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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween :)

- Pumpkinhead - Self-Portrait, Jamie Wyeth

Rewriting history

There's a post at Slactivist about how the Religious Right has changed its stance on abortion over time. It reminded me of a 2006 NPR interview with Randall Balmer, Episcopal priest, professor of American religious history at Columbia University, and an editor at Christianity Today. The interview (podcast and text) also contains an excerpt from Balmer's book, Thy Kingdom Come: How the Religious Right Distorts the Faith and Threatens America: An Evangelical's Lament which touches on this abortion viewpoint change. Here's the beginning of the excerpt - you can read the rest at the NPR link ...

In the 1980s, in order to solidify their shift from divorce to abortion, the Religious Right constructed an abortion myth, one accepted by most Americans as true. Simply put, the abortion myth is this: Leaders of the Religious Right would have us believe that their movement began in direct response to the U.S. Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. Politically conservative evangelical leaders were so morally outraged by the ruling that they instantly shed their apolitical stupor in order to mobilize politically in defense of the sanctity of life. Most of these leaders did so reluctantly and at great personal sacrifice, risking the obloquy of their congregants and the contempt of liberals and "secular humanists," who were trying their best to ruin America. But these selfless, courageous leaders of the Religious Right, inspired by the opponents of slavery in the nineteenth century, trudged dutifully into battle in order to defend those innocent unborn children, newly endangered by the Supreme Court's misguided Roe decision.

It's a compelling story, no question about it. Except for one thing: It isn't true.

Although various Roman Catholic groups denounced the ruling, and Christianity Today complained that the Roe decision "runs counter to the moral teachings of Christianity through the ages but also to the moral sense of the American people," the vast majority of evangelical leaders said virtually nothing about it; many of those who did comment actually applauded the decision. W. Barry Garrett of Baptist Press wrote, "Religious liberty, human equality and justice are advanced by the Supreme Court abortion decision." Indeed, even before the Roe decision, the messengers (delegates) to the 1971 Southern Baptist Convention gathering in St. Louis, Missouri, adopted a resolution that stated, "we call upon Southern Baptists to work for legislation that will allow the possibility of abortion under such conditions as rape, incest, clear evidence of severe fetal deformity, and carefully ascertained evidence of the likelihood of damage to the emotional, mental, and physical health of the mother." W.A. Criswell, former president of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas, expressed his satisfaction with the Roe v. Wade ruling. "I have always felt that it was only after a child was born and had a life separate from its mother that it became an individual person," the redoubtable fundamentalist declared, "and it has always, therefore, seemed to me that what is best for the mother and for the future should be allowed."

The Religious Right's self-portrayal as mobilizing in response to the Roe decision was so pervasive among evangelicals that few questioned it. But my attendance at an unusual gathering in Washington, D.C., finally alerted me to the abortion myth .....

Happy Reformation Day

Check out the 2003 film Luther, which starred Joseph Fiennes (Shakespeare in Love) as the title character, Alfred Molina as Johann Tetzel, Jonathan Firth as Girolamo Aleander, and Sir Peter Ustinov as Frederick the Wise. In the movie, Luther gives a sermon/homily that I really liked ...

Terrible. Unforgiving. That's how I saw God. Punishing us in this life, committing us to Purgatory after death, sentencing sinners to burn in hell for all eternity. But I was wrong. Those who see God as angry do not see Him rightly but look upon a curtain as if a dark storm cloud has been drawn across His face. If we truly believe that Christ is our Savior then we have a God of love, and to see God in faith is to look upon His friendly heart. So when the devil throws your sins in your face and declares that you deserve death and hell, tell him this..."I admit that I deserve death and hell. What of it? For I know One who suffered and made satisfaction in my behalf. His name is Jesus Christ, Son of God. Where He is, there I shall be also."

As I wrote in my earlier post about the film, it does tend to show mostly only the positive aspects of Luther (for instance, there's no mention of his acceptance of polygamy, or his his negative writings against the Jews), and I should mention that Roger Ebert didn't like the movie much (see his review), but having said all that, I did find the film interesting, especially the part about indulgences (the full or partial remission of temporal punishment in Purgatory, due for sins which have already been forgiven, and gained through ritual prayers, the doing of certain acts, or in the past, money paid)..

I think it's pretty awful that indulgences still are part of the Catholic Church - the ideas behind indulgences are incoherent on a whole number of levels. You can read an excerpt from What Happened at Vatican II on the subject of indulgences here.

But anyway, here's a clip from the movie ...

