Archives for July 2006


It seems that DeNiro won’t be buying the Observer, but it’s still anybody’s guess whether or not Viacom is actually looking to acquire, eat, and thoroughly digest The Onion.

They always say nothing’s gonna change when the big boys from corporate take over, but something always does. Like when Einstein bought the Baltimore Bagel Company here in SD, and they went from making proper bagels to making puffy rounds of bread.

Godsbody – trite platitudes since 2005!


A good word from angelmeg!


Acting and Suffering

I know, I know – two religious posts in a row? Is Godsbody going all Jesus, all the time? What happened to Today in Porn? Fear not, and bear with…

“Every action we do, every suffering we undergo, whatever it be, as long as it is according to the will of God, is an act of communion with Jesus, an act that is no mere desire, but a positive advance in our union with him; it gives him new matter over which he can pronounce the saving words: ‘This is my Body.'”

I liked that last clause very much.

Modern Love

“The groom’s mother wore a peach silk suit and an expression of mingled happiness, anxiety and bemusement. The other groom’s mother wore a peacock-blue dress and a similar expression, one that seemed to combine “I can’t believe this is happening” with “What a beautiful day, what a lovely chapel, what nice well-dressed people — just like a real wedding.”

But this huppah was not just a huppah. First, it was a quilt, created by the grooms’ families and friends, with squares that read “Two Boys Dancing” and “I don’t even know how to think straight.””

Read the the whole story here.

Colbert Reduces Agnostic Theologian to Shreds

Rampant hat tipping over Colbert continues unabated in St. Blog’s: Open Book tips her hat to Singing in the Reign who tips his to Whispers in the Loggia … and they all tip theirs to Stephen Colbert.

“In the words of the Prophet, let’s get ready to rumble!”

We often hear of someone having "the patience of a saint"…

…but it seems to me that the devil, too, has patience. And perseverance.

[paid advertisement]

Running with Rosaries

Available from Korrektiv Press, January 2007.


A Scanner Darkly

Deception and drugs
Ensnared soldiers, sundered minds
A Gen X nightmare

(Yes, I know it’s based on a Philip K. Dick novel. But man, does it resonate. The ridiculous, even paranoid focus on minutiae as the larger world crumbles – because there’s the powerful sense that there’s nothing to be done.)

La Mala Educación

I watched the DVD version of Pedro Almodóvar’s paean to Hitchcock and film noir this weekend, and while it is certainly one of the more well crafted movies I’ve seen in some time, it’s also one of the most virulently anti-Catholic. The story has as its villain a priest in charge of an all boy’s school in the Francofried Spain of the 1960’s. If that adjective seems cumbersome, it’s also important: the way political, moral and artistic power is used or abused is important to every character and plot development in the story. And it is a very good story.

A struggling young actor (Gael García Bernal) shows up at the office of the filmmaker Enrique Goded (Fele Martínez) and announces that he is his old friend from school, Ignacio Zahara. He’s a bit pushy and asks to be called by his stage name ‘Ángel’, but succeeds in getting a few typewritten pages called “The Visit” into the hands of Enrique. Enrique takes the story home to read, and what follows is the most interesting ‘Russian dolls’ narrative I’ve seen or read in some time.

Padre Manolo (Daniel Giménez Cacho) appears at different times violently angry, sad, and confused, all of which renders the moral monster as entirely human. This is quite an achievement. I should add that the molestation is hardly implicit, let alone explicit: the most awful crime in the movie has the pre-pubescent Ignacio singing ‘Moon River’ to the accompaniment of Padre Manolo on guitar. Not the most awful, I guess; when someone shows up years later in Manolo’s office to confront him over the abuse, Manolo’s assistant, Padre José, strangles the poor soul as she tries to make a final confession. Does a priest actually murder someone? Well, yes and no. It’s hard to tell, since this murder actually takes place in a movie within La Mala Educación, directed by Enrique Goded. Whose last name brings to mind the French filmmaker of the 60’s, though one might reasonably conclude that he bears a much closer resemblance to Almodovar himself. Moreover, much of the plot of this movie-within-a-movie is blended with Enrique’s initial reading of the story that is the inspiration for this movie-within-a-movie (including, interestingly enough, the casting), and for all we can tell, La Mala Educación itself. That might be pushing it a bit far, although by the end of the movie it’s clear that Almodovar would like it so far pushed.

Back to that meeting in Fele’s office. Something just doesn’t seem right. One problem is that Ángel just doesn’t seem like his childhood friend. Another is his insistence on being addressed as Ángel. But if he isn’t his old friend, what exactly is he up to? Well, hustling the priest is an important part of the story (or stories) so let’s move on to that. Not so much the way it works in the plot – if I haven’t lost you by now, I’m giving up already – but because it dovetails so nicely with the real horror, which is of course the sexual molestation of young boys by priests.

