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Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Passion

Duke NT professor Mark Goodacre has another podcast in his series on Jesus movies, this one about the BBC production, The Passion ... NT Pod 75: The Passion (BBC, 2008) .

Here's a bit about the miniseries from Wikipedia ......

The Passion a television drama serial produced by the BBC and HBO Films in association with Deep Indigo Productions. It tells the story of the last week in the life of Jesus. The serial was first proposed by Peter Fincham in 2006, on the success of the contemporary-set Manchester Passion. Writer Frank Deasy and producer Nigel Stafford-Clark were inspired to make a drama that opened up the story beyond the "vacuum" it is often told in. They did this by expanding the roles of Pontius Pilate and Caiaphas, and exploring the politics of Judea at the time. Deasy and Stafford-Clark were aided by scholar Mark Goodacre, with whom they put together an extensive research manual about the topic.

The part of Jesus is played by Joseph Mawle, who researched the role by reading the Gospels and research papers. Other main roles were played by Paloma Baeza (Mary Magdalene), Ben Daniels (Caiaphas), James Nesbitt (Pilate), David Oyelowo (Joseph of Arimathea), and Penelope Wilton (Mary).

I recall when the miniseries came out in 2008 because Mark had some posts about it at his blog, but I wasn't able to see it then as it wasn't yet showing in the US. It's now at Netflix, I see, and I believe you can also see it on YouTube. One great thing about it was that Mary M was *not* erroneously depicted as a prostitute. The other thing that struck me was the crucifixion scene, in which Jesus was in an atypical posture (Why the BBC thinks Christ did not die this way).

Here's a trailer for The Passion ...

Wednesday, February 25, 2015


- I mow, therefore I am ;) ...

- What can we Catholic lay people do to influence the coming synod on the family? Not much ... Limited options for lay Catholics wanting synod input. Meanwhile, conservative European and South American Catholics are signing a petition to the pope to keep things "traditional" ... European Royalty Appeals to Pope Francis on Church Teaching

- Photos of snow in Jerusalem

- Watch a drone video of Mont Saint Michel here

- Mummy brains!!! :) from Chicago's Field Museum ...

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Pope vs an article in Nature

From NCR ... Francis strongly criticizes gender theory, comparing it to nuclear arms ...

Pope Francis has strongly criticized modern theories that consider people's gender identities to exist along a spectrum, saying such theories do not "recognize the order of creation." Speaking of gender theory in an interview in a new book released in Italy, the pope even compares such theories to genetic manipulation and nuclear weapons.

Gender theory is a broad term for an academic school of thought that considers how people learn to identify themselves sexually and how they may become typed into certain roles based on societal expectations ...

Of course I disagree with Pope Frances, and today I saw an article in Nature that shows just how mistaken the pope is in his love for JPII-style complementarianism. Here's a bit from the beginning of the article ...

Sex redefined: The idea of two sexes is simplistic. Biologists now think there is a wider spectrum than that.

[...] Sex can be much more complicated than it at first seems. According to the simple scenario, the presence or absence of a Y chromosome is what counts: with it, you are male, and without it, you are female. But doctors have long known that some people straddle the boundary — their sex chromosomes say one thing, but their gonads (ovaries or testes) or sexual anatomy say another. Parents of children with these kinds of conditions — known as intersex conditions, or differences or disorders of sex development (DSDs) — often face difficult decisions about whether to bring up their child as a boy or a girl. Some researchers now say that as many as 1 person in 100 has some form of DSD2.

When genetics is taken into consideration, the boundary between the sexes becomes even blurrier. Scientists have identified many of the genes involved in the main forms of DSD, and have uncovered variations in these genes that have subtle effects on a person's anatomical or physiological sex. What's more, new technologies in DNA sequencing and cell biology are revealing that almost everyone is, to varying degrees, a patchwork of genetically distinct cells, some with a sex that might not match that of the rest of their body. Some studies even suggest that the sex of each cell drives its behaviour, through a complicated network of molecular interactions. “I think there's much greater diversity within male or female, and there is certainly an area of overlap where some people can't easily define themselves within the binary structure,” says John Achermann, who studies sex development and endocrinology at University College London's Institute of Child Health.

These discoveries do not sit well in a world in which sex is still defined in binary terms ...

The depressing thing is that the pope and the Vatican use their misconceptions about gender to justify their unequal treatment of women and those LGBT.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Oliver Sacks

Sad to read that Oliver Sacks has terminal cancer. He writes about it at The New York Times ... My Own Life.

For those who aren't familiar with him, here's a bit about him from Wikipedia ...

