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Thoughts of a Catholic convert

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Sunday, April 23, 2017

Gorsuch: pro-lifers must be so proud



Neil Gorsuch’s First Critical Vote Allowed A Man To Be Executed

Justice Neil Gorsuch made a difference Thursday in his first 5-4 vote on the Supreme Court, siding with his fellow conservatives to deny a petition from eight Arkansas inmates who sought to stop back-to-back-to-back executions.

Gorsuch’s vote on one of several 11th-hour petitions, in effect, allowed the state of Arkansas to carry out its first execution in nearly 12 years.

Ledell Lee was killed just before midnight Thursday, despite his legal team’s herculean effort to persuade the high court to put off his execution so that he could pursue a potential innocence claim and demonstrate that he was intellectually disabled. Lee was still waging these legal battles because of what one lawyer described as the “abysmal representation” he’d received throughout most of the post-conviction process ....


Gorsuch is the darling of the pro-life movement - this is yet another example of the fact that being pro-life is not about saving lives, it's about taking away women's rights.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Happy Earth Day








The French election

The upcoming French election is important for so many reasons. From The Week: France's populist uprising.

And here's John Oliver's take on the situation ...

Friday, April 21, 2017

Bernie's wrong: pro-choice isn't optional

Bernie Sanders Defends Campaigning For Anti-Abortion Rights Democrat ... Sen. Bernie Sanders is campaigning for Omaha, Neb., mayoral candidate Heath Mello Thursday night, and he's not apologizing for it.

Will We Abandon Women’s Rights in the Name of Progressive Politics?

[...] Sanders’s definition of what constitutes a progressive became even murkier when he suggested that the election of Heath Mello, who’s running for mayor of Omaha, Nebraska — and who as a state senator sponsored a 20-week abortion ban and mandatory ultrasounds for women seeking abortions — would represent a “shot across the board, that in a state like Nebraska a progressive Democrat can win.” Not to be outdone, Perez amplified the message that reproductive rights are negotiable for the Democratic Party. “If you demand fealty on every single issue,” Perez said, “then it’s a challenge. The Democratic Party platform acknowledges that we’re pro-choice, but there are communities, like some in Kansas, where people have a different position.”

Well, sure. There are also communities in Kansas where voters have different positions from Democrats on immigration reform, labor protections, climate change, voting rights, and health care, and it would be vexing — and not at all progressive — for post-2016 Democrats to alter their stances on any of those issues .... The problem is that Sanders’s vision — and the vision of Perez and the DNC — as they laid it out this week, looked less like a radical transformation of the Democratic Party and more like a return to mistakes the party has made in the past. These mistakes have nothing to do with economic equality, and everything to do with a willingness to sacrifice the rights of much of the party’s base ....


Bernie and Perez are making a big mistake if they believe women's rights are optional for the Democratic party. When you make winning at any cost the ultimate goal, even to the point of sacrificing principles like women's access to health care, then you might as well be the guys on other side - that's not winning, that's losing. Even though I'm a Democrat, I will not vote for a pro-life Democratic candidate ... I've been a woman a lot longer than I've been a Democrat.

More: No Thanks, Bernie: Virginia Abortion Rights Advocates Know Better

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Arrival



This week's movie rental was Arrival ...

a 2016 American science fiction film directed by Denis Villeneuve. The screenplay by Eric Heisserer was based on the 1998 short story "Story of Your Life" by Ted Chiang. The film stars Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner and Forest Whitaker.

Here's a short video from the WSJ that explains the plot (a trailer is at the bottom of the post) ...



The film has received great reviews. Here's the beginning of the review in The Atlantic ...

The Epic Intimacy of Arrival

Arrival, the remarkable new film by Denis Villeneuve, begins aptly enough with an arrival—though perhaps not the kind you would expect. A baby is born, and her mother, played by Amy Adams, explains in voiceover, “I used to think to this was the beginning of your story.” We see the girl’s life, in flashback—games of cowboy, arguments, reconciliations—as her mother continues, “I remember moments in the middle ... and this was the end.” We see the girl, now a teenager, in a hospital bed. Then we see the bed empty.

The sequence—a brief life encompassed in still briefer summary—is surely among the most heartbreaking since Michael Giacchino’s magnificently versatile waltz carried us through the “Married Life” segment of Up. And while at first it appears to be mere backstory for Adams’s character, it is in fact much more, perhaps the most crucial thread in Villeneuve’s intricately woven film ....


For those who haven't seen the film yet and who don't want everything revealed beforehand, don't read any further because there will be spoilers .....

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The basic premise of the film is that learning a new language can change the way you think ... linguistic relativity (the Sapir–Whorf hypothesis) ...

[it] is a concept-paradigm in linguistics and cognitive science that holds that the structure of a language affects its speakers' cognition or world view. It used to have a strong version that claims that language determines thought and that linguistic categories limit and determine cognitive categories. The more accepted weak version claims that linguistic categories and usage only influence thoughts and decisions.

And as Louise learns the aliens' language, she starts to think so differently that she becomes precognitive and sees visions of her future. It takes her a while to understand what's happening to her, that she's seeing her future and not her past. And then we get it too ... she hasn't been a mother whose daughter has died, she is going to be a mother whose daughter will die. Abd that gives her the chance to make a choice .... does she want to say "yes" to making a baby with her newly met co-worker Ian, knowing that child's life will be cut short and that her then husband will leave her? She decides to do it.

I think part of the reason we take chances and do risky things is because we don't really know what the future holds and how things will turn out. Most people are hopeful (or just lack imagination) ... I saw a study once that showed that people were much more hopeful about the future than was realistic. How many of us would choose to live through a particular future if we knew exactly what it would be, exactly how it would feel? Maybe it's better not to know.

More: All Your Questions About the Mindbending Plot of Arrival, Answered


Sunday, April 16, 2017

Easter: film review of 'Silence'



My latest movie rental was Silence ...

a 2016 historical period drama film directed by Martin Scorsese and written by Jay Cocks and Scorsese, based upon the 1966 novel of the same name by Shūsaku Endō. Set in Nagasaki, Japan, the film was shot entirely in Taiwan around Taipei. The film stars Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver, Liam Neeson, Tadanobu Asano and Ciarán Hinds.

The plot follows two 17th century Jesuit priests who travel from Portugal to Japan to locate their missing mentor and spread Catholic Christianity. The story is set in the time of Kakure Kirishitan ("Hidden Christians"), following the suppression of the Shimabara Rebellion (1637–1638) of Japanese Roman Catholics against the Tokugawa shogunate.


I hesitated to see this movie as I am no fan of missionary work ... Francis Xavier, one of the most famous of Jesuit missionaries, did some awful things (read about the Goa Inquisition). Still, I had really liked The Mission so I thought I'd give it a try.

The movie got mostly very positive reviews, but I found it to be one of the worst movies I've seen. The acting was very good, the cinematography was good too, but the story itself was awful ... I'm not sure if that's because the book's story was unlikable or if the changes Scorsese made to the book's story wrecked it. What did I so dislike about it?

- It presented a view of Japan that was repressive and cruel towards Christians and missionaries, with never a mention for context's sake of Western governments' and the Catholic church's treatment not only of non-Christians but of other Christians too ... the forced conversions and expulsions, the inquisitions, the crusades, and the witch trials.

- The movie was almost like an elegant torture/snuff film ... I haven't seen so many people tortured to death since 24. And the movie presented a view of Christianity that was all about Jesus' suffering and his execution instead of about his life, his teachings, his actions, his resurrection. The rating of the faith of the Christians in the film rose or fell all based only on whether they would repudiate Jesus when confronted with the threat of torture .... remember, the original disciples all ran away when Jesus was arrested, and Peter denied knowing him three times, and yet Jesus forgave them and their faith, such as it was, is what Christianity was built upon.

- And I've got to say, it was boring. Another film (miniseries, actually) that did a much better job on this subject, perhaps because it was adapted from a more accessible book, was Shogun. For those interested, I wrote more about this a few years ago: Jesuits in Japan redux ...


- Richard Chamberlain as John Blackthorne (based on William Adams) and Damien Thomas as Jesuit Martin Alvito (based on João Rodrigues SJ) from Shōgun

But anyway, I'm not the only person who didn't like the movie. A review in Variety stated ...

Though undeniably gorgeous, it is punishingly long, frequently boring, and woefully unengaging at some of its most critical moments. It is too subdued for Scorsese-philes, too violent for the most devout, and too abstruse for the great many moviegoers who such an expensive undertaking hopes to attract (which no doubt explains why Scorsese was compelled to cast The Amazing Spider-Man actor Andrew Garfield and two Star Wars stars).

And here's a the beginning of a review in The Guardian ...

Silence: Scorsese’s new film is not worth making a noise about

We all know how it is with Scorsese. At the core of his work is the solid-gold De Niro material with one foot in Marty’s Italian-American upbringing: Mean Streets, Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, King Of Comedy and Goodfellas/Casino. Then a second rank of DiCaprio collaborations, offering a lower rate of return: The Departed, Shutter Island, Wolf Of Wall Street. Then there are the oddities – New York New York, Cape Fear and Hugo – where he feels miscast or lost as a director. Then there’s this final category – movies on the subject of religious devotion that gestated in Scorsese’s mind over years or decades: The Last Temptation Of Christ, Kundun and now Silence. These tend to be the Scorsese movies I only ever see once, feeling no compulsion to revisit or reassess them.

I fear that Silence expired in the womb during that long gestation period. It is beautiful to look at, but feels inert, humourless and overly devout (to say nothing of over-long; Masahiro Shinoda’s 1971 adaptation got Shūsako Endō’s 1966 novel on to film using 30 fewer minutes than Scorsese). Perhaps that leap toward the devout is needed to savour it fully – and I found I couldn’t make it. I didn’t care: for me, Christianity is one of the Big Bs of violent colonial intrusion – Bullet, Bottle, Bacillus, Bible – and Silence has a “white saviour” complex it can’t shake. Also not helpful are the other distractions: US, English and Irish actors all playing Portuguese while speaking English in shaky Latin accents; and an American director, more comfortable with modernity, making an avowedly Japanese period movie, from a novel by a member of Japan’s Catholic minority, and with Taiwan standing in for Japan ....


If you're looking for an Easter movie, I'd suggest Jesus instead.



Thursday, April 13, 2017

Trump & Repub Congress attack PP



Trump Signs Law Taking Aim at Planned Parenthood Funding

President Trump signed legislation on Thursday aimed at cutting off federal funding to Planned Parenthood and other groups that perform abortions, a move cheered by conservatives who have clamored to impose curbs on reproductive rights.

The measure nullifies a rule completed in the last days of the Obama administration that effectively barred state and local governments from withholding federal funding for family planning services related to contraception, sexually transmitted infections, fertility, pregnancy care, and breast and cervical cancer screening from qualified health providers — regardless of whether they also performed abortions. The new measure cleared Congress last month with Vice President Mike Pence casting the tiebreaking vote in the Senate.


People sometimes say that if only Planned Parenthood would quit doing abortions, they wouldn't have all these problems. What those people don't seem to understand is that because of pro-life violence, the murder of doctors, the bombing of clinics, etc., the procedure that was once performed in doctors' offices, hospitals, and clinics as part of the full range of women's reproductive care, is now done in very few places aside from Planned Parenthood. PP is not going to let women down.

More: California prosecutors have turned the tables on Planned Parenthood's undercover video tormentors

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Holy Week: Thursday

What was Jesus doing on Holy Thursday? Eating in ...



Video from The Passion of the Christ. Song: Remembrance (Communion Song), Matt Maher.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Holy Week: Tuesday & Wednesday



So what was Jesus up to after his entry into Jerusalem but before the Last Supper? The Synoptic gospels have him ...

- Cleansing the Temple. I've got to admit, I always find this story disturbing ... Jesus really angry and acting that out. But I think it's good for me to revisit it now and then because I don't think being holy or wise means being emotionally placid all the time, and I do think anger can be a good thing. So, in that spirit, here's the scene from Jesus of Nazareth ...



- And he was also telling the Scribes and Pharisees where to get off. When I watch this scene from Jesus of Nazareth, I so much wish Jesus was here today to say these words to the leaders of the Catholic church !!! ...



- And the Synoptic gospels have him making the Olivet prophecy, speaking to the disciples on the Mount of Olives about the future destruction of the Temple and his second coming, and the violent end of the world. I don't know if there's any depiction of this event in the movies. I guess I don't really believe this happened. It doesn't appear in the Gospel of John, and that gospel has Jesus giving a much more user friendly talk about the future ... John 14:1-4 ...

Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling-places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going.

More on Thursday.

Trump & Repub Congress harms wildlife



With all the big bad stuff caused by the Trump administration and the Republican majority in Congress, it can be easy to overlook the continuous but less reported mean-spirited acts for which they are also responsible. Here's an example in the news today ...

Congress Just Made It Officially Legal To Kill Hibernating Bears

Hunters in Alaska can now track and kill hibernating bears thanks to a U.S. House and Senate resolution rolling back Obama-era regulations against the practice.

President Donald Trump signed the bill into law on Monday, which rolled back Alaska’s ban on killing the vulnerable bears, along with wolf cubs in dens. It also allows for hunters to target the animals from helicopters. The Republican-sponsored legislation impacts 76.8 million acres of federally protected national preserves across Alaska ......


I'd wonder how these people could be so mean, but then I guess if someone can contemplate snatching food from the mouths of the disabled and elderly, then this would be a walk in the park (you know, a park without any pesky wildlife).

