Tuesday, August 26, 2003


From yesterdays Variety:

Interest is heating up for Mel Gibson's controversial Aramaic and Latin-language pic The Passion.

A number of distributors -- Newmarket, Paramount Classics, Sony Classics and Lions Gate, among them -- are talking to Icon Prods.' Bruce Davey and ICM chairman Jeff Berg about a possible North American deal, even though they have yet to see the pic. Gibson's Icon produced the pic, and Berg reps it....Reps for Icon Prods., which produced the pic about the last 12 hours of Christ's life before his crucifixion, said no distribution decisions would be made until after Labor Day.

Ahem. Now, I'm not one to say, "I told you so"....

Saturday, August 23, 2003

...so funny...I thought when we
first went out, we were really
goin' somewhere...but this is it--
we're just goin', huh?

(from Bonnie and Clyde, 1967)

Thursday, August 21, 2003


The notion that the arts are optional is absurd in the same way that the suggestion that making choices could be optional for human beings. We are constituted as a kind of being that chooses and a kind of being that decorates. Both things set us apart and define us.

The Pope notes in the Letter to Artists that the reason God stopped creating, and, well, permanently rested, was because He had created a kind of being finally that could continue creating in His stead.

“Finally, He created the human being: the noblest fruit of His design, to whom he subjected the visible world as a vast field in which human inventiveness might assert itself.” (Letter to Artists 1999, JPII)

We human beings are supposed to keep recombining the elements in creation: out of chaos...into order...beyond order, into harmony. Creation is the act in which we each find our destiny. I like that. Good Pope.

Then, this...

“All men and women are entrusted first with the task of crafting their own lives; in a certain sense they are to make of their life, a work of art, a masterpiece.” (Letter to Artists 1999, JPII)

I always think of St. Paul’s “new man” in this sense. The "New man" that we put on in the life of grace can be understood as the work of art that we undertake in collaboration with Christ. It's our "baby" with Jesus. Us. The us of destiny, that is; the realization of that image God had of us that was so beautiful that He just had to make it.

If you had to describe your life up till now, would it be a masterpiece?

Would it be a reproduction or an original?

Would it be the kind of thing you would feel safe to expose children to? Is it mostly tragedy or comedy? Is it an ascent (a story of growth?) or a descent (a story of squandering?) or is it without any climax at all?

Emily Dickinson said, "Nature is a haunted house. Art is a house that tries to be haunted." What is it that "haunts" your life as you have made it?

Too many people think that the arts are optional. Especially in the Church. Especially in rectories.... sigh.

Story... A couple of years ago I was running the liturgy at my parish somewhere here in L.A. We had one overworked priest and half of our people were "undocumented aliens." Very poor parish. Well, the music was horrible every weekend. The worst of the worst. Most of the time we had no musicians, but then on really bad weekends, a middle-aged couple, Mary and Steve, would show up and and wail very flat and loud, strumming the same three chords on their cursed guitars regardless of the hymn.

The pews were mostly empty. Only a few of us suffering stalwarts would trickle in week after week, staring blankly ahead, victims of the liturgical beauty lobotomy.

So, then, in a moment of crazed desperation, I drove to UCLA one Sunday after Mass and stormed the music school. I found three student musicians and a soprano - all very talented and broke - who were willing to come and play and sing for us every week for forty dollars each.

I took up a collection from some of the other desperate pew martyrs, and unearthed one fairly wealthy old lady who agreed to subsidize the musicians for a year.

So, I went to Father and told him my good news. He was dismissive and petulant.

"I don't want to offend Mary and Steve. They've been volunteering for years."

"Yes, Father," I offered, "but they are awful."

Then, his eyes narrowed.

"This kind of elitism is what Vatican II was supposed to stop. The point now is for everybody to sing, not for just a few." And then a pithy bit, "God judges our hearts not our vocal chords."

Resisting the impulse to scream, "GOOOOOOOD GRIEF!!!!!", I made the point that the addition of trained musicians would cost the parish nothing. He moved from petulant to annoyed.

'Of course it will! Whoever is giving money for the music will certainly give less to the parish. Besides, once we start this, we'll have to find a way to keep it up, won't we? Suppose the donors drop out. Then, what?"

In the end, Father refused to allow the musicians to disrupt the perfect awfulness of our Sunday morning liturgies.... He did, however, ask me who the donors were so that he could hit them up for the parish food bank.

Our dear pastor and persecutor was suffering under the misconception that feeding his people bread was essential, but feeding them beauty was an extra. So sad. Beautiful music would have roused the people out of numb comas and created a powerful climate of prayer. Praying together better would have made us a stronger community. Hearing beautiful music would have made us want to make our lives "works of art" to borrow from JPII, and so we would have been roused to greater generosity, kindness and solicitude. Finally, beautiful music would fill the pews and, [drily] the collection would have gone up.

Thursday, August 14, 2003


I'm in Korea until Tuesday, and after that will actually be home in Los Angeles for nearly a month, so blogging should get back to some kind of regularity. Meanwhile, did I mention that I'm in Korea?

Love it here. People are just wonderful, food is fabulous and social (you have to eat here to know what I mean) and, honestly, Seoul 2003 makes most of the USA look like a technological third world nation. This country is unbelievably hi-tech - 90% Internet access, mobile units that function as cameras, beepers, phones, flashlights, entertainment centers and well, fashion statements. It's not at all what I expected (fill in "because I am an ignorant, isolationist-leaning, provincial American who is only fluent in English and movies.") The best part of Korea is certainly the people. There is a grave formality about the hospitality here that has left me in awe from the first day. Bowing and broad smiles. Bowing and smiles. There seems to me to be a natural warmth and joy in the Korean spirit. They love color and laughter and basically, people. And you have to love a country that has a daily spiritual meditation on the front page of the morning paper. The only downside here is the traffic. Jammed. Makes L.A. seem somehow transportationally efficient.

Okay, so back to things cultural...

Finding Nemo is the best film of the year. I apologise for letting you all know after the film has already logged $300 million in domestic boxoffice, but I generally loathe animation and always have to drag myself to see a cartoon. Pixar has been gradually converting me with their 3-D Toys and Monsters and, now, lovely South Pacific sealife. Nemo is a fabulous film on every level beginning, of course, with its framework in a terrific script.

There are two interwoven stories here, each with a significant arc for the two main characters. The most clever part of the writing is the way the writers (eek - Clare, I don't know their names and I am in a hotel lobby in Seoul so give me a break already!) have avoided the traditional cartoon character antagonist. There is no bad guy in Finding Nemo. The "antagonist" is life itself. Fantastic stuff.

If next year wasn't an election year, Finding Nemo would certainly have to get the nod for Best Picture from Oscar. Unfortunately, the industry generally gets particularly propagandistic on us every four years and so we'll probably see the principle awards go to some badly executed but earnest leftwing flicks. Or else, the Academy will reward Peter Jackson with a statue just because they didn't give it to him two years ago when they probably should have....even though I personally wouldn't give Lord of the Rings anything except a bottle of shampoo.

Sigh. In a perfect world, Pixar's little fish would take it all. Quick, dive in to your nearest cineplex if you haven't seen it yet. And that means you too, you people over eight.