Friday, May 31, 2013

If you want to explain why lying is wrong

You don't start by saying 'cuz the Church says so you lousy sinner.'  You start from the beginning.  Years ago, my Dad had a heart attack.  A work horse all his life, he was healthy and that's what saved him.  But the biggest shock wasn't that he had a heart attack (though people who knew him actually wept when they heard, thinking if C.C. Griffey could have a heart attack, anyone can!).  The biggest shock was that he had diabetes.  Pow!  Pow!  One-two punch.

Now, when things settled down and everything got back to normal, we talked about things.  We realized we should have seen it all along.  Out of the blue he began getting tired when he never was tired his entire life.  He was starting to take forever to heal.  He was always thirsty.  I mean that.  We took to keeping milk jugs filled with water in the fridge.  It never dawned on us to look deeper.  We just thought, "Gee, he's awfully thirsty, let's get him some more water."

But all the water and band-aides and naps couldn't help, because the problem wasn't that he was thirsty, not sleeping enough, or just accident prone.  It was that he had a disease.  We were dealing with the symptoms. We were missing the disease.

As I sit back and gradually lose my interest in the Catholic blogosphere, I think one reason is that it is peopled by amateurs.  Amateurs, of which I am one.  I wasn't an amateur in my Protestant days.  With graduate and post-graduate schooling, years of pastoral and counseling experience, leadership and administration, I knew my way around our own tradition.  I knew enough to know that one thing you had to deal with in churches was amateurs.  And you needed to be careful that someone didn't misrepresent the faith, or present a bad witness to the unbeliever in the name of the Faith.

Well, I feel that is a problem with the blogosphere. Too many amateurs.  Oh, they may be brilliant, they may be eloquent, they may be dedicated and devoted.  And some of them may just be blowhards.  But whatever, most of them don't have the formal training mixed with the trenches of applied ministry to filter through what they say.  Often, they simply write subject by subject.  They deal with 'how should you vote?' (like me, duh); or 'should you ever lie to save a dying baby'; or 'we must do whatever it takes to defeat consequentialism'; or, well, you get the point.

But if a Catholic, non-Catholic, or even an American, thinks things like lying for a greater good, or doing wrong that good may come of it, are morally permissible, chances are it isn't because they've grasped the deepest and most foundational basis for Catholic teaching and belief and reached their conclusions accordingly.  It's probably because there are other factors at work.  I've said that if you accept homosexuality, it's because you already accept many things at odds with traditional Christian morality.  If you accept might makes right, survival of the richest, what's wrong with abortion rights, it's because you already have bought into many ideals and beliefs that would have been foreign to a Christian thinker only a few centuries ago.

That's not everyone's fault.  We are of our time, despite what Chesterton seemed to believe.  And so are many Catholic bloggers, who can be just as prone to being children of their age as anyone.  In fact, it's because of this amateur status that they can miss this fact, and end up doing or saying things that seem smack out of the park loony when set against other things they say.

In the end, when you are trained and you have the hands on experience, you begin to look at people and their flaws, errors, and failings, and realize that they are doing what they are doing for the same reason I have my flaws, errors and failings.  Because we are children made in the image of God living in a fallen world.  And our particular era of fallenness encompasses some differing views of the world from that which has been held by the Christian faith, or is held by the Catholic faith today.  And at that point, you begin to realize that just yelling and calling people names, insulting them and smacking them down because they can't see why it's better for a baby to die than tell a lie to save it is about as effective as handing a diabetic more water when they just can't quench their thirst.  If people think it's better to lie to save a baby, it's possibly because they have been weaned on a set of beliefs and values that differ from those of the Catholic tradition, and there's the disease.

Starting with those values, those key and foundational beliefs, that define the Catholic world view would be a much better approach.  It helps because, one, like my Dad's diabetes, it acknowledges the disease rather than the symptoms.  Two, it keeps me humble because suddenly I realize I might be stone dead wrong about things and not realize it, since I'm every bit the child of my age.  Three, it prevents the growth of my own inner fundamentalist who just can't imagine why everyone else isn't as humble as I am.  And finally, it is far more likely to produce results as people may begin to realize that God chose foolishness, rather than great wisdom.  It will do a better job at getting people to stop thinking as men think, and start thinking as God thinks.  From there will come changes in more than the symptoms, but ultimately changes that lead to curing the disease.

With that said, here is the type of person Catholics everywhere should be listening to.  He's a pro.  He has the training and the experience.  And he knows how to go beyond the symptoms, and get straight to the disease.  Watch.  Listen.  Learn why Catholic is Catholic, and not just a variation of modern alternatives.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Keven O'Brien sums up the Lying Debate

From the point of view that lying is always wrong, period.  But then, Keven O'Brien also called Ferris Bueller's Day Off "one of the most Christian movies ever made."  Really. That celebration of 80s hedonism and narcissism, laziness and selfishness, mockery of education and families, is really quite Christian.  How does he conclude that a movie made for my generation, that my generation knew full well was a celebration of the Great ME, is actually the Paschal Mystery unpacked?  Well:
"It's about how a father should love his son more than his car; it's about how the small minded indoctrination of compulsory education is a prison; it's about freedom of spirit; it's about overcoming jealousy; it's about loving your brother; it's about loving life."
In other words, it's about the problems everyone else but Bueller had.  It's not about Bueller wanting a day of selfishness, narcissism, lying, cheating, stealing, exploiting the kindness of a city, mockingly using his parents' love, using his friends, treating people like objects for his own gratification.  Nope.  His parents, his friends' parents, his principal, his school, his town, his society, you see, they were all the problems.  The real solution was freedom of spirit!  It's about loving life!  It's about focusing on all the problems of everyone else but that main character who is giving us a blank check to focus on the Great ME.

Think on that for a while.  And think on the great lying scandal of our time as unpacked across the Catholic blogosphere.  After all, isn't this whole lying debate really that?  I mean, there could be some folk arguing against all lying who never, ever lie.  But I can't help but think some, if not most, have lied at one point or another, and for reasons far less noble than Live Action's.  Not to say Live Action is right.  I think there is something to be said about using lies and deception to promote the Gospel truth.

