August 16, 2018

A BISHOP WITH THE HEART OF A PASTOR



Bishop Gary Gordon is now bishop of the diocese of Victoria, BC, CANADA. He is doing a lot of reaching out to First Nations people who were brutalized by residential schools. One of his priests shared this video from when he was bishop in the Yukon--as a "bright light" in the midst of this ongoing clergy sex abuse nightmare. (Bishop Gordon is also a fomer "Flying Father," priests who played hockey for charity and raised millions.)

August 7, 2018

SR. HELENA'S DAILY BOOK FOR WOMEN: "HE SPEAKS TO YOU"


Y'all. Just in case you didn't know: I have a daily book for women, young and old. It's called "He Speaks To You."
  • Jesus speaking directly to you
  • A daily Scripture
  • Does NOT follow the liturgical year, but progressively takes you through the basics of the interior life, starting with a grounding in God's love
  • Each month has a different theme: God's will, work, Mary, heaven, suffering, etc.
  • Something to do
  • Something to journal
  • Wisdom from the nuns (30 congregations participated!)
  • A daily prayer
Here's an interview I did on Relevant Radio about the book when it first came out:



And here's where to get it: www.tinyurl.com/DailyBook (Also available on Amazon.)





UNLOCKING THE MYSTERIES OF THE BODY--MY "HUMANAE VITAE" INTERVIEW WITH DUBLIN'S "THE IRISH CATHOLIC"


Originally published in "The Irish Catholic," July 19, 2018. Reprinted here with kind permission.
(This interview meant a lot to me. My real last name is "Byrne," and my ancestors are from Dublin!)









July 30, 2018

RESPONDING TO THE "TRANSGENDER MOMENT"



    • Wicked good book. Scientific, comprehensive & compassionate.
      "Can a boy be trapped in a girl's body? Can modern medicine reassign sex? Is our sex assigned in the first place? What is the most loving response to a person experiencing a conflicted sense of gender? What should our laws say on matters of gender identity? Ryan Anderson offers a nuanced view of human embodiment, a balanced approach to public policy on gender identity, and a sober assessment of the human costs of getting human nature wrong. This book exposes the contrast between the media's sunny depiction of gender fluidity and the often sad reality of living with gender dysphoria. It gives a voice to people who try to transition by changing their bodies, and found themselves no better off." Especially troubling are the stories told by adults who were encouraged to transition as children as though there were no other option (and without therapy) but later regretted it. The book is full of statistics and studies, such as the fact that people who have had transition surgery are nineteen times more likely then average to die by suicide (41% compared with 4.6% of the general population). Studies on gender dysphoria that even transgender activists cite show that around 80% of children/teens who express a discordant gender identity will come to identify with their bodily sex if natural development is allowed to proceed. "As Anderson shows, the most beneficial therapies focus on helping people accept themselves and live in harmony with their bodies. This understanding is vital for parents with children in schools where counselors may steer a child toward transitioning behind parents' backs. Everyone has something at stake in the controversies over transgender ideology, which gives rise to misguided policies that allow biological men into women's restrooms and that penalize Americans who hold to the truth about human nature. Anderson offers a strategy for pushing back with principal and prudence, compassion and grace."
    • stellaaaamarisI am very interested in this subject and will absolutely read this book. I have some experience at my school working with students who struggle with identity issues. Thanks for the recommendation. But as a professional school counselor I can promise you that we do not “steer a child to transition behind a parents’ back.” That’s unethical. We partner with parents who entrust their children to us for an education. We do not encourage our students to defy their parents or to keep secrets. We do work towards students accepting where they are and discussing these heavy issues with their parents when they feel strong enough to do so. We would never advocate for a child to do anything without a parental consent. I’m really not sure how we would do that? Exactly how would a child transition without parental consent? We don’t even change student schedules without consent in many cases. Counselors walk a fine line between keeping student confidentiality and a parent’s right to know what is going on with their child at school. These are sensitive issues with many consequences if not managed delicately and with the child’s safety in mind. It is understood that parents have a right to raise their child as they see best and school counselors would not interfere in such a manner. Please do not spread misinformation about our profession. #schoolcounselor#schoolscounselorsrock
    • srhelenaburns@stellaaaamaris I am sure there are many ethical school counselors and schools that have ethical policies. However, in Canada, we have legislation that is totally usurping parental rights and authority and is very secretive when it comes to a child speaking to their teacher or counselor. If a home is not "trans friendly" the child can be removed from the home by Child Services. And this can mean even if the child is not identifying as trans. If the government thinks a family is not teaching their children in general that transgender is normal and that children should transition, that is also cause for removal of children from their home.
    • michael_gasparroThank you for sharing!
    • incredible_sunshineBe blessed sister. Both for use of your gift of intelligence, and for compassion.
    • 4kidsandacatdogThis is going on my Amazon wish list
    • pkmikeytRyan Anderson is sooo good
    • 64kitkatI would like to read this! Thank you for sharing & God Bless!👀🙏
    • lena_barajas1@jmmagino this looks interesting
    • j6kiddsHalf way through

