Sunday, December 30, 2007

Charlie Wilson's War

Great comic movie with tight scripting and creative soundtrack (but then, that sort of goes without saying for the genre, in my opinion).

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

On Slavoj Zizek

At First Things, R.R. Reno writes:

The false note of uncertainty does not disguise the imperative: “Only through a ‘sectarian split’ from the standard European legacy, by cutting ourselves off from the decaying corpse of Old Europe, can we keep the renewed European legacy alive.” The real conflict is not between the West and the Rest. By Zizek’s reckoning, the real war concerns the cultural battle for control of the West. And Zizek is clear about the present imperative for the future of Europe. It’s time to get rid of recalcitrant Christians and make the world safe for the triumph of postmodern, er, tolerance.

Did I mention that Zizek has become very “hot” among the outrĂ© American scholars who tend to dominant the humanities at elite universities? But maybe that’s obvious. After all, hasn’t the same academic commissariat been quite clear about the need to exclude any whom they deem “Christian populist fundamentalists”?

Happy Christmas

Here is a Vatican translation of Benedict XVI's Christmas message, which he delivered from the main balcony of St. Peter's Basilica today at noon.

* * *

"A holy day has dawned upon us.

Come you nations and adore the Lord.

Today a great light has come upon the earth."

(Day Mass of Christmas, Gospel Acclamation)

Dear Brothers and Sisters! "A holy day has dawned upon us." A day of great hope: today the Saviour of mankind is born. The birth of a child normally brings a light of hope to those who are waiting anxiously. When Jesus was born in the stable at Bethlehem, a "great light" appeared on earth; a great hope entered the hearts of those who awaited him: in the words of today's Christmas liturgy, "lux magna". Admittedly it was not "great" in the manner of this world, because the first to see it were only Mary, Joseph and some shepherds, then the Magi, the old man Simeon, the prophetess Anna: those whom God had chosen. Yet, in the shadows and silence of that holy night, a great and inextinguishable light shone forth for every man; the great hope that brings happiness entered into the world: "the Word was made flesh and we saw his glory" (Jn 1:14).

"God is light", says Saint John, "and in him is no darkness at all" (1 Jn 1:5). In the Book of Genesis we read that when the universe was created, "the earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep." "God said, ‘Let there be light'; and there was light." (Gen 1:2-3). The creative Word of God is Light, the source of life. All things were made through the Logos, not one thing had its being but through him (cf. Jn 1:3). That is why all creatures are fundamentally good and bear within themselves the stamp of God, a spark of his light. Nevertheless, when Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary, the Light himself came into the world: in the words of the Creed, "God from God, Light from Light". In Jesus, God assumed what he was not, while remaining what he was: "omnipotence entered an infant's body and did not cease to govern the universe" (cf. Saint Augustine, Sermo 184, No. 1 on Christmas). The Creator of man became man in order to bring peace to the world. For this reason, during Christmas night, the hosts of angels sing: "Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth to those whom he loves" (Lk 2:14).

"Today a great light has come upon the earth". The Light of Christ is the bearer of peace. At Midnight Mass, the Eucharistic liturgy begins with this very chant: "Today true peace has come down to us from heaven" (Entrance Antiphon). Indeed, it is only the "great" light manifested in Christ that can give "true" peace to men: that is why every generation is called to welcome it, to welcome the God who in Bethlehem became one of us.

This is Christmas - the historical event and the mystery of love, which for more than two thousand years has spoken to men and women of every era and every place. It is the holy day on which the "great light" of Christ shines forth, bearing peace! Certainly, if we are to recognize it, if we are to receive it, faith is needed and humility is needed. The humility of Mary, who believed in the word of the Lord and, bending low over the manger, was the first to adore the fruit of her womb; the humility of Joseph, the just man, who had the courage of faith and preferred to obey God rather than to protect his own reputation; the humility of the shepherds, the poor and anonymous shepherds, who received the proclamation of the heavenly messenger and hastened towards the stable, where they found the new-born child and worshipped him, full of astonishment, praising God (cf. Lk 2:15-20). The little ones, the poor in spirit: they are the key figures of Christmas, in the past and in the present; they have always been the key figures of God's history, the indefatigable builders of his Kingdom of justice, love and peace.