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Another LOST vista

Practicing what is preached

The guys behind the "new evangelization" are missing one of the most important issues that keeps people from wanting to be "evangelized" .... the way the church operates does not compare well with what the gospels teach. Here's a bit from Diana Butler Bass in a PBS Religion & Ethics Newsweekly interview in which she talks about this and other aspects of the "spiritual but not religious" movement ...

Watch Diana Butler Bass Extended Interview on PBS. See more from Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly.

My cat Kermit

It's almost four years since she died. She lived with me from the time she was born until she was eighteen. Miss her.

Some videos

Here's William Barry SJ interviewed about spiritual direction ...

Here's an interview with John Milbank when he was in Russia ...

And an Oxford Think Week discussion on science and theology/philosophy with professors Richard Swinburne (philosophy), Peter Atkins (chemistry), Stephen Law (philosophy), and others ....

Monday, October 29, 2012

Hee hee

An election ad for Romney from the creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer :) ....

Saturday, October 27, 2012


This week's movie rental was Sunshine ...

a 2007 British science fiction film directed by Danny Boyle. The film was adapted from a screenplay written by Alex Garland about the crew of a spacecraft on a dangerous mission to the Sun. In 2057, with the Earth in peril from the dying Sun, the crew is sent on a mission to reignite the star with a theoretical bomb.

- the captain (Sanada) gets suited up for what turns out to be a really unfortunate EVA mission

There were some familiar actors in the film: Cillian Murphy (Inception, Red Lights, the Batman movies), Chris Evans (Captain America, the Fantastic Four movies), and Hiroyuki Sanada who played Dogen on LOST :) and who was also in a number of movies like The Twilight Samurai.

I was worried the movie was going to be another Event Horizon as both movies have the present ship and crew attempting a rescue of an earlier ship/crew that had been lost, and though we were asked to consider the ethical dilemma of choosing between murdering a crewman or failing the mission and causing the eventual deaths of everyone on Earth, the film was too much about the various grisly ways people can die in space and too little about science and sacrifice (and did we really need the inevitable religious maniac?). Still, having said all that, the movie was entertaining enough and had some nice special effects.

- Capa (Murphy) sends a vid message to his sister back on Earth

Roger Ebert liked it more than me, though, and gave the movie 3 out of 4 stars in his review. Here's a bit of what he wrote about CERN physicist Brian Cox's contribution to the movie ...

[...] Considering that the movie is set only 50 years in the future, the sun seems to be dying several billion years prematurely, especially in a "hard" (i.e., quasi-plausible) science-fiction film. Man, am I glad I didn't go off on a rant about that before learning that the film's science adviser, Dr. Brian Cox of CERN (Conseil Europeen Pour le Recherche Nucleaire [European Laboratory for Particle Physics]), thought of it, too.

The sun is not "dying in the normal sense," reports, but in the Cox scenario "has instead been 'infected' with a 'Q-ball' -- a supersymetric nucleus, left over from the Big Bang...that is disrupting the normal matter. This is a theoretical particle that scientists at CERN are currently trying to confirm -- the film's bomb is meant to blast the Q-ball to its constituent parts, which will then naturally decay, allowing the sun to return to normal."

I'll buy that ...

Hmmmm - isn't that what happened in that Stargate SG1 episode Red Sky? :) Oh well, anyway, here's a trailer ...

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

This Side

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Time traveling in Britain

- ruins of Coventry Cathedral

I've just started reading the science fiction novel To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis. It begins with Oxford University time travelers going back into the past to Coventry Cathedral just after it was bombed during the Coventry Blitz of WWII. Here's what Booklist on the Amazon page has to say of it ...

What a stitch! Willis' delectable romp through time from 2057 back to Victorian England, with a few side excursions into World War II and medieval Britain, will have readers happily glued to the pages. Rich dowager Lady Schrapnell has invaded Oxford University's time travel research project in 2057, promising to endow it if they help her rebuild Coventry Cathedral, destroyed by a Nazi air raid in 1940. In effect, she dragoons almost everyone in the program to make trips back in time to locate items--in particular, the bishop's bird stump, an especially ghastly example of Victorian decorative excess. Time traveler Ned Henry is suffering from advanced time lag and has been sent, he thinks, for rest and relaxation to 1888, where he connects with fellow time traveler Verity Kindle and discovers that he is actually there to correct an incongruity created when Verity inadvertently brought something forward from the past. Take an excursion through time, add chaos theory, romance, plenty of humor, a dollop of mystery, and a spoof of the Victorian novel, and you end up with what seems like a comedy of errors but is actually a grand scheme "involving the entire course of history and all of time and space that, for some unfathomable reason, chose to work out its designs with cats and croquet mallets and penwipers, to say nothing of the dog. And a hideous piece of Victorian artwork." Sally Estes --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

