Daily Update: Wednesday, March 1st, 2017

Ash Wednesday and Day of Fastng and Abstinence

Today is Ash Wednesday, the penitential day of Fast, Abstinence, and repentance that ushers in the solemn and penitential season of Lent.

Lent is the penitential season of the Catholic Church year that lasts from now until Maundy Thursday; it is marked through prayer, penance, repentance, almsgiving, and self-denial, and is literally marked on Ash Wednesday by the practice of placing ashes on the foreheads of the faithful as a sign of repentance, and by both Fasting and Abstinence from Meat. The ashes used are gathered after the Palm Crosses from the previous year’s Palm Sunday are burned, and the ashes are mixed with the Oil of the Catechumens (one of the sacred oils used to anoint those about to be baptized). This ash paste is used by the minister who presides at the service to make the sign of the cross, first upon his or her own forehead and then on those of congregants. The minister recites the words: “Remember (O man) that you are dust, and to dust you shall return”, or “Repent, and believe the Gospel.” In the Roman Catholic Church, ashes, being sacramentals, may be given to anyone who wishes to receive them, as opposed to Catholic sacraments, which are generally reserved for church members, except in cases of grave necessity. My personal self-denial during Lent is from caffeine, which means no chocolate, no iced tea in restaurants (unless I am certain it is caffeine-free), and no Diet Coke (unless I am certain it is caffeine-free). And anyone who knows me at all knows that this is a true penance for me. I figure that I will save about $2.50 a day by not buying products with caffeine, which I will donate to Catholic Relief Services via the CRS Rice Bowl initiative.

Last night our LSU Tigers won their College Baseball game with the Nicholls State Colonels by the score of 3 to 2; our #4 LSU Tigers (7-1, 0-0) will next play an Away College Baseball game with the TCU Horned Frogs on Friday, March 3rd, 2017.

I woke up at 7:30 am, and put in a new set of contact lenses. I flipped to the next month in my three wall calendars, put my spare Galaxy Note 4 battery into my phone, started the Weekly Computer Maintenance, cleared out my phone call lists and voice mail lists on my phone, and adjusted the date on my watches. I then cleared the browsing data on Chrome, Wikipedia, Google Play Store, and Facebook. I then started my laundry, deleted my Google search history, and did screenshots of my current Home screens on my phone. I then did my Book Devotional Reading. I read the morning paper, then did my Internet Devotional Reading. The Weekly Computer Maintenance finished, and I started the Weekly Virus Scan, and finished my laundry.

I left the house at 11:35 am and went to the Church for the Ash Wednesday Mass, and got my ashes. (Ash Wednesday is not a Holy Day of Obligation, but I do always try to get my ashes; and as far back as this Weblog goes, I have gotten them every year.) When I got home the Weekly Virus Scan had finished. I did a couple of Advance Daily Update Drafts, then Richard came in at 2:00 pm and took a nap. While he was sleeping I went out to the front room and watched Episode 522 of MST3K, “Teen-Age Crime Wave”, then started watching Episode 523 of MST3K, “Village of the Giants”, but gratefully abandoned that movie to watch Jeopardy! at 4:30 pm. Richard woke up from his nap, and we went over to Rocky’s Cajun Kitchen at 6:30 pm, where I effectively broke my Ash Wednesday fast with about ten pounds of boiled crawfish. We arrived home at 7:30 pm, and I started working on this weblog. Our LSU Tigers (9-19, 1-15) are playing an Away College Basketball game with the Tennessee Volunteers (15-14, 7-9), and our New Orleans Pelicans (23-37, 3-8) are playing a Home NBA game with the Detroit Pistons (28-31, 3-7). And I will finish this Daily Update and go to bed.

We again will have no Saints to honor tomorrow (wait one more day, my pretties). Tomorrow is Texas Independence Day, when the Republic of Texas formally declared independence from Mexico at the Convention of 1836 at Washington-on-the-Brazos. And tomorrow is both the anniversary of my late father’s birth (in 1929) and the anniversary of when Richard’s father died (in 1992). I will iron my Casino pants, apron, and shirts, and go to to grocery for my salad supplies. I will then make my lunch salads for Friday and Sunday. At the SEC Tournament, our LSU Lady Tigers (19-10, 8-8) will be playing a College Basketball game with the Ole Miss Lady Rebels (17-12, 6-10).