Again, it’s important to note that the depraved acts themselves are hardly indicated in the movie, much less filmed. The whole thing is very artfully handled, and that whole Russian dolls thing keeps us forever guessing what is fact and what is fiction, or at least what is fiction and what is fiction-within-a-fiction. That being said, this is the creepiest portrayal of a priest I’ve ever seen on film, and Manolo and José as a team might well be the creepiest pair of villains in movie history, period. These priests are Very Bad Men. Of course, two priests do not a Universal Church make, but it’s awfully hard to avoid the conclusion that it is in fact a Very Bad Church. This conclusion seems to be supported by Almodovar’s comments in the director’s commentary track, that he, like the young Enrique, considers himself a hedonist (“someone who likes to have fun”), and that he, like Enrique, doesn’t believe in God.

Well, you don’t have to believe in God in order to believe that the church is an important institution, do you? Of course not. Nor do you have to believe in God to believe hat people are moral beings, and since priests are people too, they are certainly bound by the same moral laws by which you and I and Pedro are bound. And Franco. Franco had power, and it goes without saying that he abused that power. Priests have power, and they can abuse that power. Actors have power, and they can abuse their power. And yes, directors have power and they can abuse their power, and lest you think Almodovar would let himself off the hook, his stand-in is shown delivering some pretty rough sex on the couch to a young man in search of a part. But the real subject of this movie, or at least this paragraph, is priests. So let’s get back to the priests. They’re the ones abusing young boys, after all. They wear frocks that look like dresses, rather than just dresses. They are pedophiles. They are murderers. They are closeted. They are Very Bad Men. Is Evil too strong word? No, it is perhaps not quite strong enough.

In the history of the church there have certainly been priests who were closeted, pedophiles, and even murderers. There have indeed been Evil Priests. Isn’t Almodovar just laying the truth bare? And ‘the truth’ isn’t something that always has to be laid bare, is it? What about the truth of a good story? And this is a Very Good Story. One can’t say for sure, but there is certainly the possiblity that this story has its genesis in real life events. Real life abuse. What’s so anti-Catholic about that? And the movie is very artfully made. Passionately made, as Almodovar himself has stated. So what’s wrong with this picture?

Driving Tip #38

Beauty and the Beast, Re-Redux

Well, this conversation just seems to keep going, so let’s haul it back to the fore…

Thanks to everyone who commented. It is indeed valuable to note that the Beast does present Belle with intellectual fulfillment via his magnificent library. So… let me refine a bit, say exactly what it is that bugs me here.

Cinderella needs to escape the tyrannical rule of her stepmother and the cruelty of her stepsisters.

Snow White needs to escape the wrath of a jealous queen (who happens to be a witch).

Sleeping Beauty needs to escape the curse laid upon her at birth.


Ariel needs to escape the familiar world (What’s up there above the surface?)

Jasmine needs to escape the pressures of palace life (actually, she’s got something of a case, since she faces a forced marriage.)

Belle needs to escape this provincial life.

The evils that Belle and Ariel are seeking to overcome aren’t exactly evils. Not unless you’re ready to say that ordinary life is evil, and in Belle’s case, that marriage and family are evil. Yes, I know Gaston is a boor, and yes, it bugs me that the desire for wife and children and domestic bliss is put into the heart and onto the tongue of a villain. But it’s not just marriage to Gaston that Belle wants to avoid, it’s the whole provincial life – presumably, that would mean she wants to avoid marrying anybody in town. But provincial life is not evil. There is a bookshop. There are decent souls. Who knows whether or not the baker is secretly a poet? And even if he’s not, what’s wrong with being a baker? Heck, Belle’s father seems to be making a go of it, even if he is an odd bird. What’s wrong with provincial life? Belle sings it: “Every day/Like the one before.” The same thing can happen in a castle. Routine is a part of life. Family is a part of life. Someone like Chesterton would even argue that they are good parts of life, that ordinary life, even in the midst of its routine, is fraught with romance and drama, and not to be fled.

Lest anyone think I just hate adventurous women: Mulan: cool movie. What’s Mulan doing when she breaks the rules about women’s roles? Fighting to keep her father from certain death. Now that’s an evil worth overcoming.

"And that, ladies and gentlemen…

…is why I always give talks while standing like I’ve just finished a golf swing. Thank you for coming.”

But seriously – it was the coolest underground church hall I’ve ever been inside – check out those columns!

