Friday, February 29, 2008
Thursday, February 28, 2008
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
It's the story of a man and his young son during an oil strike in a remote area of California at the turn of the last century. (A hypocrite preacher-man is thrown in, too.)
I think Daniel Day Lewis (in the lead role of oilman Daniel Plainview) earned his Oscar.
His performance was the strongest part of the film, which was interesting and well-executed -- but I wouldn't rush to see it again.
I don't think this is the work for which Anderson will be remembered. My hunch is that will be his 1997 film "Boogie Nights," which was more human and compelling.
Sunday, February 24, 2008
From John Chapter 4:
The Samaritan woman said to him, “How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” — For Jews use nothing in common with Samaritans. — Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,‘ you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”
The woman left her water jar and went into the town and said to the people, “Come see a man who told me everything I have done. Could he possibly be the Christ?”
Many of the Samaritans of that town began to believe in him because of the word of the woman who testified, “He told me everything I have done.”
But, of the few drawbacks I have encountered, one often happens when the conversation turns to politics -- specifically our two major political parties.
More than once during the 11 months that I have been back in this progressive metropolis, I have had to gingerly concede during a party or dinner gathering: "Yes, I'm a Republican."
"But, I nice one," I always hasten to add. "I don't hate anybody."
A particular glance invariably follows -- a glance that says, "Oh, you quaint middle-American. How could you be so stupid?"
Occasionally, after saying the dirty "R" word, I get this question: "But, you didn't vote for Bush did you?"
"Yes, I did ... twice," I concede honestly.
"WHAT? Even the second time? I can understand against Gore in 2000," the inquisitor continues, "But, the second time?"
"Yes," I say with resignation, realizing I am likely being blacklisted for future occasions.
From there, I am required to explain myself -- explain how even though I do not support the Iraq War or warrant-less domestic wire-tapping, that I found both Al Gore and John Kerry to be inadequate and uninspiring.
"A better, more moderate Democrat could have won my vote," I add.
And, if I don't think it will lead to being immediately shut-down by the enlightened Democrats with whom I am conversing, I will explain how my belief that human life begins at conception and deserves legal protection was a major reason for my vote for President Bush.
All of this brings me to a good column that appeared in last Sunday's New York Times by Ann Hood called "I Married a Republican: There, I Said It." She has some similar stories.
Hood explains how she has come to grips with the "R" word in her bipartisan marriage. And, interestingly, how a particular sign in her front yard may be a harbinger of peace in '08.
The image above is from the NYT Website and credited to David Chelsea.
Saturday, February 23, 2008
This beautiful film (in French with subtitles) is the memoir of Jean-Dominique Bauby, editor of the magazine Elle, after he suffers a "cerebral accident" (perhaps described as a massive stroke) in his early 40s and is diagnosed with Locked-In Syndrome -- in which he is able to hear and understand but is mute and completely paralyzed except for the ability to blink.
"The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" is based on Bauby's book of the same name (in French: "Le scaphandre et le papillon") which he dictated by blinking when the correct letter was stated to him.
The film was directed by Julian Schnabel, who also brought to the screen another lyrical bio-pic, the wonderful "Before Night Falls."
The Oscar nomination and other accolades Schnabel has received are well-deserved. "Diving Bell" brings home the reality of this medical condition in a poetic way but without becoming overly sentimental.
I thought Schnabel did an especially nice job of connecting "Jean-Do" to the history of the seaside hospital where he was treated. The hospital was founded in he mid-1800s by Empress Eugenie, wife of Napolean III. Eugenie enters Jean-Do's imagination and becomes one of the characters of his existence.
As I watched the film, I kept wondering what I would do if I was trapped inside my own brain, unable to speak and express myself easily. Would I pray a lot? Simply give up?
Or, would I have the determination to communicate with others (and even write a book!) by painstakingly blinking out letter combinations?
Friday, February 22, 2008
From Allen's piece:
First, Vatican officials tend to see the United States as a bulwark against secularism, especially in contrast with contemporary realities in Western Europe. Despite the fact that one can certainly find strong pockets of secularism in America, especially among elites, the reality is that the United States remains a deeply religious culture. In the most recent global values survey by the Pew Forum, 59 percent of Americans said religion is “very important” to them, in contrast to 21 percent of the Germans, for example, and 11 percent of the French ...
As the distinguished sociologist Peter Berger puts it, the United States is “a nation of Indians ruled by Swedes.” India is one of the world’s most intensely religious societies, while few places on earth are as ultra-secular as today’s Sweden.
Thursday, February 21, 2008
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
We saw the original French version with English subtitles. Except for a few moments, it was almost entirely in black and white.
"Persepolis" is the bildungsroman ("coming of age story") of Marjane Satrapi -- specifically her childhood in Iran during the Islamic revolution in the late '70s to her young adult years in the early '90s.
It was a tremendous piece of film-making. Check out the New York Times review for a good description and on-the-mark rave.
What I most took away from the film was that we must be watchful that God is not used as a means of forced social control (as in Iran).
Sacred scripture, faith, spirituality, prayer, religious devotion -- these should promote love -- not hate of the non-believer, the non-conformist or the political opponent.
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Monday, February 18, 2008
On a day when most attention is focused on George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, I post these here in tribute to our less famous (but just as imporant) second president, John Adams. (Although he is depicted in the movie many years before he became the first resident of the White House).
Presented herewith for your patriotic consideration:
P.S. It was difficult locating good YouTube clips related to President's Day or Presidents Washington and Lincoln. (Many of the clips on GW and Honest Abe were either saccharine or biased.)
Sunday, February 17, 2008
The Gospel at Mass brought us the scene in Jesus' life called "The Transfiguration."
From Matthew Chapter 17:
Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves.
And he was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light.
And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, conversing with him.
Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”
While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud cast a shadow over them, then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”
When the disciples heard this, they fell prostrate and were very much afraid.
But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and do not be afraid.”
And when the disciples raised their eyes, they saw no one else but Jesus alone.
As they were coming down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, “Do not tell the vision to anyone until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”
Saturday, February 16, 2008
Friday, February 15, 2008
I have been thinking about Senator Obama and what it would mean for the United States if he gains the Democrat Presidential nomination and what it could mean if he wins the White House.
As a pro-life, libertarian-minded Republican, there are obviously many issues on which I do not agree with Senator Obama -- most notably on granting legal protection for unborn children.
But, I am ready to concede that he may be the best American orator of this generation. And, I have to say that his message of hope and the tone with which he is delivering that message do inspire with me. The possibility that this could be a "transformative" moment for our nation is important to consider.
Below is a video of a 40-minute speech Senator Obama delivered in 2006 on the crossroads of politics and faith. I do not agree with some of the things he says in his remarks but, for anyone who cares about faith and public policy, it may be a valuable thing to watch in order to learn more about the Senator's thinking in this area.
If you check it out, be sure to watch until the end when Senator Obama talks about correspondence he had with one pro-life doctor.
For your consideration:
Thursday, February 14, 2008
As a possible first Madame President, Hillary is a flawed science experiment because you can’t take Bill out of the equation. Her story is wrapped up in her marriage, and her marriage is wrapped up in a series of unappetizing compromises, arrangements and dependencies.
Instead of carving out a separate identity for herself, she has become more entwined with Bill. She is running bolstered by his record and his muscle. She touts her experience as first lady, even though her judgment during those years on issue after issue was poor. She says she’s learned from her mistakes, but that’s not a compelling pitch.
As a senator, she was not a leading voice on important issues, and her Iraq vote was about her political viability.
She told New York magazine’s John Heilemann that before Iowa taught her that she had to show her soft side, “I really believed I had to prove in this race from the very beginning that a woman could be president and a woman could be commander in chief. I thought that was my primary mission.”
If Hillary fails, it will be her failure, not ours.
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
Not so Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell (D). He likes to tell editorial boards that citizens in his Keystone State are racists.
Tony Norman of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (no one's idea of a pro-Republican paper) has the story:
Gov. Ed "Don't Call Me 'Fast Eddie' " Rendell met with the editorial board of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette last week to talk about his latest budget. But before turning the meeting over to his number-crunchers, our voluble governor weighed in on the primary fight between Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama and what the Illinois senator could expect from the good people of Pennsylvania at the polls:
"You've got conservative whites here, and I think there are some whites who are probably not ready to vote for an African-American candidate," he said bluntly. Our eyes only met briefly, perhaps because the governor wanted to spare the only black guy in the room from feeling self-conscious for backing an obvious loser. "I believe, looking at the returns in my election, that had Lynn Swann [2006 Republican gubernatorial candidate] been the identical candidate that he was --well-spoken [note: Mr. Rendell did not call the brother "articulate"], charismatic, good-looking -- but white instead of black, instead of winning by 22 points, I would have won by 17 or so."