Sunday, April 09, 2017

Palm Suday



A few years ago I had this post on Palm Suday. Weird how my feelings haven't really changed since then. I wrote ...

I've been putting off thinking about the whole lead-up to Easter ... Lent, and now Palm Sunday. I guess the Palm Sunday event in the gospels was a happy one - Jesus being cheered by the people of Jerusalem as he entered town. Here's a clip from The Gospel of John ...



But I can't help thinking ahead to Friday, when there's so much suffering. I used to be more upbeat about it all but now I just feel sort of morose about Holy Week. I'll have more on this as the week progresses.

Saturday, April 08, 2017

John Oliver and Edward Snowden

Noticing this week that Congress has sold out our privacy: It’s Done. Your Internet Provider Can Sell All Your Web History.

This reminded me of an episode of Last Week Tonight from two years ago in which John Oliver discusses the Patriot Act, the lack of interest people have in it, and then actually goes to Russia to interview Edward Snowden about privacy ...



Our privacy matters.

Syria missile strikes

OK, might as well weigh in on Trump's missile strikes on Syria. I have to wonder why Trump, who advise Obama not to get involved in Syria after a much worse chemical weapons attack in 2013, now wants to do that very thing. Is he trying to distract attention from his failed health plan, his failed Muslim bans, his campaign's connections with Russia?

Trump Is About To Find Out Why Obama Avoided Military Intervention In Syria

On Thursday night, President Donald Trump authorized the military to launch several dozen cruise missiles from the Mediterranean Sea at a Syrian airfield. The strike was meant to punish Syria’s President Bashar Assad for allegedly using chemical weapons to attack his own citizens.

It was a dramatic reversal, not only from Trump’s own pledges to limit U.S. involvement in Syria but from his predecessor, who for years resisted growing calls to intervene militarily against the Assad regime. President Barack Obama’s decision to refrain from engagement in 2013 was criticized as feckless at the time and is cited now as one of the reasons that Trump was forced to act. But a revisiting of the arguments and calculations that led Obama to make his decision ― from the fear that it would not be a deterrent to the concerns over how the U.S. would respond to future attacks on civilians ― provides an important blueprint for the major hurdles that Trump will now have to confront ....


From CNN, Jake Tapper's interview with President Obama, September 2016, on his inaction in Syria ...



And here's what Bernie Sanders had to say today about this situation ...



More from The Atlantic: The Confused Person’s Guide to the Syrian Civil War

Thursday, April 06, 2017

"It's such a rainy afternoon ..."



It's a rainy afternoon here and I'm posting more Moody Blues ... The Actor from 1968, written and sung by Justin Hayward. The refrain - The sound I have heard in your hello - makes my hair stand on end.


Doctor Strange



This week's movie rental was Doctor Strange ...

a 2016 American superhero film based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name .... and stars Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams, Benedict Wong, Michael Stuhlbarg, Benjamin Bratt, Scott Adkins, Mads Mikkelsen, and Tilda Swinton. In Doctor Strange, surgeon Stephen Strange learns the mystic arts from the Ancient One after a career-ending car accident.

Although I read most of Marvel's comics when I was a kid, Doctor Strange was not among them, so the story was pretty new to me. The special effects were really good, I thought, and reminiscent of Inception. And I liked the mystic/psychedelic theme ... in a brief scene, Stan Lee is shown reading Aldous Huxley's The Doors of Perception :) And there was a lot of incidental humor too, like in the exchange in this first time meeting between Doctor Strange and the evil Kaecilius ...



And it was interesting to see what Kathmandu is like - yes, they really filmed there ... Doctor Strange: When Benedict Cumberbatch went to Kathmandu

The movie has been well received - the Tomatometer was at 90% approval - and you can read a review from the LA Times here: Review Benedict Cumberbatch anchors Marvel's trippy, transporting 'Doctor Strange'

In Marvel movies one of the parts I like best are the little "preview" bits sandwiched within the end credits. In this film, that has Doctor Strange meeting with Thor :) ...



If you like Marvel's universe, if you like science fiction and fantasy, you will probably find the film a lot of fun.

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Bernie on Gorsuch

Bernie Sanders explains why he will vote NO on Gorsuch for the Supreme Court ...

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

More yard photos

Spring is my favorite time of year for the yard. All the plants are happy because there's rain and mild weather. The only downsides: mowing the lawn and allergies ;) Took some more photos yesterday ...

These are violets and a white flower I'm not sure about ...



Gretel gets a drink ...



Hansel under the trees ...


