A Cautious Man
February 25, 2004
New York City Serenade
The President has decided that gay marriage is an issue important enough for him to appear at a press announcement, and to address through an amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Even though a constitutional change will take years, he made it sound as if this was some emergent action, which was needed immediately in order to address situations from Massachusetts to San Francisco, and points in between.

What this means is that the issue will not be resolved, and therefore can be "live", through the conventions and the general election this November. For their convention, the President's party will be in New York City, where the mayor is not exactly in lock-step with the President on this issue:
[Mayor Michael] Bloomberg opposes President George W. Bush's proposed constitutional amendment banning homosexual unions, but he's steadfastly refused to express his private opinions on the issue -- saying it is technically a matter of state jurisdiction.

Wednesday was no exception.

"In terms of what is legal in New York, if you've got some views, you should call the State Legislature," Bloomberg said during a news conference at North Central Bronx Hospital yesterday morning. "They are the ones that are going to have to deal with this issue. New York City will enforce whatever the laws are... and I will make sure that they do that."

The mayor, a self-avowed supporter of gay rights, signed a law in 2002 allowing same-sex couples married in other states and countries to retain their rights in the city. But he hasn't endorsed extending those rights to people who want to get married here.

The closest he's come to a personal expression on the topic came in August 2001, a month before his election, when he told a Jewish Week reporter, "When I got married I chose to marry a woman. I do not, however, think it is my business who you marry."

Last summer, he slammed conservative Republicans for trying to insert an anti-gay marriage plank in the party platform, saying, "I have always thought that people should always be allowed to go about their business themselves."

Asked if that position meant he supported gay marriage, Bloomberg replied, "My personal opinion is not important."
That's the situation now. What will things be like by the time the convention rolls around in early September?

Some folks have speculated about how this could be a problem for the Democrats - a convention in Boston, same-sex marriages taking place through the summer, televisions showing a "split screen" with the nominee on one side, and gay nuptials being celebrated on the other. But what about this scenario for the Republican convention: the host Mayor, and other officials gradually deciding to be more vocal in their views; speakers departing from their scripts to appeal to convention-goers, live on television; and, good solid Republican mothers and fathers of gay adults, gathering in front of the convention site in silent witness to say, "We're not sure if marriage, or civil unions, or some other relationship should be available to our children, but we can agree that your desire to ban any possibility of these is the wrong way to go." Should be interesting to see.

Cryin' in the Theater as the Credits Roll
The Mel Gibson Passion opened today, and I guess it was an emotional experience for some people. Not those who are upset by the film, but for people who say that it will influence their religious faith. So, I have to ask myself, do I want to see this film? Since even favorable reviews makes the movie sound like a cross between the four Gospels and Tarantino's Kill Bill, I guess I really don't want to see it. I'm not a big fan of violent movies.

I think that another reason I don't fell like seeing it, is that I don't feel a need to see it. Maybe it's because I'm a Catholic, so every Sunday my worship space has a crucifix, Stations of the Cross, and other reminders of the Passion in addition to those which arise in the Liturgy. But, all those reminders exist within the context of other symbols of the faith. Stained-glass windows (which in my parish illustrate scenes from the life of St. Joseph) are a fixture of Catholic churches, but not of all Christian denominations, not to mention the statues and images of saints from throughout history. In addition, the worship space is just that, a place where the parish gathers for Liturgy and other events. What I'm trying to convey in my imperfect way is the fact that, while the Passion narrative is a significant presence in a Catholic church, it resides within the larger context of the Church's past, present and future, through images, words, and the people of the parish. That is very different from the way the narrative is presented in the newly-released movie.

By the way, I don't think my hypothetical capsule review (see below) was so far off from the real USCCB one:
Unflinching dramatization of the final agonizing hours of the earthly life of Jesus Christ (Jim Caviezel), from the garden of Gethsemane to his crucifixion and resurrection, intercut with flashbacks to his childhood and public ministry. Although the film's brutality poignantly conveys the depth of Christ's love by showing him freely enduring such extreme agony for the redemption of all sinners, the graphic nature of the raw visuals is played to diminishing returns. Following the basic outline of the gospel passion narratives, director Mel Gibson embroiders his interpretive retelling of scripture with extra-biblical sources as well as his own imagination, to craft an at times profoundly moving movie which succeeds in stripping Christ's sacrificial suffering of its Sunday school sugar-coating. While it is the film's assertion that responsibility for Christ's torture and death rest squarely with the Roman authorities, and away from the collective Jewish populace, the movie presents a historically skewed depiction of the Temple elite's sway with their imperial overlords. Subtitles. Gory scenes of torture and crucifixion, a suicide and some frightening images. The USCCB Office for Film & Broadcasting classification is A-III -- adults.

