April 29, 2009


Masterpiece Theater just wrapped up airing the five-part series "Little Dorrit." It's grand. Nobody like Dickens' characters, and LD is overflowing with them. "Little Dorrit" was a satire of the British government of the day, but stands perfectly well on its own as a tender love story.

Around Christmas 2008, I read a fantastic book that is screaming "Make me into a movie!": "The Man Who Invented Christmas—How Charles Dickens' 'A Christmas Carol' Rescued His Career and Revived Our Holiday Spirits." (It is also screaming: "Shorten my title!") The book is really about Dickens' life, worldview, how the celebration of Christmas changed because of him, and how he singlehandedly reinvented the book industry. The book gave me great insight into "Little Dorrit," because Dickens' father was imprisoned, much like Little Amy Dorrit's father, for an inability to pay his debts. Dickens, at twelve years of age, had to work himself to the bone to get his father out of prison.

One of the many amazing and revolutionary thing about Dickens is that he treats the lives of the poor as though they are high society, as though they matter every bit as much as the "well born." Austen and the Brontes wrote about people of means, whereas Dickens gave just as much care and detail to his impoverished characters' hopes, dreams and loves. In fact, his underprivileged often have higher morals, standards, and finer, nobler characters than the rich. And LD makes us know that wealth is fleeting, corrupting, illusory and so elusive that the rich find themselves rich one moment, poor the next, then rich again (same for the poor), as was the case with Dickens' own fortunes. Acts of heartfelt love, kindness and forgiveness are what matter and last. In LD, the rich, and those who aspire to riches are, well, either evil or ridiculous…or both.

There's a scene where a Bernie Madoff ("Made-off," get it?) type con-man ruins many who invested with him (in a pre-Ponzi-like Ponzi scheme!) The question is: What does financial ruin change? Whom does it change and how? Whom doesn't it change?

The aforementioned book with the preposterous title gives us a sobering fact: Marx and Engels, contemporaries of Dickens, lived not far from him. Two different social systems. Dickens, while challenging the government to do more for the welfare of its citizens, never forgot where he came from, and visited the poor as well as supported an arts center for the working classes. In "God Is Love," Pope Benedict reminds that the ultimate motive for assisting our fellowman is love and acknowledging individual human dignity. The majority of charitable giving/donations in the USA still come from private individuals, not corporations.

The acting is beyond delightful—the myriad of minor characters provide all the mirth and steal the show--and the chemistry between Amy and Arthur is palpable and painful. As Dickens—master storyteller that he was—said: "Make 'em cry, make 'em laugh, but most of all, make 'em wait." You will be on the edge of your seat till the final scene.

April 28, 2009


The new suspense movie, "State of Play," is an ode to old-fashioned journalism, boasting a stellar international cast that doesn't disappoint: Russell Crowe (Aussie), Rachel McAdams (Canuck), Ben Affleck (Yankee) and Helen Mirren (Brit). (Jason Bateman is just outstanding in his small, sole comic relief role as an unscrupulous, two-bit middleman involved in a game that's way over his head.) The film is self-consciously reminiscent of "All the President's Men," and even utilizes the Watergate building. Although in the beginning it looks like newspaper journalism (Crowe) is going to be pitted against new media (online blog/website) journalism (McAdams), the two join forces to get the story the only way it can be got: by pounding the pavement, taking personal risks, and talking to sources. Where the story eventually shows up is secondary to the actual content.

The story keeps a tense pace without overdoing it, either in the soundtrack or in the sparse action scenes. Everything—the multiple crimes under investigation and the way the story is gathered—teeters on what's legal, what's ethical, what does our American society stand for, anyway? The tale is intricate without being complicated. Above all, "State of Play" is humane. It's about interweaving relationships and loyalties vis-à-vis Washington power and war profiteering. When things get too cold and rough and ugly, one character will always exhibit a piece of humanity that reminds everyone why we do any of what we do, and what the ultimate standards are: marriage, friendship, love of country, the truth. Everyone is tempted to sell out in some way, including the head of the "Washington Globe" newspaper (Helen Mirren). To speak about innocent civilians as collateral damage is decried. And of the four casualties swept up in an expedient string of murders, one is achingly described as "simply delivering pizzas." In fact, what sets off the entire investigation is a telltale emotion: on camera, a married Congressman (Affleck) breaks down in tears over a female staff member's death, and the whole world instantly recognizes they were having an affair. Plans never go according to plan because people keep being human and messing them up (e.g., falling in love with someone you're supposed to be spying on).

Russell Crowe's veteran journalist manifests the constant conflict of interest that plagues every journalist in their efforts to be objective and truthful. They, too, are humans with their own flaws, alliances, dalliances, and ulterior motives as they struggle to perform for the public the job and service they love and are driven to do. The indispensable role of the media, the fourth (and possibly fifth) estate, in our democracy is underlined in bold: "I think people know the difference between [cow patties] and news and are grateful that someone cares enough to tell the story." The image of a whole newsroom reverently waiting while a lone reporter types out an important scoop also serves this purpose. The closing credits are of the printing/production phase of a newspaper, an institution we've taken for granted and relied on for so long, but which may become archival footage very soon.

