Thursday, June 21, 2018

Enjoy the silence, Pt. 2

(Gif courtesy

This line from "Django Jane" has been the symbol of the overarching theme for your humble blogger's past few weeks.-the need for silence. Yes, the issue was addressed here, but it has felt worth reiterating.  The fact is, though,  it's hard to get away from noise in today's society. So much is at one's fingertips with smartphones and social media. On top of that,  there's the hubbub that is contemporary Western life. It takes intentional effort to actually make time for quiet. Even if for a set time five minutes a day, it's well worth it.  Put the phone down, turn off the T.V., and just be. As baby steps are best for yours truly,  3 minutes will be the initial goal. Hopefully this sets you on your journey to a quieter place. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Catholic Imagery in Janelle Monàe's Oeuvre, or How Jane Predated the Met Gala

Much ado has been made of the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Heavenly Bodies exhibition and corresponding Gala.  Discussion aplenty has been going around, especially in Catholic circles, of the relationship between Catholic culture and today's pop culture.  When it comes to current pop culture usage of imagery associated with the Faith, many artists' names readily come to mind. One that may not, however, is Janelle Monàe.  While she's not Catholic and her worldview differs in many ways with Catholic teaching, a Catholic could recognize in Monàe's oeuvre themes that predate Heavenly Bodies going back to her first album.  It's a theme that has continued up to her current work Dirty Computer.

The ArchAndroid

While Monàe's android alter ego Cindi Mayweather was introduced in her EPs The Audition and Metropolis, it was the 2010 album The ArchAndroid that put a bit of a Catholic edge to her.  It begins with the title itself.  ArchAndroid is pronounced like archangel, one of the nine choirs of angels that are part of Catholic tradition.  The album's storyline explores whether Cindi is the figure "sent to free the citizens of Metropolis from the Great Divide...which..suppress[es] freedom and love throughout the ages".  Church tradition has the Archangel St. Michael, Prince of the Heavenly Host, casting down Satan and all evil spirits by the power of God, as noted in the prayer usually said at the end of every Mass.  A great explanation of the Archangels in Catholic tradition can be found here.

The Electric Lady

The Catholic references continue in 2013's The Electric Lady with a mention of Joan of Arc in title track.  Similarities can be inferred between Cindi and the Maid of Orleans.  In her article on Joan of Arc, Mary Gordon notes the saint's goal of uniting France.  Cindi's goal, alluded to on The ArchAndroid's  track 57821, was to "lead them all back to one".  Joan, Gordon continues, is one that doesn't submit to injustice and risks herself for what she believes is right.  Cindi, in comparison, risks herself for what she believed was right-love and freedom for her fellow androids.  In addition, neither Joan nor Cindi fit traditional standards. Gordon notes Joan as having a "remarkable personality [that] did not conform to the traditional categories the church used to judge individual sanctity". Cindi was an android with rockstar capabilities and a heart.

Dirty Computer

Monàe's latest album starts right off the bat with what could be a nod to Catholic aesthetics with it's cover art.

The halo and coloring is reminiscent of iconography, which has been a part of Catholic tradition, especially in the Eastern Rite.  Even the use of a gemstone face cover evokes the use of precious materials in icons.  Her gaze and head placement evokes that of the icon of the Virgin Mary Hagiosoritissa (See below). 

(Photo curtesy of The Sinai Icon Collection-Princeton University)

According to Michael Hesemann, in his book  Mary of Nazareth  the icon's name means "intercessor".  Such an image thus seems fitting as in many interviews, Monae has described herself as being a voice for those who haven't traditionally had a voice.  As for other aspects of the album one can also find some nods to Catholic thought.  In this interview (Courtesy YouTube) for Beats 1, she notes that humans "come from dirt", reminiscent of the saying Catholics hear every Ash Wednesday that "Remember, man, you are dust, and to dust you shall return".

The aforementioned Marian imagery can also be seen in the line in "Django Jane" in which she raps "We gave you God".  This is likely a reference to the part of her Women's March speech in which she noted "According to the Bible, it was a woman who gave you Jesus". Hesemann notes in the aforementioned  book that the Hagiosoritissa image gave way to the Marian dogma of Theotokos  (literally translated "God-bearer"), promulgated by the Council of Ephesus in 431.  Consistent with the imagery, Monae took the look to the Met Gala.

(photo courtesy of

While much talk of the ensemble has been of its consistency with the Dirty Computer album cover, the aforementioned shows a thread from it to Catholic imagery.  That's not to mention the silhouette had a bit of a cardinal's outfit. The Church has long had an influence on culture, even in contemporary pop culture. Janelle Monàe, an ever growing force in today's cultural arena, may not readily be seen as having anything to do with Catholicism.  However, if one explores the deeper themes of her work, one can find a hint of influence from images associated with the Faith.  It's one that's been there for a while.

Gordon, Mary. Desperately Seeking Joan.

Monday, April 30, 2018

A poem to spark

Could a
Should a
Seas of rueful blue
Flow through you
For every forward step
Not taken

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Preserving Potawatomi

The following is an assignment from the current FutureLearn course I'm taking, Introduction to Intercultural Studies: Language and Culture 
The Potawatomi language, spoken by members of the Potawatomi tribe of North America, is in real danger of becoming extinct. It is in the Algonquin language family. Recent numbers place the amount of speakers to lower than 25. The language's decline resulted from the history of contact with Europeans and Americans and eventual suppression that most native groups faced. In addition, many of the native speakers are elderly. Revitalization of the language has been in the hands of the Potowatomi themselves as each of their nine bands, which reside in Michigan, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Canada, have a language department that provides resources. In Michigan, for example, classes are offered at a high school and college level. Hence, younger generations can gain access and keep the language alive. For the Potowatomi, such efforts means culture is also maintained, given the language is key to the group's cultural teachings and practices. contains Such situations, in my view, demonstrate the interconnected nature of language and culture. It is thus essential to preserve language to preserve culture.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Yet another Stronae update

Here's the new news on my desk plant, Stronàe. For a refresher,  my story on maintaining her can be found here and here. This month, after some significant need of TLC (again, I'm a novice at anything related to keeping a plant),  I decided to re-pot her with some new soil

Unfortunately, she still ended up needing more pruning. On the upside,  she's still hanging in there.

P.S. If anyone has any tips on how to get a pruned plant back from looking like a Charlie Brown Christmas tree, it would be greatly appreciated.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Resolutions, failure, and "Just Doing It"

So we're well into the New Year. How are those resolutions coming? In many cases, resolutions mean  change, which is hard to do.  Hence, the occasional slip up, or in some cases, out-and-out failure. Thanks to Dynamic Catholic again for coming through with a soul-piercing insight to think about when we fall down in our journey to growth and need to get back up and , like Nike, "Just Do It".
(Photo: from Dynamic Catholic)

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Faith is like breathing

 (Photo courtesy of

In a recent conversation with my best friend, she said "Faith is like breathing ". It was striking in its profound simplicity. As the new year approaches, it feels apropos to consider how necessary faith is to life, like breathing. It's hardwired in us, like breathing. Take time to focus on your faith life the same way we try to slow down and take deep breaths. If something is obstructing it like bronchitis obstructs the lungs, find what you need to keep it going. Your life will thank you for it.