Author Archives: bensira587

Bishop Robert Barron, Popularity, Blog Stats, Father Elijah an Apocalypse

I have noticed that I have provided links to two of Bishop Robert Barron’s articles or videos in the last month or so. I have noticed that those links have not been used. Even when yesterday’s post would have been better understood with the requisite background. I believe that is because most people’s thought nowadays are “Priest? What the hell do they know?”

Hilariously, I have seen this said about love or relationships – what would a priest know about it? After I clean my pants from laughing too hard I would say – a lot than you would think.

Now, the “logical” thing for me to do, given modern ways of thinking, is to look at my stats and say, “hmm, this Barron guy isn’t very popular with my audience such as there may be (Hi Mom!), he will have to go.”

But, unless you are new here, I detest modern ways of thinking. So, I am going to bump up my links, weekly, of related topics Bishop Barron covers. I may even see if I can find an esoteric blogger of Christology.

Heh heh heh, my thinking may seem to not make sense, stand on your head and it will be clearer…

Sometime in the whirlwind that was early last year Mr. Wright at his blog was praising a book he was reading during Lent instead of what he was supposed to be reading for Lent. I have a strange memory where I will remember such a thing as such a post, what was said in it and the comments, and the book author and title.

So, last Thursday I was back at one of my old haunts Half-Priced books in Bellevue WA (East Side!) and came across the title sitting on top of the Hindu section under “religion.”

I am hoping it is a good read and not a Left Behind clone. Not that I’ve read the latter and not that I will – yuck. I think I have read every sort of genre out there except this one. And yes, I have read Westerns. Alright no Romance novels… But what man has?


Bishop Robert Barron and Chuck Jones

Bishop Robert Barron (and I am not sure why I am writing this as I suspect most everyone turn away once encountering the word ‘bishop’ – your loss – writers read the article, I will tie it up nicely to writing) had an excellent article a few weeks ago.

I’m sort of taking it somewhere else.

In it he is talking about the distantiation inherent in the social media age. The habitualized mental experience of basically experiencing reality “once-removed” as experiencing it self-consciously, through the lens of an expected audience – modulated by others. It is basically living the psychology of the class clown.

The article is based on another article written by a modern writer of the social media age who became a mother.

To quote from Barron’s article:

Most millenials never simply had experiences; they were conditioned to record, preserve, and present those experiences to a following who were invited to like what they saw, to comment on it, to respond to it. To be sure, she acknowledges, the social media, at their best, are powerful means of communication and connection, but at their worst, they produce this odd distantiation from life and a preoccupation with the self. Here is how Menkendick puts it: “I’ve come of age as a writer at a time when it is no longer enough just to write. A writer must also promote her work and in the process promote herself as a person of interest…I learned the snarky, casually intellectual voice of feminist and pop culture bloggers, the easy outrage, the clubby camaraderie.”

This, I believe, is why the next generation of writers are going to (to be blunt) suck. They play to an audience. This I think is bad. This is why you get luke-warm Star Wars sequels like The Force Awakens because the writer’s concern is other people’s experiences of the subject matter and not the subject matter itself. They are not immersed in the reality of the material, but in the reality of people’s perceptions.

They are going to suck (as a whole, not each individually) because their whole orientation is non-artistic. Now granted, a writer gets feedback, usually, while writing. But not from every Tom, Dick and Harry out there. A trusted spouse (writers usually come in pairs, or, the other is not a complete tube-zombie) an editor, a writer friend, etc. Not ‘ClenchedBeaver47’ that has ‘hearted’ a few of your FaceBook pics of your dog. Or some random stray anonymous person.

When I was a young teenager I wanted to do either cartooning or animation. I read the autobiography of Chuck Jones (Chuck Jones was the big Warner Brothers cartoon man, he did all the great ones – Rabbit of Seville, etc). The single one thing that stood out to me was the following. He was lamenting the new young writers that sometimes would start at the studios who always seemed obsessed with everyone else thought of their ideas.

I am paraphrasing him here (because it has been over thirty years since I have read the book): “I write for myself. I write what I think is funny. After I write I will see what others think of it, but not before.”

