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Google Alert: Catholic Arts Today

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The good people at the Benedict XVI Institute for Sacred Music and Divine Worship could not help but cast a curious eye on the strange and shadowy world of Catholic art, and for whatever reason, they saw fit to take note of my little poem “Leaving.” I’m tickled pink.

I, Tonya

No, Margot Robbie looks nothing like the 15 year old she plays in the movie, or even the 18 or 21 year old she plays in the movie. With a little makeup, she does look something like what I assume the 40-something Tonya Harding must look like now. Still and all, Robbie turns in an outstanding performance in a biopic about a national joke who somehow makes good of her life against very long odds. Sure, she may have been in on a plot to deliver an actual kneecapping to her opponent. But. She really was a damn good skater.

Between Knopler’s “Romeo & Juliet” and “Dream a Littleness Dream of Me” sung by Ella, this might be my favorite soundtrack ever. In fact, the entire Sound Design was about as sharp as I’ve ever heard. The editing is worthy of Thelma Schoonmaker (so skillful at turning Scorsese’s chaotic collection of images into narratives with such a strong pulse), and the combination of spot-on acting by the four principles from a great script make the whole movie incredibly credible.

I admit that I take issue with the metaphysics in which the entire movie is grounded. You can hear it in the above trailer when Tonya says in the voiceover, “There’s no such thing as truth. It’s bullshit!” For one thing, there’s the logical problem in stringing together both statements, by which we can gather that, yes, there is truth, and that truth is bullshit. Not all things, and perhaps even few qualitative statements, are entirely true or untrue, and most any kind of story (μῦθος) is going to embody a very particular kind of truth that may or may not also cohere with Truth with a capital T (λόγος), but by baldly stating “there’s no such thing as truth” or “there’s only my truth” (as Tonya says towards the end of the movie), the entire story demands to be taken as a tissue of lies. I can only conclude that Tonya certainly was in on the plot to break Kerrigan’s legs, and doesn’t actually deserve the sympathy everything else in the movie—the sound design, the editing, and the more pedestrian elements of the storytelling—would lead us to believe it deserves. But of course it’s with those extremely seductive technical achievements that we in the audience are enthralled.

The credits at the end ran with real footage of Tonya skating, which is indeed beautiful and a kind gesture on the part of director Craig Gillespie. For a movie that has so many scenes in which the characters are anything but, it’s a finishing touch that affirms the improbable tone of the entire story. In short, while problematic as a parable for any life but that of the impenitent thief, I, Tonya is still a very good movie.

Hostiles

A very good movie, which reminded me a little of (the also very good) Meek’s Cutoff in its consideration of the mutual antagonism between Native Americans and White Settlers. The year is 1892, and the now safely united US government has all but finished clearing the way for westward expansion. Captain Joseph Blocker, who has himself done a fair amount of this clearing, has now been tasked with escorting a former adversary, Cheyanne Chief Yellow Hawk, from a fort in New Mexico Territory to the Chief’s ancestral lands in the newly created state of Montana. Violence ensues and then recurs like bad spells of the weather, meted out by both the U.S. Army and what Native warriors remain. Though, interestingly enough, not between Chief Yellow Hawk and Blocker, who need one another to fight other hostiles, Native American and Caucasian alike.

The friend with whom I watched it praised the movie for its story of a man growing beyond the racism with which he performed his duty to clear the territories by subjugating or killing people he refers to as “savages”. I saw that, but what interested me more was the way the knife’s edge between sanity and insanity was even sharper than that between violence and peace. In the end I decided that it was because of Blocker’s stubborn insistence on sanity that he is able to rise above the genocidal racism by which he has fought, and lay claim to the humanity he’ll need away from the battlefield. Uniformly well acted, especially by Christian Bale, and director Scott Cooper’s best yet.

Mars Hill, J.F. and JOB

powers typewriter

“I think what Powers is trying to say is ‘No look, there’s a whole other side: there’s a lot of boring Tuesday afternoon at 4 o’clock stuff going on in the priesthood.’ And I think that’s what he wanted to show. I think he wanted to show that the priesthood was not glamorous, but that there was a profound struggle going on.”

Once More, In the Name of Love

Proud HeterosDamn, the planet just seems to circle the sun a little more quickly every year. Here we go again.

Lots of folks showing their pride today, of course. It’s difficult not to be gay for people out and about, enjoying the sun and such, but …

It seemed to me that there’s an undercurrent of sadness in the event that wasn’t there 20 years ago. In the Gay 90s, when the parade was up on Broadway, there was still something countercultural about the event, a cross between Mardi Gras and St Patrick’s Day and maybe Women’s Suffrage—an opportunity to release all that pent up libidinal energy, or at least imagining more of it, but also to stand up for one’s God given disposition and to go public with it for political recognition. Now there’s a lot of corporate sponsorship and parents, gay and straight, walking around with the kids, and the energy seems as manufactured as a high school pep rally.

