March 8th, 2014Son of Godby Dena Hunt
This isn’t intended to be a film review, but in case it hasn’t been said elsewhere (and it probably has), this film is another rendition of the Gospel According to Dan Brown. According to the other Gospels, women [plural] followed Christ and numbered among his disciples, women [plural] followed Christ on the Way of the Cross and wept for him, leading to his address to them, “Do not weep for me, but for yourselves…” But according to Son of God, there’s only one woman with the apostles, only one woman was with the Blessed Mother at the Cross (The other Gospel writers must have got that wrong). Indeed, there was only one female follower of Christ: Mary Magdalene, who went with him everywhere, always at his side, closer than Peter, closer than John.
March 7th, 2014Neutering Realityby Joseph Pearce
My good friend, Louis Markos, has long been one of the brightest lights in the literary firmament. He's at his best in this luminous article about gender-neutrality in language and the neutering of marriage:
March 7th, 2014Raymond Arroyo and Dean Koontzby Joseph Pearce
I was greatly intrigued by this interview with Dean Koontz, the bestselling author. I had known for some time that he was a Catholic but this interview gives intriguing insights into the nature and depth of his faith:
March 6th, 2014Let Them Eat Cake?by Joseph Pearce
A friend has sent me this amusing story about a general in the British army banning his men from eating sandwiches, condemning the eating with hands as a barbaric practise.
I'm pleased that England can still produce delightful eccentrics but I can't help wondering what the Earl of Sandwich would think of his blue-blooded invention being deemed unsuitable for red-blooded men:
March 6th, 2014Man to Manby Joseph Pearce
I'm preparing to fly tomorrow from Thomas More College in New Hampshire, where I've been teaching this week, to a Catholic Men's Conference in Kansas City. It is, therefore, in a spirit of appropriate masculinity that I gave an interview to a Catholic Men's website. The interview covers topics ranging from my own conversion to my meeting with Alexander Solzhenitsyn. Here's the link:
March 6th, 2014Ash Wednesdayby Dena Hunt
I almost didn’t go to Mass tonight. I usually go to Mass on Ash Wednesday at noon, and I’ve always been amazed to see the number of people there. Why? I remember last year I asked the priest that question. “This is nothing,” he said. “You should see how many there will be tonight!”
It’a not a day of obligation. As I said, I almost didn’t go. That may sound bad, but the reason is even worse: I’d had someone in for drinks (on Ash Wednesday!), and I didn’t want to drive, but at the last minute, seeing that it was only a few blocks away….
The church was packed. Standing room only. Why? I spoke to the priest standing at the back of the sanctuary when I entered. “Why?” I asked again. “It’s always like this,” he answered. “This time I think there’s even more than there were on Christmas Eve.”
And still there is no answer: Why? Attendance on days of obligation is very sparse by comparison. The deacon’s homily offered an answer—because there’s something in human beings that always wants “a new beginning.” Hallmarky, facile—I don’t believe that’s why.
During Lent and Advent, attendance at daily Mass picks up a little, and so I expect to see a few more people at the noon Mass tomorrow. Attendance won’t be consistently higher, but it is generally higher. (One can’t help but wonder what happens when the penitential seasons are over. What is it about Christmas and Easter that makes people stop attending daily Mass?)
I’ve never seen most of those people before. I don’t think they’re Catholic, maybe not even Christian. People just want ashes on their foreheads, and they want them put there in a ritual, in church, by a deacon or priest. Why? There’s just no answer….
March 6th, 2014Beatle Juice - Concentrate!by Kevin O'Brien
I've been asked by Vegas.com (that's right, Vegas.com) to post something about the Beatles.
This is because Beatle fans are currently celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Fab Four's first tour of the United States - and Vegas promoters are involved because there's quite a few Beatle-themed shows, venues and events going on there, which you can read about in this article about the Beatles in Vegas by Jennifer Whitehair and Nicole Lucht.
So, me and the Beatles. Where to begin? 50 years ago, I suppose.
The Year: 1964. The Place: My bathtub.
Yours truly, circa 1964.
My sister Carla was crazy about the Beatles. I mean, big time. She had a favorite, but that was a secret and she wouldn't tell me who it was.
I was three years old and in my bathtub.
The TV in the adjacent bedroom (black-and-white of course) was tuned in to The Ed Sullivan Show and suddenly the Beatles were singing. This was not their first appearance, and it was one my sister didn't know about. "Wait til Carla finds out the Beatles were on Ed Sullivan tonight!" my mother said. "She'll be so upset she missed them!"