July 18, 2018

DAUGHTERS OF ST. PAUL VOCATION RETREAT--SEPTEMBER 2018--CANADA & USA



WHAT IS THE "MASCULINE GENIUS"?


Since John Paul II never outlined in exact detail what "the masculine genius" is (only "the feminine genius"), I asked men and women: "What, in your opinion, is the 'masculine genius'? That is, what's great about being a man?"

from women:
--it has nothing to do with beards
--duct tape
--controlled power shows meekness. Jesus showed us the masculine genius.
--asking for directions
--take care and protect, no matter what!
--men have a strength so different from women's strength. My husband's strength allows me to be vulnerable when I'm around him.
--the masculine genius is the quality of a man who knows to defer to the feminine genius before making ingenious decisions.
--mechanical gifts and beyond. Anything involving wrenches, grease and heavy metal (not the music)
--instinct to protect!
--my father and brothers express their love by making sure my car's fluid levels are on point.
--creativity! Think about the things men have made: buildings, machines, inventions, etc.
--self-giving, protection, integrity, tenderness
--chivalry, bravery and steadfast faith
--well, Google says there's no such thing as "the masculine mystique"
--being a Dad is holding the tension between being the protective Dad and pushing you out into the big, scary world to stand on your own two feet.
--permitting us to be our feminine selves. I never felt so feminine before meeting my husband. His strong, inherent masculinity enables me to be myself and the mother of our children.

from men:
--dark beer?
--I can tell you that i
t's not manufactured, purchased, a product or an image. It's kind, uncompromising when it needs to be, and loving.
--the ability to think about nothing
--I can open jars and fix appliances
--we're the opposite of women in almost every way. Tired of being around women 24/7? Hang out with a guy.
--holding together power with weakness, strength with tenderness--all possible through the vulnerability of love
--fatherhood. Which is heroic, courageous, bold and selfless.
--knowing that the correct answer to any question is always: "Yes, dear."
--men are made to glorify God. Maybe the masculine genius resides in learning to give Him glory in all things.
--The most amazing thing is when I feel the Holy Spirit working in me, when He just takes over. As opposed to when I try to manufacture a "holy moment" myself. LOL. To God be the glory!
--watching the ballgame! I'm an Einstein at that.
--love from the outside in
--extremely focused
--we are the reflection of the Father. When a man acts from his true nature and a developed conscience, we love. A giving, protecting, providing love that supersedes self-interest.
--impartiality
--the capacity for self-gift. Our orientation is outward, toward the world.
--what is the masculine genius? It's not having to answer questions that require any kind of introspection. (my brother)

THE MASCULINE GENIUS by Fr. Patrick Schultz: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aTQeLY6lDhM&t=9s

July 15, 2018

MOVIES: "INCREDIBLES 2"



America's favorite crime-fighting family with superpowers is back in the sequel entitled simply: "Incredibles  2," and it's not bad, not bad at all.

Superheroes are outlawed in 100 countries, and it looks like our fearless defenders will have to hang up their spandex for good. But a young philanthropist and his sister, an inventor, are having none of it. They rally superheroes, including the Incredibles family, to get them reinstated through a media campaign: let the "supers" tell their own story, don't let politicians do it for them (politicians don't like the supers because "people who do good just because it's the right thing to do make them nervous").

There are two subplots featuring "strong female protagonists," namely Mom (aka Elastigirl) and the teenage daughter, Violet (with her invisible powers). The little boy, Dash, with his superspeed is almost totally overlooked in this film. Mom is torn between working outside the home (the philanthropist wants her to be the face of the superheroes comeback) and "nurturing" her kids. Dad is feeling a bit left out by not being chosen as the spokesperson. There are lots of genteel, loving and mature conversations between Mom and Dad about what to do. Eventually, Dad talks Mom into taking the job, all the while thinking staying at home with the kids will be a piece of cake and he'll have no problem--obviously setting himself up for just the opposite. (Disney just had to get in their digs at dear old Dad.)

