Friday, December 31, 2004


Here's my latest from Catholic Exchange. They've had it as the headline today, and I am getting some interesting email feedback. Go read the article, then come back here and read some of these follow-ups...

Here's one...

"Thank you for your interesting article on the arts. Your statement that "The achievement of a Master of Fine Arts in whatever discipline, from even a top university, says nothing at all about whether an individual is an artist or even a competent craftsman." is, sadly, too true. Unfortunately I have learned this by direct experience, having earned my Masters in Fine Art (I am a painter) from a medium-sized state university.

I found my undergraduate work similar to an art survey, sort of a hands-on art appreciation course. The further I got in my graduate studies, the less actual technical instruction I received and the more things turned to philosophy. This would have made more sense if I had been an accomplished painter at that point but I was, in retrospect, barely competent. Technique was rarely discussed and I think that may be because the professors felt it somehow unfair to influence my technique to any great degree. It was assumed that all techniques are created equal and that everyone should be free to "do their own thing.". The same was true of subject matter.

Oddly what REALLY mattered in University was being able to talk, or better, write well about your work. Years later I came to the conclusion that it would not have mattered what you painted or how you painted it, as long as you could spin it with panache. And running underneath it all was the unspoken assumption that you didn't want to be like THEM. You know, the popular artists. Not popular with the art press, but popular with the people. Names like Norman Rockwell were never spoken without a roll of the eyes. It was made clear over the course of time that if your normal, average guy off the street could walk up and appreciate it, it wasn't art.

So most of my growth as an artist has come since my university training ended. The encouraging thing is that I see a return to the classical fine arts beginning to take hold around the country. I have recently opened my own art gallery, studio and fledgeling art school. I hope to influence young (or not-so-young) artists in the ways you mentioned. Your article helped me to affirm that it is not only possible, but necessary. Wish me luck! - no wait- pray for me instead...."

TJ from Arkansas

Here's another...

"I would add to your observations one that attempts to make explicit that
which you have implied.

True art of the finest quality does begin in the soul, but it is only brought out by the sweat of one’s brow (all thy strength) and the critical thought of one’s intellect (all thy mind) through steady and passionate perseverance (all thy heart). The four pillars of Love that Christ teaches us are intertwined in the arts, and the failure of the fine arts in institutional academia is, no doubt, the result of the explicit separation of the soul from the other pillars of Love. In reciprocal fashion, one can lead the arts back to a full embrace of Love if one openly and honestly embraces those pillars which one knows how to express well, even if the others do not come as easily. If one is of proper heart, the other pillars of Love will find expression in the arts, if perhaps less perfectly with some than with others.

This is best explained with an illustration: I conduct the coro that our Artist-pianist directs, and my own technique is quite flawed. Through no small amount of tribulation – including an initial rejection of proper admonishment – I have managed to learn enough that our liturgical music at least emulates art, if it does not always achieve it in plainest fashion. This has occurred largely because of my own willingness to expend great physical and mental effort to compensate for a relative lack of talent.

This is not meant to imply that effort and honest introspection can always compensate for lack of talent. However, given your description of sterile fine arts classrooms, effort and introspection seem to be requirements that the artist must develop on his own because they certainly are not imparted to him through his academic exercises. In other words, it is not just the soul that is missing from academia but the heart and mind and strength as well. The “anonymous rows of young people, most half awake, subjected to long cycles of monotonous lectures in sterile rooms” are evidence of this, which in turn suggests that the attempted separation of Love into its constituent parts for pragmatic application not only does not work but
cannot be made to work.

God created us as whole persons with greater and lesser gifts (talents) for different pursuits (charismas). When we cleave to that which God has created, we are not left with a simple collection of parts that can be put back together as we desire but rather with whole lot of nothing that cannot be adequately reconstituted until we move to order our parts back into the whole that God Himself created. In this sense, not only does academia betray the truly talented, but it also betrays the mediocre by telling them that it is possible to develop oneself at all without proper recourse to the fullness of Truth about Love.

Truly, not only does my soul not rest until it rests in the Lord, but my heart, mind, and body do not either."

CS from Texas

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Monday, December 27, 2004


This here is a flaming PC-free, Nativity creche friendly, winter solstice/Kwanzaa disdaining, stocking hanging, reindeer gaming, Joy to the World screeching, "Merry Christmas!" echoing, razzleberry dressing and wassail consuming, careening collision of Church and State, web-blog.

To all of you who are worried that the secularists are stealing Christmas, I send the words of the angels: "Do Not Be Afraid!" The ACLU et al. is no match for the shivering, little, naked Deity in the manger at Bethlehem.

So, happy and holy birthday of Jesus week everyone! God bless us everyone!

P.S. I will be making merry CT style all this week. I'm also finishing up a screenplay. Can't imagine there will be much blogging. So, God rest you all merry gentlemen, until next week!

Monday, December 20, 2004


"So, I guess Jude Law got left on the cutting room floor?" My twenty-something friend wondered the question aloud as we staggered out of the theater last night with a few hundred other staggering wonderers. We were leaving the three hour experience of Scorcese's highly-anticipated The Aviator plus trailers.

"Huh?" I replied, pithily.

He came back, "Wasn't Jude Law supposed to do a cameo as Errol Flynn in the movie?"

Wondering if this was a trick question, or else still brain-numb from the film, I said slowly, "He did. It was one of the three or four scenes set in The Coconut Grove. The only reason for the scene was to showcase Law's cameo....Where were you?"

He shrugged shamefacedly. "Well, I dozed off for about fifteen minutes, I think."

Oh well. Here it is, the morning after the latest disappointment from Martin Scorcese. The Aviator showcases the director's fabulous cinematic eye, but also his pathological inability to flesh out a satisfying narrative. The audience leaves feeling like it must have missed something - "How can so many fabulous frames amount to so very little in the end?"

To be fair, this film is nowhere as bad as the offensive, blood-soaked mess of Scorcese's last epic disappointment, Gangs of NY. That film was violating along with being tedious and disappointing. The Aviator is just tedious.

The film suffers from the fact there is too much material in the movie for a movie. This is a different problem these days. Most of the films that are getting made suffer from having not enough story for a short-film, that is still stretched torturously through two hours - or, as in Sideways stretched into 2.4 hours... In this case, Howard Hughes' life should most properly be done in an eight-hour mini-series. That is, as long as somebody can figure out the real cinematic story in the man's many true stories.

So, like many movies based on "strange, but true" stories, the principal flaw in The Aviator is that the inner drama is neglected - completely overwhelmed actually - by the external drama.

Don't be fooled by the fact that Scorcese gives LOTS of time to Howard Husghes' struggle with encroaching insanity. He does so - but without any insight. There isn't any "why?" to what should have been the movie's main question: Not, "why insanity?", but "why isolation in one's insanity?" The director spent way too much time wallowing in how insanity feels and acts. The main question I wanted to see addressed, was, how come a person with so much talent, treasure and vision, ends up alone, drowning in their own filth?

The answer probably has to do with isolation being the wages of narcissism. But, I have no confidence that a baby-boomer director can take on that subject objectively.

Have to mention the amazing performance of Cate Blanchett here. She channels Kate Hepburn in such a way that the audience kept laughing out loud in sheer delight. Her scenes with DiCaprio looked most like an acting clinic, with the out-of-his-league Leo feeding lines into the stupendous acting machine of Blanchett. Hers was a wonderful performance, even as the character suffered from the same lack of help in the script that scuttled the main story. Hepburn's character, as scripted, seems to be in the movie, well, to be in the movie. But the whole delightful sub-plot could be cut and the film would be just as thematically barren. (I trust I make myself obscure...)

Alan Alda started well as the smarmy corrupt Senator, but then he degenerated into a bad television character who implausibly collapses into befuddled stuttering before the plain-spoken brilliance of the, well, severely bi-polar, manically depressed and hallucinating Howard Hughes character. Alec Baldwin also does well in playing corporate creepiness. There's not much for the rest of the talented ensemble to do. John C. Reilly, Jude Law, Kate Beckinsale - really just here to play dress-up in a Hollywood celebration of its own hey-day.

Also have to say that Scorcese's visuals are stunning and lush as always. The scenes of The Coconut Grove were great - frenzied and claustrophibic opulence. The scene of the filming of Hell's Angels was exhilerating and breathless. The long sequence of nude Leo/Howard locked in his self-made insane asylum/movie theater, was cool to watch, but didn't amount to much.

In the end, I was just kind of sad - again - that Scorcese never found a partner to work with who understands good storytelling. He needs someone around to nix every other visually interesting scene, for one that has narrative significance. A friend emailed me that Scorcese might never get another major studio budget if this film flops. I actually think that might be good for him...and all of us.

Pass. Just fly-over The Aviator.

Saturday, December 18, 2004


If the film everybody is raving about, Sideways wins Best Picture in the year of The Passion of the Christ, I am going to seriously consider moving to eastern CT, to avoid a probable coming cataclysm. Honestly, along with Closer, this is the second film in four days that has made me want to flee this business, peeling of its slime as I run. It isn't so much the film - there have been mediocre, rambly, sexually explicit tales of moral pygmie navel-gazing narcissists before. It's just kind of, you know, excessively repulsive how everyone is falling all over themselves to rave about this project, because there are such a paucity of other serious competitors for Gibson's film.

Sideways is the story of two dreadful men, one an alcoholic manic-depressive loser, and the other a sex-addicted, pathological liar. (Are we having fun yet? Can't wait to rush out to the theater? But wait, there's more.) They hook up with two women, one of whom is a tramp who smokes pot and entertains men in the living room while her 8 year old daughter is in the next room. The other woman seems like less of a pot-smoking tramp, but in the end, she really isn't that much different in practice. She doesn't have a daughter though because she got divorced too early to have had kids. (Now, you're having fun, right? But, no, the entertainment goes on!) They are all just terrible, dreadful people. The sensation of watching them writhe around through two hours is alternately embarrassing and very, very sad.

I actually thought, as I emerged from the theater, which felt rather like climbing out a pit, that if a Christian had created those kinds of pagan characters in our projects, we would be accused of making one-dimensional "bad people" characters. But for some reason, when the pagans draw themselves in such dreadful lines, they are called "honest" and "profound". I guess it's the same rules which makes it okay for black hip-hoppers to use the "N" word?

People have raved to me about the movie because it has a lot of stuff about wine in it. But I found the whole wine sub-plot absolutely ill-fitting in this narative. It felt like the writer has a personal wine obsession, and he pretentiously stuffed the movie full of wine facts just to give some kind of background to his characters. But it didn't fit to me. Or at least, I don;t think the writers really understood what the whole wine thing might have added thematically. I mean, why ruin Miles' amazing love of wine, by making him a drunk? It kind of turns the whole 'Man will be saved by beauty" thing on its head. There were a few feeble - LONGWINDED - efforts to press some theme out of the characters grapes of wrath, but, in the end, the whole script was just a big mess. Intentionally mirroring the lead characters rambling 748 page novel? Hmmmm...

There was one lovely visual moment in the film. A baby "haunting moment" for you Act Oners out there. It had to do with the little bunch of pinot grapes that pull Miles out of his funk. Too bad the rest of the film didn't know it should have been about this.

The only thing I had heard about the film before I saw it was that it was "a bit wordy." HOLY MIND-BLOWING UNDERSTATEMENT, BATMAN! The two main male pigs in the film have the same conversation over and over and over and over again in the film's two plus hours. And it isn't a clever conversation either.

PIG 1: "Hey, Dude! Get over your manic-depressive sh*t because you're f*ckin' up my sex life!"
PIG 2: "Okay, okay, okay."

If Alexander Payne hadn't bought his own hype of being a clever genius, he should have submitted this project to some kind of script-doctor who could have cut out two-thirds of every dialogue scene (WHICH IS THE WHOLE MOVIE! NOTHING ELSE HAPPENS IN THIS MOVIE EXCEPT TALK!), and all of many of the scenes. It's just really sloppy writing. No narrative. An unbelievable story in which the female character's choices are all unmotivated. She just needed to make the choices she does so we can eventually get to some kind of ending. This is the definition of bad cinema story-telling.

I don't get the title either. Except for the fact that I really wish they would have filmed the extended male full-frontal nudity scene sideways. Talk about your highly offensive, stereotypical portrayal of the over-weight trucker and waitress class. (Someone say something about Hollywood being indignant about poverty, but despising poor people....) Indeed, people who don't want to see graphic portrayals of animal-like sex should stay away from Sideways. Don't be fooled by all the raves. There really is very little here.

Pass - forward, backwards, sideways.

Friday, December 17, 2004



What herb are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

Tuesday, December 14, 2004


Well, after several months of pleading with John, my personal little vindictive troll, to get some therapy (and a life!), I have installed a new kind of comments that will allow me to ban his vile crassness. I apologise in advance for all the gross and hateful comments John will post up here while I ban him from computer to computer. I suppose I should be grateful for the opportunity to learn first hand that hatred is, indeed, a kind of mental illness....?

Anyway, as you can see, I didn't get the installation of the new comments quite right. Can somebody tell me how to get the words "Comments 0; Trackback 0" off the top of my blog? (Clayton, are you listening?)


The only good thing about the screening was that I didn't bring one of my young male friends with me. Then, I would have had to labor under guilt for subjecting another human being to the cinematic disease now in theaters called Closer.

And here I was thinking I'm falling behind by having been out of theaters for a couple of months. If only I could have prolonged my absence a few more weeks.

Closer should be subtitled "Four Narcissists With Potty Mouths Commit Mortal Sin." Mike Nichols has a perverted side, as anyone with a keen sense of the obvious can detect in Whose Afraid of Virginia Wolf and The Graduate. This film brings all of us way, way too close to his degrading sexuality. I honestly think Nichols gets some kind of fetishistic thrill out of making beautiful, super star actors act like pigs.

Just like in Garden State and so many dramatic pieces in the last few years, Closer thinks it is being profound, when all it is being is embarrassingly banal. Watching the film feels very much like watching a five year old stare at a pile of his own vomit.

There is nothing insightful in beautiful people with no moral framework lying to each other to get more sex with other beautiful people. I heard all of the idiotic actors in the piece say on one talk show or another, that the film was about "Truth." It isn't really. It's about alleycats slinking around and humping each other.

The only hopeful thing about this piece of pretentious, over-blown, highly stylish piece of celluloid garbage, is that it is one more nail in the coffin of the Sexual Revolution. Or rather, we are seeing so many rejections of the lies of the SR, that this film could probably only be considered glaze on a nail in its coffin. Nichols doesn't condemn the SR, he seems to take it as an evolutionary fact, but the characters' lives here do. Hopefully, no one in the theater wants to be any of these dreadful, selfish people who talk in soap opera dialogue ("Why won't you let me love you?") or worse than soap dialogue ("I love you. And I have to go piss.").

No Christian consideration of Closer would be complete without noting that the language in the film is the worst I have ever heard. There is one particularly long scene in which the two male characters engage in vile Internet sex. It was disgusting. Way beyond what St. Paul could have been thinking when he said, "Let some things never be spoken of between you." I got out of my seat twice during the scene, but then I sat back down again BECAUSE SOME CHRISTIAN FILM CRITICS I KNOW SAID THE FILM WAS FASCINATING!!! (And tomorrow we will rationalize watching people hit one another with sledgehammers.)

Pass. Pass. Pass. Stay far away from Closer.

Sunday, December 12, 2004


The thing with evil is, it never relents. It never sleeps. It never retreats. It never pauses to catch its breath.

That's what I was thinking last Thursday while watching the last half of ER which featured an absolutely compelling and iron-clad dramatic defense for euthanasia. While, we all are catching our breath from having held the barricades against same-sex marriage on election day, the left marches on, advancing a new front.

I don't believe in media conspiracies, but it is amaziong how everybody in the worlds of mainstream media and entertainment seem to get "on message" so fast. So, this week, for example, on Wednesday, I heard House minority leader Nancy Pelosi note on CNN that there really isn't any looming crisis in Social Security, and that the whole thing has been raised by the GOP to scare young people. Then, most of Wednesday and Thursday, AOL has the lead headline, "Bush says There is a Looming Social Security Crisis." "Hmmmm..." I thought. "Since when, don't we all agree that Social Security is in trouble?"

Then, I catch the ER episode on Thursday night, and I started to see the next horizon. It all fits together for anyone who wants to see it.

The segment on ER - which was, SUPER-ironically the Christmas episode! - has the Chinese female Dr. Chen, selflessly and secretly caring for her father at home. He is a proud man who has now been reduced to the terrible suffering and humiliation of some kind of crazy seizures. The shots of his skinny naked legs flailing around in the air were all about getting the audience to the conclusion, "Good grief! No one should have to live like that!" From those sequences, it was just a short segue away for Dr. Chen to compassionately end her father's suffering.

It was stunning. A lead character, on a prime-time show, ends her father's life with an injection. This is the kind of action that previously was reserved for guest-actors, who didn't have to be safely sympathetic. At some point, the folks at ER and NBC decided, killing your sick parent with drugs is not something that would ruin a character's sympathy with the audience.

But there's more here. And that is the fact that the act of euthanasia styled as so very compassionate on ER unfolds as a daughter killing her father.

See, there is one way for there NOT to be a Social Security crisis in fifteen to twenty years. Do you see it? There will only be a crisis in Social Security, if we are not courageous and compassionate enough to euthanize our elderly.

My sense is, the temptation for Gen Xers to euthanize their Baby Boomer parents will be rationally irrestible for many. After all, Gen X is the group whose siblings were terminated so that Baby Boomers could have complete unfettered lives. What ever goes around...

Saturday, December 11, 2004


A friend told me recently that I will probably have that on my gravestone. Yeah, I guess.

the latest National Catholic Register reprint on Catholic Exchange of this, my keynote schtick.

Friday, December 10, 2004


So, one of our Act One alumns, Clayton Emmer, has set me up a personal web-site.

I feel like the occasion deserves some kind of auspicious introductory event - but I'm so tired and busy, I'm going to go for discreet and humble. (If I don't tell people how humble I am, they'll never know.)

We're still working on the site, so please feel free to send ideas about how it could be better. ("But this is about you! What else do you want to see about me?")

Right now, we are hoping the site will be an administrative help to funnel speaking and writing invitations to my assistant, the over-worked, underpaid, but never harried (how does she do that?!), Elizabeth. It also has my bio on it and copies of as many of my online writings as we could find. Eventually, we'll get some decorations up on it with photos of my favorite things. And anything else any of you think I should have.

Maybe an ever-expanding list of movies I recommend?

For now, without further

Thanks, Clayton!

Thursday, December 09, 2004


1. Am now officially eight days past my deadline to submit my National Catholic Register column. No hope of getting it done until Saturday. - NAUGHTY

...Am ducking their request for a special article about the Pope on Cinema because I really want to do it, but can't see how or when - NAUGHTY

2. Was supposed to turn in the first draft of the screenplay Nov. 25. Am now shooting for Christmas....We'll see how much I get done on Saturday. - NAUGHTY

3. Am five weeks late submitting my chapter for the Act One book. They would certainly cut me out of the project if it wasn't for the fact that the book editor works for me. Saturday looks good to wrap that up. -- DEFINITELY NAUGHTY

4. Have written but not typed up a preface to a new book on the theology of The Passion of the Christ. They made the mistake of saying, "Whenever you can get to it." I think I can get it done Saturday before I really start writing. - NAUGHTY

5. Managed to do all the final negotiations for the new Act One offices. We sign the lease Friday. - NICE

6. Am ducking a new friend who runs a cool ministry that I really love. She asked me two months ago to give notes on the marketing plan they will be rolling out this year. - SLIMEY NAUGHTY

7. Am spending the next two dfays participating in a consortium on theology and cinema. I actually read the four books they sent in advance of our discussions - NICE!