At a certain point, we begin wondering who is really more "dangerous" to people's personal agendas: politicians or the media? (Remember Governor Blago attempting to make sure reporters critical of him at the Chicago Sun-Times got fired?) The film reminds us that every year there are many journalists around the world who DO give their lives for their profession. "State" also brings out the fact that police and reporters are often in a very similar business, neck and neck in their progress on a case.

The Congressman is involved in a hearing regarding "Pointcorp," a private security company made up of ex-military that is raking in the do-re-mi in Iraq. (Blackwater, anyone?) Not only that, but Pointcorp is poised to be the face of a coming privatized Homeland Security, law enforcement, domestic intelligence infrastructure. (Conspiracy theory? Check out Naomi Klein's book "The Shock Doctrine.")

The "State" viewing experience is marred only by a few minor logic gaps. An ending twist points to the fact that stories are rarely finished. There's always more, another layer, deeper connections. Rated PG-13, there's hardly any profanity, foul language, violence and no nudity, even though these would have been germane. A "movie for grown ups" (as Entertainment Weekly puts it). Truly grown up. So often "adult" is made to be synonymous with what it actually adolescent.

"State of Play" made me worry even more about something I've been worrying a lot about lately: our desperate need for trained, paid, accountable journalists who are employed by an impartial party to uncover stories, goings-on, potential and actual shenanigans at the local, state and federal level. This has been our system for quite some time, and it has worked rather well (albeit that newspapers in general are left-leaning--but everyone knows that). Fabricate a story? Do something unethical? Get paid off? Promote a product? Can't tell hard news from soft news? Lose your job. It doesn't so much matter whether news is in print or online. The only problem with online is that everything is FREE and you only get what you DON'T pay for.

A free [not under government coercion] (and serious) press is essential in a democracy.

Another sore need we have is that of NEWS LITERACY—training children, teens and adults how to "read" and "read through" the news: www.thenewsliteracyproject.org


Why don't characters ever TIPTOE in parking garages when they're being pursued by murderous thugs???? They always sound like woolly mastodons crashing through the underbrush! Do they all have some kind of sick death wish?

Am I the only one who can't take Jeff Daniels seriously any more after "Dumb and Dumber"???

Don't think we don't notice that believers are often the villains, Hollywood. The only mention of God-fearingness in this movie is by a hypocritical scumbag.

The ultimate barb to the heart: "I would never do that to you."


So why does Hollywood keep making movies about newspapermen? The short answer is that Hollywood loves a good yarn. For much of its 100-plus-year history, whenever Hollywood has portrayed journalists, it seems to have taken the advice of the frontier newspaper editor in John Ford's "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance," who said: "When the legend becomes fact, print the legend."



Supermodel Kathy Ireland Lashes Out Against Pro Choice


Today at 10:11am

It's no secret that the majority of Hollywood stars are strong advocates for a woman's right to choose whether or not she wants to terminate a pregnancy, however former "Sports Illustrated" supermodel-turned-entrepreneur-turned-author Kathy Ireland has gone against the grain of the glitterati and spoken out against abortion.

"My entire life I was pro-choice — who was I to tell another woman what she could or couldn't do with her body? But when I was 18, I became a Christian and I dove into the medical books, I dove into science," Ireland told Tarts while promoting her insightful new book "Real Solutions for Busy Mom: Your Guide to Success and Sanity."

"What I read was astounding and I learned that at the moment of conception a new life comes into being. The complete genetic blueprint is there, the DNA is determined, the blood type is determined, the sex is determined, the unique set of fingerprints that nobody has had or ever will have is already there."

However Ireland admitted that she did everything she could to avoid becoming a believer in pro-life.

"I called Planned Parenthood and begged them to give me their best argument and all they could come up with that it is really just a clump of cells and if you get it early enough it doesn't even look like a baby. Well, we're all clumps of cells and the unborn does not look like a baby the same way the baby does not look like a teenager, a teenager does not look like a senior citizen. That unborn baby looks exactly the way human beings are supposed to look at that stage of development. It doesn't suddenly become a human being at a certain point in time," Ireland argued. "I've also asked leading scientists across our country to please show me some shred of evidence that the unborn is not a human being. I didn't want to be pro-life, but this is not a woman's rights issue but a human rights issue."

Ireland also asserted that she believes "no justification is adequate" (for an abortion) unless another the mother's life is in danger.

"In that instant, your intention is not to kill but to save the life of another. If we're about to demolish a building we make absolute certain there are no human beings in there before we take a wrecking ball to it, but the unborn doesn't have a voice so it's up to us to speak for them," she added passionately. "If I see someone abusing a child I am going to stand up against that, and that's how I feel about abortion. Women are not given all the facts, they're told it is a harmless procedure and now it has turned into such a political football."

The committed Christian and devoted mother even dedicated the chapter "Faith & Your Family" in her new book to her foundations in Christianity and believes that this is what's missing from so many American families today.

