Saturday, January 26, 2008

"Sometimes a picture can be breathtakingly theological." Says James Kushiner, one of the Sr Editors at "Touchstone Magazine" in their blog "mere comments" in it's January archives. He goes on to explain that this picture, showing Fr. Patrick Reardon of All Saints Orthodox Church lifting a newly-baptized infant above the altar, as is the custom, while the congregation sings Simeon's Nunc Dimittis, was just such a picture for him.
The icon, of course, shows Christus Victor trampling down the gates of hell and grasping the hand of Adam, raising him up from the dead. Notice the baby's raised arm! Helpless Adam, helpless Man, helpless infant: but now our "eyes have seen Thy salvation, which Thou hast prepared before the face of all peoples; a light to enlighten the Gentiles, and the glory of Thy people Israel." Alleluia.
And sometimes a blog can be the source of much prayer and meditation. Amen, Mr Kushiner, amen.

NY Times Stands Behind Their Stereotype

From the Wall Street Journal...

We Stand Behind Our Stereotype
There is a school of thought in journalism according to which it is bad form to mention the race or ethnicity of a criminal suspect or defendant unless there is a compelling reason to do so. The idea is that such references gratuitously perpetuate stereotypes while imparting information that is of no use to the reader.
But racial and ethnic groups are not the only ones who take offense at such stereotypes, as the New York Times reports:
Veterans groups have long deplored the attention paid to the minority of soldiers who fail to readjust to civilian life.
After World War I, the American Legion passed a resolution asking the press "to subordinate whatever slight news value there may be in playing up the ex-service member angle in stories of crime or offense against the peace." An article in the Veterans of Foreign Wars magazine in 2006 referred with disdain to the pervasive "wacko-vet myth," which, veterans say, makes it difficult for them to find jobs.
The wacko-vet myth is alive and well. This very passage comes from a 7,000-word front-page piece in yesterday's Times titled "Across America, Deadly Echoes of Foreign Battles":
The New York Times found 121 cases in which veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan committed a killing in this country, or were charged with one, after their return from war. In many of those cases, combat trauma and the stress of deployment--along with alcohol abuse, family discord and other attendant problems--appear to have set the stage for a tragedy that was part destruction, part self-destruction.
Are they depraved on account of they were deployed? In fact, the Times's data are not sufficient to establish a correlation, much less a causal relationship, between stateside homicide and previous service in Afghanistan or Iraq.

Read the rest of the article here

Get The Popcorn

Some movies just make you want to rethink your life.
by Bobby Maddex
Here are ten films that not only pose more questions than answers but choose to do so in the areas that matter most. What do I mean? Watch them and be changed.

Thirteen Conversations About One Thing (2001)STARRING: Matthew McConaughey, Alan Arkin, Clea Duvall, John Turturro, Amy IrvingWRITTEN BY: Karen and Jill SprecherDIRECTED BY: Jill Sprecher
Question: It's not giving anything away to state that the "one thing" around which the movie revolves is human happiness. What is it? How does one achieve it? What's the point of seeking it? Over the course of three separate stories that eventually interlock in surprising ways, a young lawyer hits a pedestrian with his car and then leaves her for dead, an insurance investigator fires an assistant to see if it will change his sunny outlook on life, and a college professor leaves his wife in search of a less predictable existence. In each case, the characters are forced to grapple with the outcomes of their choices. What they learn, however, is left for you to figure out.
Quote: "It's perverse, isn't it? People spend years developing their minds and educating themselves, but in the end they just want to shut them off."
Quality: Sprecher's spare sets and drab color schemes offer the perfect backdrop for each of the well-written conversations. Also effective is the acting; punctuated by awkward silences and long meaningful glances, the performances are arresting and utterly watchable. Arkin practically chews the scenery. A very meticulous directorial debut.

Waking Life (2001)STARRING: Wiley Wiggins, Richard Linklater, Bill WiseWRITTEN BY: Richard LinklaterDIRECTED BY: Richard Linklater
Question: Is there a deeper reality? How do we distinguish between the real and the imagined, between our desires and the truth? What do dreams tell us about life and death? Director Linklater poses these questions and more in an animated film about a man who floats (quite literally at times) through a dreamscape while trying to wake up. The unnamed protagonist meets many people along the way, some of whom offer single-sentence observations on life, while others share involved theories on the nature of existence.
Quote: "They say that dreams are only real as long as they last. Couldn't you say the same thing about life?"
Quality: The majority of the performers are not professional actors and so the dialogue drags a bit at times, but the film is not in any way boring. On the contrary, Linklater used dozens of animators to construct his fantasy world; the look of the film is thus in constant flux, complementing the changing riffs on reality and compensating for the occasional monotone delivery. Fascinating.

