Monday, March 2, 2015

A Movie You Might Have Missed #44: Ink

The power of dreams is stronger than you think.

44. Ink

As the light fades and the city goes to sleep, two forces emerge. They are invisible except for the power they exert over us in our sleep, battling for our souls through dreams. One force delivers hope and strength through good dreams; the other infuses the subconscious with desperation through nightmares.

John and Emma, father and daughter are wrenched into this fantastical dream world battle, forced to fight for John's soul and to save Emma from an eternal nightmare. Separate in their journey, they encounter unusual characters that exist only in their subconscious. Or do they?
This is actually a movie that almost everyone missed. I know I did. I never heard of it until Mom showed me the dvd. Intrigued by the description, she'd had it for a long time and hadn't watched it. It has a slow start (just let the first 20 minutes wash over you) but then the story pulls you in. We both found ourselves emotionally invested by the end of the film and talked about it through dinner afterward.

Part of the slow start is necessary to explain the world you are dropped into. The story is ultimately a tale about free will, how our choices affect those around us, and, ultimately, the power of love. I also really appreciated that this was made on a shoestring ($250,000) and the way they managed locations and special effects without affecting the otherworldliness of the film. Lastly, I liked the storyline effects with different color themes telling us whose eyes we were seeing through. The filmmakers did a good job with telling an inventive story in a way that kept us engaged.

Friday, February 27, 2015

The Lord by Romano Guardini — "But love does such things!"

Speaking of the Incarnation, Guardini says:
However, this journey of God from the everlasting into the transitory, this stride across the border into history, is something no human intellect can altogether grasp. The mind might even oppose the apparently fortuitous, human aspect of this interpretation with its own "purer" idea of godliness, yet precisely here lies hidden the kernel of Christianity. Before such an unheard of thought the intellect bogs down. Once at this point a friend gave me a clue that helped my understanding more than any measure of bare reason. He said: "But love does such things!" Again and again these words have come to the rescue when the mind has stopped short at some intellectual impasse. Not that they explain anything to the intelligence; they arouse the heart, enabling it to feel its way into the secrecy of God. The mystery is not understood, but it does move nearer, and the danger of "scandal: disappears.

None of the great things in human life springs from the intellect; every one of them issues from the heart and its love. If even human love has its own reasoning, comprehensible only to the heart that is open to it, how much truer must this be of God's love! When it is the depth and power of God that stirs, is there anything of which love is incapable? The glory of it is so overwhelming that to all who do not accept love as an absolute point of departure, its manifestations must seem the most senseless folly.
This book is my Lenten reading this year. However, it is rich enough, requiring slow absorption, and big enough that it will likely last past that time. I'm reading a library book but realize that it is a book for owning as I would benefit from many rereadings.

Interestingly, it is somewhat like reading G.K. Chesterton's nonfiction. Chesterton always does you the compliment of assuming you know all the basic facts about a subject. It is like entering a conversation between friends who have left mere facts behind long ago and are now delving deeper into underlying themes.

In that way The Lord is a great relief. I don't have to hear yet again, line by line, what Jesus "really meant" by each line of the beatitudes. Instead Guardini brings Jesus' words to life by diving straight into the heart of what lay behind the bigger picture. This may sound odd but consider the above passage, excerpted from his discussion of Christ's incarnation. It dives right to the heart of why believers and nonbelievers alike may struggle with the concept of God becoming man.

The italics are my emphasis of the lines that struck straight to my own heart. It is the basis for so much of Christianity, of learning to answer Jesus' question, "Who do you say that I am?" Certainly it is a wonderful expansion upon that maddening word "mystery" which often is my only fallback when trying to answer questioning non-Christians about something which just "doesn't make sense."

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Out of Town for a Week

I may check in if I get a chance but it is likely that I won't be posting until I return next week.

Heads Up on Upcoming Film: Alison's Choice

Alison's Choice is a film about a teenager, Alison, who is pregnant and seriously considering having an abortion, but while she is waiting at the abortion clinic, the janitor starts up a conversation with her. This janitor happens to be the manifestation of Christ, through the Holy Spirit. Alison's Choice doesn't quite fit in the typical "Christian" movie box, but we believe that it will be a powerful tool that can be used to save lives.

Alison's Choice was written and directed by Bruce Marchiano and it is currently in post production.

We have a great team of filmmakers working on this movie. Bruce has been an actor for a long time, and our DP is Phil Hurn, who has worked in many films, and our editor is Scott Conrad, who won an Oscar for his work on the original Rocky film. I say all that to let you know that we have a team with the experience and the tools to make this not another low budget "Christian" film, but a high quality and powerful film.
For one thing, I like it when something isn't "typically Christian" and this set up makes me think of Joan of Arcadia which I really liked a lot. Also, the editor from Rocky! C'mon. Now we're talking.

There won't be a trailer for a while but I thought I'd let everyone know about it. There is more info at the link above. And they have a Facebook page you can check out.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Well Said: Buying Time

It would be a good thing if one could also buy the time to read them; but one usually confuses the purchase of books with the acquisition of their contents.
Arthur Schopenhauer
Oh, that's why I have big stacks of books and still keep buying more. I forget to pick up a little time while I'm at it.

Worth a Thousand Words: Shop Sign of Gersaint

Antoine Watteau (1684–1721), Shop Sign of Gersaint
I know that trade work was common for artists trying to keep their heads above water, but something about this shop sign really grabs me ... and amuses me at the same time.

Movie Review: The Drop Box

They’re not the unnecessary ones in the world. God sent them to the earth to use them.
Pastor Lee Jong-rak
Many years ago Pastor Lee's son, Eun-man, was born with crippling cerebral palsy. He and his wife cared for their baby at home, which is so unusual in Seoul, South Korea, that it led a frightened mother to abandon her disabled infant on his doorstep one cold night. Luckily he found the baby before it froze but this prompted him to build The Drop Box. On any given night the "doorbell" may sound in the Lee home signaling that another desperate, anonymous mother has chosen to surrender her baby.

Too often, in a society like South Korea there is only one answer to the social stigma attached to unwed motherhood and aversion to any child born with disabilities. Babies are abandoned and often die before they are discovered. Pastor Lee and his wife and their Christian community care for about 18 disabled children. He has rescued hundreds of babies thanks to the drop box.

The Drop Box is told in a straight forward way but it is not a simple film.

Not only do we see Pastor Lee's ministry but the value of life becomes the central theme of the film. This is only to be expected but what I didn't expect was that the drop box ministry has opponents. Here is where the director's patient story telling pays off. The presentation of both sides of the arguments is handled delicately but compellingly.

Perhaps the most powerful statement about the film is that it changed the film director's own life.
Ivie said, "These kids are not mistakes. They are important." He went on to say, "I became a Christian while making this movie. When I started to make it and I saw all these kids come through the drop box – it was like a flash from heaven, just like these kids with disabilities had crooked bodies, I have a crooked soul. And God loves me still. When it comes to this sanctity of life issue, we must realize that that faith in God is the only refuge for people who are deemed unnecessary. This world is so much about self-reliance, self-worth, and self-esteem. It's a total illusion that we can be self-sufficient. Christ is the only thing that enables us."
This documentary is a wonderful look at a Christian who is changing the world the only way he knows how: through actively loving those around him. Pastor Lee lives in the best tradition of the first-century Christians who bore witness to the pagans around them by taking in abandoned infants, caring for widows, and staying with the sick when everyone else was fleeing.

It's a movie that stuck with me long afterward and had me reexamining parts of my own life.

This film will be in theaters March 3-5.

Don't miss it.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Lagniappe: Never record anything ...

I rang her and left a message identifying myself and giving an impression of urgency without actually saying anything concrete. Never record anything you wouldn't want turning up on YouTube is my motto.
Ben Aaronovitch, Moon Over Soho
If only more of us remembered this, the world would be a calmer place. More boring, sure. But definitely calmer.

Worth a Thousand Words: Arctic Tern

Arctic Tern
taken by Remo Savisaar

Blogging Around: The What-Caught-My-Eye Edition

Tips for Mid-Lent Penance Adjustment

Jennifer Fitz reminds us that our chosen penance isn't set in stone. If we need adjustments, she's got three good tips.

The Importance of Rough Housing With Your Kids

The Art of Manliness has reasons, good guidelines, and a book to check out.

Decent Films Website Redesign

Normally I don't care about such things enough to point them out, but this one really does make it easier to see what Catholic film critic Steven D. Greydanus has been writing.

Bread, on the table ... s'il vous plait

David Lebovitz talks about where the French put their bread in restaurants and many other aspects of bread and French meals. Fascinating.

Lent and Fasting From Meat on Fridays

Reposting this because, well, it's that time of year! Also the point about fasting from flesh is one that strikes me hard every time I think of it.

From American Catholic:
Abstinence forbids the use of meat, but not of eggs, milk products or condiments made of animal fat.

Abstinence does not include meat juices and liquid foods made from meat. Thus, such foods as chicken broth, consomme, soups cooked or flavored with meat, meat gravies or sauces, as well as seasonings or condiments made from animal fat are not forbidden. So it is permissible to use margarine and lard. Even bacon drippings which contain little bits of meat may be poured over lettuce as seasoning.
In America, fasting from meat led to the fish fry as a
Lenten tradition. (Public domain photo.)
I was looking for this for another reason, actually, but it applied to the question our retreat group was asking about providing a Friday lunch including Tomato Basil Soup made with chicken broth.

I think the main reason, though I now have lost the place I originally read this, is that the original intent of fasting from meat is that we are fasting from ... flesh.

It is because Christ put on flesh to become man that we fast from it in penance for what He went through on our behalf.

A lovely connection isn't it?

At least it is to me.

And to have to dig into each ingredient turns it into an exercise in scrupulosity for me. I like that they make it easy for us that way.

I've always cooked with those sorts of guidelines for Friday fast days (heck, every Friday is a fast from meat at our house). So it's nice to see it spelled out ... no need for any vestiges of guilt when I put a bit of lard in our refried beans for those nachos!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Well Said: Fire and Ice

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hater
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

Robert Frost
Elegantly said.

And insightful. Yet another quote perfect for Lenten reflection.

Worth a Thousand Words: Melk Staircase

Stift Melk, staircase near church, photographed by David Monniaux, Creative Commons licensing
I first saw this gorgeous piece of architecture in Art: A New History by Paul Johnson. I could look at this all day.

Audible's Daily Deal - Cabin Pressure, season 4

One of my favorite BBC radio series is Cabin Pressure.

It tells the hilarious exploits of an oddball crew of a struggling charter service with a single airplane that is in none too good repair. As they take all sorts of items, people or animals across the world, we learn about the crew and their lives.

It is clever and humorous in the way that the best sitcoms can be. There is wordplay, build up to final jokes, and, of course, we learn to care about even the most unlikable characters. One of my favorite touches is that the crew is often playing games to while away the time. And they are simultaneously funny and engrossing, while often moving the plot along.

The daily deal is for season 4, but season 1 is pretty cheap and you really should begin at the beginning. None of the seasons are more than $10. I promise they pay off with high levels of entertainment.

What I didn't realize until I saw the photo accompanying the daily deal is that Benedict Cumberbatch played Martin. Or perhaps I should say that by the time Benedict Cumberbatch became famous for his portrayal of Sherlock Holmes, Cabin Pressure just wasn't on my radar any more. At any rate it is fun to hear him as Martin.

I also never picked up on the fact that the places they visit in each episode are in alphabetical order. They begin with Abu Dhabi, proceeding then to Boston, Cremona, and onward until the last episode, "Zurich." It is those little touches that make it a complete listening pleasure.

I'll relisten with extra relish.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Ash Wednesday - A Little Fun

Because this makes me laugh every time, I repost ...

Ash Wednesday is the chance for single Catholics to identify other singles who are, as my friends would say, really eligible! In aid of that, we present:
Catholic Pickup Lines
(courtesy of Envoy)

10. May I offer you a light for that votive candle?

9. Hi there. My buddy and I were wondering if you would settle a dispute we're having. Do you think the word should be pronounced HOMEschooling, or homeSCHOOLing?

8. Sorry, but I couldn't help but noticing how cute you look in that ankle-length, shapeless, plaid jumper.

7. What's a nice girl like you doing at a First Saturday Rosary Cenacle like this?

6. You don't like the culture of death either? Wow! We have so much in common!

5. Let's get out of here. I know a much cozier little Catholic bookstore downtown.

4. I bet I can guess your confirmation name.

3. You've got stunning scapular-brown eyes.

2. Did you feel what I felt when we reached into the holy water font at the same time?

1. Confess here often?

Worth a Thousand Words: Ash Wednesday

Carl Spitzweg [Public domain], Ash Wednesday
via Wikimedia Commons

Ash Wednesday: All other loves will enslave us if they are not ordered to Him

Painful though the process may prove to be, I ask God for the transformation I need to become closer to the person He created me to be.

Let's begin with the collect for today.
Grant, O Lord, that we may begin with holy fasting
this campaign of Christian service,
so that, as we take up battle against spiritual evils, we may be armed with weapons of self-restraint.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
I like this for several reasons, but foremost today it calls to mind that we are in a spiritual battle. It never does to forget that, especially with Satan's wilderness tempting of Christ as prominent as it is during this season.

Daniele Crespi (1597 - 1630)
Il Digiuno di San Carlo Borromeo / The fasting of St Charles Borromeo (c. 1625)
(Read more about the painting and the saint at Idle Speculations where I found the painting)

I always need help having the proper perspective to prepare for Easter.
The Liberating Power of Serving God

"No one can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon." (Mt 6:24)

God did not save the Israelites from slavery in Egypt so that they might become slaves again by bowing down to the golden calf in the desert. Nor has he freed us from the slavery of our sin so that we might bow down to the work of our own hands or to any other creature, including ourselves and our own desires. Strange as it might seem, we are not really free when we consider ourselves the masters of our own lives. From precisely that standpoint, we quickly fall into the trap of serving someone or something else: our self-images, our bosses, our spouses, our corporations, our tyrannical two-year-olds or teenagers, our homes, our cards, our portfolios, our social statuses, our egos, and the list goes on and on.

When, however, we seek to serve God, we soon learn that we thereby allow God to serve us. He wants our hearts precisely so that he might reign there: more as servant than as king. It is he who sets the table before us, who washes our feet, waits upon us, and invites us to eat of his own body. As servant, he not only nourishes us, however; but he also liberates us fro inordinate attachments that both weigh us down and enslave us. He does not merely liberate us from without, by removing obstacles that would hinder his coming into our hearts. He also and more profoundly liberates us from within; for once we have received him, he beings making order within us, freeing us from all that prohibits us from the interior freedom that characterizes the children of God. He will not allow any competition for his love; for all other loves will enslave us if they are not ordered to him, who alone can render us free.
Taken in this way, we can see how it is actually a relief to have done self-examination to see what has enslaved us, usually without our having been aware of it at all. What a relief to set that down. Even when we miss it, when we long for it, when we are annoyed because we can't have it, there is still a sense of relief in being forced to see with open eyes just what our addictions really are. To see how they have become so much more important to us than the harder path that leads us to a more loving relationship with God. Clarity matters. We have to know what rocks are in the way in order to avoid them.

The Putting on of Ashes
From the Initial "M" in the Introit of the Mass of Ashes on Ash Wednesday
From the Missal à l'usage de Saint-Didier d'Avignon c. 1370
Via Idle Speculations which has information about the tradition of ashes on the forehead

We surely can see why the readings for today included this from Joel which spoke to my heart.
Even now, says the LORD,
return to me with your whole heart,
with fasting, and weeping, and mourning;
Rend your hearts, not your garments,
and return to the LORD, your God.
For gracious and merciful is he,
slow to anger, rich in kindness,
and relenting in punishment.
Perhaps he will again relent
and leave behind him a blessing,
Offerings and libations
for the LORD, your God.
And this from Psalm 51 which is surely what we all crave.
A clean heart create for me, O God,
and a steadfast spirit renew within me.
Cast me not out from your presence,
and your Holy Spirit take not from me.
Give me back the joy of your salvation,
and a willing spirit sustain in me.
O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth shall proclaim your praise
I do praise him for giving us this season of Lent ... which is something that I never, ever feel until it has begun. But now that I am face to face with Lent, having considered this morning that "Remember, man you are dust and to dust you shall return" ... which means, get serious because you never know when this life will end ... I remember how good it is to consider priorities, to leave behind the transitory, and strive upwards toward the immortal life we were made to have.

Yes, Lent is good.

by Duane Keiser 

Catholic Culture has a wonderful page about Lent with many links to activities, prayers, recipes, and readings.

They also offer free e-books which have daily reflections on the readings and saints for the liturgical year. I have used these for several years now and cannot recommend them highly enough.