But you know what?  Given how little I actually get out there, get my hands dirty, and sacrifice it all for the Pro-Life cause, I'm going to stop a minute before I spend hours and hours of my energies pointing out just how badly others are doing what I spend so little of my own sweat and blood doing myself.  If nothing else, I'll have the balls to get on the horn and find a way to contact Lila Rose or someone and speak to them face to face.  I may mention I disagree with their methods, and heck, may even say that lying isn't right, and we should strive for the truth in all things.

But it takes a special generation of believers to think that our energies are best spent writing endless reams of condemnations of other believers for how they work their ministries and pilgrimages.  It might actually take a generation that looks at one of Hollywood's greatest celebrations of hedonism and narcissism ever put to film, and concludes that's really what the Gospel is all about.   See it that way, and the entire lying debate begins to make more sense.

As we invoke our inner Metternich

Today I have an extra day off.  Did it so I could get the benefits of a full Memorial Day weekend.  Since I work most weekends, just having Memorial Day off was barely a boon, so took today.  Will be spending it in the garden weather permitting, and then later tonight eating leftovers from yesterday's bounteous feast.  When the sun has set and the lights are low, we'll then continue plotting and backstabbing as we recreate the world's perilous position in the years leading up to the War to End  All Wars.  I don't have the original Diplomacy game, but the modern remake of the classic does quite well.  And the best thing?  Since it falls right around the right period for their studies, and since they're home schooled, we can count it as a Social Studies project by comparing our take-down to what really happened!  Fun stuff.

I'm Turkey this time around and have already obtained some footholds in the Balkans.  But my wife has hit our soon to be 8th grade Cossack out of the blue.  Meanwhile our 9th grade Frenchman and my soon to be Senior Austrian are staking their claims.  We'll see.  My money is on anyone but me at this point.  But that will certainly occupy our day.  See you all soon.

If you won't lie to save babies

Then your next step should be to sell everything you have, give it to the poor, and follow Jesus in the manner of St. Francis.  Oh wait, you say.  The Church has made it clear that Jesus didn't say we all have to do that (even though the early Church described in Acts appeared to take it literally).  I'm not saying he did.  I'm saying that as the 'should we lie to save babies' debate rages, somewhat inconsistently, across the Catholic Blogosphere, there are many who stand with pride on their willingness to say all lying is really the same, it's all intrinsically evil (which has some basis to it based on current Church teaching), and it doesn't matter why, I wouldn't lie once even if it meant saving a baby from certain death.

OK.  Fair enough.  You're probably a better man than I am.  But my colleagues and I used to have a little thing we did in my ministry days.  Sometimes, in casual conversation or counseling, a believer would wonder if they had what it took to be a martyr.  To really take a bullet for the faith.  We said if you have a hard time getting up and going to church on Sunday, or taking part in things, or even reading your Bible or praying regularly, probably not.  If you do all those things and still wonder, then sell all you have and live a life of poverty.  Because in the real world, it's easier to sell everything than die for the faith.  Of course you don't have to in order to die for it.  People have probably died for the faith, when push came to shove, in opulent mansions and luxury homes.  But it is a good test when things are slow.

Same here.  If you boast of your willingness to let the innocent die rather than tell even the whitest lie to save them, I suggest selling everything and living in poverty first.  And if you can't do that, but are still willing to let the innocent die rather than tell even the whitest lie to save them, then it might be time to rethink your pilgrim walk.  I'm not saying lying is right, or we should lie to do good.  It looks complex, and it looks like that part of the Catholic faith that wants to embrace the inner Amish - you don't do anything but prepare for the next life.

But it is tough, because it wants, on one hand, Catholics to be prepared for the ultimate sacrifice.  More so, it wants Catholics to be prepared to let others be sacrificed rather than do evil to save them.  And yet, unlike the Amish or other such stringent faith traditions, it stops short on depriving us of the luxuries and pleasures of a worldly life.  And therein lies the possibility that Catholics could begin to imagine that martyrdom is just how many innocent people I'm willing to let die for my righteousness, all the while laughing on my way to the bank.  A dangerous trend, and one that sets up a level of spiritualism that seems hell and gone from that traditionally understood or biblically expounded.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Memorial Day Movies

And movies for any patriotic day dedicated to remembering Vets.  There are others that aren't mentioned that are every bit as essential.  Tora, Tora, Tora leaps to mind, but I typically keep that for December 7th.  Stalag 17 and even the historically over the top The Battle of the Bulge have always had a 'Christmas feel' to them.  But the following are ones that are shown, or to me are worth watching, whenever the flag goes up and our thoughts turn toward those who gave that last measure of devotion. 

The Longest Day
Staring almost every male actor in the film industry at the time, The Longest Day is the war movie where everything works.  It has that old time patriotism, mixed with just enough moments of terror and loss and honesty to remind everyone what war is all about.  Made in 1962, after the first wave of Rock and Roll but before the British Invasion, it was a mere 18 years after the event.  That's as long ago as the Oklahoma City bombing to us.  And yet already there was that tension, that anti-war, increasingly anti-American liberalism vying with those still lifting up what America and its allies had done to defeat evil.  This splendid movie, superstar packed to the hilt, won the match and gave Americans and free people a reason to look back and be proud.

One of the most iconic images in motion picture history right there.  George C. Scott's magnum opus performance as the ivory handled pistol wielding, cussing and slapping general of WWII is the stuff of legend.  It's a reminder of how in those war years, generals and military leaders held the public in as much awe as Hollywood celebrities and musicians and athletes.  Scott's performance is in the spotlight, but also Coppola's masterful screenplay which avoided the controversies surrounding Patton that would bog down a modern movie.  Instead, he focuses on Patton's quirks and little traits, his poetry and his belief in reincarnation, his religion and his mouth.  He says 'this is Patton, you decide.'  A tendency no longer near alive in modern movies. Except...

