July 28, 2010

Another last word on Lebron.

When I was up at Madonna House in the late 70's, Elvis had just died of his OD, and one of the guests made some young remark about the spiritual truths beneath his demise. A staff member, though, I remember, responded by saying you just never know. How many of us have to deal with what he had to deal with?

And so it is with Lebron. I've just finished the pulled ESPN article about his Las Vegas party. What a nightmare, all of it disguised as the man with everything. Here's this overgrown adolescent (if that), living in a imaginary world that may well kill him, if it hasn't already. Who could deal with that? What chance does he have?

God have mercy on all of us! Let's pray for each other.

July 24, 2010

A last word on LeBron.

Cleveland's psyche has been the subject of much speculation on the net lately, so as a native, I want to defend. I think what really bugs most people is the bubble jocks can live under. "I've got to stay humble" they say; as if one can put that cloak on and be right on a spiritual level. But the spirit is inside. And who ever has enough to say "stay"? You can see why "it's harder for a rich man to ge through the eye of a needle." Money and fame can isolate, insulate one--though so can the intellect, any gift.

No one can know James' soul. We've all got enough to worry about with our own. But other people do matter. How else will we be measured?

God bless them all. I know for myself I take pro sports way too seriously some times. We the fans have given them the power, raised them up. And in the end we don't matter. "It's a business," they always say.

The sordidness makes one happy for the NCAA, who actually has a committee which tries to keep people in line. So does God, of course. We can all wear LeBron masks as we wait in line!

July 21, 2010

Our Down's guy Jude gets in a groove and likes it, stays there. So he's always, at intervals bringing home LOR extended videos from the library--THE RETURN OF THE KING this time. In the past, I've recommended them to students as they go into great detail when it comes to production, just what it takes to do these things. Great stuff for young writers to see. Good work involves lots of it!

And it's such a blessing for me too. So many extraordinarily talented people in the world! It's amazing. So as much as I occasionally recoil from Peter Jackson's penchant for anvils when something lighter might've worked better, man is the guy gifted, and they all are. The sound guys really love and are great at sounds, Howard Shore; all of them. It's a shame Hollywood so often has to ruin all that talent with airheaded polemics.

Linda and I were watching ADAPTATION with Meryl Steep in it the other day. She's so good, but boy, who's been in more bad political movies? It makes me appreciate poets like Berrigan and Merton: Catholic and excellent, the truth in all its humanity.

What's it going to be when all the new Catholic voices hit the fan? Voices not longer concerned with making Jesus and imitation of themselves, with turning Him into a liberal (or conservative) poet. May we live to see a greater turning of that tide.

Come Lord Jesus. Infect us with humility! Let its dark (and happy) flower grow!

July 20, 2010

Over the last few years I've had to endure my kids listening to some concertedly nasty reviewing of the STAR WARS, especially on the pre-quels. And as anyone knows who's seen them, they are real bad. But just this last weekend we took out the older trilogy. (I wanted to hear them make fun of them: summer weirdness or something.) Silly me. I was the loudest, and we only got part way through the first one. The guy who plays Luke is @ 22 or so by the look of him, but his dialogue makes him sound 12. Really bad stuff. And if you add the fact that neither he nor Carrie Fischer can act a lick. Geeze. The thing is poorly written, the dialogue, stilted.

But Bunks, you might say, this is landmark material.

Like AVATAR, the only thing it really has going for it is the world-making, the cool machines and stuff. But what complete crap. The popular culture has to eventually collapse under its own paper mache weight. Hollywood types are always standing tall for Lucas. (Who can watch the Oscars, really!)

The whole thing reminds me of a list my son got from his film making class in college. The American Film Society, or someone like that, listing their 100 most important (or was it best) movies.

The directors there must be monkeys.

But then I think of the Pulitzer committee for poetry. Before the war was bad enough. Robinson won three times. (He's from Harvard, you know, so he must be good.) Eliot didn't win for THE WASTE LAND, Stevens had to have stomach cancer, Williams had to be dead. It's hard to tell after the war because who knows if we've had any (or much) lasting poetry. Writing programs and the content police have in all probability killed originality.

Let's solve the problem! (We'll make a list of the good ones.)

But enough of that direction. I picked up Daniel Berrigan's RISEN BREAD selected poems recently, and have loved what I've read so far. Fine imagination, language play, thoroughly Catholic. Yea! I also picked up Pope Benedict's first book on Jesus, and have been so soothed. The modesty, intellect, scholarly insight and writerly skill (though it's a translation, I'm sure) make it a wonderful read. It makes me glad that the church is in such hands.

Praise God! Which reminds me, I picked up that Rossini video (I might have the name wrong), the one based on the FIORETTI, done in the 50s, black and white. Great stuff. The FIORETTI still inspire. It would be nice to have that kind of humility.