The Ice Storm (1997)STARRING: Joan Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Kevin Kline, Elijah Wood, Tobey MacGuireWRITTEN BY: Rick Moody and James SchamusDIRECTED BY: Ang Lee
Question: Set during Thanksgiving in 1973, the film chronicles the moral collapse of a small New England town and the resultant impact on two middle-class families. Are social taboos arbitrary? What is morality? Do we deserve satisfaction in life? Ang Lee hints at these questions without asking them explicitly. The ice storm of the title is likewise treated in an elusive fashion. Are we meant to take it at face value or is it supposed to evoke the frozen hearts that occupy New Canaan, Connecticut?
Quote: "Ben, you're boring me. I have a husband. I don't have a need for another one."
Quality: This is Lee's best film by far. The ice imagery alone fills one with a kind of shuddery dread, as do the repeated references to various nihilistic philosophers. Weaver deserved an Academy Award nomination for her portrayal of Janey Carver, the unfeeling ice queen who rests at the center of her community's existentialist void.

Check out the rest of the article over at Salvo
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The Last Days of Darwin (follow the link for the full text)
A Brief History of the Revolution
by James M. Kushiner
In 1959, Sir Julian Huxley, grandson of “Darwin’s Bulldog” T. H. Huxley, was in Chicago to celebrate the centennial of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species. Taking the pulpit of Rockefeller Chapel at the University of Chicago on Thanksgiving Day, he declared that man no longer needed to “take refuge in the arms of a divinized father-figure.” Evolution was the key to reality. The university’s “cavernous, Baroque Mandel Hall was packed for performances of an original showboat-style Darwinian musical, Time Will Tell.”
Here begins Larry Witham’s By Design, a history of “science and the search for God” in the twentieth century. Little did Huxley and the other celebrants know what time really would tell, least of all that 1959 would likely prove to be the high-water mark of Darwinism. But after the festivities ended, continuing developments in science itself, from many quarters, would begin to threaten Darwin’s monopoly and, eventually, his theory.
Witham, an award-winning journalist on religion and society, points out the cracks in scientific orthodoxy that developed well before the intelligent design (ID) movement began in the 1990s.
As early as 1951, biophysicist Harold Morowitz was trying to find the cell’s “information content.” He eventually concluded that it was impossible for life to have arisen without some large infusion of information. Not a theist, he nonetheless created space for an Intelligent Designer.
At the Darwin centennial, naturalist Ernst Mayr and geneticist Sewall Wright could not agree on the mechanism of Darwinism (genetic change or natural selection), yet everyone swore fealty to “gradualism,” even though no one really knew what the gradual steps were. Gradualism was the crucial feature of Darwin’s theory, as it claimed that minute random steps, accumulated over time, eventually produced a wide variety of species.

U.S. birth rates rise, media finds negative story

In a time when much of the western world is failing to maintain a birth rate that outpaces it's death rate, birth rates in the U.S. are up. And that's good. But you'd never know it by reading the newspapers.

"Birth rates are up in the United States, and most are saying that's a good thing. But Associated Press began its reporting of the highest U.S. birth rate in 45 years with a negative spin -- describing Americans as "bucking the trend in many other wealthy industrialized nations." However, Carrie Gordon Earll of Focus on the Family has a different take."

Friday, January 25, 2008

Harry's Burden

Some good discussion, as usual, over at mere comments and the good people at Touchstone Magazine.

"I recently read yet another Christian complaint about Harry Potter. The critic’s thesis was that Joanna Rowling is a “contemporary transgressive artist par excellence,” who holds lightly to the canons of Judeo-Christian morality and of traditional children’s literature in the west, the Potter tales being a catalog of rule-breaking, disobedience, lying, vengeance-taking, and whatnot, its final installation containing the revelation of the Snape-Dumbledore murder-suicide pact that insinuates euthanasia into the minds of children--not to mention that all of this is done in a pagan context by witches and wizards, no less.

My reaction was--yes--but did he miss something? Like the Point of it All?"

Read the rest of the discussion here:
"The Helpful Discovery of Dirt in Potter's Field- January 20th entry

Major Iraqi Offensive Against Al Qaida

BAGHDAD (AP) - Iraq's prime minister announced Friday that the government was launching a major offensive against al-Qaida in the northern city of Mosul after two days of deadly bombings that killed nearly 40 people.

He promised the fight "will be decisive."

Let's hope so.
read the story here..