HBO's Band of Brothers
In one of the greatest mini-series or television events ever produced.  Band of Brothers is right in every place that the theatrical Saving Private Ryan was wrong.  The reason SPR isn't in this list is that, apart from the brutal opening scene, the movie is a Baby Boomer retelling of WWII through Boomer eyes.  Mostly, SPR is a bunch of foul mouth fellows walking around and whining about how unfair everything is.  In ten episodes of Band of Brothers, you never once hear the phrase 'this isn't fair!'  Based on Stephen Ambrose's book of the same name, BoB leans on actual interviews with the real vets, and allowed their input during production.  It was their story told by them.  What we have is not something that dwells on vast, geopolitical controversies, or anything really.  It just says 'here's these guys, here's what they did, let's watch.'  The link to the real interviews adds an extra dimension that cannot be reproduced anywhere.  A definite watch for those losing site of America's greatness and just why that generation was once called the greatest.

Based on Michael Shaara's book The Killer Angels, Gettysburg started as a made for TV movie, but the powers that be thought it might be better for a major theatrical release.  Not perfect, and sometimes bogs down as one after another, the cast must have its chance to stand and give a ten minute speech explaining to the audience what it's really all about.  But when the action starts, and the historical reenactors have their chance to replay that fateful day, it can't get much better.  The star power alone is worth its weight, and Jeff Daniels gives one of his best performances as one of the most fascinating war heroes in American history.

The Bridge on the River Kwai
This isn't American!  No, it's David Lean's great tribute and analysis of an oft-forgotten part of WWII, namely the Pacific War that didn't happen over Pearl Harbor or Hiroshima.  It showcases, albeit in sanitized fashion, the brutality of one of history's most murderous empires.  But more than that, it looks into the mentality of the men who fight, what can go right, and what can go so wrong.  Sir Alec Guinness's award winning portrayal of a man who is the best and worst of war is unforgettable, as are all the performances, not the least of which is Sessue Hayakawa's scene stealing Colonel Saito.  The movie is also noteworthy as a lesson not to put too much faith in Hollywood versions of history more interested in making points than telling the history.  Though with modern historical studies, there's not much difference.

The Guns of Navarone
With a cast like this, what can go wrong?  A fan favorite, and one of the most influential war movies that established the whole 'those poor suckers don't have a chance' story line.  Oddly, David Niven was the only one of the main cast to serve in WWII, and do so heroically.  His 'I don't want the responsibility' Corporal Miller, an explosives genius, matched against 'whatever gets the job done' Captain Mallory, played by Gregory Peck, is the crux of the movie's theme.  As Peck lamented many times, the movie is so fun, people forget it's supposed to be an anti-war movie.  In many ways, just like Bridge on the River Kwai.  A mere decade and a half after the war, and already that generation was beginning to take a second look at what happened.  Something the Boomers often overlook.

Operation Pacific
John Wayne?  Really?  Yes, really.  Sure, many of his movies stretched the boundaries of realism, but no worse than many war movies today, which often err on the opposite side, where everything is lousy, everyone sucks, nothing is worth anything.  Same lack of realism, different reasons. For Wayne, a patriot through and through, the Americans were the good guys, end of statement.  And his movies showed it.  There were many of course, not the least of which the aforementioned Longest Day.  But in terms of Wayne vehicles, not only does this show a side of warfare often forgotten, but it was one of the best in terms of showing it for what it was, with as few embellishments as possible.

Send the kids to bed with this one.  One of the earliest 'just cuss every few seconds to make the point' movies, Platoon doesn't suffer from Stone's utter hatred of Capitalist America as much as most of his later films.  This is Stone telling his story.  There's enough commentary, in the part of Berenger's Barnes and Dafoe's Elias to remind us of the controversies of America's first lost war.  But he also makes it about the people, and brings in the little details he knew from experience to make this one of the best war movies of all time.  Dale Dye's commentary on the DVD is perhaps one of the greatest such commentaries ever.  In some ways, it moved me more than the movie itself.

Charles Kuralt's The Revolutionary War
Not a Hollywood production, but a series produced in the heyday of Cable channels, when The Learning Channel meant learning.  Still enough of Americana to make it worth watching, the emphasis is certainly on showing some of the meaner, shadier sides of America's war of independence, while unpacking some of those famous villains and giving them a human side, Arnold being the most obvious.  The reproductions are well produced, Kuralt's narration is worth gold, and there's still enough of a balance between the bad which needs told as well as the greatness that needs remembered, to make this a far better series than most of what is produced today, most of which sadly emphasis the bad to the exclusion of anything.  A good watch to remember just why we have this country to slap around in the first place.

The Dirty Dozen
How did this get here?  A fictitious movie that nobody really knows what to do with.  Part Boomer rebellion, part callous who cares about human life, part in your eye to the establishment, The Dirty Dozen was a major hit in the Summer of Love, when so many were singing All You Need is Love.  The cast makes it work.  You can't go wrong with talent like that.  Even though you get the feeling there is plenty of commentary about war, its ugliness and its brutality, the movie never quite goes over the line to outright preaching like so many today.  It's also worth remembering that many of the attitudes of this time, rethinking the greatness of the war and those who fought it, were being held by those who back in their day were landing on the beaches of Iwo Jima and Anzio.

Kelly's Heroes
Even the name can't be taken seriously, inspired as it obviously was by the surprising hit TV series Hogan's Heroes.  And even then, the movie Kelly's Heroes takes Hogan's Heroes and knocks it down another notch.  These heroes aren't out to save the world in some crazy POW camp.  These guys are out for loot!  A fictitious sixties inspired yarn in which a ragtag bunch of soldiers stop caring and decide to break the rules, not to defeat Nazism, or save the world, or defend freedom, but just to nab some gold from a bank behind enemy lines.  Fun stuff to be sure, but also a reminder of just how far we'd come as a nation.  In college, it was these movies or John Wayne that led many of my classmates to conclude WWII was no big deal after all, not like Vietnam, which was really bad.

The sixties generation anti-war movie against which all sixties generation anti-war movies are measured. MASH was a Vietnam anti-war movie only loosely set in Korea.  From the sex, drugs and sex emphasis, to Sutherland's hopped up flower child Hawkeye, one almost forgets this is supposed to be in the 50s Korean conflict.  Yes, it's fun.  It's a good watch.  The gags, the performances, the talent, and the link to the classic and immensely successful TV series of the same name, all make it worth the watch.  What is especially noteworthy is that this was a major hit the same year as another major hit named Patton.  What does that tell you about the conflicting attitudes in 1970.