In the silence of that night in Bethlehem, Jesus was born and lovingly welcomed. And now, on this Christmas Day, when the joyful news of his saving birth continues to resound, who is ready to open the doors of his heart to the holy child? Men and women of this modern age, Christ comes also to us bringing his light, he comes also to us granting peace! But who is watching, in the night of doubt and uncertainty, with a vigilant, praying heart? Who is waiting for the dawn of the new day, keeping alight the flame of faith? Who has time to listen to his word and to become enfolded and entranced by his love? Yes! His message of peace is for everyone; he comes to offer himself to all people as sure hope for salvation.

Finally, may the light of Christ, which comes to enlighten every human being, shine forth and bring consolation to those who live in the darkness of poverty, injustice and war; to those who are still denied their legitimate aspirations for a more secure existence, for health, education, stable employment, for fuller participation in civil and political responsibilities, free from oppression and protected from conditions that offend against human dignity. It is the most vulnerable members of society - women, children, the elderly - who are so often the victims of brutal armed conflicts, terrorism and violence of every kind, which inflict such terrible sufferings on entire populations. At the same time, ethnic, religious and political tensions, instability, rivalry, disagreements, and all forms of injustice and discrimination are destroying the internal fabric of many countries and embittering international relations. Throughout the world the number of migrants, refugees and evacuees is also increasing because of frequent natural disasters, often caused by alarming environmental upheavals.

On this day of peace, my thoughts turn especially to those places where the grim sound of arms continues to reverberate; to the tortured regions of Darfur, Somalia, the north of the Democratic Republic of Congo, the border between Eritrea and Ethiopia; to the whole of the Middle East - especially Iraq, Lebanon and the Holy Land; to Afghanistan, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, to the Balkans and to many other crisis situations that unfortunately are frequently forgotten. May the Child Jesus bring relief to those who are suffering and may he bestow upon political leaders the wisdom and courage to seek and find humane, just and lasting solutions. To the thirst for meaning and value so characteristic of today's world, to the search for prosperity and peace that marks the lives of all mankind, to the hopes of the poor: Christ - true God and true Man - responds with his Nativity. Neither individuals nor nations should be afraid to recognize and welcome him: with Him "a shining light" brightens the horizon of humanity; in him "a holy day" dawns that knows no sunset. May this Christmas truly be for all people a day of joy, hope and peace!

"Come you nations and adore the Lord." With Mary, Joseph and the shepherds, with the Magi and the countless host of humble worshippers of the new-born Child, who down the centuries have welcomed the mystery of Christmas, let us too, brothers and sisters from every continent, allow the light of this day to spread everywhere: may it enter our hearts, may it brighten and warm our homes, may it bring serenity and hope to our cities, and may it give peace to the world. This is my earnest wish for you who are listening. A wish that grows into a humble and trustful prayer to the Child Jesus, that his light will dispel all darkness from your lives and fill you with love and peace. May the Lord, who has made his merciful face to shine in Christ, fill you with his happiness and make you messengers of his goodness. Happy Christmas!

Monday, December 24, 2007

The Conversion Law

Browsing the various blogs and comments regarding Tony Blair's entrance into the Catholic Church, I'd like to counter by proposing:

The Conversion Law

Any adult convert to the Catholic faith will be more serious about their faith than the average cradle Catholic, where "cradle Catholic" is taken to mean anyone baptized as an infant in the Catholic Church.

Therefore, armchair political quarterbacks should lighten up on the criticism.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Godhead Here in Hiding

Richard Neuhaus has a nice meditation on Christmas. In closing he references Adoro Te Devote; however, what he quotes is Gerard Manley Hopkins well known translation (which also is in the English version of the Catechism):

Godhead here in hiding, whom I do adore
Masked by these bare shadows, shape and nothing more,
See, Lord, at thy service low lies here a heart
Lost, all lost in wonder at the God thou art.

Seeing, touching, tasting are in thee deceived;
How says trusty hearing? That shall be believed;
What God’s Son has told me, take for truth I do;
Truth himself speaks truly or there’s nothing true.

