Thursday, January 31, 2008

Proof for the Existence of the Holy Spirit

I got this email message yesterday. Good news for Hollywood. Good news that these guys are coming up for the Church. Made my week.

Sent: Wed, 30 Jan 2008 5:59 pm
Subject: A New Prayer Apostolate for Hollywood

Hello Barbara,

This is _______, the seminarian in _____, writing to you again. First I wanted to again thank you for the great work you are doing with Act One and the Hollywood RCIA program. You are certainly doing some important work down in the trenches.

I wanted to share with you a new prayer apostolate I and many of my brother seminarians are starting in order to pray for Hollywood. I have included the original e-mail to the seminarians below. Just know that we currently have over 25 seminarians committed to praying for specific actors and actresses. I think we will be able to have individual days of prayer for at least 50 celebrities between now and the end of the semester. We have taken to heart your words that Hollywood in a Mission Field rather than a wasteland. Any words of guidance you would like to give us would be very much welcomed.

Keep up your heroic efforts out there. I am continuing to remember your work in my prayers.


Dear Brothers,

Inspired by _________'s challenge to put our Faith into action as well as the recent call by the Holy Father to make Evangelization and Ecumenicalism the two priorities of the Church (Permalink:, I would like to share with you a particular apostolate of prayer that I am undertaking.

To a certain degree we all took note of the recent death of actor Heath Ledger. It seems all too common that the stars of Hollywood, who seem to have everything they could possibly want in this life, turn to drugs, alcohol, and sex to fill voids in their lives. In the case of Heath Ledger, police are reported to have found as many as six different types of prescriptions for such things as anxiety and insomnia. The point is that, similar to the man mentioned in the story about Mother Theresa, they live in a form of spiritual darkness. We are called to try to “light the lamp” as Mother Theresa did.

Speaking for myself, I must admit a certain degree of cynicism about the apparent lost cause in Hollywood. How can my simple prayer impact such a large deficiency of Grace? I thought of this when considering St. Andrew’s cynicism about the impact five loaves and two fish would have in feeding such a large crowd. A little earlier in this Gospel account the apostles tell Jesus to send the crowd away so that they can get something to eat. Our Lord’s response to the apostles was, “feed them (5,000+) yourselves”. He is still saying that.

Here is one more short point of meditation about these lost causes in Hollywood:
It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare.[…]There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendours. (C.S Lewis)

So here is my idea, and I will try to keep it as simple as possible:

1. I will put together a list of celebrities that we will pray for. Please feel free to recommend names to the list.

2. Every week starting on Sunday I will send out five names for that week. I will send the names out Saturday night for the following week.

3. Remember all five names during your prayer time on Sunday and the following Saturday, particular at Mass.

4. On each day Monday through Friday we will all pray for a particular name from the list of five. This would include morning prayer, mass, evening pray, and private prayer. I figure one extra name a day will not overshadow the other personal intentions we have. At the same time, this individual will have multiple seminarians praying for them through the course of the day.

5. I think, using this format, we can pray for at least fifty celebrities over the remainder of the semester.

To start, I have only sent this on to those few of you who I though may be open to participating in this apostolate. By all means feel free to pass this on to others who you think would like to participate. Please let me know if you would like to be part of this and who you know who would like to participate so that I can create an e-mail list to send names out each week. Please also let me know if you have any questions or suggestions. My hope is to start with the first list of five next Sunday.

P.S. from Barb. Why doesn't everybody join these seminarians and do this for Lent? I'm going to.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Another Book Meme

Jeff "the Curt Jester" Miller tagged with a book meme. I am awed and humbled...

1) Which book do you irrationally cringe away from reading, despite seeing only positive reviews?

The Lord of the Rings. My older sister said to me once when we were in college, "Barb, there is something wrong with the universe in which you have not read Tolkien." I did get through The Hobbit, but when I started on the trilogy, I was so annoyed that Bilbo wasn't going to be in it much that I put the book down and never managed to pick it up again.

2) If you could bring three characters to life for a social event (afternoon tea, a night of clubbing, perhaps a world cruise), who would they be and what would the event be?
It would definitely have to be a world cruise, because I tend not to make very good first impressions. But I have basically a good heart so I wear well.

Hmmm.. characters. So that means not real people? Because that would be Jesus, Cicero and Alexander Hamilton. But characters....

I would say Anne Shirley (Anne of Green Gables...because she was so formative for me in my childhood), Perry Mason (because he was so formative for me in my adolescence), and Ivan Karamazov (because he has been the spectre of my adulthood).

3) (Borrowing shamelessly from the Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde): you are told you can’t die until you read the most boring novel on the planet. While this immortality is great for a while, eventually you realise it’s past time to die. Which book would you expect to get you a nice grave?
Left Behind

4) Come on, we’ve all been there. Which book have you pretended, or at least hinted, that you’ve read, when in fact you’ve been nowhere near it?
The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People. At least three people have given me this book, but it always seemed to me like it would be cheating to acquire success for $24.95 with a 40% mark down from Borders. But when people ask me if I read it I always nod and get glassy-eyed.

5) You’re interviewing for the post of Official Book Advisor to some VIP (who’s not a big reader). What’s the first book you’d recommend and why? (If you feel like you’d have to know the person, go ahead and personalise the VIP).

I'm so tempted to say Hillary Clinton and Hostage to the Devil. (Oh, did I just say that?)... How about Britney Spears and Till We Have Faces? Because I find myself with a lot of compassion for this young woman who has lost the ability to see herself from the inside out and it means she won't be able to give hersel fin love, and so will probably end up losing herself completely. This book is about getting past the visage to what lies beneath.

6) A good fairy comes and grants you one wish: you will have perfect reading comprehension in the foreign language of your choice. Which language do you go with?
Real easy. Russian. I just know I am missing a lot of Brothers Karamazov and One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch in translation.

7) A mischievous fairy comes and says that you must choose one book that you will reread once a year for the rest of your life (you can read other books as well). Which book would you pick?

The Bible...or if that's too much of a given, then The Dialogues of Plato.

8) I know that the book blogging community, and its various challenges, have pushed my reading borders. What’s one bookish thing you ‘discovered’ from book blogging (maybe a new genre, or author, or new appreciation for cover art-anything)?
Every week, Eve Tushnet has made me ashamed of myself (in a good way!) for how much she reads and how little I do by comparison. I just can't seem to stop reading bad screenplays.

9) That good fairy is back for one final visit. Now, she’s granting you your dream library! Describe it. Is everything leather bound? Is it full of first edition hardcovers? Pristine trade paperbacks? Perhaps a few favourite authors have inscribed their works? Go ahead-let your imagination run free.
In my dream, all my books are bent back and barely have their covers on from over use. They have lots of notes from me and writing in the margins and in the title pages one sentence that describes the essence of all the principal characters. And there is nothing in my library that people won't be reading in fifty years.

At the risk of losing their friendship, I tag Karen, Justine, Alice, Sean G, and... Jan.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Check Out Bully Pulpit News

I can't believe it has taken me so long to add Mark Joseph's "Bully Pulpit News" to the blog roll. Mark is really smart and he gets it in terms of the whole Christians engaging culture thing. Bully Pulpit is a blend of political, cultural and religious links of interest to people of faith. If anybody is saying anything about God and culture, Bully Pulpit will have the link.

Check it out.

Terry on Me on Juno

Astute friend and Internet buddy, Terry "Get Religion" Mattingly, has kindly included some quotes from this blog in his current piece on the movie Juno. Terry is wondering in the piece if the fact that pro-lifers are rallying around the movie will sink its chances of winning prestigious awards, and specifically the Oscars.

Here's a snip or two:

Every year or so, a Cinderella movie leaps into the ultimate Hollywood A-list -- the Academy Award nominees for best picture.

The sleeper this time around was "Juno," the sweet but edgy story of Juno MacGuff, a geeky teen who gets pregnant after a sort-of-bored sexual encounter with a friend. The movie also drew Oscar nominations for Canadian Ellen Page, 20, as best actress, for director Jason Reitman, 30, and former stripper turned screenwriter Diablo Cody, 29.

Now it's time for the winner-take-all round of campaigning, which often includes behind-the-scenes maneuvers in the tradition of Niccolo Machiavelli. Do not be surprised if rival studios try to hurt "Juno" by circulating shocking rumors that many religious conservatives who oppose abortion have praised this movie.

It helps that the rumors are true.

And then,

The key is that "Juno" is about people struggling to make real decisions in the real world, according to screenwriter Barbara Nicolosi of Act One, a group that trains Christians to work in the Hollywood mainstream. This isn't a connect-the-dots sermon targeting true believers. The movie doesn't preach, because it wasn't created by preachers.

But "Juno" can be called "pro-life, in the way that just about every Gen-X movie about pregnancy is pro-life," wrote the former Catholic nun, at her "Church of the Masses" website. "I would say 'Juno' is a cultural message movie without being a political one. Certainly, that will be an inscrutable nuance in contemporary Christendom in which almost everything is politics. ...

"The movie is also anti-divorce in the way that just about every Gen-X movie about family is anti-divorce. And people with faith are here too, in a decent and gritty way that shows mere secularism to be selfish and shallow."

Act One Summer Program Info Nights

There is still time to RSVP for one of this week`s Act One Info Nights.


Join us for a Q&A session with the staff of the acclaimed Act One Writing
Program to learn about Act One's upcoming 2008 Saturday Writing Program or
Summer Writing Program. Both programs train talented Christians for careers in
mainstream film and television. Our world-class faculty includes over 50
top-notch TV and movie writers, agents and producers. If you love movies and
TV, if you're serious about your faith, and if you're crazy about telling
stories, come find out more.

Summer Writing Program Info Night:
DATE: Wednesday, January 30, 2008
TIME: 8:00-9:30 p.m.
LOCATION: Act One offices, 2690 N. Beachwood Dr., Hollywood, CA 90068


All are welcome to attend this Q&A session to learn about Act One's rigorous
12-week summer program, which prepares and mentors talented Christians for
executive careers in mainstream entertainment. Each of the selected candidates
is matched with a summer internship at a Hollywood studio, agency, production
company, or law firm. The program includes a challenging after-hours curriculum
taught by working professionals in Hollywood.

If you have dreams for the big screen and are committed to providing a positive
cultural influence, come see what the Executive Program is all about!

DATE: Thursday, January 31, 2008
TIME: 8:00-9:30 p.m.
LOCATION: Act One offices, 2690 N. Beachwood Dr., Hollywood, CA 90068

Monday, January 28, 2008

Hackers Against Cults

Clayton "Weight of Glory" Emmer, the Catholic Church's version of a Techie James Bond, has the full scoop on an Internet vigilante effort to bring down the notorious Hollywood-based cult of Scientology. I have a deep, dark interest in this because I have long coveted for our Church the Scientology Celebrity Center across the street from where I live in Hollywood.

P.S. Speaking of cults... join me in praying for the hearts and souls of those young men who were molested by this Maciel who died January 31st, 2008. He now has nowhere to hide.


This site had me laughing so hard my cat jumped off my lap in terror. I have rarely visited a site that provided such a smug catharsis!

As those of you with a sense of history will recall, I have a (not irrational) hatred for the song "Gather Us In." Several really funny parodies on the site, like this:

Gather Us In

Here in this place, a bad song is starting,
Now will the altar turn into a stage.
All that is holy is slowly departing,
Making a way for the coming New Age.

Gather us in, for we are like captives.
Skipping the Mass, that would be wrong.
But Lord hear our plea, regarding M. Haugen:
Give him the courage to put down that bong.

Dear Father Smith make a beeline procession,
Run if you have to, make it real terse.
If you can start this Mass very quickly,
Maybe we'll only have to sing one verse.

Or this one:
Gather Us In

Here in this place, our post-modern parish,
All of the statues carried away,
See in each face a vacuous visage,
Brought here by guilt or by R.C.I.A.

Gather us in, by Bimmer or Hummer,
Gather us in, so we can feel good,
Come to us now in this barren Zen temple,
With only a shrub and an altar of wood.

We are the young, our morals a mystery,
We are the old, who couldn't care less,
We have been warned throughout all of history,
But we enjoy this liturgical mess.

Gather us in, our radical pastor,
Gather us in, our grim-faced ex-nun,
Call to us now, with guitars and bongos,
Kick up your heels and join in the fun!

Here we will take some wine and some water,
Whether it changes, we really don't care.
But when the Sign of Peace comes, our pastor,
Jumps from the altar and hugs like a bear.

Gather us in, uncatechized masses,
Gather us in, the liberal elite,
Help us to form our personal Credo,
Give us a choice between white bread and wheat.

Too funny! Inspires me to go get some writing done.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Anticipating BSG Season 4

I knew somebody at Battlestar Galactica was reading their Bible. Here's one of my new brethren's report on what is coming up in Season 4.

Die-hard fans of Battlestar Galactica most likely already know the title of the first episode of the new season, but we'll say it anyway for the benefit of those who haven't been updated. The episode is called “He That Believeth in Me,” and is lifted from John 11:25-26, which says, “Jesus said unto her, ‘I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live. And so whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?”

Hat-tip to Galactica Station.

And speaking of being infused with a particular world view, here is the photo Exec Producer Ron Moore put out there as a tease of what is coming in Season 4.

These guys are so damn clever. Somebody give them a cookie. [Note that Lee is in the place of Judas! Ha! Ref. my previous post about Lee's corruption.]

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Hey, Buddy - Change Your ways or Change Your Name!

Proof that every family has a few....

There Will Be Bigotry

There Will Be The Most Self-Indulgent Film-Making experience of the Year.

There Will Be Caricatures Instead of Characters.

There Will Be Far Too Few Plot Points.

There Will Be Too Many Minutes Repeating the Same Ideas Which Aren't So Profound Anyway.

There Will Be Several Unmotivated Character Choices in Unfortunately Really Big Moments.

There Will be Embarrassingly Bad Dialogue.

There Will Be Headache Inducing Sound Design.

There Will Be a Director Who Totally Lost Control of His Lead Actor and Let Him Act Like a Clown Instead of a Person.

There Will Be A Distorted Agenda About Religion and Capitalism Being the Most Corrupting Influences in Human Life.

There Will Be Religious Bigotry.

[In fact] There Will Be A Blasphemous, Orgiastic, Christian-Hating Scene in Which The Archetypal Believer Is Established as A Greedy Hypocrite, Liar, and Idiot and Then Have His Idiotic, Hypocritcal, Greedy Lying Head Smashed In.

There Will Be The Rolling of the Eyeballs, and a disgusted "Pass!" on This Over-Hyped, Tedious Vision of Nihilistic Puss.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Juno Even Better the Second Time Around

Have to send another heads up out there about Juno. I saw it again tonight and loved it even more than the first time. I didn't think of it the first time, but it really is a perfect coming of age movie. Which is a genre that has almost died in the last decade or so. I would go so far as to say this film has made me a better person. (It makes you want to be kind. And it makes you believe that there are good people out there.) And you don't sit there thinking about the director during the movie - you sit there enjoying the characters.

I'm so happy this film is hitting $100 million at the box office. And I love that it is getting so much award attention. I'm rooting for this one to win Best Picture. Do catch it while it is in theaters.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Project News

I'm excited. I just got a message from my business partners at Origin that the paperwork has gone through, and we officially have to option on this book:

The title there is To Quell the Terror: The Mystery of the Vocation of the Sixteen Carmelites of Compiegne. Set during the darkest days of the French Revolution, this story is about sixteen women ages 27 to 78 who brought about the end of the Great Terror by an offering themselves body and soul to save the people of France. (Go here to buy a copy of the book from Amazon.)

The nuns' story was fictionalized in a book called The Song at the Scaffold, by Gertrud von LeFort, and then turned into a beautiful opera called The Dialogues of the Carmelites. But the real story - which is kind of The Mission meets Amadeus - uh, with women - has never been dramatized.

I will be writing the screenplay while Origin puts the project in development (ie. looks for financing). And we can brood and pull our hair out over the financing tomorrow. Today, I am really, really happy and honored that I have the grace to work on this project.

And actually, I kind of had an idea....

Last week, I was in a room with six Europeans who have about $30 million euros and are looking to start producing movies. They are mostly new at the whole thing, but somehow they got the cash together. And one of the guys at the meeting asked me, "So, can you tell me, what is the process to get an idea into a story and then into a movie?" He asked me like it was a thirty second sound-bite. It's not.

So, I shrugged and said, "It's too big a question for this moment. It's like asking an architect, "What's the process to get a 30 story sky-scraper together?"

I thought it would be fun to use this blog to share the journey of this project from idea to script which is the first lynchpin part of the process of getting a movie made. I am doing this also because it astounds me how little respect Christians tend to have for the research and writing phase of movie-making. Occasionally exhilerating, writing is mostly grueling. And there are no short-cuts to excellence. And if you want to write something that might really have a radiance about it, you have to dig very deep into your own memory, intellect and psychology to find some treasure to share. As my mother used to say to me very often to me because I was a lazy adolescent, "Things that don't cost you anything are probably not worth anything either."

So, I am going to call these upcoming entries, TQTT: The Story of the Story. Stay tuned.

P.S. And no, because of the strike, I don't have an official deal on this project yet. I've been researching it for about a year, which was enough to develop a pitch to get Origin on board. I am working on spec officially until the strike resolves.

Book Meme

I have been tagged for a Meme by Kathleen.

It's an easy one, so I'm going to play along.

Book Meme Rules

1. Pick up the nearest book ( of at least 123 pages).
2. Open the book to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the next three sentences.
5. Tag five people.

Okay, here goes....

1) I am working on a play about my favorite and only poet this morning, so the book sitting five inches from my hand is The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson, edited by Thomas H. Johnson

2) Page 123 includes poems #269-#271, all of which were presumed to be written in 1861, while the Civil War was going on.

3) The Fifth sentence on the page happens to be the first line of poem #270.

One Life of so much Consequence!
Yet I- for it - would pay -
My Soul's entire income -
In ceaseless - salary -

One Pearl - to me - so signal -
That I would instant dive -
Although - I knew - to take it -
Would cost me - just a life!

5) I tag Karen, Clayton, Sean G., Alice, and anyone else who wants to play.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

See Barb in Austin, TX

I am very honored to be one of the speakers at a very exciting symposium that is coming up in April:

I know this is going to be a great event because the web-site already has enough stuff to fuel several doctoral theses!

My talk will be called something like "The Proper Care and Feeding of The Artist." From the conference web site, here are some of the points on which I will be ruminating:

THE ARTIST: What is an artist and how do we shepherd these strange creatures?

What is the anatomy of an artist? What is their peculiar nature? What do artists need to be healthy, mature persons? What do artists need but don’t immediately realize they need? How can we provide spiritual formation as well as community and opportunities for expression for the artists in our care?

Our desire here is to help pastors understand the way God has created artists. Artists don’t need to be idolized or marginalized—often the two primary ways our culture treats them—they need to be loved with understanding, appreciated for the often non-useful, non-marketable but glory-bearing work they create, and invited into the gracious lordship of Christ and the protective, generous care of His Body, the Church.

Our desire, more fully then, is to help pastors understand artists so they can shepherd them well, with skill and wisdom, with love and joy, whether the artists are serving the liturgy or the community or the culture at large or perhaps just needing to sit in the pew and be loved for who they are, not for what they can do.

I am doing a bit of advance reading now as I get this talk together. I am going to use several film clips as some of Hollywood's most profound movies have been those about artists. I am also reading several biographies of artists so as to have some good anecdotes in my frontal lobe. I am going to make use of John Paul II's Letter to Artists and Josef Pieper's Only the Lover Sings. Anybody have any other suggestions for works I should consider?

See Val Sing in Worcester, MA

The Rosary in Sacred Song

A Meditational Concert on the Life, Passion and Resurrection of Jesus Christ

Featuring Valerie Nicolosi,

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Chapel of the Holy Spirit
Assumption College
Worcester, MA

In a unique artistic and meditative experience, the beloved Christian prayer, the Holy Rosary, is united with a selection of classic works of sacred song literature. Imagine the familiar structure of the Rosary, moving through the Gospels, accompanied and enlightened by the music of Mozart, Brahms Puccini, Bach, Copland, Britten and others, in an evening of dramatic song by critically acclaimed mezzo-soprano Valerie Nicolosi, accompanied by a world-class pianist.