The next generation, born in the wake of the Boomers, had to have its say.  By now, Vietnam was lost, and movies like MASH and Easy Rider had a bigger impact on the general mindset than The Longest Day or any John Wayne movie.  Stripes was a vehicle for Bill Murray, and set him perched on the edge of the super-stardom he would enjoy three years later battling ghosts.  A take off of Private Benjamin, Stripes held the basic contempt for most things America that was all the rage by then.  Breaking rules was the thing to do, and the army was now an industry of buffoons and dolts, at best.  What is really worth noticing, however, is Murray's famous 'mutts' speech.  Almost edgy in its day for poking fun of America's triumphant diverse heritage, against the utter hatred and contempt for traditional America that comes out in many movies today by the likes of Oliver Stone and others, the speech comes off as almost John Waynish.  There's how things can change.

Red Dawn
Controversial in its day because of the violence, Red Dawn was an anomaly in a cultural landscape that was increasingly concluding that we'd met the enemy and it was us.  Reagan was president, and we were being told that it was Reagan, not the Soviets, who would doom us all.  In fact, as a series I've seen on PBS points out, the whole Cold War may have been orchestrated by the American Military Complex, and not the fault of those misunderstood Soviets at all.  That attitude was already taking shape when this odd thing came out.  Assuming an unlikely scenario in which the Soviets pair up with Hispanic forces to invade the hinterland, Red Dawn assumed a bunch of high schoolers of varying backgrounds could bring the Red Army to a standstill.  Good performances and a captivating story line help.  Mostly, it's just interesting to see how a movie with the attitude of 'America is great let's defend it!' stands out like a sore thumb when set in juxtaposition to other Hollywood fare in recent years.

The Best Years of Our Lives
A movie that smacks down the Boomer Myth that they were the first generation to honestly look at the ugly underside of things like war and anything else to do with America.  Winner of 1946's Academy Award for Best Picture, and a box office hit, this movie takes an honest look at the cost of war in a way few movies before or since have equaled.  It's not at the end of the list because of its stature.  In fact, if that were the case, it'd be at the top.  Instead, it's here to remind us that much of what we've bought into in order to forget our country's greatness was, in fact, a lie.  And few lies have been more effective than the one that said ours is the first generation to be honest about America's real history.  Truth be told, most of what passes for honesty is anything but that.  Instead, look at the movies from the times, such as this remarkable gem, and see how that generation that came before the Boomers, like most generations, actually dealt with reality.  Get your hankies, you'll be glad you did.

There are others.  Some as I said are watched at specific times because of historical accuracy or that's just how I remember them.   Many, like All Quiet on the Western Front, Paths of Glory, The Lost Battalion, The Blue Max, From Here to Eternity, Twelve O'Clock High, Apocalypse Now, My Boy Jack, and First Blood, among others, are worth their weight, and have a place, though maybe not in a day that's supposed to be a day to remember the fallen, those who went before, those who died in some faraway land so that we could do what we do best, and that's sit around and complain about the country we inherited.  But then that's why I didn't list such things as the Deer Hunter or Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket.  After all, why watch those movies when I could watch a modern Stone movie instead?

A bittersweet Memorial Day story

For your reading pleasure.  The diary of a Vet killed in the Pacific war finally makes it all the way to the girl he loved.  But there's a little twist on how she finally was able to read it.  I won't give it away.  Click and read.  It's worth it on this rainy, chilled Memorial Day.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

To all the Vets

Thank you

And to my most important Vet of all, thanks Dad.  I miss you. 

In a newspaper piece that reads like bigotry on the march

And it completely misses the real story. A decision by UW Medicine to affiliate with a Catholic system is being treated like a decision to affiliate with Black health systems in the 1830s, or Jewish health systems in the 1930s in certain parts of the world.  It's just amazing to see the bigotry and see where it's going.  Growing up in the 70s and 80s, we always asked why.  Why were Americans so racist?  Why did the Germans follow Hitler?  Why were the southerners so against Blacks?  How could people treat a group of other human beings that way?  Well, turn on the tube and watch or pick up a local paper.  It's like a historical case study in the making.  And no made for TV movies needed to help us get the point.

Film industry takes a bold leap of courage

And awards one of its most prestigious awards to a film advocating homosexuality.  Yep, you read right.  It's almost hard to comprehend the courage it takes to present a pro-homosexual film to the movie industry gathered in France.  Seriously, I ask you, is there any industry more cowardly and more conformist to collective group think than the modern film industry.  What happened to the days when the arts and entertainment world boldly challenged the status quo and the latest fads, instead of being the primary supporter and promoter of the same?

An observation

Not to sound pro-Nazi or anything, but I was thinking on this after Mark Shea revisited a post by Simcha Fisher denouncing Holocaust deniers.  Now, for me, denying the Holocaust is as stupid as denying the moon landings.  But for me, it's no more evil than ignoring or denying the Communist horrors of the last century, which are often downplayed if not outright ignored. Or the Armenian genocide which is open to academic debate and political denial.  Or even the meaner aspects of the non-Western world in pre-imperialism days, or the atrocities committed by those cultures as they battled Western Imperialism.  To me, denying any of those things, or downplaying them for whatever reason, is just as stupid, or just as wrong.

But then, I don't believe that the only evil of the 20th century belonged to the Nazis or Americans over the skies of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  I believe evil did quite well in other corners of the world.  Denying, qualifying, excusing, or whatever in those other cases is just as bad as ignoring or denying the terror of the Holocaust.

So I saw this and it made me wonder.  The headline is championing a soccer league for embracing its anti-Nazi past.  And I thought on that for a minute.  If you are anti-Nazi, it's hero time.  If you are proudly and passionately anti-Communist?  Why, it's Archie Bunker time, at best.  Or Jo McCarthy time.  Or blacklist time.  You're really the baddie.  Why?  Why the difference?  Why is standing against Communism likely to get you ignored or argued with at best, and downright condemned at worst?  Why are those actors and writers who actually loved Communism and the whole Communist ideal treated like martyrs and heroes, while actors who had even some connection to the Nazis, even if they later renounced everything, dogged by it their entire life, if not ostracized and shunned?

