The band called “A.D.D.” has a gig to play the high school prom, but they’re suddenly without a drummer. One applicant shows up at audition with an electronic drum simulator, and he’s grooving happily along when the pianist’s uncle objects. “But lots of bands play drum loops,” says the kid, and the uncle retorts, “Lots of elevators play Celine Dion. That doesn’t make it right.”
[Ancient Faith Radio; August 15, 2008]
My mother lives far from me, many states away; it takes me about twelve or thirteen hours to drive there. So I don’t get there that often. I usually fly down about once a month. I didn’t used to go that often, but she had emergency surgery last January, and ever since then she’s been in a nursing home, and her mind is a little fuzzier than it used to be. She’s never quite gotten her strength back, never gotten on her feet again. Eighty-two years old, and it’s hard to foresee what the future holds. At present it looks like she just might continue being in that nursing home. I’m grateful that my two sisters live closer, so they can go there frequently, and one of them goes every day.
“Henry Poole is Here” is a film that Christian moviegoers will yearn to embrace, if only from sheer gratitude; here, at last, is a depiction of Christian faith that portrays it as something other than the domain of cranks and loonies. And it’s not just theological theory that wins the film’s blessing, but something more substantive, verging on shocking: it proposes that miracles can happen—and supplies an audacious one for our consideration.
That daring premise is set in a simple story. Henry Poole, a thoroughly dejected young man, has bought an empty house in a California suburb, and it’s still mostly empty after he moves in, apart from the accumulating vodka bottles. On one side, he has a cheery neighbor, Esperanza, who keeps interfering with his goal of continual glumness. On the other, there’s a mysterious, elfin 6-year-old girl, Millie, who doesn’t speak but does tote a tape recorder, and her mom, Dawn, who bakes cookies and owns a variety of V-necked outfits.
[Ancient Faith Radio; August 8, 2008]
I’m looking at an icon of the Transfiguration—and it’s beautiful. Now, you’ve seen icons of the Transfiguration. You can imagine what it looks like. In the center, there’s an image of Christ transfigured in white robes, light streaking from Him. He is standing in an oval that is blue, it comes to a lighter shade of blue on the edges, and that’s meant to suggest a full-body halo. It’s called a mandorla, these large sort of oval halos. And, of course, on the left and right are Elijah and Moses speaking to Him. In these images they have their hands raised, sort of like philosophers, as they’re talking to Him. And around and beneath Him are scattered James and John and Peter, falling on their faces in awe at this amazing scene that they’re witnessing.
[Ancient Faith Radio; July 31, 2008]
FMG: Today I am at the Sheptytsky Institute Study Days at St. Paul University in Ottawa, Ontaria, Canada. This is the Metropolitan Andrei Sheptytsky Institute for Eastern Christian Studies, and I’m talking to the director of the Institute here, Fr. Stephen—can you pronounce your last name, please?
[First Things, July 29, 2008]
Though I’m not very informed about the Intelligent Design debate, the idea sounded inoffensive enough: scientists have not discovered a Designer, and neither can they prove there’s no Designer, so why not leave the question open? But the concept of Intelligent Design was greeted with outrage; clearly, it struck a nerve.
When I tried to picture why, I thought of a page in Dr. Seuss’ “The Cat in the Hat,” one that comes near the end. “Sally and I” have been standing by helplessly while the hatted Cat, with his Thing One and Thing Two, made havoc of the house. The toy boat is in the cake and the cake is on the floor, the rake is bent and mother’s new dress has gone sailing through the room on a kite string. The fish has been trying to warn us, but we have stood by bewildered.
There’s virtually nothing harmful in “Diminished Capacity,” a mild comedy about the difficulty of selling a rare baseball card when you’re a picturesque old geezer with a faulty memory. The most appreciative audience will be, in fact, not the one that is interested in geezers, but the one that is interested in baseball; more specifically, interested in baseball fans and their fanaticisms (particularly the incandescence of those devoted to the “Lovable Losers,” the Chicago Cubs).
[Ancient Faith Radio; July 3, 2008]
Not too long ago, I was talking to somebody about something I thought, and he said, “Huh, that’s interesting. You should do a podcast on that.” So, here I am. I was talking about the phenomenon of what democracy means in America. And I think that we live here, we grew up in it, and we don’t really recognize it because it’s just part of our basic thinking.
[National Review Online, June 27, 2008]
I can just tell that this is going to be one of those reviews where the hardest part is coming up with the first sentence. What’s the main thing to say about WALL-E, the latest offering from that most excellent animation studio, Pixar? That it’s surprisingly, delicately, effectively, poignant? That, for that reason, younger children may not quite get it? That the Wall-E character is genuinely charming, and his originality has not been siphoned off by ET or Short Circuit’s Johnny 5? That the film succeeds in making an ecological statement without being annoying? That, despite all those worthy elements, there’s just something missing—a plot, perhaps?
[Ancient Faith Radio; May 28, 2008]
Today I wanted to touch on a couple podcasts from the past, one recent, one a little longer ago, because I’ve had some other interactions since those podcasts were posted, and it’s given me some more to think about.
One is the very recent one, about light and darkness. I got an email from someone who said, You know, I always pictured that before creation, God was in darkness; that darkness came first, because after all, it says that when God was creating the heavens and the earth, in the beginning of Genesis, Genesis 1: “The earth was without form and void, darkness was upon the face of the deep, God said, ‘Let There be Light’, and there was light”. I always thought that since he had to create light, that the first thing was actually darkness.