...But, then, they sent me a pile of papers to read based on the books, and I only managed to print those out. Sigh. - NAUGHTY

8. In anticipation of the Act One Board of Directors meeting tonight, we managed to get out an agenda and all the budget stuff and other info to the members three whole days ago. - NICE

...Me taking credit for the fact that my staff did the lion share of work getting all the Board meeting stuff together - PROBABLY NAUGHTY

9. Managed to coordinate several meetings this week between our Hollywood Christians, and a delegation of Christians from Capital Hill. The meetings have been very well-attended and interesting. - NICE

...Thinking of the follow-up blog or messages I should write about our discussions. Maybe can squeeze it in on Saturday... - NAUGHTY

10. Still have to find that 12" GI Joe tank for nephew John Thomas somewhere out there in Internet shopping land. Have been spending too much time surfing around looking for it. - MORALLY UNCLEAR. CONSULT FAGOTHEY.

11. Have so many cool things to blog. Been saving thoughts since the film festival back in October. What if I die suddenly without getting to post my ideas of how The Wizard of Oz fails thematically by having subverted itself as a musical in terms of its methodology? Thinking I can get up early on Saturday. - IS IT NAUGHTY WHEN IT'S JUST INSANE?

12. Everyone is asking me to comment on movies. Haven't seen anything for months. Need to see everything. - NAUGHTY

13. Missing the office Christmas party tomorrow to be at the theology thing. - NAUGHTY

...Saving money by not getting presents for anyone at the office and thinking no one will notice because I am missing the party - DEEP IN THE NAUGHTINESS ENDZONE*
(*credit to Karen Hall for coining the usage)

14. While running between events yesterday, I turned on the radio and heard a song about Christmas. It made me think of Jesus and my heart swelled with love. Still got it, even now. - VERY VERY NICE

Monday, December 06, 2004


I’m just back in Los Angeles after eight days in Italy. I was traveling with my sister Val, the opera singer, which was fun as we are both passionately dedicated to Jesus, art and, well, artichokes. Valerie is one of the only people on the planet who agrees with me that it is not over-doing it to order artichokes at restaurants twice a day for eight days. It’s our pathetic little brand of hedonism; make the most of it. We’re gambling that God, who invented the artichoke, has to be secretly delighting that one family, at least, really, really gets them.

We saw many beautiful churches. Exploring the sidestreets of Rome Thursday, we dropped into the fabulous Basilica of St. Andrew. It wasn’t even in our guide book – despite the immense and impressive frescos in the sanctuary of the martyrdom of St. Andrew, and eighty-seven different kinds of marble and lots of other works of glorious sacred art. It occurred to us that if any church in the U.S. had half as much beautiful art as St. Andrews, it would be a major place of pilgrimage for us poor sacred art starved Americans…and in Rome, it doesn’t even make it into the guidebook!

The people who had set up my trip were all lovely and solicitous, and, the sum total of their many kindnesses will have me working very hard to recover my bleakYankee crankiness about the imminent fall of Western civilization. Special thanks to Armando Fumagalli (I feel sure I spelled your name wrong…) and Paulo Braga in Milan, Pablo, the faculty secretary, and Juan Nobelas at Santa Croce, and Carmen of Opus Dei who pretended to be thrilled to spend the day showing us the great churches of Rome which I know she has probably shown to people 12,000 times before. Thanks to, to Fr. John, for understanding the essential relationship between sanctity and personal defects, not to mention the one between drama and the same. And thanks, Mary Cass, and the folks at Focolare, for getting me a room and a crowd to meet with.

As great as Italy always is, I admit that there is such a sense of relief when the plane touches down again on American soil. My sister and I sat in Philadelphia last night, waiting for our connecting flight, and making a list of the great little things about Italy, but also the equally great little things that make America a really nice place to come home to.


1. St. Peter’s, St. John Lateran, St. Mary Major, St. Paul’s (okay not so “little”), and in a secondary sense, the Gesu, St. Andrew’s, St. Ignatius’, etc. etc. etc.

2. Artichokes Romana, Arctichokes Judaia

3. shrines to the BVM at every intersection

4. buffalo mozzarella

5. the rain makes the city seem even shinier

6. more kinds of panini than you could ever possibly hope to sample in one lifetime

7. the waiters see serving food as a personal vocation

8. gelato

9. Il Trevi

10. pumpkin tortellini

11. friendly cab drivers

12. did I mention pumpkin tortellini?

13. “the little people” mob a display in a plaza about the restoration of La Scala

14. wine cheaper than soda


1. you can find an open restaurant any time of the day or night

2. bathroom fixtures that are better in every respect

3. things tend to work here

4. the Internet is something you can access in your hotel room

5. washcloths

6. our workers know how to go on strike

7. you can use a pay phone without an engineering degree

8. retail places stay open from 1 to 4 every day

9. we don’t have hard-core pornography at 10pm on network television

10. our police don’t stand on street corners holding Uzis at the ready

11. our president isn’t allowed to also own all the major television stations

12. our train seats all face one way so people don’t have to watch you eat your panini and cannolli

What does it say about me - besides that I'm jet-lagged - that the first song I thought of when I asked myself this question was Downtown by Petula Clark?

Bob Dylan Interview in Rolling Stone:

Q: 'What's The Last Song You'd Like To Hear Before You Die?'
A: 'How 'Bout 'Rock Of Ages?'


Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
let me hide myself in thee;
let the water and the blood,
from thy wounded side which flowed,
be of sin the double cure;
save from wrath and make me pure.

2. Not the labors of my hands
can fulfill thy law's commands;
could my zeal no respite know,
could my tears forever flow,
all for sin could not atone;
thou must save, and thou alone.

3. Nothing in my hand I bring,
simply to the cross I cling;
naked, come to thee for dress;
helpless, look to thee for grace;
foul, I to the fountain fly;
wash me, Savior, or I die.

4. While I draw this fleeting breath,
when mine eyes shall close in death,
when I soar to worlds unknown,
see thee on thy judgment throne,
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
let me hide myself in thee.

Someone forwarded me this from some source called Studio Briefing. Actually, I really hope this is just one more urban legend spam thing. But I'm going to take a chance and reprint it here. Clearly, for Viacom and NBC, just being Christian makes you inappropriate for the public airwaves.

Church Ad Rejected by Networks

Viacom's CBS and UPN networks have rejected a paid public service announcement by the United Church of Christ in which an announcer says, "Jesus didn't turn people away. Neither do we. ... No matter who you are, or where you are on life's journey, you are welcome here."

In a statement, Viacom said: "Because this commercial touches on the exclusion of gay couples and other minority groups by other individuals and organizations.
..and the fact the Executive Branch has recently proposed a Constitutional Amendment to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman, this spot is unacceptable for broadcast on the networks." NBC has also rejected the ad as "too controversial," the church said.

In a statement, the Rev. John H. Thomas, the church's president said that it was ironic that "an ad with a message of welcome and inclusion would be deemed too controversial. What's going on here?" The ad was accepted by Viacom's black-oriented BET cable network and its Nick at Nite channel as well as by ABC Family, Fox, Hallmark, and many Turner Broadcasting channels.

Monday, November 29, 2004


Coming to you all live from the Catholic University of Milan. I am here for a few days, as part of an international program in screenwriting that the university offers annually. My sister and I are having fun - even if La Scala, the Duomo and even our hotel are all being renovated...

Judging from my email, Catholic Exchange just posted another of my columns. I can't get the embeded link to work on this Italian keyboard, so go here to read the piece:

It is on why parents need to raise their kids WITH media, instead of INSTEAD of media. ABout half of my email is coming from annoyed parents who all seem to fit in the accusatory, not really a question, "So, how many children do YOU have?!"

I'm so relieved we believers save our nastiness for each other. It would be such a scandal to be this way with the pagans....

Anyway, Ciao y'all!

Wednesday, November 24, 2004


[ahem] I will be the official guest-blogger over at BeliefNet today. A group of us are all filling in for Charlotte Hays while she's on a break, so I will be posting what I would normally post here, there. Go see.

Just so's you all know, I got places to go...

Friday, November 19, 2004


[These are the notes from my talk at the Notre Dame "Epiphanies of Beauty Conference." I gave the talk today and people seemed to like it. Sorry if it's hard to follow in it's spottiness - just imagine me doing the Sicilian hand-waving and filling in all the holes.]

I. Intro….Thanks for invitng me to be part of this wonderful event. I am not a theologian or a philosopher. I have recently had a short-lived career as a doctoral student. But after just two courses in which we wrangled over earth-shattering topics like “Towards a Practical Theology: Rebuilding a Hermeneutic of Christopraxis” and “Rethinking the Sermon on the Mount as Divine Triadic Transforming Initiatives,” I decided, that I would probably die while scaling the ivory tower, and I should be humbly content to stay in Hollywood and influence the billions of people who make up the ravenous global audience.

I am an artist - a writer and dramatist, and I am the ring-master of a new community of filmmakers in the entertainment industry. We started out in 1999 to try and get better scripts on the desks of Hollywood executives. We created a pedagogical model to address this problem. We find ourselves now, focused on building a nurturing community for our writers, and then standing around the perimeter, rubbing our hands together and hoping that something amazing will happen when we aren’t looking. The classroom phase of the program is basically just the doorway, rite of initiation.

It’s that “when we aren’t looking” that I want to talk about today. The time of isolation that is the prerequisite to every work of art. It is the biggest cross of the artist, even surpassing in weight the cross of their own weirdness.. Mainly because a lot of their weirdness proceeds from the solitude that they have to make their home so often.

I don’t have time today to dwell too much on the necessary relationship between isolation and creativity. You’re just going to have to take my word about it as a practitioner and one who wrangles practitioners.