February 10, 2004
Movie Ratings Game
As noted here the other day, there is more and more interest in Mel Gibson's Passion movie as the opening date nears. Among the viewers and reviewers will be the Office for Film and Broadcasting of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Out of curiosity, I checked to see what they had written as a review of Martin Scorcese's The Last Temptation of Christ:
Last Temptation of Christ, The -- Deeply flawed screen adaptation of the Nikos Kazantzakis novel probing the mystery of the human nature of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, fails because of artistic inadequacy rather than anti-religious bias. Director Martin Scorsese's wrong-headed insistence on gore and brutality, as well as a preoccupatiuon with sexual rather than spirtual love, is compounded by screenwriter Paul Schrader's muddled script, shallow characterizations and flat dialogue delivered woodenly by William Dafoe in the title role. Excessively graphic violence, several sexually explicit scenes and some incidental nudity. (O)
The rating "O" is from the USCCB's rating system, as follows:
A-I - General Patronage
A-II - Adults and Adolescents
A-III - Adults
A-IV - Adults, with reservations (An A-IV classification as a safeguard against wrong interpretations and conclusions.)
O - Morally Offensive
So, that got me to thinking, what should the review and rating be for the new film? One hypothetical possibility would be:
Passion of the Christ, The -- Deeply flawed screen adaptation of the Passion narrative, which claims to be faithful to the Gospels, although drawing on non-Scripture sources which were never meant to be used as historical representations of the Passion. The passion and death of Jesus Christ is presented with little context with respect to His teaching mission, and with added elements which could be interpreted as assigning responsibility solely to the Jews of the time. Ultimately, the film fails because of artistic inadequacy rather than any overt anti-Semitism. Director Mel Gibson's wrong-headed insistence on gore and brutality, as well as a preoccupation with the culpability of the Jewish authorities, is compounded by a script which includes several scenes which not only add to, but appear to contradict the Gospel narratives. Excessively graphic violence.
As for a rating, what could that be? Is the film for children, adults, or for adults with "a safeguard against wrong interpretations and conclusions"? Could it be the big "O"? I don't know the answer, but it will be interesting to find out.

February 05, 2004
Year Gone By Feels Like One Long Day
Guess what day in history this is?

That's right. This time last year, we were hanging on every word of the speech by Secretary of State Colin Powell to the United Nations Security Counsel:
I asked for this session today for two purposes. First, to support the core assessments made by Dr. Blix and Dr. ElBaradei. As Dr. Blix reported to this Council on January 27, "Iraq appears not to have come to a genuine acceptance, not even today, of the disarmament which was demanded of it."
And as Dr. ElBaradei reported, Iraq's declaration of December 7 "did not provide any new information relevant to certain questions that have been outstanding since 1998."

My second purpose today is to provide you with additional information, to share with you what the United States knows about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, as well as Iraq's involvement in terrorism, which is also the subject of Resolution 1441 and other earlier resolutions.

I might add at this point that we are providing all relevant information we can to the inspection teams for them to do their work.
What is really sad, is to read the conclusion of Secretary Powell's remarks (about which he was, no doubt, sincere, but there were others with different plans):
My colleagues, we have an obligation to our citizens. We have an obligation to this body to see that our resolutions are complied with. We wrote 1441 not in order to go to war. We wrote 1441 to try to preserve the peace. We wrote 1441 to give Iraq one last chance.
In retrospect, there is a strong possibility that Secretary Powell was shamefully used, by people who wanted this war. Who really believed what? Isn't that the question a truly independent panel should be appointed to answer?

February 03, 2004
Been Watching You Awhile, Maybe You've Been Watching Me Too
An interesting side story has come to light, as a result of the "dance-related disrobing program activities":
TiVo said that particular halftime stunt was the most replayed moment not only of the Super Bowl but of all TV moments that the young company has ever measured.

TiVo said it used its technology to measure audience behavior among 20,000 users during the Super Bowl. The exercise revealed a 180 percent spike in viewership at the time of the -- as Timberlake refers to it -- "wardrobe malfunction."
So, let me get this straight - if you have a little TiVo thing, it not only knows what you're watching, it knows exactly what you're watching. That's just great, a TV that watches you. Care for another Victory Gin, Mr. Smith?

February 02, 2004
Clothes Got Too Tight
"Wardrobe malfunction". Sure, whatever you say.
Was any consideration given to "Dance-related disrobing activities"?

February 01, 2004
Two Kids Get Married, Same Old Thing
Frank Rich's column in the New York Times today was, well, awesome. His topic was marriage, and the popular culture surrounding the institution. After noting that the Super Bowl will feature adds about a number of products to deal with a certain, ah, "dysfunction", and also noting the recently proposed Federal government efforts to encourage marriage, he gets to the heart of the matter. Using different Diane Sawyer interviews, he points out how our popular culture may be warped these days, with respect to its priorities, and its ideals, about marriage.

Recently, Howard Dean found it necessary to subject himself and his wife to an interview with Diane Sawyer. As Mr. Rich noted:
Though I have no vested interest in Howard Dean, it was refreshing that he initially refrained from using his wife as a prop on the campaign trail. ... The Deans didn't want their marriage to be a proto-feminist, anti-feminist or even "Everybody Loves Raymond" role model. They simply refused to pose for the contrived and usually fictionalized marital snapshots that the political press demands and then analyzes to death.
Mr. Rich pointed out how, despite attempts by Ms. Sawyer, the network, and everybody else to draw a comparison, the Deans' interview was the exact opposite of the one the Clintons did after the Super Bowl twelve years ago:
But the Deans were not defending themselves against charges of marital turbulence and infidelity. Quite the contrary: they were defending themselves against charges of having a marriage that was if anything too deficient in the melodrama that might lend it entertainment value and too private to be repackaged as a circus.
The icing on the wedding cake, as it were, was Mr. Rich's contrasting of that interview, with one conducted by the same Ms. Sawyer with Trista Rehn ("The Bachelorette") and her husband who won the television contest, and her hand in marriage:
Yet neither the $1 million cash nor the $4 million ceremony that sealed their marital contract were mentioned when Trista and Ryan were interviewed by Ms. Sawyer on "Good Morning America." While the Deans were treated like freaks, the stars of "The Bachelorette" were treated as a perfectly normal all-American couple. And perhaps these days they are.
Well, here's to all those boring couples out there, who share their lives together while remaining individuals. Ain't love grand?


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