Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year!

New Year's Eve -
scattering resolutions
like confetti

Pax et bonum

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Christmas movies sometimes forget what Christmas is really about

I was searching online for a new copy of A Child's Christmas in Wales, a wonderful television movie of Dylan Thomas' poem that was broadcast back in the 1980s. My wife videotaped it back then - we are still watching that tape, but I worry about it breaking.

No luck. It does not seem to be easily available except in used copies.

But as I searched I began to think about Christmas movies.

There are many good ones that I enjoy, but some of them have no sense of the true meaning of Christmas: The birth of our savior.  I love the original Miracle on 34th Street, for example, but God is missing.

God is there in a number of movies, at least indirectly in some cases, with prayer and angels - The Bishop's Wife or It's a Wonderful Life, to cite two examples. A pivotal scene in Home Alone takes place in church. A Christmas Carol mentions going to church (Bob and Tiny Tim do go at least), and, of course, there's Tim's famous line, "God bless us, everyone."

But where is God or Jesus in The Santa Clause? A Christmas Story? Or even the aforementioned A Child's Christmas in Wales?

Some movies really just focus on Santa, and not always in a positive way, (Mr. St. Nick) (which is a poor movie anyway) or romance (almost any tinsel-tinged Hallmark Channel movie), or the secular celebration of family rather than the holy day celebrating the birth of the Messiah.

Some movies are just downright bad as movies - The film version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas, or The Santa Clause 3, or Scrooged. Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (yes, there is such a movie) falls into the bad movie category, but it is so bad it has it's own strange charm! 

And some movies promote a changing world view that is in contrast to the true Christmas story. The Santa Clause, a movie that I actually enjoy (forget the sequels), has some real issues when it comes to normalizing divorce, absentee fathers, and blended families. And that business of Santa dying, ech.

A Christmas movie does not necessarily have to be overtly religious, but there should be some acknowledgement of faith. After, all, that's what Christmas is really about - and without it, we wouldn't mark the day.

As for me, there are some Christmas movies I like despite the lack of religion. Some are really out there.

Ones I like and happily watch again and again:

Miracle on 34th Street (the original, not the remake)
A Child's Christmas in Wales
It's a Wonderful Life
The Bishop's Wife
A Christmas Carol - the Alistair Sims, George C Scott, and Muppet versions!
The Nativity Story
3 Godfathers - John Wayne as a cowboy, bank-robbing wise man??
The Homecoming (essentially the pilot for The Waltons)
Home Alone
White Christmas
The Santa Clause (despite the reservations)
Die Hard - (yes, even with the violence and language, it's a well-made movie set at Christmas time)
Joyeaux Noel - what if all soldiers just declared their own truce as they did in WWI? (I just wish they had not included that unnecessary sex scene.)

A couple of television shows make the list as well - the original How the Grinch Stole Christmas (Karloff is wonderful), Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol, A Charlie Brown Christmas, and It's a Wonderful Red Green Christmas.

Hey, I never claimed to be normal!

Pax et bonum

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas books and gifts

The Christmas haul included a new hat, a framed picture of two of my daughters visiting me at the mall (ho! Ho! Ho!), a couple of nice Santa figurines, and two books. Oh, and a bottle of Scottish Ale.

The Santas join the hundreds of Santa items I have. If you're gonna have a collection, make it an interesting one! I'll  have to count how many I actually have at some point.

The books include a Santa one as well: Better Homes and Gardens Santa Claus Collection (volume 1).  I've skimmed though it - some nice images, and the text looks informative.

The other book is O, What a Luxury: Verses Lyrical, Vulgar, Pathetic & Profound by Garrison Keillor. I'm not a big fan of his poetry, but there are some amusing ones in this collection of poems that include a number that he read on A Prairie Home Companion. I'll go through it more carefully later.

A related gift - a gift certificate for the Catholic shop. Might be a book or two coming out of that!

I also scribbled a slug:

a slug among weeds
will happily imbibe a
cup of spiked eggnog

Mmmmm. I'll imbibe that later.

Pax et bonum

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Christmas stories and poems

Over the years I've written a few stories and some poems for Christmas. Some have been silly - the "bad haiku" contest entries -  some more touching - the story of a spirit Santa who helps the souls of children.

It's a mixed bag. But I'm thinking of combining them into a collection. Why not?

A Christmas book for next year? Hmm.

Pax et bonum

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Merry Christmas 2013!

Though Santa gives so many gifts
he’ll always be outdone.
He gives clothes and toys and such,
but the Father gave His Son.

Merry Christmas!

Pax et bonum

Friday, December 6, 2013

A possible spiritual director in the works?

The woman who led our faculty staff retreat today is a spiritual director who runs a center that includes several other spiritual directors. And it turns out we actually met each other years ago.

I spoke with her after the retreat and plan to meet with her after Christmas to see about the possibility that she or one of the other directors might be a good fit.

Heck, she even plays guitar!

As for the retreat day, it went well. I'm so lucky to teach at a Catholic school.

Pax et bonum

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

My latest fluff reading was a science fiction book I'd wanted to read for a long time, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick. As the book jacket proclaims, it's "The inspiration for Blade Runner" - one of my favorite science fiction movies, and the main reason I've wanted to read the book.

The operative work in that blurb is "inspiration." It clearly did inspire the movie, and many of the characters are the same in name, but there are major differences.

To be honest, I think the movie is far better than the book. It has a sharper focus and greater depth, eliminated or changed some of the elements in the novel that would have gotten in the way, developed the characters in more intriguing ways, and transformed the dystopian world into something more interesting.

The book is not bad - it just does not match up well with the movie.

There are also some moments that left me scratching my head. At one point, for example, the main character when confronting an android begins to say things that don't make sense. There are actions in the novel that seem to be leading toward something, but then don't; and there is one seemingly significant character in the novel who's introduced, then dropped. The quasi-religion (Mercerism) in the book doesn't work - Kurt Vonnegut's Bokononism is better! - and reads more like a dated fixation of the time in which the book was written (1960s). (The religious elements in the movie were sharper and more thought provoking.)

I thought the character development in the movie was far better - particularly with the main character, Deckard, and the two main androids, Rachael and Roy Batty. You cared about them in a way you don't in the novel. The climax of the movie packs a punch; by comparison, the novel ends with a whimper.

Again, as a piece of 45 year-old science fiction it's okay, but it's not great literature. And my love of the film may be distorting my view.

My suggestion is if you have to pick between the two, select the movie.

Pax et bonum