Archive for April, 2007

Congratulations Warriors

Thursday, April 19th, 2007

Since I grew up in Oakland, anytime an Oakland sports team does well, even one that I don’t follow nor care that much for the sport, I still cheer.

So Congrats to the Warriors for getting into the NBA playoffs for the first time in 13 years.  While they were only 2 games over .500 and more than half of all teams make the playoffs, they still had better records than 3 of the 16 playoff teams and let’s face it: it’s a LOT better than the Warrior teams of the past.

And I will make no comment about how they only went to the playoffs after my brother was fired as a cheerleader… oops.

Ranting about depressing news coverage

Thursday, April 19th, 2007

This morning I read my normal assortment of news sites and it was all very depressing.  Of course some of it was depressing because of the news itself, but what stuck me this morning was how much of it was depressing because of the attitudes of those covering it  or those commenting on it.  I don’t have the strength/determination to fully quote and rebutt everything, however, for my own sake forgive me these rants:

  1. Part of the governments job is to regulate the medical industry.  There are thousands of medical proceedures that have been banned that one can find doctors who will complain about their being banned.
  2. I’m sorry but the headline “Abortion Ruling Ripped” is amazingly biased.  One could have just as easily used the headline “Abortion Ruling Praised”.
  3. There is a vast difference between the supreme court striking down legislation and refusing to strike down legislation.  If you’ve got complaints about a law that falls within the constitution, don’t blame the courts, blame your elected officials.
  4. The only way NBC would have not released the killers videos they received is if it hurt their ratings.  We get the news we watch.  If you don’t like it, don’t watch it.
  5. If you decide you’re going to release content from a murderer, you’ve got only two choices in my mind: Refuse to air any of it or air it ALL (with the possible caveat of up to 5% which is “pornographic” (speaking more broadly than sexually) which should still be fully described including why it was too “pornographic” to show).  There is nothing I despise more than the possibility that a news outlet can be manipulating content to get the story they want.  Nope.  No dice.  You give me the content, I decide what to make of it.  Deal?

That is all… for now.

Thanks be to God!

Wednesday, April 18th, 2007

After years of crummy decisions by the Supreme Court regarding abortion, there was finally a minor victory for the unborn.  The federal partial birth abortion (also called Intact Dilation and Extraction or Intact D&X or IDX) was upheld.  The radically morally repugnant proceedure, which is illegal in most countries, even liberal European countries like Sweden and not used in most of the rest including the UK, is now finally illegal in the US.

Of course I would like to see the high court go further.  I would first like them to overturn Roe v. Wade, which will allow states to make their own laws on the subject, and then to go futher to protect the lives of the unborn (when it does not explicitely risk the life of the mother).  But those desires are for another day.  Today is a day to praise God for giving the justices the wisdom to stem the tide of Roe v. Wade, the worst decision in the courts history since Dred Scott v. Sandford.

What can one say about a tragedy?

Wednesday, April 18th, 2007

I haven’t blogged anything about the tragedy at Virginia Tech.  My prayers are with those who have lost loved ones and also that God grant mercy to those who have died.

It has been very sad to me to see so much of the focus on the issue quickly turned to political solutions to tragedies like this.  Is there no decency in this country?  Do we allow any time for mourning?  Along those lines, Mark Shea had a great couple posts (first (follow the link to Mrs. Shaidle’s post) and second) about how our society is losing it’s ability to meanfully mourn those who have died as it loses it’s Christian identity.  It is ridiculous how so many fluffy “memorial” services pass for an appropriate way to mourn the loss of life.

In any case, if you want to see any commentary on the political issues surrounding the tragedy, come back in a week or two.

My first fisk…

Sunday, April 15th, 2007

I’ve always admired the fisking skills of Dale Price and have wondered if perhaps it is a skill that I too might be able to someday use.  I mean, I often read articles and my “director’s commentary” track on the article seems pretty insightful.   Perhaps I could put that into print?  Well today I get that chance.  I was reading about the various articles about Benedict’s 2nd anniversary as Pope over at Amy Welborn’s blog.  Her comments are very insightful and worth reading.  However, it is one of those articles that I found worth fisking because of its ridiculous self-contradictions and obvious bias.

