Archive for July, 2022

Guess the state.

Good job!

Or do you even SEC, bro?

That estate was just a jag off I-20 on the way east from Alabama, on the way to a brief stop here:

No ambiguity there, eh?

Last time I was here…2019, I see. Not only pre-Covid, but on a day when the bookstore and the (very good) heritage center/museum were open (images here). Not today, but today’s Sunday, so I don’t think either are normally open anyway. They are renovating the church, and the signs indicate they’ve just re-opened to the public for liturgical prayer. I was actually surprised it was open at all.

But it was, and I was glad to be able to stop in for a prayer in this structure the Trappists built with their own hands back in the day. A prayer for those on journeys of one sort or another, and a prayer in gratitude for monastics of all types and all eras, and especially those right here in the middle of Georgia on this hot summer day, offering their own prayers.

An obligatory short walk down to the pond, where I was puzzled by the sight of two vultures hanging out on the shore, watching all the waterfowl about. I wondered: are they expecting one of them to keel over?

And then over to the rusted, collapsed cage that, when I first visited this place decades ago, still bore a sign that said something like, “Flannery O’Connor’s peacocks lived here after she died.” No more. No more peacocks, no more signs.

Video here.

Back on the road, continuing east and a touch north to Columbia. I’d been to the zoo in Columbia years ago, and have driven by the State House, but that’s it. I arrived just soon enough before sunset to get a walk in on the Canal and Riverwalk. The canal was dug right next to the river in the early 19th century, by, as the memorial says, Irish indentured workers.

There’s quite a bit of interesting history related to the canal and rivers, and it’s well-presented along this very pleasant path.

And if you get discouraged by division and rancor, just get outside in a spot where people are gathered: people of all ages and races and shapes and sizes, hanging out, riding bikes, jogging, walking, chatting on park benches, walking their dogs, exclaiming over dogs and babies and then, as the sun sets, turning to gaze at the river, from the same place, in the same moment in time, there as the waters rush past.

It will, I assure you, help. Oh, and the monastery, Any monastery. That helps too.

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  • I am about to hit the road again, but for a much shorter journey this time. No 11-hour driving days this time. You can keep up on Instagram.
  • I will be writing about the TLM ….stuff. But probably not until later this week. After all, there are new developments almost every day, aren’t there? I also want my words to be helpful instead of just a peppery bowl of sarcasm and mockery which is the state of the dish at this moment.
  • One more movie to write about: Elvis. Okay, so let’s write about it.

I saw Elvis with College Guy (1) this past week. I had wanted to see it since I saw the trailer, even though I do not like Tom Hanks, 2022. (Young Tom Hanks was fine – I love Joe versus the Volcano) – but I find the present version almost insufferable. But I find the Elvis story really interesting and I liked Luhrmann’s Gatsby much more than I expected to, so I was up for it.

Well, meh. I think my Movie Guy Son gets it right here – well, at least, I agree with him.

Are you tired yet? Well, this movie still has the whole Las Vegas period to go, and I really feel like this should have been the whole movie. As the film was going through its final act, I suddenly imagined what Danny Boyle would have done with this material, and I think he would have found a way to distill the larger story into a single point of time instead of trying to cover the whole life of a man. The Las Vegas period, the culmination of Parker’s control over Elvis for his own ends, seems like that perfect concentrated dose of reality for that. Instead, it’s the third act in a long, bloated, and thin take on Elvis.

The montage scene pulling together the early influences on Elvis’ music with one of his breakthrough performances was a masterpiece. It was the best set piece of the entire film. But other than that, the movie tried to do too much, as my son said, and I think in the end, it was not well-served by the emphasis on Parker. I kept thinking how different and more interesting the film would be if we actually experienced more of it through, you know, Elvis’ eyes than Parker’s and the general public. He ends up seeming more or less like a vessel, rather than a creative artist – and perhaps that was the point: this preternaturally talented young man became a vessel for other people’s desires, hopes and dreams.

But it didn’t work for me, because I just wasn’t as interested in Parker’s story as I was in what moved Elvis, where his music and style came from and what destroyed him.

The closing montage – which features actual Elvis footage – was quite moving, too.

Oh, but Austin Butler gave a great performance – even though they were not able to age him convincingly. He did his best, and it was very good.

  • One of the most deeply felt aspects of the (sort of) empty nest? It completely changes your relationship… to the grocery store.