A whole philosophy in those two strophs, I think.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Sacrifice, Sacrament and Priesthood

As many have remarked, most of the disagreement between the Catholic Church and the various Protestant groups comes down to disagreement about the nature of the Church. And, in this disagreement, the nature of holy orders is central and I very much appreciate the explanation in "Sacrifice, Sacrament and Priesthood in the Development of the Church" which is section 2B in part two of Joseph Ratzinger's "Principles of Catholic Theology - Building Stones for a Fundamental Theology."

Seems to me that a good bit of current confusion in the Anglican community is related to misunderstanding about holy orders. Perhaps misunderstanding is the wrong word. Rather, in many places there seems to be a sort of double-mindedness in which "orders" are in practice taken to have a sort of sacramentality but only when convenient for the necessarily reduced ecclesiology that has to be adopted.

Leadership and Proclamation

There's a thread at the Anglican blog, Stand Firm in Faith, which addresses interesting ecclesiological issues.

I think some of the most interesting questions to ask of someone are: "Whom do you listen to?" and "What do you read?" Furthermore, both of those questions deal with matters of trust, at least implicitly.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Prince Caspian

The second movie adaptation of Lewis's Narnia series, Prince Caspian, is scheduled to come out next summer. Here's a still from it:

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

American Cuisine

A real cuisine is developed over hundreds of years and is founded upon the most basic of foodstuffs. Whereas wheat is basic in Europe and rice in Asia, corn is the fundamental food plant in America. This is supplimented with beans and squash, and peppers and may be complimented by a variety of meats and fruits.

Over time, if our Lord tarries, a truly American cuisine will arise that can stand along those described by, for example, Julia Child and Marcella Hazan. While that cuisine does not yet really exist, there are corn based cookbooks, e.g. Corn: Roasted, Creamed, Simmered and More by Olwen Woodier.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Fr Kimel

Fr. Alvin Kimel's blog, Pontifications is active again. Cool

Friday, December 14, 2007

Answering a growing confusion

From the note on evangelization (see earlier entry today):

There is today, however, a growing confusion which leads many to leave the missionary command of the Lord unheard and ineffective (cf Mt 28:19). Often it is maintained that any attempt to convince others on religious matters is a limitation of their freedom. From this perspective, it would only be legitimate to present one's own ideas and to invite people to act according to their consciences, without aiming at their conversion to Christ and the the Catholic faith. It is enough, so they say, to help people to become more human or more faithful to their own religion; it is enough to build communities which strive for justice, freedom, peace and solidarity. Furthermore, some maintain that Christ should not be proclaimed to those who do not know him, nor should joining the Church be promoted since it would also be possible to be saved without explicit knowledge of Christ and without formal incorporation into the Church.

Voices of Ascension

A beautiful CD of Renaissance music: 'Beyond Chant - Mysteries of the Renaissance' sung by Voices of Ascension, directed by Dennis Keene. Excellent for bridging between Gregorian Chant and Bach, it covers a wide range of Renaissance composers: Palestrina, Desprez, Byrd, Tallis and others.

Poorest of the Poor

Rachel Balducci has a lovely post about The Poorest of the Poor that reminds me of hearing Heidi Baker.

'Being Jesus to others means going the extra mile – not necessarily by doing more or providing more, but by loving more. It’s choosing patience with a family member. It’s choosing to assume the best when you can’t figure out why in the world someone would say such a thing. It’s smiling when you want to clench your jaw....'

Read it all.

On Evangelization

Here's summary of today's note from the Vatican on evangelization (the full text is available at the Vatican):



I. Introduction

1. The Doctrinal Note is devoted principally to an exposition of the Catholic Church’s understanding of the Christian mission of evangelization, which is to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ; the word "Gospel" translates "evangelion" in the Greek New Testament. "Jesus Christ was sent by the Father to proclaim the Gospel, calling all people to conversion and faith. ‘Go out into the whole world and preach the Gospel to every creature’ (Mk 16,15)." [n. 1]

2. The Doctrinal Note cites Pope John Paul II’s Encyclical Letter "The Mission of the Redeemer" in recalling that "‘Every person has the right to hear the Good News [Gospel] of the God who reveals and gives himself in Christ, so that each one can live out in its fullness his or her proper calling.’ This right implies the corresponding duty to evangelize." [n. 2]

3. Today there is "a growing confusion" about the Church’s missionary mandate. Some think "that any attempt to convince others on religious matters is a limitation of their freedom," suggesting that it is enough to invite people "to act according to their consciences", or to "become more human or more faithful to their own religion", or "to build communities which strive for justice, freedom, peace and solidarity", without aiming at their conversion to Christ and to the Catholic faith.