Monday, April 03, 2017

#VoteNoGorsuch



I think the Democrats are right to block Gorsuch for Supreme Court Justice. It's incredible to hear the hypocritical whining of the Republicans given that they would not even allow Merrick Garland to have a hearing. The concerns with the kind of judge Gorsuch would be added to that make a filibuster not only inevitable but necessary. Here my Senator, Dianne Feinstein, explains the reasons why she will not vote for Gorsuch ...



And here's Senator Al Franken on his reasons for voting NO on Gorsuch ...



More: Merrick Garland Isn’t the Only Reason the Democrats Should Filibuster Gorsuch ... and ... Judge Gorsuch is more dangerous than he appears

Friday, March 31, 2017

I Know You're Out There Somewhere

Another Moody Blues song, I Know You're Out There Somewhere ...

I Know You're Out There Somewhere" is a 1988 single by the progressive rock band The Moody Blues. It was written by guitarist Justin Hayward, and it is the sequel to the Moody Blues' 1986 single "Your Wildest Dreams", also written by Hayward .... The song's lyrics continue from the lyrics of "Your Wildest Dreams". The lyrics from "Your Wildest Dreams" tell the story of a man who is remembering his first love, and wonders if she remembers him the way he remembers her. In "I Know You're Out There Somewhere", the man realizes he still loves her, and vows to "return again" to her.

I should add that in an interview Justin said this about the song, which was kind of ironic ...

Songfacts: The song "I Know you're Out There Somewhere," is that about somebody in particular?

Justin: Yes. It was about somebody in particular. And I found with "Wildest Dreams" that it was a common experience for a lot of people. I never thought this; I thought I was writing a frivolous sort of song. Certainly with "Wildest Dreams." Not with "I Know You're Out There Somewhere," because I knew by then. But I thought "Wildest Dreams" would be a throwaway thing that people wouldn't really take much notice of lyrically. But I found out that it was a common experience and desire by a lot of people. So that was very revealing.

And with "I Know You're Out There Somewhere," yes, they both were about at least one particular person. I wouldn't say it was all about one person, but at least one particular person. And my advice to anybody who wants to go back is that you can never go home. And best to leave the past as the past.


Here's the music video for the song - it's pretty fun :) ...



Mike Pence and women



In the news: Mike Pence’s Marriage and the Beliefs That Keep Women from Power ...

Seventy days into the Trump Presidency, many of us find ourselves discussing the propriety of a married man eating a meal in the company of a woman who is not his wife. Vice-President Mike Pence—a hard-line evangelical who has repeatedly called himself “a Christian, a conservative, and a Republican, in that order”—refuses to dine extramaritally ....

As soon as the piece was published, ostentatious and divided reactions immediately flooded Twitter. Matt Walsh, a conservative Christian blogger, asked, “Seriously what’s the appropriate reason for a married person to go out for a meal alone with a member of the other sex (outside of family)?” Erick Erickson, also a conservative Christian blogger, replied, with apparent seriousness, “planning your spouse’s surprise party or funeral and that is it.” The jokes came quickly: “honey it’s not what you think- we were planning your surprise funeral,” one person wrote. Others were earnestly horrified. How could you rule out meals with a person of the opposite gender over the course of an entire career? That Pence was able to do so speaks to an incredible level of inequity in the workplace; no successful woman could ever abide by the same rule. How could you sex-segregate a thrice-daily activity and still engage in civic life? (One married man told Walsh that he used to plan church-choir practices with his married female colleague over dinners out at the local Chinese buffet.) And how, without occasionally going out for a sandwich, could a married man ever make or keep female friends? .....


More: How Pence's Dudely Dinners Hurt Women

I guess Pence either doesn't trust himself alone with a woman, or he thinks that women cannot be trusted if they are alone with him. This is a a common conservative view that sees all interaction between men and women as reducible to one question: "Do I want to boink that?". And in this particular case, it very well describes the antithesis of feminism .... women aren't people, they are what people (you know, men) use for sex, so every encounter of men with women revolve around women's 'usefulness'. Creepy.

The other side of this is also well illustrated by Pence - men who see women this way don't like women and they don't trust women. Pence has done more than his share politically to make life hard for women ...

- Pence in 1997: Working mothers stunt emotional growth of children

- Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed a law this year that mandated funerals for fetuses

- Equal Pay Opponent Pence’s Indiana Has 10th Largest Gender Pay Gap Nationally

- Mike Pence Opposed Paid Leave Proposals While In Congress

- And of course ... Pence's war on Planned Parenthood

I saw a study once that showed that it was political/social conservatives who are the most obsessed with sex. I think the present leaders of our country .... the misogynistic Republican Congress, the repressed VP, and the pussy-grabbing President ... are good examples of that finding.