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St. Ignatius Loyola – July 31

Happy feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola. Yes, it’s Sunday, but still.

 In 2006, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI spoke about him to…Jesuits!

St Ignatius of Loyola was first and foremost a man of God who in his life put God, his greatest glory and his greatest service, first. He was a profoundly prayerful man for whom the daily celebration of the Eucharist was the heart and crowning point of his day.

Thus, he left his followers a precious spiritual legacy that must not be lost or forgotten. Precisely because he was a man of God, St Ignatius was a faithful servant of the Church, in which he saw and venerated the Bride of the Lord and the Mother of Christians. And the special vow of obedience to the Pope, which he himself describes as “our first and principal foundation” (MI, Series III, I., p. 162), was born from his desire to serve the Church in the most beneficial way possible.

This ecclesial characteristic, so specific to the Society of Jesus, lives on in you and in your apostolic activities, dear Jesuits, so that you may faithfully meet the urgent needs of the Church today.

Among these, it is important in my opinion to point out your cultural commitment in the areas of theology and philosophy in which the Society of Jesus has traditionally been present, as well as the dialogue with modern culture, which, if it boasts on the one hand of the marvellous progress in the scientific field, remains heavily marked by positivist and materialist scientism.

Naturally, the effort to promote a culture inspired by Gospel values in cordial collaboration with the other ecclesial realities demands an intense spiritual and cultural training. For this very reason, St Ignatius wanted young Jesuits to be formed for many years in spiritual life and in study. It is good that this tradition be maintained and reinforced, also given the growing complexity and vastness of modern culture.

St. Ignatius was in my Loyola Kids Book of Saints, and you can read the entire chapter here:

Because he had spent all those months in his sickbed, Ignatius got bored. He asked for something to read. He was hoping for adventure books, tales that were popular back then: knights fighting for the hands of beautiful ladies, traveling to distant lands, and battling strange creatures.

But for some reason, two completely different books were brought to Ignatius. One was a book about the life of Christ, and the other was a collection of saints’ stories.

Ignatius read these books. He thought about them. He was struck by the great sacrifices that the saints had made for God. He was overwhelmed by their love of Jesus.

And Ignatius thought, “Why am I using my life just for myself? These people did so much good during their time on earth. Why can’t I?”

Ignatius decided that he would use the talents God had given him—his strength, his leadership ability, his bravery, and his intelligence—to serve God and God’s people.

While Ignatius continued to heal, he started praying very seriously. God’s peace filled his heart and assured him that he was on the right path.

When Ignatius was all healed and ready to walk and travel again, he left his home to prepare for his new life. It wasn’t easy. He was 30, which was considered old in those days, and he was getting a late start in his studies for the priesthood. In those days, the Mass was said only in Latin, and Latin was the language all educated people used to communicate with each other. Ignatius didn’t know a bit of Latin. So for his first Latin lessons, big, rough Ignatius had to sit in a classroom with a bunch of 10-year-old boys who were learning Latin for the first time too!

That takes a different kind of strength, doesn’t it?

The Loyola Kids Book of Saints


Take Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my entire will, all that I have and possess. Thou hast given all to me. To Thee, O lord, I return it. All is Thine, dispose of it wholly according to Thy will. Give me Thy love and thy grace, for this is sufficient for me.

In The Words We Pray, I wrote about the Suscipe Prayer. That chapter is excerpted here:

The more you roll this prayer around in your soul, and the more you think about it, the more radical it is revealed to be.

One of the primary themes of the Spiritual Exercises is that of attachments and affections. Ignatius offers the account of “three classes of men” who have been given a sum of money, and who all want to rid themselves of it because they know their attachment to this worldly good impedes their salvation.

The first class would really like to rid themselves of the attachment, but the hour of death comes, and they haven’t even tried. The second class would also like to give up the attachment, but do so, conveniently, without actually giving anything up.

Is this sounding familiar at all?

The third class wants to get rid of the attachment to the money, which they, like the others, know is a burden standing in the way. But they make no stipulations as to how this attachment is relinquished; they are indifferent about the method. Whatever God wants, they want. In a word, they are the free ones.

The prayer “Take Lord, receive” is possible only because the retreatant has opened himself to the reality of who God is, what God’s purpose is for humanity, and what God has done for him in a particularly intense way.

A Response to God’s Love

The retreatant has seen that there is really no other response to life that does God justice. What love the Father has for us in letting us be called children of God, John says (1 John 3:1). What gift does our love prompt us to give?

