November 24, 2010


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Danny Hidalgo, dp for the Alberione film, has been featured along with Spirit Juice Studios on Sony's video equipment website! Sony VideON Biography - Daniel Hidalgo Check out Danny's work on music vid "Move Merchants," then arrow right to watch Rob Kaczmark's "To Be Born" trailer, a pro-life short. (I've seen a rough cut of the 17 min. film and the trailer doesn't even begin to do it justice.) We're so proud of Rob and Danny and so grateful to be working with them!
Danny is on the Appian Way here, recreating the Apostle Paul walking into Rome....

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November 23, 2010


“Fair Game” is one of those very-recent history movies, based very tightly on a true story. It’s actually two stories evenly balanced into one: that of Ambassador Joe Wilson (Sean Penn looking all Michael Douglas-y) and his wife, CIA operative Valerie Plame (Naomi Watts). These two distinguished actors knock their respective roles out of the park.

The historical anecdote is, of course, the lie that started a war. The lie that Saddam/Iraq had a nuclear program, was enriching uranium and had weapons of mass destruction (WMDs). The “proof” was that the country of Niger had been providing the materials—something Joe Wilson disproved on a fact-finding mission. In retaliation for Wilson not going along with the “program” to get the war on, and instead turning to the news media to out the lie, Valerie’s identity was revealed to all the world by none other than the White House/U.S. government itself.

This action of disclosing the identity of an American spy was illegal, and although the chain of command went all the way up to the Vice President, it was underling Scooter Libby who eventually took the fall.

Since the start of the Second Gulf War took place almost ten years ago, this film can be very instructive for younger people who did not live through these events, so fresh in older minds. In fact, there is a movement in education to use these types of films in history classes—while simultaneously checking the films for accuracy and comparing them with reality. Many actual TV newscasts of President Bush and others are heavily interwoven throughout the film.

All is pretty much exactly as I remembered it unfolding. Even the mood of the country is recreated: the fear and panic right after 9/11, the patriotism, the accusations of disloyalty to America and the troops if one was against going to war, the fact that 50% of Americans thought Saddam had attacked the Twin Towers (making the connection as they heard the war drums rattling every day in the media), the “shock and awe” as the bombing of Baghdad began. Another comment is made about us recently having been allies with Saddam during the Iran/Iraq war: “We put him there.”

This incident was a pretty clear-cut one. Other news stories can tend to get all murkified and we wind up with what one character says in denial and defeat: “Who knows what really happened?”
Much of the film centers on what the stress of it all did to Joe and Valerie’s marriage, their decision to fight, their love of country, their love of truth. (One does have to ask, however, about the truthfulness of being a spy! The filmmakers must have anticipated this, because at one point, Valerie is asked how she can look people in the face and lie, and she responds: “Know why you’re lying, and never forget the truth.”)

Both Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame have written books about their experiences.


--What is it with the name “Wilson”? (“Charlie Wilson’s War”)

--I just realized how much my friend Michelle Halm looks like a raven-haired Naomi Watts. And have told her so.

--I bet Sean Penn loved making this movie and “sticking it to the man.” Ha ha. Although I don’t care for his leftie politics, I applaud him profoundly for his humanitarian work: Katrina, and especially Haiti.

--Fascinating brief (real) footage of skeptical faces of the representatives of various countries at the U.N. as Bush makes his case to go after Saddam.

--Do NOT invite Joe Wilson to your next dinner party.

--The great title is a quote from Karl Rove who said: “Joe Wilson’s wife is fair game.”

--I really admired Joe Wilson when he spoke out. He really was all alone. I’m glad he has a movie now.

--If you like “Fair Game” you’ll like “Spy Games” (fictional) with Brad Pitt and Robert Redford, about how the U.S. sometimes treats its friends, what spying might be like, and what the spy might ultimately have to do to avoid their own government.

--Other good Iraq/Afghanistan War movies: “Brothers at War” (documentary), “Restrepo,” “Three Kings” (1st Gulf War—heavily watched by soldiers DURING the 2nd Gulf War), “Jarhead (1st Gulf War),” “Hurt Locker.” I have reservations about all these movies, however, because none really show the horror and repercussions of war.

--THEOLOGY OF THE BODY? A beautiful portrayal of getting through extremely tough times in a marriage.

