very powerful is its package manager. The features included are powerful, but the package manager allows you to give it increased functionally based on your needs. Super powerful for geeky purposes or just simple to use for basic text editing.
  • Pocket is a read-it-later app. You send article URLs to it so that you can read it later at your leisure. It also strips out ads, banners, and other ancillary images to give you a clean text to read. It is available via web, OSX/Windows, iOS/Android. There are also other good read-it-later apps such as the original Instapaper which pioneered this area.
    • Besides being a ead-it-later service, it is also handy for archiving articles and stories to search for later.
    • Provides tagging to group for archiving.
    • I use a If This Than That (ifttt.com) recipe to send article sent to Pocket to Pinboard.in.
  • Pinboard.in is a bookmarking service like the original Delicious. Except this has a sustainable business model where you pay an annual $11 fee for the service. When I had originally signed up it was a one time fee. They also have a $25 a year service where they will archive any article, post, etc you add so that if the site or article is deleted you still have access to it.
    • I use this multiple times a day to store links to sites and tag them. It serves as both a reminder to look at something later or to find something I had previously added. The site just works flawlessly. Using multiple tags makes the information easier to find later.
    • This can be used just as a website. I use it on iOS with Pinswift along with Spillo on the Mac. Spillo allows me to create smart collections to group commonly used tags.

Favorite iOS Apps

  • 1Writer is a text processor for writing using plain text or Markdown. Has several advanced features for importing and exporting. Even has automation tools using JavaScript enhancing capabilities to export to multiple services.
    • Integrates with Dropbox allowing me to edit text documents stored there and having that same document update on Dropbox. Other iOS text editors I have used were inconsistent in doing this as they could import, but would not write back.
    • Very capable on an iPhone 6 Plus, but awesome on the iPad Pro.
  • Divine Office 2 my current Liturgy of the Hours app of choice.
    • Uses the same text as found in the 4-Volume set.
    • On the iPad and iPad Pro has page flipping mode instead of having to scroll through the text.
    • Has audio for each of the hours so you can choose to listen to one of the hours or read along as the audio is played.
    • Doesn’t have multiple language support, so for non-English or Latin the recently updated iBreviary is a better choice.
  • Drafts is a text centered app that provides quick taking of notes and other information, processing it, and then being able to send that information elsewhere.
    • Process and send text via email, messaging, social media, calendars, etc along with saving to Dropbox/Google Drive. You can create other action to send text to.
    • Use dictation to enter text.
    • Append to Monthy Journal. I use this a lot in that I will have gathered text elsewhere an put it into Drafts and then select this option. On a file service like Dropbox it creates a txt file for the current month and append text to it.
    • View text in Markdown preview.
  • Duet is an app that lets me use my iPad Pro as another monitor with my Mac. Works quite well and you can set the resolution used. When used with laptop it is like having a dual monitor. Also works with the iPad and iPhone (obviously less useful with the iPhone).
  • Overcast is my favorite podcast player app which is now free. Besides being a solid podcast app it offers features no other podcast apps has such as removing silences between words to speed up playback along with options to set playback.
    • Has a backend server to manage podcast updates which both syncs across devices as to what podcasts you have listened to. This saves battery by offloading this task.
    • For video podcasts I recommend Downcast.
  • PDFExpert my current PDF reading/editing app of choice. Previously I had really liked Goodreader for its wealth of features. But much prefer PDFExpert since the interface is much cleaner and more thought out.
  • Reeder I go back in forth on RSS Readers apps. Mainly I am back with Reeder 3 which works best with my workflow of reading articles and tagging them to share in Pocket, Pinboard, etc.
  • Voice Dream is a Text-To-Speech app. In my one year experimentation with Android I found nothing that compared to the feature set of this app. Android has several TTS apps and better system integration for TTS. I use this app to mostly read me ePub based ebooks while commuting to work. The included voices are very good, but I bought additional ones I liked even more. Simply best of class.
    • Will read ePub, text, doc, html, PDF, RTF, and more.
    • Will import from Dropbox, Google Drive, iCloud and also read articles from Instapaper or Pocket.
    • Besides selecting different voices you can set the playback speed by specified Words Per Minute.
    • Text is highlighted as it reads.