In ages past, and probably in the minds of some of us still, that gift of self to God, putting oneself totally at God’s disposal, is possible only for people called to a vowed religious life. Well, God didn’t institute religious life in the second chapter of Genesis. He instituted marriage and family. I’m not a nun, but the Scriptures tell us repeatedly that all creation is groaning and being reborn and moving toward completion in God. Every speck of creation, everything that happens, every kid kicking a soccer ball down a road in Guatemala, each office worker in New Delhi, every ancient great-grandmother in a rest home in Boynton Beach, every baby swimming in utero at this moment around the world—all are beloved by God and are being constantly invited by him to love. And all can respond.

The Words We Pray

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Blessed Solanus Casey

Today is the optional memorial of Blessed Solanus Casey, beatified in 2017. 

Solanus Casey Beatification

When we lived in Fort Wayne in northern Indiana, we would often find our way to the Solanus Casey Center in Detroit – either because we were going to Detroit for some reason or we were on our way to Canada.  Solanus Casey has been important to our family, and I find him such an interesting person – and an important doorway for understanding holiness.

For that is what Solanus Casey was – a porter, or doorkeeper, the same role held by St. Andre Bessette up in Montreal.  They were the first people those in need would encounter as they approached the shrine or chapel.

And it was not as if Solanus Casey set out with the goal of being porter, either. His path to the Franciscans and then to the priesthood was long and painful and in some ways disappointing. He struggled academically and he struggled to fit in and be accepted, as one of Irish descent in a German-dominated church culture. He was finally ordained, but as a simplex priest – he could say Mass, but he could not preach or hear confessions – the idea being that his academic weaknesses indicated he did not have the theological understanding deemed necessary for those roles.

But God used him anyway. He couldn’t preach from a pulpit, but his faithful presence at the door preached of the presence of God.  He couldn’t hear confessions, but as porter, he heard plenty poured from suffering hearts, and through his prayers during his life and after his death, was a conduit for the healing grace of God.

This is why the stories of the saints are such a helpful and even necessary antidote to the way we tend to think and talk about vocation these days, yes, even in the context of church. We give lip service to being called and serving, but how much of our language still reflects an assumption that it’s all, in the end, about our desires and our plans? And that the world’s definition of “success” is really our definition too? We are convinced that our time on earth is best spent discovering our gifts and talents, nurturing our gifts and talents, using our gifts and talents in awesome ways that we plan for and that will be incredible and amazing and world-changing. And we’ll be happy and fulfilled and make a  nice living at it, too. 

I don’t know about you, but I need people like Solanus Casey to surround me and remind me what discipleship is really about.

He’s in the Loyola Kids Book of Heroes. Here’s the first page. 

For the most up-to-date news on the cause, check out the Fr. Solanus Casey Guild Facebook page. 

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Vengeance and Not Okay

I want to be a voice


I wanna be important….I wanna be known…I want to matter

Not Okay

A few days ago, we saw B.J. Novak’s new film – which he wrote, directed, and starred in – called Vengeance. And then last night I watched the new Hulu film, Not Okay.

Both films offer a peak into the cracks into social and cultural life wrought by the internet, social media and I suppose mass communication in general. Neither are perfect – although I enjoyed Vengeance quite a bit – not a hundred percent – but enough. Both offer insights worth listening to, and both amount to the same thing, namely: We were promised deeper community and greater access to truth, but instead we’re fractured, anxious and less sure of what’s real than ever. Why?

Worth listening to, especially for those in the business, as it were, of opening human lives to truth.

Vengeance is not the masterpiece some reviews are making it out to be, but it’s good enough and offers signs, not only of Novak’s talent as a creator from a technical perspective (he’s…himself as an actor.), but of his willingness to try to actually say something. Which always interests me.

Short version: Novak plays Ben, a New Yorker writer living a deeply shallow life in NYC who gets a grief-stricken call late one night from a fellow in Texas who tells him his girlfriend is dead. Which confuses Ben because he doesn’t have an actual girlfriend, even though there is, indeed, a young woman – not dead – in his bed.

It turns out that Abilene, the young woman, was a past hookup, and the way she spoke of Ben to her family led them to think he was, indeed, a beloved. Ben ends up down in west Texas, goes to the funeral, prepares to leave, but then Abilene’s brother proclaims no, she could not have died from an overdose, she must have been murdered, and Ben’s going help him figure it out and get – you guessed it – vengeance.