The book won both the Hugo and Locus Awards in 1999, so I'm optimistic that I'll like it, though I'm not far enough into yet to know for sure. You can read about the book in more detail at Wikipedia.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Knights of the Blackened Denarius

I'm reading Small Favor, a Dresden Files novel, and I'm at a point where Harry the wizard is in the empty chapel at Stroger Hospital, worrying about his horribly injured friend Michael (Michael is a Knight of the Cross, one of those who fight evil with a sword that has a nail from the crucifixion worked into their swords, and their enemy is a group called the Knights of the Blackened Denarius, thirty fallen angels haunting the thirty pieces of silver Judas received for betraying Jesus). Harry talks to God in the empty chapel ....

"I know that we don't talk much," I said, speaking out loud to the empty room. “And I’m not looking for a pen pal. But I thought You should know that Michael makes You look pretty good. And if after all he’s done, it ends like this for him, I’d think less of You. He deserves better. I think You should make sure he gets it. If You want to bill it to me, I’m fine with that. It’s no problem.”

Nobody said anything back.

“And while we’re on the subject,” I said, “I think the rules You’ve got set up suck. You don’t get involved as much as You used to, apparently. And Your angels aren’t allowed to stick their toes in unless the bad guys do it first. But I’ve been running some figures in my head, and when the Denarians pulled up those huge Signs, they had to have a lot of power to do it. A lot of power. More than I could ever have had, even with Lasciel. Archangel power. And I can only think of one of those guys who would have been helping that crew.”

I stood up and jabbed a finger at the podium, suddenly furious, and screamed, “The Prince of fucking Darkness gets to cheat and unload his power on the earth—twice!—and You just sit there being holy while my friend, who has fought for You his whole life, is dying! What the hell is wrong with You?”

Harry is then interrupted by a janitor named Jake coming in to clean the chapel. They talk for a moment, and then Harry says this to Jake about God ...

"He doesn't care. I don't know why everyone thinks He does. Why would He? .... I mean, this whole universe, right? All those stars and all those worlds," I continued, maybe sounding more bitter than I had intended. "Probably so many different kinds of people out there that we couldn't count them all. How could God really care about what's happening to one little person on one little planet among a practically infinite number of them?"

Jake tied off the trash bag and tossed it in the bin. He replaced the liner with a thoughtful look on his face. "Well", he said. "I never been to much school, you understand, but it seems to me that you assuming something that you shouldn't assume."

"What's that?" I said.

"That God sees the world like you do; one thing at a time, from just one spot. Seems to me that He's supposed to be everywhere, know everything." He put the lid back on the trash can. "Think about that. He knows what you're feeling, how you're hurting. Feels my pain, your pain, like it was His own." Jake shook his head. “Hell, son. Question isn't how could God care about just one person. Question is, how could he not."

I snorted and shook my head.


Sunday, October 21, 2012

Rowan Williams: Enough Waiting

Rowan Williams is now urging the passing of the measure to allow the ordination of women bishops in the Church of England. This is a bit of a turn-around after his earlier efforts to placate conservatives on this issue. Perhaps now that he's decided to step down as Archbishop of Canterbury, he feels he can finally be more upfront about his views.

What he wrote about having women bishops in the Church of England would be just as true for having women ordained in the Catholic Church ...

[...] It is good news for women, who are at last assured in more than words alone that their baptismal relationship with Jesus Christ is not different from or inferior to that of men, as regards their fitness for public ministry exercised in Christ's name and power.

It is good news for men, who may now receive more freely the spiritual gifts God gives to women, because women are recognised among those who can, at every level, animate and inspire the Church in their presidency at worship. So it is good news for the whole Church, in the liberating of fresh gifts for all.

It is good news for the world we live in, which needs the unequivocal affirmation of a dignity given equally to all by God in creation and redemption - and can now, we hope, see more clearly that the Church is not speaking a language completely remote from its own most generous and just instincts.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Revisiting The X-Files

- Agent Mulder, the pilot episode

Richard was kind enough to tell me about Tor's science fiction website where I came upon Reopening The X-Files ... A rewatch of the creepy, complex science fiction show The X-Files, discussing select episodes, myth arcs, monsters of the week, and more. A chance to dig into the show’s themes and to track its evolution, watch it, talk it over, and head on down to the basement to find yourselves some truth.