So without further adieu:

April 19 marks the second anniversary of Benedict XVI’s election as pontiff, and in a few weeks he heads to Brazil. Not long ago, when a pope traveled to the region it didn’t occasion much comment;
Yeah, there were never any articles about John Paul’s various travels.  In fact, it’s news to me that he traveled anywhere.  I just thought he spent all of his time writing encyclicals about how to abuse young boys while making homosexuality illegal. 
John Paul II was a globe-trotter who hit Mexico and the Caribbean during his first 100 days. But Benedict, who turns 80 this month, has rarely left home
How do I love thee?  Let me count the ways: Germany 2005 (for World Youth Day), Poland 2006 (including visit to Auschwitz), Spain 2006 (for the World Meeting of Families) and Turkey (for Muslim relations).  As well as 8 additional journeys scheduled.
and seems most interested in trying to revive European Catholicism.
SINNNER!!!! How dare he try to save Europe from falling into Apostasy!
On his upcoming trek to the Brazilian town of Aparecida do Norte, he plans to huddle
Give me play R-23 on 4. BREAK! 
with regional prelates worried about their declining influence, the growth of evangelicals and local moves to legalize gay unions and abortion.
Apparently picking right off where he evil predecessor… er… the noble “you’ll never measure up to him” John Paul II left off.
The pope should choose his words carefully; on one of his last trips, to his native Germany, he sparked a firestorm when he quoted in passing scathing comments about the Prophet Muhammad. Within days Benedict was being burned in effigy
Try to contain your giddiness.
He can expect a warmer greeting in South America. But there’s no denying he’s been a disappointment to many faithful there and elsewhere.
Just like there is no denying that he’s extremely popular in other circles, that his weekly audiences are twice as large as John Paul’s and that his books routinely top the best seller lists.
Some U.S. Catholics condemn him as aloof,
The Horror!
Europeans resent his intrusions into their affairs
Wait, I lost the script again, is he a meddling dictator or a distant bookish theologian?
and he’s never been popular in Latin America. The region, home to 450 million Catholics, had hoped to see one of its own succeed John Paul.
How dare he not be Latin!  Wait, not Latin, that word is banned from use… how did that sneak in here!?!
Many there have felt ignored by the man who ultimately did.
Uh-oh, that devastating “many” word again.
Part of the problem is style. The last pope was a former parish priest who recast himself as an international player (he spoke eight languages, including Spanish and Portuguese).
A simple math question for our author, which is greater: eight or ten?  (see 9th paragraph, hat-tip
Benedict is a colorless
Are we still picking on his not being Latin again?  ARG!?!  How does Latin keep getting into the discussion!
academic who spent much of his career teaching theology and philosophy. “This is a professor, a quiet man, not an actor skilled in politics,” says the American theologian Michael Novak. “[People] should not judge him by the standards of John Paul II.”
And yet that is exactly what this reporter has decided to do.
Perhaps, but the differences go beyond personality. During his long tenure, John Paul undertook more than 100 trips abroad
Back to that meme are we?
and showed real concern for the developing world. Although Benedict calls for more aid to Africa in a new book,
Although… but I’ll disregard it anyway.
he seems preoccupied by Europe.
How DARE HE!?!  (I’m getting the hang of this)
His defenders say this narrow focus represents a return to tradition. “Prior to the election of John Paul II, it was understood that the pope played a far more active role in European affairs,” argues Friar Thomas Williams of the Legion of Christ. 

But Benedict’s emphasis hasn’t won him many fans.
Man this meme merry-go-round is spinning fast.  Are we already back on the unpopular meme again?
Just before his ascension, the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger warned Italians that “Europe has developed a culture that … excludes God from the public conscience,” and last month he decried Europeans’ “dangerous individualism.” Also last month, Italy’s bishops came out against the country’s attempt to extend rights to gay and unmarried couples. Such moves have rankled politicians—one parliamentarian has warned Benedict against imposing a “clerical dictatorship” in Italy—and many of the faithful. “Ratzinger is getting too intrusive on [subjects] such as civil rights for unwed couples and is too out of date,” says Milanese housewife Maria Novella Dall’Aglio.
Got to love the “man on the street” interview.  I wonder how many of those the author did before he found just the right combination of words that matched what he already wanted to say.
Oh wait, sorry for the delay… I forgot my obligatory “How DARE he!?!”
In the rest of the world, meanwhile, Benedict’s presence has scarcely been felt.
You’d think the author would have some qualms about that lead in after he just lambasted Benedict for meddling.
He was nowhere to be seen in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, arguably the most Catholic city in the United States.
Is there a prize for the most ridiculous sentence of the year award?  It’s rare that the number of things wrong with a sentence exceed the number of words in a sentence.  And why do I suddenly feel the need to buy a “Where’s Waldo” book?
Nor has he paid much attention to Latin America, home to nearly half the world’s Catholics and a key focus of John Paul’s papacy. “He’s ignored us completely,” says Roberto Blancarte, a sociologist specializing in religious affairs at the Colegio de México in Mexico City.
And that’s why he’s got two trips planned to Latin America.
In Benedict’s absence, the influence of his church has continued to wane. In Latin America an estimated 8,000 people leave the Catholic Church every day, and according to the polling firm Latinobarómetro, the number of locals who call themselves Catholic dropped 9 percent between 1995 and 2005.
And imagine how bad it would be if he actually took his meddling self there to impose the evil morals of the Church on them.
The church’s decline is most evident in Mexico, which has the second largest Catholic population on the planet. Coahuila state OK’d same-sex civil unions in January.
REJOICE!  Wait… no… wait… what’s the meme here again?
Two months earlier, Mexico City granted new rights to same-sex couples, and it is expected to decriminalize abortion soon. Such measures would once have seemed unthinkable in a society where the Virgin of Guadalupe rivals the flag as a national symbol. But left-wing politicians no longer fear the Vatican.
REJOICE!  Wait… no… wait… my head hurts.
Under John Paul, politicians “used to have a certain respect [for the church] and a belief that it wasn’t in their interests to pick a fight” with it, notes Elio Masferrer Kan, a religious historian at Mexico’s National School of Anthropology and History. Now they see it as a “paper tiger,” as do judges in Argentina and Colombia, who have ruled in favor of allowing abortions in the past year.
Hurry Benedict!  Come to Mexico to save us… and please modernize your archaic teachings about SEX! SEX! SEX!
Were Benedict to become more active in Latin America, however, it wouldn’t likely change matters.
And I promised myself that I would give up snort laughing.  Just how many ‘Gs’ am I feeling on this merry-go-round?
His one foray into local affairs alienated more Catholics than it reassured: in October he personally approved a Vatican document sharply critical of Father Jon Sobrino, an advocate of liberation theology. The irony
Oh, I can’t wait for this guys take on irony.
of this was that liberation theology—a progressive Catholic social movement—is already considered a dead letter these days. His criticism thus struck many as mean-spirited and unnecessary;
That useful word “many” again.
And wait, I thought the guy was ignoring Latin America?  Why is he approving documents about Latin American topics?
Leonardo Boff, a former Brazilian priest, wrote an open letter saying the pope’s sanctions “filled me with sadness” and “defraud[ed] the poor.”
Yup, nothing to see here.  Liberation Theology is dead and buried.  So dead and buried that it only took the author 2.3 seconds to dig up a quote of a liberation theology priest who is unhappy that Benedict is “defraud[ing] the poor” by not giving in to the “dead” theology.
It also underscored just how conservative—and far from the mainstream—Benedict is.
If by mainstream we mean “the views of this author”.  Let’s see, gay marriage: extremely unpopular, euthanasia: extremely unpopular, abortion: losing popularity… yup that silly conservative Benedict.
That will cause more trouble in the future, especially in Latin countries that already believe he is behind the times.
So go away and stop bothering us, and why haven’t you come to visit… PLEASE!?!
Later this month, the Vatican is expected to permit congregations to celebrate mass in Latin without seeking prior approval.
THE HORROR!!!  The dictator wants to allow people to do things without getting approval.
This represents a big step backward:
Must… move… forward…     out… of… breath…
Pope Paul VI abolished the Latin rite in 1969, and relatively few modern Catholics can even recall it.
Then we shouldn’t be worried about this VOLUNTARY rite being available… no one’s going to go, right?
But that doesn’t worry Ratzinger.
He’s smart that way.
“He’s an old-fashioned guy who wants to go back to what [the church] was before,” says David Gibson, the author of an acclaimed 2006 biography of the pope.
Yup.  That silly, backwards pope again.  Not that it matters that he was one of the authors of Vatican II, the council that supposedly made Benedict a dinosaur.
The problem, according to Gibson, is that Benedict “doesn’t seem to realize that he’s a world leader and not an academic.”
Because academia is so dangerous to our modern world.
Indeed, the pope’s great misfortune may be his election to a job he was never suited for.
God is so silly.  Why did he let a man who was clearly unsuited for this job get elected?
With the Vatican facing an acute shortage of priests and nuns and its moral authority tarnished by child-abuse scandals,
I hearby envoke Argumentum Ad Pedophilium.  (Also called Anderson’s law or Godwin’s law for Catholics.)
the world’s 1.1 billion Catholics could use a shepherd who would help them tackle present and future problems.
Without meddling!
What they’ve got instead is a reclusive intellectual more interested in resurrecting old rituals and disputes.
Because this author’s tired meme’s are not nearly old enough.