Sister Carla about the time the Beatles came to America.
I remember, at age three, wearing a Beatle wig and going around the house with a toy guitar singing like them. My mother thought it was delightful. It seemed to me that the best way to make sure my mother loved me was to perform for her - and that, it seems, was the ugly beginning of a deep-seated neurosis that has kept me in show business ever since. So I guess I have the Beatles to blame.
My sister told me she was dating one of the Beatles. I believed her.
But then again, I believed my father when he'd telephone from work. My mom would say Steve Allen was calling, and she'd put my dad on the phone with me and I'd be in heaven because I was talking to Steve Allen, who was my third biggest hero in life. The other two were Alvin the Chipmunk and Ringo.
The Three Stooges came in fourth, fifth and sixth. My sister started dating a guy named Larry. I asked her if this was the same Larry who was one of the Three Stooges. She said yes indeed it was. Larry came by the house to pick her up. I remember shaking his hand and looking up at him in awe - and wondering why he looked nothing like he did on TV.
But I digress.
The Year: 1978. The Place: A Darkened Movie Theater.
By the time I was a teen-ager, I had one great passion.
Naturally, it was Disco.
Here I am with my girlfriend Missy at age 17 or 18, looking like John Travolta with Harpo Marx hair.
So Missy and I went to see the Bee Gee's in Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band, which was terrible. But the music fascinated me.
I remember one of the local radio stations, to mark the release of the film, playing the original Sgt. Pepper's album, by the Beatles, and I remember recording it on my cassette deck. The sound quality was pretty bad, as this was an AM station, and we were tuning in from miles away at night. But I remember sitting in the dark listening to that cassette over and over again, utterly enthralled by this music.
It was actually better than Disco!
The Year: 1995. The Place: Under the Gateway Arch in St. Louis.
Well, we're not under the Arch yet. First, we have to get there. First, we're in my living room.
"Karen," I told my wife. "Ringo is coming to town. My sister Carla and I must go see him. He'll be playing at the VP Fair under the arch on July 2. The concert is free. I've got to go!"
"Kevin," she replied, "I am pregnant. My due date is July 4. You can't go to a Ringo Starr concert two days before my due date!"
"Karen," I said, this is Ringo Starr - the best member of the best band of all time!"
"Kevin," she said, "You can't go!"
Well, I went.
And before the concert and at intermission and after the concert I called Karen from the payphone in the basement of the Arch - just to make sure she wasn't going into labor. This was before we had a cell phone - pretty much before anybody had a cell phone.
And guess what - she was fine! She had no baby on July 2. Women! All they do is worry.
The next morning at breakfast, Karen told me she was having cramps. We went to the hospital and our daughter Kerry was born that afternoon - less than 24 hours after Ringo and the All Starr Band had performed in front of me, my sister, and several thousand others.
Kerry, apparently mad at me because I almost missed her birth.
The Year: 2014. The Place: The Internet.
So here we are up to date. Here I am writing, mostly about Culture and Religion and how the two play off one another. So does that really include Vegas and the Beatles? Of course it does.
The Beatles were an astonishing cultural phenomenon - and we can learn a thing or two about the Faith along the way.
JOHN - the acerbic, complex leader - is today perhaps best known among the Devout Demographic who reads this blog for his song "Imagine". You'll hear lots of Christians complain about the overt atheism and secularism of the song, though the line "nothing to kill or die for" has always struck me as the saddest part, for that describes a life not worth living. If you don't love something or someone enough to die for him or her, you're not fully engaging in life. You're not really loving. But the song is beautiful and haunting, and the idealism - if naive and misplaced - comes from the best part of John and the best part of the atheist / secularists around us.
PAUL - John's perfect counterpart and probably the best musician of the group. Forget Sir Paul's strident vegetarianism for a moment, and see the haunted deep soul peeking at us through his eyes. His music comes from a vulnerable place, and though he was never as in-your-face with his own personal suffering as John was (John was always kind of raw and naked before us), it's there, it's deep, and it colors every song he writes and sings.
GEORGE - Though George and his annoying Pop Eastern Mysticism sometimes bothers me, and though "While my Guitar Gently Weeps" has always struck me as a pretentious and turgid song, some of the lyrics from that tune are inspired and speak not only to Hindus, but to Christians and all human beings. I quoted from them just the other day -
I don't know why nobody told you
how to unfold your love
I don't know how someone controlled you
they bought and sold you
This is, as I said before, the primary goal of all life - learning how to "unfold our love". Nobody (other than Christ and His saints) really tells us or shows us how. On the contrary, if we don't watch out, not only will we not be told, we will be "bought and sold", "controlled" and living only for our shallow desires and existing merely for the usefulness of others.