The X-Files was one of my favorite shows so I've decided to rewatch the series, starting with the pilot episode tonight. Wow - it's hard to find video clips of X-Files episodes, perhaps because you can watch the series on hulu, but here's a short one from the pilot showing Mulder and Scully doing something they do a lot in the series - exhuming a dead body :)

In this episode, in which Mulder and Scully meet for the first time, we learn that Scully, a medical doctor as well as an FBI agent, has been assigned by her superiors to spy on and report about Agent Mulder as she works as his new partner. And we learn that Mulder, who has a degree in psychology from Oxford and who is a gifted profiler, had a sister who was abducted when he was just a kid ... now he trawls the X-Files, mysterious and unsolved cases, searching for any clues to her strange disappearance.

BTW, later we learn that Scully is a Catholic and Catholic stuff comes up quite a lot in the series, from incorruptibles to the sacred heart of Jesus to hidden gospels :)

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Revisiting the movie "Jesus"

In this video clip below, Jesus heals the daughter of the Canaanite woman - I like the way the film makes this difficult passage seem so positive.

Then Jesus has lunch with his mom, who introduces him to Mary M. Then the disciples appear and Judas tells him they've gathered 30 pieces of silver (ah - foreshadowing), but Jesus gets angry and tells them to give it to the poor - Judas is pretty peeved about this. It kind of creeps me out to see Jesus lose his temper, and maybe his mom feels the same way, as she then gives him the gimlet eye.

Next we see Jesus hanging out with the disciples as a rider from the home of Lazarus arrives, telling Jesus Lazarus is dying. The discples are bewildered (me too) when Jesus doesn't go immediately to help.

Then there's one of my favorite parts of the movie: Jesus takes a walk with Mary M and they talk over a campfire. She says that if she were only a man, she would be his most loyal disciple, and he replies, "Those who speak for me are my disciples." :)

And there's more after that ...

Becoming all things to all voters

Wow - no wonder they're married: they both use the same double-speak. Mrs. Romney was on The View and was asked about the issue of abortion. If I understood her corrctly, she's both pro-life and pro-choice at the same time ;) ....

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Jesus Blog

A blog I've enjoyed visiting lately is The Jesus Blog. A recent post there offers a chance for a free copy of a book written by the authors of the blog, Jesus among Friends and Enemies: A Historical and Literary Introduction to Jesus in the Gospels - I don't think it's too late to sign up, if you're interested :)

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The presidential debate

I think Obama did better with this one :) A first: the moderator fact-checked Romney in real time, telling him that he was wrong on an embassy-attack-issue comment he made.


Monday, October 15, 2012

Science fiction and theology

A post at Slacktivist on science fiction, theology, and what things would be like if Calvinistic predestination were taken to its logical conclusion via knowledge of everyone's final desitnation ..... Theology & science fiction: A Calvinist dystopia.

It's a pretty scary thought - everyone knowing for sure who is elected and who is damned - and it reminds me of the worth of John Rawls' idea of justice as fairness, because he posits that only when people are unaware of their own state and the state of others will they make laws that treat everyone justly. But still, you don't have to be a Calvinist - I guess most Christians of whatever denomination do believe that some people are going to go to hell, though their end isn't known until the last minute. As Fred Clark writes in his post, if Calvin was right ...

[...] Some people are God’s children and some people are not. Legal equality, justice, the Golden Rule, universal human rights and human dignity are still necessary in this framework, but only because of our incomplete and imperfect knowledge. Better knowledge, more complete knowledge, would allow us to stop treating all people equally because, in this scheme, people are not equal. There would be no reason to treat everyone the same because, according to this doctrine, everyone is not the same.

Some are loved by God, others are not. Some are God’s children, others are irredeemably damned. If we knew for certain who was who, then our ethics would be transformed — reshaped to align with the character of God that this scheme suggests. Ethics, in other words, would revert to something more like the ethnic cleansing of Jericho and Ai.

By ethical horror I mean parents and children. Limited atonement is quite limited. The gate to salvation is narrow, but the gate is wide that leads to destruction. Most people, in other words, are not among the elect. And thus most children are not among the elect.

Calvinist parents can cope with the implications of that only because our incomplete knowledge allows room for denial. Complete knowledge would make that impossible. Parents — most parents — would know that the children they are raising are preordained for eternal conscious torment. They would know that the children they love are not loved by God as the children of God.

A majority of the population would come to see — to know — that they possess a greater capacity for love than God does. I don’t think any religious system could long survive such horrifying knowledge ...

As Fred notes, this is the neat thing about science fiction - if you imagine a world where what Calvin believed was true and also that those who were going to heaven were marked for all to see, then the real awfulness of predentination and the God who would sponsor it is revealed in a felt way.

This reminds me of a sci fi trilogy I once read by James BeauSeigneur - The Christ Clone Trilogy - in which all the really good people get 'raptured' into heaven and all the not so goods are 'left behind' until Jesus' imminent return. Somewhere between scary and depressing.