How are men treated in "Incredibles 2"? As secondary, supporting characters, mostly. Dad's brawn is definitely needed for conquering evil, but in appearance and speech he's pretty much the slow-talking, muscle-bound, dumb jock. But, set in the cool sophistication of 1962's Camelot--pre-Women's-Lib--women couldn't be anachronistically totally running the show, however--so there's an interesting convo between Elastigirl and the philanthropist's sister about, essentially, gender roles.

The characters are well-fleshed out and there are lots of rich story details for unpacking (if you want to take kids' animated blockbusters that seriously. I certainly do.) The nemesis is the fascinating "Screenslaver" who transfixes and hypnotizes people through screens (subtext, anyone?).

Now. The baddie might be "Screenslaver" but the "Scenestealer" is indubitably the baby of the fam, Jack-Jack, who may or may not discover his superpowers. Yes, superpowers plural. It's a hoot a minute. Edna (the Edith Head character) also makes a reappearance, and she and the baby have an understanding akin to soulmates. (Fans are demanding a dedicated spinoff movie of the duo.)

"Incredibles 2" wisely knows the heart of its tale: family. Sticking together as family. At the end of the movie, as in life, it's the children who save us, often the tiniest ones. No, I don't mean the "lets-put-the-kids-in-charge-cuz-we're-just-dopey-adults" scenario. I mean that the generosity of Moms and Dads raising the next generation is its own reward: "cast your bread on the waters...and it will return to you" Ecclesiastes 11:1.

OTHER STUFF:

--Gotta love Mom's thunder thighs. (Hey, that would be a cool superpower.) This HAD to be a woman's idea.

--Mom doesn't wear a helmet on her motorcycle. SAFETY RATING: F

--Jack-Jack battles a raccoon. SAFETY RATING: F

--I would watch this movie again in a heartbeat (and have a discussion afterward)--and I rarely watch movies twice.

--Check out the DVD of the first Incredibles movie. On Disc 2, director Brad Bird comments on a deleted scene where Elastigirl decides to be a stay-at-home mom and how badly she's treated by other women for her choice. He says that scene was based on his own wife's experiences! Also, Disc 2 has a short of Jack-Jack and a teen babysitter (Jack-Jack's very first discovery of his superpowers).







July 12, 2018

MOVIES: "JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM"



WARNING: SPOILERS THE SIZE OF A BRONTOSAURUS

The latest "Jurassic" installment, "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom," lacks none of the action and heart-pounding fun of its predecessors. As a matter of fact, it's one long chase, pretty much. Humans being chased by hungry dinos, that is. However, I am sad to report that wacky ideology has infiltrated even the mindless, sheer entertainment of our beloved Paleolithic franchise. "Which ideology, pray tell, even fits here?" you may ask.  You guessed it, radical animal rights. Speciesism. (See "The Shape of Water." My review: http://hellburns.blogspot.com/2018/04/movies-shape-of-water.html#.W0gkTdJKiM8.) How dare humans think their lives are more important than gargantuan, predatory beasts with uber-annoying, ear-splitting bellows and screeches who couldn't manage not to go extinct the first time, and were unnaturally and unwisely revived the second time?

Lonely feeling deep inside
Find a corner where I can hide

Here's the plot: The old island Jurassic theme park has been abandoned by humans and is in disrepair. However, the dinosaurs survived and roam freely. But a second extinction is exactly what the mighty living fossils are faced with--not by man, but by an imminently-erupting volcano. The dilemma is: do we let them die or do we try to rescue them? What is the ethical thing to do?

Silent footsteps crowding me
Sudden darkness but I can see

Grabbing for me with her eyes
Now I'm falling from her skies

Naturally, the bleeding-heart animal rights activists (including Claire, played again by Bryce Dallas Howard), with subliminal background signage and messaging in various shots: "SPECIES," "EQUAL," "EQUALITY," "SPECIES" "ENDANGERED," "SPECIES," "SPECIES," "SPECIES," want the creatures to be rescued somehow before Mt. St. Helen's blows her stack. A governmental committee decides to let Real Mother Nature take its course, an "act of God" (one can almost see the sneer quotes). Jeff Goldblum's scientist character weighs in with his level-headed, dispassionate rationale that if what we did was unethical in the first place (bringing the dinos to life again), the dinos getting wiped out is a corrective. (It's not like humans are now choosing to blow these magnificent creatures up ourselves, as our parents used to threaten us: "I brought you into this world, I can take you out of it." The question is: should we intervene (once again)?

