Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Photoshop Problems and Promise

There is a recent scandal of adulterated photos being released by news organizations, including these:

Reuters' Beriut smoke enhancement
Condoleezza Rice demon eyes photo
Katie Couric made slimmer

This is referred to as the "Photoshop scandal", after the popular photo editing software Adobe Photoshop, although there are many other vendors of computer photo software capable of doing similar alterations.

Image alternation is nothing new, with the Soviets notoriously known for retouching photos to eliminate politically incorrect persons. And beyond photography, even Jacques-Louis David gave up painting a giant portrait of the French revolutionaries because of too many required changes: his subjects were getting executed.

Fashion and glamour photography, and especially magazine covers, use Photoshop retouching extensively, so much so that the final result is artful, but also a mere fantasy. See this site for examples (this contains some rather shocking touch ups, though; beware). Retouched glamour photos like these may raise the expectations of young viewers to the point that they may find real people, including themselves, disappointing and undesirable.

The use of Photoshop or its competitors is, indeed, a moral act.

While I use Photoshop Elements for editing my photos for Rome of the West, it is my policy to avoid retouching photos as much as possible: typically, I do eliminate camera artifacts, such as hot pixels that appear as bright points on the photo.

My concern, though, is with reproducing what I actually see. It is highly disappointing that the camera doesn't record what I see very well, so it takes some work to make a photo representative of real life. But I do have one exception to this realism rule: if the lighting of a room is dim and yellowed, I will correct the white balance of the scene, so that the colors will reproduce as if they were illuminated by bright, white lights. This makes colors pop out, although to the eye they might appear dim and ugly. I also correct for camera tilt and lens distortion, to make things that are vertical, look vertical; the eye automatically corrects for this, while the camera does not.

A big problem is the lack of significant dynamic range in the photograph, that is, the ratio of the amount of light needed to produce pure white versus pure black in the final photo. With standard digital photos, the ratio is less than 300 to 1, and that isn't much. Go outside on a sunny day, and your eye will be able to pick out detail simultaneously in both highlights and shadows, with luminous ranges of tens of thousands to one.

When inside of a church, I can either photograph the nave acceptably, but the stained glass windows will be white; or I can photograph the windows, while the nave will be black. But I can see both with my eyes, so it is frustrating that the camera is so limited.

Professionals use massive amounts of supplemental lighting to produce a uniformly-illuminated subject.

However, there is a relatively new technique, called High Dynamic Range Imaging, which uses tricky camera techniques and special computer software to generate images with enormous luminous ranges. The technique came out of academia in 1997, and has gained popular acceptance as well as commercial software support.

For examples of this technique in action, please see:
(note, some images may not be suitable for all viewers)

Flickr: TTHDR (True Tone High Dynamic Range)

Flickr: HDR

Most of these photos are quite stunning. Some look hyper realistic: more real than real, while others look like paintings. Others look fake or unreal. Of course, the art of painting has, for millennia, used a kind of High Dynamic Range technique to allow both bright light and dark shadow to be represented on the same canvas, so why not photography?

Ansel Adams used this technique extensively in the old pre-digital days, and his photos often look better than the real thing.

I am interested in hearing comments about those Flickr photos linked above. Are they good, bad, or interesting? In your opinion, are the results of this technique still experimental, needing extra development, or are they ready for the mainstream?

Here are my first rather pathetic attempts at the technique. Photos taken at Saints Peter and Paul church in Waterloo, Illinois, of the Diocese of Belleville.





Heavenly City



From a review by George Weigel, about the Chicago Catholic church architecture photo book Heavenly City:
Heavenly City is so beautifully illustrated that I can imagine using it as a source of prayer — as many Catholics pray with icons today. It would be fatuous to pick a favorite from the riches that McNamara and Morris lay before the reader. Suffice it to say that they offer almost seventy examples of churches, built in various styles over more than a century, which testify to their builders’ belief that a church is the domus Dei et porta coeli (“the house of God and the gate to heaven”), not simply the domus ecclesiae (“the house of the Church”).
Found at the Society of St. Barbara.

But in my opinion, I think the Saint Louis area churches have Chicago beat.

Fr. Lenhardt named Spritual Director of the Catholic Central Verein

From the August 27th, 2006 bulletin of the Saint Francis de Sales Oratory:
Fr. Lenhardt has been named Spiritual Director of the Catholic Central Union of America (Katholischer Zentralverein) and a member of its Social Action Committee that surveys the operation of the bureau of the Union here in St. Louis. The Catholic Central Union promotes social justice and Catholic Action according to the authentic Magisterium of the Church, and publishes Social Justice Review magazine. http://socialjusticereview.org
Father Karl W. Lenhardt is Rector of the Oratory and Vice-Provincial for the United States of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest.

The term "social justice" nowadays has been taken over by Marxists, with the implication that only Socialism is socially just. But the phrase was coined in the 1840s by the Jesuit Luigi Taparelli, based on the teachings of Saint Thomas Aquinas, and is concerned with the entirety of how we ought to live together in society. The traditional Catholic understanding of social justice is orthodox and not Communist. See the website Social Justice Review.

Unlike many German-American organizations in the United States, the Katholischer Centralverein seems not to have felt the need to change its name during the patriotic persecutions of German-Americans during the two World Wars.

The Year the World Ended

Hilary has a series of articles on 1968, the year of the great social revolutions worldwide.

See the article The Year the World Ended III:

October 24, 1967 - The new Mass was first celebrated in public in the Sistine Chapel on 24th October 1967 before the Synod of Bishops. Afterwards many of the bishops were very uneasy about what they had seen.

71 out of a total of 176 bishops present voted 'Yes' for the new rite.

The rest voted 'No' or had reservations.

The rest of the world's bishops were not given the opportunity of voting.

Cardinal Heenan addressed the Synod the day after the experimental Mass and said it was clear that those who had formulated it had never been parish priests:
"At home," he said, "it is not only women and children but also fathers of families and young men who come regularly to Mass. If we were to offer them the kind of ceremony we saw yesterday we would soon be left with a congregation of women and children."
The new rite of Mass was imposed generally upon the Church in 1969.
Cardinal Heenan was right. It led too many men to have scorn for the Church.

Three Flags

The flag of the Republic flies with the banners of the Catholic Kingdoms of Castilla y León (Spain) and France.

This was found in Florissant, Missouri, once the home of Saint Rose Philippine Duchesne.

For more infomation than you've ever wanted to know about vexillology, see Flags of the World, and check out the Flag Identifier.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Photos of Saint Patrick Mission of Armagh, in Catawissa, Missouri

Here are photos of Saint Patrick Mission of Armagh, the "Old Rock Church", located near Catawissa, Missouri, which is about 42 highway miles southwest of downtown Saint Louis.




Church's website: http://www.stpatricksorc.org
Archdiocesan website: http://www.archstl.org/index.php?option=com_adir&task=details&amokey=2314&Itemid=82

From the website:
St. Patrick’s Church, Catawissa, Mo. known by residents of the area as the “Rock Church” is constructed of Missouri limestone or sandstone and based on a seven foot pyramid rock foundation. The stones used for the first few feet of the church wails were placed by “dry mortar,” in which each stone was carefully fitted into another without the aid of adhesive material. The remainder of the walls were completed with the aid of traditional wet mortar, but were also carefully worked. As the church was constructed in two different stages, it is supposed that the dry mortar method was used in the first foundation and the quicker wet mortar method was used to finish the walls. All stones were quarried by hand near the church, Interior measurements of the church are 44 ft. by 88 ft.

The roof, originally slate, is supported by a system of interlocked wooden beams, which have been described by architects as a magnificent piece of engineering. The roof which rises inside to a pointed arch is constructed of wooden planks, fitted tongue and groove without the use of nails. The interior walls, 15 inches thick, and the slanted window sills are covered with smooth plaster.

The prominent architectural feature of the church is its Gothic arches. Multiple use of the arches in paneling, communion rail and windows lend a graceful, soaring feeling to the otherwise solid understructure. Particularly beautiful are the elongated arched windows behind the main altar, which are filled with stained glass in lovely muted colors. Two series of wooden Gothic arches outline the church on either side of the main aisle and another series of four arches outlines the base of the choir loft.

The wooden tabernacle on the main altar is decorated with a trefoil design and surmounted by a crucifix rescued from the fire of 1885. Six gilded wooden candleholders, 3½ feet tall and imprinted with carvings of bleeding hearts, the symbol of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, stand on the main altar. A pale aqua medallion centered with a large shape of a bleeding heart and topped with a crown of thorns, reddish purple flames and white radial arms, is attached to the front of the main altar.

The two side altars are supported by four slim wooden columns. Hand-made statues of Mary and Joseph stand on the right and left altars, respectively. Near the left altar is a statue of St. Anthony, donated by Mary Theresa O’Donnell.
Photos taken August 20th, 2006, during the church's annual picnic.




Window into the choir loft.




Front door.




ST. PATRICK'S PARISH OF ARMAGH
ESTABLISHED IN 1843
PRESENT CHURCH BEGUN IN 1853
(INTERRUPED BY CIVIL WAR)
COMPLETED IN 1866
CHURCH BURNED IN 1885
REOPENED ON EASTER SUNDAY 1886
CLOSED 1924




Note how the windows tilt inward.




The church appears larger on the inside than out: there is little detail on the exterior to give it a sense of scale.




Close-up of main altar, with the Sacred Heart of Jesus.




1re. Ston.

JÉSUS CONDAMNÉ À MORT
JESUS CONDENADO A MUERTE
JESUS CONDEMNED TO DEATH




Altar of Saint Joseph.




Altar of the Blessed Virgin Mary.




In memory of
Rev. EDWARD BERRY
BORN Clarahill TOWN'S LAND
Queens Co. Ireland, Mar. 19, 1827,
Ordained at Carlow College
May 11, 1856.
DIED July 24, 1901,
AGED 73 YEARS.
R.I.P.




IN MEMORY OF
REV. PHILIP GRACE
WHOSE REMAINS LIE BENEATH
DIED AUG. 1859
AGED 35 YEARS
R.I.P.




INDULGENCES
To those who pray before the
MISSION CROSSES
Erected by the Redemptorist Fathers,
Granted by His Holiness Pius IX.




Saint Patrick, painted on a wooden post.




View of altar from choir loft.




The only stained glass windows here are behind the sanctuary.




The pipe organ in the choir loft.




The interior of the pipe organ.




JEZIS NAPOMINA PLAC-ZENI JERUZALEMSKE

Old Stations of the Cross are stored in the choir loft. Is this Czech? Slovak?




The old cemetery, nestled in the foothills of the Ozarks. It was at one time overgrown.

Address:

150 Rock Church Road
Catawissa, Missouri 63015

Educators' sex affects student performance, new study says.

See the article: Educators' gender affects student performance, new study says.

For all the differences between the sexes, here's one that might stir up debate in the teacher's lounge: Boys learn more from men and girls learn more from women.

That's the upshot of a provocative study by Thomas Dee, an associate professor of economics at Swarthmore College and visiting scholar at Stanford University. His study was to appear today in Education Next, a quarterly journal published by the Hoover Institution.

Vetted and approved by peer reviewers, Dee's research faces a fight for acceptance. But Dee says his research supports his point, that gender matters when it comes to learning. Specifically, as he describes it, having a teacher of the opposite sex hurts a student's academic progress.
A provocative study, yet vetted and approved by experts!
For example, with a female teacher, boys were more likely to be seen as disruptive. Girls were less likely to be considered inattentive or disorderly.

In a class taught by a man, girls were more likely to say the subject was not useful for their future. They were less likely to look forward to the class or to ask questions.
I hate to break the news, but single sex classrooms in secondary schools and college were often the norm until the 1960s, for this very reason. Even entire schools were single sex. But since history is no longer taught, we should be a bit more forgiving of this ignorance.

Catholic schools traditionally segregated older children by sex; fewer disruptions make a better learning environment. And this wasn't due to sexism, in order to keep the women down: a traditional nun in full habit would whap you with a ruler for saying something like that, for Catholic girls' schools traditionally provided intensely good education.

From my personal experience, I know that coed classes, in the summertime, with no dress code for modesty, really made me stupid.

