Archive for May, 2006

In the last week I have viewed two overtly religious films.

Generally speaking, I don’t like such films, which are almost always preachy and/or sappy.

I had avoided the first film, Therese (not to be confused with the fine 80s French film of the same title), suspecting it would prove to be a typical offering of the Catholic subculture, second rate by definition.

I made it about fifteen minutes into the movie when I decided I could bear no more. Heavy-handed, sentimental and poorly acted, "second rate" is probably a generous assessment of such an amateurish effort.  The only good thing I can say about it is that the landscapes are beautiful, as it was filmed in Normandy.

The second film, Ushpizin (Aramaic for "guests"), was of a very different sort. A subtitled Israeli film, it is set among the Hasidic community of Jerusalem and follows the tale of Moshe, a poor Hasid, and his wife Malli during the Feast of Tabernacles. No longer young, they have not been blessed with children, and are so broke they cannot afford the necessary preparations for the feast.
So they do what good Hasidim do: they pray. Boy, do they pray.

I have always been fascinated with the Hasidic movement within Judaism, and have long seen parallels with the charismatic movement in Christianity. Moshe and Malli are seen addressing God in familiar and passionate terms, praying for a miracle. The man is in one place, his wife in another, and the camera cuts between them and a third scenario that is the evolving miracle.
And so a large sum of money appears. Also appearing are the Ushpizin, the guests of the title: two escaped convicts, an old friend of Moshe’s and his companion. It turns out that there is more to this pious Jew than meets the eye, that he in fact is a convert with a checkered past. As guests for a holy day are seen as a blessing, the two crooks are welcomed into Moshe’s home, with trouble following.

This is one of the very few films I have seen that focuses on the spiritual life and the struggle for conversion without being silly. The world of the Hasidim is beautifully evoked, and the tale of Moshe and Malli portrayed with honesty and humanity. It instantly became a favorite, at or near the top of my personal canon of film.

I picked it up at  the local Blockbuster, so it is widely available. If past experience is any indication, this will not last.

Run, don’t walk, to your local video store and rent this film.

Trust me, you are in for a rare treat.

Daniel Nichols

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Speed Bumps and the Decline of Civilization

Nothing to do with the post, but I just found out that my wife and I got married on Walker Percy’s birthday (which was yesterday, May 28). That’s obscurely cool.

Maclin Horton

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Both National Review and Reactionary Radicals have published lists of their top 50 (National Review – click here to see the list) or top 40 (Reactionary Radicals – click here) pop songs. This seems to be more a compilation of songs that reflect their social and political views than, necessarily, the ones they like best. In NR’s case this is explicit–it’s the top 50 "conservative" songs. I use the quotes because I think they’re stretching their case past the breaking point for many of the songs.

There’s a lot of stuff on both these lists that I don’t know. Of
what I know, I like maybe half of it. I don’t think there are more than
half a dozen songs between them that I really love. I do want to
express my complete dismay that the Jefferson Airplane’s "Volunteers"
is on the Reactionary Radicals list. I came to loathe that song and
the entire album of which it was a part, considering it the worst of
brainless late ’60s content-free revolutionism.

Every now and then something bumps me up against the fact that I’m just not as politically driven as a lot of people are. This is a bit scary, as I have pretty strong political views. Like a lot of pop music fans, I have a bad habit of compiling lists, at least mentally. But it has never, ever crossed my mind to make a list of songs that contain messages that I agree with. I’m almost at a loss for words to describe how alien that whole idea is to my sensibility. If I were to try to come up with a C et T top 40, I think it would just end up being songs I like. I suppose I could try to filter them to find ones that are directly relevant. I’m sure it would contain a lot of Nick Drake, Bob Dylan, and Leonard Cohen. Some Tom Waits. Clarence Ashley and Doc Watson singing "Amazing Grace." Some old-time country, some old-time blues. Some mid-60s innocence-and-wonder songs.

Anyone who wants to play this game from whatever they imagine the C et T point of view to be is welcome to add their nominations. Maybe I’ll even make a list.

UPDATE: It occurred to me later that I ought to acknowledge the nice mention of Caelum et Terra at the Reactionary Radicals blog. Thanks, y’all.


Maclin Horton

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Just to let you know: I’ve been wanting to change the look of this blog for some time and will be experimenting off and on for the next few days. A radical change to a more dark-type/light-background is possible. If you see something you either really like or really hate, please leave a comment or email me to let me know. Or for that matter if you like it the way it is, let me know that, too. But don’t bother suggesting anything elaborate that would require a lot of graphics and/or HTML, as I don’t have time to spend on those. I’m just working with the canned TypePad themes and tweaking them a little.

Maclin Horton

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By Robert Gotcher, from the Spring 1994 issue

My apologies to Dr. Gotcher for taking so long to post this. I have another of his articles to post but I need to look through the back issues and see what issue it was in.

The subject is more timely than ever, I think, with various "trans-humanists" even more bent than they were twelve years ago on the prospect of a human-machine merger. Which I think is impossible and absurd from several points of view, but who knows what bizarre activities they may get up to in pursuit of it?

Maclin Horton

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The Da Vinci Code and the Concept of Fact

A concept with which an increasing number of people seem to be having difficulties.

Maclin Horton

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Another critique of the American bishops (and the Catholic
neoconservatives), this one from the very fine Fr Michael Baxter, at Traditionalist Catholic Reflections:
Daniel Nichols

[Note: As Daniel wrote the above, it was "Cathoilic neoconservatives." Coincidence?!?! I wasn’t sure if I should correct it or not. –mh]

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