"You have to figure out your own values and why you have them. People are going to try and push and pull at your convictions, so you have to have boundaries and put them in place," she said.

But on the opposite end of the spectrum, "Judging Amy" star Amy Brenneman has been busy voicing her views as a strong advocate of pro-choice over recent years.

"(My involvement) is really through this feminist majority that I work with and it is a very important issue that's close to my heart," Brenneman told Tarts at last week's Autism Speaks event in Hollywood. "Unless a woman really has sovereignty over her own body we really haven't come that far."



Hillary Clinton Promises the US will spread abortion around the world

.help C-FAM and the Friday Fax stop her

                                                                                                                 April 28, 2009

Dear Friday Fax Reader,

Only a few days ago Hillary Clinton appeared before the US House of Representatives and in sworn testimony said the following. Keep in mind, she promised all these things in her official capacity of US Secretary of State!

  • Clinton praised Margaret Sanger, the racist and eugenicist founder of Planned Parenthood Federation. She compared Sanger to Thomas Jefferson!
  • Clinton praised the UN Population Fund, the UN agency that helped set up and run the Chinese one child policy which is responsible for millions of forced abortions.
  • Clinton said the US would ratify the pro-abortion CEDAW treaty, meaning the last meaningful CEDAW holdout will now fall.

These things are awful and dangerous enough but she also said this:

  • The full force of the US government will be used to get governments to change their laws on abortion all over the world.

You likely know that the US has the most radical abortion laws in the world: abortion for any reason and no reason through all nine months of pregnancy. Hillary Clinton wants this for the entire world.

You likely know that most of the world has abortion either against the law or heavily regulated. Radical pro-abortion feminists like Hillary Clinton cannot stand this. They hold abortion to be a kind of secular sacrament, a sacrament that everyone must worship!

I know Hillary Clinton. My staff and I did battle with her throughout the 1990s when her husband occupied the Oval Office. I watched her work at Cairo+5, Beijing+5 and I can tell you first hand that Hillary Clinton is among the most radical pro-abortion advocates in the whole world.

I truly fear that with Hillary Clinton as US Secretary of State and with Barack Obama as President of the United States, and with their allies at the UN, we are in for the most wicked four years in our global battle to protect the unborn child from abortion.

C-FAM, publisher of the Friday Fax, is the only pro-life group working exclusively on UN social policy issues. The Friday Fax is the ONLY WEEKLY SOURCE OF PRO-LIFE AND PRO-FAMILY NEWS coming out of UN headquarters in New York.

Over the next four years, likely the only source news about Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama and their attempts to spread abortion through the UN will come from the Friday Fax!

Friday Fax reporters, writers and analysts spend their days pouring over UN documents and sitting through interminably boring UN meetings just to bring you the news that you cannot get from any other source. Often we are the only pro-lifers in the room!

Over the years, we have built a subscriber base of 200,000 and a weekly readership of half a million. Policy makers, scholars, government officials, activists, good guys and bad guys all over the world read the Friday Fax.

The Friday Fax is free to you but it is not cheap to produce and we are writing today alert to this impending threat from Hillary Clinton and to ask for your financial assistance.

The Friday Fax costs roughly $177,000 per year to produce.

This includes office rental space, small salaries for our reporters, printing and postage for our mail edition, and significant monthly costs to mail 1 million Friday Fax messages a month!

Can you help us with this huge and growing expense?

Click HERE to contribute to the Friday Fax. This link will take you to a page where you can give online using our totally secure server. You can also give by electronic check, bank transfer, and by mail.

If you want to mail a check to us, use this address:

C-FAM/Friday Fax
1100 G Street NW
Suite 450
Washington, DC 20005

My Friday Fax staff is primed and ready to report on every nefarious pro-abortion plot that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama cook up. We will be there. We will report. We will tell the whole world.

Can you help us with this important task?  In these difficult times, perhaps you have been financial blessed and can contribute as much as $500? Can you help us with $100? How about $50?

Click HERE to help C-FAM and the Friday Fax do battle against Hillary Clinton and her plans to spread abortion all over the world. Remember, she pledged to use U.S. government power to do this. Is this not frightening?

Click HERE. Please do not wait. Go HERE right now and give as much as you are able. I promise your contribution will be spent wisely and well in exposing the international abortion plans of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

Yours sincerely,

Austin Ruse

P.S. This is week 3 in our six-week fundraising campaign. Next week I will tell you about how Catholic beliefs are under fire at the UN.

P.P.S. Hillarys chief negotiator at the UN is a radical feminist named Margaret Pollack. I know her. She knows me. Likely she is reading this. Margaret, we will be watching. 

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April 23, 2009




This one-hour documentary was released in 2005, but seems to be enjoying a resurgence in popularity. (Just saw a banner ad for it on The Huffington Post.) Created by Brian Flemming, who attended a fundamentalist Christian school in California as a child, calls his work "a search for Jesus." His conclusion is that Christianity is bunk, which is all well and good, except that his "research" is, for the most part, based on bunk and astonishingly gross inaccuracies. The documentary is mildly witty, but put together with a very simple, pleasing aesthetic that makes it very easy to watch.

Before I review the DVD, let me say that I feel for Brian who felt terrorized as a child by the threat of damnation he was taught at school. Being a smart kid, he knew Jesus would forgive everything except the "sin against the Holy Spirit," which was not well explained to him. So, naturally, when he doubted the Holy Spirit, he felt he was going to hell. I think a lot of kids and adults have gone through scrupulous periods in their lives (mostly from poor teaching), but we need to overcome them—as Brian did—and learn something from this process about the true nature of God. God is love. God is mercy. God desires our salvation more than we do. His will is a saving will. I think that once we come to that, we break with our unhealthy fears of the past, get over it, and move on. This is part of maturation.

So what is this unforgiveable "sin against the Holy Spirit"? Simply that we reject God's mercy. God does not force anything on us. We are free. God's forgiveness is no good to us if we don't accept it. The Catholic Church helpfully lists the most common ways we can reject or thwart God's mercy. (Yes! We can thwart God's saving will in our regard! We are more powerful than God! But He will never stop loving us, even if we're in hell.) 1) resisting the known truth 2) obstinacy in sinning 3) final impenitence 4) despair 5) presumption 6) [this one I don't totally understand:] envy of the graces received by others. (People smarter than I could explain this, but I'll take a stab: Envy of mankind—which was Satan's big problem in the Garden after Pride caused him to fall from heaven—was a total lack of trust in God. Envy says: God is not good in my regard, God can't be trusted in my regard, and wouldn't this just totally rupture our entire relationship with Him?)

Brian starts off with: "Christianity was wrong about the solar system. What else might it be wrong about?" Oh dear, oh dear. So, I should start my science documentary with "Science was wrong about blood-letting and Earth being flat. What else might it be wrong about?" Nicholas Copernicus, who started the "Copernican revolution"—the earth revolves around sun, not vice versa—was a Roman Catholic Polish priest. Yes, that's Father Copernicus to you. (Just as the Big Bang Theory was posited by a French priest, Father Georges Lemaitre.) Flemming, of course, is referring to the "Galileo Affair," which, without even looking, I'm sure Wikipedia treats fairly. JP2G apologized profusely for this gaffe.

Let us remember that it wasn't just "Christianity," but the whole world who "kept up" with science, such as it was, pre-modern and modern. When startling new findings were proposed/discovered, there was always some resistance from all quarters. Science keeps changing its story, or rather, refining it, discovering new layers, depths, etc. So does Christianity in its own way: "development of doctrine," nuance, better understandings/explanations for God's immutable reality/truth. Why is it that only science is allowed to make boo-boos and claim infallibility (at the same time)?


--Brian calls Charles Manson and other mentally ill or criminally insane people "Christians."

--Brian makes fun of the victims of the Waco massacre, calling them "86 crispy fans" of the rapture

--Brian dates the writing of the Gospels much later than their actual writing because the Gospel of Mark mentions the destruction of the Temple (70 AD). But this was a prediction of the Temple's destruction.

--Jesus died in 33 AD (Nope—'cause he was born about 6 BC! Everyone knew that the crazy monk who made our calendar was off by a few years. Even his contemporaries. But he wouldn't listen.)

--Brian puts forth all kinds of undocumented claims: Jesus may have died before A.D., Everyone forgot about Jesus after he died until Paul came along. (NO mention of the Apostles missionary work, the Church in Rome, etc.)

--Brian ignores ALL extra-biblical documents and sources around the time of Jesus like the Jewish historian Josephus, official Roman documents, etc. All he mentions are Gnostic sources. And Gnosticism is not Christianity. It's a completely different religion.

--Atheist author Sam Harris chillingly states: You can't just say that human life is sacred and so it is, based on your religious beliefs. [I hope he thinks that secular humanists could say it based on their humanism and based on the fact that we ARE human and we love our species or something. I hope he thinks human life is special and worth something!]

--There are, like, NO normal Christians in the doc, except some sweet (and made to look ignorant because they possibly were) Billy Graham Crusade go-ers. And no Catholics who would tell ya in no uncertain terms that faith and reason are BFFs! Brian shows lots of clips from rabid, bigoted anchormen-hair televangelists from the 70's and 80's.

--Like Dawkins, Brian reads the Bible at face value and concludes that God is a tyrannical, homophobic, misogynist, jealous, mean, murderous despot. He says the "God hates Fags" wackos are right. If you're a good believer, you should be stoning sinners. "Moderate Christianity makes no sense." Actually, Christianity makes no sense at all except from the inside, so I can totally see how he would come to this conclusion from the outside. This also why "Sola Scriptura" is impossible. We need the Church to explain the Scriptures to us: What belongs to the past, what is still in vogue, how God has changed in His ways of dealing with His people. That's also why the New Testament, the New Covenant, is truly new. (Brian lumps the Hebrew Scriptures [Old Testament] with the New.)

--Brian states that Paul only preached a heavenly Jesus, not an earthly one, as though Paul didn't know Jesus had an earthly life. It was common first century preaching to emphasize the divinity of Jesus. Also, the Gospels took care of meticulously covering Jesus' "earthly" life. In Paul, what we have is follow-up pastoral letters, not his original kerygma (first preaching of the Gospel to a people). Just because Paul didn't talk about "Mary and Joseph" doesn't mean he "didn't know" about them! Paul says what he needs to about Jesus' lineage (of David), the fact that He was "true man" ("born of a woman, under the Law"--Galatians 4:4). Also, the people Paul was talking to--at least in Jerusalem--knew Jesus themselves! (1 Corinthians 15:6)


--Clips from a delightful 1905 silent movie of the Life of Christ kind of steal the whole show. Love those Victorian angels!

--Faith and reason SHOULD go together! "If faith does not think, it is nothing." –St. Augustine.

--Atheist author Sam Harris is right: Dogmas SHOULD be examined critically. (Otherwise you're in a cult. As I tell the teens: if any religion—or anyone else—tells you not to think, or they'll do your thinking for you: RUN!! It's not of God who is the donor of our brains and expects a return on His investment.) To just throw something into the realm of faith or belief does not make it out of bounds or a "conversation stopper."

--The Christian story--what God did in Jesus Christ--isn't completely, totally different from other ancient and contemporaneous myths. Why not? 1) Because this is God's world. There are inklings of God everywhere, including in the psyches of mythmakers, cultures, religions, the human heart. There are "seeds of the Gospel" everywhere. 2) God is all about Incarnation—coming into what IS. 3) Jesus wasn't as interested in being intelligible to Gentiles as to the Jews. And the Jews had a very unique God story. We Christians are the "wild olive" grafted onto the domestic olive tree that is Judaism. We cannot evangelize Christ without evangelizing the history of God in Israel. "Spiritually, we are all Semites." –Pius XII 4) Yes, the difference with this "myth" is that it's true 5) Yes, Satan likes to set up his bogus, counterfeit, sham, reverse-perverse, lookalike, parody kingdom everywhere (not that all others myths/religions are demonic by any means, but Satan likes to get his tail into the panoply of religions and multiply, confuse, divide and conquer). Check out the Book of Revelation for Satan's Happy Palace that looks suspiciously like the Lamb's.

--Yes, some of the Bible is folklore. Inspired folklore.

Should you see this DVD? If you wish. It's simply nothing new, does not add to the conversation. It's Brian's coming out. However, I found "Religulous" a tad more honest.

April 19, 2009


Never has a movie gone so awry. Never has a movie so redeemed itself.

"Tokyo Sonata," the story of a Japanese businessman who loses his job and the impact it has on his family, is (unfortunately) all too appropriate for our times. "Sonata" has already won ten film awards, and has opened in Chicago at the Music Box Theater.

Each member of the family has their secrets, hopes and dreams: the dutiful wife who keeps everyone's secrets, the musically-gifted younger son, the older son trying to find his place in the larger world beyond Japan. When the father loses his job, he is too ashamed to tell his wife, so he pretends and goes off to work every day. He meets up with an old friend in the same condition he is, also fooling his wife. Just the sight of the two of them, briefcases in hand, all dressed up for success and no place to go, is an apt image of the economic crash. The culture of honor weighs oppressively on everyone, and one wonders if family life is really this formalistic in Japan. But in spite of the father's perpetual look of terror, anger and humiliation, this is not a downer movie. We have no idea—and neither do they—how they will solve their problems, so the suspense is taut. We fear the proverbial Japanese suicide-rather-than-failure solution. The plenty of lighter moments keep us hoping this will not be the case.

Our American imprint on Japanese culture is everywhere in "Sonata," for being such a recent influence (WWII), but we know that our countries' histories are vastly different and something else is at work here. There is certainly no Christian worldview or assumptions. The mother is truly the heart of the family and the mediator for the contentious relationships between father and sons. Everyone seems to let their guard down and speak freely and humanly when the father's not around. The father himself lets his guard down when he's not at home. Everyone feels they are playing a role (and the characters speak about this) which the father is directing, as though it is some sacred tradition that must be continued, even though it is making everything worse.

Then, three-quarters of the way into the movie, the movie falls apart. Badly. First, a few false notes creep in and then—who stole the movie? [The very first false note was when the older son returns home from war.] Bizarre misfortune after bizarre misfortune strike and suddenly there is tons of non-subtle humor, and other stuff is funny that's probably not supposed to be funny, and this near-perfect, trim movie is ruined by turning it into either a European-style existentialist film OR some kind of Japanese philosophical meandering. But then, after everyone finishes processing their innermost thoughts by talking out loud to themselves, everyone shuts back up, and we are treated to a breathtaking, hushing, lump-in-the-throat, heart-clinching, hope-filled, non-verbal ending that gets to Dad, too. Perhaps the wildly spun-out-of-control piece was meant to be just that, the surreal free-fall when our world comes apart. And you never know what can happen if you stick it out.