The Rosary In Song invites the audience to become a community of prayerful witnesses journeying together through Jesus’ Incarnation, Passion and Resurrection, through the beauty of musical meditation. The Rosary in Song includes Scriptural settings for each mystery, followed by a song which reflects the Biblical story or the spiritual fruit of the Mystery. There is an intermission halfway through.

Hailed as a vivacious and outstanding performer, mezzo-soprano Valerie Nicolosi received her Bachelor’s in Vocal Performance from the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY and her Master's in Vocal Performance from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, TN. She participated in a variety opera apprenticeship and residency programs including Virginia Opera, Nevada Opera, Portland Opera Repertory Theater, and a nine-month residency with the International Opera Centrum in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
In September 2002, Miss Nicolosi debuted in the title role of Rossini’s La Cenerentola with Opera Providence. Since then she has enjoyed a rising dynamic performing career around the country. In the Fall of 2006 she sang the title role in Gustave Holst's three-man opera Savitri with Lexingon Symphony under the baton of Jonathon Mcphee. In February 2007 she appeared as a soloist in the Boston Ballet's production of Mendelssohn's Midsummer Night's Dream. Other opera roles performed include Dorabella in Cosi Fan Tutte Cherubino in Le Nozze Di Figaro, Zerlina in Don Giovanni, Rosina in Barber of Seville, Hansel in Hansel & Gretel, Hermia & Oberon in Midsummer Night’s Dream, Olga in Eugene Onegin, Cupid in Orpheus and the Underworld and Suzuki in Madame Butterfly among others.

For more information contact: Frank Corbin
Assumption College Humanarts
500 Salisbury St
Worcester, MA 01609
508-767-7508; 508-767-7000

Or check out the Human arts series website at:

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Act One Screenwriting and the Business of Hollywood Weekend: Phoenix

Do you have a story to tell?
Or do you want to get an insider's understanding of the business of The Biz?
Do you have what it takes to make it in Hollywood - as a follower of Jesus?

It’s time to find out.

Act One Seminar: Screenwriting and the Business of Hollywood is coming to Phoenix, Arizona!

$20 Early Bird Registration Discount before March 1, 2008!

Act One, Inc. presents Act One Seminars - intensive, practical workshops for aspiring and professional writers and entrepreneurs who are serious about their Christian faith and who dream of creating culture that respects and enriches a global audience. These two-day seminars offer a fun, fast-paced overview of our renowned Writing and Executive Programs, taught by Hollywood professionals.

Topics include -

For everyone:
• Finding Your Story
• Film Structure
• Pitching
• Visual Writing
• The Business of Hollywood/Next Steps
• Christianity and Culture
• Truth in Film
• The Hollywood Mission Field

Writing Track:
• Character & Dialogue
• Outlines & Treatments
• Industry Standard Formatting

Business Track:
• Who Does What?: From Best Boy to Executive Producer
• Introduction to the Marketplace & Commercial Creativity
• Optioning a Winning Script or Other Source Material

Friday and Saturday, April 11-12, 2008

Scottsdale Christian Church
7934 E Oak St
Scottsdale, AZ 85257

Scheduled To Appear:
Writer/Executive Producer Dean Batali (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, That 70’s Show)
Writers Chris & Kathy Riley (After The Truth, 25 To Life, The Hollywood Standard)
Producer/Director Monica Jimenez-Grillo(The New Detectives, FBI Files)
Writer Leslie Kreiner Wilson (Frankie Laine, Mississippi Son, Faking It)

$195 - (includes study materials, Saturday lunch and Hollywood Insider Event)
$175 - Early Birds (before March 1st), Students (with ID), and Groups (10 or more)
$10 - Hollywood Insider Event only

Act One, Inc. is proud to partner with our co-sponsors, Scottsdale Christian Church and Pepperdine University.

register online NOW!

Ideas for a Speech...

I have been invited to be one of the presenters at the annual "Edith Stein Conference" at Notre Dame in late March. (They don't seem to have a web site up for it yet, but here is one I found for a past conference.) The conferences always revolve around the theme of redefining feminism in a Catholic context, and so all the talks look at issues concerning women in society.

They first asked me to give a talk that somehow brings together "Women and Film." I told them, honestly, I have no idea what that would mean. I am not a cinema historian, and I don't know if even trying to survey some recent films would be meaningful. So, they said it would be up to me to come up with a topic.

I wanted to throw the question out there and see if any of you have some suggestions for a talk that would be helpful to the young women who will attend. My instincts are always to pick a small subject as opposed to a broad one - so, instead of talking about "Women in Film", I could see myself talking about "The Woman in This Particular Film" or contrasting "Two Women from Two Different Films." But they would really have to be the right films in the sense of shedding light on the theme for the conference.

I feel like I've been saying a lot over the past few years on the errors and tragic wake of the Sexual Revolution, and I suppose I could rework that if need be.

Or else maybe I could do my hero talk, only narrow it to consider the idea of women as heroes. But they are going to want me to show movie clips. That's why people want me. I'm the movie clip lady.

So, anyway, any ideas will be very welcome.

January 22 - High Holy Day of the Culture of Death

[The Catholic bishops of the United States have designated January 22 as a special day of prayer and penance in reparation for the massive killing that has resulted from the Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court decision (handed down January 22, 1973) which permitted abortion throughout pregnancy.]

Prayer of Reparation

God and Creator of Life,
You have created every human person in love,
And have opened the way for each to behold your Face.

But as a people, we have rejected love and hope.
And in our fear and arrogance, have chosen to live in the shadow of death.
Tens of millions of your children have been killed
Because of the Roe vs. Wade decision legalizing abortion.

Father, have mercy on us.
Heal our land
And accept our offering of prayer and penance.
In your love for us,
Turn back the scourge of abortion.

May each of us exult in hearts full of hope
And hands full of mercy
And work together to build a culture of life.

We pray this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Administrative Note

I'm having all kinds of trouble with my comments on the blog. For some reason, comments are not coming through. It is some kind of turf war between Blogger and Haloscan I think, but I don't have the skill to know how to fix it. If anybody has any ideas, please do let me know.

Meanwhile, I am sorry for all the people whose comments are not appearing. Please don't think I am deleting or blocking you. Until I get it fixed (help Clayton! Joshua where are you!?) I will start a thread for comments. Just email me your comment to: with Blog Comment in the subject line.

Sorry. I have this demon of technology that has been sent to oppress my spirit....

Monday, January 21, 2008

BSG: Me on Season 3

So, as I noted below, through many machinations and an abundance of natural grace, I did get a hold of all but two episodes of Season 3. (The two episodes I haven’t seen are nos. 6 and 7, but I have read the episode recaps enough to catch up on the substance of the stories.) And several folks have asked me what I thought of it. Well, brace yourself. You asked...