Now the article Barron is referencing is about a woman’s experience as a mother and the contrast to a life on the social media. But, I think the same principle holds true here.

The story is the baby. You must experience it first hand, viscerally. You must jump into the river of life, let it wash over you. You, your anxieties, self-consciousness – they don’t matter. How others will see it, how it will reflect on you (are you trending, baby?) all of that is preoccupation with the self and not reality – reality here being the story.

Because as unintuitive as it may sound (but actually sounds a truism) your story is not about you. It is no more about you than a court case is about the court stenographer who is dictating the proceedings.

I think this applies to almost everything. Say you are in a rock band (am I out dated, are there still rock bands?) you wouldn’t come up with a riff or chord progression, post it on Facebook and then ask, “does this sound too 80’s everybody?” Forget about it. Throw away your guitar and join me in the service industry. You are going to need a lot of alcohol… I’ll train you.


Sologamy

Writers will have to soon break their pens.

At least those that seek to write about our modern world. How can you beat what is real now? Even writers of the weird and fantastic are challenged to come up with stuff more fantastic than comes out of “reality” nowadays!

I may offer further comment on this phenomena later, although it hardly seems necessary!


Zagg Nugent and the Perils of the Multiverse

I was in the first flutters of sleep last night when this phrase ran through my head like an old movie film banner. As usually I told myself I would remember it in the morning. Somehow, this time, I did.


This is Fun

So I’m into the preparatory part of N.T. Wright’s The Resurrection of the Son of God. This isn’t a popular presentation but a scholarly one, so you have some thirty or forty pages of groundwork to go through: preliminaries, questions posed, general thesis, approach to objections, parts and chapters described, etc, etc.

But what fun! I know none of this stuff. Almost zero. I mean I have read the Gospels and Acts and pinches of other works (although my reading of the OT is still sparse – I mean come on, I couldn’t get through the leavened bread! what is the big deal about yeast!?). But how the Jews and pagans viewed resurrection in general? I don’t know.

In general, an atheist tends to not pay any attention to anything having to do with religion, or, spends time attacking it while still knowing nothing about it, or, knows something about it and attacks it, or knows about it and doesn’t attack it (that’s a rare specimen). I was the first. I never looked at any of it for the same reason I never sought out a biography on Santa Clause or the Easter Bunny.

It is like joining a murder mystery. But this one is two thousand years old, and, apparently, the victim got up and walked away three days after the event. Beat that Law and Order!


Yet Another Acquisition and Tommyknockers Knockin’ at my Door

This one I had to get because, at the time, it was the only available copy on the internet and I already had number two. You never know if the one on the internet is the first of forty to show up tomorrow or the only one that is going to show up for forty years. So I bit.

I have to put a temporary halt on book buying. I can no longer even pretend that I am keeping up. Hell, last Friday I decided to reread The Tommyknockers by Stephen King on a whim.

Not totally a whim. It is one of my favorites. For one it was the first book I read in my very first place on my own. No television. Just beer and piles of books. And that was when I could read for 6 hours at a spin. Now I have to start fighting a nap within a half hour. That may be because I wear x3 magnification and hold the thing up to my face.

No television, no internet, no computers. Ah, those were the days, brother, those were the days.

Another reason I like it is it is a good story. Stephen King said in an interview it was his least favorite book and he doesn’t remember a lot of the writing. It was at the height of his drinking and cocaine days. And there are places in the book where you think, “ah, man, this was an eight-ball night for him for sure.” By this time he was a lot like Lucas I would imagine – editors as yes-men.

King’s strongest story-telling has always centered around friendship and this one is no exception. That, and the man knows the throws of alcohol abuse – quite intimate on that he is.

Anyway, it is one of my favorite science fiction / horror stories. Those are two genres that haven’t always mixed well, or believably. This one is a gem in my book. Love it. And it’s fast too. There is no hidden symbolism in King’s work, no meta-anything – just straight forward storytelling, contemporary Americana, and some shots of terror.