I left the theater smiling ear to ear.

SEMI-SPOILER ALERT: The actor playing the younger, smart-alecky son, was keeping a secret from us, the audience. He really IS a phenomenally-talented pianist!

Of special mention is the elegant, large, clear English subtitles by Linda Hoaglund. Give this woman an award. You will never have it so easy reading subtitles! The grammar is perfect. There are no misspellings. The subtitles are perfectly timed. I truly forgot I was watching a film in another language.

Other films exploring the stress of unemployment:

--Bicycle Thief (1948) The original "unemployed" movie. A father and son circle down into poverty. Molehills become mountains.

--Pursuit of Happyness (2006) A father and son strive mightily to make the right connections and appointments to build a new life.

--Saint of Fort Washington (1993) Mental illness causes homelessness. A veteran of the streets takes a young schizophrenic man under his wing. There but for the grace of God go we.

--Angela's Ashes (1999) Religious prejudice prevents the father of an already poverty-stricken family from finding work.

--Erin Brockovich (2000) Native talent and chutzpah save the day for a single Mom.

--It's a Wonderful Life (1946) Losing everything can happen in a heartbeat. But life is still worth living.


The younger son's schoolteacher loses his authority over the classroom when they discover that he has been using manga porn. Ironically, the moment occurs when he is teaching them Japanese "honorific diction/address." The teacher himself even refers to his porn use as a "wound."

The older son tells his mother to get a divorce, but the Mom says, "it's more complicated than that," and "it's not so bad playing the mother."

The father seems to be in some kind of competition with his sons, as though he doesn't really want them to succeed (all the while hiding his own "failure.")

April 16, 2009



[shallowpated comments by Sr. Helena in brackets]

The best translation of HV is at www.vatican.va

--Our masculinity and femininity is the "fundamental element" of our being human. It's everywhere in Scripture.

--In the Eastern Church, the week after Easter is the week of the Bridegroom—"He emerges from the tomb like a Bridegroom coming from His bridal chamber."

--the liturgy's language is conjugal, conjugal relations are liturgical [Sr. Helena is working on this thing: the Church/liturgy has a cycle that has to be respected, acknowledged and celebrated by all--and so does a woman!]

--we reread the "language of the body in truth"—JP2G Fr. Loya likes to call it "honesty." The H zone.

--Paul VI said: for the world to understand HV, they'll have to have a complete, correct understanding of the human person. But a sacramental, Catholic worldview was missing, so most rejected HV, even those who should have known, like theologians.

p. 617 in "Man and Woman He Created Them": The whole of TOB was to give this view of the human person in order to explain HV! That's why the text wraps up with "Some Reflections on Humanae Vitae."

We should START finding truth by observing, contemplating the created order! Nature! Because the created order came first. There is an order. It is "the natural law." E.g., gravity.

Instead of people starting from the natural order, they start from something else—a desire/will/ideology that they try to twist the natural order into. (E.g., not observing the economic order has caused disaster.)

The order of the conjugal act is twofold, can't be separated: mutual love of the spouses & procreation. The "innermost structure" of the conjugal act is what happens every time, so its meaning is tied up in both these things: 1) union/communion of persons 2) potential for life. So we try to ARTIFICIALLY separate them. If we try to pretend they can be separated with no consequences, we are wrong. [Removing either #1 or #2 is very damaging.]

"Precepts of the natural law belong to the jurisdiction of the Magisterium." In one sense, there's no "teaching" of the Church—we just say: this is what God did / said. The Church is just the press secretary for God.

Priests were not taught how to explain HV. They were taught: "it will change, just tell people to follow their consciences."

Because HV is natural law, it is for ALL men and women.

Gaudium et Spes (GS) and HV are intended to be pastoral documents—the Church understands that women are working, things are expensive, etc., etc. HV not intended to impose anything/hardship. Is there effort needed here? Yes! But the world wants convenience. With the help of God, nothing is impossible. In the process, you'll become better. Just because it's hard, doesn't mean it's wrong. Yes, it involves asceticism. When something is difficult or challenging—we rely on God!

"Pastoral concern" means seeking the TRUE good of man, not just making things easy for people. The pastoral plan is trying to discover the divine plan of God for human love. The best thing is to do it God's way—put it into practice.

p. 626: "responsible parenthood"—generous/prudent accepting of new life OR the need to postpone births for a serious reason for even an indeterminate period of time.

Correct hierarchy of values: God, family, society.

Q: Isn't contraception like taking medicine to prevent something (bad)?
A: No, because pregnancy isn't a disease. You are surpressing a perfectly healthy part of your body, while at the same time trying to use it for ½ of what it was intended for.

Also, sexual intercourse belongs to a particular order. It is ordered to begetting of life. For example: Eating belongs to the order of eating. Throwing up food is not a part of that (bulimia). We are doing something natural (eating) but then frustrating its purpose. Bulimia is contraception of eating.

The world doesn't see how things are ORDERED. The world thinks it's all up to us to order things as we see fit.

