Saturday, August 29, 2015


Our Lady of the Driveway

O Mary of the Driveway,
Broken like your city,
Your head lies on the ground.
A sorry sight, a sign,
A sign of devastation
Wrought by wind and water,
Angry blow and raging flow.

A passer-by, one of tender heart,
Sees and stops and mourns your head
Lying there apart,
And gently, gently takes it
And replaces it.
There. Our Lady's whole again.
Or so it seems. Or is it so?

June Butler - 5-13-07
The anniversary of Katrina and the federal flood has been celebrated(!) for a month now in the local media, and I had to stop reading and watching.  Maybe the straw that broke the camel's back was the announcement that George W Bush would be in New Orleans, or maybe even before.  Since I'm pretty well played out on the subject, I dug out something from the past.

Thanks to Athenae at First Draft for the photo and the title. She took the picture when she was in New Orleans at the end of March, when a group of us led by FD bloggers, Athenae and Scout Prime, gathered in New Orleans in 2007 to gut a house that had flooded, view the destruction, and squeeze in a little fun.

The statue of the Virgin Mary stood in a driveway with the head broken off, and a kind person put the head back in place. The photo and the title struck me with such force when I first saw it that I have never forgotten. The image of the statue of Mary in the driveway - "Mary, full of grace" as Athenae calls her - was the symbol of my destroyed and broken home town, my abandoned city, my beloved New Orleans - always full of grace to me.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015


Anyone out there seen the Swedish film Force Majeure, directed by Ruben Östlund? Did I order the movie from Netflix because of a recommendation from a friend, or a review that praised the film? It is a puzzlement. Apparently, I ordered it some time ago, and, when it arrived, and even after watching, I wondered why I put it in my queue. Anyway, I thought it intriguing, though rather strange, and overly long. The movie included very funny moments, and I suppose it could be characterized as black comedy. Live and learn, and, in the end, I'm not sorry to have seen it.

In the film, a Swedish family, which includes the father, Tomas, the mother, Ebba, and two children, Vera and Harry, is on a ski holiday in the French Alps. The performances of the main actors, Tomas (Johannes Bah Kuhnke) and Ebba (Lisa Loven Kongsli) are not of the highest quality - the father's especially, I thought quite weak. The child actors, Clara Wettergren and Vincent Wettergren, are very good in their roles.  The family meets up with an old friend of Tomas, Mats (Kristofer Hivju), of the startlingly wild red beard, and his 20 year old girlfriend, Fanni (Fanni Metelius), whose performances outshine those of the parents.

The film created a buzz at Cannes and is rated highly in reviews by critics at Rotten Tomatoes, but less so by the audience reviews. Shades of Ingmar Bergman, but surely not in his class of genius.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015


Rienzi Manor subdivision - $80,000

Corner lot - Irregular shape

Front semi-circle - 62 ft
South line - 115 ft
West line - 115 ft
North line - 154 ft
East line - 154 ft

For further information, call agent at (985) 665-9371.

Sunday, August 23, 2015


Ringo was with us at St John's Episcopal Church this morning. Oh, and Fr Ron was there, too. Ron preached on faith as a journey, which may be a cliché, but is nonetheless true. The Israelites journeyed away from Egypt once they were set free, and then journeyed until they reached the Promised Land. Those who settled outside Jerusalem journeyed on pilgrimages to the temple in the Holy City. Jesus wandered from place to place teaching and healing, and he went to the temple in Jerusalem on the feast days. And later Paul and the other disciples of Jesus journeyed spreading the faith. So it is for us. When we come to faith, it's not, "Jesus, come into my heart," and I'm saved, and it's done. Jesus asks us to follow him, and sometimes it seems there is little rest in this life, because we never truly arrive at the end of the journey.

A close-up of Ringo
As usual, even during the best of sermons, and Ron's was indeed very good, my mind wonders, sometimes even in good ways. In the Eucharistic service in the Episcopal Church, the priest moves around a lot, especially in the beginning, and when Ron moved, Ringo followed, and, at times, say during the lessons and the Eucharistic prayers, he had time to catch a few winks, because Ron stayed put for a while. But, all too soon, Ringo's human was moving again. I read Ringo's thoughts, and if I could make a large speech bubble, this is what Ringo's would say. "This moving around is all well and good, but I wish he'd settle down, so I could have a long nap." And so we are as Christians; we think like Ringo, "Are we there yet? May we have a rest?" And God says, "All right then, a short one, but then we must move along again."

