September 30, 2014

DAUGHTERS OF ST. PAUL CHRISTMAS CHOIR SCHEDULE 2014


 It's almost time again, folks! Here's where we'll be:

Joy to the World
Daughters of St Paul
2014 Christmas Concert


Piscataway, New Jersey
Wednesday, December 3 at 7:00 pm
Our Lady of Fatima Parish
499 New Market Road
Ticket information: Tel. 732-968-5555 | Web: www.olfparish.org


Staten Island, New York
Thursday, December 4 at 6:00 pm
Benefit for the Daughters of St. Paul
Staten Island Hilton Garden Inn
1100 South Avenue @ Lois Lane
Ticket price: $125
For more information: 718-477-2100 x 226
www.daughtersofstpaul.com/hiltonconcert


Cleveland, Ohio
Friday, December 5 at 7:00 pm
Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist
1007 Superior Avenue
For more information: 216-696-6525 x 5510 | Email: gheislman@dioceseofcleveland.org


Ramsey, New Jersey
Sunday, December 7 at 7:00pm
*Featuring Don Bosco Prep H.S. Boys Choir
St. Paul R. C. Church
200 Wyckoff Ave.
Ticket information: Tel. 201-327-0976 | Web: stpaulrcchurch.org


Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Tuesday, December 9 at 7:00 pm
St. Katherine of Siena Church
9700 Frankford Ave.
Tel. 215-637-7548 | Web: www.skschurch.com     


Marshfield, MA
Friday, December 12 at 7:00 pm
St. Ann by the Sea Parish
591 Ocean Street
Ticket information - Tel. 781-834-4953


Boston, Jamaica Plain, MA
*Now 3 performances *
SATURDAY, December 13 at 7:00pm
SUNDAY, December 14 at 3:00pm AND 7:00pm
Daughters of St. Paul Chapel
50 Saint Paul’s Avenue
Tel. 617-522-8911


For more information, visit our Facebook page: facebook.com/DSPchoir


September 23, 2014

MOVIE: "THE SONG"




“The Song” is a new Christian film inspired by “The Songs of Songs” (aka “The Song of Solomon”) in the Bible. It is one of those distinctly southern/country culture films, with the two main characters being Christians themselves.

It’s a story of adultery. A story of career vs. vocation, and spouses who are physically separated growing apart. It reminds me of the Christian film “October Baby,” in that the first half is poor quality and the second half gets real.

It’s a story of love, marriage and the meaning of life.

The first half is barely one-dimensional. We don’t get to know the man (Jed--Alan Powell) and woman (Rose--Ali Faulkner) who get married and whom we are supposed to care about for the rest of the film. But we do get to know them later through their sins, in a sense. However, there is nothing distinctive about this man and this woman. Nothing unique, original. No defects, dreams, quirks, secrets, experiences, events, histories or desires that are not totally generalized as Everyman and Everywoman. The plot has a few surprises, but there remains very little subtext throughout.

The film is interspersed with very effective voiceover of actual passages (recited by the husband) from the Song of Songs interwoven with Ecclesiastes. They are recited with aplomb in a semi-contemplative, poetic way.

This is a man’s film, a man’s perspective, and not only because the main character is male. There are definite shadows of “women are either idealized virgins-brides-wives-mothers or pure temptresses.” No nuance, nothing in between. The writer-director, Richard Ramsey, did not seem to be able to imagine a woman’s inner life too deeply. The two women actresses do fabulously with what he gave them (and Alan Powell is an accomplished actor/musician as well). But the film does illustrate for men WHAT MEN REALLY WANT. I’m sure this film could touch the hearts of many guys.

The film is aptly named, because there is a lot of music throughout. Mumford & Sons style tunes. Whole songs and snatches of songs. When one song ends, another one begins almost immediately. There seems to be more lyrics than dialogue. But, of course, that is also a way to move the story forward and convey sentiment. Since Jed is a performer and lives in a big way through his music, spending much of his time on stage, we are joining him in his element.

The fighting seems to be more real than the loving between Jed and Rose. Perhaps because the romantic scenes were so saccharine while the clashes were so volatile and even mean (irresistible for actors)! And Jed had some “excellent” excuses for his behavior. Rose also had some great reasonings and justifications on her side. The marital difficulties felt so authentic—too bad the chemistry wasn’t also as palpable.