Well, Linda's in the background finishing up her cello practice. Almost time for my banjo!
Just one more note on the priest thing. This good cleric told me in Confession one day that his own father would not attend his ordination in Africa. And now I learn that this family with whom he was staying in Virgina was in fact his real family. (I had just assumed it was an "adopted" one since he was from so far away.) And the little girl in question is his niece.

We've just crossed over into THE TWILIGHT ZONE. Has the other son carried on the wishes of the father--as so many sons do? Is this a heroic thing or just another abuse scandal? I wish I could be on hand at the trial.

But who knows?

As most male friends would do in these circumstances, I think of my own sins. Like the majority of us, the phrase that comes to mind is "too many."

On the other hand I think that if God could give me a life, as he has, a family and what passes for a career, he can certainly make me into something good, a saint even, as well.

The thought of paying what the good priest may be paying is enough to make one shudder, though, no?

July 17, 2010

Our parish is still in shock. An amazing Kenyan priest has been charged with a child sex crime in Va. while on vacation there; everyone is disturbed. No one knows what to make of it. We've had said priest over a few times for dinner, and I really liked going to him in Confession. Very insightful. A gentle Ph.D. in philosophy. So I'm anxious for the whole thing to shake down. A neighbor couple told Linda they think it might be a set-up, though of course no one knows?* The local paper and the people from SNAP--one crusader was kind enough to come in from Missouri (another few from the "eparchy" of Steubenville) to paint the priest in the most pernicious terms possible--both have jumped on the AP band-wagon: the diocese was too slow, potentially allowing for strong-arm tactics or (and this is the one that really gets me) for time so the guy can skip the country. Yeah, I can just imagine the priest in jail, chewing on his cigar, making his contacts with Guido, the bishop too. These people are asses, all in the name of justice. And if the guy ends up being innocent, we can expect an equally pointed attempt to secure justice and broadcast that, right? They will do a front page story on that too, no? SNAP will throw a party.

If the guy's guilty, he needs to pay. There's no argument there. But the word is "alleged," people. You can spell it, say it. Meanwhile the guy sits in jail for a month, having to bear this on every level. If you have a moment pray for him, the child and for her family.

*Sounds far-fetched, I know. But I also know that a prof from our Theology Department was once perhaps saved by a secretary who found a nude woman in his office!

July 9, 2010

Since it's LeBron day, and since I'm a Clevelander at heart, we got to say something. I don't feel much one way or the other about it really. It's good to see an Afro-American have such power, sway, money. (It's a little late for Andrew Jackson's Cherokee Appalachian nation in 1838, but we'll take what we can get.) And if there's a sin here on his part, it seems almost childlike. These professional athletes never get the fan part of the equation. I think of Cliff Lee's comment that Cleveland baseball loses players because the locals don't buy enough tickets. Completely clueless, but in a stupid and forgivable way. Bread or tickets, the heating bill or tickets. A tough choice.

Pro sports/ESPN, and they really seem to be the same thing, are the world in the Biblical sense. Aquisitiveness gone mad as the seed for it. The Cavs will stink. So what, really. Miami and LA can vie for glitziness until both are washed into the sea.

But we each have sins enough. Dear old Cleveland, you will have my heart right down to the empty blast furnaces, to d. a. levy and the vast steel gray lake on a winter Browns afternoon. Give me the orchestra, the theater, Mark Stieve's book store. Give me old friends and classmates, decimated public golf courses after an outing; give me the parks, the memories. Pro sports is something we do to celebrate the rest. Beer will do just as well.

July 4, 2010

I was just looking at a new Christian poetry journal, and while I like the list of impressive poets, I wonder still. Why do we just assume that the way we see the world is a given: that's the way it is? Clearly, this is not so. How did St. Francis, Brothers Ruffino, Masseo, Bernard, Juniper, and Leo see the world is the better question? Our poetry should reach for that gift. What we've gotten since the Reformation has been a movement toward enlightenment stuff: Shakespeare was right! He WAS brilliant, of course, the best, but was he right? He had a great heart for suffering, humanity, issues, but was he spot on about the human condition? For one, I'd give just about anything to walk two miles with St. Francis, to somehow change my life's vision for the saint's. That's what it's about. Frankly, I'm getting a little tired of either hearing slightly bored Christian poets lecture us about the horizontal dimension in their poems when they have so little of the vertical going on, or of them doing the same old metapoetical tapdance, or of them delivering the same Holy Spirit Protestant elevated "saved" stuff (fifteen years on). The first two are beyond mundane. They're boring. And the third, though blessed, ends up being just more of the same old bidness.

Jesus, change us so we see the world as we ought to, if you can change us that much?

The danger here is, of course, sounding falsely pious (or rah, rahing it like Chesterton). How can a poet sound like what he doesn't have access to? Pray, pray, pray. It must be possible. May we all be part of a new poetry.