An infertile married couple can have sex (without being able to conceive). It's no fault of theirs that they can't conceive, so they can continue to act in the order of sexual intercourse, or old couple, etc.

IT'S NOT JUST ABOUT OUR INTENTIONS, GOOD OR OTHERWISE. If that was so, then artificial contraception and NFP (natural family planning) would be on the same plane. IT'S ALSO, INSEPARABLY, ABOUT THE ORDER OF THINGS, THE "HOW." THE END DOESN'T JUSTIFY THE MEANS.

CONTRACEPTION IS A WORLDVIEW. We contracept all the time: decaf coffee, lite beer, fast food, asphalt, processed food. Contraception means "doing something, but not really doing it." Priests contracept when they go to the pulpit and are too afraid to tell the truth.

Q: How do you talk to people about natural law?
A: Plug into their sacred cows! You might actually share their same values. Affirm that. Agree on something. E.g., atheists are all about being honest. Say: I am too! E.g.: a young woman who wants to get married but not have children wants to be happy, know love—which are good things--(but she doesn't really know how to achieve these which would be to follow God's ways).

When discussing with people: use phenomenology. What are they feeling? What they're feeling is not wrong. It's real and true. They're really feeling it.

Contraception is separating body and soul.

Q: We manipulate and control everything in our lives. Everything. And then in the biggest part of our life—fertility—it's "hands off"????? The difference between having 0, 1, or 10 kids??? We try to extend our domination to even our bodies, personhood, transmission of human life. We turn OURSELVES into an object of manipulation.

We keep thinking we can cheat the natural law, and we always get burned. [God always forgives, man sometimes forgives, nature never forgives.]

p. 630 #5 "TOB is not merely a theory, but a specific Christian pedagogy of the body! Comes from the Bible!"

YOUR BODY KNOWS THE THEOLOGY OF THE BODY. WHEN SOMETHING FAKE/FOREIGN/PROCESSED GOES IN IT, IT KNOWS AND GETS SICK. Cancer needs sugar to grow! Cancer, diabetes, heart disease are because of the bad, fake food we ingest. It's not the fats, etc., in their raw form.

[By obeying nature we're obeying God???? We probably should be "obeying nature" in many more things, too! Our whole lives: food, sleep, exercise, work, social life]

We are acting like we're blind/deaf/dumb—We only ask: CAN we do it? (Never SHOULD we?) Then we do it. (But we don't murder, pillage, just because we can! Hopefully.)

When they told women that mother's milk was bad (the formula companies), and women stopped breastfeeding, they got pregnant even more often (because breastfeeding helps space out births). [It was the awesome Chicago La Leche League of Awesome Catholic Women that reversed that!]

There was much abuse in the pre-Vat II Church of women: The only marriage prep was telling the woman: "never deny your husband." ["If he leaves, it's your fault." Everything was the woman's fault. There was no compassion. Men were told they were animals with no control and given a pass to act as animals. Women were truly abused and victimized. Women were counseled (even in Confession) to stay in abusive, battering marriages. There was no concern for a woman's health with regard to childbearing. The Church needs to acknowledge this and repent. But of course things have changed and we've moved on: TOB! NFP! Yippee!]

Q: What about women who take contraception to regulate their periods?
A: Have they looked at the whole picture: food, sleep, vitamins, etc.? Be suspicious when they tell you to take a pill and everything will be OK. [Contraception pills are used to cure everything: acne, etc. They seem to be used as a cure-all, wonder drug. Is it possible there isn't something JUST to treat the specific problem rather than playing with one's hormones?]

p. 633 #7—"Such a violation of the inner structure of the conjugal act is the reason it's evil." The couple is not really TOTALLY giving to each other. It really isn't love-making.

The whole order of Creation is all about the Bride, for the Bride, to protect the Bride. Men are to protect and cherish the Bride, not ravage the Bride.

[Contrary to popular belief] God / the Church wants you to have the best sex possible! [And NFP couples report thus.]

p. 650 #6 Arousal tends, is ordered toward the conjugal act. If you can't engage in the conjugal act, then you shouldn't engage in arousal. But EMOTIONS/AFFECTIONS/INTIMACY can be expressed in non-arousal ways.

Q: So, no kissing on dates?
A: It depends on what you mean by dating AND kissing. The Church looks at dating differently. Dating is ordered to marriage.

Q: How does a celibate person express themselves sexually?
A: Filial expression of love: hugging, etc., not romantically. The key is living spousally. For religious sisters=Jesus. For priests=Church. Self-mastery is done through all the helps the Church offers us. [We are sexual beings 24/7 and express our sexuality in everything we do.] Gift of self and dying to self. If I were to talk to a group of celibates and a group of married couples, it would sound the same.

Because women are contracepting—they don't "smell" (pheromones) right to men. So men get less interested in them. Also, women pick "Mr. Wrong" when they're contracepting, because their ability to "smell properly" goes off. (For more: see Vicky Thorn's "Biology of the Theology of the Body" DVD/CD http://www.theologyofthebody.net/ )

Q: When you can't be honest in the bedroom (between husband and wife)—you can't be honest anywhere. I've seen this. They bring the dishonesty with them into the corporate world.