Charles Taylor and the Church

I’ve noted before that while I occasionally blog about Today in Porn, critic Charles Taylor manages to write about porn and the culture and get paid for it. (Reviewing The Girl Next Door for Salon, he wrote, “The American male hypocrisy toward sexually active women in general — and porn in particular — is at the center of the new comedy “The Girl Next Door.” Unfortunately, instead of being the movie’s target, it’s the subtext. For a more complete sense of his work in this field, you can see an archived listing of Salon’s articles about porn here.)

So, while we don’t often agree, I must admit that Taylor interests me – he gets that this stuff matters, and he’s willing to write about it, and even defend it.

Now, he’s gone and written a review of John Cornwell’s Seminary Boy for the Observer. It’s not long before he tips his hand regarding his own opinion of Mr. Cornwell’s childhood faith. Cornwell’s eventual decision to leave the Church is, writes Taylor, “brought on by the usual causes: an inability to reconcile intellectual curiosity and a normal sexual appetite with the strictures of the Catholic Church…”

And later: “Mr. Cornwell writes as if the gray, cheerless drudgery he encountered were an affront to the very idea of a loving Christ, and he’s not wrong. His description of his home parish (probably a good deal sharper than what he told his friend James) is a definition of religion as soul-starving ritual. His priest, driven by poverty, ekes out the instruments of the mass so sparingly that, at funerals, ‘the charcoal was a morsel of white ash by the time we reached the graveside.’ This note-perfect detail can stand for all: ‘At Low Mass he would ease a teardrop of wine into the chalice.’

In part, this is merely the minginess of poverty, and we all know that a degree of pageantry embellishes the Mass in wealthier parishes. But Mr. Cornwell can’t quite bring himself to admit that the flinty rituals of his home parish are also an expression of the self-denying, comfort-withholding Catholic Church.”

If Mr. Cornwell can’t quite bring himself to admit it, how does Taylor know about it? And ought it to be inserted into the review of a book (as opposed to a review of a Church)? Taylor thinks so, because he thinks the knowledge he brings to the table points up a flaw in Seminary Boy. Cornwell returned to the Church later in life, you see, and does not include the story of that in this book, which is, after all, about a boy. But Taylor is bothered:

“This may not be the place for a narrative of Mr. Cornwell’s later life, but if that later life seems to contradict both his own experience and certain damning historical facts, then Seminary Boy is less a spiritual and intellectual journey than a U-turn—it’s the story of how John Cornwell discovered a way back into that club that didn’t want him in the first place.”


Flipping with Spatulas

It’s been awhile since Korrektiv aimed a virtual towel-snap across the blogospheric lockerroom in the general direction of the bare buttocks of Godsbody….

We are great admirers of the book, Swimming with Scapulars, but it is a title that begs, that veritably sticks its tongue in your ear (like Bob Dylan’s wife, for you readers of the boringly titled Chronicles) to be parodied in a sound and nonsense sort of way. (In all fairness it was Lickona’s market-savvy publishers who insisted on the title, which turned out to be a pretty good one from the memorable, marketable, and thus parodiable angle.)

The possibilities are endless! And the parallel universes we glimpse in the alternative versions boggle the mind.

For example: Flipping with Spatulas, Matthew Lickona’s guide to his parallel universe career as a burger flipper at … what’s that joint that the Godsbody folks is always getting heated up about? Well … or Scrapping with Scimitars wherein Lickona describes his mythic battles in the Society of Creative Anachronism.

Or Skating with Swastikas.

Or Snapping with Fistulas.

Make up your own in the comments area and the prize winning entry received by next Wednesday at noon San Diego time will receive a free autographed copy of … Spurting with Jugulars, or whatever.

In the meantime, go read the book if you haven’t already.

And read this and this and this and this and that as well.

Beauty and the Beast Redux

So I take First Daughter (and, urg, Third Son, aka, the Hellion) to the foot doctor, and what’s playing in the waiting room but Beuaty and the Beast. This time, when Belle runs out into the fields surrounding her village and sings, “I want much more than this provincial life,” First Daughter turns to me and says, “Did you see how she just ran way out there? I want to do that.” Apparently, she wants exactly that provincial life – the freedom to roam open land. Of course, she’s only five. But it was still fun to note.

Well, that could have been worse…

…but I’m a long way from the pros, who have their talks down so pat that they get tired of hearing themselves speak.

I was delighted to meet this fellow, though I was hardly in top form when I did so. I’ve been half a step off for about a month now. Do read his post on the Baker Library.

Still, I was grateful for the chance to speak, and Stacy, Eli and Co. at the St. Mary of the Angels Thelogy on Tap were astonshingly gracious hosts.