Also note the article's use of the word "gender" instead of "sex". Formerly, the word "sex" meant what you are, not what you do, while gender was a grammatical term used to classify nouns as masculine, feminine, or neuter. Our current confusion about sex and the meaning of language has led to this strange new use of these terms.

Two Unrelated News Stories

This casino riverboat, on the Mississippi River across from downtown Saint Louis, Missouri, is for sale and will be replaced with a larger casino on land.



See the article: For sale: One boat. Casino not included. When casinos were reintroduced to the area (having been legal twice before in U.S. history), the idea of romantic riverboat casinos traveling up and down the river helped sell the idea. A casino in East Saint Louis, Illinois is selling its boat in favor of a much larger land-based casino.

I can think of at least two new additional casinos under construction in the area. It is a booming business.


In another story, Metro East cities see a rise in serious crime. The Metro-East is the eastern suburbs of Saint Louis, on the Illinois side of the Mississippi River. The crime rate is rising, especially in illegal drug sales. "State Police say the production and use of methamphetamine is the cause of much of the crime in Southern and central Illinois."

Actually, these two news stories are very related. Unlike Las Vegas, we don't have many tourists from far away gambling their livelihoods away, but instead it is our friends and neighbors who are losing everything on the boats. From what I've heard from prison ministers, much of the increase of crime is due to gambling losses. Drug sales are an easy way of making quick money to keep up the gambling habit or to pay off debts.

Get used to hearing stories like this. It may only get worse, until the United States is little different from Mexico. The lower class will become a vast, violent underclass, while the middle class will be sharply reduced in size. The economy will shrink, tax revenues will decline, and the wealthy will be the undisputed petty kings of the garbage dump that once was America.

One of the main results of the social revolution in the 1960s and 70s is a new system of government which does not legislate morality. Gambling is no longer seen as having severe moral problems, but indeed is encouraged by the government to increase revenue. This is taking the idea of liberality to extremes.

Perhaps there are some people who want this trouble, hoping to strengthen society by a Darwinian survival-of-the-fittest struggle: the strong will prosper, while the weak will be crushed and eliminated. If this seems shocking, please consider the daily struggles of competition on the pages of the Wall Street Journal and the constant class struggle waged by the socialist Left in this country, as well as the Darwinism taught to your children in the public schools. Americans, it seems, are more than happy to consign the Darwinian "unfit" to our large new prisons.

Gambling was twice before legal in American history: once starting in the colonial era to finance the Ivy League Puritan universities like Harvard and Yale, and after the Civil War to pay for Reconstruction. In both cases, as today, gambling was legalized by the government in order to increase taxation. But in the first two eras, gambling led to extreme impoverishment of our nation. The scourge of widespread legal gambling was both times stopped by Protestant revivals. Too many lives were ruined, and the social costs far exceeded the increase in government revenue.

It is time for a new revival. More money and comfort for all—rich, poor, or middle-class—can be had with a virtuous nation.

Photos of All Souls Chapel, at the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis



This is the All Souls Chapel at the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis.

Click on any photo for a larger version.

This is the most somber chapel in the Cathedral, and is a reminder for us to pray for the souls of the departed: a much neglected practice these days. The stone is mainly black and white, symbolizing death and eternal life. The crypt of the Cathedral, final resting place of some of Saint Louis' bishops, is located beneath this chapel; and memorials to these bishops are inscribed here.

The Cathedral website has some information on All Souls Chapel. That website may be wrong, however; the style of the chapel may instead be in the "Viennese Sucessionist" style, or in one of many early 20th Century Art Deco styles that died out rather quickly.


See also All Saints Chapel and Blessed Sacrament Chapel.

Other Rome of the West photo essays of the Cathedral are: here, here, here, here, here, and here.




The ad orientum altar to the Risen Christ.




Statue of the Risen Christ.




The tabernacle. The bronze door shows angels holding the Body and Blood of Christ under the cross.




The altar.

EGO SVM RESVRRECTIO ET VITA
"I am the resurrection and the life.", John 11:25

In the center are the Greek letters Χ, Ρ, Α and Ω: Christ is the first and the last.




Above the altar is a coat of arms of one of the Archbishops. I will leave the description of its symbolism to someone more versed in heraldry.