The film unfolds with big, simplistic dialogue (methinks so the kiddos can follow along), but it's also a mite pedantic (methinks so the kiddos will be indoctrinated). There's quite a bit of what feels like insincere Godtalk.

You're tripping back now to places you've been to
You wonder what you're gonna find
You know you've been wrong but it won't be long
Before you leave 'em all far behind

This film was definitely made by people who hate people. "What the dinos need is for humans to just go away. They would be better off without us." (And they didn't mean humans should just move to another zip code but maybe perhaps we should just bequeath them Earth cuz after all they were here first and we humans should all go to Uranus. JWFK is filled with this kind of insinuation about humans being unworthy-to-live screwups.) We get to see lots and lots of people gored and thrown around and maimed and eaten (and not only the baddies). But the camera, or should I say animatronics/CGI, is very careful not to show us any poor dino getting hurt (it would be too much to bear because dinos are more human than humans and can show "empathy." As one unnamed volatile world superpower leader would say: "Give me a break.") The logical inconsistencies are mind-boggling. Permission to rant?

--If all species are equal, why do they keep feeding poor little chained-up goats to the 'sauruses? Where are the goats' rights activists? Or is it that the biggest kid on the block gets whatever they want (cuz we secretly favor the badass brute)?

--If all species are equal and have equal "rights," where do the carnivorous dinos get off eating each other? If all species are equal, why don't animals live in a vegan world? Someone once sagely pointed out online that allowing a 3-year-old human to "make their own choices" and "freely express themselves" is a lifestyle choice of the parent, not the child. Just like a vegan dog is at the mercy of its owner. But I digress. Or not.

--Rights only apply to persons (and no, corporations should not be treated as persons under the law), because rights imply free will and responsibilities--something animals don't have. Animals should be treated with integrity and kindness, but they may be utilized humanely in the service of humanity, e.g., milk cows, police horses, rescue dogs, service animals, pigs raised for meat, etc.

'Cause it's the new Mother Nature taking over
It's the new splendid lady come to call
It's the new Mother Nature taking over

BIG ENDING SPOILER!!! A little girl makes the choice to hit the big glowy red button that releases the dinos into the human population on the mainland (some had been saved from the island and put in holding pens) AS THE ADULTS STAND BY AND LET A 7-YEAR-OLD DECIDE THE FATE OF HUMANKIND, NODDING SWEETLY TO THE LITTLE HONEY WHOSE COMPASSIONATE REASONING CONSISTS OF "THEY'RE ALIVE LIKE ME...." 

Have you ceased groaning yet? Allow me to respond:

--First: please see the book: "The Collapse of Parenting: Why Treating Our Children Like Adults Is Hurting Them," by Dr. Leonard Sax.

--Second: Dear little girl. Yes, they are alive like you. So are deadly viruses. And, you DO know that these dinos want to eat you for a midnight snack ASAP, right? I MEAN WE SPENT A WHOLE MOVIE WATCHING YOU ESCAPE FROM THEM, AND YOU AND THE SNIVELING ADULTS THAT LET YOU ACTIVATE DOOMSDAY WERE--JUST SECONDS AGO--WILLING TO DO HARM TO THEM AND DID HARM TO THEM SO THAT YOU MIGHT LIVE. WHY THEN DID YOU MAKE US WATCH THIS WHOLE MOVIE ABOUT HUMAN SELF-PRESERVATION WHEN YOU DON'T GIVE A RAT'S BEHIND ABOUT YOUR LIFE OR ANY OTHER HUMAN BEING'S LIFE? 

--Third: Why doesn't "it gets to live because it's alive" apply to babies in the womb? Or people in a coma or severely disabled people or people with dementia or the elderly? "It gets to live because it's alive" blows the evil "personhood theory" (a baby in the womb is human and alive, but not a person yet, that's why we can kill it and #PlannedParenthoodSellsBabyParts) out of the water. But should we expect any less from misanthropes?

She's gettin' us all
She's gettin' us all

The future is wide open for a Jurassic sequel where "dinos and humans must learn to COEXIST." BWAHAHA HA HA. I can tell you right now how that ends, too.