Oliver Wolf Sacks, CBE (born 9 July 1933) is an American-British neurologist, writer, and amateur chemist who is Professor of Neurology at New York University School of Medicine .... Sacks is the author of numerous best-selling books, including several collections of case studies of people with neurological disorders. His 1973 book Awakenings, an autobiographical account of his efforts to help victims of encephalitis lethargica regain proper neurological function, was adapted into the Academy Award-nominated film of the same name in 1990 starring Robin Williams and Robert De Niro. He and his book Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain were the subject of "Musical Minds", an episode of the PBS series Nova.

And a couple of past articles about him ... Sacks appeal and The Fully Immersive Mind of Oliver Sacks

I was first introduced to him in a college psych class through his book The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales, and of course I've seen the movie Awakenings and also another film, At First Sight, based on Sack's book An Anthropologist on Mars. I identified with him ... he was shy like me and he liked Star Trek too :)

Here's a CBS news video about Sacks and his impending death ....

Saturday, February 21, 2015


- Virtually visit Christ Church Cathedral with this 360 degree panorama

- Oslo Synagogue

- Norway's Muslims Form Protective Human Ring Around Oslo's Synagogue

- Coming to a tv near you ...

- San Francisco Catholic School Students Push Archdiocese To #TeachAcceptance ...

Jesus on retreat

- me in Hawaii

Tomorrow's reading has Jesus "on retreat" ...

And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness for forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him. Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.’

Thinking about contemporary retreats today and how different they mostly are from what Jesus experienced. A typical Ignatian (Jesuit) 30 day Spiritual Exercises retreat is often given at resorts where the cost can be $2,000+ for a 30 retreat (Eastern Point Retreat House) ...

As Jesuit Nathan Stone mentions in an article I just read about the Spiritual Exercises ...

Over time, the Exercises have been pushed back into “the monastery”. The Nineteenth century understood them as a silent ordeal for Jesuit novices, not really a spiritual journey at all, and not for anyone else. Contemporary thinking has made them a specialty, given by experts to an elite. In some venues, invitations are scarce. In others, cost filters out all but a small number.

The only retreat I've physically been on wasn't Christian but Zen, in Hawaii. It didn't cost much and there we retreatants shared bedrooms and slept on the floor, made our own meals together, did our own laundry, cleaned the retreat house and did yard work. I remember breakfasts all together, eating the fruit bowl with yogurt and peanuts that we had just prepared, sitting at a table outside under the trees ... yum :) Even that seems luxurious compared to the retreat Jesus made ....

Friday, February 20, 2015

The Château de Sully-sur-Loire

The picture on my France calendar yesterday was of the Château de Sully-sur-Loire ... The château was the seat of the Duke de Sully, Henri IV's minister Maximilien de Béthune (1560–1641), and the later dukes of Sully. It is a château-fort, a true castle, built to control one of the few sites where the Loire can be forded.

Here are some photos of the interior from Wikipedia Commons. The interior shots remind me a bit of the place where Ignatius of Loyola grew up.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

A movie for Lent

It's Lent. I don't like Lent. I don't see how short-term ritualized acts like giving up meat for a few days or praying the rosary over and over, or even "alms-giving", can be spiritually profitable .... if these kinds of things - not eating meat, helping others, personal prayer - are important, shouldn't they be a part of your everyday life?

So instead of suggesting some solemn acts for the few weeks of Lent, I'm going to mention something lighthearted instead - a movie I once saw that touches on giving stuff up ... 40 Days and 40 Nights ...

a 2002 romantic comedy film directed by Michael Lehmann, written by Rob Perez and starring Josh Hartnett, Shannyn Sossamon and Paulo Costanzo .... Matt Sullivan (Josh Hartnett) and his roommate, Ryan (Paulo Costanzo), are co-workers at a San Francisco dot-com company. Matt is obsessed with his ex-girlfriend, Nicole (Vinessa Shaw), and his obsession repeatedly causes him problems during attempted one-night stands. He confides his sexual problems to his brother, John (Adam Trese), who is training to become a Catholic priest. In an attempt to fix his problems, Matt vows to abstain from sexual stimulation, including masturbation, for the 40 days and 40 nights of Lent. John warns Matt that chastity is not easy; meanwhile, Ryan starts a popular office pool to bet on how long Matt can last.

Roger Ebert gave the movie 3 out of 4 stars. Here's the beginning of his review ...

Matt is weary of sex. Weary of himself as a sex partner. Weary of the way he behaves around women, weary of the way women make him behave, and weary of his treacherous ex-girl. So weary that he swears off sex for Lent in "40 Days and 40 Nights." On the scale of single guy sacrifice, this is harder than not drinking but easier than asking directions.

