Thursday, January 12, 2017

Agonizing Beauty

Reflections on Scorese's Silence, part I
Warning:  Spoilers follow.

This will be the first of two posts on Martin Scorcese's Silence, a movie long-in-the-making version of Shusaku Endo's 1966 novel.  The second post will appear once I see the movie.  So what follows is a discussion of the novel and what some critics have made of the movie.  Here is a good overview of the movie and its content.

First, as expected from a talented director like Scorcese, the movie's visuals are stunning. After extensive success in Japan, Christianity found itself ruthlessly outlawed and persecuted in the seventeenth century. The movie follows two young Jesuit missionary priests who, hearing that their mentor has apostostasized, travel to Japan to confirm the rumors. 

Part of the shoguns' torture juxtaposed excruciating pain with the simplest, and pain-free, gesture. All arrested Christians were given the opportunity to apostasize by stepping barefoot on an image of Jesus (hence the fumie, literally "the stepping-on image").

Come on--what could be easier than that?

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Meanwhile, slowly dissolving...

So everybody's down on 2016:  all the celebrities who have died, the Cubs won the World Series, and then there's that election thing.

But what really should be worrying us is the gradually expanding sense of despair, one that culminates in early death and suicide.  It's hitting middle-aged white women particularly hard.  Regional and socio-economic factors contribute, but one thing is clear:  the communal web or network that used to hold together communities has frayed and is snapping. The individualizing age of the smartphone has shown its downside--and therein people suffer, well, individually, i.e., alone. Hence suicide becomes not possible but perhaps preferable.  From the article Jennifer Silva, a sociologist from Bucknell University:

"People are trying to solve the crisis on their own. I see a lot of relying on the internet to try to treat, especially mental health problems. I had an older white woman who was suffering from self-diagnosed depression, but a few years later I learned she actually died of a brain tumour but she never went to a doctor because she couldn't afford it.
"[These people] are often not working, not in relationships, just not connected to any kind of social organisations. In this coal region there used to be a church on every corner and people would join together and socialise and exchange information, but now, most of those churches have closed down.
"We have a whole generation of people who are just in some ways wasted talent. There's a lot of suffering, a lot of desperation, fear, vulnerability, and hopelessness. They're not really sure how they can make a world better for their children and they feel very betrayed."

Read more here.

Monday, December 12, 2016

OKFIBAT: Trump presidency

OK, fine, I'll blog about this  over a month later....

So Donald Trump will be the 45th President of the US.

source: Business Insider
Image result for trump time magazine

Remember what I said about my inability to pick presidential elections?  Well, there you go...

What I find fascinating now--and have for the past month--is the range of postmortems.  How could this have happened?  Indeed, even on the election morning it was widely presumed that Clinton would roll to victory.  But then as the results came back, it first became clear that this would be closer than thought...and then the unthinkable became reality.  While watching the results, my phone kept buzzing with Twitter alerts.  Among them one friend, a Byzantine Catholic, sent at about 11 pm:

This is legit bananas.

Yeah, that pretty much covers it.  48 hours later, the shock still lingered.  Trump visited the White House to start the transition process, and it was clear the staffers had not quite accepted the news.

source: New York Times via Google

How about the woman third from left already tearing up and the glum faces all around?

How in the world did Hillary Clinton miss the equivalent of a two-foot lay-up?

Monday, November 7, 2016

No Easy Choices

I have a stellar record at choosing presidential elections. With two exceptions (Clinton in 1992 and 1996), I have voted for the LOSING candidate in every election since 1988.  Prior to that, when my political views closely resembled my parents' (as might be expected), the only bright spot was Carter's election in 1976.  You will note, therefore, that somewhere in the past two decades a political shift occurred on my part.  That's a blog post for another time.

So with that losing streak in mind, here is my endorsement for the 2016 presidency:

at least not Trump

That's about the best I can do.

Given the realities of American politics, not voting for Trump will have the effect--not the only one, but a significant one nonetheless--of supporting Hillary Clinton.  That is an unfortunate, but in this case unavoidable, reality.  Secretary Clinton's record contains several aspects which make it difficult, and in some cases impossible, to recommend supporting her candidacy.  With any other candidate running against her it would be easy to recommend that other candidate.

That is not the election we face. The one we do face offers only poor and poorer choices.

So, cue the humor:
The Sweet Meteor of Death!
Sweet Meteor of Death 2016

Source: Imgur

There's a pretty funny Twitter feed for SMOD2016 here.  

Or...H. P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu!

Cthulhu for America
Source: Cthulhu4America (Twitter)

Or even:

Source:  Imgur

Monday, October 31, 2016

FWIW, blog acronyms

For What It's Worth...

occasionally issues emerge on which I'd like to comment, but only for one post.  Anything more seems to take a step towards that slippery slope and then this issue--which is passing--becomes THE.ONLY.THING.THIS.BLOG.IS.ABOUT.

Image result for blogging
source: Window Incident Response blog via Google

Thus:  TOTISSAT:  The Only Time I'll Say Something About This.

Fair warning:  I have been working on one such post for about two months.

Then there's:  "OKFIBAT": "OK, Fine, I'll Blog About This."  -- for those times when an issue, which once seemed a passing fad, has demonstrated some staying power.

Finally, WISWN:  What I'm Struggling With Now -- perhaps more self-explanatory, an occasional excursion into theological/spiritual conundrums still challenging us.  These pop up all the time.

These acronyms will also help categorize this blog's accumulating posts.  Can you believe it's been FOUR YEARS already?

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

On cue, somebody takes the bait

Wikileaks:  Here are some John Podesta emails.  Some of them involve plotting against the Catholic Church's teaching.

Some liberal American Catholics:  We.are.doubling.down.

source:  Google and Internet

That's right, in a hole and still digging.  Writing in Commonweal E. J. Dionne, Jr. asserts that it is actually those liberal American Catholics supposedly caught by the Wikileaks release fomenting change within the Church...those are the real good guys.  After all, they're the ones who really support Pope Francis.  Dionne:

Ironically, a “Spring movement” did arrive in the church—but from the top, with Pope Francis’s election in 2013. Also ironically: Many of the conservative Catholics inclined to denounce the Clinton camp have been critical of Francis—it gives new meaning to the term “more Catholic than the pope”—while more liberal Catholics like Podesta have championed him.

and then in conclusion:

The factual bottom line is that in private correspondence, the two Clinton campaign officials said nothing anti-Catholic, although they did not reproach the critical comments of their friends.
As a progressive Catholic myself, here are the lessons I draw.
Liberals are free to criticize religion in general or particular religions, but they should resist casual put-downs of Catholics and Christians that they’d condemn if they were directed at other faiths.
Conservatives in the Catholic hierarchy need to pay attention to Pope Francis and ponder the high costs of tying a church with a rich tradition of social teaching to the right end of politics.
Finally, this episode is part of an ongoing argument among more liberal and more conservative religious people, and it will long outlast this election.
Read it all here.


Monday, October 17, 2016

Light of the Righteous

Rabbi Jacob Neusner died Saturday, October 8.  The American Academy of Religion, which Neusner served as President in 1969, posted a lengthy memorial written by Aaron Hughes, Professor of Jewish Studies at the University of Rochester.

Hughes concludes: "Zekher tzadik livrakha. May the memory of the righteous be a blessing."  Amen.

Read it all here.