Others have argued that conversion to Christ should not be promoted because it is possible for people to be saved without explicit faith in Christ or formal incorporation in the Church. Because "of these problems, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has judged it necessary to public the present Note." [n. 3]

II. Some Anthropological Implications

4. While some forms of agnosticism and relativism deny the human capacity for truth, in fact human freedom cannot be separated from its reference to truth. Human beings are given intellect and will by God that they might come to know and love what is true and good. The ultimate fulfillment of the vocation of the human person is found in accepting the revelation of God in Christ as proclaimed by the Church.

5. This search for truth cannot be accomplished entirely on one’s own, but inevitably involves help from others and trust in knowledge that one receives from others. Thus, teaching and entering into dialogue to lead someone in freedom to know and to love Christ is not inappropriate encroachment on human freedom, "but rather a legitimate endeavor and a service capable of making human relationships more fruitful." [n. 5]

6. The communication of truths so that they might be accepted by others is also in harmony with the natural human desire to have others share in one’s own goods, which for Catholics includes the gift of faith in Jesus Christ. Members of the Church naturally desire to share with others the faith that has been freely given to them.

7. Through evangelization, cultures are positively affected by the truth of the Gospel. Likewise, through evangelization, members of the Catholic Church open themselves to receiving the gifts of other traditions and cultures, for "Every encounter with another person or culture is capable of revealing potentialities of the Gospel which hitherto may not have been fully explicit and which will enrich the life of Christians and the Church." [n. 6]

8. Any approach to dialogue such as coercion or improper enticement that fails to respect the dignity and religious freedom of the partners in that dialogue has no place in Christian evangelization.

III. Some Ecclesiological Implications

9. "Since the day of Pentecost … the Gospel, in the power of the Holy Spirit, is proclaimed to all people so that they might believe and become disciples of Christ and members of his Church." "Conversion" is a "change in thinking and of acting," expressing our new life in Christ; it is an ongoing dimension of Christian life.

10. For Christian evangelization, "the incorporation of new members into the Church is not the expansion of a power-group, but rather entrance into the network of friendship with Christ which connects heaven and earth, different continents and ages." In this sense, then, "the Church is the bearer of the presence of God and thus the instrument of the true humanization of man and the world." (n. 9)

11. The Doctrinal Note cites the Second Vatican Council’s "Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World" (Gaudium et Spes) to say that respect for religious freedom and its promotion "must not in any way make us indifferent towards truth and goodness. Indeed, love impels the followers of Christ to proclaim to all the truth which saves." [n.10] This mission of love must be accomplished by both proclamation of the word and witness of life. "Above all, the witness of holiness is necessary, if the light of truth is to reach all human beings. If the word is contradicted by behavior, its acceptance will be difficult." On the other hand, citing Pope Paul VI’s Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii nuntiandi, the Note says that "even the finest witness will prove ineffective in the long run, if it is not explained, justified… and made explicit by a clear und unequivocal proclamation of the Lord Jesus." [n. 11]

IV. Some Ecumenical Implications

12. The CDF document points out the important role of ecumenism in the Church’s mission of evangelization. Christian divisions can seriously compromise the credibility of the Church’s evangelizing mission. The more ecumenism brings about greater unity among Christians, the more effective evangelization will be.

13. When Catholic evangelization takes place in a country where other Christians live, Catholics must take care to carry out their mission with "both true respect for the tradition and spiritual riches of such countries as well as a sincere spirit of cooperation." Evangelization proceeds by dialogue, not proselytism. With non-Catholic Christians, Catholics must enter into a respectful dialogue of charity and truth, a dialogue which is not only an exchange of ideals, but also of gifts, in order that the fullness of the means of salvation can be offered to one’s partners in dialogue. In this way, they are led to an ever deeper conversion to Christ.