Favorite Apps for the Mac

  • Alfred 2 is an app launcher. With a keyboard shortcut I bring up a dialog box where I can start to type the app/file/media I am looking to open. Spotlight in the latest version of OSX is getting more powerful and provides some of the same functionality.
    • Since I am keyboard-centric I can open apps quickly with a few presses on the keyboard.
    • Workflows allows me to perform tasks quickly, Such as getting the currently open URL in safari and putting into the clipboard. Other commands allows me set audio output actions, search Evernote, add a URL to Pocket, etc.
  • BetterTouchTool is a very powerful tool for setting up interactivity with Apple input devices. I don’t use a mouse anymore and mainly use the Magic Trackpad since it is much better for multitouch along with putting less strain on my hand.
    • This tool allows you to set many more trackpad gestures than available with settings. These custom gestures can be used to open apps or perform actions within apps. For example I use a four finger tap to trigger Moom a utility for moving around and sizing windows.
    • You can also setup global keyboard actions or specialized keyboard command by application.
    • The latest version allows you to use features of the Force-Touch trackpads.
  • Bookpedia a book catalog program. While I use Goodreads for cataloging, it is mainly used for the social media aspects.
    • Bookpedia allows me to maintain a wish list along with cataloging books I own.
    • Many fields allow me to enter information like price, day I bought it and where, date read, type of media, etc. It also allows custom fields to tailor as you want.
    • Has smart collections which let me filter information as I want. Mainly I use this to track books read and have a collection for each year.
    • Provides reports that detail information on books read and statistics regarding them.
    • I keep my book database on Dropbox for archiving.
  • Marked 2 is a previewer for Markdown text files. I use Markdown for blogging, notes, documentation, and anywhere else I find it useful. Marked 2 is feature rich and besides showing Markdown as a rendered html page it can also give you the converted html, or other formats.
    • Since Marked 2 is a previewer and not an editor you can editor Markdown in any text editor and then use Marked 2 to display it. There are packages for many Mac Text Editors to open Marked 2 for the currently edited page. (Atom/Sublime Text/BBEdit).
  • PopClip whenever you finish selecting text with a mouse/trackpad a menu pops up with various options such as copy, cut etc. This program has many extensions available to do actions such as converting to upper/lowercase, opening selected url, converting selected parts of a webpage to Markdown. Just super useful and quick.

Favorite Apps for both iOS and OSX

  • Copied is a clipboard manager and for me a new app. I have always used clipboard managers that keep a history of text, images, URL, etc copied. These managers are easily searchable allowing text reuse. Just the best implementation of this I have seen.
    • Copied uses iCloud to sync across devices if you enable this feature. This is great as I can move among multiple Macs and iOS devices all with the same clipboard history. On Macs this is flawless. Since iOS apps are sandboxed not allowing apps to normally talk with each other you don’t have iOS devices instantly updating across devices. Still when you want to add to the Copied clipboard it is fairly simple to do and you do have access at all times to the history.
    • You define how many entries you want to keep.
    • On the Mac you have multiple actions to select just the text, the url, and then paste it into the current app.
  • Pixelmator is a full featured image editor for Mac OSX and iOS. Quite a bargain for what it delivers and the power it has on either platforms. I have been using this for some years and it just keeps getting better.
    • Provides Layers, Image Processing, and Effects.
    • As the name implies it is a pixel editor, not a vector editor. If you need a vector editor than Acorn is excellent at its pricepoint.
  • TextExpander is a text expansion utility. What this means is that you create text shortcuts that as you type them they get expanded to the full word, sentence, etc. This is great for text you type over and over. This really adds up to hours and days of effort. Statistics show you just how many snippets you have expanded and time saved.
    • Snippets you create are stored on iCloud/Dropbox to sync across devices.
    • While OSX and iOS have rudimentary snippet expansion built in, TextExpander has a slew of features for managing your snippets.
    • As an example use a two letter abbreviation I can easily type the current date in the format I want. These abbreviations are case-sensitive so you can use the same two letter or more abbreviation for other snippets. In my case I use this for different date formats.
    • On iOS you have access to synced snippets via the TextExpander keyboard or the multiple apps that support TextExpander.
    • This is one of those things that once you use it you wonder how you got along with out it.
  • TweetBot my Twitter client of choice for some time. Lots of functionality including muting. On the iPad Pro you can using it in dual window mode.
Dec 312015
 

pope-francis2-300x187This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 19 November 2015 to 31 December 2015.

The Weekly Francis is a compilation of the Holy Father’s writings, speeches, etc which I also post at Jimmy Akin’s The Weekly Francis. Jimmy Akin came up with this idea when he started “The Weekly Benedict” and I have taken over curation of it.