Hey, I just started a book called The Resurrection of the Son of God – go look up the table of contents. I need some rest after some of my reading!


New Acquisition

I’ve become kind of fascinated with the resurrection subject. Seems the most in-depth book I could come across is NT Wright’s Resurrection of the Son of God (it’s a nice 740 pages in length as well!). Of course I should seek a case for the prosecution as well. Having a hard time pinning one of those down. And I have a hard time pinning down mature books on either side of the aisle. Seems all too frequent either one is written with the ease expected of an audience that is already on one side of the argument or the other.

Now a few years ago it would have been unthinkable for me to become interested in such a subject. But since I indulged in a philosophy for years from a woman who claimed to have come up with it in her first memory of herself…well, what’s a little resurrection?


The Case for Christ

I went to see a Christian movie! Does that sound unnatural to say as if it were something of a dare or something so unprecedented as to be worthy of declaration?

Well, it is a little of both really. With the exception of religious based classics of the 50’s and 60’s, most films since that time are ham-fisted embarrassments. I say that as when I was an atheist and I say it now (I should note I am as shitty at religion as I was at atheism – I am, however, a professional ass). I love the classic religious films, Charlton Heston classics Ben-Hur (not the remake!) The Ten Commandments (not the remake!) Quo Vadis (although the book was vastly superior) A Man For All Seasons and some others.

One of my favorites is Jesus of Nazareth from 1977, mostly because Robert Powell nailed it so perfectly. It was, as far as I can tell, the last of its kind. I contrast this film with the miniseries The Bible from 2013. Particularly bad was the New Testament parts where Eddie Vedder, I mean Jesus Christ (or was it the singer from Creed?) comes out of the boat with gleaming white teeth a happy smile for the kiddies ready to be everyone’s special little buddy. I call it the Delta Dental of Bethlehem Bible Special… Tinggg! To paraphrase Vin Diesel (from a trailer for what I’m sure was totally retarded XXX) “Tonight, I might be crucified, but at least I’ll look hot doing it!”

Anyway, The Case for Christ wasn’t intended to be any of those movies as it is based on a true story as told by Lee Strobel. It is basically his story of how he investigated the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ and how he became convinced of its truth. The interesting part of the story is what motivated him to begin the investigation.

SPOILERS!!!

Basically his wife, after a traumatic scare involving their young daughter, starts to turn to Christianity and faith. The couple were committed atheists. The husband rebels against this most strongly, vehemently. He is seeking a way to “save” his wife, and their marriage, from ruin. This may seem strange to some, but to some atheists leaving the fold can seem exactly like apostasy. And I’ve seen some people convert (or at least purport to convert) who turned into worse people than before they went in.

This was, to Strobel, the worst thing that could happen to their marriage so he seeks the advice of a colleague at the Tribune (he was a reporter) who was Christian how he should deal with this. The colleague, who is confident Strobel won’t win, tells him if wants to bring down Christianity it all rests on the Resurrection. As Paul said also, if that falls, the faith is in vain. Strobel takes this challenge head-on.

Without giving away the whole pie (and proceeding to do so anyway, as the spoiler sign was already posted) Strobel loses his challenge also suffering a deep personal tragedy along the way, and ends up coming to the faith as his wife did shortly before.

What was interesting, fascinating – to me anyway, was not so much Strobel’s investigation (although that was interesting as well, for instance, I had never heard of the “swoon theory” before this) but the conflict between the husband and wife. It was very well acted and didn’t even feel like it belonged on a smaller screen which sometimes these movies feel they need. That is probably because we’ve been led to expect giant boom booms! and nothing else for so long.

One aspect of this that is worthy of note is how easily this could have been any number of different films. It really pivoted on the actions and choices of the wife. He treated her change of heart as if she were being led down some dark alley of occultism. And that could have been a movie (it is probably several already) if this wasn’t based on a true story. If he were trying to save her from the cult of Jim Jones, the husband becomes a hero and all sympathy is with him. But, unless you are staunch atheist, the sympathy in the film is not with him, but her.