In addition to tutus and unicorns and lots of sparkles, a lot of people wore a look of sheer boredom on their faces. Along the lines of, Let’s be good sports and dress up, like we do for Halloween. Or, What now? Oh yeah … Rights! More rights!

Having spotted a number of priests and nuns, if only in costume, I wanted to see a group of women in black burqas show up and just stand there, silent. And/or see a float with an SUV sized cock ejaculating big soap bubbles or something. But no: a huge inflatable plane, emblazoned “Alaska Airlines” and King County Metro … who gives a rat’s ass? Yeah, yeah everybody’s on board now and along for the ride, we get it.

Do fetuses dream of unborn sheep?

*young-philip-k-dick-600x744

An interesting and astute piece on all things “Phildickian” over at Chronicles:

But Dick also had a conservative side, represented by his strong (if heterodox) religious devotion, his distrust of large bureaucratic structures, and his longtime anti-abortion stance. In the last decade of his life, as he finally began receiving substantial amounts of money for his writing, Dick donated thousands of dollars to pro-life causes. He also wrote “The Pre-Persons,” a powerful story in which parents can abort any child under 12. Yet both the speech by Dick-the-hippie and the story by Dick-the-conservative are recognizably the work of the same man—both, in fact, were produced during the same period of his life. The first endorses rebellion, no matter how nihilistic, against a soulless apparatus of power; rebellion, at least, is human. And the story denies the government the right to define who is a human being, arguing that this will only produce a totalitarian system akin to the one the juvenile delinquents in the speech are rebelling against. One need not be pro-vandalism—or pro-life, for that matter—to approve of the underlying point.

*Dick and Percy: Separated at birth?(!)

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Jumping Jupiter! It’s the art of Father Peter Gray!

Father Peter Gray is probably one of the most prolific artists working at an easel today. But with thousands of paintings to his name, many of them portraits of saints and popes, Father Peter hasn’t withdrawn from the world to set up shop in a Bohemian loft or an artist’s retreat with an open-air studio. Rather, when he’s not up to his elbows in ochre, mauve and indigo, he’s engaging the world head-on, walking the mean streets of Baltimore, inviting homeless men to share a home with him, and supporting these men with the money he makes through his art even as he helps them get back on their feet and reintegrated into society.

Raise a glass and sit and stare…Appreciate the man:

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By the buy, the good padre also does abstracts.

Uncle Walt Wrote a Novel!

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Who knew the multitudinous poet had it in him?

Apparently a grad student named Turpin did.

And apparently everyone does…now.

As noted in the New York Times, Whitman once wrote in 1882, “My serious wish were to have all those crude and boyish pieces quietly dropp’d in oblivion.” Later, when he heard someone was interested in publishing his past fiction, he said, “I should almost be tempted to shoot him if I had an opportunity.”

Clearly, Whitman hadn’t expected Turpin…

Hey, look at that—AP says I’m Trump Country!

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See me up there in the upper right-hand corner?

As Percy would say, I’m “validated” like the young man who sees his own town in a film or lights up William Holden’s cigarette without acknowledging that he knows Holden knows he knows who Holden is, etc.

(p.s. This is not meant as a provocation, so please if you have anything bad to say about the current president, I would refer you to previous dust-ups at this blog on that issue, which I won’t even link to because I don’t think it bears any relevance to this post. Here, it’s all peace and joy and I don’t really care what you think about the current president – I’m making a Percian point here, which is much more important.

As a smoking/meat-smoking friend of mine in California might say, “Oh, you don’t like my politics? That’s nice. Did I mention that I bake bread?”

Except in my case I would say, “Did I mention I make a helluva good Chicken Cacciatore and that I can make you a martini that you will never forget? Sit down right there at my kitchen table and I’ll stir us a couple, and then let’s light up a smoke—cigar for you? Perfect!—and cigarettes (unfiltered) for me. Let’s talk then about the beauties of poems that completely nail the execution of a perfect enjambment of lines, of women who wear their hair down, of early R.E.M. albums and whether they were meant to be concept albums in the tradition of Pink Floyd and Yes but tinctured with a Southern Gothic ethos, of love in a time near the end of the world, and of children and how, one way or another, the little dears are going to get you out of bed in the morning. Yes—oh, and how’s your drink? See? I told you so….Cacciatore will be ready in about 20 minutes. How ‘bout another round?” )

 

Live-blogging the Brisket: Hour 6

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In the parlance of beef barbecue, the black crust that forms around the brisket in a slow smoke is known as the “bark.”

The purpose of the bark is to seal in the moisture so that – yes, I am going there – the bark is at least as good as the bite.

“The bark, you say?”

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Affirmative. The bark.

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“The bark.”

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The Bark!

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