"In this connection, it needs also to be recalled that if a non-Catholic Christian, for reasons of conscience and having been convinced of Catholic truth, asks to enter into the full communion of the Catholic Church, this is to be respected as the work of the Holy Spirit and as an expression of freedom of conscience and of religion. In such a case, it would not be question of proselytism in the negative sense that has been attributed to this term." [n. 12]

V. Conclusion

14. The Doctrinal Note recalls that the missionary mandate belongs to the very nature of the Church. In this regard it cites Pope Benedict XVI: "The proclamation of and witness to the Gospel are the first service that Christians can render to every person and the entire human race, called as they are to communicate to all God’s love, which was fully manifested in Jesus Christ, the one Redeemer of the world." Its concluding sentence contains a quotation from Pope Benedict’s first Encyclical Letter "Deus caritas est": "The love which comes from God unites us to him and ‘makes us a we which transcends our divisions and makes us one, until in the end God is all in all (1 Cor 15:28)’."

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

On Waugh Novels

Most folks who've read any Waugh novel have read Brideshead Revisited. Although that's a great novel, it should also be read in the context of Waugh's shorter comic novels. There's a nice little Everyman Library volume with the four:
  • Black Mischief
  • Scoop
  • The Loved One
  • The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold

upon which I'll be commenting later.

Waugh's clearly focused, precise novels strike me as a totally different genre than the sprawling epics that are commonly taken to epitomize the novel genre.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Bread and Tulips

Regarding the movie Bread & Tulips, I found a review that said:

'For a movie that essentially swept the 2000 Donatello Awards (the Italian equivalent of the Academy Awards), Bread and Tulips is a remarkably light piece of work. One expects more from a film that won nine awards, including best film, director, actor, actress, supporting actor, supporting actress, screenplay, and cinematography. Bread and Tulips is merely a fluffy comedy about a woman regaining her sense of adventure and independence'

To disagree, all good romantic comedies are 'merely' fluff and light and have little shock or surprise. The genre's values are elsewhere and more subtle. A really good work in the genre will become more enjoyable on rewatching and, like good music, does not decrease in value with familiarity. Much like old friends or lovers and thereby showing comedy's victory over tragedy, at the last trump so to speak.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Gregorian discussion forums

CMAA's web site,, now has discussion forums. For example, in a forum on Ordinaries for Advent, William Mahrt writes:

The more familiar Kyrie is C under Mass XVII (in the Gregorian Missal and the Graduale Romanum 1974; ad libitum in the Liber Usualis). A small group of us sang for a weekly Latin Mass with a somewhat inexperienced congregation. They knew the Missa de Angelis well and sang it year round. Then we introduced Mass XVII (with Kyrie C) on the Sundays of Advent and Lent—that gave ten Sundays of the year to absorb the new ordinary. By Lent, they were singing it moderately well, and by the end of Lent, almost as well as the de Angelis. The next year we introduced Mass I for the Sundays after Easter; that took a bit more time, but eventually it was sung well also.

I would not use Mass XVIII for the very reason that it does belong to weekday Masses and Requiems—the occasion for the most sparse music of the year. The Sundays of Advent and Lent, while penitential, are still Sundays and bear some solemnity. Mass XVII really does convey that, while being quite distinct from those of the rest of the year.

An alternative is Mass XI (Orbis Factor). The Kyrie is a real classic (see my article in Sacred Music, 133:1). If you are using de Angelis on the Sundays of the year, Mass XI would provide the contrast and the solemnity for Advent and Lent. Still, even better would be to alternate de Angelis and Orbis Factor during the Sundays of the year and use XVII for Advent and Lent. It all depends upon the reception by the congregation. But that reception might be judged on a fairly long-term basis, over several years.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Vox Clara

Fr Zuhlsdorf has posted about the beautiful 6th century hymn Vox Clara, saying:

Light and reason and clarity and beauty are all associated with the VOICE, the VOX. The Latin word vox means not just "voice" but also "That which is uttered by the voice, i. e. a word, saying, speech, sentence, proverb, maxim." VOX = VERBUM and thus the glorious voice which makes everthing clear and understood, thundering from heaven, is the Risen Christ Coming at the world’s end to lay all things bare and resolve them.

The hymn Vox Clara is about the beginning of the day, the beginning of an examination of conscience, the beginning of repentance and conversion, all in light of the ending of the world.