Am I being too critical of this film? I think not. Gotta call ‘em like I see ‘em. Would I recommend a look-see? Yes. I think “The Song” challenges us to fill in our own blanks: What is the authority of Scripture in our lives? What are our ambitions? What are our duties to God and the ones we love? Where will we truly find fulfillment?

OTHER STUFF:

--We were taught in film school that you need to make characters distinct. The more particular you make a character, the more universal they become. There is something in everyone’s specific experiences that others can relate to even if it’s not the exact same circumstances. By trying to create a big, general archetype instead of a real, individual human being, nobody can relate.

--“The temptress” is even dressed like Delilah during one of her seduction sessions. I almost expected an asp to wheedle its way into the frame. The temptress seemed more down-to-earth than the doe-eyed wife who never quite advances from being Daddy’s little girl. In fact, Daddy lives with them, and when Jed is unfaithful to Rose, he has nightmares about Daddy coming after him. It’s like Rose is not fully grown. She is bypassed by the men. She is daughter-turned-conservatorship-wife and Jed is answerable man-to-man to his father-in-law, not his wife. At least at first.

--The camera work is rather unimaginative OR it could simply be budget constraints.

--I think there were some plot-point scenes cut out because I could detect their fragments?

--Um, do they not have laws about roughing up women in public in Kentucky? (Jed does it twice.)

--We didn’t need to see Jed’s Dad at the beginning. It was very unclear that we were in the past and who all the characters were. It seems flashbacks might have worked better, or other devices to show Jed’s musical superstar Dad overshadowing Jed.



September 16, 2014

MY BOOK BUCKET CHALLENGE


(In chronological order as to when they influenced me. As much as I love philosophy, no philosophy book--except JP2's--ever changed my life. What is philosophy good for then? It keeps me Catholic.)

1AllTheBooksiReadAsAKid
2FieldGuideToEasternBirds by Roger Tory Peterson
3Bible 4ImitationOfChrist 5AnythingByAlberione 6iBelieveinLove by D'Elbee 7PowerinPraise by Carruthers 8TheologyOftheBody by JP2 9AnythingByJP2 10TheWetEngine by Doyle











September 6, 2014

MOVIES: "THE GIVER"




"The Giver" is yet another young adult dystopian novel turned into a movie, but it actually preceded many of the others. This engaging, perfect-for-our-times narrative by Lois Lowry was published in 1993, and is required reading in many schools. There is controversy surrounding the content, but for the life of me, I can't figure out what the problem is. (I've put a shout out several times on social media and get very weak answers.) I have not read the book (I view, not read), but LOVE the movie on the movie's own merits.

The fact that good people are wishy-washy about this movie is very scary to me. Do we no longer know how to read parables and allegories? Do we no longer grasp basic theological and philosophical principles to make good judgments about literature and the visual arts?

NOT JUST ANOTHER DYSTOPIA

"The Giver" is closely aligned to other science fiction "cautionary tales" of the strain of "Brave New World," "Gattaca," "A Wrinkle in Time," and "The Adjustment Bureau," with its focus on the power of emotions and love to overcome tyrannical control--even if the control is supposedly for the ultimate good of humanity. I actually found "The Giver" to be closest in theme to M. Night Shyamalan's "The Village" (an excellent, under-seen, underrated film), due to the similar quest to wipe out violence and tragedy in society, and attempt utopia.

The film starts off, appropriately, in black and white. Three teens are coming of age in their simplistic world where they will be assigned their lifelong jobs based on their emerging talents. Babies are genetically engineered and raised by "Nurturers" in nurseries. The main character, Jonas (Brenton Thwaites), is strikingly different from his peers, however. Sometimes he sees glimpses of color. He sees more, he sees beyond. The governing board (led by the inimitable Meryl Streep) notices his special gifts as well, and they read it as a positive. So much so that they assign him the very special task of "Receiver of Memories." Only this person is allowed to know history, allowed to know what came before this bland existence in order to advise the board and become a wisdom figure.