OTHER STUFF:

--I agree wholeheartedly with Bishop Barron's take on JWFK:
 https://www.wordonfire.org/resources/article/what-jurassic-world-fallen-kingdom-gets-right-and-wrong/5838/

--Incidentally, yes. We're living in a Fallen Kingdom. But a Fallen-Redeemed Kingdom. :)




CONTRACEPTION & NATURAL FAMILY PLANNING: "TWO IRRECONCILABLE CONCEPTS OF THE HUMAN PERSON & HUMAN SEXUALITY"


LET'S TALK ABOUT SEX

We can't talk about contraception and Humanae Vitae until we talk about sex. There are two purposes of sex that are inseparable: love (union) and life (procreation). If we separate them we are "using" a human person, which is never in accord with human dignity. There are two other purposes of sex within marriage as well (that also tie our sexuality directly to God): a foretaste of heaven and a way to heaven (marriage is a sacrament, sacraments get you holy, sex or "the marital embrace" is a big part of marriage and consummates the marriage, the marital embrace is doing physically what marriage vows do verbally).

IT STARTED IN THE GARDEN

I always think of Eve when I think of contraception, primarily The Pill: "But it's just a little fruit!" ("But it's just a little pill!") So what's the big deal whether we use artificial contraception (against God's Word, natural law and Church teaching) OR Natural Family Planning (acceptable)? Isn't the goal the same: to prevent pregnancy? Isn't Natural Family Planning (NFP) just "Catholic birth control?" Yes and no. No.

THE END DON'T JUSTIFY THE MEANS

The goal of contraception and NFP might be the same, that is, to avoid pregnancy (although NFP is also used to achieve pregnancy whereas contraception is always to prevent), but the end doesn't justify the means. Contraception is doing something (having sex during a woman's fertile time) while thwarting one of its inseparable purposes at the same time (life). Natural Family Planning is not doing something: abstaining from sex during a woman's fertile time so that the marital embrace will always be "open" to both love and life when it is engaged in. Contraception and NFP are equally effective, around 97% if done accurately. However, for couples who absolutely must not get pregnant--the wife/mother risks death if she becomes pregnant again--NFP can be practiced with 100% accuracy by adding more days of abstention during the woman's cycle. 4 million couples in China are using the Billings Ovulation Method, some with 100% accuracy because the alternative in one-child-policy-China is forced abortion.

ATOMIC TRUTH BOMB

Let's start with what is probably the biggest truth bomb regarding the very great differences between contraception and NFP: John Paul II calls them "two irreconcilable concepts of the human person and of human sexuality" (Familiaris consortio, 32). Wowwwwww. Whatever can he mean? For years--although I accepted Humanae Vitae (the Church's 1968 reaffirmation of her 2,000 year old rejection of contraception and abortion) as infallible Church teaching--I really didn't understand it, nor could I explain it to anyone else. For a fallen mind (humanity after the Fall), what should be obvious often isn't. It wasn't until I discovered John Paul II's "Theology of the Body" that not only Humanae Vitae made sense to this former radical feminist, but the entire Catholic Faith began to make sense through this very concrete, sacramental lens.

YASSSSSSSSSSS

Although the Church has always had a pro-woman, pro-man, pro-child, pro-family, pro-life, body-positive stance with regard to contraception and abortion (remember, whenever we say "no" to something, we're saying "yes" to something else), when Humanae Vitae was issued, it caused not only an uproar among the faithful, but a well, rather "unfaithful" reaction: it was rejected and Catholics contracepted anyway (the Pill was invented in 1960). Without realizing it, Catholics (and anyone else who uses contraception) brought the Sexual Revolution into their marriages. But the SexRev is the antithesis of marriage.

POPE PAUL'S PRESCIENT PREDICTIONS

Now. We should obey God, His Word, His Church and right reason, even if we don't fully understand--while we delve deeper. (St. Anselm called this "faith seeking understanding.") But that didn't happen. So here we are, 50 years later, reaping the bitter fruits that Paul VI predicted would come to fruition if society wholeheartedly embraced contraception: promiscuity/marital infidelity/breakdown of the family; increased objectification of women; governments mandating/promoting anti-life policies; thinking we can do anything with the body as raw material instead of treating it as sacred.

HOW IS HUMANAE VITAE PRO-WOMAN?

Humanae Vitae is pro-woman because it is attentive to and respects a woman's psyche, body and her cycles. The man also must be attentive to a woman's psyche, body and her cycles! Mother Nature has cycles: it's not always Spring and Summer, there's Fall and Winter. Mother Church has cycles: it's not always Christmas and Easter, there's Advent and Lent. Women have cycles: monthly fertility cycles. Women are not always available, that's the lie of male domination, porn, prostitution, a misunderstanding of Scripture, and contraception. "Matrimony" means "Mother's Mission," cuz the man doesn't get preggers, the woman does, and when she does? It's all about her and the wee one(s).