Because to someone who takes their atheism seriously (most of the one’s I have personally known – and probably myself included, but I just don’t know because I never even contemplated Strobel’s dilemma before my atheism wilted but, probably, most likely I’d be just such an ass – let’s say for now probably 70% likelihood of ass-ness) your wife or husband converting, even to a simple, local parish IS JONESTOWN! It is all the same, and you look upon it with all the incredulity as if your adult wife or husband were suddenly, and seriously, writing letters to Santa Clause.

What the fuck is wrong with you?! Have you completely lost your mind? Have you been a coward this whole time? So, you are just going to throw way your reason!? It’s a f***ing cult, are you blind!?

I know that reaction. I’ve reflexed that reaction (not on my wife, she’s still pure atheist) on people in the past even if I wasn’t too terribly aggressive. And I’ve seen milder versions of that reaction since I started carrying religious texts along with me the last couple years. One year at NORWESCON I took the Catechism of the Catholic Church with me for break time reading and a friend of mine seeing it said “yeew, yuck!” Without even knowing my reason for reading it nor, I’d bet, knowing a single word in the text.

To the committed atheist, no differences matter, it is all the same. Same, but all things are not equal. I’ve never heard a story of a wife or husband flipping out because one of them became Buddhist. So she lights up a little incense, stretches and chants twenty minutes every morning? It’s a little hokey but hey, I still eat Fruit Loops in the morning, so who’s to judge?

Got to get ready for work. Good film.


STAR WARS VIII THE LAST JEDI

With the last installment from the mind of no-imagination J.J. Abrams making me nostalgic for the Star Wars prequels, I have No Hope for this movie. Even though I will take myself to the theater to see it.

I am not even providing a link to the new trailer. I have no real interest in seeing Mary Sue do EVERYTHING. How one explains away all the ridiculous shit Abrams put in the last installment is beyond me. My bet is, judging from the trailer, the new director and screenwriter said, “screw it, she found Luke Skywalker, she’s on the planet, we’ll just trust the audience to gloss over any “technicalities.”

The “technicalities” here consist of some of the worst story writing ever put to film. Abrams likes (or he is grotesquely incompetent) to “reboot” franchises by breaking all the rules already established by the franchise. That, however, you cannot do. You can do everything else, but the rules of the invented world are what constitute it’s verisimilitude. If Jason (Friday the 13th) can take a hatchet through his skull and still come after you, a bullet in the gut is not allowed to take him out. You, dear viewer, may balk at the unreality of his surviving the hatchet to the skull in the first place, but if you accept it then a rule has been set – nothing less than that can stop him.

The character of the girl in Abram’s Star Wars (unlike the George Lucas movies, including the prequels, I can’t remember the names of Abrams characters) acquires a complete set of Jedi skills in that film – with no knowledge, no training, without even a knowledge of a thing such as the Force. The rule is – only a long process of merciless training from a master will give you the skill to go fighting with a lightsaber against a baddie (or JJ Abrams spoiled teenager stand it.. Kylo – what a douchebag emo name). That was established in The Empire Strikes Back.

Abrams shouldn’t be allowed out of a movie set concession stand. How anyone let this guy behind a camera is beyond me. If the new director or screenwriter can fart his way out the galactic sized plot holes from the previous movie, I will consider him a writing wizard.


This Catechism is Tough!

A few months ago I restarted my online catechism class after a two year break for school.

These Catholics are real ballbusters! One subject, out of seventy-nine subjects (I think it was the Transfiguration lesson) had seventy-four pages of online reading material. This consisted of sermons from Church fathers such as St. Augustine, sometimes a modern homily around the subject, biblical passages, material from the Catechism of the Catholic Church and its Compendium, The Baltimore Catechism (which I think had to have been for children). And then, usually to top it off, questions from Aquinas’ Summa. And that last ain’t easy reading. And then, for at least the Gospels and Life of Christ module, two chapter’s from Bishop Fulton Sheen’s The Life of Christ.

This last is usually a pleasure for the man wrote as he spoke, which is to say, superbly.

But, moly, you’d be almost an expert after all of this, no? How is any Catholic ignorant after going through all of this?