Tomb of Cardinal Glennon.




A view of the exterior wall of the chapel. The other side of the chapel is mainly open to the nave of the Cathedral.




Memorial to Cardinal Ritter, entombed below in the crypt.




Stained glass windows. These dark windows add to the somber feeling inside of the chapel.




Above the windows are mosaic coats of arms of the Archbishops.




A view to the back of the chapel. Facing here is a statue of Saint Louis IX, King of France.

Note the mosaics of winged hourglasses; time flies!




View of the ornate wrought-iron gate to the chapel, with votive candles in the background. I seem to recall, many years ago, that these gates were normally locked; they are now left open.




The ceiling of the chapel is more richly decorated than the walls. Suspended from the ceiling are three galeri, or ceremonial hats, of the Cardinal-Archbishops of Saint Louis. According to Wikipedia: "When a cardinal dies, it is traditional that his [galero] be suspended over his tomb, where it remains until it is reduced to dust, symbolizing how all earthly glory is passing."




REQUIESCANT IN PACE
May they rest in peace.




LUX PERPETUA LUCEAT EIS
"Let perpetual light shine upon them", from the introit of the Requiem Mass, said during funeral masses and on All Souls Day.




A view of the altar from outside of the chapel. Note the Jerusalem, or Crusaders' cross, on the side.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Statue of Saint Louis



Statue of Saint Louis IX, taken at the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis on his feast day of August 25th.

Sailing at Creve Coeur Lake


A sailboat on Creve Coeur Lake, in Saint Louis County, Missouri.

Photo taken August 24th. Note that the leaves on the trees are just starting to turn color.

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Friday, August 25, 2006

Feast of Saint Louis at Cathedral

Today is the Feast of Saint Louis IX, King of France, patron of the City of Saint Louis and principal patron of the Archdiocese.



Icon and relic of Saint Louis.




Icon of the saint.




Relic.




A view showing the Archbishop's cathedra. Note the mosaics of crowns and fleurs-de-lis, symbols of the king.

"Put a proper habit on and things will turn around."

From Pointed Arches:
I have met a lot of nuns now, and I can tell you from experience that although it is one that can occasionally be misinterpreted, or even deceptive, the traditional habit is a signal, a word spoken clearly about the community's intentions. There is no one who does not know that clothes are a means of communication. Clothes that are deliberately designed for the purpose of religious identification, doubly so. It is important not to be taken in by appearances, but it is a mistake, perhaps even a subtle form of Manichæism to say, as do many modern sisters (usually with a rather defensive tone,) 'we aren't concerned with externals'.

Externals are usually an excellent indicator of what is going on inside as any mother knows who sees her teenage daughters beginning to adopt the standard (un)dress of modern girls. (Entire manuals have been written for parents and teachers on how to spot drug abuse, occult involvement etc, from changes in a child's appearance.)

Feast of Saint Louis IX, Confessor and King of France

From the St. Louis Review Online:
"A Mass in French and English will be celebrated at the St. Louis Cathedral Basilica, Lindell Boulevard and Newstead Avenue in the Central West End, at 5 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 27, to mark the feast day of St. Louis, the 13th century French king and patron of the St. Louis Archdiocese. Archbishop Raymond L. Burke will be principal celebrant. Members of St. Louis-Lyon Sister Cities Inc. and Societe Francaise of St. Louis will attend and are inviting the general public to jon them. Call S.P. Sutera at (314) 862-4282, for information. The formal observance of the feast of St. Louis remains Aug. 25; a plenary indulgence will be granted those who attend Mass that day at the cathedral basilica."

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Apotheosis of Saint Louis



This statue, the Apotheosis of Saint Louis, was the symbol of the City of Saint Louis before the completion of the Gateway Arch in 1966.

The feast day for Saint Louis IX, King of France, is August 25th.