George got that and put it into a lot of his music.
RINGO - And this is why Ringo, my favorite Beatle - Ringo, the sane Beatle, Ringo the affable Beatle, Ringo the happy Beatle - is all about "peace and love". It may be a less-than-full version of the true peace and love that await those who live in imitation of Jesus Christ, but it's a sign that points in the right direction.
March 5th, 2014Ratzinger’s Heirby Joseph Pearce
I was greatly encouraged to read this interview with Cardinal Muller in the National Catholic Register. It seems that the Congregatin for the Doctrine of the Faith is in safe hands:
March 5th, 2014What Hath the Internet Wrought?by Kevin O'Brien
We keep forgetting that we have just a few years experience of this new technology and we are utterly unprepared for how it affects our souls.
For instance, throughout all of Christian history, if a married man started to spend too much time alone with a single woman, everyone in town would talk and the parish priest would privately admonish both of them. Nowadays they can bare their souls to one another via email, and no one is the wiser - and even if they don't bare their bodies via Skype or sexting, they may have crossed a line without completely realizing what they were doing. I've known people who have fallen into this habit almost unawares. It's like taking a very strong drug that no one has yet figured out is addictive.
It's also quite possible - for teens in particular - to develop a tremendously intense and weird intimacy by being always with a friend in a virtual way 24 / 7. I know a teen whose Skype is always on, though the video is sometimes off, and she and her boyfriend who lives 1,000 miles away (and who is not the most well-adjusted of persons) are either constantly listening to one another's lives unfold as they carry their laptops about with them, incessantly texting, instant messaging, or (if it's late), watching each other masturbate. Disturbing as that last bit might be, it pales in comparison to the psychological effects of being a kind of electronic Siamese twin to someone you've never even met in person. Her parents are clueless. They don't for a minute suspect that their daughter's being with this guy non-stop every waking moment - and being with a lot of other bizarre strangers she meets at weird social sites - is bad for her.
And then there's the internet's effect in Catholic circles, where I've noticed two phenomena I think are directly related to the nature of the new technology. First, fringe groups like the Radical Traditionalists are given much more prominence than they actually have. Since the rad trads tend to be readers and writers as well as obsessive compulsive and paranoid, the internet suits them perfectly. The noise they make on Facebook and blogs leads one to believe that the Church is in an utter hateful antisemitic meltdown. They use the hit-and-run nature of the anonymity and pseudo-authority comboxes and blogs provide to make everyone think they're a far greater presence in the Church than the mere one percent or less of the overall Catholic population that they happen to be.
The other odd thing I've noticed is that unbalanced people, or run of the mill "cranks", can cause far more trouble on the internet than they can in newspapers or even talk radio, where comments are by and large edited and screened. I personally know of one Lone Ranger clergyman out there who has been banned from a dozen blogs and elicited scores of complaints to his ordinary for troubling people in a way that he would never be able to get away with in the days of the old technology - newspapers, television, talk radio, postal mail, etc. The immediacy of internet communication, the small amount of effort required to press a point compulsively, the lack of editorial oversight, the ability to use the internet to focus on any subject or person that interests you without limit day and night, and the appearance to readers that everything asserted on the internet by someone who has a kind of authority and who writes with conviction must carry a certain veracity (this is a holdover from the days when it took a certain real authority to become a published author) - all of these factors combine to allow both fringe groups as well as fringe individuals an environment in which to flourish: the way a warm day will allow a bacterial culture on your picnic lunch to flourish.
And, as usual, Cracked has a lot of insight on this subject.
People like to be terrible, and the Net makes it easier to be terrible. It lets them put their cruelty out into the world without the burden of being tethered to it. They are released, and they sprint happily across the World Wide Web dropping little nuggets of awful without consequence. ... Has the Net made people more awful? Impossible. That's like drawing horns on a picture of Hitler -- doesn't add a lot. But the Net is a tool for the awful who already exist. And it provides a safe haven where they sharpen their cyber-weapons in the dark.
March 3rd, 2014Chesterton and the Meaning of Educationby Joseph Pearce
I return to the hot topic of education in my latest article for the Imaginative Conservative: