Friday, November 30, 2012

Film Flash: Teddy Bear

15 words or less film review (full review to follow soon)

A lonely, gentle giant searching for someone to love.  Subtle, simple, heart-warming, and heart-wrenching film.  

4 out of 5 stars

Ghost Girl in Elevator

My wife showed me this video from a Brazilian TV show.

You don't need to understand the language to feel the terror and the laughs.

And I only laugh because I know that if I was the one in the elevator, I would have screamed the loudest and I wouldn't stop.  Ever.


Film Review- Twilight:Breaking Dawn pt. 2

I've followed Twilight for awhile now.  And this wildly successful franchise has come to its conclusion.

Before we get to the full review of the movie, I want to make some observations about the series that I think explain why it has been so successful.

1.  It is the mind of a teenage girl.  Bella's actions and reactions, I think, perfectly capture a lot of young girls out there.  She is insecure, but hopes that someone special will find her truly beautiful.

2.  It is a classic romance.  In an age where irony is preferable to sincerity, Twilight has no illusions about being anything other than gooey romance, and there is a hunger for in a society that is pushing casual hook-ups.

3.  They cast beautiful actors.  This may seem superficial but I do not think the films would have been anywhere nearly as successful without Robert Pattinson and Taylor Launtner (although I am partial to Billy "Mustache Dad" Burke).

3.  It taps into the truth that love is forever.  So much changes in a teen's life that they yearn for something permanent.  Love promises that, but our relationships don't always deliver.  Here is a fulfillment of that deep needed desire for not just love, but eternal love.

And with this movie they've brought it into not only the realm of courtship but also marital and parental love.

Now let's get back to Breaking Dawn pt 2.

(spoilers ahead for those who have not watched the previous 4 movies)

When last we left our story, Bella (Kristen Stewart) had given birth to a her and Edward's (Pattinson) half-human/half-vampire baby girl they inexplicably named Renesme, before Bella was turned into a full vampire and Jacob the Six-Pack Werewolf (Launtner) "imprinted" on the baby.  That means he will be a protective guardian until she gets old enough for them to, how shall I put this... start a wolf den of their own.  If that sounds creepy, it kind of is.  Thankfully the movie does acknowledge this early on.

We've been building up to Bella becoming a vampire since the first movie, and director Bill Condon rightly spends an appropriate amount of time exploring her new life.  He does an excellent job of visually letting understand how her newly sharpened senses and appetites are affecting her.  The movie also does a great job of feminizing her.  Whereas she tended to look tomboyish and frumpy, now she exudes femininity while at the same time great strength.

The main thrust of the story revolves around the dilemma of Renesme and the Volturi, the evil vampire royalty that don't as much suck blood as just plain suck.  Children who are turned into vampires never mature and cause chaos.  The vampire law is that they must be destroyed.  The Volturi do not believe that Renesmee is half human and so plan to kill her.  The Cullen clan then spend the middle part of the movie globe-trotting trying to get other vampires to side with them to defend the child.  During this time they train and Bella learns how to use her new vampire powers.  It all builds to a final confrontation between the two groups.

This is the best film in the series.  It moves along very well and has the best action sequences of any Twilight movie.  There is genuine tension as the two sides get closer to clashing.  As the battle rages and characters are killed, there is a real sense of emotion and loss as you watch.  But there is a giant flaw with the ending that I cannot describe without spoiling it.  What I will say that it is one of the cheapest cheats I have seen used in a film in a long time.  This Deus ex machina keeps the movie more consistent with the book, but it makes the movie poorer for it.

While not fantastic, these are some of the best performances done by the cast.  They reach a nice level of quite desperation.  Unfortunately Michael Sheen's lead Volturi vampire Aro is one of the worst performances around.  He chews so much scenery that I'm surprised that there is any left.  As Hamlet said, "He out-Herrods Herod."  This is unfortunate because the main bad guy should fill you with fear not annoyance.

Another huge flaw I've always found with this series is the cavalier attitude it takes towards the murder of humans.  While collecting vampire allies, two of the Cullens find hunky vampire Garret (Lee Pace) just as he is about to kill an innocent human.  Rather than stop him, they wait patiently for him to finish his murder before enlisting his help with the good guys.  Apparently in the Twilight ethic, murder is acceptable as long as you are attractive.  But this problem has existed long before this movie.  Often Bella and the Cullens will allow others to die horribly as long as they remain safe.  This stance of cowardice spoils a bit of the romance.

One last thing of note is the horrible use of CGI with Renesmee.  Rather than do what most directors do and try to capture small moments with babies and children to piece together something like a performance, they instead superimposed a digital face on the baby, and later, the older child Renesmee. I understand the impulse and the need for specific control, since even as a baby Renesmee needs to be an active character.  But it comes off as unreal, and to be frank, very creepy.  Renesmee seems less human and alive, and therefore it becomes harder to feel for her, to want to keep her safe.

But overall, the movie is good.  If you can buy into the romance and root for the characters, you will enjoy this movie.  If you melt a little at two people who are horribly in love instead of wanting to puke over their affection, you will enjoy this movie.  And especially if you have liked any of the Twilight movies thus far, you will enjoy this movie.

But if you don't like Twilight, nothing in this movie will change your mind.

3 and 1/2 out of 5 stars

Feast of St. Andrew

I think about St. Andrew quite a bit.  He was one of the first four called by Christ.  It was James, John, Andrew and Andrew's brother Peter.  But of that quartet, only the trio of Peter, James, and John ended up being Jesus' closest friends.

I wonder if Andrew was like us and got jealous.  According to the Gospel of John, it was Andrew who brought Peter to the Lord, and the Lord seemed to like Peter better.  How often have we introduced a sibling or friend to our inner circle only to have them become more popular or have a greater apptitude for what you enjoy?

But I bet that Andrew was better than most of us.  He was probably a model of humility.  I like to imagine that he was happy for his brother and he was content to have others loved and esteemed more than himself. 

My favorite story is about when he died.  They tied him to the cross, but for days and days he preached non-stop to the point where the officials realized it was doing them more harm than good. 

But when they came to take him down, Andrew looked at Jesus and told him he was tired and he just wanted to go home to heaven and be with Him.  So the soldiers were unable to take him down and Andrew finally went home to the Jesus and his brother Peter on November 30th 60AD

Thursday, November 29, 2012

"Those Who Can't Hear The Music Think The Dancers Are Insane."

One of the wonderfully strange things about life is how we enter strange little sub-cultures.  Sometimes its intentional, like joining a sports team.  But sometimes it happens without you even realizing it.  With me, for instance, I was 11 years old and I asked my uncle to take me to a place I had never been before: the comic book store.

Nearly 24 years later and I'm still going.  I have friends with whom I can talk about the new developments in X-Men or which Robin was best (the answer, of course, is Dick Grayson.  Anyone who says otherwise is a fool, I tell you).  Most of the general population may not care at all about these things.  When I talk about the rivalry between DC and Marvel to my students, the look at me as if I'm speaking in Elvish, which is something I only do on days when I'm talking (only Quenyan, never Sindarin).

Anyway, I've been thinking about how we are all fanatics about something.  I don't necessarily mean that we lose our reason to enter into slavish, cultish devotion to something.  I'm talking about that special hobby or obsession that no is not in everyone.  We know that from the looks we get when our passions flare over the break-up of our favorite ska band or the casting of Ryan Philippe in any movie.

"What's the big deal?" is the reaction that the outsider has to our plight.  "So Godzilla fell into a volcano, isn't that supposed to be good?"  And we look at them sadly and think: they just don't get it.

To the one outside, often our fascinations seem odd, even bordering on outright messed-up.  "Those who can't hear the music, think the dancer is insane."  On the inside, we get it.  We hear the "music," and it fills us with joy, contentment.  But to those outside, we seem to be a strange lot going about some strange activity.

We learn early on that if others think what you like is weird, they will think you are weird.  In high school, we become very sensitive to what is lame and not lame (don't ever call something "cool," because that is so not cool).  When confronted with sneers over your Justice League backpack or your New Kids on the Block poster, it appears that we have four options.

1.  Abandon your fascination.  We want to be accepted.  And if being accepted means getting rid of the thing that others find strange, then so be it.  On this view, we let others dictate what we like and don't like.  We become shape shifting sponges who absorb whatever is fashionable to their friends and changes who they are accordingly.

2.  Close your circle.  I can tell you first hand that geek culture can be very closed off.  This is true of any group of like-minded people, but we can retreat into the comfortable shorthand we've developed, content to keep others on the outside.  When the casual movie-goer can't tell Orc from Uruk-hai, we don't bother explaining and let them continue to blissfully enjoy their exile from Club Awesome.  This is what I call the Aint-It-Cool Effect.

3.  Brow Beat.  The Internet is not just a place for pornography and Korean nonsense songs.  It is also a place where people dive in and explain to the rest of us why we are stupid for not agreeing with them.  They see the world as it should be, but we don't.  And it is their job to explain how enlightened and insightful and superior they are.  You can't say Game of Thrones is over-rated without someone online explaining to you that your taste is awful and that you are too unsophisticated to understand how they are using pornography to satirize pornography (or something).  And even though you don't need the Internet to brow beat, it has made it a lot easier.

I am not a fan of the above three, so what I always hope for is:

4.  Show the Beauty.  In the movie Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story, the other martial arts masters do not want Bruce teaching non-Chinese.  He says, "Americans are afraid because they don't know the beauty of our culture.  Let's show it to them."  In this method we don't abandon what we love because others don't, we don't retreat inward to only those who agree with us, and we don't attack those who don't.

Here, simply explain what is special about the thing we hold dear.  We explain why we find it beautiful.  For example, I know nothing really about wine.  I don't enjoy the taste.  I probably couldn't tell the difference between a Chateau Montelana 1973 and some grape juice that sat out too long.  It seemed silly to me to collect bottles of the stuff and then go to tastings where you gurgle and spit in public.

But then I saw the movie Bottle Shock and I saw all of the hard work and artistry that it takes to make a good wine.  And in the movie Sideways, the character Maya says about wine: How it's a living thing. I like to think about what was going on the year the grapes were growing; how the sun was shining; if it rained. I like to think about all the people who tended and picked the grapes. And if it's an old wine, how many of them must be dead by now. I like how wine continues to evolve, like if I opened a bottle of wine today it would taste different than if I'd opened it on any other day, because a bottle of wine is actually alive. And it's constantly evolving and gaining complexity. 

And while I still don't care for wine, for the briefest of glimpses I understood the beauty.  I felt it.  I heard the "music" and I now see the fascination.

I think of all of my little obsessions, like the above mentioned Dick Grayson.  What a strange fixation to have on Batman's first sidekick.  You may say it is strange or weird.  And I in turn could either forget my fascination with him, or shun anyone who doesn't see it, or brow beat the "uninformed."  But instead let me share with you what Dick Grayson means to me.

When I was a kid, we had blue bath towels and yellow bath towels.  One of my earliest happy memories was my mom bobby pinning the blue one to my brother and the yellow one to me and we would run around the house, with me as Robin to his Batman.

Also growing up, I never felt like I was the hero of my own story.  I looked at friends and family members who either seemed more gifted or accomplished and I was content to be a part of their story.  I was the sidekick.  But every once in a while, even Batman needed Robin.  Frodo needed his Sam.  Don Quixote would have lost his magical vision without Sancho Panza.

And the most important thing about Robin is that he grew up.  As I grew up and life started changing, so it did for Dick Grayson.  He realized that he was more than a supporting player.  He was the hero of his own story and he needed to step out and become a man.  And he taught me that it's okay grow up (which is ironic coming from a guy trying to talk seriously about a fictional character who ran around in green short-shorts).

The point is that I hope I have shown you a little bit of why Robin is important to me.  Maybe it made sense to you and maybe it didn't, but I hope that you heard a little of the "music" I hear and you understand why it makes me "dance."

And we can do this for all of our seemingly strange interests.  We don't have to be defensive.  We just have to help others hear the music.  Because sometimes it can change lives.

The faith can seem so strange to someone on the outside.  If I asked you if you would like to sleep on a straw mat in a 10 x 10 cell, begin your days with 2 hours on your knees on cold stone, followed by hard labor and no pay, would you say yes?  Probably not.  But I just described to you the life of many of the nuns in Mother Teresa's religious order.  That behavior seems like a punishment inflicted on another, not a freely chosen lifestyle.

As Rich Mullins wrote: "Who could move the mountains?  Who could love their enemies?  Who could love their enemies?  Who could rejoice in pain, turn the other cheek, and still say surely God is with us?"

How strange we followers of a crucified Carpenter must seem sometimes.  We must seem like those insane people dancing to some unheard music.

I've written before about how when I was 17 I went on a retreat called Teens Encounter Christ.  I had been raised Catholic, but I kept it respectable.  I went to my local youth group, but didn't participate much.  I went to Church on Sunday, because that was what was expected of me.

At TEC we spent the weekend together sharing witnesses and the sacraments.  So far so good.  But then we had a Eucharistic Adoration, where all of us gathered around the Blessed Sacrament lifted up in the monstrance.  And as I knelt there, I could hear the people around me shouting from the top of their lungs, "Praise You, Jesus!  I love You, Jesus!  Glory and honor to You, Jesus!"  And I'll never forget the thought that came to me in that moment as I knelt there with my eyes closed:

"Oh crap.  I'm in a cult!"

These people seemed so strange!  They seemed weird.  Maybe even a little insane.

But as the hour continued, another thought occurred to me:

"I've been a Catholic all of my life.  And if I really believe what I've always said I believed, that this Host is actually Jesus Christ, the God of the Universe, right before me... then why would I not shout with joy to him with all that I am?"

And I heard the music.  It all made sense.  I saw the beauty of this thing which seemed so strange.

And I've been dancing ever since.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The 1/2 Man's Filthy Thoughts

Photo by Angela George

Angus Jones, the "1/2" in Two and a 1/2 Men recently called his show "filth" and urged people not to watch it.

He did so because of Seventh Day Adventist religious convictions.

Obviously, this is a big no-no in Hollywood.  Though I will be curious to see how his career progresses.  Charlie Sheen horribly bad-mouthed his show and he immediately got another series on F/X.  His complaints were fueled by his self-centered, hedonistic lifestyle.

But Jones' criticism comes from a religious and moral place.  Will he receive the same tolerance as Sheen.  Of course Jones rails against the show while making $350,000.00 per episode, so a legitimate observation about hypocrisy can be made.

I am very curious to see what happens.

The great Jimmy Akin has written an reasoned and insightful piece that I would recommend reading here.

Wednesday Comics: Marvel Now #1's

A good friend of mine once said that you have to acknowledge your prejudices.  Well I acknowledge that I am prejudiced towards DC Comics.  I prefer them greatly to Marvel.  For years, I collected almost exclusively DC titles with onle one or two Marvel books thrown in.

Lately though, I have found myself picking up more Marvel books like X-Factor, Daredevil, Wolverine and the X-Men, Uncanny Avengers, etc.

Last year DC ret-conned its entire line relaunched all of its titles with new #1's and sales went through the roof.  Marvel is a bit less bold, but they are setting out a bunch of new #1 issues.  There are more to come, but here is my assessment of some.

Iron Man #1

This is a great looking book.  Greg Land's art fits very well with the sleek, stimulating life of Tony Stark.  In fact I would say this is one of the best drawn books I've seen in a while.  I'm also a fan of they way Pepper Potts is being raised to prominence in the comics as she was in the movies.

Unfortunately, the story is not grabbing me.  Kieron Gillen is not a bad writer, but there are two things that are pushing me away from the story.  First is that the heart of the plot is based on the Warren Ellis run on Iron Man.  Having not read that series, I feel a bit behind.  A number one issue should be a place to jump on fresh, but it feels like I'm reading the continuation of series where the creative team was simply replaced. 

The second is that the story begins with Tony philosophizing about religion.  That isn't necessarily a bad thing, but I am sick of the false animosity between reason and faith.  Any Catholic worth his salt knows that these two things are not in conflict but work with each other.  Tony doesn't come out as anti-religion per se, but it sets the wrong tone for me.  I picked up isse two but it didn't get any better.

Deadpool # 1

Deadpool is awesome in Uncanny X-Force.  In that book you have dark, compelling stories where his offbeat humor acts as a preassure valve to release a lot of the uncomfortable tension.

This is why his solo book does not work.  It is a comedy book pure and simple.  But the character only really works when he works against such great straight men a Wolverine.  The humor was simply and gross, which aren't necessarily bad, but it felt like such a wasted opportunity writers Gerry Duggan and Brian Posehn and artists Tony Moore and Val Staples.

Captain America # 1

I might be upsetting a lot of comic fans by saying this, but I've never been impressed by John Romita Jr.'s art.  It works with some grittier characters like Wolverine or Daredevil, but not with the Star-Spangled hero, Captain America.  It just isn't a good fit, and I felt that in the first few pages.

Rick Remender does a decent job of introducion Cap and his associates, but his decidedly sci-fi take on the series also feels out of place.  Again, #1 issues should be a time to distill the essence of your character to its simplest form and re-introduce him/her to your audience.  This is a wasted opportunity as well.

Indestructible Hulk #1

Mark Waid has been doing some great things with Daredevil, so I was looking forward to this book.  The new approach is that Banner wants to make more of a contribution to the world.  He is one of the smartest men on the planet, but he hasn't had the opportunity to realize his potential because he has spent most of his adult life being chased becaues of the Hulk.

He now wants to change that.  He contacts SHIELD and says that he give them dibs on his scientific achievements in exchange for letting him do his work in peace.  But he must also let the Hulk be used as a tool of SHIELD.

It is an interesting premise and I'm going to stick around for a few issues to see where it goes, but the # 1 lacked strong excitement.  It was mostly two characters sitting in a diner.  But of all the Marvel #1 books I've read, this one has the most potential.  (Len Yu's art isn't bad either)

On the Necessity of Hell

I have a new article up at about why Hell has to exist.

I know that it is a topic that has gone out of fashion, but truth is truth and it must be shared

Please check out the article here.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A How-To Guide for Adoration with Small Children

Worth a read here

"You Don't Need My Permission"

Tonight I watched an episode of the Fox sitcom The Mindy Project that had a seen where Dr. Mindy is talking a group of high school girls.  She says to them before she thrusts condoms on them, "I can't stop you from getting your hearts broken, and I can't stop you from having sex, but I can stop you from getting STD's."

I and said out loud, "No you can't!"

Giving someone a condom does not stop them from getting an STD.  They still have the choice to use it or not.

I always find it ironic that the same people who preach to us that we shouldn't impose our morality on what happens in people private bedrooms also tend to be the people who tell us that it morally wrong to have unprotected sex.  There is a kind of moral illogic there.

In that same episode, Mindy tries to talk the sweet, innocent young girl from having sex with her loser boyfriend.  But then teen wants to meet Mindy's boyfriend and concludes that the doctor is sleeping with a loser.  Mindy lost all moral credibility because she was doing the thing that she was telling this child not to do.  Our current culture wants total moral freedom in this area.

I remember I was teaching one day and the subject of condoms came up.  Students asked me if it was okay to use them.  I said that it should be an issue for any of them since none of them were married.

"But," one of them said, "What if we're going to do it anyway?"

I responded, "I'm sorry, but did you suddenly cease being human?  Have you turned into a beast and lost your ability to make free choices?  No.  You have a choice.  You can either do it or not do it.  God says wait until marriage."

"But if we're going to do it," another protested, "Don't you want us to be safe?"

At this point I was exacerbated.  "If you've already decided not to listen to me about waiting for marriage, then why in the world do you need my permission to use a condom?  You don't need my permission to do what's wrong.  Right or wrong: make a choice."

On that note, if you haven't seen this American Papist video on the Pope and condoms, you should:

Film Review: Lincoln

One of the best movies ever made about Jesus was Franco Zefferelli's Jesus of Nazareth.  One of its smartest narrative strategies was how they handled Jesus.  He is so iconic and so far above us that it becomes incredibly difficult to do Him justice.  CS Lewis said that it is easy to enter the mindset of someone worse than you.  All you have to do is remove the moral restraints in our soul.  But it is so much more difficult to put ourselves into the mind of someone better than us.  Jesus of Nazareth sidesteps this by being much more about what it was like for ordinary people to be in the presense of the God-Man Jesus than it is about telling the story from Jesus' perspective.

And that is the same way it is with Steven Spielberg's Lincoln.  This hagiographic approach to the 16th President actually works because instead of making us walk in Lincoln's shoes we walk in Lincoln's shadow.  The opening scene sets the tone as he sits under a canopy as Union soldiers shuffle around for deployment, speaking to him with a mixture of awe and affection.  He is not only holding court with them, but with us the audience.  We are invited to sit by the great man and learn from him.

Rather than following his life from start to finish, as many biopics do, Lincoln is primarily about the 2 and a half months between his re-election to the presidency and his fight to get Congress to pass the 13th Amendment, which outlawed slavery.  By doing this, the movie avoids the major problem that most biopics have, where they are meandering and disjointed as they try to cram many unrelated historical events into the narrative.  But this story has a beginning, middle, and end because it focused only on a slice of Lincoln's life.  And while there is a good deal of his personal life that informs his actions, the movie is mostly about the political maneuverings of the time.  It feels very much like an extended episode of The West Wing set in 1865.

And Lincoln must navigate his way through the swamp of Washington.  He has convinced the common people that the 13th Amendment is necessary for winning the war.  But if the war ends first, which looks to be the case at the beginning of the film, then popular support for the amendment will evaporate.  His Secretary of State Seward (David Strathairn) leads the back alley negotiations while Secretary of War Stanton (Bruce McGill) pushes for heavier attacks.  Meanwhile Lincoln needs the help of Radical Republican Abolitionist Thaddeus Stevens (Tommy Lee Jones) while at the same time needing him to moderate his position so as not to alienate the moderates.  And Lincoln must do most of this while fighting a war with the South and a war at home with his mentally unbalanced wife (Sally Field) and estranged son (Joseph Gordon-Leavitt).  If all of that sounds incredibly complicated, it is.  But that is a good thing.

A lot of credit needs to be given to screenwriter Tony Kushner, who wrote the awful Angels in America and the thematically schizophrenic Munich.  He positions the tension between essential moral principles and political compromise that does not judge either.  It poses a severe moral question.  Stevens, for example, wants full equality for all people.  But if he pushes for that, then he could lose the vote that would outlaw slavery.

The movie is not a political allegory; it is not a mask for some other current political issues dressed up in 19th Century clothing.  It is rarer and better.  It has what Tolkien called "applicability."  You can use this story and apply it to any political cause.  For example, we Catholic Pro-Lifers seek to outlaw abortion because we believe in human rights for all, born and unborn.  But popular support in the country does not exist for banning abortion in the case of rape and incest.  So what is a Pro-Lifer to do?  Lincoln does an amazing balancing act of principled leadership and political pragmatism.

I must speak now about Daniel Day-Lewis' much lauded performance as Abraham Lincoln.  He has gotten a good deal of Oscar buzz and rightly so.  I was not impressed with what I saw of him in the trailers, so I went in very skeptical.  But there was a bit of genius to his decision to play against the expected baritone, imposing type that is typical of most movie Lincolns.  By breaking with that tradition and giving him a high, cracking voice and unassuming posture, you never feel like he is doing an impression of Lincoln.  Day Lewis gives you a performance that feels like a complete, three-dimmensional character.  He draws you in with his quaint stories and then hits you with his crystal-clear wisdom, but he always keeps you at a distance.  It is the feeling you get when you are in the presence of someone truly great: you don't feel worthy enough to draw too close.  Day-Lewis' Lincoln is flawed, but his all the more admirable for his flaws.  The other actors do very well in their parts, like Gloria Reuben in a small but memorable role as White House employee Mrs. Keckly and James Spader as Mr. Bilbo, a slimy scoundrel who happens to be fighting for the right side.

This is probably the best movie Spielberg has directed since Saving Private Ryan.  Having said that, I have to say there is not much that is truly impressive about the directing.  This movie doesn't really have any of the visual flourish of early Spielberg, nor the mature innovation of '90's Spielberg.  The visuals are serviceable, but nothing overly special.  There were so many opportunities to bring to life the grandeur of this man in a unique cinematic way, but Spielberg chose a more discreet style.  This is perhaps unfair, but I always expect more from this movie master.  The same can be said of John Williams score, which feels like it is made up of cut  sequences from Saving Private Ryan and War Horse  (Seriously, watch the War Horse trailer followed by the Lincoln trailer, and the music feels recycled).

Historical movies are always a challenge, especially when they are made about great men and women.  How can you, as Shakespeare said, dare to bring to life "so great an object."  But Spielberg, Kushner, and Day-Lewis have done a fantastic job of presenting to us Abraham Lincoln in all of his greatness.

4 out of 5 stars

Monday, November 26, 2012

Saint Andrew Christmas Novena

November 30th is coming up and it is the feast of St. Andrew the Apostle.

I will have more things to say about this later, but for now, I wanted to share with you the St. Andrew Novena.  It is a prayer that is prayed 15 times each day from Nov. 30th through December 24th.

As we get caught up in the holiday season, I have always found this prayer a helpful reminder about the true purpose of Advent as we prepare the manger of our hearts for the coming of the Lord.

I know that prayer it 15 times each day can seem like a commitment, but after saying so many times, it because fairly easy to memorize.  Also it can be broken up throughout the day, for example 5 times in the morning, 5 in the afternoon, and 5 right before bed.