The womb is the tabernacle. If we can mess with that, the most sacred place, then why should anything else be sacred?

Even the way we COMMUNICATE is contraceptive: cell phones constantly interrupting, "always being available" [which is also "promiscuous". Is it even a good thing to be "always available"?]…. NOT REALLY DOING WHAT YOU'RE DOING. "AGE QUOD AGIS"—Latin for "do what you're doing."


MAKE A LIST OF ALL THE WAYS WE "CONTRACEPT": CREDIT CARDS, DAYCARE CENTERS, MULTI-TASKING. We're not really buying things we can afford. We don't really own them. We're not really raising our own kids. We're not really giving our attention fully to any one thing. [A young kid reported that "talking to one person at a time is boring"—young people IM several friends at a time.] Fr. Loya had a young kid interrupt his confession to answer his cell phone!!!! [Someone else reported a priest answering the phone in confession!]

NFP families live a spirituality of generosity—they give the most $, are generous with their time, etc.

If married people know so much about sex/marriage, why do 50% of marriages fail? If you crash your car 50% of the time, wouldn't you have to say you're a bad driver? Living spousally is the same for celibates and married couples.

When marriages go wrong, they're not living celibate enuf. When celibate life goes wrong, they're not living spousally enuf.

Everything rises and falls on contraception because it's a WORLDVIEW.

Interior world view=ethos. It's what's in the heart or not that effects our whole outer world. That's why Jesus was so concerned about what was going on in our hearts.


The below stats are from Janet Smith's book "Why Humanae Vitae Was Right." They are several years old. (HV predicted these things.)

April 6, 2009


A man I met over the weekend converted his father to Catholicism by having him watch "Gran Torino." This man's father is a Vietnam vet (it seems a lot of vets are really connecting with GT). This man is a convert to Catholicism himself in 2003 (from the atheism he was raised in). He confronted his father after his father watched the movie. "Dad, do you know what's wrong in this movie? It's the father of the family. The reason his son and grandchildren are so chillingly callous, shallow and materialistic is because the father never passed on his values, his religion (Clint Eastwood's character is Catholic)." He told his father: "You were loyal to this country [his military service], but you were disloyal to our family [he left them], to God and to the Catholic Church [their family had been Catholic several generations before]. Now do the right thing and come back." The father agreed.

This man had an amazing reading on GT. He said the car stands for America (every time you see the car, the American flag is there), and everyone wants it. The old white American and his family, the gang members, the immigrants, everyone. And it is taken into the future by the young immigrants who love this country.

April 5, 2009


Looking for DVDs that entertain AND inspire little ones? A new rendition of "The Velveteen Rabbit," directed by Michael Landon, Jr., and voiced by Jane Seymour, Tom Skerritt, Ellen Burstyn and others, is now available at Amazon.com. The new VR is a delightful mix of live action--set in Victorian times--and animation. Because it's based on the classic children's book by Margery Williams (written in 1922), VR, the movie, has substance, adventure, loads of imagination, and rich truths beneath its surface.

A lonely little boy whose mother is dead and whose father is cold and distant, is sent to live with his equally cold grandmother. His only friend is a stuffed bunny he finds in the "magic attic." Whenever he wants, Toby can disappear into a wonderful world (animation) of his own making where Rabbit (and Swan and Horse) come to life. There, Toby finds warmth, play and friendship. Only it isn't real. Rabbit longs to join Toby forever in the real world but doesn't know how. When Toby contracts scarlet fever, Rabbit learns that death is real, and he has to make a choice whether to let his human friend die, or give his own life for him. Of all the lessons to be learned from this story, "Love makes us real," is the brightest nugget.

And we can't know where love will lead us until we actually lay down our lives/put love in action. Love involves a choice, a threshold, a line to be crossed, a point of no return.

The sad scenes in VR are age appropriate (ages 3-8). All is seen through Toby's eyes, who experiences emotions that children can readily identify with. They may shed a tear or two, but they won't be crying at the end. VR gently introduces children to death (both Toby's mother's and his own near-death experience), and Swan is the matronly character who explains it all. The young actor playing Toby is superb, as is the voice of the incredibly cute animated Rabbit (sounds like Linus from "The Peanuts").

The pacing is slow and even, as one idea, one plot point at a time is presented, making it easy for little ones to follow, contemplate and retell. VR is an excellent vehicle to talk to children about imagination and the nature of all virtual reality (all media-created reality) compared to reality. VR is a quality edition to a young (or not-so-young) DVD library. Like Dickens' stories, there's a Christian logic at work here. Love is what it means to be human, and humans CAN change, no matter how fixed, crusty and stony their hearts may seem.

It is said that our worldview is formed very early from the books we read as children. And re-read and re-read: "One more time, Daddy!" Have you ever watched a totally engrossed little face that is reading or being read to? You can almost hear the gears trying to put all the pieces of the puzzle of life together.

As we grow up, maybe it's better not to leave our magic attics too far behind.