Matt (Josh Hartnett) is a nice guy who is disgusted by his predatory sexual nature--at the way his libido goes on autopilot when he sees an attractive woman. The breakup with Nicole (Vinessa Shaw) is the final straw. She loved him, dumped him, still excites him, and no wonder; as Bagel Man, who makes morning deliveries to the office, observes, "She's so hot you need one of those cardboard eclipse things just to look at her." Matt gets some support from his brother John (Adam Trese), who is studying to be a priest and offers advice which is more practical than theologically sound, but nobody else in Matt's life believes he can go 40 days without sex .... "40 Days and 40 Nights" was directed by Michael Lehmann, who has a sympathy for his characters that elevates the story above the level of a sexual sitcom. He uses humor as an instrument to examine human nature, just as he did in the wonderful, underrated "The Truth About Cats and Dogs."

Here's a trailer ...

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Jesus: the movie

- Jesus and his mom

Duke NT scholar Mark Goodacre has a new podcast, this one on the film Jesus as part of his ongoing series about Jesus in the movies. I was hoping he would review this film as it is my favorite Jesus movie, the first one I saw after becoming a Christian. The podcast is here - NT Pod 74: Jesus The Movie (1999). I don't want to give anything away, but it's a great review, quite in-depth, and Mark does make the comment that the movie is in many ways remarkable :)

- The movie is one of the few that shows Joseph with the adult Jesus

Here's a review of the movie from The New York Times - TV WEEKEND; Devout, Wise and Loves To Dance at Weddings. And here's another review by W. Barnes Tatum, the Jefferson-Pilot Professor of Religion and Philosophy Emeritus, Greensboro College - Jesus — The Mini-Series

- In the film, Mary M tells Jesus, If I were a man I would be your most loyal disciple, and he responds, Those who speak for me are my disciples.

Here's a clip from the film ... ....

Tuesday, February 17, 2015


- Remembering this movie about Augustine. I've been hoping it would show up at Netflix, but it hasn't so far. I think it can be watched online, though. The trailer makes it looks so interesting ...

- From NT scholar Candida Moss, The Bloody History of Valentine’s Day

- Did Christopher Hitchens Really Call Mother Teresa a "Thieving, Fanatical Albanian Dwarf"?

- Jon Stewart's 10 Best Religion Moments. My favorite of these was when he discussed the films Noah and Son of God.

- I once read a study - can't remember where now - that found it was conservative men, not liberal men, who were the most obsessed with kink, and it's my contention that Fifty Shades of Grey has more in common with the conservative sex classes of Christopher West and JPII's creepy Theology of the Body than it has with anything liberal. What made me think of this was an article I saw today by Joseph Heschmeyer at First Things on the Fifty Shades of Grey ...

[W]hat are fans of the Fifty Shades series seeking? One answer is that there’s a hunger that’s not being satisfied: Namely, for men who are unabashedly masculine, who aren’t afraid to take control, and to lead. That is, there’s a longing (even a lusting) for men who aren’t afraid of what’s classically been called “headship.” To this end, while Fifty Shades subverts Christian sexual morality, it subverts the modern crusade for “genderlessness” all the more ...

I'd classify this under 'wishful thinking' ;)

Monday, February 16, 2015

Immortal Coil

My latest kindle book was Immortal Coil by Jeffrey Lang. It's the first in a series of books about Data, the android of Star Trek. I read it out of order, having already read the Cold Equations series that describes Data's resurrection after his death, and The Light Fantastic which is about Data bringing his 'daughter' back to life (Dualism and the Light Fantastic).

Here's a blurb about Immortal Coil ...

He is perhaps the ultimate human achievement: a sentient artificial life-form -- self-aware, self-determining, possessing a mind and body far surpassing that of his makers, and imbued with the potential to evolve beyond the scope of his programming. Created by one of the most brilliant and eccentric intellects the Federation has ever known, the android Data has always believed he was unique, the one true fulfillment of a dream to create children of the mind. But is he? Investigating the mysterious destruction of a new android created by Starfleet, Data and the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise™ uncover startling secrets stretching back to the galaxy's dim past. That knowledge is coveted by beings who will stop at nothing to control it, and will force Data to redefine himself as he learns the hidden history of artificial intelligence.

Since my sister gave me a kindle as a gift, one of the happiest things about that has been that I can now read so many books that were unavailable to me because of my bad vision ....books that were not popular or profound enough to be made into audio CDs or large print. Star Trek books seem to mostly fall into that category. I used to read them when I was a teen and when I was diagnosed with the eye disease, the first thing I said to my sister was, "I'll never be able to read another Star Trek novel." Now I can, and I'm making up for all the lost time :)

Sunday, February 15, 2015

This gives a whole new meaning to liturgical dance :)

Speaking of Hozier, photographer David LaChapelle captures Ukrainian ballet dancer Sergei Polunin performing Hozier's Grammy nominated song, Take Me to Church (see video below).