Angelus

Daily Homilies (fervorinos)

General Audiences

Homilies

Messages

Speeches

Papal Tweets

Dec 312015
 

The late Fr. Jaki who was a physicist/priest/science historian said that the Church was the mid-wife for the scientific method. He persuasively makes this case in his book “Science & Creation, from eternal cycles to an oscillating universe” where he goes through the different cultures and compares them. Quite fascinating reading how belief in eternal cycles frustrated the scientific method from developing.

So is it cultural appropriation for non-Western countries to use the scientific method?

The answer is of course no since cultural appropriation should be mocked, mocked and then mocked. Not surprised that multiculturalism has developed to this sad state. Mainly instead of “E pluribus unum” it was always more like a centrifuge separating elements from each other. So this is really the projected outcome. I much prefer the model of cultural cross-pollination where ideas and more transient aspects of culture see wider adoption. Sure this results in adaptations that stray rather far from their sources. Some of these adaptations are much more consequential than others. Culinary ones less so as there is always room for the revival of the more “authentic” and are often advertised as such. Not that there aren’t problematic adaptations. Some can be either intentionally mocking of their source or easily inferred as such.

The problem we are seeing now on College campuses is that any adaptation or even straight importation is seen as inherently evil. This is such a total fundamental understanding of the ways cultures develop and it is not based on a “clean room” environment developing totally on its own. No doubt they have zero understanding of exactly what setting the university developed in and all the other debts to Western Civilization (which of course also had cross-pollination from other cultures).

I consider it of paramount importance to try to understand the arguments of others. I can only to a very small degree understand the arguments regarding cultural appropriation. Still what annoys me most about this argument is that there are serious problems, injustices, and disparities in the world. Although I guess this is nothing new as Jesus charged the Pharisees “You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!” (Mt 23:24)

Dec 252015
 

This year the first intentionally heard Christmas carols were at a Christmas Vigil Mass. I actually managed to play Advent hymns up to that. Still it is hard to avoid “second hand carols” via other sources. But usually they were of the Christmassy, not the traditional carols anyway.

This was pretty hard for me to do as I so love Christmas carols, but now my joy is complete as I will be listening to them throughout Christmastide. Great thing about being Catholic is that listening to these carols dos not end of Christmas.

Now over the last decade and a half I have been building up my collection of Christmas hymns and carols. Radio playing of “Christmas Music” was too scattershot and more and more about secular Christmas and its trappings. So having access to the hymns I love every where I go is a decided bonus.

Still the quality of the recordings I own are all over the place. I like the selection on the John Rutter produced albums, but the production quality is crappy especially the clarity and volume. Paid for streaming music services are especially awesome when it comes to creating the “perfect” Christmas playlist.

I have gone from one music service to another and thus have to keep creating these playlists. This is both good and bad. Good in that I can find new gems I might not have otherwise searched for. Apple Music, like only Google Play Music which I last used, lets me combine songs I own with songs available via streaming.

Ideally I wish I could create a weighted playlist that derives sources from specified playlists. For example the majority of the time I want to hear Christmas carols both the classics and the lesser known. Every once in a while it would be okay to inject one song from another playlist containing Christmassy standards all about the trappings of Christmas and good feelings. Maybe once in 200 plays a Santa related song – possibly the Latin version of Rudolf – Rudolph rubrinasus as performed by the choir at St. Bartholomew’s in New York City.

Another weight would be for favorites that are older hymns, that are still mostly about trappings of Christmas than Christ himself. Although really that specific exemption is for the “Boar’s Head Carol” which I have so loved since as a kid I found it on one of my Mother’s Christmas albums. It stirs me every time even though it is about eating a boar’s head. Just love the melody and since it has a Latin chorus that makes it better.

Caput apri defero (Translation: The boar’s head I offer)
Reddens laudes Domino (Translation: Giving praises to the Lord)

Still not being able to randomize my playlist in an ideal fashion is certainly a #FirstWorld Problem. Mostly I am greatly pleased to create a large playlist containing all songs I like and that are also of good audio production. A nice mix of full choirs, ensembles, and individual singers. I’ve certainly grown an appreciation of crooners of the past like Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra when they used their voices to the classic carols and more modern standards. White Christmas is certainly not my favorite of the modern standards, but when sung by Bing Crosby – that’s another thing.

What amazes me most is that each year I find a new favorite hymn. One that totally delights and inspires me. Last year that hymn was “Fum, Fum, Fum”. Still I need to do less writing and more searching for my next favorite hymn or selection of favorites sung by an artist not yet on my playlist.