The statue sits in front of the Saint Louis Art Museum.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Iconoclasm and Liturgy

See the article Iconoclasm and Liturgy, recently translated from the German, describing the roots of the iconoclasm in the Church since the 1960s:
In 1968, the congregation of St. Raphael’s parish, in which the endowers of the altars still lived, was told that the Marmon altars were “controversial”. The date should be noted, an axial year, as Karl Jaspers would have it: student revolts in Germany, France, in the United States; the beginning of the Chinese Cultural Revolution with millions of dead, with its iconoclasm, the devastation of temples and artistic treasures, and the year of the liturgical reform. These events are interrelated, even if they appear not to be. Future historiography will have no choice but to see a connection here.
The author, Martin Mosebach, here tells about the artistic destruction of a simple parish church: first the mosaics were plastered over, and then the altars and the liturgy itself were destroyed, leading to the ruination of souls.

Photos of Saint Andrew Church, in Lemay, Missouri

Here are photos of Saint Andrew Church, in Lemay, Missouri



Click on any photo for a larger image.


Saint Andrew Parish was founded on December 24, 1904, and was the first parish located between the River des Peres and Jefferson Barracks, which at that time was a major army base. The church itself dates from 1930.

Lemay is an unincorporated community located just south of border of the City of Saint Louis (the border roughly follows the River des Peres) and next to the Mississippi River. The name "Lemay" comes from one of its major thoroughfares, Lemay Ferry Road, which in turn is named after François Lemai, a ferryboat operator on the Meramec River just south of here.

La Rivière des Pères—French for "the Stream of the Fathers"—was the location of the first European settlement in the area, a Jesuit mission to the Kaskaskia Indians. This stream, now channelized, has been the source of much tragic flooding in Lemay in the 1990s, forcing many parishioners of Saint Andrew's out of their homes. The low-lying neighborhood just to the northeast of the church was subsequently demolished and converted to a park. The church itself sits on high ground and can be seen from a long distance.

The land from Lemay to Jefferson Barracks were once the common fields of the French colony of Carondelet (now a part of the City). But legal problems with title to this land prevented significant development of Lemay until after the American Civil War. The area then became settled by German farmers fleeing the persecutions of the liberal German government under Bismark. Significantly, many areas of Saint Louis County that once had large settlements of Germans remain unincorporated to this day; perhaps this is due to a long-held distrust of government.



Front door.



To the right of the main door, an angel holds scripture. Many churches in Saint Louis of this era were made with decorative multi-colored brick and terra-cotta ornamentation.



Holy Scripture, Batman! To the left of the main door, the Devil appears to be tearing pages from the Bible. Grotesque or comical figures have been common in church architecture, especially on the outside, symbolizing sin or folly.



Flowers behind the church.



The school closed in 2003. A great tragedy of the past number of decades is the sharp decline of the Catholic schools. The Supreme Court decision to eliminate public funding for parochial schools, and the loss of vocations to the teaching religious orders, made Catholic education unaffordable to the poor and to most of the middle class.

This is not only bad for Catholics, but also the general public. Catholic schools were usually superior to the public schools, and were far more affordable than the private schools. This put pressure on the public schools to increase standards. This competition is now gone.



Saint Andrew was a fisherman, disciple of John the Baptist, Saint Peter's brother, and Christ's first apostle.

Acording to the Catholic Encyclopedia, Andrew spread the Faith in "Cappadocia, Galatia, and Bithynia [in Asia Minor, now Turkey], then in the land of the anthropophagi and the Scythian deserts, afterwards in Byzantium itself, where he appointed St. Stachys as its first bishop, and finally in Thrace, Macedonia, Thessaly, and Achaia [now mainly Greece]". Galatia, although now a part of Turkey, was home to the Gales, now known as the Celts, who have since moved towards the British Isles. Anthropophagi, by the way, means "cannibals". Scythia is a vast area which generally comprises much of the old Russian Empire, and Saint Andrew is patron of Russia.

Andrew was said to be executed on an X-shaped cross in Greece, and since he was bound, and not nailed to it, he was able to preach the Gospel for two days before dying. Note the X-shaped brickwork on the church; this may not be coincidental. Many of Andrew's relics were taken to Scotland in the 4th century; eventually he was declared the patron of Scotland, and the flags of the United Kingdom and of Scotland contain the cross of Saint Andrew. His feastday is universally celebrated in the Western and Eastern Churches on November 30th.

The name Andrew comes from the Greek andreia, meaning masculine.



Address:
309 Hoffmeister Avenue
Lemay, Missouri 63125