--Saw this film in Boston—a very politically-active, ideological city. Mostly upper middle-aged audience. There was a kind of reverent silence during the whole thing and the audience didn’t move till halfway through the credits. I love my people. :]

--Great speech at the end about what it means to be an American.

--As much as I was (and am) against the war in Iraq (and women in combat!), even I got swept up for a few days with that amazing photo-op of the young blonde female soldier being handed a flower by a grateful Iraqi woman as the statue of Saddam was pulled down in Baghdad. The power of image, the power of narrative, the power of wishful thinking, the power of nationalism, the power of interpretation, the power of power.

--Can someone please tell me why we REALLY went into Iraq?

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November 13, 2010



p. 45--“Instinct”and “urge” mean the same thing more or less.

Man is capable of rising above sexual “instinct” and other “instincts.” The sexual urge is the strongest of all urges because it has to do with our very EXISTENCE.

The sexual “urge” is a "vector of aspiration from which the human person grows and perfects themselves from within." When we live according to the sexual order, it orders our whole being and we progress and grow. E.g., a man becomes fully a man only in relation to woman (not just an individual woman, but, e.g., a priest toward the Church, the feminine). A priest’s relationship to the Church perfects both himself and the Church. IT MUST BE COMPLEMENTARY IN NATURE for the perfecting to happen. A man cannot fully perfect another man.

That’s why our sexual drive is so strong—because it’s what perfects us in every way! People attack Christopher West for being “too sexual” in his presentations, but actually, we are not “sexual” enough! We have to be like God, more like God. How? Through love and life which is what our sexuality is all about.

We are not responsible for what occurs independent of our will in the sexual sphere (senses and emotions), but we are fully responsible for what we do with it (sense and emotions and will).
To understand ourselves in terms of the spousal element of our being is to understand everything about ourselves. Gender has a revelatory nature. Our genders reveal God!
What about hermaphrodites? (Who prefer to be called “intersex” today.) Doesn’t change anything. Even though it’s a kind of departure from the norm, it doesn’t change anything about the fundamental order of creation or human nature. The fact that we talk about it as an exception also shows this. But hermaphrodites are also sexual/spousal beings! They too, need to make a gift of self! (And receive the gift that others are.) Everything “TOB” applies to them, too. Even if our bodies/sexual organs, etc., aren’t perfect, it doesn’t matter, because sexuality isn’t just physical, it’s also spiritual/emotional/psychological/social!

A human male is attracted to the whole value of what is feminine, not just her body for “reproduction” like the animals. Same for the woman attracted to a man. We each have a value that completes the other. It’s not just about mating and sexual satisfaction.

To talk about sexual “orientation” is amorphous/too generic, we are attracted to a specific PERSON (or should be). It’s personal. [Sr. Anne: A woman who was in a lesbian relationship for many years eventually married a man and had kids. She says she is still not attracted to men. She is only attracted to her husband.]

LOVE is a phenomenon of people only, not animals. It’s fundamentally different FROM the sexual urge. It involves the whole person. Love is given its definitive shape by acts of the will at the level of the person.

What should couples do/not do when dating? BE HONEST TO THE SITUATION. Are you really going to get married? Don’t treat dating like mock-marriage, marriage-lite. It’s not. Only marriage is exclusive. Don’t treat dating like it’s marriage. Maybe not even call it dating, call it “friendship,” and once it’s a solid Christian friendship/brothers & sisters in Christ [“Today I marry my best friend” is a great marriage-sentiment!], you can advance to “courtship” because you’re purposefully heading toward marriage. If you’re not thinking about marriage, don’t get so intimate (of course not sex, but also not the other intimate demands that marriage would put on each other: call me every hour, don’t even look at other women/men or talk to them, etc.). Don’t put each other in an either/or situation: Either this leads to marriage or I’ll be heartbroken. This is also why too much physicality will BOND you to each other and make it very, very difficult to break up even when you should!

Our world says: If you don’t act on all your urges, it’s unnatural! But the truth is the opposite! AS HUMANS, it’s unnatural just to follow our urges! It’s natural to HUMANS to regulate our lives according to our WILL, exercising our WILLPOWER.