Hey, it's not too late to become a universalist, like me :)

Cat and squirrel

My neighbor's cat, Scruffy, is waiting under the pecan tree for a squirrel to come down ....

He says, "I don't think so" ;) ....

BIC For Her

I mentioned in a past post that there are now pens made especially for women, and that some of the customer reviews at Amazon's page for the pens are pretty funny. Today I saw that Ellen Degeneres has commented on the pens :) .....

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Rowan Williams on Vatican Radio

Read the transcript. Here's a bit of it ....



You’re also here marking the Synod and the 50th Anniversary of Vatican II. How important do you think was that Council for those outside of the Catholic Church?


It was enormously important. I was a teenager as the Council began, and an Anglican, a practising Anglican. What had been apparently a very self-contained, rather remote, exotic, fascinating, but slightly strange body, suddenly opened up. I think that was the effect that it had for me and for others.

We could see the workings. Instead of looking at an institution that was very visibly confident that it was sufficient to itself, we saw people beginning to say, “Does it have to be like this?” We saw a transparency in the Roman Catholic Church. Which of course, because it was so deeply connected with the personality of Pope John XXIII, which was a gift to all Christians, became something yes, deeply stirring.

It’s because of the Second Vatican Council, I think, that other churches began to rethink some of their own ways of doing things. It’s because of the liturgical reform there that I think liturgical reforms accelerated in other contexts. So yes, hugely important for the rest of us.


It was, of course, also a watershed moment for Ecumenism. Yet despite so much progress, the deepening of relationships, new friendships, that journey seems to be struggling today in a way that was hardly imaginable a few decades ago, especially the Anglican-Catholic dialogue. Are you in any way disappointed that there hasn’t been more in terms of tangible results for the dialogue during your time here?


Sometimes of course, yes, I feel that disappointment. But on the other hand, I look back at the ‘60s and remember, of course, we believed anything was possible in the ‘60s, whether in church, or in politics, or in international relations. There was a certain haste and a certain naivety about all that.

What abides of course, and what we can’t go back on, is the fact that we pray together in a quite different way now. In the ’50s, when I was a child, it would’ve been quite unthinkable to pray alongside Roman Catholics. Of course in those days, even saying ‘The Lord’s Prayer’ together was frowned upon.

The gain in terms of simply understanding ourselves as in some way belonging together, that’s irreversible. Of course, it would’ve been wonderful if we’d been able to take rather more steps towards something really visible, really concrete, in terms of mutual recognition.

But both the Roman Catholic and the Anglican families have changed, have developed in that period, in ways that have sometimes made that more difficult, and that’s reality. We don’t, when we change, always wait for one another. That’s a fact of our community life, I think.


Saturday, October 13, 2012

Astrid Storm and Andrew Brown

Here's a 2008 post by Episcopal priest Astrid Storm about the ok-ness of sex outside marriage ... Students of Christianity, Yes. Virginity, No.

And Andrew Brown has a new post on the Second Vatican Council - How the second Vatican council responded to the modern world.


Maybe the last of my black-eyed susans for this year ...

NT Wright sings?

I came across this video of Anglican Bishop and biblical scholar NT Wright playing guitar and singing a song by Sydney Carter. Enjoy :) ...

N.T. Wright Sings Sydney Carter from Thomas McKenzie on Vimeo.

Frasier and petitionary prayer

I'm watching an episode of Frasier, Don't Go Breaking My Heart (part 3), in which Frasier's brother Niles has just had heart surgery and Frasier has prayed to God to save him. At the cafe, Frasier explains to his friend Roz why he now cannot get into one of his typical arguments with his brother ....

Frasier: Well, it's a long story. Okay. When Niles was in the hospital and he was being wheeled into surgery [he shakes his head with foreboding] he looked so frail and vulnerable, so I ... I took my case to a higher power.


The scene fades to the hospital as Niles is being wheeled away. Frasier is shown alone in the room, thinking. We hear his prayer.

Frasier: [v.o.] Hello, God. It's me, Dr. Frasier Crane. Though I don't talk to you as often as I should, I want to thank you for all the times you've indulged me in the past - although I have yet to see the inside of the Empire Club. Just kidding. Anyway, today I ask you to look after my brother Niles Crane. I love him, even if I don't always show it, and I regret all the time he and I have wasted in petty quarrels. If you spare him, Oh Lord, I promise to cherish every moment we have together.

CUT BACK TO: Café Nervosa:

Roz: But Frasier, you don't think God is going to strike Niles down if you get in an argument, do you?