I will talk about the following:

A) Two Senses of Isolation, one positive and one negative, and how artists tend to experience them backwards.
B) The relationship – I’m going to call it a marriage - between the artist and their art, and the way it ravages them to salvation, and possibly some of us on the outside too.
C) Why Classrooms Will Not Produce The “New Renaissance”
D) What Kind of Community We Need to Create So That We Might See Some Beautiful Art Again At Some Point. (And When I say Beautiful I mean…)

II. Isolation as the Artist’s Cross

It is a paradox. Art is a striving to connect. To make art, one must disconnect and retreat into isolation. An artist will never get past the struggle with isolation. In so far as they do war against themselves – their fear and sloth, they will be able to enter productively into isolation. Most of the time, they will come away with little to show. They can be inspired with an idea in myriad ways, but in the end, they will have to sit and recombine and knead that idea, working it and letting it work them, until it is ready to be born.


a) Negative Isolation as the Artist Fringing Himself on the Outskirts of Society
I am not an art historian, and I don’t know what led to this situation, but the truth is, it has become a virtue for an artist to be cut off from “the village” to dwell in a kind of haughty isolation. The story of the 20th Century artist has been a tortured tension between the glorification of isolation, and the passion for commercialization and celebrity.

I asked a writer a couple years ago, where he thought ethics for a fiction writer consisted of, and he said, “In being faithful to the voice inside me.” So I said, “Yes, but what if you are sick, and have an infection that could harm other people.” And he kind of unblinkingly parroted back at me, “The role of the artist is to be faithful to his own vision.”

So, putting the best spin on it, artists today tend to think of isolation as the only protection for their distinct voice. And it is true that that voice needs to survive. I would argue that for the real artists (that is, the one who is driven to create) his or her very survival is tied to the preservation of their unique voice.

So says Lord Byron in his poem Childe Harold,

‘Tis to create, and in creating live
A being more intense, that we endow with form our fancy,
Gaining as we give
The life we image, even as I do now.
What am I? Nothing;
But not so art thou, Soul of my thought!
With whom I traverse earth, Invisible but gazing
As I glow, Mix’d with thy spirit; blending with thy birth,
And feeling still with thee in my crush’d feelings dearth.

The result of artists in isolation has been devastating – first and foremost to the artist, who have been left to carry the burden of creativity without the support of a loving community, not to mention sanctifying grace. But it has also meant that the rest of us have suffered the loss of what the Pope calls the artist’s ‘prophetic voice.’ More about what else we’ve lost further on.

So, here’s why I find the Pope’s Letter to Artists so wonderful. It opens with a call “To renew that fruitful dialogue that used to exist between the Church and the arts.” What is Dialogue, but a calling out of isolation?

I guess the point of this conference is to get at what the Church and artists have to say to one another –

III. The Isolation That Is Holy

Several years ago, I went to a dentist and before he put my fingers in my mouth I asked him, “Do you like being a dentist?”…… I hear the same kind of thing from my writers. They are always telling me, “I hate writing. I get so lonely!!!” “Nobody told me I was going to have to be alone so much. You know, by myself!!”

The funny thing, that artists experience loneliness is not a sign that they are doing art wrong. Any more than a dentist getting saliva splattered on his face. A lonely artist is not doing it wrong, he is just doing it. It’s amusing that artists tend to experience the unhealthy isolation as a positive thing, because it is connected to their sense of themselves as islandic, while they experience the healthy isolation as negative – because it is related to humility. The point is, we need to offer artists a kind of community that can support them in their healthy isolation.

In his Letter to Artists, The Pope speaks with compassion about the artist’s need to subject himself to “the demands of beauty.” The principle demand is the price of excellence – the wages of the craft itself – and this is something that can only be achieved in isolation.

The relationship between the artist and his art becomes as defining as a marriage. The artist has to be wedded to his craft, and make every sacrifice for that other. My mother used to say about a successful marriage, ‘There is no such thing as quality time together. There is only time.” And this is true of the artist, there can be no substitute for “the scales.”

“It is easy to forget that the man who writes a good love sonnet needs not only to be enamored of a woman, but also to be enamored of the Sonnet.” C.S. Lewis

We tell our students, “You might be a good writer when you have completed your 1000th page. This is roughly equivalent to eight screenplays, or else one screenplay rewritten eight times. Then, you can stand back and know that you have some basic proficiency with the limits and possibilities of the art form. For a painter, you know what yellow can do on a pallet. For a singer, your body knows how to prepare for and make the transition from a high G to a B flat.

If you don’t write 1000, the most you might have is flashed of goodness. But it will be an incomplete, project that people will refer to as having loads of potential. But it won’t be worth anything in itself.

This being closeted alone with your craft makes for a weird relationship between the artist and their art form. To those of us on the outside, it’s just damn queer. But it will help to think of it as a kind of marriage. Here’s a sequence of clips from Hilary and Jackie…


In order to bring forth new epiphanies of beauty, and artist has to go off by himself, and stare, and brood, ponder. He has to willingly let himself be kneaded by the sufferings and humiliations of life, and stay in that place, until he loses a measure of control and it bubbles up out of him in a process called creativity.

Sitting alone with yourself is truly frightening – even if the scariest thing about it may be just how desperately boring it can be. Emily Dickinson expressed it thus:

The Loneliness One dare not sound –
And would as soon surmise as in its Grave go plumbing to ascertain its size.

The Loneliness whose worst alarm is lest itself should see –
And perish from before itself for just a scrutiny.

The Horror not to be surveyed –
But skirted in the Dark –
With consciousness suspended –
And Being under lock.

I fear me this –
Is Loneliness the maker of the soul?
It’s Caverns and its corridors Illuminate? Or seal?

What is the principle fear of isolation? The Pope references a “suffering of insufficiency.” That is, even after having spent yourself completely, you will have to stand back from your work and say not “It is good,” but probably, “It is better than most people could do….but it is still not really good.” So, the artist has to live inescapably with the certainty of his own limits. The most compelling temptation for us all is the vision of the life without limits: “You shall be like gods.” The artist is aware at every creative moment of his limits.

It is a suffering that can make you mad/insane if you fight it, this suffering of insufficiency. The only thing to be done is to embrace it humbly. So that every experience of creativity leads you to realize the distance between yourself, and the Creator.

III. Other Dangers of Isolation

There’s a reason why solitary confinement is among the worst punishments a person can receive.
- Isolation can foster depression. Many artists already have the aptitude for depression. There are myriad studies which have tried to figure out if depression causes artistic creativity – like a person drowning grasping at a line, or if doing art makes you crazy. I think it is a little of both.

- Isolation renders people inadequate in human society. It can make them slobs who will be in their pajamas at 2pm, and whose creative space is somewhere in the middle of the mound of candy rappers and diet Coke cans.

- Isolation can make people intellectually proud. “Thank you God that I am not like other men, but am instead someone who broods and ponders.”

- Isolation can make you think you are alone.

- There are other aspects of the artist’s life which are very isolating: rejection, instability, celebrity

For all these reasons, it has been said, “Instead of coming to the imagination’s rescue, the Church has panicked at its antics.” (Janine Langan, Truth, Justice and the Modern Imagination)hj

IV. Why the Classroom Can’t Produce Great Art

Many reasons that each deserve a separate talk. For example,

- The classroom is basically a consumer environment. People who are all paying tuition cannot be separated out in terms of who has talent and who doesn’t.

- The academy is infected with the fear of absolutes, and so it is considered totalitarianism to say, “This is ugly.”

- And while classrooms should be about encouraging young people, what good is it to validate someone falsely? Teachers tend to have a false sense of what encouraging young people means. We need to bring the deadly serious collegiate sports exclusivity into other areas of academia. Some people just can’t cut it in the arts, and they need to be told that.

Principally, however, the classroom will generally not produce great art because it teaches craft in isolation from life.

It also isn’t a covenant-based community, and the handing on of an art form is very much something that needs to be founded in a covenant relationship.

V. The Studio as the Answer to Artistic Alienation

All of our efforts at Act One, are centered into working with writers until we know that they are serious about pursuing their craft, and we know that they have talent, and we have helped them acquire enough technical mastery, that we can place them with a mentor.

We also blackmail, bribe and extort them to enter into a group of other writers, and then, as soon as they begin to find some success in the industry, we start asking them to mentor the next crop of young writers.

In the studio relationship, the artist gets much more than craft lessons. He gets life lessons. He hears how another person weathered the poverty of the initial years, and how he dealt with being very good, but not the best. (Valerie: “I only need to sing the best song I can sing…”)

Reforming Christian artists guilds and studios, will be a good thing for both the masters and the apprentices…and especially for the Church.

Unlike the classroom, the master can refuse to take a student. He has an interest in not putting disciples out there who would diminish his reputation.

VI. Rules of the Community

The community has a clear covenant.

a) Beauty is the harmonious combination of details and one of the harmonies is in the content or message of the work. It is possible to have a great work of art that is ugly, because it is a lie (like The Hours, or American Beauty). To the same extent, it is possible to have a truthful work of art that is ugly, because it is missing craft.

b) The striving is to live the truth in charity. We have to find a way to validate each other while still being honest about each other’s work. We believe that there are many places in the community and that the ability to appreciate artistic talent, is also a talent from God. He gives this gift in proportion to the gift of talent. (Theo and van Gogh. Sue and Emily: “To Make a Clover, It Takes a Clover, and a Bee, and Reverie))

c) Fidelity to the artist’s vision as a God-given gift: I don’t tell you how to fix your screenplay. I only tell you what isn’t working in it.

d) “Freely you have received. Freely give.”

e) “Be worth teaching. Do your homework (no faking it.).”

f) We owe one another first of all, the witness of a godly life, married to artistic excellence.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004


I am giving a talk Monday night at Franciscan University of Steubenville that will be open to the public. Do come and bring hoards of culturally astute philanthropists. Info follows...


a presentation featuring Barbara R. Nicolosi, Executive Director, Act One, Inc.