IT'S NOT ABOUT "ARTIFICIAL"

You will never hear me use the word "artificial" before the word "contraception." That's not the prob. It's not artificial vs. natural means. Catholics love true progress. We love science and medicine and technology and we use them all the time...in accord with human dignity: hearing aids, pacemakers, operations, medicine, etc. There is nothing as "natural" as an "artificial" arm. What?! Why? Because a prosthesis takes the place of a missing/disabled arm and does what an arm does. Contraception does not do what a healthy, functioning system in the body does (namely, fertility). It does the exact opposite and turns a healthy, functioning body system into an unhealthy, malfunctioning system, often over long periods of time.

"NATURAL FAMILY PLANNING" IS A BIT OF A MISNOMER

Natural Family Planning first and foremost is about the husband and wife's total gift of body and soul to each other, not about how many children to have and when to have them. NFP is primarily about not holding anything back. With contraception it's: "I love all of you except your fertility which you must suppress." What happens physically in the marital embrace also happens spiritually (because we are body and soul at all times) and the lack of a total gift can erode and cool the relationship over time without the couple even understanding what's happening. Think about these terms and apply them spiritually: "withdrawal," "spermicide," "barrier method," etc. And with a condom? There's not even true physical contact.

ARBY'S HAS THE MEATS AND WE HAVE THE SCIENCE

But! God is so merciful to us that now we have the science (biology and social sciences) that prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that what God told us is good for us actually is, and what God told us is bad for us actually is. The physical, spiritual, psychological, relational and societal effects of contraception are damaging and destructive. The physical, spiritual, psychological, relational and societal effects of NFP are healthy and empowering. I'm going to quote only one statistic here that should make all of us sit up and pay attention and want to know everything we can about NFP: the divorce rate of NFP couples is 1-2%. 

RESOURCES:

NFP--Toronto (Billings Method):
https://toronto.naturalfamilyplanning.ca 

New documentary by former pro-abortion radical feminist and atheist: www.SexualRevolutionMovie.com 

Best books on Humanae Vitae, Theology of the Body, contraception and NFP: www.tinyurl.com/topTOBbooks





July 8, 2018

NETFLIX: "THE GOOD PLACE"



At first I avoided the NBC series, "The Good Place," which just completed its second season--because it looked like the same old/same old, "heaven and hell reimagined" cutesie tripe that feeds into the trivialization of eternity and the life to come. But, at the recommendation of a priest friend, I gave it a whirl. Not bad, and seasoned with some pretty good yuks. 

Kristen Bell plays "Eleanor" who has died and just arrived in "the good place." Ted Danson plays the architect and guide of the Pleasantville-like neighborhood she's been assigned to. But all is not well in paradise. Flaws and deceptions begin to mount. The most glaring incongruity is the fact that Eleanor is, well, not really a good person. Without doing spoilers, since it's the premise of the whole show: Eleanor wound up in heaven by mistake. Yes, that's right. A glitch (there's bureaucracy even in the realms above) sent "fake Eleanor" to heaven in place of "real Eleanor" (they have the same unusual last name) who wound up in "The Bad Place." Once this fact is revealed, the fun begins. 

Fake Eleanor takes philosophy lessons (smacking of moralism) from a friend in order to try to become a better person so she can stay in "The Good Place." But is it ethical that she deprive "real Eleanor" of HER well-earned eternal reward? Of course, the theology here is whack. There ARE no choices or changes in eternity.

And, unlike what Jesus told us: that there's a fixed, uncrossable chasm between heaven and hell, folks from "The Bad Place" can hop on a train to the GP to menace and threaten fake Eleanor with, basically, damnation. This crew is hilarious and they sure take an awful lot of selfies. Another thoroughly creative comedic treat is the A.I. holographic personal assistant, Janet, who even has a counterpart: "bad Janet." Similar to Alexa, you just call out her name... and she appears. But most side-splitting of all is listening to fake Eleanor try to swear. Never gets old.

Some serious writing heft is behind this show. But, in the end, there's no God--yet, anyway--and heaven is not "being with God," "God's home"...it's the banal "my happy place" and "being a good person" is pretty generic and relativistic...therefore, "The Good Place" joins the canon of ersatz celestial misfires. However, for sheer entertainment and zero actual inspiration? "The Good Place" earns its wings.