Several people had warned me that Season 3 wasn’t as good as the first two, and I admit that the first time I watched it, I tended to agree. In a second screening, I’m not so sure. Clearly, Season 3 is different from the first two. It wasn’t as filled with intrigue and I was often disappointed with what happened to some of the characters, namely the whole Kara and Lee sub-plot…which it seems to me now, on a second viewing is actually the essential plot, and that I was just wanting it to be Cinderella and soap-operaish, and the show is so much better than that. More about that below.

Having said that, I think that much of Season 3 was brilliant. And the last three episodes were really, really brilliant. But yes, there were a few episodes that felt more like a conventional episodic situation drama, that didn't add a lot to the A-story of the series. (Most egregious of these was the whole "Tyrol as Labor Leader - Dirty Hands" episode. Good thing they didn't do that a lot.)

Particular areas of observation:

Life as an Occupied People – A lot of people wrote me that they thought the time spent on New Caprica was overdone. I thought it was fascinating. But then, I am always wanting to stare at what makes some people in extreme situations heroic, and what makes others collaborators with their oppressors. Watching our beloved characters fight over the use and abuse of suicide bombing was fabulously uncomfortable.

The only part of the Occupation story lines that I found disappointing was the whole Kara with Leoben thing. It was never clear to me exactly what Leoben wanted from her. And I wanted to see her break psychologically much more completely than just having her heart warm to the cute little girl. I wanted to see Kara being driven to really betray herself/humanity with Leoben, or at least almost do it, in such a way that she would leave New Caprica with absolutely no idea of who she is anymore. The show hinted at this, but seemed to run out of time and didn’t quite get there.

Life in Cylon World – I found most of the glimpses of Cylon life aboard the base ships to be deeply unsatisfying and lacking in imagination. The sterile sets and Cylons walking purposefully down neon-lighted hallways reminded me of low-production value of the original Star Trek episodes. It seemed to me that there needed to be more thought put into exactly what computerized robots would do on a base star. A more interesting vision would be, well, they do nothing. They sit, plugged in, and stare. They have no need to walk around, eat or sleep when they aren’t with humans, so they would all be immobile, like laptops sitting on a desk. (This would render opportunities for human interaction either highly entertaining or highly annoying for the Cylons.) I thought the half-submerged hybrid to be a problem because it seemed to me that the whole problem of the show was their effort to conceive human/cylon hybrids. If they’ve already done it, then why all the fuss? (I feel sure I missed something here and one of you more geeky than I can fill me in.)

Four of the Final Five - I have to admit, I loved how the show did the gradual reveal of four of our heroes as Cylons. The music thing was just so smart, and opens the doors to so many other possibilities of the whole gang on Galactic being played despite themselves. But I can’t say I believe that Tyrol and Tigh are Cylons. Tigh was involved in the first Cylon war, so he predates the decades in which Cylons retreated and developed skin-job technology. And Tyrol, as the father of a son, can’t be a Cylon without completely diminishing the whole huge build-up of Hera as the all-important Human-Cybrid offspring. And honestly, until the show tells me what the profound difference between skin-jobs and humans is, I can’t be that horrified about finding out the names of skin-jobs. If there ain’t anything radically different about human life and Cylon life, than why should I care who ends up being a Cylon? (ref. My earlier post about this flaw in the show.)

Kara and Lee - Kara Thrace’s character (so beautifully realized by actress Katee Sackhoff) is the fan’s favorite, and mine, and I think it's because on several levels she is so emblematic of a whole generation, or two, of us who were raised during the Sexual Revolution. I have met a lot of Kara Thrace’s in my life (sometimes in the mirror – although I tend to be more Lee-ish, the other "holding it together/responsible" part of the generation that has to share classrooms, offices and homes with the Kara’s) and have found them thoroughly devastating and also always compelling. They elicit so much tenderness, and then revulsion and rage – which are the same cycle of emotions that poor Lee has had to go through being on the periphery of “Kara Thrace and Her Special Destiny.”

I don’t want to belabor it, but most of us who were raised in the late 1960-s through the 1980’s had a mother who wasn’t sure who she wanted to be. She wasn’t sure whether being a mother was going to be enough for her. And that ambivalence resulted in children who spent their lives yearning for unconditional love, but then throwing it away whenever it presents itself because of a deep-seated sense of unworthiness. It’s particularly acute in women because the struggle that our mothers played out sets us as women against our own nature. (Don’t have time here to go into that more, but I think it is the key story of the post-Sexual Revolution mess.)

Now, as I see it, God has to intervene to save Kara so that she can save humanity. Part of that saving of Kara has had to be cutting her off – “like a cancer” – from everyone else whom she might use as a crutch. Kara’s “death”/baptism in Maelstrom was so insightful and perfectly mysterious that I almost couldn’t believe I was watching it on television. Kara can’t be a Cylon, because then the ofering of her life wouldn’t have any meaning, because, um, Cylons don’t die. (And also, they gave us a two-second shot of her hand hovering over the eject lever! Good grief, que obvious!)

Lee is also broken in Season 3, primarily by Kara’s death. Lee’s life without Kara has no meaning and everything he was falls away, in the ultimate coming of age journey. Now that he is in a real sense, his own man, he can either become a saint or a demon. The end of Season 3 leaves him approaching the demonic.

In watching his gradual corruption in the last three episodes, I think I finally understood why people watch NASCAR. What might happen is so potentially terrible, that you just can’t look away. The corruption culminates in his awful testimony on the stand in which he asserts an “immoral equivalency” to everyone’s choices since the start of the Cylon Wars. He becomes the guy who says that the Marines who shot civilian Iraqis in a raid, are the same as the 21 demons who crashed airplanes into buildings on 9/11.
I know I am belaboring an obvious bunch of connections, but I have to say it. Lee’s other name is Apollo. Apollo is the God of the Sun, the Lightbearer. In the scene in which he resigns his commission, the beloved son of Admiral Adama looks his father in the face and says, “I will not serve….” Lucifer, was the most-powerful of the Angels. His name literally means “Light bearer.” Tradition has it that Lucifer’s response to the vision of the incarnation and redemption of mankind was, from the Latin, “Non serviam” which means, um, “I will not serve.” I expect Lee to become much darker in Season 4 -- unless his character's spiral is somehow truncated by Kara's resurrection....but dramatically, I would hate that. Kara and Lee have to be enemies now, as Lee has lost his purity, just as Kara seems to have found hers.

My guess is that after saving all of humanity, it will be the last part of “Kara Thrace’s Special Destiny” for Kara to save Lee. Which would be just, because he did sustain her and hold her up so many times, saving her for her ultimate destiny. But I wouldn’t place bets on it either, because BSG justice is just never that simple.

Care for Hollywood Event

Please join us in praying for a quick resolution to the Hollywood Writers Strike. We gave up waiting for the official Church in Los Angeles to respond to the situation. So......

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - January 17, 2008 – Hollywood

On Thursday, January 24th, an inter-denominational coalition of Hollywood writers, actors, producers, and other industry professionals will hold the first of a series of weekly evenings dedicated to pray for an end to the strike, and offer practical support and counseling to those who are experiencing severe burdens due to the work-stoppage.

The coalition, which began with a conversation between a Catholic writer, a Presbyterian agent and an Evangelical television producer, now includes professionals of many denominations, as well as Christian pastors and ministry leaders. The evenings will be open to anyone regardless of their spiritual tradition and will be a conduit for people to receive prayer, fellowship, comfort and support.

Producer Karen Covell, National Director of the Hollywood Prayer Ministry adds, “As people of faith, we needed to do something to respond to the terrible hardship that the strike is causing in the lives of so many people. We want to create an opportunity for people of any stripe to come in and find people who care about them so they know they aren’t alone.”

On Thursday, February 7th, the evening will have a more penitential focus in keeping with the evening falling on the first Thursday of Lent. Notes Barbara Nicolosi, a writer and one of the coalition partners, “Our industry is paralyzed right now by scape-goating, anger and anxiety. If we humble ourselves, and repent of the greed and fear in our own lives, maybe God will intervene and relieve the hardness of hearts in the broader industry that is keeping this strike going.”

The evenings will be held every Thursday until the strike ends, from 7:30pm to 8:30pm in the Mears Center, at the First Presbyterian Church, 1760 N Gower Ave. in Hollywood. For more information, call the Hollywood Prayer Network at 323.462-8486 x 117 or


Sunday, January 20, 2008

BSG is Great...But is it Good?

I am already on the record as being a big fan of Battlestar Galactica. (And in keeping with the 32nd Law of the Cosmos, "[Because I gave God ten years of my youth in a convent,] I get everything I want" I did manage to obtain Season 3. So the following probably has spoilers of all three seasons.) I think it is a very successful show on the most important levels that go into a good television series. And even more than just a good show, where most network television shows today have great production design, acting and overall style, Battlestar Galactica brings something else to the table that I would summarize as complexity.

The story and structure are complex – both in each individual episode and in the over-arching four season story. The characters are complex – as in President Roslin who, just when you think she is a classic paralyzed by politically-correctness liberal, bans abortion and summarily sends a Cylon shooting out the airlock. But the thing I love most, as someone who is always drawn to a discussion of ideas, is the complexity with which the series handles social, political, and psychological ideas.

I really appreciate being given the job as an audience member to have to do my share of the thinking. It’s so cool the way the creators let the story unfold as the choices of the characters, but with leaps in time and reasoning, such that I have to stop and put together what must have happened in the life and mind of the character off-screen to get them to that place. (An example is most of the relationship of Kara and Lee, who we follow through the trajectory of their choices without a lot of how they are getting from choice to choice. I find myself asking every few episodes – okay, what did we miss here?)

And the complexity just gets better when it is echoing all the issues of post-9/11 geo-politics. It is very hard to watch BSG and not want to have discussions afterward about politics and war.

I think the net result of the show’s complexity is to move the audience away from self-righteousness and towards compassion. Because these issues are fundamentally complex, despite the highly polarized climate these days in which each side just wants to point at the other and dismiss them as stupid. As in, "The War in Iraq is stupid. We should get out." Or, "It's stupid to think that everybody everywhere doesn't want American style democracy." Both of these are over-simplifications that encourage people to posture about with a sense of superiority. There is something about the way BSG establishes ambiguity in so many of the issues that leaves me really, really glad that I'm not the one who has to make the call that the characters are having to make. There is no possibility of posturing simple and superior. The show makes me want to pray for people with power. And to be clear, it’s not that BSG makes things like torture ambiguous. But it definitely gives you a sense of how and why terror and social disorder drive people to try torture as a solution. Or else stealing elections. Or resorting to martial law. Or trampling on civil liberties.

However, in the interests of seeing the forests as well as the trees, I have been brooding over whether the worldview of Battlestar Galactica can ultimately be reckoned moral or immoral. What is the show’s underlying presumption about human life, and can it be said to be true or a lie? And if it is a lie, it is the kind of lie that is appropriate in art – a false vision that would provoke people to seek out the truth?

Right now, I don’t know if Season 4 of Battlestar Galactica can rescue the show from one very deep ethical problem in terms of ultimate worldview. (But I am open to hearing from some of you longer-standing fans as to what I might be missing.) In rendering the Cylon “skin jobs” so indistinguishably similar to human beings, doesn’t the show diminish the sacredness of human life? Particularly with the revelation at the end of Season 3 of the four beloved characters to be Cylons, hasn’t the show now waded into the big lie that human beings are basically material beings without a spiritual dimension? Because clearly, spirit cannot be built. So then, if you can build a robot that is indistinguishable from a human, it is because the human actually has nothing actually spiritual in its definition. And then the meaning of Battlestar Galactica would be a lie (although, as I noted above, not necessarily an illegitimate work of art).

It seems to me that the series needed to plan in from the very beginning some basic quality in the Cylon characters that separates them from humans. It needed to be some kind of default reflex or failure to compute something that proceeds deeply from the human non-material soul. If Baltar was really that smart, he would have approached the problem of distinguishing Cylons from this aspect, looking for a deep spiritual/empathetic/yearning disconnect in the Cylons - as these are the most defining qualities of human life. (And even if this escaped Baltar, it shouldn’t have escaped the series writers, and the audience should have been putting it together.)

Now, until near the end of Season 2, the Cylons seemed to me to differ from the humans on the level in which the machines were perfect pragmatists. The humans are unpredictable in so far as their empathy and narcissism cause them to make un-pragmatic choices. The Cylons are calculating, but in a pragamatic way in which being calculating logically serves their ends. Humans do illogical things that don’t serve an ultimate end. In fact, relentlessly retaining an ultimate end in mind, could also be regarded as a distinction between Cylons and humans. But the pure pragmatic aspect of Cylonness gets completely lost with Boomer’s love of Helo, and Caprica 6’s infatuation with Baltar, and Number 3’s search for transcendant meaning until I don’t see them acting logically even most of the time, nevermind all of the time.

So, there are three ways to engage this ethical problem for the series that I can see:

A) The series creators have put the Missing-link factor in, and I am just not sharp enough to see it. There has been some fundamental disconnect in all the Cylons that has been right up there on the screen for us to see all this time. (Going to be really hard to sell that now if Tigh and Tyrol are really Cylons as we have watched them, among all the characters, struggle with deep existential conflict.)

B) The Cylon “skin-jobs,” in so far as they are a blend of organic and synthetic
material, are actually human clones. That is, in the same way that God infuses a soul in a human that is conceived in a test tube, in using organic parts, the Cylons are actually replicating humans with robotic parts. But they are fundamentally human. (Although they are a kind of human that has the power to “download memories” to other clones.)

I actually love this solution as it means that the “skin jobs” are just another dehumanized group like so many others in history that have been persecuted as being “non-human” (like Jews, women, blacks, etc.).

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Hollywood RCIA podcasts!

Thanks to the great and stalwart Clayton Weight of Glory Emmer, we will now have our RCIA classes back up available to podcast. (I know I said that wrong but I'm desperately medieval in computer stuff.)

We started the second half our our yearlong program last Saturday with a wonderful presentation from Rosalind Moss of Catholic Answers down in San Diego. Rosalind told the story of how she made her way from being a part of conservative Judaism in Brooklyn, into Evangelical Christianity, and then into Catholicism basically because of the Mass and Eucharist. (Are you there Dawn Eden? Ecce kindred spirit!)

“I’m Jewish. And I’m Catholic, because I believe that Jesus Christ… is the Jewish Messiah; in fact, he’s God. And He came to earth, and He died for our sins, and He rose to give us life, and He established a church, and it’s the Catholic Church, so I’m in it. And so the most Jewish thing a person can do is to be Catholic.”

The audio from Rosalind Moss' presentation on the Eucharist and the Mass is now available over at the RCIA Hollywood blog.

If you have an iPod, you can listen to RCIA Hollywood recordings following these simple steps:

1) Go here.

2) Click on the link on the right side of the page that says "Subscribe via iTunes"

3) The iTunes program will open, and show you the podcast feed page in the iTunes Store

4) Click the "Subscribe" button

5) You will then see that, under the "Podcasts" area of iTunes (upper left corner of the program), you're subscribed to this program and can download any or all of the audio that has been posted.

More audio will be posted in the coming weeks.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Charlie Wilson's - NOT REAGAN'S!!!!! - War

Yeah, I don't want to waste too much time on this project. Written by Aaron Sorkin, directed by Mike Nichols, the talent squandered here includes Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, Philip Seymour Hoffman and the great new young actress from Enchanted, Amy Adams.

Compared to Sorkin's brilliant The American President, this is a piece of sloppy crap. It doesn't have Sorkin's wit. It doesn't have good characters, it doesn't have a particular theme or internal struggle for the leads. There was a palpable ambivalence reflected in Sorkin's writing - probably because as a liberal he isn't real sure defeating the communists in Afghanistan was really worth it. And also, because the heroine of the piece is a (oooh grosss!) Christian from (eeeeeeeew!) Texas. Just in case you didn't know it already, Sorkin makes it clear in several places in the film that Christians are stupid, lame, hypocritical, and intolerant. At one point I turned to my friend and said, "Good God Aaron, would you just frakking leave us alone?" I never, ever understand how this crowd which so prides itself on tolerance has no filter against this kind of religious bigotry.

Anyway, the movie has lots of problems, but one of the main ones is that it assumes that because the lovable Tom Hanks is the lead, there is no need to do the usual work of establishing sympathy for the character. So, we meet the lead character, a thin-haired, chubby, aging baby-boomer, doing cocaine and shots in a hot tub with three naked hookers, and we're supposed to think it is charming because, you know, it's Tom. (Yeah. How's that working out for you, audience? No, huh?) The audience never gets over it and Tom's character never becomes someone we like or trust. And then the fact that Sorkin doesn't bother to give Charlie a real arc just compounds the problem. Charlie converts to the Afghan cause before the mid-point of the movie and then has nothing left to learn.

My main pique with the project was the way it studiously avoided giving Republicans or Ronald Reagan - who was president at the time of the events of the movie - any credit AT ALL for any of the efforts made to defeat the Soviets in Afghanistan. It is as though Reagan wasn't even there in Washington. Which made me really mad because it is just so damn unfair. I hate unfair. Unfair is the dragon temptation of people who are offered the golden key of media power. (I pray we believers always keep in mind that manipulation and deception is always wrong, even in the name of a really really good cause.)

Philip Seymour Hoffman created a cool character, but he really doesn't have much to do besides toss out sarcastic lines.

Despite the high production and star quality in Charlie Wilson's War I found this movie dumb and a waste of my time. And my much more mellow, Democratic friend who was with me agreed.


A Diving Bell and a Butterfly But No Story

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is a French movie based on the book written by a man who was totally paralysed by a cerebral hemorrage. He only has control of one eyelid, and through the astonishing love and effort of his care-givers, he is able to write a book by blinking his eye to indicate letters on a chart to spell out words. I get what the filmmakers were trying to do in this project. By limiting the movement and access of the camera, they were trying to approximate the feeling of claustrophobia and disassociation in the -- hmmmmm..... wait. Let me try this.

Here's my own montage of frames to give you a taste of watching this movie. You have to hold on each image for about 90 seconds, and you should shake the computer screen a little while you are holding. (And you can put a recording of someone talking French in the background.)

Get the point? I did. In the first ten minutes. Then, I fell asleep and kept jerking awake for the next two hours.

So, there isn't a narrative here. Which is proto-typical of European films. They are all about creating moments and not necessarily stories. There are a series of moments that don't culminate but just sort of stop after they had two hours of them. And there are some nice moments in this piece. Some really nice moments, although all of them belong to the care-givers of the patient. The love that the two women in the story show for their patient is heroic and heart-warming. And it is rendered even more impressive because he really isn't a nice man.

I found the main character very problematic. As the former chief editor of Elle magazine, he is so narcissistic and materialistic, that even in his terrible plight, and being forced to sit there seeing through his eye, I kept finding myself marveling about what a rather waste of a life he had led until his stroke. He never reaches for God in his state. And actually, he mocks religious people quite a bit. I found that evidence of a really, really hardened heart. And it didn't make me like him.

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is the kind of movie that movie critics love and I am probably going to spark a lot of outrage and charges of being a Neanderthal. But I don't care. this movie bored me. I thought it's aspiration that the human imagination could always ascend was rather obvious. I didn't think the guy had anything very much to say in his book, and that it was the writing of the book that was the only thing inspiring.

My opinion is this is the kind of foreign experimental film that will leave most audience people bored and unsatisfied. As a story, I would give it a pass. As an artistic use of the screen, I give it a shrug and a few nods. Go see it if you like artsy European stuff.

Gettysburg, Pt. III

Day 3 -

After two days of fighting, the Confederates had been unable to strike a decisive hit on the Union forces. Lee had hit the Union on both flanks and been repulsed at very high cost. On July 3, 1863, Lee made one of the worst strategic calls in the history of warfare. He called for General Longstreet to marshall 15,000 rebels into a direct frontal assault at the center of the Union lines. Known as Picket's Charge (but it really should be known as the Picket-Trimble-Pettigrew Charge because George Pickett was just one of three corps commanders on the field that day), Lee's act of messianic hubris led to over 7000 casualties in less than an hour.

Here is the perspective of the Rebels as they came out of the tree line facing the entrenched Union troops on Cemetery Ridge to the east. Their destination was the copse of trees in the center of the picture. The 15,000 men had to walk over a mile of open field with no cover. Their lines were ripped open by artillery fire from Little Round Top but also all along the heights on Cemetery Ridge.

The Confederates had expected that their pre-charge cannonade would take out the fence on the road at the base of Cemetery Ridge. It didn't. Those surviving Confederates who made it as far as the road, found themselves pinned down by the fence. They were then savaged by cannister fire from the Union side. And then the Union infantry stood up in rows and fired round after round into them.

A memorial to the North Carolina troops who were part of the fateful charge.

Here's my friend Katie in front of the fancier monument to the North Carolina troops just in front of the Confederate tree line across from Cemetery Ridge.

Another Confederate perspective of the field from which one third of the 15,000 men started out. The copse of trees is just to the left of center. Even under intense canon fire, the Rebel troops executed several perfect turns so that they all came together just north of the copse of trees.

Here is the monument to the evil genius of the slavery forces, Robert E. Lee. (That's all the "malice towards none" I've got for the guy and his damn cause.)

Moving over to the Union side on Cemetery Ridge, here is a monument to an Irish priest whose name I don't remember, but who was chaplain to the great Irish brigades who fought so hard for the Union at Gettysburg. There was some connection to the University of Notre Dame with this priest - maybe he was the Founder? Anyway, this was my favorite monument on the field. There was something very comforting about the hand raised in blessing after all the reminders of death and suffering. This monument said to me that God was here even amidst the carnage and terror of the battle.

Here is the copse of trees and the monument that represents the "high water mark of the Confederacy." Of the 15,000 who started on the P-T-P charge, only a few hundred made it to the angled stone walls just north of this spot. After this point, the Confederate army was basically playing duck and run the next two years until the end of the war.

I can't remember what this shot is of, but I think it is probably a diagonal view of "the angle."

The National Park Service has preserved lots of cannons and cassions left on the field from the battle.

Certainly the most impressive state monument of the hundreds on the field is this one to the men from the State of Pennsylvania who died fighting against the Rebel invasion of their state.

I end with a shot of the monument which tells the story of the American Civil War. It is from the state of Maryland which was divided politically half slave and half free. The monument depicts two brothers who were on opposite sides of the war, and met on the field at Gettysburg. Very moving.

Gettysburg, Pt. II

Day 2 -

Here is a shot of what would be the Confederate perspective of Cemetery Ridge upon which the Union army had dug in on the evening of July 1st. The Confederates had ultimately prevailed on Day 1, driving the Union back into these hills, but now (the traitorous - sorry but that's how I feel - he should have been hung for violating his oath to the U.S. and causing the deaths of so many hundreds of thousands of men!) Gen. Lee awakens to the proposition of fighting on the offense by attacking the Union positions. (On Day 3, Lee would order his men to suicidally charge across this field in the culminating action of Gettysburg.) The situation on Day 2 was very much the reverse of the set up of Lee's blood-soaked victory at Fredericksburg a few months before in which the Confederates were dug in on a slope behind a stonewall. Lee's troops cut down the brave Union soldiers by the thousands until idiotic, blustery Gen. Burnside withdrew. Now, Lee is looking across this mile of field, at the Union dug in on a sloping hill behind a stone wall.

On the extreme left of the Union flank (seen here on the right) are the hills known as Big Round Top and Little Round Top. Both were thickly wooded, although Big Round Top is the more dense and steep of the two and nobody had time or means to get troops up there. The rear side of Little Round Top is almost sheer and inaccessible, but if Lee's troops could take Little Round Top on the front or southern face, the dug-in Union army would be flanked and then over run. (And then the Southern army can sweep right over to Washington, force the Union to surrender, end the American experiment, and keep their slaves for another thousand years.) As we say in the movie business, it was a high stakes situation.

Lee entrusts the action on the Union left to Gen. Longstreet. (There is another attack at the same time on the other Union flank on the Union right on Culp's hill -- but I don't have any pictures from that side of the battlefield.)

Here is Longstreet's perspective from the tree line just west of Cemetery Ridge of his objective, Little Round Top. The land in between was high with golden wheat on the day of the battle, and there was a peach orchard and then a patch of woods at the base of the Round Tops.

Here is the Union perspective looking back at Longstreet. In the top right hand corner of the photo is the monument to the Union General Warren. Very much like Gen. Buford on Day 1, Warren arrived on Little Round Top to scout the battlefield, and was horrified to note that the hill was unfortified. He realized immediately that if the Confederates got Little Round Top, the battle would be over. So, with the glint of Mississippi and Texas steel creeping through the woods just below, Gen. Warren hastened three regiments of Union troops into position on Little Round Top. They were there only a few minutes when the Rebels surged up the hill.

Here is the detail of Gen. Warren's monument.

The Union almost lost the Day because of the actions of the weird, glory-seeking numbskull General Sickles. For no discernible reason, on the morning of Day 2, Sickles disobeyed orders and led his troops off of his dug-in position on the left side of Cemetery Ridge, and pushed forward across the wheat field to attack the approaching Confederates. Thousand and thousands of men died because of this fool-hardy action, although Sickles managed to get a Medal of Honor for losing his leg in the fighting.

Here is the site of the Peach Orchard. Our guide told us that the peach trees had all gotten some kind of parasite, so the National Park Service had them dug up and the soil treated. There will be new peach trees planted next year so that this part of the battlefield will be restored to it's original look.

After changing hands six times and heavy losses on both sides, the Union forces of Gen. Sickle retreated across this wheatfield.

From the top of Little Round Top, this is a perspective of the battlefield called "the slaughter pen" because of all the men who died there. Over the course of Day 2, Rebel snipers in the woods and rocks shown here picked off scores of Union officers.

Front view of Little Round Top. I can't remember whose monument this is. Somebody heroic.

I can't believe I didn't take any pictures of Devil's Den. I do remember that it was much smaller than I expected considering the hundreds of men who fought and died in that part of the battlefield just southwest of the Round Tops. Guess I'll have to go back to get some pictures.

Here is the slope of Little Round Top looking slightly southwest. After prevailing in the peach orchard, the wheat field and Devil's Den, the Confederates charged up this hill over and over until the bodies covered the ground.

After unsuccessfully charging up the front of Little Round Top many times and sustaining heavy losses, the Rebels tried to cut through the little valley between Little Round Top and Big Round Top assaulting Little Round Top from the side. Here they were met by about two hundred stalwart New England farmers and fisherman - the 20th Maine.

Led by a former rhetoric and religion professor, Col. Joshua Chamberlain, the 20th Maine were veterans of many battles and had seen their numbers dwindle from nearly a thousand. The Maine was formed up in a near right angle to the other Union troops on the front of the hill with the steep impassible back slope of Little Round Top to their left and behind them. Here is the perspective of the 20th Maine looking down on the charging Rebels.

In the end, the Union would run out of bullets, and in a dashing and astounding feat of soldiering, Col. Chamberlain had his men fix bayonnets and charge into the oncoming Confederates. The Rebels were so shocked at the charge that nearly 600 of them surrendered and the rest ran back down the hill in terror. The charge of the 20th Maine ended the attacks on Little Round Top and subsequently the action of Day 2, and won Col. Chamberlain the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Here is the monument to the men of the 20th Maine.