My wife and I will be praying this starting in a few days and I would invite any of you who have a special intention to join us in that prayer.

Saint Andrew Christmas Novena

Hail and blessed be the hour and moment in which the Son of God was born of the most pure Virgin Mary, at midnight, in Bethlehem, in piercing cold. In that hour, vouchsafe, O my God! to hear my prayer and grant my desires, through the merits of Our Saviour Jesus Christ, and of His Blessed Mother. Amen.

Monday Poetry: A Hymn

GK Chesterton is a man I greatly admire without fully understanding.  Whenever I read anything he wrote I get the distinct feeling like I am missing something.  And yet what little I do glean from him is fully and truly profound.

He wrote many kinds of writings: essays, biographies, novels, editorials, and in this case, poems.

His "A Hymn" is a plea to the Lord to save us, not by delivering us from our trials, but by using those trials to forge us into a sword for His hand.

A Hymn

O God of earth and altar,
Bow down and hear our cry,
Our earthly rulers falter,
Our people drift and die;
The walls of gold entomb us,
The swords of scorn divide,
Take not thy thunder from us,
But take away our pride.

From all that terror teaches,
From lies of tongue and pen,
From all the easy speeches
That comfort cruel men,
From sale and profanation
Of honour and the sword,
From sleep and from damnation,
Deliver us, good Lord.

Tie in a living tether
The prince and priest and thrall,
Bind all our lives together,
Smite us and save us all;
In ire and exultation
Aflame with faith, and free,
Lift up a living nation,
A single sword to thee. 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Film Flash: Twilight-Breaking Dawn pt. 2

15 words or less film review (full review to follow soon)

The best of the Twilight movies.  Make of statement what you will.

Sunday Best: Directors of All Time #19 - Zack Snyder

photo by Ellen Nivrae

-Dawn of the Dead

-Sucker Punch


There are very few directors that can move their story with such precise energy as Zack Snyder.  When you see one of his movies, you know that you've witnessed someone with a unique visual style.

The first Snyder movie I ever saw was Dawn of the Dead.  Let me preface this by saying that I do not like horror movies.  I used to think that they were great, but I've lost my taste for them over the years.  So it was only with a morbid curiosity that I caught this movie on television.  It is hard to describe how good this film is, partly because I never want to see it again.

I know that sounds like a contradiction, but you don't have to enjoy a movie to know that it is good.  There are many people I know who will never see Schindler's List again because of the violence, but they acknowledge its genius.  While the subject of Dawn of the Dead is nowhere near as important, the same principle can be applied to this movie as well.

Snyder made a movie that was terrifying, but it had a different energy than most horror movies.  It moved with the speed of an action movie without losing any of its essential terror.  And while doing this he created 3-dimmensional characters, something atypical in the average horror and action movie.  The movie is not only gut-wrenching, it is heart-wrenching as well.  The last shot is so full of sadness, nobility, and despair that I'm surprised something so poiginant was found in a zombie movie.

But his real masterpiece is 300.  The story is very basic and has been told in so many different ways: a small fighting group must face an overwhelming force.  But what sets that movie apart is the visual spectacle that is 100% Snyder.

First there was the decision to film all on green screen rather than on location.  That was a very risky move, considering how it makes the world feel much less real.  But with his a simple trick of color correcting the whole movie to highlight sepias and reds, it takes on a ethereal quality that makes you accept the hyper-reality of the world.

Second, he knows how to manipulate time.  He did the same thing in Dawn of the Dead, where he would play between slow motion and fast motion, almost like switching tempos in music, to create an arresting image on the screen.

He takes this very ugly Spartan world (and make no mistake that there are several morally problematic things with that society), but he does not sugar coat it.  He presents them, warts and all, but still highlights that which makes them noble.

Even looking past all of the exaggerated characters, the strong themes of courage and sacrifice shine through in the end.  He touches upon the truth that civilization is something that must be paid for, often with the blood of patriots.  What could have been just another action film became a unique and moving film experience.

His attempt to tackle Watchmen was less successful.  I believe this was less due to his directing ability and more to his slavish devotion to the structure of the graphic novel.  Now, in the end it is the director's responsibility to shape the story, so this does fall on his shoulders.  Nevertheless, he once again brings his frenetic energy to this project, with an eye-popping color palate.  In the format of a feature film, I don't think another director could have done better.

Sucker Punch was his last film and it is probably his worst.  It is not a terrible film, but it is very flimsy. The story appears to be an excuse to engage in wildly imaginative fantasy sequences, which are a lot of fun to look at.  But Sucker Punch lacks any of the depth found in Watchmen, 300, or even Dawn of the Dead.  And yet even here Snyder still shows he has the power to mesmerize with the visuals.

He is finishing the Superman reboot Man of Steel.  It is a given that this movie will look great.  But we'll see if he can summon his unique vision to show us the depth of this great character.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Film Review: Wreck-It Ralph

Donkey Kong was a revolutionary game.  Shigeru Miyamoto began working at Nintendo and noted that most video games were simply lines and dots.  He asked the all important question that changed everything: "Why can't we use video games to make characters?"  The result was Jumpman (later renamed "Mario") and the barrel-throwing bad guy, Donkey Kong.

Why am I bringing this up?  Because the unspoken truth behind Wreck-It Ralph is that it is actually Donkey Kong: The Movie.  This Disney Animation harkens back to the old Looney Toons short "Book Revue" where after the book store is closed, the characters from the books come to life.  In Wreck-It Ralph, when the video arcade closes, it's quitting time for the characters in the arcade.  Like Toy Story, it taps into that secret suspicion of youth that all of our playthings had a life of their own when we weren't looking.

Our central character is the eponymous Ralph (voiced by John C. Reilly), who is the bad guy in the DK-esque Felix Fixit Jr.  Ralph's job is to wreck the apartment building in "Nicetown" and Felix is the "Mario" who fixes the damage and gets a medal for his reward.  After the game is done, the people of Nicetown settle into their nice apartments with their friends and families while Ralph must sleep at the dump.  His only recreation is when he leaves to visit other game characters through the power chords.  Particularly, he meets up with other "bad guys" who deal with their similar situation "one game at a time."

Things change when Ralph is not invited to a 30th Anniversary party for his game being thrown by the other characters.  Complaining that he never gets a medal like Felix, Ralph is then offered a deal: if he gets a medal, he can move out of the dump and into the penthouse of the Nicetown Tower.  The problem is that there is no way for him to get a medal in his own game.