Ben has no interest in this, but soon enough a lightbulb goes off – podcast. Sure, he’ll stay. He’ll help investigate, and along the way, he’ll record and make his name – get his voice out there – with a podcast.

It’s a fish out of water story which is sometimes sharp – usually at Ben’s expense – but does play on stereotypes at times. Abilene’s family is quirky and for the most part superficially drawn, but not in a cruel way.  There’s some very funny stuff here.

There are two main through-lines here. First is about “America” of course – and our division. Novak seems to be trying to make the point that the divisions we experience are mostly due to what myths and narratives we accept, and we rely on myths and narratives because we have so little access to the truth. That’s there, but I’m not sure it works.

What does work, though, is the satire of Novak/Ben’s type – distant from actual real life, superficial, using human beings as fodder for either pleasure or material – and then, by the end, the way in which he breaks through that and actually does something beyond what he explains to the family at the beginning he’s good at:

“I am especially good at drawing thematic connections between seemingly disparate elements and using them to illustrate the larger point or theory and define it…”   And then, similarly to his producer, if Abiline wasn’t after all, murdered? “ I will find the generalized societal force responsible, and I will define it.”

Just imagine Ryan from The Office saying that – because he is – and you’ve got it. It’s perfect.

My problem with the movie, besides some lazy characterization? It doesn’t quite carry of “black comedy” smoothly. There’s one character – and one pivotal moment at the end – which is really quite Coen-esque, but the problem is that the movie has only been about 30% Coenesque up to that point. If you’ve seen it, you probably get it – but if you haven’t seen it, I really can’t spoil it for you. But that Coenesque moment is crucial in getting Ben through his arc, yes, and I don’t argue with the moment, but it just seemed to me what preceded it needed to have more of that particular weird, dark tone as well.

Vengeance is a assured, if somewhat disjointed satire of a type and a tendency: the tendency to privilege The Take and the narrative above the complexities and pain of real life. It’s about the ease – up to a point – with sitting in front of a screen drawing connections and defining things rather than engaging with the present in front of us and trying to understand it as it is.

And it’s about the way in which mass communication technology makes that not only possible, but easy – and not only possible and easy, but definitive of human experience right now. If you you’re not constructing your take, what are you doing anyway?

But further, that “take” we’re all intent of shaping and sharing? It’s everything, isn’t it? The narrative we shape is all we have – and so all the flotsam and jetsam of life? It has no meaning, not really. It’s all just there, material for the gram, the post, the podcast.

I want to be a voice, Ben claims near the beginning. But saying what?

In a way, the “disjointed America relying on myths because the truth is too painful” – is actual a restatement of that more personal, social theme – what do we do with our images, our takes and our narratives? We put our trust in them because, maybe, the truth is too painful to face every day.

Related in theme is the new Hulu film Not Okay, which I sped through last night, simply because I thought it would be a useful comparison. And it was.

Danni (Zooey Deutch) works for a Vice-like outfit called Depravity as a photo editor, but fancies herself a writer. Not because she can write, but because she wants to be out there – as her voiceover at the beginning says, she wants to be important, known, loved…to matter.

She’s also super sad because of a FOMO of 9/11 – she was on a cruise with her parents at the time.

So you get it: pampered, clueless, driven by the energies of social media and the needs it’s planted in her.

Danni gets an idea – she’ll fake an invitation to a writer’s retreat in Paris, post photoshopped images of herself, get followers including the magazine’s weed columnist, some loser named Colin with whom she is inexplicable infatuated.

Problem! While she’s supposedly in Paris, a string of terrorist bombings occur in the city, which then, as she plays it, gets her even more notoriety.

It’s amusing up to that point, with admittedly a very easy set of targets for satire and outright mockery.

Seriousness ensues – which is fine – when Danni, in order to figure out what she should be saying as a victim of trauma, goes to a support group and meets a girl who experienced a school shooting – in which her sister died. You know, actual experience of horrendous, traumatic violence. From that point, Danni gets deeper into the lies but all along is bumping up, more and more, against real life.

Not just real life, but, as with Ben in Vengeance, real pain and real trauma, as opposed to the fakery she’s manufacturing and profiting from.

Here’s what’s interesting:

Both films end with a similar moment: in Vengeance, Ben deletes all his podcast episodes, and we last see him, riding silently and alone on the subway. In Not Okay, Danni, who has deleted all her socials, sits anonymously in an auditorium and is confronted with the truth of the pain her lies have caused, and just – leaves as she came. Unseen and unknown.

Both of these films lay out what I think most of us know. This isn’t good for us. It’s training us to value an image we can create of ourselves and our opinions, an image that, because it is so easy to communicate and put out there, becomes our fallback and our primary means of understanding who we are in the world and where we stand in the world. It separates us from reality and the present and enables our worst tendencies.

We use it and we’re used by it. Driven by our egos, we’re eagerly putting ourselves out there but not listening at all.

And we’re being left , even more alone than ever.

The dual ending images of Vengeance and Not Okay – figures who began their journeys determined to have “a voice” and to “be important” – now alone, their content disappeared but the consequences remaining,  unsettled and uneasy with what they’ve done and seen – are a hint, it seems, to me, of what we’re really yearning for and what we know – what we all know – we’re missing but somehow feel powerless to start looking for – again.

Hope I made some connections, found and defined those generalized social forces….did I?

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I want to briefly return to the news I reported a couple of days ago about the action against the UK’s Tavistock clinic for gender dysphoric children and youth.

First remember what we are talking about. I go into it here and here, but very briefly: the “gender affirming” model of care is all about giving medical interventions to children and young people who feel uncomfortable with their sexed bodies for whatever reason. That medical intervention involves giving puberty blocker medication, possibly cross-sex hormones, and with preteens and teens, surgeries – with this age, we’re talking mostly mastectomies for girls – aka amputations of healthy breasts.

This Tavistock ruling, along with similar actions in other European countries, has put a slight pause to this trend – except in the United States, of course. So let’s look at some links that will be helpful to you in talking about this with others – which you might be, considering the fact that this specific issue is coming up on the state level, in terms of legislation and public health policy, with increasing frequency. Get ready.

First, here is the text of the Cass Report that led to the Tavistock closing.

(I will add here that some observers are concerned because the recommendation of the report and the NHS plan is to provide services to gender dysphoric children and youth in regional centers, with albeit a more holistic view and primary attention to mental health. But some wonder if this might operate as a cover so that medical intervention might be made available under the radar. We will see.)

So some commentary:

An editorial from the Arizona Republic: Britain just decimated what the US thinks it knows about transgender youth

Now that NHS has dropped its bomb on its own transgender clinic, perhaps we can have a more honest discussion in America about why so many adolescent girls, against all historic trends, have suddenly chosen a pathway to puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones and double mastectomies.

We can start with American media finally doing its job and asking tough questions of a rapidly growing segment of American medicine that has prospered on the skyrocketing rise of gender dysphoria in mostly teenage girls.

From Conservative MP Kemi Badenoch,who was, for a week or so, in the running to be PM:

The reason it took this long for the Tavistock to be shut down is that activists succeeded in creating an environment in which critics and journalists felt unable to interrogate the dogma that youngsters should be able to medically transition in the way overseen by Tavistock. The treatment of these women showed the heavy price to pay and many people including MPs on all sides of the house simply didn’t want to get involved.

There is a wider problem of campaigning groups making life difficult for those who have to make tough decisions by creating a toxic atmosphere on social media where many MPs engage with their constituents. A Conservative MP in a marginal seat told me she was not confident discussing the matter publicly for fear of being branded a bigot by her Liberal Democrat opponent. A Labour MP told me in private she was grateful her party was not in power because they would not be able to face down the large number of activists online that Labour relies on to push its message.

(The current front-runner, Liz Truss, is strongly gender critical, and there are hopes that if she wins, Badenoch will be Education Minister and begin to put the breaks on the gender madness in that area)

Then, longer, but very helpful – most helpful and worth passing on to those with questions – from Lisa Selin Davis at Bari Weiss’ Substack: The Beginning of the End of “Gender-Affirming Care?”

This piece is so good because Davis interviews European researchers and clinicians who are questioning and backtracking on this protocol.

What happened was that the protocols – questionable, yes – were approved maybe ten years ago for the cohort of gender dysphoric children and youth who were presenting at that time, which was mostly male. But a few years later, as many have noted, the demographic shifted and changed, and the numbers of females presenting skyrocketed:

By contrast, the young people who sought care at Swedish clinics after 2015 were increasingly teenage girls with multiple psychiatric diagnoses—and there were a lot of them. “It rose from four to 77 per 100,000 inhabitants,” Linden said.“The guidelines were written for what we thought was a smaller group of patients and also more homogeneous.”…

In 2015, Kaltiala-Heino and her colleagues started to see the same dramatic increase in female adolescents with gender dysphoria. “The number of referrals skyrocketed,” she told me. “There were five-fold more girls coming in.” In addition, they seemed to not have an organic kind of gender dysphoria; rather, they “appeared to be very much influenced by other adolescents.”…

….It’s unclear if this infusion of trans storylines into the media contributed to the shift. Whatever the case, the young people showing up were nothing like the ones in the Dutch research. “We were very astonished to find out that most of the adolescents who were referred to gender-identity assessment—they had severe psychiatric problems,” Kaltiala-Heino said. Clinicians couldn’t be sure whether these problems were the cause or the effect of gender dysphoria.

Oh, in other news this week, the FDA issued warnings on the side effects of one of the puberty-blocking drugs.

Pseudotumor cerebri, also known as idiopathic intracranial hypertension, occurs when the pressure inside your skull spontaneously increases, which can cause brain swelling, severe headaches, nausea, double vision, and even permanent vision loss, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Of course the whole notion – and reality – of chemically “blocking” puberty is crazy and lobotomy-ish, but I also want to point out, besides the side effects of this particular drug, the complexities of puberty. Puberty is not just about changes in secondary sex characteristics. It’s about the growth and development of the whole human person, from bones to brain – we know this. To chemically “block” this stage of natural human growth with all of its complexities and unknowns?

But as gender-critical voice Ripx4nutmeg said on Twitter:

The US Food and Drug Administration, which is run by Rachel Levine’s Department of Health and Human Services, revealed on July 1 that it had identified that pubery blockers carry a risk of brain damage to children. Levine, a few days later, called for more children to take them

(Rachel Levine, for those just walking into this room, is a man.)

This response on that Twitter thread captures it, really:

Pffft, what does brain damage in children matter, so long as it validates an adult, male fetish?

For a good general resource based in the US, go to Fourth Wave Now – here’s the group’s website and their Twitter feed. Always great for helpful links.

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This has been a record of some kind: over the past week, I’ve seen three movies in theaters.  I won’t leave you in suspense – the best, despite flaws, was B.J. Novak’s Vengeance and the worst was Jordan Peele’s Nope, with Elvis not in the middle because it’s far better than Nope, but still second to Vengeance.

All share a similar theme though: In part, each film is a reflection on a culture of watching rather than living or engaging. In a way.

Let’s go in chronological order.

I saw Nope last weekend with my youngest at a very nice theater out in Laramie, Wyoming – this one, part of a Wyoming-based chain, it seems. The seats were large and well-spaced, and the building was even decorated with old movie posters – and the concession prices were just a tad cheaper than what you’d find down here. I was impressed.

Not with the movie, though. I’m a fan of Peele’s comedy with  Keegan-Michael Key, but I’d not seen any of his films. Having heard great things about Get Out at least, I was open to this one, and what else to do in Laramie that night? Not much.

Well, it was a mess, and here’s why. Peele clearly has a Theme – and he made that come first, before coherent storytelling.

But even the Theme – or Themes – is a bit messy. Is it about exculsion in Hollywood? The impact of trauma? The ways in which popular culture consumes us and watching becomes our primary reality, rather than, you know, reality? All of the above, it seems, and combined with disjointed storytelling, in the end, none of the above.

There were aspects I liked – basically the framing, first of the main characters’ history and background as the descendants of a Black jockey caught on early film, running a horse-training farm for the movies. I also thought the character Ricky “Jupe” Park – a former child actor of Asian ethnicity who’s now operating a rather sad Wild West attraction nearby – and his horrific backstory were intriguing and suggestive.

I really liked both of those aspects, as well as the creepy sitcom backstory. All different, all interesting, all good.

But here’s what I didn’t like – or perhaps just didn’t understand about Nope. Without spoiling too much, here you have this alien form which is eating people. Scooping them up and consuming them (but only when you look it in the “eye” – directly engage with it). Our characters/heroes figure out what’s going on, and determine to – get it on film. Not stop it. Not save people’s lives as soon as possible – but to film it in action (with decoy victims) and then profit from the resultant fame. Stopping the creature as a result is briefly mentioned, but it’s not the primary goal. And even in the end – again, trying not to spoil – the victory felt is really in getting the image, not possibly bringing the creature down.

First of all, dramatically, this sucks a lot of dramatic tension right out of it – if they’re not trying to actually destroy the creature or explicitly save people’s lives – I care a lot less about what they’re up to and how it turns out.

Secondly, that whole effort isn’t framed in a way that I understand what it really expresses about the characters. I’m not saying Peele needs to tell me what to think about them, but honestly my first reaction to their reaction was not sympathetic at all. Was I supposed to view these actions were heroic and worth cheering on? Or were these actions presented as a way of either critiquing contemporary culture, which is all about recording and profiting from it, rather than actually getting involved or as an expression of the impact of trauma?

My gut reaction was to take the determination to capture the creature on film for profit rather than bring others into the effort to combat it and save people’s lives as a critique – but it’s not framed that way at all, rather as straight up heroism.

I actually could see the film playing effectively with both themes –  we are disconnected from each other, we exclude each other from community, which then deepens disengagement and leaves us with nothing else to do but watch images and be consumed by them. But, dramatically it seems, the fighting back against all of that past and present has to be rooted in a recognition of the problem, not an embrace of it.

That is, fighting that monster has to come from an understanding of the damage it’s done to us and a determination to stop that – not just make on more Instagram about how problematic Instagram is….

Well, that escalated quickly….I’ll do the rest in separate posts. I guess.

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It’s been a while since I’ve gathered up trans-related news, what with summer travel and other kinds of transitions occupying my mental space.

Let’s get back at it.

Most of the big news over the past week or so has come from TERF Island, aka England. This is worth noting for anyone interested in the issues in general, of course, but also because what’s happening over there is a harbinger of what’s coming to the US, and in this case, at least, it’s good news.

First of all, yesterday, barrister Allison Bailey won her case claiming discrimination because of gender critical views.

The Employment Tribunal found that Garden Court Chambers discriminated against me because of my gender critical belief when it published a statement that I was under investigation & in upholding Stonewall’s complaint against me.

The ET further found that GCC also victimised me by upholding the Stonewall Complaint because of my protected act: tweeting against the idea of the ‘Cotton Ceiling’ & about the appalling levels of fear and intimidation driving the Stonewall self ID agenda.

In doing so the tribunal held that my protected gender critical belief also included the belief that “gender identity theory as proselytised by Stonewall is severely detrimental” to women, and to lesbians.

The ET has ordered Garden Court Chambers to pay me damages, which include aggravated damages.

It’s complicated, and I don’t claim to be an expert, but just know that “Stonewall” is Europe’s biggest gay rights organization and has had a great deal of influence in shaping British policy on these issues. The group has gone all-in on trans issues, which, as we all know, basically means “gender” self-identification as well as the medicalized “transitioning” of children and youth. The group has had an almost determinative power in shaping policy and the discussion on trans issues in the UK – which means silencing dissenters, of course.

But Bailey’s, along with Maya Forstater’s victory in June, hopefully creates a path for freer discussion on this issue in the UK – a shocking phenomenon which might just cross the pond over here. Who knows?

Here’s a good summary that lays out the ins, outs and complications.

From the Spectator UK:

These cases are a big deal. Their implications for employers may be significant. They should also have significant consequences for wider public discourse around sex and gender.

This debate is often characterised by fear. Many people, both prominent and ‘ordinary’, feel wary of speaking openly about their doubts and questions around trans issues. The courts have now made plain that expressing such views – within the usual limits of measured, polite speech – is entirely valid.

People who calmly and politely express such views are not doing anything wrong or hateful. They are entitled in law to hold those views and to express them. Anyone who seeks to prevent the expression of such views should consider that legal fact very carefully.

Why does this matter to those of us in the US? Well, the state of free expression anywhere in the world should matter, first of all. Secondly, what Stonewall’s efforts were essentially about intimidation, silencing and threats – and when it comes to this issue, many have given in to those perceived threats. Bailey and Forstater – and many other women – have not, and their cases show how important it is to push back.

Secondly, also from TERF Island – the NHS is reshaping the care given to gender-confused youth.

The NHS is shutting down its gender identity clinic for children after a damning review found that it failed vulnerable under-18s.

The gender identity service at Tavistock & Portman NHS Foundation Trust has been ordered to close by spring 2023.

It will be replaced by regional centres at existing children’s hospitals offering more “holistic care” with “strong links to mental health services”.

Tavistock’s Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS) clinic has been accused of rushing children into life-altering treatment on puberty blockers.

The paediatrician Dr Hilary Cass, who is leading a review of the service, has today issued a series of recommendations for a radical overhaul of how the NHS treats young people who are questioning their gender identity.

She found that the Tavistock clinic was “not a safe or viable long-term option” and that other mental health issues were “overshadowed” when gender was raised by children referred to the clinic.

In brief, Tavistock had been pushing the “gender-affirming” model of “care” that puts children on puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones and even some surgeries rather than closely examining and treating mental health issues in a holistic way.

This is very important – because, of course, these kinds of clinics are popping up all over the US and big battles are being fought on state levels over the treatment of children.

You can take a look at some varied gender-critical reactions via Kathleen Stock (the philosopher and author of Material Girls) here.

From Allison Bailey:

Children in distress about their gender deserve good resources & support, delivered with compassion. What they DO NOT need is adults cheering on their distress, welcoming them to a political movement & pushing chemical castration.

From Kara Dansky:

Tavistock has, for years, been rushing children into life-altering medical “treatments” that cause serious psychological and physical harm.

The same is happening in the U.S. There are hundreds of clinics all over the country that administer so-called puberty blockers (which are FDA-approved for treating precocious puberty but are not FDA-approved for any other purpose) to children, often within hours or days of said children appearing at the clinic.

No. None of this inevitable. It can be stopped.

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Back and random as ever

Well, that was a journey, beginning last Friday at 7 AM here in Birmingham, then driving through parts of Mississippi, Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, Wyoming, then back to Colorado, and on a plane back here, arriving at 1 AM Tuesday morning.


So I’m back for a bit. After this week, I’ll be doing some family-related travel, then during the last part of August, some…travel.

So let’s get back in the groove by being random:

One of the (many) areas upon which he focuses is the music business and particularly the impact of streaming services – this interests me, not just because of the specifics of music, but because I’m interesting in the impact of the internet, streaming, and the expectation of free content on all the arts, including writing, of course.

More later. I’m still…adjusting.

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St. Titus Brandsma

Canonized this past May:

Blessed Titus Brandsma was born in Oegeklooster, Netherlands, in 1881 and entered the Carmelites in 1898. Ordained in 1905, he was sent to Rome for further studies and, while there, became a correspondent for several Dutch newspapers and magazines. When he returned home, he founded the magazine Karmelrozen and, in 1935, was named chaplain to the Dutch Catholic journalists’ association. During World War II, he was arrested and sent to Dachau for treason after defending Jews and encouraging Catholic newspapers not to print Nazi propaganda. He was killed with a lethal injection in 1942 at the age of 61 and cremated at the camp.

From a Carmelite website:

Born in the Frisian city of Bolsward, Holland, in 1881, Bl. Titus Brandsma joined the Carmelites while still young and was ordained priest in 1905. He undertook further studies in Rome and was awarded a doctorate in philosophy at the Gregorian Pontifical University.


Returning to Holland, he taught in a number of schools before taking up a post as Professor of Philosophy and the History of Mysticism at the Catholic University of Nijmegen where he was later appointed Rector Magnificus. A noted writer and journalist, in 1935, he was appointed adviser to the bishops, for Catholic journalists. He was noted for being ready to receive anyone in difficulty and to help in whatever way he could. In the period leading up to and during the Nazi occupation in Holland, he argued passionately against the National Socialist ideology, basing his stand on the Gospels, and he defended the right to freedom in education and for the Catholic Press. As a result, he was imprisoned. So began his Calvary, involving great personal suffering and degradation whilst, at the same time, he himself brought solace and comfort to the other internees and begged God’s blessing on his jailers. In the midst of such inhuman suffering, he possessed the precious ability to bring an awareness of goodness, love and peace. He passed from one prison or camp to another until he arrived in Dachau where he was killed on 26th July 1942. He was beatified as a martyr by Pope John Paul II on 3rd November 1985.

I included Blessed Titus in The Loyola Kids Book of Saints under “Saints are People Who Tell the Truth.”

"amy welborn"

A couple of pages are online available for viewing, here. Well, and here:

Brandsma came to the United States in 1935, where he lectured at Catholic University.  These writings on Carmelite spirituality were based on those talks.

You can read his last few letters here.

Now I am in Scheveningen again, but only for a short time, because it has been decided that I shall go to the concentration camp at Dachau near Munich, probably next Saturday. There also I will find acquaintances, and Our Dear Lord is everywhere. 

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