Sergei Polunin dances with his demons to Hozier's Take Me to Church ...

When Take Me to Church was released in 2013, with Brendan Canty and Conal Thomson’s graphically angry protest video, Hozier’s hit song span off into a worldwide anthem for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

Now another video interpretation of the Hozier song has appeared online, and it too is going viral. If there’s a political message to David LaChapelle’s film of Sergei Polunin dancing alone in an empty barn, it’s a deliberately oblique one. But Polunin, a Ukrainian dancer who is now working principally in Russia and who has struggled very publicly in the search for his professional and personal identity, brings a story of his own to Hozier’s song.

This solo is far from showing Polunin at his extraordinary best. Jade Hale-Christofi’s choreography is burdened with hackneyed, head-clutching emoting and, atmospheric though the venue is, it’s a constricted space. Yet LaChapelle’s filming creates its own striking chemistry with Polunin, portraying him nakedly, poignantly alone with himself. His numerous tattoos – usually covered with stage makeup – are proudly on display, his dancer’s tights are symbolically torn. And in the huge body-wracking shifts from floor-hugging crouches to airborne leaps, Polunin does seem to bring to his dancing the demons of his difficult life ...

Saturday, February 14, 2015

The Pope, gender equality, and the depressing irrelevance of facts

The Pope has ....

strongly criticized modern theories that consider people's gender identities to exist along a spectrum, saying such theories do not "recognize the order of creation." Speaking of gender theory in an interview in a new book released in Italy, the pope even compares such theories to genetic manipulation and nuclear weapons. Gender theory is a broad term for an academic school of thought that considers how people learn to identify themselves sexually and how they may become typed into certain roles based on societal expectations ...

It's really important to socially conservative Catholics like the Pope to retain the idea of ciomplementarianism, the view that men and women are ontologically different and have different and complementary abilities and roles (the Pope and others have opined that women have special qualities men don't and even have different souls than men) ... it's one of the ways they justify discriminating against women in the church.

The thing is, they are wrong. Hey, not just my opinion - most other Christians believe in the ontological equality of the sexes and many science studies have shown that men and women are more alike than different - here's just one from the American Psychological Association ... Men and Women: No Big Difference.

But as another studies about the anti-vaccine movement and about climate change deniers has shown, when people have a big emotional investment in a certain belief, facts that contradict that belief will be ignored ... I Don’t Want to Be Right ...

[...] Not all false information goes on to become a false belief—that is, a more lasting state of incorrect knowledge—and not all false beliefs are difficult to correct.Take astronomy. If someone asked you to explain the relationship between the Earth and the sun, you might say something wrong: perhaps that the sun rotates around the Earth, rising in the east and setting in the west. A friend who understands astronomy may correct you. It’s no big deal; you simply change your belief.

But imagine living in the time of Galileo, when understandings of the Earth-sun relationship were completely different, and when that view was tied closely to ideas of the nature of the world, the self, and religion. What would happen if Galileo tried to correct your belief? The process isn’t nearly as simple. The crucial difference between then and now, of course, is the importance of the misperception. When there’s no immediate threat to our understanding of the world, we change our beliefs. It’s when that change contradicts something we’ve long held as important that problems occur ...


Friday, February 13, 2015

For Valentine's Day: a song, a book, a movie

The song, an old one from George Harrison...

The book is one I've read many times since I first came upon it as a teen ... Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier ... even Stephen King likes it ;)

Here's a review of it from The Washington Post ... Du Maurier's 'Rebecca,' A Worthy 'Eyre' Apparent

The movie is Notorious ...

a 1946 American spy thriller film directed and produced by Alfred Hitchcock, starring Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman and Claude Rains as three people whose lives become intimately entangled during an espionage operation .... Alicia Huberman (Ingrid Bergman), the American daughter of a convicted Nazi spy, is recruited by government agent T. R. Devlin (Cary Grant) to infiltrate an organisation of Nazis who have moved to Brazil after World War II.

Roger Ebert gave the film 4 stars in his review.

Here's a short clip from the end of the movie, where Grant's character breaks his cover to rescue Bergman's character, who's being slowly poisoned by her Nazi husband ....