The entire basis of this society is the elimination of memory (so that war will never occur again), rules designed to keep everyone in their place ("sameness" so that there is no competition, difference or inequality), and dispensing of morning drugs to suppress all emotions (including sexual "stirrings"). "Precision of language"--a kind of political correctness--is demanded in an effort to never give offense, never be curious, never express oneself, never be different, never know more than what is prescribed.

A SACRAMENTAL WORLD

In his role as Receiver, Jonas begins to EXPERIENCE a sacramental world. Things have deeper MEANINGS that can be felt and expressed in many different ways beyond basic information and intellectualizing. He experiences that the powerful role of EMOTIONS in our lives can be channeled for the good (whereas the belief of his society is that they always lead to violent passions, contempt and murder).

Just like our own increasingly more callous and uncomprehending society that treats people like things, Jonas' society gets rid of the weak (that is, the very young and the very old) with mercy-killings euphemistically called a "release to elsewhere." Jonas' own "father" is a benign executioner, and Jonas excuses him because he realizes his father does not UNDERSTAND what death means. (Just like our society doesn't understand life and death either, human dignity, human value, the value of the vulnerable and suffering, and our responsibility to care for them.)

THE PRIMACY OF THE FAMILY

On one hand, the message of the film might seem to be: Rebel against anything keeping you down! Rebel against rules and regulations! Experience whatever you want to experience in life! But that's not it at all. It's rather: no pain, no gain; no cross, no crown. The answer to misused freedom is not removing freedom, but well-used freedom which will always involve love and sacrifice. But where is love and sacrifice and human connection and tenderness first learned? In the family, in the home.

Our family life is not controlled by constant surveillance and outside forces (unless we count consumerism and peer pressure), but on our own we have reduced our family life to frenetic scheduling, no family meals, everyone blocking everyone else out through personal media devices, domestic arts outsourced, parents too busy or too cool to parent, kids and teens running the show, common courtesy and manners left untaught, etc.

A MAN AND A BABY

My favorite part of the entire film is the young man saving the baby by trekking out into the wilderness with him. The baby in question happens to be a little boy (Gabriel), which makes "The Giver"--at least partially--a sweet buddy movie. When's the last time you saw a young man taking on ANY kind of fatherhood role in a film (outside of a raunchy comedy that reinforces the idea that young men being responsible is just ridiculous)?

What makes this story so apt for our age is that we ARE living in an incredibly unnuanced, one-dimensional, diminished, reductionist, soothe-pain-and-unpleasantries-by-all-kinds-of-drug-and-drug-like-escapes culture. No one gets hurt in Jonas'  dystopian world. But is anyone really living? Really living a human life? Or DO people get hurt? The dirty little secret it that clandestine brutality keeps open brutality in check.

The whole film could be summed up in one word: MORE. There is so much MORE that we can have.  John 10:10.

OTHER STUFF:

--THEOLOGY OF THE BODY? Heck, yeah! The kernel of society, love, life, happiness is the male/female relationship, the family and babies. When the Jonas discovers the great deceit and deprivation everyone has been living, he exposes the falsehood thus: "A 'dwelling' is not a home. Our 'parents' are not really our parents." Actually, this is an AWESOME Theology of the Body introduction movie.

--There are Judaeo-Christian overtones with the concept of "forbidden knowledge"; "Jonas," the reluctant prophet; and even an apple prominently featured.

--Katie Holmes does a great job as Jonas's robot-like maternal unit (and Department of Justice Minister), striving to keep Jonas in line. Jeff Bridges is "The Giver" to Jonas' "Receiver" of Memories.

--Jonas' girlfriend, Fiona, stops taking her dulling meds and tries some "precision of language" of her own: "I'm not UNCOMFORTABLE, I'm AFRAID." (I went to a bio-ethics seminar once and the speaker promoting human cloning tried to quell the audience's misgivings with: "What is it about 'nuclear cell transfer' that makes you uncomfortable?")

--The baby who plays Gabriel has the "knowingest" look on his face at all moments.

--The trailers are lame. Don't judge the movie by 'em.

--The Giver's speech about humanity's ability to live love and peace reminded me of John Paul II's "peace is possible!" speech, and his great faith in the POSSIBILITY that we can find and live another way.

--"If you don't feel pain, you won't feel anything else, either." --"Ordinary People"