I know I have a habit of sometimes zoning out in these meetings, but it sounded to me like Mr. Rendell had unilaterally declared Pennsylvania to be Alabama circa 1963. Was he suggesting that Pennsylvanians are uniquely racist in ways that folks in the states Mr. Obama has won so far aren't? By the way, Mr. Obama won Alabama on Super Tuesday, thank you very much!
What accounts for Mr. Rendell's overweening confidence that, no matter what, he'll always find a way to overcome the odds by at least 17 points even in a racist commonwealth, but that Mr. Obama can't?
If Mr. Rendell, a Clinton backer, is right about Pennsylvania's racial attitudes, maybe we should get a new state slogan. How about: "You've got a friend with a pointy white hood in Pennsylvania"?
With friends like these ... ?
I have never cared for Ed Rendell's style of politics or governing. Now I have a good reason.
Hat-tip: Andrew Sullivan.
Monday, February 11, 2008
Here's a passage:
It has become fashionable in recent years, especially after Vatican II, to downplay the miraculous, the supernatural or the otherworldly aspects of our Catholic faith--at least among a few Catholics. And so Lourdes can be a difficult thing for some Catholics to grasp. Apparitions? Voices? Miracles? Are these things, people ask me, consistent with a mature faith?
I've never had that problem. Or those questions. I consider myself a rational person, and a fairly well educated Catholic, who is also not a literalist in any way when it comes to things like, say, Scripture. But, in my theological worldview, I've always believed that we need to be exceedingly careful about saying what God can and cannot do, and how God does and does not act. Or, worse, how God should act or not act.
That's one of the things that landed the scribes and the Pharisees in so much trouble.
For me the story of the apparitions of Mary to St. Bernadette are easy to believe. If God can create the world and raise his son from the dead, then something like Lourdes is rather simple by comparison, I would think. And having visited Lourdes several times, I'm even more convinced.
It is in honor of this apparition that many Catholic churches are named in honor of "Our Lady of Lourdes," including one in my old stomping grounds of Burgettstown, PA.
Lourdes, a town in southern France, has become one of the world's great spiritual pilgrimage sites.
Via YouTube, here are scenes from Lourdes:
Sunday, February 10, 2008
Here's how Anthony describes the piece:
I can never resist the temptation to do a medieval style frame. A couple layers to the thinking behind this. It's a fallen Eve, in an urban setting, she's sort of a neo-hippie, and the symbolism comments on the failure, or abandonment of 60's idealism. Peace love and protest songs give way to drugs, sex and disco, we see the result on the news every night. Well that's the legend at any rate.
* Friend o' Paul
The first reading is of Adam and Eve in the garden and the fall that brought us sin (and the fashion industry). The Gospel shows us Jesus in the desert being tempted by the devil.
From Matthew Chapter 4:
At that time Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. He fasted for forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was hungry.
The tempter approached and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become loaves of bread.”
He said in reply, “It is written: One does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.”
Then the devil took him to the holy city, and made him stand on the parapet of the temple, and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down. For it is written: He will command his angels concerning you and with their hands they will support you, lest you dash your foot against a stone.”
Jesus answered him, “Again it is written, You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.”
Then the devil took him up to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in their magnificence, and he said to him, "All these I shall give to you, if you will prostrate yourself and worship me.”
At this, Jesus said to him, “Get away, Satan! It is written: The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve.”
Then the devil left him and, behold, angels came and ministered to him.
The image above is of the 1854 painting "Temptation of Christ" by Ary Scheffer.
Saturday, February 09, 2008
The first major success of Giacomo Puccini's illustrious career, "Manon Lescaut" is set in 1720s France and, in its final act, the wilds of Louisiana.
It's a good opera and I enjoyed it. But, there are good reasons for why it's not as well known as Puccini's hits like "La boheme" and "Turandot." There are no show-stopping arias and the characters do not elicit much empathy. (The lead characters are twits, frankly.)
The New York Times was on target in its iffy review of this production. The Washington Post gave it a lukewarm treatment, too.
Below is a YouTube video clip of an older production of "Manon Lescaut" featuring Placido Domingo:
Friday, February 08, 2008
For anyone still reading, below is a YouTube clip from a Moore appearance this week on Larry King Live in which he discusses his Catholicism.
Might be worth a look:
Thursday, February 07, 2008
It'll be a long time before any couple in my family tops that record.
May she rest in peace.
