Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Random Thoughts


Motivation counts for a lot. Even the middle-aged and out-of-shape can move fast when someone in the same room with them looks out the window and says, "Tornado!"


Think twice before telling God you probably need a big kick in the pants--if it's true, he knows already and saying it in prayer is just asking for trouble.


Cliches get to be cliches for very good reasons. Having your family come through a dangerous experience unharmed really is the most important thing about the experience, and it really is the case that the best way to appreciate something is to realize you might have lost it. Truisms may be tired, but they're true.


When you have an unpleasant job to do, it works better to imagine yourself as an Asian (or other) immigrant to the US who is just glad to be here or even to put on the mantle of Christian humility than it does to adopt an attitude of "lazy, entitled, modern American".


We all arrive at adulthood with our own set of faults, but it seems to me there's few greater failures possible in life than to reach old age and death with all of those faults intact and unmitigated.


We should all occasionally ask God to help us focus on the beam in our own eye rather than the speck  in our neighbor's.


Anyone who doubts the Eucharist imparts actual grace should compare the ease of dealing with difficult people when they're receiving the Eucharist regularly relative to the times when they weren't.


Some self-proclaimed Christians say "I've been praying for you" in a way that is suggestive not of actually praying for you, nor even of wanting merely to express polite concern for your well-being, but of contempt.


At least one of my grandmothers was a teenaged mother and no one gave her an MTV show. Probably because she did the boring, socially responsible thing of getting married first.


Everyone notices a nun in traditional habit. It's an eye-catching message that "here is something different", a wordless rebuke to worldliness. If they'd known what a great witness their distinctive garb is, surely no nun back in the '60s and '70s would ever have wanted to get rid of their habit.


Speaking of the '70s, this is my favorite song about the '70s: Tom Servo's Haunting Tribute To the Seventies.


Dennis Prager or someone once pointed out that marriage is the only "relationship" that creates new family.* Has anyone pointed out that this can be uncomfortable for your family? Just like with being born, we don't get to pick the people we become related to by marriage--not by the marriage of our relatives, anyway. Considering some of the people our blood relatives can, with a quick trip to a JP's office, make us related to, it's almost enough to make arranged marriages seem appealing.

* Well, I guess any male-female sexual relationship can create new family, but it does not necessarily do so.


Sometimes, having your principles meet reality can feel like a car hitting a concrete wall--jolting, even if everything inside is still intact.


The lyrics to Aretha Franklin's "A Natural Woman" could almost be the theme song for any female Christian convert.


Re a recent Cul-de-Sac , why DO adults feel the urge to use constructions like "l'il" in kid stuff?


It's surprising people continue to steal actual CDs and DVDs when it's so much easier and safer to steal the digital version of the same thing.


The maxi-dresses I see everywhere this summer are better-looking than shorts and are a big improvement over a**-crack and stretch mark-revealing low-rise jeans, but why do 80 or 90% of them have to be accompanied by visible bra straps under their spaghetti straps or rising above their strapless bodice? What's the thought process here: "I'm going to buy a pretty dress and, as the crowning touch when I wear it, I'm going to have my underwear hanging out!"


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Miscellaneous Thoughts About the Last HP Film

I went to see Deathly Hallows Part Two yesterday. This is, arguably, the best of the films. I've never liked the films as much as the books and went to see DH Parts One and Two mainly out of completism. I can't claim to have thought much about it or deeply, but here's some shallow thoughts.

The pacing was really good. I went to DH2 expecting action but fearing that the necessary backstory and exposition (Snape's story, wandlore, restatement of what the deathly hallows are for people who didn't see the first film) would either bring the film to a stop several times or else would be so nearly eliminated that viewers who hadn't read the books would be left confused. Instead, the movie kept up a good pace and the wandlore and Snape's memories were blended in seamlessly.

The only thing I think someone who hadn't read the books would have been confused about was the question of who that woman lying beside Remus Lupin was. Yes, filmgoers met her in The Order of the Phoenix, but very briefly and that film was the one that I thought probably was confusing to non-readers. Tonks' romance, marriage, and child with Lupin were pretty much non-existent in the films. There's one or two small things in this film that could have been made more clear (for example, how some of the resisting students were actually living in the Room of Requirement, they weren't just camped out in a hallway) but nothing  important.

I was surprised we didn't see Fred die. The twins were a big enough presence in the films (unlike, say, Percy) that I'd assumed we'd see his death in battle.