July 3, 2018

MOVIES: "ANNIHILATION"




The sci-fi thriller, "Annihilation," starring Natalie Portman and Oscar Isaac, starts off intriguingly. Lena is a  woman whose soldier-husband is sent on a secret mission--and goes missing. But Lena, a biologist, makes the case that she should go in search of him. There are lots of unanswered questions from the get-go. Was he unfaithful? Did he go insane? What happened to all the other soldiers who go on this same mission and never return?

The secret mission is to investigate a remote part of Earth that seems to be taken over by an alien force. An area that is ever growing and in which the laws of physics don't apply. Lena finds traces and  belongings of former explorers, including a video of her husband, who's obviously in distress. The suspense only grows in this fantastical but hostile world.

"Annihilation" was directed by Alex Garland, who also directed the stunning, flawless and haunting "Ex Machina" for which Alicia Vikander should have gotten an Academy Award, but I digress. However, Garland's directing and/or the cinematography and/or editing in "Annihilation" has a hokey quality. There's just something hard to buy into about it. We never "get lost" ourselves in the world he's created--as moviegoers should.

But the ending. Oh dear. The filmmakers saved the worst for last. I'm not going to do a spoiler because the film already spoiled itself. All I will say is: trite, "been done before," "Invasion of the Body Snatchers," and do you like "mime"? Do you like ROBOT mime?" I didn't think so. Me neither. But now I've probably made you SO curious that you WILL watch "Annihilation." Don't say I didn't warn you.

P.S. I think this movie was simply a vehicle for testing out some new CGI technology (like the appalling "Polar Express"). There really is no other explanation or excuse.



MOVIES: "A QUIET PLACE"




The new horror film, "A Quiet Place," sets forth a unique, promising and engaging world. A rural family with young children finds itself in the midst of an invasion of creatures who track and kill their victims by sound. It's absolutely necessary that this family lives their lives in utter and encompassing silence. So, is this, er, a "silent film"? Kind of! There's sign language and subtitles, handmotions and reading of lips, and a few special places where the creatures can't hear the spoken word. Makes you really pay attention.

In "A Quiet Place," John Krazinski directs himself and his wife, Emily Blunt--as they play the  beleaguered couple & parents who make the best of their nightmarish existence with love, smiles, and finding ways to make life feel normal for their kids. You can only imagine the survival gymnastics that happen  when a new, noisy baby is born into the midst of this tomb-like silence!

My one beef with "A Quiet Place" is the monsters. Is it just me, or do all movie monsters now look almost exactly alike? About 6 feet tall, they're fast and move on super-long limbs with a kind of crouching gait, boxy heads that look like huge exposed granite skulls--and those mouths with which they screech and roar that always look like gooey strands of taffy is being pulled inside of them. I mean, EVERY single monster? Really, they're more laughable than frightening.

"A Quiet Place" works well and was rated a whopping 95% on Rotten Tomatoes. And aside from the ridiculous monsters, I also wanted a few more plot twists. But it's a good, family friendly, scary romp.





June 28, 2018

MOVIES: "I FEEL PRETTY"




SPOILERS AHEAD.

Amy Schumer's latest comedic offering, "I Feel Pretty," has a simple premise (and no B story): a chubby 20something young adult woman, Renee, trying to fit in to a world of emaciated females, impossible ideals of beauty and vanity sizes...is really struggling. Gyms, mirrors, dating websites, boutique clothing stores all serve to remind her that she doesn't fit in. Literally. However, she's whip smart, runs the website for a cosmetic firm and has great ideas for the company (this will play out in a big way later on).

The film easily holds our attention without being precious or precocious. It references the wishful movie "Big" while at the same time actually imitating it. Renee makes a wish that comes true and...predictably it gets reversed by the end of the film. She becomes what she always wanted to be..."beautiful." Or does she? We don't actually get to see what she sees, and it's better that way.
Renee begins working it with such confidence that everyone goes along for the ride, no matter what she boldly undertakes.

However, she begins to believe her own fake news and live the lie, alienating her friends and turning everyone off with her obnoxiousness.

Amy gets in her contraception and STI jokes, but "I Feel Pretty" is the least crude of her crude films and is rated PG-13. (I wouldn't let my 13 year old see it.) And, as you know, all PG-13 films have to have the pre-requisite pre-marital sex, because if they don't...how will our teens be indoctrinated?! And...maybe our precious "right" to pre-marital sex might be taken away!

