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Saturday, January 31, 2004

Mel Gibson: Devout Catholic?

It is somewhat disturbing to see Mel Gibson called a "devout Catholic." He definitely has strong religious views and dropping millions on a parish edifice does not indicate a lukewarm faith, so he is devout. The problem is that he does not accept the teaching authority of the Magisterium over the last 40 years. He is not in communion with the Roman Catholic Church, and likes it that way.

These distinctions aside, I am not optimistic that the media and critics will note the distinction, particularly if the baleful events feared by the Anti-Defamation League come to pass.

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Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Mel Gibson's Movie: The Passion of Jesus Christ

A surprise: the movie was rated R, not NC-17. Considering that the movie promised a realistic depiction of the violence of a Roman crucifixion...

Of course, the reason Mel Gibson's Passion has more buzz than, say, Russell Crowe's band 30 Odd Foot of Grunts is the ADL's statement last year which expressed concern that the version of the script that they saw last year was anti-Semitic. The Anti-Defamation League and the US Catholic Conference of Bishops convened a Catholic-Jewish panel in which all participants expressed anti-Semitic elements in the early version of the script. As the ADL notes, the script reviewed was a working script, and they stated so. More recently, they said they respected Pope John Paul II's reported praise of the movie and would wait until it was actually released. To confound matters more fully, the most objectionable material was that incorporated from the writings of a 19th-century mystic nun; some or all of that has since been excised.

Not having seen the movie, I can't say whether it is anti-Semitic or not. The New Testament states again and again that Jesus died for our sins. Myself, I think that the priests who voted for death in the Sanhedrin and the Roman authorities share legal culpability, while I share in the real culpability. And I wouldn't care if the Jews did kill Jesus Christ -- if He had to be slain for our sins, somebody had to kill Him. Those who do care are urgently advised to consider their own culpabilities in such matters: every human alive would have blood on their hands if their ancestors' crimes, which go back to the Cro-Magnon driving off the Neanderthals, were counted against them.

The ADL also expresses concern that anti-Semitic activity will increase after the showing, and in that I would have to agree. I wanted to joke about anti-Semites being inspired by the weather, but Radio Marija in Poland took calls from people who believed that a spell of unusually hot weather was caused by the Jews. In this country of 280 million, some people will decide to avenge Jesus Christ, a sublimely ridiculous concept if you believe that He rose again (like most Christians) or that he never really died (as the Qu'ran states). We'll probably see the streets of places like Ramallah, Amman and Beirut explode in demonstrations. Hopefully the police will show extra vigilance around synagogues in late February and early March.

Unfortunately for the ADL, there is no such thing as bad publicity in the promotion of an American movie. Cedric the Entertainer's Barbershop and Martin Scorsese's The Last Temptation of Christ were vaulted from obscurity to the top of the charts when people decried them as bigoted and insensitive. Thanks to the ADL, instead of becoming a sacrifice of $25 million to Mel Gibson's conscience, Passion will be seen by millions.


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Friday, January 02, 2004

Software review: Temple of Elemental Evil

The Temple of Elemental Evil is Atari's latest release based on the Dungeon and Dragons role-playing game, which is now on Version 3.5. Like the Baldur's Gates series, Icewind Dale and Neverwinter Nights, characters hack their way through dungeons, interact with non-player characters, rest up, then repeat and repeat and repeat. Unlike the Bioware programs mentioned here, there is no camera control whatsoever. The graphics are prettier (or nastier), but too often the action takes place behind an inconveniently-placed brick wall. A round of combat takes much longer than in the default Bioware settings, which lengthens the combats. Characters got more precise control of their actions. The stores are ill-stocked; you get your arrows and bolts from your enemies and brew your own potions.

You may have five player-characters and three followers in your party whom you recruit from the taverns and shops of Hommlet and Nulb. Hommlet and Nulb offer many side quests and, as in real life, things go wrong.

The version in stores was not quite ready for release; a patch is practically required. Also, the latest version of graphics drivers for your system is recommended, lest the game crash after you form your party.

A good start to 2004

Today was a Holy Day of Obligation. One little problem: it appears that priests and lay ministers enjoy the Sunday games and Rose Parade as much as anybody else. For that reason, it's hard to find a Mass in town started at 9:00 a.m. (Most parishes celebrate evening Mass on other Holy Days of Obligation.)

Enter Our Lady of Grace Parish in Highland, IN. They were the only church we found with a post-9:00 Mass. This is standard practice for them, since on most Sundays they have a 5:00 pm Mass that brings lots of out-of-towners in. Unfortunately the lastest Mass started at 11:00 and we found out at 10:42.

The Sunday and Holy Day Obligation is met if you arrive in time for the gospel. The first notes of the pre-Gospel Alleluia sounded as we entered the Church -- our trip had not been in vain.

It seems silly to discuss the niceties of coming in late to Mass. For example, does one incur a worse sin by breaking the rules of the road so as to arrive at the start of the Gospel rather than thirty seconds into it? How many theologians can dance on the head of a pin?

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Thursday, January 01, 2004

Happy New Year! Finally!

Right now, all I can say is thank God that it's over. It started with my layoff on January 15 and ended with the death of my Uncle Guy on December 31. I just deleted a "My Rotten Year: By The Numbers" post; there will be plenty of time for looking back at the funeral next week.

Oh, by the way, try not to get hurt, sick or old in Northwest Indiana. Spend the extra three bucks to take the Chicago Skyway and the Indiana Toll Road in Lake County, because they're less crowded and you have less chance of getting hit and sent to the local hospital. If you must grow old here, avoid the nursing homes that smell like Petsmart. And if it looks like a floor-cleaning machine, it probably is a floor-cleaning machine and not a respirator, even if the nurses say it is.

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