The bit with the "baby" in King's Cross station was more clear than in the book.

I once remarked that the sixth book was the book where Harry became a man, but DH2 is the film where Harry became a man. From the very start of this one he no longer seems like a boy, but an adult. Presumably it happened while he was burying Dobby.

Ron seems more grown-up too. The cardboard movie stand-ees at the theater had Ron looking a bit bad-ass, instead of his all-too-frequent goofy befuddlement of the early films.

They did a good job with the blinded dragon underneath Gringott's. Other visual stuff was good too, as we've come to expect in contemporary movies, but the work on the dragon impressed me and moved me to pity the beast.

Neville gets to come into his own. We don't get to learn as much about Neville in the films as in the books, but I like Neville and am glad he gets to be a hero in both.

I wasn't entirely comfortable with McGonagall arbitrarily deciding to lock up the entirety of Slytherin house in the dungeons, rather than giving them a chance to choose their loyalty as individuals.

Were they implying an incipient romance between Neville and Luna? There was a line from Neville I didn't quite catch, so I'm honestly not sure.

Unlike some reviewers, I didn't think the job of aging the young actors to portray thirtysomethings for the film's coda was badly done.

Not everyone was a fan. Moments after the last scene faded I was thinking, well, that's the end of it, and a child piped up behind me, "Yay, it's over." I had to explain to the people I was with why I was laughing.

The MST3K guys once remarked that at some point in, I don't know, the late eighties maybe, filmmakers started crediting far more people at the end than they ever had before, making the MST3K guys' job harder. Between that and all the special effects people involved in making contemporary films, credits really are getting too long. I entertain myself by looking for interesting names among the scores of credited people; FWIW there are some in DH2's credits.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Long Quote of the Month

I recently found Crisis Magazine's archived articles by John Zmirak (of the Bad Catholic guides fame) and have been enjoying them one or a few at a time. A longish bit from one of them--"Satan: A Tapeworm"--leapt off the screen and right for my brain. Zmirak was saying that it bothered him how many supposedly uplifting Christian movies "are not really “spiritual,” much less Christian; they’re simply bland and inoffensive."

The Catholic faith is neither. In fact, like really authentic Mexican food
(think habeneros and fried crickets), it is at once both pungent and offensive.
It offends me all the time, with the outrageous demands it makes of my fallen
nature and the sheer weirdness of its claims. It asserts that, behind the veil
of day-to-day schlepping, of work and laundry and television and microwaved
burritos, we live on the front lines of a savage spiritual war waged by
invisible entities (deathless malevolent demons and benevolent dead saints)
whose winners will enjoy eternal happiness with a resurrected rabbi, and whose
losers will writhe forever in unquenchable fire. Sometimes I step back and find
myself saying in Jerry Seinfeld’s voice: What’s with all the craziness? Why
can’t I just enjoy my soup?

The Church’s heroes, seen from a worldly
point of view, are a pack of self-destructive zealots who embark on crackpot
projects like lifelong celibacy, voluntary poverty, and (worst of all)
obedience; who leave perfectly serviceable chateaus in France to go preach the
Beatitudes to scalp-collecting Indians in freezing Canada; who volunteer to
sneak into Stalin’s Russia precisely because he has imprisoned so many priests,
then spend decades saying secret Masses in labor camps; who open up pro-life
pregnancy centers in crappy neighborhoods so they can talk welfare queens into
having still more babies we’ll have to pay for . . .

And so on. A
religion like this doesn’t need after-school specials; it needs science fiction
and fantasy, horror films and surrealism to convey the fundamental strangeness
that it believes lies just beneath the surface of day-to-day “reality.”

And that, my friends, goes a long way toward explaining why I am Catholic. The weirdness is palpable and the stakes are high (the highest) and the witness of those who have gone before is amazing.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Tech, Tech Everywhere ...

So, the other day I was about to light a scented candle when I suddenly realized I hadn't moved the kitchen matches up from our old house. Well, no problem, I'll just--I'll just--umm...I just stood there foolishly as I realized the problem: no matches, no cigarette or fireplace lighter, electric stove so no open flame, no pilot light anywhere as far as I could tell. There I was, standing in a house filled with high-tech stuff that can cook my food, wash my clothes, help me exercise my body, communicate over long distances, and entertain me sixteen ways from Sunday, but I can't make fire.

It seemed a very Chestertonian moment somehow.