Our Parting Quote on this Ash Wednesday evening comes to us from Alan Heyman, American-born South Korean musicologist and composer. Born in 1931 in New York City, New York, he attended the University of Colorado, where he majored in music while also studying a pre-medical course, graduating in 1952. After his graduation, Heyman was drafted into the United States Army. He initially knew nothing about Korea; when informed by his senior officer that he would be stationed in Uijeongbu near the South Korean capital of Seoul, he asked, “Excuse me sir, in what part of Japan is Uijeongbu?” In 1953, he was as an army medic and lab technician attached to a field hospital unit stationed in Gangwon Province. Chinese and North Korean forces stationed on a nearby mountain would often play loud Korean music over a loudspeaker late at night, using the sound as a non-lethal weapon to try to keep their enemies sleep-deprived. Most of Heyman’s comrades found the noise irritating. However, it had the opposite effect on Heyman himself, who was enthralled by the music, describing it as “refreshing and interesting”. During the war, he also met the woman who would become his first wife, a nurse. Heyman returned to the U.S. in 1954. At that point, he did not know the name of the instrument that had so fascinated him, the taepyeongso. He would not find out until after his tour of duty had ended and he had entered Columbia University to start studying towards his master’s degree in music education: a fellow graduate student from South Korea informed Heyman, based on the description he provided, that the sound he heard was that of the taepyeongso, which he analogised to a “conical oboe”. That same friend encouraged Heyman to go back to South Korea and pursue his interest in Korean music. Heyman received his degree from Columbia in 1959; that same year United States civilians were permitted to live in South Korea, and in 1960 Heyman moved to Insa-dong in Seoul; he was the only passenger on the Northwest Airlines flight which brought him back to the country. He enrolled in the Korea Traditional Musical Arts Conservatory near his house, offering free English lessons in exchange for his studies. He also married the nurse whom he had met during the war. Among the odd jobs that Heyman took to support himself and his wife during his music studies, he composed film scores for various films set in South Korea; by 1968, he had nearly a dozen such credits to his name, mostly documentaries. As he was not yet fluent in the Korean language at the time, he faced numerous difficulties in his studies. Aside from the taepyeongso, he also learned to play a number of other traditional Korean musical instruments, including the gayageum, the piri, and the janggu, as well as Korean dances such as the talchum and dances related to nongak. Though he eventually attained fluency in Korean, he later admitted he did not read hanja very well. Heyman was initially nervous whether he could find success in his chosen field, but his confidence and reputation grew after a 1962 performance he gave, the first in which a foreigner had performed Korean traditional music on stage. He even performed for South Korean president Yun Bo-seon. In 1964, with the sponsorship of the Asia Society, he organised a twenty-seven city tour of the United States for traditional Korean music group Sam Chun Li. They performed at the Lincoln Center and on national television on The Tonight Show. However, the tour’s success was damaged by negative rumours about their shows spread by a rival musical group, which resulted in cancellations by 17 out of 27 universities where they had scheduled performances; their sponsors refused to pay the musicians their contracted wages, and Heyman had to make up the difference out of his own pocket. In the 1960s Heyman also began taking an interest in the music of Donald Sur, a Hawaii-born composer whose works drew inspiration from the traditional music of his Korean immigrant forebears, as well as that of Alan Hovhaness and Lou Harrison, who had both visited South Korea and were influenced by the music they encountered there. However, he was an opponent of attempts to adapt Korean music to Western sensibilities in the name of modernisation. He composed the score for Northeast of Seoul, a 1972 thriller directed by David Lowell Rich. In 1973 Heyman led another troupe of National Gugak Center musicians on a tour of Europe. Again he ended up incurring unexpected expenses: the troupe arrived in Berlin and took a bus through East Germany on the way to the rest of Europe, but on the way back to Berlin a South Korean consular official in Paris demanded they fly instead of taking the bus, fearing that East German authorities might detain the musicians and turn them over to the North Koreans. Around that time, Heyman also considered moving back to the United States to take a position as an instructor in traditional Korean music and dance at Brown University, but the university cancelled its plans to hire him at the last minute. Instead he chose to remain in South Korea. His first wife died after a protracted struggle with liver cancer in 1985, leaving him with large debts as the couple had lacked medical insurance to pay for her treatments. He received a UNESCO cultural award in 1991. Heyman applied for naturalisation as a South Korean citizen in 1995, after more than thirty years of living in the country. He first faced a grueling naturalisation test, in which only two students passed the written portion; however, the oral portion was much simpler for him, as his interviewer asked him only to tell the tale of Heungbu and Nolbu, which he knew quite well from his pansori studies. As South Korea did not permit dual citizenship at the time, he then gave up his U.S. citizenship. He took the Korean name Hae Ŭiman. Also inn 1995 he was awarded the South Korean government’s Order of Cultural Merit. His English translation of Im Sok-jae’s Mu-ga: The Ritual Songs of Korean Mudangs, sponsored by the Korea Literature Translation Association, was published by Asian Humanities Press in 2003. In September 2010 he donated a large amount of the research materials he had collected over the years to the National Gugak Center. President Lee Myung-bak awarded Heyman the Silver Crown Order of Cultural Merit in April 2011 in recognition of his contributions to the National Gugak Center. That month he also received an award from the National Gugak Center on the occasion of their 60th anniversary. In June 2011 he was inducted into the Royal Asiatic Society Korea Branch as an honorary lifetime member (died 2014): “Luckily, in music one can learn much by example and observation, without the need for language.”

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