• A critical article by Alex Macpherson on Sia’s songwriting ability. I agree that some of her songs are formulaic: some of her songs are quite similar thematically and musically (e.g., Fire and Gasoline vs. House On Fire), and sometimes even songs on the same album sound similar because they follow the same formula: Sia “tends to take a single word or phrase as a foundational, nebulously ‘inspirational’ image, hammers it home via gigantic, blustery hooks and fills in the rest of the song around it as an afterthought.” This is even sort of apparent in the song she just released, The Greatest. He is also right to say that Sia sometimes writes weak lines. However, to do justice to Sia, we should also give emphasis to her more creative songs (e.g., Free the Animal, and from an album after the article was written, Sweet Design).
  • Nicolas Kamas on the Byzantine precedent for (re)baptizing Latins. It’s a very balanced account. He writes, “several of the works (and a majority of the earlier ones) critical of Latin baptisms never actually argue that they are invalid, but rather imply that the form is dispreferred.” This is interesting, since it is the same conclusion that Thomas Aquinas reaches in the Summa Theologiae: “But now that this motive [for one immersion] has ceased, trine immersion is universally observed in Baptism: and consequently anyone baptizing otherwise would sin gravely, through not following the ritual of the Church. It would, however, be valid Baptism.”
  • Vasilios N. Makrides on Orthodox rigorism, his preferred alternative to what is commonly called Orthodox fundamentalism. I am happy to see that his comment that “The bearers of Orthodox rigorism do not represent a single and uniform unit, but can be located across a wide spectrum of people with varied provenance, social status and orientation” is sort of similar to what I said in an earlier blog post.
    EDIT: a longer version of Makrides’s article can be found here.

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