Saturday, April 16, 2016

NOW SHOWING AT A BLOG NEAR YOU

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In case it wasn’t painfully obvious, the non-Internet world has been keeping me busy as of late. I’ve managed a couple of posts a week here, as well as a review or two at Aleteia (Batman v Superman & The Jungle Book), but mostly my time has been spent just been making sure my household stays fed.

But just because I’m tied up doesn’t mean everyone else is. In fact, our old pal D.G.D. Davidson, onetime proprietor of Sci-Fi Catholic, has recently started up a new project entitled deus ex magical girl. The site is devoted to all things anime, especially those that involve super-powered school girls kicking evil’s butt, a genre more popular than you might think.

Speaking of super-powers, Catholic Geeks’ Matthew Bowman has some thoughts on Superheroes, Vigilantism, and Morality wherein he reaches the Church-approved conclusion “that bad is always bad, no matter who does it.”

That’s a philosophy that works in virtual worlds just as well as it does in the real one, at least according to Catholic Skywalker. Over at Gaming With Faith, he ruminates on the classic Knights of the Old Republic video game and praises its intriguing morality system which affects the outcome of the game based on the moral choices made by players.

Alas, not all of the arts take such weighty moral matters into consideration, or so says Fr. Dwight Longenecker. At the Imaginative Conservative, the good father finds some connections between The Middle Ages and The Movie Age, proposing some similarities in the two time periods, but also noting some massive differences, especially where meaningful spiritual subject matter is concerned.

Oh well, at least some films still seem to take religious themes seriously, though perhaps not in the way you might necessarily want them to. Vox recently published an article about the recent horror film The Witch in which they quote Detroit’s Satanic Temple spokesperson Jex Blackmore (yes, it’s a psuedonym), who endorses the movie because “it's a film about what happens when you realize the Christian patriarchy has some serious problems.” Oddly enough, the Catholic Cinephile sort of agrees, suggesting that everyone should see The Witch as it’s “a powerful work of art about faith gone badly wrong and the horrific consequences thereof.” Hey, it looks like atheists and Christians can find common ground after all.

And in other news you thought you would never hear, apparently unicorns are real too.

Have fun reading, we’ll see next time.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

THE TWILIGHT BINGE #013: THE FOUR OF US ARE DYING

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S01E13 – The Four Of Us Are Dying

“Arch Hammer is a penny-ante con man with a unique talent—he can change his face to look exactly like men he's seen in photographs. Using this skill, he impersonates a dead trumpet player in order to seduce the man's girlfriend, then duplicates a murdered hood to extort money from the gangster who had him killed. Later, to elude some pursuers, he imitates the face of a boxer from a weathered fight poster. But Hammer hasn't counted on the fact that wearing other people's faces can lead to walking in their shoes…”

You have to hand it to Rod Serling, when he wanted to make sure you knew a character was a no good louse, he didn’t mince words. Take his introduction for Arch Hammer at the beginning of The Four Of Us Are Dying for example. “This is a cheap man,” Serling intoned in his familiar baritone, “a nickel and dime man, with a cheapness that goes past the suit and the shirt; a cheapness of mind, a cheapness of taste, a tawdry little shine on the seat of his conscience, and a dark-room squint at a world whose sunlight has never gotten through to him.” No ambiguity there, huh?

No misdirection either. Arch Hammer is about as slimy a character as they come. With his ability to take on the appearance (and apparently the voice and mannerisms as well) of any person he sees, you would think he could have had a lucrative career as a spy or an actor. Instead, he just uses his gift to run petty cons, taking advantage not only of other criminals like the mob boss Penell, but of innocents like the lovesick Maggie. Unfortunately for Hammer, he’s in the Twilight Zone, so justice eventually catches up to him in the most ironic way possible; the man with the ability to take on the appearance of anyone he desires dies because he loses focus and can’t remember his own true self.

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Truth be told, you don’t necessarily have to be a shape shifter to face such a dilemma. As Bishop Robert Barron explains, “Any number of Catholic mystics and spiritual masters over the centuries have spoken of the ‘false self,’ with its tendencies toward attachment, violence, and pride. And they have urged… the discovery of the true self, grounded in love, connection to others, and the transcendence of egotistic preoccupations.” Now, as Peter Kreeft once explained, we can’t really know our full ‘true self’ until we go to live in the presence of God…

“All my life I search for this unique, individual self—my true self—and yet I never fully find it. Only God knows it fully, for he designed it. And only God can give it to me because he created it and is creating it right now, sculpting it with all the tools of heredity and environment that make up my life. None of us knows who we really are once we stop fooling ourselves. That knowledge and that destiny await us in our home. Our home is in heaven because our true identity as individuals is waiting for us there. The character's identity is found in the author's mind and nowhere else.”

Still, it’s not a futile effort to search for our true self in the here and now. As the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church suggests, a bit of contemplation on the Holy Trinity can put us on the true path of self discovery…

“In the communion of love that is God, and in which the Three Divine Persons mutually love one another and are the One God, the human person is called to discover the origin and goal of his existence and of history. The Council Fathers, in the Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes, teach that the Lord Jesus Christ, when praying to the Father that ‘they may all be one ... as we are one’ (Jn 17:21-22), has opened up new horizons closed to human reason by implying that there is a certain parallel between the union existing among the divine Persons and the union of the children of God in truth and love. It follows, then, that if man is the only creature on earth that God has willed for its own sake, man can fully discover his true self only in a sincere giving of himself (cf. Lk 17:33)”

So, if self giving is the key to discovering our true face, it’s no wonder Arch Hammer was doomed. He was constantly putting on false selves for personal gain and never once gave an ounce of himself to anyone. Losing his true self forever was only a matter of time.

Twilight Tidbits: Serling’s screenplay for The Four Of Us Are Dying was based loosely on an unpublished short story by George Clayton Johnson, who would not only go on to become a regular contributor to The Twilight Zone, but also for a little show called Star Trek, beginning with its premiere episode, The Man Trap.

Sunday, April 03, 2016

OUTTAKES #057

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CUTAWAYS: FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF

Please tell me I’m not the only goofball out there who hears today’s reading about “Doubting Thomas” and immediately thinks of this…

Oddly enough, it’s actually a pretty good thing Thomas had his little bout with doubt. As St. Gregory The Great noted…

“It was not by chance but in God’s providence. In a marvelous way God’s mercy arranged that the disbelieving disciple, in touching the wounds of his master’s body, should heal our wounds of disbelief. The disbelief of Thomas has done more for our faith than the faith of the other disciples. As he touches Christ and is won over to belief, every doubt is cast aside and our faith is strengthened. So the disciple who doubted, then felt Christ’s wounds, becomes a witness to the reality of the resurrection… What follows is reason for great joy: Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed. There is here a particular reference to ourselves; we hold in our hearts one we have not seen in the flesh. We are included in these words, but only if we follow up our faith with good works. The true believer practices what he believes.”

Well, okay, there is that last part. Saying we believe is one thing; living like we believe is another. Always a catch, isn’t there?