Frasier: Well, technically, the way it's structured, he'd come after me, seeing as I was the one who initiated the deal, you see.

Over the following weeks, Frasier gets more and more upset at the way his brother has been acting since his operation ...

Frasier: Roz, I can't eat. I can't sleep. I just lie awake in bed at night mentally arguing with Niles. And I win every time!

Roz: Frasier, this is insane. Do you really think something bad is going to happen if you break your deal with God?

Frasier: Oh, of course not. Well, maybe a little. I don't know. Roz, my brother could have died. I can't be ungrateful to whatever higher power may have spared him.

Roz: I just can't imagine that God would be upset ...

Frasier: Oh, he's God, Roz! Have you read the Old Testament? He can be ruthless!

Eventually Frasier finds out that Daphne, Niles' wife, also made a deal with God to save Niles, and since she actually made her deal first, Frasier believes he's off the hook and can once again fight with his brother. Things don't go quite as he's hoped, though ...

Frasier: Hello, God, it's me again. Dr. Frasier Crane. Listen, it seems that when we made our little arrangement, there was another deal in place. Now, I've had some experience with double-booking, and I know that the person who books first always gets priority. So, as long as Daphne keeps her end — which she is, to the letter - it seems our little arrangement would be rendered null and void. Ergo, I am now going to yell at my brother. [He beams.] Unless of course, you give me a sign.

He waits. There is no sign.

Frasier: Very well, then. This is going to be sweet.


Here's a clip from that episode that shows Niles at Frasier's apartment, talking to their father while waiting for Frasier to get home - they discuss soap opersa ;) ans then how they've both "cheated death". At 3:30 into the clip, Frasier has his second talk with God as he rides up to his apartment in the elevator ...

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Happy 50th Anniversary, Vatican II

To celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, here again is a video I posted earlier. It's a really interesting talk by Jesuit John O'Malley on the Council and on the writing of his book What Happened at Vatican II ....

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Snow White and the Huntsman

Tonight I watched Snow White and the Huntsman ....

a 2012 American fantasy film based on the German fairy tale "Snow White" compiled by the Brothers Grimm. The film is directed by Rupert Sanders and written by Evan Daugherty, John Lee Hancock, and Hossein Amini, starring Kristen Stewart, Charlize Theron, Chris Hemsworth, and Sam Claflin.

Roger Ebert liked it, giving it 3.5 stars out of 4 in his review. But most viewers at his site gave it only 2.5 stars and I think that's how I'd rate the movie too. The acting was ok and there were some interesting visual images. Having said that, I think the CGI stuff was not really top notch and the story was a bit confusing (I saw the theatrical version - maybe the longer version makes more sense?).

Overall it struck me as a cross between Ridley Scott's Robin Hood and Ridley Scott's Legend, but sadly it wasn't as good as either. If you feel the deisre to watch something about Snow White and the huntsman, I recommend Once Upon a Time :)

- the huntsman (Hemsworth)

- the evil queen (Theron)

- Snow White (Stewart)

- the prince (Claflin)

The trailer ...

Monday, October 08, 2012

The bluejay :)

A couple of things

A letter's been sent to all the Bishops in the Church of England from Changing Attitude and it begins like this ...

If the Church does not want to reach a tipping point where it is too morally discredited to be respected on any issue, it is vital that its senior figures start, this year and next, to speak the truth.

These words could so apply to my own church! You can read more about this in The Guardian - Church of England bishops urged to have honest discussion about gay clergy


I've been thinking about the recent synod on the "new evangelization" - it's about a push to reel in Catholics who have fallen away in places like the US, Europe, Latin America. I think this effort will mostly fail. Church leaders seem to be under the misapprehension that people are falling away because of the aftereffects of Vatican II ....

While the [Second Vatican] council marked a moment of renewal and enthusiasm for the church, [Cardinal] Wuerl said it was followed by decades of poor teaching and substandard worship — “aberrational liturgical practice,” he called it — that made “entire generations” of Catholics incapable of transmitting the faith to their children and to society at large, ushering in today’s secularized society.

And so, their plan to fix things ..... "better" transmission of church doctrines and incentives like indulgences (yes, they still exist!) ... will actually fix nothing.

Here's a bit from a past article by Thomas Reese SJ ...

The hidden exodus: Catholics becoming Protestants

[...] The principal reasons given by people who leave the church to become Protestant are that their “spiritual needs were not being met” in the Catholic church (71 percent) and they “found a religion they like more” (70 percent). Eighty-one percent of respondents say they joined their new church because they enjoy the religious service and style of worship of their new faith.