The exhibitionist in Amy--as usual--has a hard time keeping her clothes on. Methinks the lady doth disrobe too much. Her boyfriend is very meek and she leads. And initiates sex, of course.

She sees that other people have issues as well. One rich guy questions: do people just love me for my money? In the end, she realizes, "There's no magic, it's just me," and gives a stirring "love yourself just as you are" speech to women, noting that when we're little girls we have tremendous confidence, but then we lose it.

Interestingly, however, she does, finally, also want the affirmation of her boyfriend who "always saw her," and loved her just the way she was, which is refreshing in today's "women don't need men" storytelling climate.

Amy--although a true gutter queen--is also a considerably talented, and makes an art of self-deprecating humor. I seriously wonder how much of "I Feel Pretty" is autobiographical? I hope and pray that maybe someday she can lose the vulgarity to a very large degree.

Want to empower girls/women? Skip "I Feel Pretty" and try Irish step dancing.


OTHER STUFF:

--Lauren Hutton and Michelle Williams also do fine acting jobs.

--The book "Reviving Ophelia," about pre-teen/teen girls losing their confidence is foundational. In this age of social media and the mainstreaming of porn, it could really use an update!

--Renee's speech: "WHEN WE'RE LITTLE GIRLS WE HAVE SUCH CONFIDENCE. WE DOUBT OURSELVES AS WE GROW UP. BUT WHAT IF WE WERE STRONGER THAN THAT? WHAT IF WE DIDN'T CARE WHAT WE LOOK LIKE? WHAT I AM IS BETTER THAN ALL THAT. CUZ I'M ME. THIS NEW LINE OF COSMETICS IS FOR EVERY GIRL WHO IS READY TO BELIEVE IN HERSELF. YOU are BEAUTIFUL! WE ARE ALL THE FACE OF LILY LECLAIR! (THE MAKEUP LINE.)"





June 23, 2018

WHAT TRANSGENDER IDEOLOGY DOES TO CHILDREN


I do not agree with the exact tone with which Dr. Cretella presents everything, but she is saying what no one else will say and has incredibly important information for parents and everyone else. It's important to watch both videos in their entirety.

If your child is struggling with sexual/gender identity or has been indoctrinated by/exposed to transgender ideology in school or through the media, contact www.bestforchildren.org for help.





--What Is Gender Dysphoria in Children?
https://www.acpeds.org/the-college-speaks/position-statements/gender-dysphoria-in-children

--The Harmful Effects of Testosterone on Young Female Bodies
https://4thwavenow.com/2018/06/18/testosterone-young-females-what-is-known-about-lifelong-effects/amp/?__twitter_impression=true

--How Gender Ideology Harms Children: (from the American College of Pediatricians--actual American pediatricians who disagree with the AAP on children's gender issues)

--Is Transgenderism a State-sponsored Religion?
http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2018/01/20547/

--Sex Change: Physically Impossible, Psychosocially Unhelpful, Philosophically Misguided (here's the evidence): http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2018/03/21151/

--Sexuality and Gender: Findings from the Biological, Psychological & Social Sciences
https://www.thenewatlantis.com/publications/executive-summary-sexuality-and-gender

--The Truth About Puberty-Blocking Hormones
https://www.thenewatlantis.com/publications/growing-pains

--Campaign Life Coalition in Canada has a lot of information on gender ideology in the schools: www.campaignlifecoalition.com

--LOTS of TOB resources to teach "sex ed" at home": www.tinyurl.com/TOBsexED  

--Canadian group PAFE (Parents As First Educators) -- activist group: http://pafe-pafe.nationbuilder.com/


--General TOB resources: www.tinyurl.com/TOBresources 

BOOKS:

--"Homosexuality & the Catholic Church: Clear Answers to Difficult Questions" by Fr. John Harvey (founder of www.CourageRC.com 
--"Loving My LGBT Neighbor--Being Friends in Grace & Truth" by Glenn Stanton
--"Understanding Gender Dysphoria" by Mark Yarhouse
--"Living the Truth in Love--Pastoral Approaches to Same-Sex Attraction" by Fr. Paul Check & Dr. Janet Smith
--"The Heart of Female Same-Sex Attraction" by Janelle Hallman
--"Love Thy Body: Answering Hard Questions About Life & Sexuality" by Nancy Pearcey
--"Why I Don't Call Myself Gay: How I Reclaimed My Sexuality and Found Peace" by Dan Mattson
--"When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment" by Ryan T. Anderson