Thursday, February 12, 2015


- the Huntsman

- From The New Yorker: No Pain, No Gain “Fifty Shades of Grey.”. I've not read the book, just some excerpts, but the most troubling thing about the movie is that Irish actor Jamie Dornan, Once Upon a Time's late Huntsman, plays the main male character in this dopey film ... that just seems so wrong ;)

- Duke NT professor Mark Goodacre has a post about a new Jesus movie ... Killing Jesus -- first look

- The pope says people who don't want children are selfish. Aside from the weirdness of a man who doesn't want children telling other people who don't want children that they are selfish, I'd like to put to rest his wrongheaded notion that the earth needs more people .... Having Children Brings High Carbon Impact

- Reading about President Obama and marriage equality ... Axelrod explains Obama on gay marriage: 'Leaders work this way'. What's ironic is that his lack of support for marriage equality was one of the reasons I did *not* vote for him in the primary, but voted for Clinton .... I thought he was too conservative.

- Saw this beautiful illuminated manuscript today ...

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The new sex abuse commission

There's been stuff in the news about the Vatican's new sex abuse commission. I'm glad they have a couple of sex abuse survivors on the commission, but I don't expect much from the commission in terms of actually making a difference in how the Vatican handles sex abuse. Here's a bit from Robert Mickens' recent Letter from Rome on this ...

Letter from Rome: Where Is the Vatican 'Transparency' on Abuse?

The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors held its first full plenary session in Rome last week under the direction of Boston’s Cardinal Sean O’Malley. They told journalists at a briefing on Saturday they were formulating suggestions for how Pope Francis should make bishops accountable for implementing protection guidelines. As expected, certain survivors’ groups and other critics of the Vatican dismissed this as yet more empty words. That’s unfortunate. But it’s also understandable, especially given the Vatican’s lack of transparency when it comes to dealing with such bishops. The head of the Holy See Press Office, Fr. Federico Lombardi, SJ, offered a rare public display (at least for him) of how defensive church officials can be when pressed for more openness. Visibly irritated, he snapped back at an Italian TV journalist who attempted to ask why there was a delay in the trial of Jozef Wesolowski, the defrocked bishop and former papal nuncio to the Dominican Republic who has been charged with sexual abuse of young boys. “It has nothing to do [with this briefing],” the priest said curtly. When she pressed him an aide took the microphone from her and Fr. Lombardi said, “Enough! Let’s move on.” This, too, was unfortunate. The Holy See has publicly dealt with at least four bishops for either committing abuse or trying to cover it up. But there has been no transparency regarding their whereabouts or their status. In addition to Wesolowski, there is also Belgian Bishop Roger Vangheluwe, who “resigned” in 2010 after admitting to molesting his young nephews. Where is he now? Has he been laicized? The Vatican has not said. Then there is Scottish Cardinal Keith O’Brien, who also “resigned,” just before the conclave of 2013 after being accused of sexual harassment by a number of seminarians and priests. Where is he? The Vatican will not say. And, of course, there’s the case of Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City, who was given a two-year suspended sentence after being criminally convicted for failing to report sexual abuse of minors. The Vatican supposedly carried out an investigation last September and two months later in a TV interview Cardinal O’Malley had this to say about the Finn case: “It’s a question the Holy See must address urgently.” Is it cynical to wonder what in the world transparency and urgency mean in the Vatican?

And meanwhile, more has come out about the mishandling of sex abuse in Australia by Cardinal Pell, the man in whom Pope Francis puts so much trust. One of the stories in the news today on how Pell mistreated abuse victims ... Catholic church fought sex abuse victim's claims to deter others, inquiry finds ...

[...] In reports released on Wednesday the royal commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse examined the Catholic church’s widely condemned Towards Healing program in dealing with four people, and the handling of complaints by Ellis. All matters had been examined in public hearings over the past two years,

The church spent more than $1m fighting Ellis despite him asking for just a tenth of that amount in settlement, and put him through “distressing and unnecessary cross-examination” and threatened him with legal costs. “The archdiocese [of Sydney] wrongly concluded that it had never accepted that Father Duggan had abused Mr Ellis,” the report found ....

“One reason Cardinal Pell decided to accept this advice was to encourage other prospective plaintiffs not to litigate claims of child sexual abuse against the church.” The other reason found was that Pell believed Ellis was seeking “exorbitant damages” of millions of dollars. Pell “explicitly endorsed the major strategies of the defence”, the report said: “to defend the proposition that the trustees were not liable; that, if an offence had been admitted by the archdiocese, the archdiocese could not later deny that it took place; to appoint competent lawyers and substantially leave them to run the case or advise the archdiocese on how the case should be run.” ...

Finally, here's a past post from NCR by Fr. Thomas Doyle on the new sex abuse commission ... Pope's new abuse commission is another promise waiting to be broken