Monday, November 22, 8pm

The International Room
JC Williams Center
Franciscan University of Steubenville

For more information: 740-283-6450

Tuesday, November 16, 2004


I finally got myself organized with the folks over at Catholic Exchange such that they will now be posting all my columns from the National Catholic Register. This will provide an on-line archive for me (and reveal in no uncertain terms that I really only have about four and a half original thoughts, but I keep recombining them in endless schticks...). I sent them all the articles from the last year, and they will be posting them over the next several months.

They are running one today called, "Five Things The Church Can Do To Fix the Culture Fast". Enjoy it again - it just gets better!

[Inner, dark whiny Barb self] And when I grow up, I want to be listed on their front page along with their special columnists....RIGHT ABOVE Amy Welborn.

[Cough] Clearly, we have a way to go before growing up...ahem.

That's what they're calling an amazing conference going on at Notre Dame this Thursday-Sunday. I love the title of it above, because I find it refreshing to see the phrase "post-Christian culture" asserted directly. I've been going around saying that we're in a post-Christian culture for ten years now, but invariably, religious folks demur. Not sure what happened to put the folks at ND over the edge, but they're welcome to join the ranks of us "with eyes to see."

Anyway, the line-up of academics at this week's event is impressive. Hopefully, there will be a lot of artists there too...and hopefully, the academic papers will be written in such a way as to be intelligible to the artists.

My talk is Friday at 11:20am

Here's more info from the event's web-site...

University of Notre Dame, November 18-20, 2004

"Even beyond its typically religious expressions, true art has a close affinity with the world of faith, so that, even in situations where culture and the Church are far apart, art remains a kind of bridge to religious experience." -- Pope John Paul II, Letter to Artists

Pope John Paul II addressed his 1999 Letter to Artists "to all who are passionately dedicated to the search for new 'epiphanies' of beauty, so that through their creative work as artists they may offer these as gifts to the world." In using the word "epiphany," the Holy Father drew attention to art as the manifestation, or "shining forth," of the glorious beauty of God's creation. Accordingly, as the pope says elsewhere in the letter, beautiful works of art serve as "a kind of bridge to religious experience," and thus as a genuine source of moral, spiritual and cultural renewal.

The Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture's fifth annual fall conference will examine the variety of ways in which the fine arts can help build a more genuinely Christian civilization in an era that is ever more deeply post-Christian in its character. Our first triennial series culminated in proposals on how to build a genuine culture of life, and last year's conference reflected on the renewal and formation at the heart of such a culture. This conference will focus our reflection on the fine arts and their place in a culture of life.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

7:30 p.m. Welcoming Remarks

7:40 p.m. Keynote Address
"Shouts or Whispers? Faith and Doubt in Contemporary American Literature"
Gregory Wolfe, Seattle Pacific University/Publisher and Editor of Image

Friday, November 19, 2004

8:00 - 9:10 a.m. Colloquium Sessions

Session 1: Examining the Works of Flannery O'Connor
Chair: Ralph Wood, Baylor University
"Epiphanies of Beauty: Flannery O'Connor's Short Stories in the Interpersonal Communication Classroom"
Janie Harden Fritz, Duquesne University
"A Good War is Hard to Find: Flannery O'Connor, Abu Ghraib and the Problem of American Innocence"
David Griffith, University of Pittsburgh
"Flannery O'Connor's Art of Conversion: Unlikely Sacraments for the Post-Christian Reader"
Joseph Quinn Raab, STL, Santa Catalina School

Session 2: Art and Nature
Chair: Margaret Watkins Tate, Baylor University
"Artificial Nature and the Beauty of Species"
Edwin Bagley, Wingate University
"In Light of Metaphor: Poetry and Environmental Humility"
Deborah Bowen, Redeemer University College
"Fibonacci and Other Natural Forms in Music"
Marjorie Bagley, Ohio University School of Music

Session 3: Architecture and Urban Planning
Chair: Philip Bess, University of Notre Dame
"Everyday Epiphanies: Beauty, Meaning, & the Urban Experience"
David Mayernik, University of Notre Dame
"Designing and Building Homes to Foster the "Domestic Church": Catholic Principles of Residential Home Design"
Sara Freund, University of St. Thomas/Trinity School at River Ridge
"Architectural Modernism and Modern Catholic Architecture"
Randall Smith, University of St. Thomas

Session 4: The Visual Arts and the Imagination
Chair: Jeff Langan, University of Notre Dame
"The Artistic Imagination and its Interpretive Influence on Tradition"
George S. Matejka, Ursuline College
"Kierkegaard and Barocci on the Aesthetic Validity of Marriage"
Greg R. Beabout, St. Louis University
"Creativity and Creation: Nature, Spirituality and the Paradox of Size in Adam Elsheimer's Flight into Egypt"
Michelle A. Lang, University of Nebraska at Kearney

Session 5: Theology and the Arts
Chair: Cristian Mihut, University of Notre Dame
"He Loved Rachel More than Leah: Genesis 26 and 34 as Covenantal Reminders"
Thomas Wetzel, Marquette University
"Christian Art: Beyond Presumption and Despair to Hope"
Douglas Henry, Baylor University
"Wisdom, Understanding, Knowledge: Towards a Biblical Theology of the Arts"
Donald Uitvlugt, University of Notre Dame

Session 6: Philosophy and Literature
Chair: Peter Wicks, University of Notre Dame
"Purifying the Source: Flannery O'Connor and Caroline Gordon On the Trail of Jacques Maritain"
Ryan J. Jack McDermott, Duke University
"How to Live a Life: The Quest for the Authentic in the Novels of Walker Percy"
Paul Foster, The Heights School
"The Tragic Hero and Christian Dignity"
Catherine Jack Deavel, University of St. Thomas

Session 7: Case Studies in Film
Chair: Daniel McInerny, University of Notre Dame
"Night Light: Beauty and Truth in the Films of M. Night Shyamalan"
Brian Clayton, Gonzaga University
"The Truman Show and Beyond: Andrew Niccols' Platonic Craft"
Michael Foley, Baylor University
"Beauty and the Divine"
Rev. Robert E. Lauder, St. John's University

9:10 - 9:40 a.m. Break, Refreshments

9:40 - 10:50 a.m. Colloquium Sessions

Session 1: Medicine and the Arts
Chair: Rick Garnett, Notre Dame Law School
Rev. W.P. Grogan and Sr. Judy Niemet, RSM, Provena Health
"Medicine as Art: Dialectic Between Creativity and Methodology?"
Fabrice Jotterand, Rice University
"Icons, Law, and Life"
Richard Stith, Valparaiso University School of Law

Session 2: Case Studies in Literature
Chair: Rev. Michael Heintz, University of Notre Dame
"'Getting Religion': Flannery O'Connor and Conversion in the Society of the Spectacle"
Agnes Kramer-Hamstra, McMaster University
"Gollum, Instrument of Providence"
Tom Harmon, Freelance Journalist
"Structural Ideation: The Methodology of Christian Meaning in the Works of J.R.R. Tolkien"
Jana Tuzar, Benedictine University

Session 3: Sacred Architecture
Chair: Bill Westfall, University of Notre Dame
"Learning from Light: What Painting on the Premises of a Gothic Cathedral Has Taught Me about the Nature of Art, Beauty and the Creative Process"
Gael Mooney, MFA, Painter
"Ever Ancient, Ever New: Thoughts on Creating Contemporary Sacred Architecture"
Steven Schloeder, PhD, Institute for Studies in Sacred Architecture
"Art and the Parish Madonna Chapel"
Rev. Timothy Sauppe, STL

Session 4: Philosophical Perspectives on the Arts
Chair: Fred Crosson, University of Notre Dame
"Destructive Epiphanies, Desecrating Art, Godless Culture: Confronting Rousseau's Discourse on the Arts"
John Prellwitz and Kathleen Glenister Roberts, Duquesne University
"Reflections on Newman on Literature"
Ronald Hustwit, The College of Wooster
"Toward an Aristotelian Theory of Art and the Fine Arts"
Matthew P. Lomanno, University of St. Thomas

Session 5: The Arts in Modern Society
Chair: Maura Ryan, University of Notre Dame
"Wellsprings of Beauty: Nurturing the Artistic Soul"
Dolores Flessner, Artists for a Renewed Society
"Mass Enlightenment in a Capitalistic Age"
Jason M. Bell, Vanderbilt University

Session 6: Case Studies in Painting
Chair: Kevin McDonnell, St. Mary's College
"Salvador Dali's The Sacrament of the Last Supper: A Theological Re-Assessment"
Michael Anthony Novak, Marquette University
"Nature, Myth, and Sacrifice in the Paintings of Georgia O'Keeffe"
Ann Astell, Purdue University
"Jean Charlot and Paul Claudel: Apocalyptic Visions"
Marcia Rickard, Saint Mary's College

Session 7: Depicting the Human Face
Chair: Rev. David Burrell, CSC, University of Notre Dame
"Ethiopian Women are the Most Beautiful Women in the World"
Susan L. Sprecher, University of Notre Dame
"Old Man of the Middle East: Son of Abraham? Son of Ibrahim?"
Gloria Smith and Peter Carney, MD
"Icons, Advertising, and the Human Face"
Scott Davison, Morehead State University

10:50 - 11:20 a.m. Break, Refreshments

11:20 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. Invited Papers

Session 1: "What Makes a Painting a Religious Painting?"
Alasdair MacIntyre, University of Notre Dame
Chair: Thomas Hibbs, Baylor University

Session 2: "Isolation, Community and the Artistic Life"
Barbara Nicolosi, Act One: Writing for Hollywood
Chair: Mary Keys, University of Notre Dame

Session 3: “J.R.R. Tolkien: Our Post-Modern Contemporary”
Ralph Wood, Baylor University
Chair: David Fagerberg, University of Notre Dame

12:45 - 1:45 p.m. Lunch

2:00 - 3:10 p.m. Invited Papers

Session 1: Jorge Garcia, Boston College
“Chance or Providence? Kieslowski, God, and Contemporary Film”
Thomas Hibbs, Baylor University
Chair: David O'Connor, University of Notre Dame

Session 2: "Poetry and Evangelizing"
Kevin Hart, University of Notre Dame
"The Epiphany of Fiction"
Ralph McInerny, University of Notre Dame
Chair: Donald Schmeltekopf, Baylor University

Session 3: "First, Kill All the Lawyers: Intellectual Property and the Re-Feudalization of Culture"
Leo Linbeck III, Rice University / President and CEO, Linbeck Corporation
Chair: Daniel McInerny, University of Notre Dame

3:10 - 3:40 p.m. Break, Refreshments

3:40 - 4:50 p.m. Colloquium Sessions

Session 1: Musical Performances
Chair: Charlotte Kroeker, University of Notre Dame
James Falzone
Marjorie Bagley

Session 2: Art and Politics
Chair: Fred Dallmayr, University of Notre Dame
"Liberating Art and the Individual"
Raquel Frisardi, Princeton University
"Art: Truth and Politics"
Garth Gillan, Professor Emeritus, Southern Illinois University
"Why I Can Never Own The Last Supper: Lockean Property and Artistic Creation"
Jeremy Garrett, Rice University

Session 3: Relating Art and Religion
Chair: Adrian Reimers, University of Notre Dame
"Enthusiastic Poetry and Rationalized Christianity: The Critical Theory of John Dennis (1657-1734)"
Phillip J. Donnelly, Baylor University
"Notes from a Catholic Pilgrimage to the Temple of Art"
Robert D. Meadows-Rogers, Fordham University
"Shiva the Destroyer v. Scotland Yard: Unique Problems in Interpreting Religious Art"
David Vessey, University of Chicago

Session 4: The Soul of the Artist
Chair: Fred Rush, University of Notre Dame
"Setting a Libertine to Music: Some Questions about the Portrayal of the Hero in Mozart's Don Giovanni"
Joseph Orchard, RILM Abstracts of Music Literature
"The DaVinci Code, The Passion of the Christ and Lord of the Rings: Art as a Reflection of the Soul of the Artist"
Jeff Langan, University of Notre Dame
"Art and a Monastic Practice: Drawing and Lectio Divina"
Iain MacLellan, OSB, MFA, St. Anselm College

Session 5: Working Artists Discuss Their Methods
Chair: Austin Collins, University of Notre Dame
"Ideas to Images"
Jacqueline Belfort-Chalat, LeMoyne College
"Outside of Beautiful: A Painter's Raw Approach"
Don Swartzentruber, Grace College
"Art as an Invitation to Prayer"
Kathleen Walsh, Working Artist

Session 6: The Place of Art in Philosophy
Chair: Thomas Flint, University of Notre Dame
"The Heart of Speculative Thought: On the Place of Art and Aesthetics in Philosophy"
Robert Wood, University of Dallas
"The Cosmos as a Work of Art: Sketches Towards a Response to the Problem of Evil"
Alexander Pruss, Georgetown University

Session 7: Tour of the Snite Museum: Christian Images in History
This tour, led by Prof. Diana Matthias of the Snite Museum, will offer a look at some of the amazing and diverse art collection housed at the museum here on the Notre Dame campus.

6:00-7:15 p.m. Dinner

7:30-9:00 p.m. Lecture-Concert: Olivier Messiaen's Visions de l'Amen
Pianists: Hyesook Kim, Calvin College
Stephane Lemelin, University of Ottawa
Lecturer: Stephen Schloesser, Boston College
Location: Annenberg Auditorium

Olivier Messiaen, one of the greatest composers of the twentieth century, wrote his seven meditations on the word "Amen" for two pianos in 1943 in Nazi-occupied Paris. His inspiration for the piece came from a book given him by his brother entitled Words of God by the 19th century Catholic Revivalist writer Ernest Hello. "Amen" is the final "word," of course --- but it is also the beginning word of creation. In the darkest hours of the twentieth century, then, Messiaen wrote this brilliant work -- thunderous in its lower ranges and dazzling in its upper -- about the origins and ends of the created world.

The concert will be preceded by a half-hour lecture by Stephen Schloesser, a professor in Boston College's History Department, laying out Messiaen's connections to French Catholic Revivalism in particular and to the Symbolist movement in general. Many listeners find Messiaen's music initially difficult to grasp, and it is hoped that this lecture will make this piece much more accessible to audience members who are not already acquainted with his work. One thing is certain: those who watch and hear these live performers will be astonished by the sheer physical stamina required to produce such passionate sounds.

9:00 p.m. Reception

9:30 p.m. Musical Performance: Mark Lang and Nadina Bembic
Location: LaFortune Ballroom
Featuring songs from ND alumnus Mark Lang's debut folk-rock album Simplicity. Nadina Bembic's debut album is due out in December. Demo copies will be available for sale. This performance is free and open to the public, and undergraduates in particular are encouraged to attend.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

8:00 - 9:10 a.m. Colloquium Sessions

Session 1: Music and Culture
Chair: Ed Goehring, University of Notre Dame
"Ethnic Music as the Antidote to Globalism"
E. Michael Jones, Culture Wars
"Epiphany in Word and Tone in The Wild Swans at Coole"
Paul Johnson, University of Notre Dame
Margaret Keefe, Montrose School

Session 2: Conversion Narratives
Chair: Walter Nicgorski, University of Notre Dame
"I and Thou and We: The Catholicity of the Conversion Narrative"
David P. Deavel, University of St. Thomas
"Brideshead Revisited: The Dialogue of Conversion"
Marianne Peracchio, University of Notre Dame

Session 3: Expressing Catholicity through Culture
Chair: Katherine Tillman, University of Notre Dame
"Emblems for a Season of Fury: The Art of Thomas Merton"
Paul Pearson, Thomas Merton Center
"Combing the Tradition: Ralph Fasanella and the Persistence of the Catholic Imagination"
Fred Herron, St. John's University
"John Henry Newman and Romanticism's Redemption"
Damon McGraw, University of Notre Dame

Session 4: Relating Beauty to Truth and Goodness
Chair: Alfred Freddoso, University of Notre Dame
"The Virtue of "Lying": Recovering the "Saving Beauty" of Plato's Poetic Vision"
Nathan Schlueter, St. Ambrose University
"Iconography as Ethics"
Rev. Oliver Herbel
"Hans Urs von Balthasar's Archaeology of Alienated Beauty"
Rev. Edward Oakes, University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary

Session 5: Educating Young People through the Arts
Chair: Catherine Zuckert, University of Notre Dame
"Catholic Formation Through Children's Literature: The Works of Hilda Van Stockum"
Christine Marlin, Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Academy
"Facts, Values and Reading Skills"
Mark Roberts, Franciscan University of Steubenville
"Sodality of the Blessed Virgin Mary: Forging Ties That Bind Here and Hereafter"
Christopher Collins, SJ, Weston Jesuit School of Theology

Session 6: Appreciating Religious Themes in the Arts
Chair: Michael Scaperlanda, University of Oklahoma College of Law
"Federico Garcia Lorca's Theory and Game of the Duende"
Cecilia Gonzalez-Andrieu, The Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley
"'Hotly In Pursuit of the Real': A Novelist's Perspective"
Mick Cochrane, Canisius College

Session 7: Art as Cultural Expression, Part I
Chair: Rev. Pat Gaffney, CSC, University of Notre Dame
"Time and Space Transformed in Holiness: Liturgical Iconography as Windows to Heaven"
Mark Cherry, St. Edward's University
"From the Mask to the Icon: The Fulfillment of Alaskan Native Art"
V. Rev. Dr. Chad Hatfield, St. Herman Theological Seminary

Session 8: Philosophy, Faith and Fiction
Chair: James Krueger, University of Redlands
"Catastrophe and Eucatastrophe: Russell and Tolkien on the True Form of Fiction"
Christopher Toner, Air University
"The Consolations of Fiction and Philosophy: Iris Murdoch's Reluctant Concession"
Scott Moore, Baylor University
"Blessed With Awareness: Wolterstorff, Danto and Hornby on Responding to Art"
Edward G. Lawry, Oklahoma State University

9:10 - 9:40 a.m. Break, Refreshments

9:40 - 10:50 a.m. Colloquium Sessions

Session 1: Educating the Imagination
Chair: Mary Jane Rice, Montrose School
"The Schooling of Desire: Awakening the Moral Imagination through Literature"
Karen Bohlin, Head of Montrose School
"The Restoration of the Catholic Historical Imagination"
Rollin Lasseter, Catholic Schools Textbook Project
"Literature and the Shaping of Character: Plato and Tolstoy"
Andrew Payne, St. Joseph's University

Session 2: The Arts and Language
Chair: Daniel Philpott, University of Notre Dame
"Language, Art, Community"
Paolo Monti, Catholic University of the Sacred Heart
"Which Conversation? Whose Language?"
Jerry Bleem, OFM, School of the Art Institute of Chicago
"Renewing Language: Walker Percy and the Task of the Saint in a Post-Christian Age"
Kevin Haley, University of Notre Dame

Session 3: Christian Aesthetics and Literature
Chair: Douglas Henry, Baylor University
"Painting with Shadows: Re-envisioning Christian Aesthetics"
Cameron Jorgenson, Baylor University
"Sacramentality and Aesthetics in Waugh's Brideshead Revisited"
George Piggford, CSC, Stonehill College
"The Beauty that Saves: Brideshead Revisited as a counter-Portrait of the Artist"
Dominic Manganiello, University of Ottawa

Session 4: Image and Word
Chair: Mark Cherry, St. Edward's University
"Visions of the Word: The Bible in Sculpture"
Scott Sullivan, Sculptor
"Image and Word: The Language of Incarnation"
Tyrus Clutter, Christians in the Visual Arts
"Rembrandt: Narrative to Lyric, History to Self"
Stephen Frech, Millikin University

Session 5: Goodness and Beauty in Secular Films
Chair: Pedro Pallares, Universidad Panamericana
"Beauty and the Judge: Reflections on Kieslowski's Tri-Colors: Red"
Paul Santilli, Siena College
"Reclaiming American Beauty"
James Krueger, University of Redlands
"Baby in the Underworld: Beauty and Tragic Vision in Dirty Dancing"
William Wians, Merrimack College

Session 6: Panel Discussion: The 20th Century Catholic Novel and Christian Morality in a Post-Christian Culture: Three Studies
Chair: James Walton, University of Notre Dame
"The Cross and the Subversion of the Constantinian Question: Evelyn Waugh's Helena"
Paul Martens, University of Notre Dame
"The Mundane and the Transcendent: Graham Greene's Vision of the Moral Life"
Geoffrey Keating, University of Notre Dame
"A Prophetic Vision: Faith and the Grotesque in Flannery O'Connor's The Violent Bear It Away"
William Jarrod Brown, University of Notre Dame

Session 7: Art as Cultural Expression, Part II
Chair: Rev. John Coughlin, OFM, Notre Dame Law School
"Landscape, Illusion, and Injustice: The Platonic Case Against Painting"
Irfan Khawaja, The College of New Jersey
"Folksongs as Situated Voice in a Culture of Life"
Ronald C. Arnett and Janie Harden Fritz, Duquesne University

Session 8: Panel Discussion: “The Moral and the Aesthetic”
Chair: Rebecca Stangl, University of Notre Dame
Margaret Watkins Tate, Baylor University
Darin Davis, St. Norbert College

10:50 - 11:20 a.m. Break, Refreshments

11:20 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. Invited Papers

Session 1: "Worship as High Art: The Liturgy as the Epiphany of Beauty and Truth"
H. Tristram Engelhardt, Jr., Rice University
Chair: Kevin McDonnell, St. Mary's College

Session 2: “Creating Epiphanies of Beauty”
William Schickel, Schickel Studios
"William Schickel: Metaphysical Realist"
Gregory Wolfe, Seattle Pacific University/Publisher and Editor of Image
Chair: Margaret Watkins Tate, Baylor University

Session 3: "The Strength, Function, and Beauty of Catholic Architecture"
Thomas Gordon Smith, University of Notre Dame
"Pilgrimage and Transcendence: Towards an Epiphanic Architecture"
Duncan Stroik, University of Notre Dame
Chair: John O'Callaghan, University of Notre Dame

12:45 - 1:45 p.m. Lunch

2:00 - 3:10 p.m. Invited Papers

Session 1: "The City is Also an Aesthetic Object"
Philip Bess, University of Notre Dame
Chair: Nicole Garnett, Notre Dame Law School

Session 2: "Love's Labor: The Poetry of John Paul II"
Laura Garcia, Boston College
Chair: Ralph McInerny, University of Notre Dame

Session 3: "Epiphanies, Beauty, and a Father's Love"
David Lyle Jeffrey, Baylor University
Chair: David Solomon, University of Notre Dame

3:10 - 3:40 p.m. Break, Refreshments

3:40 - 4:50 p.m. Colloquium Sessions

Session 1: Developing Artistic Sensibilities
Chair: Gerard Bradley, Notre Dame Law School
"Pseudo-catharsis and the Art of Scriptwriting"
Paolo Braga, Universita Cattolica di Milano
"Educating Teens in the Arts to Decrease the Allure of Television"
Alessandra Bouchard, Montrose School
"The Legion of Decency: Rhetorical Capital in a Post-Christian Age"
Eric Grabowsky, Duquesne University

Session 2: Renewal through Literature
Chair: Rev. Robert Sullivan, University of Notre Dame
"Bridging the Modern Gap: Tolkien's Reintroduction of the Medieval World to a Post-Modern World"
Helen Lasseter, Baylor University
"The Relevance of Recusance: Literature of the English Catholic Spiritual Tradition as a Resource for the Post-Christian Era"
Michael Tomko, Erasmus Institute, University of Notre Dame

Session 3: Images, Ideas and Imagination
Chair: Michael Garvey, University of Notre Dame
"Erotic Dimensions of Art and the Pursuit of Chastity: Mixed Signals in the 'Epiphanies of Beauty'"
Corinna Delkeskamp-Hayes, International Studies in Philosophy and Medicine
"Thomas Aquinas on Radiance, the Divine Artist's Impress, and the 'Ontological Secret' of a Thing"
Matthew Cuddeback, Providence College
"The Hospitality of Images: the Play of the Visible and the Invisible"
John B. Brough, Georgetown University

Session 4: Placing Works of Art in Historical Context
Chair: Sheryl Overmyer, Duke University
"Toward a 21st Century St. Francis"
Janet McCann, Texas A&M University
"Crucifixions: Serene, Surreal, and Subversive"
Ann M. Nicgorski, Willamette University

Session 5: The Arts and the Absurd
Chair: Kaitlyn Dudley, University of Notre Dame
"Art and the Fool's Truth"
Benjamin Huff, University of Notre Dame
"So What's Wrong With a Little Fun? Satire and Comedy"
William Cashore, MD, Brown University Medical School

Session 6: The Arts and Spiritual Formation
Chair: William Schmitt, University of Notre Dame
"The Role of the Fine Arts in the Spiritual Life"
Rev. Basil Cole, OP, STD, Dominican House of Studies
"Signals of Transcendence: Christian Art at the Service of Catechesis and Evangelization"
Jem Sullivan, PhD

Session 7: The Arts in the Protestant Tradition
Chair: Karl Ameriks
"All That Is Seen and Unseen"
Anne Emmons, Artist, Instructor: Colorado Christian University/Red Rocks Community College
"Evangelicals and the Buildings They Build"
Jeff Green, University of Notre Dame

Session 8: Tour of the Snite Museum: Christian Images in History
This tour, led by Prof. Diana Matthias of the Snite Museum, will offer a look at some of the amazing and diverse art collection housed at the museum here on the Notre Dame campus.

5:00 p.m. Mass at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart

7:00 p.m. Banquet

Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture
1047 Flanner Hall - Notre Dame, IN 46556
Phone: 574-631-9656 Fax: 574-631-6290 Email:

Monday, November 15, 2004



It might be lonelier
Without the Loneliness --
I'm so accustomed to my Fate --
Perhaps the Other -- Peace --

Would interrupt the Dark --
And crowd the little Room --
Too scant -- by Cubits -- to contain
The Sacrament -- of Him --

I am not used to Hope --
It might intrude upon --
Its sweet parade -- blaspheme the place --
Ordained to Suffering --

It might be easier
To fail -- with Land in Sight --
Than gain -- My Blue Peninsula --
To perish -- of Delight --

Thursday, November 11, 2004


I probably get five inquiries a week that are a version of one of the following questions. (Note that each question comes with an implicit unspoken question. I'll write those in italics.)

- "I have a REALLY great idea for a movie. Can I tell it to you?"
"And can you find someone to buy it from me?"

- "My daughter/son/nephew/neighbor wants to be an actor/writer/director/composer, can you give him/her some advice about starting out?"
"And can you help them find a job?"

- "I've written a screenplay. Can you read it and tell me what you think?"
"And then can you find someone to buy it from me?"
OR, the new more recent twist,
"Can you get it to Mel Gibson?"

- "I just moved to L.A., can you help me get plugged in?"
"And can you help me find a job?" And/or "And can you get my script to Mel Gibson?

- "I'm totally passionate about the movie business. Should I go to film school?"
"Or do you just want to hire me now?"

- "I am a musician, do you know someone who could listen to my stuff?"
"And then pay me for it?"

- "I love the movie business, but I'm not sure whether I want to be a writer or director or actor. Where should I start?"
"Can't I just do them all? And when do you think I should start writing my Oscar speech?"

Thank God, there is a new ministry in town that has been set up just to take these questions out of the in-boxes of Act One, Inter-Mission, Actors Co-op, Hollywood Prayer Network, Premise, Open Call, CIMA, LAFSC, Mastermedia, Entertainment Fellowship, Reel Spirituality, and any of the other pastors, churches and ministries that serve the entertainment community.

Hollywood Connect is a program to help all of the people just getting off the bus, or those folks who are thinking about getting on the bus. It's a great, smart, comprehensive doorway in program that any Christian coming to Hollywood should check out seriously. Michelle Suh is the new Director of Hollywood Connect, and she has a thoroughly pastoral, ecumenical sensibility. And, as a professional musician, she can speak with heartfelt compassion as to how hard it is to make a start here.

A few more thoughts about the questions above...I feel a rant coming on.

The problem with all of the above questions is that the answers tend to be way more than the askers want, or are ready to hear. So, often, I just want to respond, "Why? What do you really want? Because I probably do not have that to give." Most of the time the implied, unspoken questions reveal their askers to be people who see the entertainment industry as a lottery, not as a profession.

The people who ask for connections to celebrities elicit another whole kind of sigh. I always want to say to them, "You really don't have any idea what you are asking."

For example, three times this week (which represents a dip in the weekly number of this particular request over the last year) people have asked me to make a connection for them to Mel Gibson. Two of the people wanted me to try and get Mel to speak at their place. The last one wants me to get Mel to endorse their book. What I always want to say back to these queries is, "And WHY should I make that call for you?"

First of all, I don't know Mel well enough to presume upon him to trust me to make a referral. Do you know what I mean? But, even if I did, it is, you know, inappropriate for people I barely know to ask me to make that connection for them. If anyone in this town acquires any kind of access to celebrity, it's been the result of lots of work and favors and relationships that come only from being in the middle of this weird world for a long time. It isn't fair to try and trade off that, pretty priceless, capital in a short-cut maneuver. One of my friends who works in TV calls it "looking for cheap grace."

Another point about the above questions is how many of them, at heart, have to do, not with art, but with making money. Christians are just as bad as everybody else in this area, and maybe even worse, because they always seem to squeeze in, "It isn't about the money for me." And I always want to respond, "Oh really? Cool! Here is a legal agreement in which you sign over complete ownership of the property to me. Need a pen?"