In other words, the Catholic church has failed to deliver what people consider fundamental products of religion: spiritual sustenance and a good worship service. And before conservatives blame the new liturgy, only 11 percent of those leaving complained that Catholicism had drifted too far from traditional practices such as the Latin Mass ....

Looking at the responses of those who join mainline churches also provides some surprising results. For example, few (20 percent) say they left because they stopped believing in Catholic teachings. However, when specific issues were mentioned in the questionnaire, more of those joining mainline churches agreed that these issues influenced their decision to leave the Catholic church. Thirty-one percent cited unhappiness with the church’s teaching on abortion and homosexuality, women, and divorce and remarriage, and 26 percent mentioned birth control as a reason for leaving. Although these numbers are higher than for Catholics who become evangelicals, they are still dwarfed by the number (57 percent) who said their spiritual needs were not met in the Catholic church ...

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Some videos ....

Here's Earth at night from space ...

Here's Between the Rainbows, timelapse photography of Ireland ....

Tiny jumping spider :) ....

Bohr and Heisenberg

Today is Danish physicist Niels Bohr's birthday and I thought I'd revisit my post about the movie Copenhagen, which portrayed the 1941 meeting between Bohr and German physicist Werner Heisenberg.

This video clip shows the two men arguing about working on nuclear research/bombs (sorry it's not in great condition) ....

And here's what I wrote in the earlier post ...

This week's movie from the library was Copenhagen, a 2002 British made-for-tv movie adapted from the play of the same name, and starring Daniel Craig (James Bond, Munich) as German physicist Werner Heisenberg and Stephen Rea as Danish physicist Niels Bohr. The film takes place in the present, in Copenhagen, where the ghosts of Bohr and his wife and Heisenberg visit the Bohr residence to reconstruct their 1941 meeting in order to figure out what exactly had occurred.

- Heisenberg gets off the train in Copenhagen

The backstory .... Bohr had been mentor and friend to Heisenberg in the 1920s and in 1927 they defended complementarity (quantum mechanics) at the Volta Conference. It was all good, - Heisenberg went on to publish the Uncertainty Principle and Bohr and Heisenberg came up with the Copenhagen interpretation.

- Heisenberg knocks on Bohr's door

But in 1933 Hitler came to power and in 1939 WWII began, about the same time that nuclear fission was discovered. In 1940 Germany took over Denmark, and Heisenberg, rather than accepting a job elsewhere, became part of Germany's nuclear energy project, while the Danish Bohr, part Jewish, became understandably worried. One year later, Heisenberg came to Copenhagen to visit Bohr. The visit was mysterious - no one can quite agree on why Heisenberg came or what the two men discussed, though there are opinions based on a 1956 letter Heisenberg sent to a journalist, and unsent letters Bohr wrote to Heisenberg in 1957 ...

In 1957, while the author Robert Jungk was working on the book Brighter Than a Thousand Suns, Heisenberg wrote to Jungk explaining that he had visited Copenhagen to communicate to Bohr his view that scientists on either side should help prevent development of the atomic bomb, that the German attempts were entirely focused on energy production and that Heisenberg's circle of colleagues tried to keep it that way. Heisenberg acknowledged that his cryptic approach of the subject had so alarmed Bohr that the discussion failed. Heisenberg nuanced his claims and avoided the implication that he and his colleagues had sabotaged the bomb effort; this nuance was lost in Jungk's original publication of the book, which implied that the German atomic bomb project was obstructed by Heisenberg. When Bohr saw Jungk's erroneous depiction in the Danish translation of the book, he disagreed. He drafted (but never sent) a letter to Heisenberg, stating that while Heisenberg had indeed discussed the subject of nuclear weapons in Copenhagen, Heisenberg had never alluded to the fact that he might be resisting efforts to build such weapons. Bohr dismissed the idea of any pact as hindsight. - link

- Heisenberg and Bohr exchange pleasantries

Bohr escaped Denmark in 1944 and eventually ended up contributing to the Manhattan Project in the US. In May 1945, Heisenberg was arrested in Germany by invading US forces and was kept for a while in the UK. In August of that same year, the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki took place.

- Heisenberg and Bohr take a walk outside to escape being bugged by the Nazis

I liked the movie (though it was very talking heads), especially the way it connected Heisenberg's uncertainty principle with the idea that one can never be sure what's going on in another person's mind/heart. For more info, check out the PBS site for the movie.

Saturday, October 06, 2012


This week's movie rental was Battleship ...

a 2012 American Alien Invasion military science fiction naval war film loosely inspired by the classic board game. The film was directed by Peter Berg and released by Universal Pictures. The film stars Taylor Kitsch, Liam Neeson, Alexander Skarsgård, Rihanna, Brooklyn Decker, and Tadanobu Asano.