All the gold in the world didn't keep him from having to prove he helped Jews escape the Nazis,
and still his Nazi ties plagued him through his career

Blacklist hero and closet Communist.  Just watch 1960's Spartacus
through a Communist lens and it all makes sense.
I don't know.  There are probably reasons, but some of them might be unknown, part of ulterior motives and therefore unable to be proven, or something.  But I've noticed it over the years.  And it's not changed, even in the Catholic blogosphere. 

Saturday, May 25, 2013

No athlete has ever done this

Come out as gay!  Oh, wait.  Well, no athlete who's currently playing has come out as gay!  Oh, just a second.  No athlete who's actually currently on a sports team and is actively playing but not on an injury list has come out as being gay!  That's it!  Now we have it.  Real, earth shattering news that deserves the appropriate headlines.  For the whole notion that humans are only worth labeling based on their sexual preferences, I give you Marc Barnes.  Marc is a great writer.  Yes, at times he overshoots the mark or goes too far, but the essence of this piece, deflating the ludicrous modern notion that a person's preferences about sex is the only thing worth promoting, is spot on. 

Confirmation comes quickly

Here is a little shot of our family enjoying the after Confirmation celebration for my awesome Eighth grader.  He's been confirmed!  More on these thoughts in the not too distant, but wanted to post this just as a big kudos and a hat tip to God for keeping us alive and still along the grace walk of his abundant mercies, no matter how often I sometimes shake my fist.  The dinner was his choosing, and I dare say, he chose well.

The largest Lego model in the galaxy

Is right here.  A life size replica of a famed Star Wars X-Wing fighter built with Legos.  Wow.  So much for any pride I have over my petty Lego accomplishments. 

The president can assassinate Americans

Says so right here.  In a headline that would have made me fall into the aisle with laughter had it not been so terrible, we're assured that Obama is moving from the Scandals by focusing on his Drone policy.  I absolutely love it.  As if his Drone policy isn't one of the biggest scandals in presidential history.  Yes, yes.  I blame the Bush administration for its role in this.  And I blame the Clinton administration for teaching America that as long as the current president is fulfilling our primary needs, who cares about morality and character and truth.

But it's now in Obama's hands, and unlike Bush whose every blunder and moral breach was front page news and 24/7 coverage, Obama is taking great strides toward obliterating the Constitution in order to grasp power for the Progressive Juggernaut  while giving himself the right to take down Americans if he suspects they're up to something. All with the blessings of the ever supportive media establishment.  And according to the story, that's to get away from the other scandals that suggest Obama's hands could be too close to the Orwellian cookie jar.  This in a country that only a few decades ago ran a president out of town on a rail over wire tapping political opponents.  Talk about lazy and dumb.  Just the type of thing that post-Christian progressives and secularists seem to crave from a populace.

Boy Scouts succumb to Liberal Tolerance

Part of me wants to shun the scouts from now on.  Part of me sympathizes.  After all, pro-gay and liberal groups have been hammering them for decades, filing lawsuits, digging up any dirt they could find with the help of the media establishment, pressing companies to boycott them, cutting off financial help, running them off of public lands.  It wasn't easy being a Capitalist in the former Soviet Union.  It's not easy standing up to traditional values in the modern progressive Soviet.  The big difference is that people then understood they were in the cross-hairs of a terribly oppressive government.  Because too many Americans confuse liberal sexual values with tolerance and enlightened administration of government, this flagrant assault on others for failing to conform in a way that would shame a 17th century puritan is completely overlooked.  So perhaps I'll still buy the popcorn.  Maybe I won't.  But my heart goes out to one more relic of a pre-Progressive world that fell under the crushing boot of liberalism's dogmatic definitions of diversity.

Because our media cares

About keeping liberal Democrats in power, we're constantly told how wonderful the economy is.  Oh sure, gas prices may be hovering near 4 dollars a gallon,  cost of living prices continue to climb, health care and insurance prices are just now beginning to go up thanks to the healthcare reform package.  Not to mention wages continue to lag, and the number of people underemployed, underpaid, or forced to take temp or part time jobs continues to grow.  This doesn't count inconsistent economic reports, struggling private sector returns or the fact that the government continues to outpace just about everyone in the employment field.  And it totally ignores the number of people who have given up or just fallen off the unemployment charts because of being unemployed for so long.  Nope.  This is a liberal president, the press's dude, and they don't give a damn about the well being of the country.  Just like Sandra Fluke/Rush Limbaugh vs. Bill Maher/Sarah Palin showed the press doesn't give a damn about calling women vulgar names.  Or anything really.  They care about the power of the progressive revolution.  And if telling the iPad generation that all is well, in the hopes that the iPad generation is too stupid or lazy to care, will get the job done, so be it.  As was said many times in 2012, if a Republican was elected, at least then we'd find out just how bad off our country is, maybe before it's too late.  As it is, nope.  Thankfully, if the comments sections are to be believed,  there are some who aren't buying into the pro-Obama media rallies.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

For the children of Moore

It's strange, but I'm not seeing the gut wrenching nausea that accompanied Sandy Hook.  I remember after that, with breaking news and round the clock coverage, people couldn't even function.  They spoke of losing sleep, being unable to blog, weeping for an entire weekend.  Well yeah.  Who didn't?  And yet, while the tornado disasters yesterday were devastating  while the damage and carnage is unbelievable, things seem to be going on pretty much normal.  

Nonetheless, as many children were killed yesterday in their school, horribly (so horribly I can't bring myself to think on it), as died at Sandy Hook.  Nature's Sandy Hook you might say.  Anti-religious cranks might go so far as to say 'God's Sandy Hook'.  But there's not that same, I don't know, horror.  That same 'I'm so grieved I feel sick' that you heard so much about on the day and in the days after Sandy Hook.  Why?  

I don't know.  Is this always the case?  Do humans instinctively react to human evil rather than natural disaster?  Was it that gut feeling that Sandy Hook proved evil as some reality?  Is it something more sinister? I don't really know.  I'm just up, mind racing and thinking on things, and having a hard time sleeping because of it, noticing that on most sites I visit the tornadoes were news, prayers have been given, thoughts have been tossed out, but life goes on.  A stark contrast to months ago.  But for me, both have left a bad feeling in the heart, and my thoughts and prayers go out for the parents, the families, the children, and all who have been so devastated by this senseless tragedy.  

"A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning.  Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more." 

Monday, May 20, 2013

Prayers for the victims of the tornado outbreaks

Those who lost loved ones or whose lives have been turned upside down, please dear God give them strength, resolve, and the peace that surpasses all understanding.  Protect those rescuers, police, emergency workers, and all good souls inspired by that divine spark to risk their lives to find and help those affected by these terrible storms.  Help them, nurture them, and draw all near to you as they seek to rebuild their lives, their homes, and their understanding of the world in which we live.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

But then who doesn't have time for this?

If you haven't seen this already, you need to wake up.  Awesomeness for the sake of awesomeness.  I almost feel bad posting it here instead of just posting from his own site.  But since I'm tech-deficient, this will have to do.  Well done sir, way to make everything seem cool, poetic, and brilliant all at the same time.  Looking for a modern Renaissance man?  Steer away from Gates and Hawking.  This fellow comes closest.

Blogging and me

That's reality.  Or, that's wishful thinking right now.  Regulars should note there has been a sudden drop in posts.  The reason is simple.  Time.  My new job with its cumbersome schedule is a temporary fix.  It won't sustain us forever.  But it stops the bleeding.  We were losing money and losing it fast.  We still have a massive dose of debt from when we first became Catholic that we've never been able to pay off.

Long and short, as I've said before, the number of real, bona fide Protestant Clergy who become Catholic is minuscule   Now, there are folks who have held various levels of positions within ministry who become Catholic.  Youth pastors, part time pastors, professors in religious institutions, lawyers who help our religious institutions.  But your full time, 'only a pastor and nothing more' who becomes Catholic is actually a rare breed, despite what some ministries dedicated to the subject might suggest.

I know this because I worked for one for a while, and noticed that most of the testimonies we tried to get from people were of the 'I did some ministry/I was a part time minister/I went to seminary but was never a minister/I did youth ministry' variety. That means, the financial hit that everyone thinks about doesn't usually happen.  Even when they are full time ministers, I've talked to some who had spouses who were well set (one a wife who's a nurse, no small income there, another with a wife whose family was of independent means).

And that's the kick I usually don't mention.  My wife worked within our denominational framework as well.  She made her living from our denomination just as I did, as a teacher in a Christian school.  And it was losing her job when we became Catholic that really threw us for a tailspin.  Being me, I try to plan ahead.  When we left my pastoral ministry to enter the Church, I though I had my ducks in a row.  We knew it would be tough, and the usual problems with starting life over at 40, no real marketable skills, etc.  But we had it planned out and then BAM!  My wife went to the school that August to start getting ready for school and couldn't find her mailbox in the office.  It went down from there.

So we took what is probably a nearly unparalleled hit to become Catholic, at least in America.  Not to whine or fuss or pat ourselves on the back, but let's face it, how many people give up both incomes and literally all their savings and benefits for the Faith, at least in our country? Not many.  And so there's not really an official branch of the Church to help us out.

There have been phenomenally generous Catholics in our parishes that, through our parishes, have helped us at critical times.  That's kept us alive.  Help from the family as well.  But neither of us come from families rolling in dough.  So it's been us, some generous Catholics, and God.  And through it all, we've kept our little starter home that's become the homestead, we've kept our beat up ten year old cars, and we've kept food on the table, if not lost most of what we had saved.

All this is to say, beggars can't be choosers.  The job I have I needed.  It's in the financial sector, which is about as far from what I'd prefer as you can imagine.  And it's far from what we need, incomes having stagnated and if you do the math backward, it's barely what a kid bagging groceries would have been paid when I was in high school.  Benefits aren't the best either.  But we had to stop the gushing of funds.  The debt was, ironically, making it impossible to move forward and we were sinking month by month.

So I've taken this job, praying for some miracle that will help us back on our feet, and getting by with the usual 'entry level schedule.'  That means, as inconvenient as imaginable.  Since our Eighth grader has his confirmation today, and since we're still trying to keep our boys in homeschool, time has just been limited.  Given the usual obligations that come from life, as well as those considerations I just mentioned, I've just not had time to blog.  Or at least, time to organize my thoughts.  Rather than post things that don't make sense or have more holes in their logic than Swiss cheese, I've chosen not to post.  And rather than it just be one long string of pictures of the boys (which we haven't had time to take), I've opted to remain silent.

I'll try to post some.  I will.  Readership was picking up and going through the ceiling, I actually found my blog referenced on some other blogs recently!  So I'm not giving up.  But probably until summer, or more likely, until a better schedule comes by - one way or another - things will be slim.  The posts may be quick snippets rather than actual thoughts.  But I'll do what I can.  I appreciate all who've come by, those who have commented, and hopefully folks will touch base until I'm back up and able to trip the blog fantastic once more.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Star Wars was for grown ups

Words can't describe how this image
captured my imagination back in the day
We watched Star Wars last night.  Not the 'New Hope' garbage.  The real thing, the version that came out in theaters back in the height of the Disco era.  Not the one with the deplorable CGI, or where Han waits to ignore a small explosion next to his head before he shoots.  The version that actually knocked our socks off some 35 years ago.  Yes, because of Lucas's strange arrogance and blindness to his own diminished talents, it was not the top of the line release.  When he released the originals on DVD, he made it clear to his fans that out of punishment for not celebrating his eternal creative perfection, the original releases would be without tweaks to make the quality images better, no HD, no Dolby, no nothing.  Basic VHS quality on DVD.

And yet it was a million times better than the re-released New Hope versions, and numbers don't exist to illustrate how many times better it was than the Prequels.  Even with my boys gibbering through the thing, asking questions and giving commentary, it was a flight back to the olden days.   Nostalgia can be fun.  I could almost remember what each scene was like.  Back in the day, when I worked an entire summer to afford every screening I could get, each scene was like a movie unto itself: the opening battle, the introduction of Vader, the introduction of Luke, the Cantina, the Death Star, the duel, the dogfight, the ceremony.  Each one was as monumental for my young mind as the scenes of Citizen Kane to a film student.

But something hit me.  We were watching some recent CGI laden blockbuster later, after the kids went to bed.  Too tired and worn out to do much else.  I don't know what it was.  It had sword fights, and CGI effects, and strange monsters (mostly CGI), and it was pretty stupid. I only watched a little before deciding my dreams would suffice for better entertainment.  Then it dawned on me.  Star Wars was not a "Kid's Movie".  In fact, in those days, there were not kids movies, except that Disney studios produced (like The Apple Dumpling Gang, Gus the Field Goal Kicking Mule, The Love Bug, etc.).  Movies were for adults only (R rated fare such as The Exorcist  The Godfather, Dog Day Afternoon, Saturday Night Fever), or they were for everyone (Rocky, Smokey and the Bandit (eh), Jaws, and Star Wars).  If it was determined that kids shouldn't see something - like my Mom not letting me see Jaws for fear I would use it as an excuse to dodge bath time - then kids didn't go.

But movies weren't made for kids or even adolescents.  They were for adults or for everybody.  As was Star Wars.  Fast forward to today.  Movies today, especially "blockbuster fare" like the one we watched last night, are made specifically for a young adult to even childish audience   And it didn't become that way overnight.  Somewhere, after Star Wars and before that CGI one we saw last night, filmmakers found out what music makers did in the wake of young Sinatra: that due to kids' impressionable minds, there are boundless dollars to be had.  Rock and Roll lives and breaths on that premise.

It took movies like Star Wars, and later E.T., to realize that there is a gold mine to be had in making movies not for adult sensibilities, but aimed squarely at those who are still struggling with pubescent hormones.  This change must have already been in full swing by the time Return of the Jedi arrived, because Lucas was certainly dumbing down the story and the gags and the general production to a more childish level.  

Of course with the advent of PG-13, there is a new category, that summer blockbuster supposedly too intense for younger kids, but just in line with that all important adolescent young teen male.  And the humor, the story lines  the basic production all speak to that.  The CGI movie we watched last night wouldn't have rated a TV movie of the week when I was growing up, if for no other reason than the childish and laughably immature stunts, gags and bathroom humor.   Some might be PG-13 because they strive for better, more adult level intensity and complexity, like any one of a boatload of Christopher Nolan movies.  But on the whole, most are movies that could say 'nobody over 18 admitted, because Lord knows they shouldn't want to be.'

Books have gone the same way.  Starting with the Goosebumps series, and finding perfection in the Harry Potter phenomenon, publishers learned that with kids, the profits can be endless, no matter what the quality.  In fact, the strange thing is, as our movies and our blockbuster output focuses on appealing exclusively to the youngest, I can't help but notice that our adult audiences are increasingly settling for childish things.  Not just enjoying a movie that's young at heart (like Star Wars), but actually lowering our expectations to movies, music and books that are young in content.

I can't tell how many adults lifted Harry Potter up as some lost Gospel of Christ.  And Lord help you if you disagreed.  All over a book series written, marketed and published for kids.  Same with the Comic book movies, or action movies, or remake movies.  I fear that was a problem with Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings series, that he needed to appeal to the childish, the teen mindset with a book that was anything but a child's book or teenage schlock.

But it also seems that adults are going that direction as well.  Perhaps it's a combination.  Rush Limbaugh once said something I've never forgotten, some years ago.  On his birthday, he pointed out that he didn't feel as old as he was.  Not just in the usual sense.  He looked around and noticed that most people his age didn't look or act his age.  Not as he remembered it.  In fact, he noticed that his generation (Boomers) were the first generation in history that didn't have to grow up.  For the first time, people could fight to stay kids, to enjoy kid things, to obsess with kid hobbies and games.  Basically, adults could continue on acting like kids. Today there are adults who play with Legos.  There are adults who read kid books and go to the mattresses over what those books are, like kids used to in school over things like baseball cards or action heroes in comics.  Today, it's the adults.

So maybe the "kiddifying" of movies today is the result of the audience. Maybe the audience has become that way as producers of our cultural relics have decided to market to younger minds for the quick buck.  Maybe, like most things, it's a combination.

All of this came after a discussion at Mark Shea's blog over whether Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart are pundits or just comedians.  Clearly they are pundits.  Obviously their shows are there to advance agendas with the same zeal as an episode of Limbaugh.  But yet, there were people arguing as if the two can never be reconciled; that to be a comedian must necessarily preclude you from being a pundit.  As if things can never change, and boundaries can never be crossed.  Why do they believe it?  Well, mostly, because Stewart and Colbert say that's all they are.  So it must be true.  Just like those Rock Stars of old insisted they really weren't singing about sex or drugs.  The lyrics really meant other, purer things.  So it must have been true.  Even as kids we knew better (and giggled behind parents' backs because of it).

Today, perhaps we know it's bunk just the same.  Or maybe, as adults, we've become so immersed in a culture that has completely turned itself over to the kiddy mindset, that we've lost that common sense discernment that comes with age.  Maybe people actually believe that since they say they are comedians, they must be right.  Maybe they just want to believe it, like I wanted to believe C-3PO was a real robot.  Perhaps instead of helping kids become adults, endless marketing to kids is causing adults to remain perpetually kids. I don't know.  But it's a thought I had after watching that story from a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.

Sometimes I think it wasn't for no reason that Paul said there came a time when he put away childish things.  Not that good childish that can retain that spark of child like marvel at the world, but childish, like the inability to deal with reality in a way that reality demands.

Fans line up to see the latest movie phenomenon called Star Wars, c. 1977

Fans line up to see the latest Star Wars installment, Attack of the Clones, c. 2002

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Rest in Peace Ray Harryhausen

Ray Harryhausen died today.  What kid my age didn't jump for joy when the local station played a Harryhausen movie?  Ours was Superhost's Mad Theater out of WUAB, Channel 43 Lorain and Cleveland.    Sometimes Fritz the Night Owl would have a horror double feature and it just might include something from Mr. Harryhausen's repertoire   But usually it was Mad Theater, a staple of the Saturday Morning ritual that started at noon after the cartoons were done, included two movies with a Three Stooges or Harold Lloyd short, and sometimes goofy cornball skits. 

Most of the time these movies were the B to F- type of 50s and 60s sci-fi schlock.  They were never the classic Universal Monster films, though they sometimes tapped into the later Hammer films to add quality.  But every now and then, an odd Movie of the Week or Superhost episode would bring out a Harryhausen, if we were really lucky, The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad, or Jason and the Argonauts, with its peerless battle against the skeletons.  

Those were candy to our eyes.  And even after Lucas unleashed his vision of Star Wars on an unsuspecting public, we never lost our love or admiration for Harryhausen.  True, when Clash of the Titans came out we could see it was time to turn a page on movie production.  Still, several of the creatures there retain more depth than many in a CGI blockbuster today.  Does anyone really think the slick animated monsters of the modern remakes hold a candle to the physical menace of Harryhausen's Medusa, or the towering Talos?  I don't think so.

A lot of fond memories there.  Just thinking of it whisks me back to more innocent times, when heroes were good, monsters were bad, and there was simply no reason to loot the fabled and forbidden treasures of the gods, but you knew full well Hercules couldn't resist.  So for all the memories, the fun times, the inspiring tales and unforgettable images, I lift one up and say Rest in Peace, may the Perpetual Light Shine upon you, and last but not least, we thank you.  

Monday, May 6, 2013

A night at the concert

So things continue to be hectic.  Last night I had to take my sister to the emergency room because of chest pains.  Thankfully, there doesn't appear to be anything major, but they did find a few abnormalities regarding one of her ventricles.  

Tonight, a good event on top of everything, our eighth grader had his last jazz band concert.  His last one. Sigh.  Them being home schooled, it marks the end of an era.  Our other middle schooler is going to play football through our parish school.  But that won't be connected with our city schools. Our oldest  has reserved himself to not going through any graduation ceremonies next year.  So it looks like a chapter - a big chapter - is getting ready to close.  Or, perhaps, closed tonight.  Due to copyrights and promises to the school, I can't post their performance.  But I can post him, looking a bit John Lennonish in his glasses he decided to wear since it was his last hurrah,  and post one of the songs they did play, respectfully well if not a carbon copy of the original.  Soon, very soon, I'll be able to get caught up and get some thoughts down.  Until then, enjoy the great one himself as he demonstrates just what coolness can look like:

Not Louis Prima or John Lennon, but no less cool in his own right

Sunday, May 5, 2013

A momentary delay owing to the deluge

After my boast of tending to some much needed blogging, I'm reminded of the old saying about the best laid plans of mice and men.  Or, as James would so eloquently say in warning us about being too boastful about our plans, I am but a mist that appears for a little while and then will vanish.  But in the meantime, mist that I am, we've got a dishwasher flooding on us, and that must take priority.  Just enough time to update and explain.  Keep letting folks know, I shall be back.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

It's been a long time

Now I'm coming back home.  It's been a while to get to the blog.  Things have been topsy turvy these last few weeks.  As my schedule at work shifted to weekdays late into the evening, and yet because of the deplorable parking (a parking lot big enough for 8000 people!...for a building that employees about 9500), I have to leave early enough that mornings aren't much easier than before.  Still, it's a job, and no other complaints but less time with the family in the evenings, fewer sit down family dinners, and of course, less blogging.

Nonetheless, I'm glad to see some faithful still stopping by, and the general readership continuing apace.  So I feel I must sit when I can and try, in my own cumbersome way, to toss out a few things that have been on my mind.  Chief among these have been my thoughts on what the Boston Bombings showed about where we've come as a society.

I've also had to take notice on this little story, which involves my very own diocese.  It's making national headlines now, and of course, from the media POV, there's only one obvious solution.  It will be interesting to see how this case unfolds.  As usual, I'm of about three minds on this, so when I can sort it out and not say things in the wrong way, since I know some folks from around here who read my blog, I'll put down what I'm thinking.

Tonight, of course, we watched the Kentucky Derby.  That's from those years we lived in Louisville.  Oddly enough, I never went to the Derby while we lived there, and seldom watched it, unless we attended some local church Derby party.  Now, we try to watch it every year.  That's part of our strategy of making as many days special as we can.  Being of limited means, we can't afford the Mediterranean cruise or the three week African safari for our kids.  But if we take the smallest things and add just a tad of special, we hope it makes up for the bigger things.

We also had to cram in our Cinco de Mayo today, because tomorrow our eighth grader, who is approaching confirmation, is having a special world study day in which my wife volunteered to help him unpack those rascally Irish Catholics for the Ireland segment.  She'll me making Irish food, and helping set up a display jam-packed with all things green.  Because of that, we moved the usual Mexican fare to today, and added a little Derby pie to the mix to keep it official (a combination not for the fainthearted).

There are other things, of course.  The blogosphere has been mostly quiet, and I'm starting to get a fix on a couple things that have bothered me in recent years.  Figuring things out, if you would.  I've also been thinking on the Catholic Church in this crazy, wild period in which we find ourselves as a country and as a world.  What it means to obey the Church, what it's meant in the past, and where it looks like the Church is trying to go today.  That might come sometime down the road.  For now, I've got to get back to the family and finish our other annual addition to the Derby festivities (and I don't mean Mint Juleps) : our viewing of the Marx Brothers' A Day at the Races.  Natch.  Be back soon, until then, well done Orb, and of course, as Mark Shea reminds us on yet another important aspect of today (Star Wars Day) - May the Fourth Be With You!

And for your viewing pleasure, the incomparable Chico Marx, making the sheer act of playing the piano fun to watch as well as hear: