Archive for November 2010

Dark City (1998)   1 comment

DARK CITY (1998); DIRECTOR’S CUT (2008)

Starring

Rufus Sewell as John Murdoch

William Hurt as Inspector Frank Bumstead

Kiefer Sutherland as Dr. Daniel P. Schreber

Jennifer Connelly as Emma Murdoch

Colin Friels as Detective Eddie Walenski

Directed by Alex Proyas

Rated R

What makes us human?

That is the question which animates this imaginative movie rich with homages to Metropolis (1927), 1940s film noir classics, and German expressionistic silent films.  Watch The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) then Dark City, and notice certain stylistic similarities.

Let us begin.

Dark City is set in a perpetually sunless city replete with anachronisms.  People dress and speak like characters out of 1940s movies yet automotive and architectural styles span several decades.  Something is amiss here, and almost no human characters grasp this fact.  Instead they go their daily lives as if under outside control, which they are.

The puppet masters are the Strangers, parasitic aliens who inhabit human corpses, which look really creepy.  The Strangers have one goal in mind:  to discover what makes humans tick, and therefore to learn this lesson and save their dying species.  The Strangers have the power to “tune,” or alter physical reality with their minds, and to change the identities of the captive people by implanting memories whenever they want.  This plan depends on the humans remaining oblivious to reality, however.

Detective Eddie Walenski has discovered some of the truth.  He knows that there is no way out of the city, and that the woman everyone thinks is his wife no not really his wife; he does not know who she is, or, for that matter, who he is.  These facts cause him great emotional distress, and most other people consider him to be crazy.

Dr. Daniel P. Schreber, Psychiatrist, knows what is going on, for he is the Strangers’ accomplice.  Yet Schreber is uncomfortable with the aliens.  His character is pivotal in the movie.

Our hero, however, is John Murdoch.  He wakes up in a bathtub, uncertain about who he is or why there is a dead woman lying on the floor.  Yet Murdoch does not have the soul of a murderer, for he takes the time to save the life of a fish.  Murdoch has woken up before the Strangers could complete their reprogramming of him as a serial killer of prostitutes.  Schreber, who is somewhat on the side of the humans, calls Murdoch to tell him to flee while he can.  So Murdoch gets out just in time to evade the Strangers.

John Murdoch finds his wife, Emma, who recalls that she has not seen him since an argument three weeks ago.   She expresses regret over an extramarital affair.  None of this happened, of course, for these are fabricated memories.

Emma Murdoch, as a character, begins with little depth, for she exists (as a personality) only because the Strangers created her recently.  The same statement is true of Inspector Frank Bumstead, pictured below:

As Bumstead investigates the murders of prostitutes (Did the murders really happen?, the audience wonders.), he begins to notice the artificiality of the city and the superficiality of his memories.  So he teams up with Murdoch and Schreber to uncover the truth.

Murdoch has “childhood” memories of an idyllic, happy, and sunny place called Shell Beach.  But neither he nor anyone else can recall how to get there.  The search for Shell Beach propels the action of the movie.  Along the way, Murdoch and Bumstead learn far more than they thought possible.

John Murdoch has developed the power to tune, so he has become a rival to the Strangers.  So, of course, he is one of two humans (the other one being Dr. Schreber) who watches the daily retuning of the city, along with buildings arising out of the ground.

I do not want to reveal too much here, for a satisfactory first-time viewing of Dark City depends on not knowing everything.  So I leave much to the imagination.

Consider these questions:  What makes us human?  What makes who we are as individuals, if not our memories?  And if our memories change, do we become different people too?  In other words, what defines the human soul?  Dark City explores these issues intelligently.

Roger Ebert has heaped praise upon this movie and recorded commentary tracks for the original and director’s cut releases.  Watching Dark City without a commentary track is a rewarding artistic experience, but viewing it while listening to Ebert (who no longer has that voice, of course) is informative.  He comments on camera angles, movie pacing, and other details only an expert film reviewer would notice.

To watch Dark City is to spend time well.  I invite you, O reader, to do this many times.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 20, 2010 COMMON ERA

All images are screen captures I obtained via the Power DVD technology installed on my computer.

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/06/13/dark-city-1998/

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Posted November 20, 2010 by neatnik2009 in Reviews

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Feast of St. Edith Stein (August 9)   Leave a comment

ST. EDITH STEIN (OCTOBER 12, 1891-AUGUST 9, 1942)

Nun and Philosopher

The life of St. Edith Stein exemplifies the union of faith, philosophy, intellect, and prayer.

Stein, born in Breslau, Germany (now Wroclaw, Poland), raised an observant Jew, converted to Roman Catholicism in 1922.  The impetus for this conversion came during her studies of philosophy at universities in Gottingen and Freiburg, when she read the writings of St. Theresa of Avila.  Stein considered Roman Catholicism an expansion of her Jewish beliefs.  Sensitive to her mother’s feelings, Stein continued to attend synagogue services with her for a while.

Stein was a keen intellect, but academic work at the university level was closed to her because she was a woman.  Nevertheless, while teaching German language and literature at a Dominican school for girls, she continued philosophical studies privately.  Stein flowered philosophically after 1933, when she became a Carmelite nun.  Her output during this period included texts on St. John of the Cross and on prayer.
Stein, being ethnically Jewish, was at great risk during in the 1930s and 1940s.  She had to leave Germany in 1937, so the Carmelites sent her to the Netherlands.  The saint was not safe there for long, either, for the Nazis deported her to Auschwitz two years later.  For the last three years of her life, Stein ministered to her fellow prisoners.  She and her sister, Rose, died in 1942.  Perhaps the best epitaph for St. Edith Stein come from her own words:

Sufferings endured with the Lord are his sufferings, and bear great fruit in the context of his great work of redemption.

Pope John Paul II canonized her in 1998.  The Roman Catholic Church has declared Edith Stein a martyr,  on the grounds that she died because the Dutch Roman Catholic bishops had condemned Nazism.  So Stein died upholding the moral position of the Church.  One might say that this is an unusual definition for martyrdom, but it works.  And what about St. Maximilian Kolbe (August 14), whom the Nazis murdered also?  He died because his faithfulness put into the path of danger.  He was no less a martyr than Pope Sixtus II or St. Laurence of Rome.  And neither was St. Edith Stein.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 19, 2010 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF F. BLAND TUCKER, EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF ST. ELIZABETH OF HUNGARY, PRINCESS

THE FEAST OF FRANZ SCHUBERT, COMPOSER

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Almighty God, your Holy Spirit gives to one the word of knowledge, and to another the insight of wisdom, and to another the steadfastness of faith.  We praise you for the gifts of grace imparted to your servant St. Edith Stein, and we pray that by her teaching we may be led to a fuller knowledge of the truth we have seen in your Son Jesus, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Proverbs 3:1-7 or Wisdom of Solomon 7:7-14

Psalm 119:89-104

1 Corinthians 3:6-10, 13-16 or 1 Corinthians 3:5-11

John 17:18-23 or Matthew 13:47-52

Feast of St. Mary MacKillop (August 8)   Leave a comment

SAINT MARY MACKILLOP (1842-1909)

Founder of the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Sacred Heart

Mary MacKillop is one of the most recently minted saints on the Roman Catholic calendar.  Pope Benedict XVI canonized her on October 17, 2010.  I write these words on November 18, 2010.

The saint’s parents, originally from Scotland, settled in Australia prior to her birth on January 15, 1842.  Her father, Alexander MacKillop, arrived in 1838, and her mother, Flora MacDonald, settled in Australia two years later.  They married later that year. The saint grew up in a Roman Catholic family; her father had almost become a priest, Donald, a brother, did become a Jesuit priest, and Lexie, a sister, became a nun.

Alexander MacKillop tried hard to provide for his family, but struggled to do so.  So Mary went to work at age 14 and began a progression of jobs, such as clerk, teacher, and governess.  Her siblings had to work to support the family, too.

In 1866, Mary and her sisters, Annie and Lexie, joined Father Julian Woods in opening a Catholic school at Penola, South Australia.  Woods was concerned about the lack of Catholic education available in South Australia, so he had decided to do something about the matter.  The following year, at age 25, the saint took the name Sister Mary of the Cross and became the first sister and Mother Superior of the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Sacred Heart.  The new order dedicated itself to educating poor children and opened and operated schools across southern Australia.

Church politics threatened the good work, though.  Laurence Sheil, Bishop of Adelaide, had encouraged the work of the new Josephite order.  Yet some clergy tried to discredit the efforts of St. Mary MacKillop and Father Woods to educate poor children.  In 1870,  MacKillop, via Father Woods, alerted Father John Smyth, the Vicar General of the Diocese of Adelaide, that one Father Keating was a pedophile.  The Vicar General removed Keating from the diocese and Australia, but one Father Charles Horan became upset over Keating’s removal.  After Smyth’s death in 1871, Horan became acting Vicar General.  He used his position to persuade Bishop Sheil to order a change in the constitution of the Josephites.  The saint refused the order, and Sheil excommunicated her, officially for insubordination.  Most of the Josephite schools closed soon afterward.  MacKillop, cut off from the Church, took shelter among Jews and insubordinate Jesuits.

Bishop Sheil recanted the excommunication on his death bed in 1872, and the saint was soon restored to the good graces of the Catholic Church.  Ecclesiastical authorities removed Horan from Australia, for the common good and tranquility, they said.  Pope Pius IX approved the order’s rule in 1873, and the Josephites expanded once more.  Relations with subsequent bishops and archbishops varied in quality, for some had a higher opinion of the Josephites than did others.  Patrick  Moran (later a Cardinal), who became Archbishop of Sydney in 1883, replaced MacKillop as Mother Superior, appointing Sister (henceforth Mother) Bernard Walsh.  MacKillop remained active in the order, visiting nuns and assisting Mother Bernard Walsh in administering the Josephites.  MacKillop also helped the order expand to New Zealand in 1896.

Mary MacKillop died at the order’s convent in North Sydney on August 8, 1909.  This prompted Cardinal Moran to say that a saint had died.  He was correct.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 18, 2010 COMMON ERA

FEAST OF ST. HILDA OF WHITBY, ABBESS

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A collect I have written and readings I have selected:

Blessed Lord, we thank you for the faithful life of St. Mary MacKillop, who sought only to serve you and the poor, and to improve the lives of impoverished children via education.  When opponents, out of jealousy, attack us, may we trust in you and walk in paths of righteousness, loving our neighbors as ourselves.  To the glory of Christ Jesus, who suffered reproach unjustly, and to the praise of the God the Father and God the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Micah 6:6-8

Psalm 3

3 John

Luke 6:20-36

Feast of Adelaide Teague Case (July 19)   Leave a comment

Episcopal Flag

Above:  The Episcopal Flag

Photograph by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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DR. ADELAIDE TEAGUE CASE (1887-1948)

Professor, Columbia University, New York, New York

Professor, Episcopal Theological School, Cambridge Massachusetts

Advocate for Peace

Religious Educator

Adelaide Teague Case, born in St. Louis, Missouri, on January 10, 1887, nevertheless, considered herself a native New Yorker because her family moved to the City of New York during her infancy.  Educated at Bryn Mawr College and Columbia University, she taught religious education at Columbia, where she served as head of that department from 1935 to 1941.  She had earned her doctorate there in 1924.  Her dissertation, Liberal Christianity and Religious Education, remains in print.

As an educator, Case advocated a child-centered pedagogy, not a teacher-centered one.  This might seem like old news today, but it was revolutionary then.  Religious education, she insisted, must relate to the social environment of the pupils and both nurture faith and further the cause of social justice.

Case’s faith was evident in her life’s work.  An Episcopalian of Anglo-Catholic leanings, she placed a high premium on frequent sacraments.  Beginning in 1915, she belonged to the Companions of the Holy Cross, a group of Episcopal women who live simply, gather to pray, and advocate for ecumenism and social justice.  Close to Case’s heart was the cause of human reconciliation, and therefore peacemaking–in the context of common prayer and eucharistic practice.  This peacemaking also had an international aspect for Dr. Case, especially during the 1930s and 1940s.  A pacifist, she pursued peace via Episcopalian and ecumenical organizations.

In 1941, Case, the foremost religious educator in The Episcopal Church, joined the faculty of Episcopal Theological School, Cambridge, Massachusetts.  She became the first female faculty member at an Episcopalian or Anglican seminary.  Case’s acceptance in the community at ETS was slow, and she left behind tenure and a good salary at Columbia University to make the academic move, but she found acceptance in time.  She shared her home with homeless families from varied religious, racial, and ethnic backgrounds.

Case died on tuberculosis on July 19, 1948.  Her last words were,

What can I do for you?

Perhaps the words of one student at Columbia University function as the ideal epitaph:

She was a true believer in Christ and you saw him living in and through her.

May people have cause to say that of you and me.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 16, 2010 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ST. MARGARET OF SCOTLAND, QUEEN

THE FEAST OF GIUSEPPE MOSCATI, PHYSICIAN

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Everliving God, in whose light we see light:  We thank you for your teacher and peacemaker Adelaide Case, who inspired generations of students with a love of learning that built up the Church and their communities.  Grant that we, following her example, may serve you tirelessly as learners and teachers, laboring for the transformation of the world toward your reign of peace, through the companionship of Jesus your Saving Word; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

Proverbs 4:1-9

Psalm 119:33-40

Hebrews 5:11-6:1

Mark 4:21-25

Feast of the Righteous Gentiles (July 16)   Leave a comment

Archbishop Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli was the Apostolic Delegate to Turkey and Greece from 1935 to 1944.  He did what he could to save the lives of Jews, for he recognized the Holocaust for what he was.  Roncalli likened the murders of the Jews to crucifixions.  The Apostolic Delegate wrote the head of the Nazi puppet state of Slovakia, which was about to last of the Slovakian Jews Auschwitz, encouraging him not to do this.  The protest fell on deaf ears.  It was only one such protest from Archbishop Roncalli to have such results.

Perhaps Roncalli’s most successful wartime effort to save the lives of Jews was Operation Baptism, begun after a 1944 meeting with Ira Hirschmann, of the American War Refugee Board, and conducted in collaboration with Hirschmann.  They discussed the plight of Hungarian Jews.  Roncalli had pull with the Church there, and Hirschmann had contacts in the Jewish communities.  Hungarian nuns issued baptismal certificates to Jews, with the sole  intention of saving their lives from the Nazis.  This strategy saved approximately 200,000 lives.

Archbishop Roncalli became Pope John XXIII in 1958.

Many Gentiles worked to save the lives of Jews during World War II.  We know easily of Archbishop Roncalli, Miep Gies (who, with her husband, sheltered Anne Frank and her family), Oskar Schindler (immortalized in Schindler’s List), and Raoul Wallenberg (a Swedish diplomat who issued Swedish passports to Hungarian Jews).  Father Maximilian Kolbe, a Polish Roman Catholic priest, sheltered Jews and suffered martyrdom because of this fact, as did the Russian Orthodox nun Maria Skobtsova, whom the Gestapo arrested in Paris.  Hiram Bingham, IV, an American diplomat in France, helped Jews escape from the Nazis and sheltered some Jews in his own home.  There were many other Righteous Gentiles, of course, and most of their names are unknown to history.  The Christian residents of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon, France, sheltered Jews, and many Christian Danes helped Danish Jews escape to safety after the Germans began occupy Denmark.  But do we know the names of these brave individuals at all or as readily as that of Oskar Schindler?  No.

Yad Vashem is the Holocaust Memorial overlooking Jerusalem.  There one can find the recorded names of over 23,000 Righteous Gentiles.  I wonder how many more names might be there, and I hope that, had I been alive in Europe during World War II, I would have had the courage to be a Righteous Gentile, given the opportunity.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 16, 2010 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ST. MARGARET OF SCOTLAND, QUEEN

THE FEAST OF ST. GIUSEPPE MOSCATI, PHYSICIAN

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God of the Covenant and Lord of the Exodus, by the hand of Moses you delivered your chosen people from cruel enslavement:  We give you thanks for Raoul Wallenberg and all those Righteous Gentiles who with compassion, courage and resourcefulness rescued thousands of your children from certain death.  Grant that, in the power of your Spirit, we may protect the innocent of every race and creed in the Name of Jesus Christ, strong Deliverer of us all; who with you and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Joshua 2:1-21

Psalm 11

Colossians 3:1-4

John 19:10-15

Feast of Cornelius Hill (June 27)   3 comments

The Episcopal Church of the Holy Apostles, Oneida, Wisconsin

A Photograph by Matthew P. Payne

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CORNELIUS HILL (NOVEMBER 13, 1834-JANUARY 25, 1907)

Oneida Chief and Episcopal Priest

Born Onangwatgo (“Big Medicine”)

Federal removal and relocation of Native American tribes is one of the most shameful aspects of U.S. history.  Other nations have similarly dark treatment of their indigenous peoples in their history, but Cornelius Hill lived within the borders of the United States, and such policies constitute the the backdrop of his biography, so I mention U.S. mistreatment of Native Americans in this post.

Hill, born in Wisconsin in 1834, entered the world after the relocation of his people from New York state.  He studied at Nashotah House, an Episcopal seminary, in Wisconsin.  There Hill learned the faith, worship, and traditions of The Episcopal Church.  This faith strengthened him when advocating for the rights of his people, who suffered from economic hardship and other depridations.

Hill opposed land allotment, the process meant to assimilate Native peoples into the dominant U.S. culture by emphasizing individual land ownership and selling off “excess” land to corporate interests.  This damaged Native American culture, but became federal law in 1893 under the Dawes Act.  Our indigenous brethren, generally speaking, have had a different understanding of the land.  It is sacred to them, and they belong to it.  And Hill had company in his opposition to land allotment.  The Reverend Edward A. Goodnough, an Episcopal priest and missionary, Hill’s mentor, defended Native cultural rights, too.

Hill, a chief since his adolescence, became a great Oneida leader.  He lost the fight against land allotment, but he became a deacon in 1903 and the first Oneida priest two years later.  He considered faith to be an effective way for his people to grapple with the profound changes white people forced upon the Oneida Nation.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 12, 2010 COMMON ERA

FEAST OF ST. JOSAPHAT, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF POLOTSK, AND MARTYR

FEAST OF CHARLES SIMEON, ANGLICAN PRIEST

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Everliving Lord of the universe, our loving God, you raised up your priest Cornelius Hill, last hereditary chief of the Oneida nation, to shepherd and defend his people against attempts to scatter them in the wilderness:  Help us, like him, to be dedicated to truth and honor, that we may come to that blessed state you have prepared for us; through Jesus Christ, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting.  Amen.

Amos 5:14-15

Psalm 90:1-2, 14-17

Romans 14:12-19

John 10:7-18

Feast of Robert Hunt (April 26)   Leave a comment

A 1608 Map of Jamestown, Virginia

THE REVEREND ROBERT HUNT (CIRCA 1568-1608)

First Anglican Chaplain at Jamestown, Virginia

Colonization is for the hearty.  I teach U.S. History I for college students frequently, and my reading of the past tells me that those who crossed the Atlantic Ocean, settled, and survived were heartier and more rugged than I.  The first settlers of Jamestown had spiritual needs, and Robert Hunt was their initial shepherd.

Hunt, born in England circa 1568, served parishes in Reculver, Kent, and in Heathfield, Diocese of Chichester, before accompanying Captain John Smith and the first colonists to Virginia.  Thus it happened that, on May 24, 1607, Hunt presided over the first Anglican Holy Eucharist in North America.  He led many other regular services in the out of doors until the construction of a chapel.  Hunt did this until his death in early 1608, sometime prior to April 10.

Hunt also did his best to create and maintain peace among the quarrelsome men at Jamestown.  This was a difficult task, but his good character earned him much respect, regardless of the outcome of his peacemaking efforts.  One test of this character came in January 1608, after an accidental fire at the fort.  John Smith wrote:

Good master Hunt lost all his library, and all that he had but the clothes on his back, yet none ever did see him repine at his loss….Yet we had daily Common Prayer morning and evening, every Sunday two sermons and every three months the Holy Communion till our Minister died.

Smith’s final tribute to the chaplain read:

He was an honest, religious, and courageous divine.  He preferred the service of God in so good a voyage to every thought of ease at home.  He endured every privation, yet none ever heard him repine.  During his life our factions were oft healed and our great extremities so comforted that they seemed easy in comparison with what we endured after his memorable death.  We all received from him the Holy Communion as a pledge of reconciliation for we all loved him for his exceeding goodness.

Here is a challenge fit for all of us who claim the label Christian:  When people recall us, may they think first about our goodness, our service to God, our care for our fellow human beings, and our efforts to create and maintain peace among people.  Life, you see, should not be about winning arguments; it ought to be about living love for each other and God.  And we cannot love God, whom we cannot see, if we do not love our fellow human beings, whom we can see.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 10, 2010 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF LEO THE GREAT, BISHOP OF ROME

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Almighty God, we bless your Name for the life and witness of Robert Hunt, first chaplain to the Jamestown colony, whose community knew him as an honest, religious, and courageous divine who, in his short life, endured great hardships without complaint.  Help us, like him, to work for reconciliation and healing wherever we may be placed; through Jesus Christ your Son, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Isaiah 43:1-7

Psalm 24

1 Timothy 6:11-16

Matthew 5:21-24