One of the first games I ever played when I got a computer was Battleship so I thought I'd give the movie a try.

The plot - NASA scientists find a Goldilocks planet and signal it from a communications array in Hawaii, where by coincidence, RIMPAC naval exercises are taking place. The aliens, hostile, get the message and send five ships to Earth to assimilate us ;). Our hero is Alex Hopper, a guy who has not yet "found" himself, whose brother has talked him into joining the navy, and who is now serving on one of the ships taking part in the exercises - also he's in love with the Admiral's daughter. The movie is about how the aliens try to use the Hawaii array to send a "come and get it" message back home, how they decimate the Earthlings with thir superior technology, and how Alex, a Japanese captain, and a group of WWII veterans, manage against all odds to destroy the aliens.

The movie, reminiscent of Transformers, is pretty lightweight entertainment and the almost constant music background made it seem like a video game, but the special effects were nice and the characters likeable. Roger Ebert gave the movie 2.5 out of 4 stars in his review. Here's the trailer ...

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

The debate

I watched the presidential debate between Obama and Romney. My main comment: an aggressive Romney lied a lot. The sad thing is that there are probably a number of voters who either won't notice or won't care. As this post at The Atlantic notes ...

10:16 p.m. It's hard to keep up with all the little fibs and deceptions that Romney weaves in to his remarks with such speed and tenacity. Off the top of my head ...

Romney claims he never said Romneycare should be a national model. He did. Romney claims he never promised to cut taxes for wealthy. His plan did. Romney claims he won't change Medicare for current seniors; repealing Obamacare will do exactly that. Romney claims he covers pre-existing conditions - in every meaningful way, his plan does not. Romney claims ...


10:30 p.m. Here's my reaction at the close. I'm a partisan, so take my thoughts for what you will.

Romney was aggressive and did pretty well for him. And it helps when you can just disregard your old positions and count on voters having imperfect memories and information. It was his debate strategy in primaries and it remains his strategy now. It's ugly and frustrating (see my earlier posts below), and a reminder of why Mitt Romney doesn't strike me as a man who ought to be in the White House. It's the conviction with which he expresses views on issues where earlier he trumpeted different views just as strongly. Makes me nervous! He also came off as testy and officious at times, especially when dealing with Lehrer. Rude, like a guy who cuts you online at the DMV and acts like you're out of order for being bothered.

I hope he doesn't win! :(

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Red Lights

This week's movie rental was Red Lights ...

a 2012 Spanish-American film, written and directed by Rodrigo Cortés, and starring Robert De Niro, Sigourney Weaver, Cillian Murphy, Toby Jones and Leonardo Sbaraglia. The film contains elements of both the thriller and horror genres. The film opens with two primary characters: a university academic who also engages in paranormal investigation work, Margaret Matheson (Sigourney Weaver); and her assistant in both areas, Tom Buckley (Cillian Murphy), who is also a talented physics academic. The audience is provided with an insight into the world of the opening section's primary characters while concurrently observing the public reemergence of a fictional psychic, Simon Silver (Robert De Niro).

- Weaver's character teaching her class

- Murphy's character co-teaches the class

I liked the beginning of the film - the academic setting, the technical details of how the two professors detected paranormal frauds, the revelations of their past personal griefs, and the creepy reemergence of "the one that got away" (Silver). The acting was good, especially Weaver and Murphy. And the questions asked by the film - what do you belueve and why - are good questions. But I think the movie went a bit downhill towards the end, resorting to horror cliches (what is it with scary novies and dead birds - ick), and the ending seemed a bit weak. Still, overall I liked the movie.

Roger Ebert gave the R rated movie 2.5 stars in his review.

Monday, October 01, 2012

Some of what I saw today

While the hunt for the next Archbishop of Canterbury continues, I was reminded of a movie trailer I'd seen about the picking of a pope ...

I visited this blog, which has some interesting stuff about Christianity and also Judaism ... The Jesus Blog

I saw a depressing post at Oxford University's philosophy blog, Practical Ethics - Don’t Give Money to Beggars. I usually do give money to beggers, partly out of a guilty 'there-but-for-fortune' empathy. The blog post gives some reasons why you shouldn't give money: mostly that there's state aid to the poor. I don't find that reason compelling, though - the money given to the needy from the government just isn't always enough.

Here's somrthing more cheerful ... Want To Be More Focused? Look At Pictures Of Cute Baby Animals. Here's a pic I took a while ago of a baby bunny who lives down the street from me :) ...

And finally, some music ...