Most of the time when people translate Vox clara they pick up rightly that the "Vox" refers to St. John the Baptist, "the voice shouting in the desert" to make straight the path of the Lord who is coming. This is a constant theme of Advent: make straight the path, prepare well for Christ. In fact, Christ, when He comes will undoubtedly come by the straight path whether you have taken time to straighten them or not. His Coming (to you) as Lord and Judge at the end can thus be smooth or, alternatively, pretty violent if HE is doing all the straightening… in the twinkling of an eye.

So, there is the hymn an interplay between the Vox and the Verbum, the Precursor and the Messiah. The one who announces is in fact a pre-echo of the one who is the Word.

This hymn is on page 6 of Liber Hymnarius.

The Anonymous 4 sing a version of this chant on, for example, their album: On Yoolis Night: Medieval Carols and Motets and a somewhat different version on A Star from the East: Christmas Music from Medieval Hungary. I prefer the On Yoolis Night version which starts with less ornamentation, as in Liber Hymnarius.

Speaking of Anonymous 4, their American Angels - Songs of Hope, Redemption and Glory is a lovely bridge from or to more familiar American shape note music and the older chant & polyphonic tradition.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Music in the Whole Church

There's a wide range of music in the whole Church, the Catholic Church, and the local parish tries as best it can to embody that range. This weekend at St Thomas Aquinas parish, on the edge of the University of Virginia campus in Charlottesville, I enjoyed participating in a major part of that range.

Saturday at the conclusion of the Life in the Spirit seminar which the guest speaker Fr. Tom DiLorenzo led, there was a wonderful hour of singing in the Spirit. Shortly after that, there was the evening Vigil service where the music was traditional, metrical hymn based. That night I got to thinking about the seven forms of music in the Church.

Most parishes' music in my region is either hymn based or folk based. Early Sunday, I got to the parish as the doors opened so I could spend some time before the tabernacle in eucharistic adoration, the 'music' of silence.

I'd come up to Charlottesville in the first place to sit in with the gregorian schola there at St. Thomas Aquinas. Although I'm a total novice regarding gregorian chant or even singing in any sort of choir, they were all very welcoming. Leslie, the choir's director, is very encouraging and it was helpful to stand between Tom and Edward and try to blend in with those with some experience in singing this beautiful music. I'll have more about the fellowship there in a later post; however, having already participated in four of the forms of liturgical music, I want to conclude that theme.

I left before the 11:30am Mass which has a folk ensemble. Jim, the organist, characterized the music for the 5:15 'Teen' Mass as rock and roll. So, all that's needed is a Bach, Haydn or Bruckner high Mass for all seven liturgical musics to be present in this one parish, which I think is fantastic. Having those widely differing musical forms really work together and encourage one another is certainly very challenging and I look forward to finding out more about the parish (I'm going to try to travelling the 2.5 hours some so I can sing in the 7:30am Mass with the schola).

There are not many parishes that use more than one or two of the seven musical forms in their liturgies, namely:
  • Adoration
  • Chant
  • Orchestra
  • Hymns
  • Folk
  • Rock
  • Jubilation
More on these various forms in future postings. All have a part in the whole Church, the Catholic Church.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Hammersten Hierarchy of Human Behavior

The various Anglican ecclesial bodies are very interesting laboratory for sociology and ecclesiology. In connection with that, Mary Ailes has a great post on the Hammersten Hierarchy of Human Behavior. I follow the Anglican goings on, especially in Virginia; however, the posting is understandable even if one's unfamiliar with Anglicanism.

Plus, the post ends with a great Dylan clip. I think 'coverdown' is meant to be one word, coined to contrast with cover up, a confessional breakthrough.

On Virginia and Charlottesville

For me, Virginia is the center of the United States. Virginia, where eastern government and western freedom come together, which once stretched to the Mississippi. Virginia, where norther intellectual industry and southern spiritual artistry come together, which staged the Civil War battles between centripetal and centrifugal forces as our nation endeavored to purge its original sin.

Virginia has many interesting towns: Bristol, Staunton, Front Royal, McLean, Williamsburg and Charlottesville, to name my favorites. Of these, Jefferson's Charlottesville is a center of sorts. I've never lived in Charlottesville and perhaps have a somewhat mythological view of the town.