So Ralph decides to sneak into other games in order to win a medal.  Game jumping, or "Going Turbo" as its called in the movie (which is explained why later in the film), is dangerous because if you are killed outside of your game, you die.  Also, with Ralph gone, the children in the arcade think that the game is defective.  If the game is removed from service, then the occupants of the game would become homeless, like the old characters from Q-bert.

Ralph encounters rough and violent games like "Medal of Heroes" and crazy racing games like the candy-themed "Sugar Rush."  In the latter, he forms a friendship with a misfit "glitch" named Venelope  (voiced by Sarah Silverman) who wants to compete in the races but is being prevented by the leader "King Candy."

I've spent a lot of time explaining the plot because the world they make is a bit complicated, but not difficult to follow.  They spend a good portion of the first act setting up all of the rules so that in act three all of those rules come into play.  That is part of the joy in the film.  It is incredibly well-plotted.  I always find it rather annoying when a movie sets up plot points early in the movie that end up going nowhere or have very little impact.  But the establishment of the rules is not an end in itself.  It needs to move the story.  In the case of Wreck-It Ralph, there are a lot more rules as well as plot twists and turns that are surprising, yet feel inevitable.

Ralph's journey is handled very well.  We understand him the entire time and we go along with every decision he makes, even if they don't feel right.  He wants to be accepted and he wants to do the right thing, but those two things aren't always compatible.  Venelope plays the quircky outsider who brings out the good-guy in Ralph.  It was very smart to make her a small child and not someone Ralph's age because there would be too much romantic tension, which would distract from the point.  Ralph's friendship with Venelope motivates him to pure selfless-ness, like Sully and Boo from Monsters Inc.  And this is the internal struggle between his self-interest and his love for his friend.

The supporting characters are also wonderfully vivid.  Felix is a nice guy who can't quite doesn't treat Ralph like he should in order to keep the peace in the game.  Calhoon is a hard-edged commander in "Medal of Heroes" and she has "the most tragic backstory ever written in video game history."  This makes the budding romance between her and Felix all the funnier.  It would be like Master Chief dating Ms. Pacman.

The animation is beautiful.  Director Rich Moore (who directed the funniest episode of The Simpsons ever "Cape Feare") infuses so much epic energy into this game.  It is a visual feast of color and movement with lots of hidden cameos and Easter Eggs.  I especially liked how a lot of the simplifies the animation on a lot of the older game characters to make them feel dated while looking sleek.  He also gives Wreck-It Ralph its most important quality: its heart.

This movie has a lot of heart.  Disney Animation has taken a cue from PIXAR and built their wondrous animation around a deep emotional core.  It is also an interesting commentary on how video games have changed over the years and what that says about us.  But Wreck-It Ralph is not a message movie.  It simply wants to tell a good story.  Disney Animation has almost cracked the PIXAR code entirely to make their movies on par with theirs (they even open with a shot film "Paperman" which is simply heart-warming with a great score).  They fall just a little short.  The second act drags just a little bit and the jokes don't always land with as much humor as they could.  There were plenty of opportunities to explore more of this video game universe, but it felt like they were being confined to only a few games.

That is a small complaint though in what is an excellent movie.  If you like PIXAR-esque movies and love video games, Wreck-It Ralph is the movie for you.

4 out of 5 stars

Friday, November 23, 2012

Re-Inventing Old Songs

I noticed this twice today, so I don't know if I can say this is a trend.

Classic songs that we've heard hundreds of times are re-worked to make them sound brand new.  Some people don't like it, but I kind of dig it.

Today I heard Susan Boyle do her rendition of Over the Rainbow

And then I heard Alicia Keyes interpret this classic:

Now they just need to turn the Flash Gordon Theme into a country ballad and I'll have heard it all.

Casting Call: The New Skywalker (part 1)

Star Wars Episode VII should introduce us to the 3rd generation of Skywalkers.  If they follow the form, the central character will be young, adventurous, reckless, but with a potential for darkness.

With that in mind, here are some young actors who could play the part of the next generation Skywalker.

Josh Hutcherson
photo by Eva Rinaldi

As Peeta in The Hunger Games he showed a good deal of sensitivity while in an action setting.

Andrew Garfield
photo by MyCanon

The new Spider-Man has a lot of the same mannerisms as Anakin in Episodes II and III, while also creating a very sympathetic and believeable.

Joseph Gordon-Leavitt
photo by Gage Skidmore

His acting skills are top-notch and he would ground the science fiction in an emotional reality.

Jeremy Irvine

His performance in War Horse was the best thing about that movie.  He was optimistic and courageous without seeming naive.


Star Wars Directing Poll Winner

And the winner of the Catholic Skywalker poll for who should direct the new Star Wars is...

Joss Whedon!

This makes a great deal of sense, given his ability to tell very human stories with large casts set in fantastic settings.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanks For Nothing

When I was 15-years-old, I got a little sick.  In what was obviously an over-reaction on his part, my dad took me to the Emergency Room.  As it turned out, I had pneumonia and my blood oxygen level was down to about 50%.  If he had waited much longer to take me I might have died.

I share this with you so that you will understand why I am a little bit of a hypochondriac now.  I don't freak out at every sneeze or obsessively lather myself in Purell.  But whenever I have chronic problem, I begin to have a persistent fear of the worst.

For the past 4 weeks I've had a persistent cough.  I cannot remember having one that has lasted this long.  So of course, my mind helplessly gravitated to the worst case scenarios, despite the constant assurances from my long-suffering wife.  After weeks of fretting, I went yesterday morning for a chest X-ray.

After they were taken, I was asked to wait for a moment alone in the exam room.  I stood there for 5 minutes in that room with its claustrophobic white walls and antiseptic smell and thought about all those people who came to that room and got bad news that resulted in a lot more time between claustrophobic white walls and antiseptic smells.

Finally, after hours of fretting (and trying to distract myself with a viewing of Wreck-It Ralph) we got the results.

And what did they find?


They found nothing.  I was worried about nothing.

I was put on some new medication and I've been feeling a bit better.

I didn't realize how much the storm clouds had been hovering over me until today.  I was walking around, doing chores and errands with such a light heart.  It was because I knew that my cough, though a bit annoying, was ultimately nothing.


Today is Thanksgiving.  It has always been one of my favorite holidays, and not because I eat enough turkey to put a man twice my size into a literal coma (although that is a plus).  I love that we take time out of our year to appreciate the blessings of life and give thanks to our Provider.

My boss, a man I greatly admire, once said to me that you cannot be truly happy unless you are truly thankful.  Happiness only comes when you acknowledge that everything thing you have is a gift from God.

I have tried to take those words to heart and be thankful for everything I have.  I have an holy wife, a loving family, loyal friends, a fulfilling job, and more action figures than you can shake a stick at (if that's your idea of a good time).  Bing Crosby sang that we should count our blessings instead of sheep.  But I never get to the end of count because God has been so very generous to me.

But all this time I have been overlooking something else to be thankful for.


I wrote earlier about how much I have come to realize what a blessing it is to feel normal.  But I did not take it the necessary step further.

There is nothing wrong with my lungs.  But it could have been something.  And that something could have been not-so-bad to catastrophic.  But God, in His goodness, gave me nothing.

About 2 years ago I was on the highway on my way to work in the middle of winter.  I was in the left lane when I noticed a car had skidded off the road.  I tried to get a better look, but I must have not been paying attention to the road.  Because I then hit a patch of ice and my car spun out and did a 180 degree turn that hurled me across the other lane.  And do you know what I hit?


For one of the only times I can remember, there were no cars around me on that part of the road.  I skidded off to the right embankment facing the opposite direction.  But I was fine.  Nothing happened.

A few weeks ago during Hurricane Sandy, the wind was so strong it blew down a tree in my back yard.  What did it hit?


A little to right and it would have destroyed my shed.  If it fell in the opposite direction it would have caved in the roof and crushed my wife and I.  But instead, nothing happened.

This world is so full of darkness and danger, disease and disaster.  Some of it falls on us.  But a lot of it doesn't.

So today I'm going to give thanks not only for the all of the things God has given me this past year, but I'll also praise Him for the "nothings" too.

No sudden falls down the stairs that break a limb.  No food poisoning from that new restaurant.  No angry student deciding to respond to his detention with his fist.  No home burglary in the middle of the night.  No careless accident to hurt anyone I love.

I do have my share of crosses, many of them of my own making, but I have not been crushed by them. And I am not saying that any of the aforementioned catastrophes won't one day be mine to bear.  One day, an X-ray may find something.

But not today.

Today, I am thankful for nothing.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Film Flash: Lincoln

15 words or less film review (full review to follow soon)

Should have called it: The West Wing- 1865.  Great performances.  Felt like I met Lincoln.

Wednesday Comics: Superman Earth One Vol 2

Before the New 52, DC had been long trying to capture some of the magic that Marvel unleashed with their Ultimate Line.  They wanted something new and bold that could grab new readers.  Several attempts were made (like the not-so-great First Wave), but without much success.

But they decided to try something a little different with their Earth One books.  Like the Ultimate comics, it would having younger versions of familiar heroes.  The difference would be that instead of a regular monthly series, they would produce hardcover graphic novels.

The first two entries have been spectacular.  Superman Earth One Volume One was smart and exciting.  Reading it, I couldn't help hoping that the upcoming Man of Steel would be half as action-packed.  Batman Earth One gave us a beautifully drawn book with an amateur Batman tackling problems too big for his abilities.

Now, we continue the story with Superman Earth One Volume Two.

The results?

There is no doubt that this book is good.  Shane Davis's art gives the world a young, fresh look.  And again J. Michael Straczynski tells a story that is both large and intimate.

In this book, the world is trying to react to the presence of a "Super-Man" and how they can defend against him, should he go rogue.  Clark is still trying to find his place in the world, both as a journalist and as Superman.  Straczynski really makes him feel like an alien by showing him as alienated.  He wants to connect to people but cannot.  He wants to help the people of the world, but is stymied by global politics.

And yet while he is isolated from the other characters, the readers have immediate empathy.  Clark tells the story of his pet cat that might be one of the most touch animal stories ever in comics (in only 2 pages!).

He also deals with Clarks, um, intimacy problem that was addressed with great humor by Brody in Mallrats and the writers on Smallville.  But Straczynski acknowledges the awkwardness while using it to really feel Clark's loneliness  When an attractive neighbor tries to seduce him, he resists no matter how much he wants to.  Of course as a Catholic, I wasn't happy about him complaining to God that he missed out on an opportunity for a random hook-up.

But the book has 2 weaknesses:  First, the villain is not that compelling.  In the first volume, the alien invasion was a direct result of Clark's presence on Earth.  In this, a familiar Superman foe has his origin retold, but it doesn't tie in to the overall story.  He seems to be a means to tell a story about Clark's relationship to his power.

The second is that the story does not feel complete in and of itself.  The first could survive as a stand alone graphic novel.  This one is not only a continuation of the story, but it is a set up for the next.  It feels like a transition story, getting us ready for the bigger, more important story to come.  That is fine in a regular comic book series.  But when you are shelling out premium cash for a hardcover, you expect a little more.

My last note isn't a weakness with the story, but a problem I have with the interpretation of the character.  In the book, Superman wants to help the poor people who are living under a dictator.  The evil leader blackmails him into leaving.  Superman imagines cutting loose and killing him, which is a fascinating insight into his self control.  But he later returns to the country with his solution.  I won't spoil what it is, and while it does make sense for the character as Straczynski is writing him, it is not what I would have expected.  As I said, this doesn't make the story worse, but it doesn't sit right with my tastes.

All in all, I would recommend picking up this book.  If not as a hardcover, then at least in paperback.

4 out of 5 stars.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Religion in Sci-Fi

I was thinking about this the other day: how does science fiction deal with the subject of religion.

I know that theological questions are beyond the limits of science, but the imaginative nature of Sci-Fi can open up door to lots of questions about human life.

But in surveying most science fiction movies and television shows, I find that religion is mostly side-stepped.

This makes a good deal of sense, because removing from the normal reality makes dramatizing the thing easier.  Battlestar Galactica tackled a lot of hot-button political issues dressed up in Cylon clothing.

In fantasy, Jesus can believably interact with us as we go through the wardrobe and see Him in the form of a giant lion.

Again in fantasy, Tolkien avoided any mention of religion so that his Catholic faith could subtly soak into every corner of Middle Earth.

In fact, fantasy is much better at engaging matters of faith.  The mystical and mysterious are a part of many religions and fantasy worlds.

Ridley Scott's Prometheus tried its hand at using science fiction to answer ultimate questions, but it fell flat.  However this was less due to the questions raised but to the stupidity of the characters in the movie. (DON'T PET THE SPACE COBRA!)

But I think that science fiction is less engaged here.  Star Trek presents a world where religion has been eliminated from an evolved humanity.  There are episodes, like TNG's "Who Watches the Watchers," that implies that religion is the bastion of the weak minded and fanatics.  Star Trek V was originally supposed to be Kirk vs. God.  And seeing as how Shatner was directing it, we can easily guess who was going to win that title fight.  (although I think Deep Space Nine was a little more interested in the mystical side of things, that show was always different than all of its sibling series)

I have watched a few episodes of Dr. Who and I plan on watching more.  But I have heard from some friends and bloggers I trust that while it is enjoyable, you have to wade through some of the anti-religious stuff.

I was also thinking about Joss Whedon's Firefly.  It used to be my opinion that the show was anti-religion.  The main character, Mal, is a fallen away Christian who likes to flaunt his atheism in front of the priest on the show, Shepherd Book.  Being an atheist, I thought that Whedon brought Book into the show to slowly evolve him out of his faith.  But I don't think I gave Whedon enough credit.  Just by acknowledging that the Church would be around in the far future, he has said more about the enduringness of faith than most science fiction.  As far as I know, Babylon 5 is the only other Sci-Fy series that makes that assumption.  It was clear that Whedon and his writers did not see the world from Book's point of view, but they respected him.

But while science fiction is open to the wonderful (or horrible) vistas of human possibility and achievement, it is very uncomfortable with the exploration of human nature in religion.

I remember the show Lost.  To my opinion, it is one of the greatest shows ever to be on television.  One of the things I found fascinating was how it kept fighting over whether it was a fantasy or science fiction show.  Particularly through the character of Locke, we saw the Island through the lens of destiny and magic.  Through Jack, we saw the Island governed by electromagnetic fields and elaborate experiments.  Jack was convinced that faith was opposed to science.  While I completely disagree, I think that this is starting point of a lot science fiction

Science, by its nature, is sceptical.  Our science is so good because we doubt every theory until it can be empirically proved.  But religion deals with things that cannot be empirically measured.  How can you weigh God, who is pure spirit?  How many pounds is love?  What is the shape of the soul?

I think that most science fiction looks at religion as a cop out.  It is for those who cannot handle the rigor of scientific inquiry.  The secrets of the universe will only be revealed to those who boldly go where no man has gone before, not to the ones who walk in the footsteps of a carpenter from Nazareth.

Maybe I'm wrong.  This post is less a planned essay and more of an exploration into the topic.

I welcome any insights.

Film Flash: Wreck-It Ralph

15 words or less film review (full review to follow soon)

Nostalgic and new at the same time.  Disney Animation now almost at PIXAR quality.  Almost.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Monday Poetry: Divina Comedia

Henry Wadsorth Longfellow lost his wife in a tragic accident.  He was crushed by this and thought that he might actually go insane.

To help keep his mind occupied, he took on a Herculean task of translating Dante's Divine Comedy into English.

When complete, he wrote the following poem as a reflection on his journey and its crosses and how they have changed him and his perspective.

Divina Commedia

Oft have I seen at some cathedral door
      A laborer, pausing in the dust and heat,
      Lay down his burden, and with reverent feet
      Enter, and cross himself, and on the floor
Kneel to repeat his paternoster o'er;
      Far off the noises of the world retreat;
      The loud vociferations of the street
      Become an undistinguishable roar.
So, as I enter here from day to day,
      And leave my burden at this minster gate,
      Kneeling in prayer, and not ashamed to pray,
The tumult of the time disconsolate
      To inarticulate murmurs dies away,
      While the eternal ages watch and wait.

How strange the sculptures that adorn these towers!
      This crowd of statues, in whose folded sleeves
      Birds build their nests; while canopied with leaves
      Parvis and portal bloom like trellised bowers,
And the vast minster seems a cross of flowers!
      But fiends and dragons on the gargoyled eaves
      Watch the dead Christ between the living thieves,
      And, underneath, the traitor Judas lowers!
Ah! from what agonies of heart and brain,
      What exultations trampling on despair,
      What tenderness, what tears, what hate of wrong,
What passionate outcry of a soul in pain,
      Uprose this poem of the earth and air,
      This mediƦval miracle of song!

I enter, and I see thee in the gloom
      Of the long aisles, O poet saturnine!
      And strive to make my steps keep pace with thine.
      The air is filled with some unknown perfume;
The congregation of the dead make room
      For thee to pass; the votive tapers shine;
      Like rooks that haunt Ravenna's groves of pine
      The hovering echoes fly from tomb to tomb.
From the confessionals I hear arise
      Rehearsals of forgotten tragedies,
      And lamentations from the crypts below;
And then a voice celestial that begins
      With the pathetic words, "Although your sins
      As scarlet be," and ends with "as the snow."

With snow-white veil and garments as of flame,
      She stands before thee, who so long ago
      Filled thy young heart with passion and the woe
      From which thy song and all its splendors came;
And while with stern rebuke she speaks thy name,
      The ice about thy heart melts as the snow
      On mountain heights, and in swift overflow
      Comes gushing from thy lips in sobs of shame.
Thou makest full confession; and a gleam,
      As of the dawn on some dark forest cast,
      Seems on thy lifted forehead to increase;
Lethe and EunoĆ« — the remembered dream
      And the forgotten sorrow — bring at last
      That perfect pardon which is perfect peace.

I lift mine eyes, and all the windows blaze
      With forms of Saints and holy men who died,
      Here martyred and hereafter glorified;
      And the great Rose upon its leaves displays
Christ's Triumph, and the angelic roundelays,
      With splendor upon splendor multiplied;
      And Beatrice again at Dante's side
      No more rebukes, but smiles her words of praise.
And then the organ sounds, and unseen choirs
      Sing the old Latin hymns of peace and love
      And benedictions of the Holy Ghost;
And the melodious bells among the spires
      O'er all the house-tops and through heaven above
      Proclaim the elevation of the Host!

O star of morning and of liberty!
      O bringer of the light, whose splendor shines
      Above the darkness of the Apennines,
      Forerunner of the day that is to be!
The voices of the city and the sea,
      The voices of the mountains and the pines,
      Repeat thy song, till the familiar lines
      Are footpaths for the thought of Italy!
Thy fame is blown abroad from all the heights,
      Through all the nations, and a sound is heard,
      As of a mighty wind, and men devout,
Strangers of Rome, and the new proselytes,
      In their own language hear thy wondrous word,
      And many are amazed and many doubt.