[Our culture is both BLINDLY SUBMITTING TO NATURE (but only in our sexual instincts), and REBELLING AGAINST NATURE (in things like contraception and natural conception), and CRUSHING/CONTROLLING/MANIPULATING NATURE (genetic engineering, pollution, raping natural resources). Why do we have to treat Nature as Sacred? Cause it’s all we got! God made it and is working through it. The invisible—the spiritual and divine--is made visible through the physical.

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. –Romans 1:20

Through faith we perceive that the worlds were created by the word of God, and that what is visible came into being through the invisible. –Hebrews 11:3

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. –Colossians 1:15]

NFP—to use unnatural means to contracept damages the love-relationship between persons and that’s why it’s wrong. [Because it’s going against the nature of the act, the nature of love which is SACRIFICIAL. It must start with our love of/TRUST in God, otherwise we’re NOT going to trust Him with this huge area of our lives. We need to make room for God!]

Everything rises and falls on what goes on in the bedroom, that’s why we WANT God and the Church in the bedroom! The bedroom is the sanctuary of the human race. The woman’s womb is a tabernacle which the man must approach as a priest approaches the tabernable.

If we’re contracepting, you’re not just doing it in the bedroom, we’re doing it everywhere else: “contraceptive mentality.” [Closed to God, closed to "the other," closed to anything I don't tightly plan in my own life.] Soooo…one can practice NFP with a “contraceptive mentality” if one is totally closed to life.

It’s not biological determinism…it’s God’s Creation/Order working through “biology.”

Q: Do you have to accept God to accept the natural order/natural law?A: No, but it helps.

National Catholic Bio-ethics Center shows all the science that is being suppressed (e.g., the contraception/abortion/breast cancer link)! The National Cancer Institute is adamantly suppressing this stuff!

Q: How define natural law?A: Our objective and subjective interaction with Nature. [And we ARE Nature, too!] VJP2G said: We are subject and object at the same time! We are subject to Nature, and object IN Nature, but we can also step back and reflect on our existence as the acting person/subjective subject that we are.

[VJP2G does use human experience as a starting point—the phenomenological method--(but AUTHENTIC experience). This is how VJP2G purified Kant! We can do things wrong for years and then say: “But this is my experience.”]
Fr. Loya: That’s what’s meant by a totally, totally HONEST and thorough examination of our experience….

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November 11, 2010


“Red” is a good time. A bloody good time. There’s tons of shooting and violence, but come to think of it, there’s not much blood, only a sizeable body count. This is tongue-in-cheek violence—not even earnest violence-as-entertainment, but violence as comedy. Am I making any sense? See, R.E.D. means “Retired and Extremely Dangerous.” Bruce Willis (Frank Moses) is R.E.D., the best C.I.A. agent that ever there was. He and his cronies (Morgan Freeman, Helen Mirren, and king-of-quirk John Malkovich) come out of retirement because something fishy is going on involving a hit list, a 1981 cover-up in Guatemala, and the Vice-President of the United States of America. Oh yes, and Frank takes along Mary-Louise Parker (Sarah)--a mousy government phone operator who reads spy-romance novels--whom Frank has been crushing on. (Willis and Parker are a delightful comedy-action team.) All Sarah can say is: “Wow!” as she lives the dream.

If you don’t like violence (ridiculous or not), you won’t like “Red,” and you especially won’t like seeing Helen Mirren firing round after round after round of machine gun volleys (she also expertly fires other automatic weapons) in her white evening gown. (At a certain point the noise was rivaling “Public Enemies.”) Me? Because this movie is from DC Comics—although our heroes don’t have ANY superpowers—the tenor of the violence just didn’t faze me one iota. I didn’t, like, WARM to the violence, or laugh at it (except the “real estate agent” with the RPG on her shoulder). Oh dear, maybe I’m jaded. Maybe there’s something in me like there is in Helen Mirren’s character who pretends to be content with flower arranging in her retirement, but finally admits to taking contracts on the side because she “misses the excitement.” But I wouldn’t want anyone to get hurt. And I certainly wouldn’t kill anyone. But the excitement part is attractive. Oh dear. Even truer confessions: After watching the trailer, I DID want to see Helen Mirren fire a gun. Oh dear.

Karl Urban plays William Cooper, Frank’s active C.I.A. nemesis, to perfection. You just can’t take your eyes of this guy he’s SUCH a good actor. Audiences should clamor to see more of him. At a certain point I realized one of the reasons he stands out. It occurred to me: this guy is hiding an accent. He’s dropping “r’s.” Sounds Australian, but could be British. Turns out: New Zealand. He doesn’t hold himself like an American, he doesn’t gaze like an American actor, doesn’t walk American, doesn’t make American facial expressions, doesn’t phrase American. There’s an intensity, a stick-to-the-part-like-glue quality about his acting that is more British. Anyway, he’s great. And he has “cute hair” (Frank Moses).

We are here, there and everywhere in “Red”: Chicago, New Orleans, Virginia, Florida, NYC, introduced by cheery postcards and local music.

Beneath the jocularity is a serious message about what our C.I.A. really does and is capable of. As in movies like “Syriana,” there’s a division between good guys and bad guys in the government system, and in “Red,” the real bad guys are the arms dealers, the private sector, the defense contractors. There’s a repeating Hollywood message here about how America can still be “good”: if individuals, even within corrupt systems, can do their conscience, do the right thing, and of course, put love and family first, and sacrifice all when required. Perhaps this is a much more sober movie than it originally appears to be. We’re not supposed to laugh at any of the true tragedies (like a massacre in Guatemala), but we are supposed to laugh at everything else. As Oscar Wilde said: “If you’re going to tell someone the truth, make them laugh. Otherwise they’ll kill you.”

Sometimes it feels to me like America is “whatever we want it to be.” Like we’re making everything up as we go along. Especially in our storytelling, in our American imagination. And I just kept thinking while watching “Red” how familiar we are with weapons of war (large-scale warfare is carried out in domestic settings in “Red”), and is it just a coincidence that we are fighting two wars right now as more and more violent movies (it seems) are hitting the theaters and I see every day in the news some other young Chicagoan or Illinoisan who has given their lives overseas? The attitude in these films (as well as all the uber-violent previews before the movie) seems to be: “It’s just violence.” Could Hannah Arendt’s “banality of evil” be applied here?


--Why isn’t “Red” in IMDB?

--Quite a few laughs in this movie.

--Kidnappee to kidnapper: “You can’t just go around duct-taping people. People are basically decent: talk to them.”

--This could have been a one-joke movie: Elderly C.I.A. operatives back in action. But it’s not. Not even with 93-year-old Ernest Borgnine in charge of a C.I.A. archives so secret it doesn’t exist.

--Frank’s entire house—decked out for Christmas--is COMPLETELY, COMPLETELY decimated by black ops. And it doesn’t even wake the neighbors.

--John Malkovich looks very old. And he’s only 57. And it doesn’t look like the make-up.

--A mildly-grisly hanging scene didn’t bother me. I’m beginning to worry about myself.

--Frank is accused by Victoria (Helen Mirren) of being “gooey on the inside.” Hmmm. Thinking of Theology of the Body, maybe that fact that our bodies are physically “gooey” on the inside is a message that we SHOULD be “soft” on the inside—vulnerable, malleable, able to be moved, tender….

--This is a good, OLD-fashioned spy-caper-comedy. People of a certain age will enjoy it more than others, being more familiar with Cold War and Vietnam War era tropes, as well as the aging actors. Mature, youth-challenged people were whooping it up in my theater.

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November 8, 2010


“The New Evangelization” is a term coined by Ven. John Paul II the Great to describe the current-day need for the evangelization and re-evangelization of countries and areas of the world that are historically Christian, but for various reasons are no longer so, or are Christian in name only. Pope Benedict XVI has taken up this clarion call with regard to Europe in particular, as he witnesses Europe’s attempts to deny even the factuality of its Christian roots. Pope Benedict even instituted a “Pontifical Council for New Evangelization” this year.

The “re-evangelization” of countries is not new. There are precedents wherein a country/people received the “kerygma” (the initial proclamation of the Gospel) from early missionaries, but the local Church was: left without pastors, lacked a systematic structural development, reverted back to native religions, fell into heresy, fell away, converted to other religions due to invasions, etc. The parable of the Sower and the Seeds is very applicable here! India claims to have received its kerygma from the Apostle Thomas himself. England received the Faith early on but was in need of re-evangelization soon after. The Potawatomi Indians in Michigan were baptized by a missionary priest and taught the Our Father in Latin, but did not see another priest for many years (their recitation of the Our Father was proof of their baptism to subsequent missionaries!)