Some Cal Bear news

Thursday, April 12th, 2007

Well, spring practice continues on for the Cal Bears.  I would have had lots of stories about it but… well you guys know.  In any case, nothing remarkable has happened at practice really but it’s always interesting stuff.  I encourage you to read the articles at the Cal Rivals site.  There’s good stuff there about the practices and about various up and coming players.

But spring practice isn’t the only news.  In fact, there has been a flurry of news in the last few days:

  1. Cal has announced when Big Game tickets will be available.  The short answer is that donors who have given $1800 or more in the last year (or are willing to do so soon), will have the ability to buy tickets at various times in early June based on their donor levels.  They’ll also be able to buy up to 6 tickets for the REALLY big donors and 4 if they’re smaller donors.  For the rest of us season ticket holders, we’ll be able to buy up to 4 tickets starting June 29th.  (As an aside, I’ve always thought it sucked that they don’t adjust how many highly sought after tickets (bowl games, Big Game, etc.) one can buy based on the number of season tickets one holds.)  Big Game pricing was not announced and Big Game pricing information was not given on the Stanford site either.  For the very precision minded people like me, they also haven’t announced what time on June 29th one can start ordering.  You can bet I’ll be on the website at 12:01 AM.
  2. The “spring game” is this Saturday (4/14) at 2:00 PM at Memorial Stadium.  I put it in quotes because unlike previous years, there will be no scrimage/game.  It’ll just be a regular practice.  In some ways that is good, especially for those fans who have never had the chance to see a Tedford practice because he loves to keep them closed to the public.  In other ways it is a big disappointment because it won’t be nearly as entertaining.  In any case, considering the weather forecast for Berkeley on Saturday calls for sprinkles, I won’t be coming down with my boys like I had planned… unless the forecast changes.
  3. The first game-time and TV coverage for a 2007 Bears game has been announced and it’s time to check your cable package to see if you get the channel, or if can even be ordered.  The Cal vs. Colorado State game will be televised on CSTV, a fairly rinky-dink sports channel that most cable and satalite packages don’t include.  I know I don’t get it.  I already checked and I’ll probably be paying the $12 for the month of September to add the subscription package that has that channel.  The game time has also been announced: 11 AM PDT, which is noon in Colorado.
  4. Jay Heater is leaving the area and will no longer be one of the best Cal reporters in the area.  This is a crushing blow for Cal reporting, more crushing than… well you guys know.  I met and talked with him a number of times during the 2006 season.  He had a great personality and was generous to the players without pulling any punches.  He loved talking Cal football.
  5. Finally, lest one thinks that the only stadium renovation news involves tree-huggers, the lead construction company has been chosen for the first phase of the project.  They’ll be starting on preliminary work immediately but of course won’t be able to start on meaningful construction until the lawsuits are resolved, which won’t happen until at least mid-summer.


Review of The Nativity Story

Monday, April 9th, 2007

On Good Friday an Evangelical friend of mine had a movie night with The Nativity Story followed by an intermission with yummy Ice Cream (so says my two boys who are not old enough to be bound by the fasting laws of the Church) followed by The Passion of the Christ.  I was unable to get to the theaters to see the Nativity Story because Advent is always a busy time for my family and my wife and I are horribly cheap when it comes to babysitters and so are rarely able to get away for the evening, so we were excited to see the film.  Here is my review of The Nativity Story:

Just to get this out of the way, the complaints in various Catholic circles about the movie having an un-Catholic view of Mary were unfounded in my opinion.  Never once in the movie does Mary doubt God.  Never once in the movie does Mary sin.  None of the “Marian” passages from the Gospels is omitted to make her look less Holy.  The movie has no “flash-backs” that deny Mary’s Immaculate Conception and no “flash-forwards” that deny Mary her Assumption.  All in all I thought the script was well written to depict Mary as a young woman who, full of God’s grace as the Mother of God, found the strength to deal with disapproval and mocking.

The one concession I will give to those who didn’t like the portrayal of Mary was Keisha Castle-Hughes’s acting.  I don’t think she “got” Mary and so was forced to lean on some acting techniques for “generic Holy acting”.  I’m having a tough time explaining this so, as is my usual style, I’ll try to compensate for that by getting very verbose.

Mary, at least the way I see it, has the following characteristics:

  1. Full of Grace
  2. Humble before God (awestruck) 
  3. Faithful 
  4. Poor
  5. Simple (or perhaps naive is a better word?)
  6. Young

My view of how an actress should play that role is to be somewhat giddy and exuberant, in the simple and playful way that a teenage girl would be.  Then, as she is approached by God, in being awestruck, she would be very humble and submissive to God while still keeping that innocent quality of a teenage girl.  As the truth of her situation came to light with her community, the way she would communicate being Full of Grace to the audience is to blend that youthful exuberance with the peace of being able to accept the condemnation without giving ground or lashing out, something your average teenage girl doesn’t do well.

Instead, Castle-Hughes played the role VERY subdued.  She acted it like she had the weight of the world on her shoulders, even before God’s messenger comes to her, and tried to make it look as if she was at peace in her subdued-ness.  But the acting wasn’t there to sell the peace.  At best it was a veiled peace.  At worst it made her look like she was holding in her anger or at a minimum holding in that she was upset.  Often she almost looked a little “slow” or numb.  The worst scene in this regard was when she fell to her knees and told the angel “May it be done according to your will.”  She didn’t look awed and humbled… she looked mechanical and subdued, almost doped up.  As I said, I just don’t think she “got” Mary.

Now that I’ve lambasted Castle-Hughes, I should point out that I think it is an exceedingly difficult role to play.  I wouldn’t want to be the one to help a teenage girl figure out how to act out that role.  It’s difficult to communicate awestruck and humble without introducing a sense of doubt.  It’s difficult to communicate confidence in the face of trials without it looking like anger or fighting back.  It’s difficult to communicate any sense of peace or grace in the scenes she’d be asked to play.  So while I think the acting job was mediocre at best, I’m also willing to overlook that short coming because of the difficulty of the task.  It was not in my view a case of denying Mary anything due to her but merely a inability to effectively put that on the silver screen.

While Mary’s acting was the only signficantly disappointing aspect of the movie, there were a couple other things I though left something to be desired.  Most notably, the movie suffered from what I will from now on call “Sacramental Aversion Syndrome” (or SAS for short).  SAS is a frequent disease amongst Evangelical Christians who are very wary of Sacraments because of their aversion to all things Catholic, but their aversion is odd because of the many scriptural references to various sacraments (like Baptism).  One of the ways SAS often demonstrates itself is in the portrayal of the Jewish people.  There always seems to be a remarkable insistence on making the religious activities of the Jews look ridiculous.  The Navity suffered from this as well.  There were three or four completely unnecessary scenes (Herod sacrificing a bull and Mary and Joseph withnessing money-changers are the two that immediately come to mind) that seemed to be shoe-horned into the movie with the point of putting the SAS of the directors on display.  The story was about Christ’s birth, not his ministry.  There was no need to go down those paths in this movie.

Finishing off my criticisms, I also thought the production quality of the movie left something to be desired.  It was somewhere between an ‘A movie’ and a ‘B movie’.  That’s excellect quality for a Christian themed movie which often border on amateur status, but it’s still not a top-notch Hollywood quality production.  From a production quality perspective, this movie is not The Passion of the Christ.

All of that aside, The Nativity Story as a whole was a good movie.  It was very faithful to the Christian faith (despite some innocent conflicts with scripture) and did a good job of portraying what a miraculous moment Christ’s birth was.  The particulars of the moment of Christ’s birth were VERY well done.  Everything from the pacing, to the lighting (I’m willing to overlook the “spotlight triple-star”), to the acting, to the musical score all built up the moment to be every bit the miracle it was.  Additionally, I though the depiction of the Maji was remarkably good.  In fact, it stole the show from Mary and Joseph (Joseph’s role and acting was much better than Mary’s).  The depiction of Herod and his followers was very good as well.

In the end, The Nativity Story is the best movie I have seen that depicts the birth of Christ.  While it should be proud of that distinction, I left the movie both impressed and somewhat disappointed.  Impressed because it was another Christian movie for the masses in the new tradition started by The Passion.  Disappointed because it could have been so much more.

End result: 3 1/2 stars. (out of 5)