There you have it: Ringo as metaphor for the faith journey.

Monday, August 17, 2015


Gosford Park, written by Julian Fellowes, is MASH, written by Ring Lardner, Jr, filmed all these years apart, with both movies having the unmistakable stamp of Robert Altman's genius.  The major difference is that MASH is an anti-war movie, set in Korea, and Gosford Park is an Agatha Christie type murder mystery, set in the claustrophobic atmosphere of a shooting weekend in an English country house.  Otherwise, the two are just the same.  Of course not, but, as I watched the film, MASH came to mind more than once.

Bob Balaban, actor, director, and producer, convinced Altman to collaborate with him on the film and suggested Julian Fellowes to write the script.  The movie is perhaps more Downton Abbey than Agatha Christie, but the result is brilliant.  The two, with the assistance of casting director Mary Selway, gathered a splendid ensemble cast, in which major British actors sometimes play relatively minor roles.  The actors include Eileen Atkins, Alan Bates, Charles Dance, Laurence Fox, Stephen Fry, Michael Gambon, Richard E. Grant, Tom Hollander, Derek Jacobi, Helen Mirren, Jeremy Northam, Clive Owen, Maggie Smith, Kristin Scott Thomas, Emily Watson, and Balaban himself.  Phew!  Balaban is the sole character from the States, and, like the rest of us Yanks, he makes the usual hash of his visit to England.

Altman encourages cast members to improvise, sometimes to excellent and witty effect, and Gosford Park includes the same rapid fire crosstalk I remember from MASH and Nashville, another great Altman film. Even as the movie addresses serious social issues of class, money, sex, gender and sexual orientation, it does so with humor and without heavy-handed preachiness. 

I'd seen the movie in the theater when it was first released, and, because of the crosstalk, I knew I'd missed quite a bit of the dialogue.  Also, the cast of characters is quite large, and thus it's a challenge to keep track of who's who and the relationships, so I was pleased with the opportunity to see the film again on Netflix DVD.  Before I sent it back, I watched a third time and realized I'd still missed a lot the first and second times around.  Since I enjoy the film so much, I decided to buy the DVD.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015


Friends in England sent me Follies Past, a prequel to Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice.  Since I'm always wary of sequels and prequels and all manner of imitations of Austen's books, I was surprised that I enjoyed reading the novel far more than I expected. The author, Melanie Kerr, spins a good yarn, and she portrays characters so well known to me from my many readings of Pride and Prejudice with consistency and smoothness so as to be recognizable without undue dissonance.  Characters who are lesser known or never named in the earlier novel become the major focus of the story in Follies Past.  To her credit, Kerr's effort surpasses that of the mighty P D James in her sequel, Death Comes to Pemberley

My favorite character, Elizabeth Bennet, does not appear at all in the prequel, but Darcy is present, and the reader comes to know more of his sister, Georgiana, who remains in the shadows
in P&P.  Of course, the author does not write like Jane Austen, but no one writes like JA, and Kerr's effort is good enough.  I thank my friends for sending me the book.

Saturday, August 8, 2015


The report in the Washington Post on Hilary Clinton's private email account, which she used when she was Secretary of State, seems to me a long story with little substance. What Clinton is supposed to have done wrong remains a mystery to me after having read a number of articles about the FBI investigation. The article includes the throwaway line:
The referral did not accuse Clinton of any wrongdoing, and the two officials said Tuesday that the FBI is not targeting her.
The FBI, investigates this, and the FBI investigates that, but no officials at the FBI are named, and a further quote in the article states in another throwaway line:
A lawyer for the Denver company, Platte River Networks, declined to comment, as did multiple Justice Department officials. (My emphasis) 
The information from the FBI seems to be leaks from sources who insist on anonymity, which, of course, does not mean that the information is untrue, but a close reading of the article provides no further clue about the specifics of what Clinton is supposed to have done wrong, except that she used a private email account while she was Secretary of State. Note: Colin Powell used a private email account while he was Secretary of State.

Which makes me wonder why the WP concludes that the private account is:
...a setup that has emerged as a major issue in her campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination.
What am I missing? The "major issue" looks very much like Whitewater, a scheme in which the Clintons lost money, but which triggered a major investigation by Ken Starr, costing $50 million that concluded that there was "insufficient evidence" of wrongdoing by the Clintons. Try as I might, I never understood Whitewater, and, thus far, I don't understand why the private email system is a "major issue", except that Republicans and the vast media conspiracy against the Clintons wish to make it so.

The article in the WP had nothing in the way of evidence of wrongdoing by Hilary Clinton, but the implication was there. The story follows on the heels of the New York Times story linking Clinton to a "criminal investigation", which was filled with inaccuracies, and which the NYT took its sweet time to correct until cries of outrage became impossible to ignore.

Also in the Washington Post, Dana Milbank opines on Clinton's private email system.
Clinton, lacking a sparring partner other than the socialist Bernie Sanders, has reverted to her instincts for secrecy and a distrust of the media that borders on paranoia. And the media, in the absence of the back-and-forth of a competitive primary, have taken on the role of opposition. Clinton’s insularity and the media’s prosecutorial zeal feed each other — as they have for nearly a quarter-century.

“It feels sometimes like the primary is Hillary against the media,” a top Clinton aide told me Tuesday, one of several in Clinton’s orbit who said the candidate would be better off with a viable primary opponent.
Whoa!  If a top Clinton aide, who remains anonymous, dismisses Bernie Sanders, then the Clinton campaign needs to rethink its strategy.  Does the fact that Sanders is a socialist make him the equivalent of a potted plant, with the result that Clinton has no sparring partner?  He's striking the right chord with a number of people, and, were I in charge of the Clinton campaign, I'd take Sanders more seriously.  In truth, I think the campaign leadership is somewhat alarmed by Sanders' candidacy, but they see attacking him head on as a strategy likely to do more harm than good and choose rather to pretend he's not a real challenge.  On the other hand, according to Milbank, if Joe Biden entered the race, he'd be a serious contender, and Clinton would be forced to pay attention, but Biden won't, thus it's Clinton against the media.  Make what you will of this logic, and count me dubious about the Clinton campaign's longing for "a viable  primary opponent".

Rather than label Hilary Clinton paranoid about the media, I'd call her realistic.  Even supposedly left-wing media sources have failed miserably in their reporting and writing about the "scandals" of Bill and Hilary Clinton for years.  Yes, there was a major scandal in the Monica Lewinsky affair, for which Bill Clinton was duly impeached, and which was widely reported and commented upon by the media.  But there were a number of trumped up scandals besides Whitewater, such as the suggestion that Hilary Clinton murdered or had Vince Foster murdered and covered up the murder with the suicide story, which, in itself is enough to make a person wary of the press. 

Why continue to bang the drums about Benghazi and the private email account?  I don't understand, unless the press wants to keep the stories alive, just in case there is a real story which has not yet surfaced.  Why not investigate further and report on a real story, if there is a story to report?
Do you see a trend here? Rather than have to walk back their email story, the writers of the article in the WP chose obfuscation by many words to make their points.  Milbank's column does pretty much the same, by dissing Bernie Sanders, pumping up Joe Biden, and taking at face value the words of an anonymous source in the Clinton campaign to arrive at the conclusion that Clinton is paranoid about the media.  And blah, blah, blah....  The article and the opinion column in the WP are both classic examples of the kind of bullshit Jon Stewart warns about in his final, splendid monologue on The Daily Show.

UPDATE: More from the AP. 
The two emails on Hillary Rodham Clinton's private server that an auditor deemed "top secret" include a discussion of a news article detailing a U.S. drone operation and a separate conversation that could point back to highly classified material in an improper manner or merely reflect information collected independently, U.S. officials who have reviewed the correspondence told The Associated Press. (My emphasis)
Bullshit again. The only persons named in the article are Inspector General Charles McCullough and Sen. Charles Grassley (whose commentary about Clinton should always be suspect), and their quoted words are quite brief and without context. Note the could in the paragraph above.  The other sources are anonymous "officials", "an auditor", and "the intelligence community"? Who in the intelligence community is leaking information and why? There is no there there, so far as I can see, and reporters should wait until they have real information to impart before they submit articles for publication, and the editor(s) should say, "This is bullshit. Give me a story I can publish." Of course, that does not happen in today's media. 
Still, the developments suggested that the security of Clinton's email setup and how she guarded the nation's secrets will remain relevant campaign topics. (My emphasis)
Why? Only because reporters continue to publish non-stories about Hillary Clinton "scandals", about what could be and what is suggested by sources who are not named, which is not news and which anyone with half a brain can see is more bullshit. 

Wednesday, July 29, 2015


An Invitation - Marthe G. Walsh
a villanelle call to prayer

Let us talk with God, oh near friend of a friend,
Surrender, together, in love to this clear divine recognition:
Our voices, our choices, by One were given, with intent to attend.

If a silent response we were meant to send,
The Creator would have made us all mute, unable to petition.
Oh let us talk with God, near friend of a friend.

Sing with adorations, with errors contend,
Patience, praise, doubt, fear, idle tears, our Lord hears without condition.
Our voices, our choices, by One were given, with intent to attend.

In offering ourselves, on knees meant to bend,
We show that we know the need to mend, and just Who can grant remission.
Let us talk with God, near friend of a friend.

In this conversation we need not pretend,
Or try to amend, ask for another, seek peace in devotion,
Our voices, our choices by One were given, with intent to attend.

With you, with all, with God, is the point in the end,
To be in relation, in response full of meaning, with a mission.
Let us talk with God, near friend of a friend.
Our voices, our choices by One were given, with intent to attend.
The poem is from Marthe's collection, Heretic for a Loving God, and is used with permission.

Sunday, July 19, 2015


O gracious light,
pure brightness of the everliving Father in heaven,
O Jesus Christ, holy and blessed!

Now as we come to the setting of the sun,
and our eyes behold the vesper light,
we sing your praises, O God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

You are worthy at all times to be praised by happy voices,
O Son of God, O Giver of Life,
and to be glorified through all the worlds.

(Prayer in the Early Evening - Book of Common Prayer)

Phos Hilaron (Φῶς Ἱλαρόν) is an ancient Christian hymn originally written in New Testament Greek. Often referred to by its Latin title Lumen Hilare it has been translated into English as O Gladsome Light. It is the earliest known Christian hymn recorded outside of the Bible that is still in use today. The hymn is part of vespers in the Eastern Orthodox Church, and also included in some modern Anglican and Lutheran liturgies.
The picture, taken with my phone camera last evening, is of a slender sliver of a waxing crescent moon and the planet Venus.  My hand is not steady enough to capture the true appearance of the sliver of moon as it really looked, but, along with the color of the clouds in the fading light, it was a magnificent sight.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015


Love Is Strange, directed by Ira Sachs, is a wonderfully tender, bittersweet, and gently humorous love story with very fine acting by all the performers, especially the two principals, John Lithgow, as Ben, and Alfred Molina, as George, two Manhattanites of a certain age who have been together nearly 40 years and are finally able to marry.  Unfortunately, smooth, wedded bliss does not follow as George is fired from his job teaching music in a Roman Catholic school. 

The school authorities knew George was gay and partnered and looked the other way, but his marriage is a whole other matter and costs him his job. Ben is retired, and, with their income reduced to Ben's pension and payments from George's private pupils, the two are forced to sell their apartment and live apart until they find a place they can afford. 

Ben moves in with his nephew, Elliot (Darren Burrows), wife, Kate (Marisa Tomei), and teenage son, Joey (Charlie Tahan), who live in a smallish apartment, where he shares a room and bunk beds with Joey.  George stays in the apartment of his two partying policemen friends, where he sleeps on the sofa, which is difficult when there's often a party going on. 

The two men give perfect performances as long-time lovers who remain quite fond of one another, despite the petty annoyances common to all relationships.  There's no sex in the film, but the actors show affection for one another in what is perhaps the most believable way I have ever seen in a movie.  Marisa Tomei is outstanding as Kate. The film is understated, and the facial expressions and body language of the actors speak as eloquently as words.

Of the three outstanding and memorable movies I've seen recently, I'm sad to say not one was a big money maker at the box office.  I hope the earnings from rentals and streaming are sufficient to encourage the producers and directors to continue with such quality productions.  The other films are Calvary, with Brendan Gleeson, and Locke, with Tom Hardy, which I posted about earlier.