It is about the money. And in this business, it can be about lots of money. It is spiritually dangerous to underestimate how seductive the desire for money and celebrity can be.

Most of us who have been answering these questions for more than a couple years, are absolutely touched with cynicism. We have spent too many hours sincerely offering people notes on their work or talent, only to find that the person really didn't want that kind of help at all. They want to win the lottery, and you can discover this fairly easily when you try and give them some serious feedback. They move quickly from a posture of deference and sincerity to impatience. Then, as you keep bringing their attention to problems that will take years of application to fix, their eyes tend to flash in annoyance. And then they shut you off and walk away.

All of my friends have been through this many times. It makes you very suspicious.

When people come to me to talk about working in entertainment, I usually ask them many more questions than they ask me. Questions like, "Why?" That's the biggie. Then, "What are you good at?" and "What is the biggest problem you think you will have working in Hollywood?" and "How do you see yourself spending your working hours in this business?" and "How many years are you prepared to spend acquiring a skill that someone else will want to invest in?" and "How will you know when you are a success?"

When people ask me to read their script, I ask, "Why? What do you want from me?" If they say, "Your opinion." I say, "Why? Are you looking to rewrite it?" It's amazing how many people look at me and blink. They are, kind of, hoping I will LOVE LOVE LOVE the script (like that ever happens...) and then want to pass it along to my friend - the big studio producer guy. (Or, like, Mel...)

But even when people do indeed just want my opinion on their script, I still want to say, "You don't realize what you are asking!" See, I do this script reading stuff for a living. I'm good at it because I have read hundreds of scripts and because I spent $30,000 getting a degree in screenwriting from a top film school, and then, because I have spent years working with writers, and also, because I have spent six years sitting in the back of the classroom at an AMAZING scriptwriting training program. All of that has been an investment that I have made. And most of my friends in the business have paid the same price in different ways.

When you ask one of us to read your script, it's kind of like asking a lawyer to give you free legal advice, or asking a psychiatrist to give you a free two-hour session, or like asking a surgeon to do some free out-patient surgery.

And so we come back around to the thing I always want to say, "Why should I do that for you?"

And it isn't even just about getting paid to do it...even if the people who ask offer to pay...which most don't! Because, frankly, most of the efforts that come my way are too painful to make it worth reading for any amount of money...Well, not ANY amount of money, but certainly it isn't worth $300 to me. Or $500. And I imagine some day, it won't be worth $1000....Not there yet.

There's something about this business, that draws many more queries than any other. I think it's, again, because people disrespect Hollywood as a professional, skill-based environment. They think it's a game you have to win, as opposed to a career like any other. My dad was a museum director for forty years. I bet he only met two or three young people in those four decades who wanted to sit down with him to find out how they should break into the museum director business. That's because, people respect that being a museum director takes years of study and then working your way up while always getting better in a wide array of different skill-sets.

Working in Hollywood is like that.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004


Here's some press coverage of one of the talks I gave in Austin. (My friends in Austin wanted me to say that there were 75 people at the talk, not 40.)


I actually made it into an article in the November 2004 issue of Elle magazine.

[Good Lord! A fashion magazine!]

They have a feature running this month on Barbara Hall called "Heaven Can't Wait" - or something like that. It's primarily about Barb's spiritual journey, and so the reporter interviewed me as the person who had met with Barb for RCIA.

The piece isn't bad. It isn't great either. They are desperately trying to make Barbara Hall someone they can live with in the story. They got her to own up to being a Democrat, and then insinuated that she is pro-choice and pro-gay rights by citing her saying 'The Church has to evolve."

[the rolling of eyeballs]

Everyone over the last 2,000 years who has said the Church needs to "evolve" is now dead. And the Church rolls on somehow....But in three years of knowing her, I've never heard Barbara make that kind of comment. It made me mad because she's much more circumspect than that, and putting those words in that context makes her come off as one more blue-state Hollywood cliche. And she's really not. So, I'm officially taking a little bit of umbrage for my friend.

After the story was written, the editorial fact-checker called me and wanted to be sure that Barbara and I were actually in fact Roman Catholics. She said (paraphrase) "The editors were confused because of your emphasis on encouraging spiritual and intellectual questioning. That didn't seem to match with the Catholic Church as they have ever experienced it."

[good grief....oh, did I say that already?....Sheesh!]

I suggested that maybe they needed to expand their experience.

The best part of the piece from my standpoint, was not anything I said, but rather something that was said to me, that I was happy to pass on. On the day she was received into the Church, when Barbara went up to receive her first Communion, her ten year old daughter, faith leaned over to me and said, 'This is making her very happy."

I thought that was so neat. Here was a woman who runs television shows, with immense cultural power and influence, who has more money than she can ever spend, with talent to burn in several art forms, and who is on the receiving end of much of the best things the world has to give, but, it was God who was making her really happy.


Monday, November 08, 2004


Muchas gracias to all the kind folks who recently hosted me in Austin, TX. Everyone was so kind and generous to me - with special thanks going to Jarin, for driving me around for three days and listening to me rant, and to host-extraordinaires, Martha, John and Sara, and to David for everyone he wrangled into various chewing over food and ideas. It was a wonderful experience of Church for me, and I am so grateful for the kindness of so many strangers. (Like there is any such thing in the People of God...)

Anyone in central TX who is interested in the matter of this blog, I recommend you check out the goings-on at Hope Chapel. It is a very cool, ecumenical community of Christians who are all turning to the arts as the next missionary imperative for the Church.

It is always a sign of the Holy Spirit's work, that he gives the same great idea to many people in many places at the same time.

...the election, because I am already getting enough vitriolic, frenzied, hair-pulling out, silicon breast beating, insulting messages from various entertainment industry friends who don't seem to have any conception that I might not agree with them that Bush is the worst, most dumb and stupid, dangerous idiotic 'hood ornament of a leader' since - how do the smart folks say it? - "Jen-jis" Khan.

I would reprint here some of the emails I have received or that have been forwarded to me, but, I DON'T USE X-RATED LANGUAGE LIKE THAT ON MY BLOG.

I will say a couple of things avoiding any partisan indications at all...

1) It is ALWAYS bad strategy to convince yourself that your opponent is stupid. It doesn't help you fight him, because it makes you underestimate him. From a more pastoral standpoint, calling your opponent a stupid idiot makes you less inclined to take him to your heart and engage him in any real dialogue.

2) People who go around calling Americans who disagree with them stupid, neo-Nazi, moronic, freedom squelching, bigotted and intolerant theocrats, must then wait a mandatory fifteen minutes before bemoaning the "frightening," divisive, uncivil rhetoric that is splitting us all into two Americas.... I mean, just to keep all of our heads from spinning around too fast.

3) In the end, all the frenzy just sounds like so much toddleresque, foot-stamping temper tantrums. Always getting what you want is bad for you. It makes you think it is the end of the world when someone shockingly steps in and takes some of your toys away.

Yesterday was the, always interesting, Catholics in Media Award brunch. It is an annual "foo-foo, chi-chi" event at the Beverly Hills Hilton, in which Catholics come together to pray with their bishops and priests for the world here in the biz, and beyond.

This year's award winners were Mel Gibson for The Passion of the Christ, Barbara Hall for Joan of Arcadia, and Jane Wyatt who won CIMA's life-time achievement award.

Overall, the event came off very well. The liturgy, which used to be the terrain of the "Joan Baez was the summit of Western Civ music" leaning baby-boomers, has started to cede to some of the Gen Xers yearning for tradition and holiness. So, we had the best of all possible renditions of that dreadful song, 'I will Raise You Up' (which used to be 'And I Will Raise HIM Up' before we realized as a Church that God wouldn't be able to bless women too with that patriarchal, oppressive gender insensitive translation of the Scriptures...), then, during the offertory, a lovely Latin version of 'Ubi Caritas,' and then a rousing black Gospel ditty with great music but lyrics too simple for four-year olds as our recessional. During the Communion meditation - or, as we think of it here in L.A., the time we are allowed to sit after standing since the Lord's Prayer - John Debny, the composer from TPOTC, led a female vocalist an oboe and a flutist (floutist?) playing a haunting melody from the film. It was so beautiful, people forgot we were at mass and broke into applause at the end. The sheep are so unused to beauty at the liturgy, that they feel like they have to bang their hooves together in pathetic gratitude whenever they get some.

Mel Gibson wasn't supposed to attend the awards, but I had a feeling he would come, and sure enough, he strode in unobtrusively during the banquet and took a seat up front with the other folks there from the film: Producer Steve McEveety and his wife, Jim and Carrie Caviezel, John Debny and Fr. Fulco, sj who translated the dialogue into Hebrew, Latin and Aramaic.

Mel's acceptance speech was a bit rambling. He noted that he hasn't been picking up any of the awards being given to the film, "Because it really wasn't about awards for me." But this one, coming as it did from Catholics, meant something special to him. [Official Catholic support of the film, you will recall, wasn't exactly impressive when it would have mattered most. It was our Vatican that voted for the film before we voted against it - "It is as it was." and then, 'No, it wasn't"...] Mel also took the opportunity to note that this is a very ominious, dark moment in human history. He said, "As we Californians who were just prop 71'ed into realizing." He noted (paraphrasing here), "The sign of the end of any human society is when it practices human sacrifice. We've been doing it on one level for forty years in this country, but this breeding of humans to be used for their parts, this is literally human sacrifice."

Half the assembled Catholics - mostly the young ones! - broke into applause and gave him a standing ovation. Bishop Zavala (filling in for our Cardinal who is on sabbatical somewhere apparently), on stage beside Mel applauded nervously (which someone much unkinder than me would say is actually the perfect way to fill in for our Cardinal...). The other half of the audience - ah, that would be the gray-haired baby-boomers for the most part - still shell-shocked by the recent incomprehensible blow to their beloved Democratic party, sat awkward and stony.

Ah, such interesting times in which to live.