What does John Paul II’s “Theology of the Body” have to do with his “New Evangelization”? Everything. Although he did not connect the dots himself --most likely out of modesty*—the correlation is vital, at least for Western civilization. How so? There is no evangelization without the evangelization of culture. Individuals belong to cultures, and the Gospel must not only transform the individual but the culture through “inculturation.”

Why the need to evangelize cultures? “Culture” is everything that makes us human: art, work, recreation, leisure, athletics, family life, rites of passage, social networks, politics, food, dance, literature, drama, rituals, and above all, worship. For the Gospel to “stick” and be effective, it must permeate all these areas.

Today, “pop culture” is the dominant culture. Some would call it “American culture” or “media culture.” Some disdain pop culture as “low culture” versus the “high culture” of classical music, the “great books,” etc., but the fact is, the pop culture has all the earmarks of a bonafide culture. And it’s the ONLY culture many young and not-so-young people claim allegiance to.

I was just in Milan/Rome, and guess whose face is EVERYWHERE: on billboards, T-shirts, calendars, even in religious shops? Marilyn Monroe. Everywhere. (Pop culture can also be retro-chic!) As VJP2G also said: “Man is the way of the Church” (Redemptor Hominis). We do not have the luxury to hang back, stand aloof from the roads that the masses travel on. We must “duc in altum,” “put out into the deep,” put out into the wild and wooly watering holes of the pop culture if we are to bring and be Christ, Way, Truth and Life to souls.

As Vatican II taught us, there are “seeds of the Gospel” present in every culture. There is a need to “baptize” what is already good in a culture and “purify” what is not. What are the “seeds of the Gospel” present in today’s Western, so-called “post-Christian” and pop culture? A fascination, obsession, and unswerving commitment to the body, the sensuous, the material, the beautiful, what can be seen, felt and experienced. And John Paul II said: Fine. We can start there. This was VJP2G’s genius in his Theology of the Body. Instead of STARTING with the spiritual, the soul, the mind, consciousness, i.e., what CANNOT be seen, he said: Let’s START with what we CAN see. The physical. The body. As VJP2G’s official biographer, George Weigel, notes, the Theology of the Body has and will continue to turn the entire theological and philosophical world (secular and religious) upside down (or right-side up!) by giving it a new starting point. A universally verifiable starting point. And this starting point cannot be divorced from God because it is Creation and Creation is a doctrine and now we are squarely in the lap of God.

But didn’t we always start our catechesis with Creation? “God made the world”? Yes. However, we Western Catholics are card-carrying members of our particular Western culture which is “Cartesian,” that is, which espouses and lives out of a mind-body split at its very core (see Waldstein’s Introduction to the new edition of the Theology of the Body, “Male and Female He Created Them”). This flawed philosophical underpinning undermines and overrides whatever we are taught by the Bible and the Church, and guides our everyday choices.

The fact of that matter is: We do not HAVE bodies, we ARE bodies. We are embodied spirits and spiritualized bodies. The definition of the human person IS body and soul, together forever.

Is Theology of the Body something new or something old, then? It’s both. It’s a new synthesis of eternal truths. John Paul II, a master catechist, has arranged the deposit of the Faith in such a way that it is immediately accessible to all, because he starts where we all live: our bodies, love, relationships. Jeff Cavins says that what we learn about our Faith through the years often amounts to a “pile of Catholicism” that might even seem like a bunch of true, but unrelated facts. John Paul II has taken the jigsaw puzzle box of the Catholic Faith and assembled the pieces together so that we can see the beautiful complete picture and plan of God for the human body, the human person, centered around Creation/Incarnation/New Creation. Now we can see how everything is interconnected: how the Eucharist connects to Marriage, how the Magisterium connects to the Church’s social teaching, how the Liturgical Year connects to our cycles of fertility, etc. As Fr. Thomas Loya says, “The Theology of the Body is the delivery system for the sum-total of the Church’s wisdom.”

Perhaps we could even say that the Theology of the Body IS the New Evangelization—both content and method.

*Although modesty is a virtue WITHIN the Theology of the Body, there is no need to be modest ABOUT the Theology of the Body. :]

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