For this week's "YouTube musical clip for a peaceful weekend," below is McLachlan -- no longer anybody's opening act -- with "Angel."
Wednesday, February 06, 2008
Over at The Deacon's Bench, Deacon Greg Kandra has posted his excellent Ash Wednesday homily. A snip:
Ash Wednesday is, ultimately, all about loss. Losing part of ourselves for God. The part that’s hard, or selfish, or petty. We want to burn it off, and bear the remnant, to show the world our desire to change.
This year, as my way to observe Lent, I am doing two things. First, I am going to attempt to go to daily Mass. Second, I am giving up bagels and cream cheese -- a big part of the morning reverse commute here in NYC.
Pray for me.
Tuesday, February 05, 2008
No matter your party or candidate, don't forget to vote if you can!
As regular readers of this blog already know, 10-term Texas Congressman Ron Paul -- a native of Greentree, Pennsylvania -- will get my support in the GOP Presidential race when I go into the voting booth in one of the NYU dorms on Third Avenue in Manhattan. Lord knows, it may be a while before I get to vote for another pro-life libertarian in a Republican primary.
There are tons of videos on YouTube about Ron Paul and his White House bid. Here's one of the best:
P.S. A blog worth checking out: Catholics for Ron Paul.
Monday, February 04, 2008
FYI: Tom is currently serving as president of the board of directors of PUMP (Pittsburgh Urban Magnet Project).
His last graphs were the most compelling:
In parts of Africa where bandits and warlords shoot or rape anything that moves, you often find that the only groups still operating are Doctors Without Borders and religious aid workers: crazy doctors and crazy Christians. In the town of Rutshuru in war-ravaged Congo, I found starving children, raped widows and shellshocked survivors. And there was a determined Catholic nun from Poland, serenely running a church clinic.
Unlike the religious right windbags, she was passionately “pro-life” even for those already born — and brave souls like her are increasingly representative of religious conservatives. We can disagree sharply with their politics, but to mock them underscores our own ignorance and prejudice.
But, about an hour or so ago, I received a robo call from Chris Rock asking me to cast my vote tomorrow for Barack Obama.
I give the Obama campaign points for originality. Rock is an out-of-the-box pick for such an outreach effort -- and I certainly listened to the whole call.
But, sorry Chris. Unless the Honorable Gentleman from Illinois found a way onto the GOP ballot, I can't help him out at this stage in the race.
By the way: if any of you, dear readers, are Republicans in New York State, here is what the presidential race will look like on tomorrow's ballot:
Ron Paul has the #1 ballot spot -- always a good place to be.
Photo via the Greater NYC Ron Paul Action Group.
Sunday, February 03, 2008
On the street in front of the Whole Foods store, an M&M Sanitation Service truck was stopped with people climbing on top of it and banging on its metal sides. The driver of the truck, repeatedly honking his horn, seemed elated throughout several minutes of cheering -- only driving away when a cop car approached.
The scene was no where close to the celebrations and waves of joy that spread over Pittsburgh when the Steelers won Superbowl XL, but it was nice to see some New Yorkers proud of one of the city's NFL teams. The only problem? They really didn't have a unifying song or chant. Nothing close to a rally tune like "A here we go, Stillers ..."
The Empire State Building was all in blue, though.
Saturday, February 02, 2008
Punxsutawney Phil has a Website as well as his own section on the Keystone State Website.
Here's what the scene on Gobbler's Knob looked like in 2007:
Visit John's blog for a clip from the movie "Groundhog Day" with Bill Murray.
Friday, February 01, 2008
Fr. Daniel Kennedy, who had been ordained to the priesthood last May, died January 27 at the age of 34. The cause of death was a heart attack, according to media reports.
He had served as parochial vicar at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Winthrop, Mass.
From Christine Williams' feature obituary in The Pilot:
An avid runner, Father Kennedy ran the 2006 Boston Marathon to raise awareness of vocations in the city. He was sponsored by the Archdiocese of Boston’s Vocation Office, and in an April 14 Pilot article he compared running to discerning a call to the priesthood.
“Running a marathon is a journey that parallels, in many ways, discovering a vocation to the priesthood,” he said. “For me marathon training is a time to be alone, a time to discern God’s will, a time to think and a time to pray.”
The young priest did a good post for Cardinal Sean's Blog in June '07 shortly after his ordination.
One of the pictures from that post was this one that shows him consecrating the Eucharist at his first Mass: