Thursday, December 31, 2009

Car Recovered

A good way to spend part of one's new year's eve is to get the call that your car which was stolen almost three weeks ago has been recovered, and then go to the tow yard to pick it up.

I won't think too much about the $106.91 towing and storing bill, nor that the spare tires were stolen from the trunk, nor that the key ignition will do the beeping sound when you open the door, even when you remove the key.

No one urinated inside the car: positive. (Though I will still be cleaning the interior because otherwise it would feel too much like I simply lent the car out to strangers.)

There are no dents, no scorch marks, no scratches, no ripped interior: positive.

There are no broken locks or trunk hatch: positive.

The "Jesus, I Trust in You" decal on the back was not vandalized, nor the Holy Face pamphlets inside: positive.

I believe the RCMP officer on the phone even told me they found the car with the doors locked: bizarre.

From Seinfeld to The Office

I really like Kevin O'Brien.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Still Life with Apples and Tea

The tea still has to be poured, and a few other things need doing, like the designs on cup and saucer and some more detail on the apples and wood table top, yadda yadda. Oil on linen canvas. 20 inches by 16 inches. Price: one million dollars. Cheques, credit card, gold, whatever will do. I will accept the equivalence in old jewelry as well. Or if you can only acquire around, say, $10, 000 worth, say, from your mother's or grandmother's jewelry drawer, that's fine. Just stuff it into a manila envelope(s) and send it to my address. You may or may not receive the painting of course; it will be according as my whims and moods determine. If you do receive the painting, the painting you receive may or may not be the same one as pictured. Though it may be of apples and tea. Then again, the painting may be of a Tyrannosaurus Rex hysterically demanding ridiculous tax sums of a Brontosaurus for taking a dump while volcanoes in the background spew a century's worth of auto CO2 into the atmosphere. You never know.


The ways in which a lame B-movie like Krull turns to relative dust the best efforts of some of today's most serious and "visionary" filmmakers (fantasy or otherwise), who come a dime a dozen, packed with dexterous imagery, fully aware of every cliché in their path and who steer accordingly, is something worth pondering.

In 1983, in the midst of the Star Wars inundation, when successive films were being turned out ("Let's start production and write the plot later!") that would typify the 80's as belonging enormously to fantasy/sci-fi, a very derivative (as though Star Wars itself were not derivative), unremarkable, badly acted but earnest film called Krull was released.

Columbia Pictures put approximately $50 million into it, and lost approximately 35 of that cost at the box office. Most of the movie was made in England, directed by Peter Yates with a mostly British cast. In the summer of 83, and ever thereafter, it hardly made a sound.

Talk to some people who grew up in the 80's and you might catch one or two who has memories of this film. I was a fan of it as a kid, and even remember having some of the memorabilia. For a number of years I had no idea what the name of that film was of which I could only remember certain moods, and one scene in which a man reaches his bare hand into lava to retrieve a powerful weapon, his hand remaining unscathed.

Only recently have I discovered what that film was. Some dear person has posted the movie in full on youtube, and I watched it the other night. Many memories came back to me.

There was the obligatory wincing over how corny was something you did not find corny as a kid. But what came as something of a quiet shock, after starting to actually enjoy the cheesiness, was how much of this film is actually not all that bad, and in fact, kind of stumblingly well done. I was quite surprised.

Krull is the name of the planet on which the story takes place. The planet is invaded by the Beast via his galactic spaceship which is also the Beast's fortress (once it lands), called The Black Fortress. He has his minions called Slayers. There are two rival kingdoms on Krull. Prince Colwyn, from one of the kingdoms, and Princess Lyssa, from the other kingdom, are to be married, which will bring the two kingdoms together; it is foretold that their child will rule the galaxy. Hence the reason for the Beast to attack the wedding and steal the Princess (after the nuptials have been made), so he can rule, somehow believing that he will marry the Princess. After the wedding is attacked and the ruling kings killed, Prince Colwyn, awaking from unconsciousness, must set out to rescue the Princess.

By well done, do not take it to mean in terms of any outstanding artistry or of a full-orbed mythology. Make no mistake: the film is unabashed B-grade, cheese-ball-o-rama, full of loose ends, plot holes, contrivances and the whole bit. But it happens to be there wherein the charm lies; not as self-conscious camp, but a kind of four-square forthrightness and onward plodding. (Some would simply describe the quality as being that of a markedly English [U.K.] production.) And if its sources of derivation are good, then they will eventually speak, through most bumbling obstacles, even in glimmers anew.

The good to be found is not so much in the individual parts - though it's sometimes there too - as it is in the linkage; the way a certain nobility starts to come through, to lend the props and prosthetics, the ham acting and special effects a sweeping pardon: the need in us for a king and chivalry are pronounced unhurriedly, and the characters develop an unselfconscious way of free-play. The film, for all its nonsensical eclecticism, is straight-laced (in a light manner) and has what is today the unique strength of remaining an actual story through to end; the filmmaker does not attempt to bridge the natural gap between storybook and storybook reader. Krull would rather look stupid and silly than try false assimilation.

That is the challenge of fantasy: how well and complete and vivid can you render your sub-created world without at any point trying to gainsay the mere fact that the viewer is just watching a movie - or reading a book (I'm not saying film and literature are the same or even similar). The object is to tell the story and everything in the film must be brought to bear within the hierarchal fact of the story. When a character moves he cannot just move; he must move in middle-earth. This must be the way of good fantasy as a kind of Rule #1 - unlike, for instance, what is seen in the bloated soap nonsense of Lynch's Dune.

And that is one thing that Krull has going for it, in the midst of everything else that would detract. In addition to this, Krull puts me in mind of T.S. Eliot's response to a friend who asked what he thought of Chesterton's poetry: "He reminds me of a hansom cab driver who beats himself to stay warm."

As cutting as Eliot's statement may have been, the truth in it is apparent. Chesterton was God's Tumbler, and thought of himself as such. He was obviously, as with every person, a whole lot more than anyone's summation of him, but for the matter of Krull we can take along this tumbling, rollicking vigor that looks out for the actions of the figures and not their presentment; looks for the cumulative (and gently kinetic) word of the parts and not the parts themselves.

Or take this more exaggerated comment made by one fan at

Reply #14. Posted on November 25, 2006, 04:10:12 PM by Derek

This movie is killer. It's really really bad and so excellently cool that i love it! :) The guy who plays the "old one" is probably one of the worst actors i've ever seen! He sucked in dune and he sucks in this movie too. The princess is about the wimpiest woman alive, the prince is blind in his goal and pig headed as hell, the "army" are about as incompetant as can be, and the slayers fight with the collective intelligence of a junior programmer. Nothing, but NOTHING makes sense in this movie! I absolutely love it!
Krull is lame by most means, but it is dogged. Take this doggedness and bring it to partake even just a little of Tolkien's "stewing pot", and you start to get something. In fact, I wonder if the stewing pot for Krull were given a little more time to cook (okay, a lot more time) it would be something of a great film today. The Star Wars elements are there superficially (and to me frankly could have been done away with), that is, nothing's there to do with the Force and its Gnostic baggage, but there's the laser beams and planetary context (the film even opens with a big "spaceship" coming into the picture plane from behind); while the earthier Excalibur/Arthurian legend and Robin Hood elements are the film's defining characteristics and general morality.

And the film does have the sparks and beginning fire-crackles of, the musterings of, mythology. Take for instance the Cyclops. The old man of the mountain, Ynyr, (Freddie Jones hamming it up juicily) explains some of the Cyclops race's story after Ergo nearly gets killed by a Slayer:

"A Cyclops."

"He was aiming a spear straight at me."

"Had that been so you would now be dead. He was aiming at a Slayer, for they have ancient hatred between them. Long ago his ancestors lived in a world far from Krull, and had two eyes like other men. Then they made a bargain with the Beast who was the leader of the Slayers. They gave up one of their eyes in exchange for the power to see into the future; but they were cheated. And the only future they are permitted to see is the time of their own death. They're sad, solitary creatures; born to know the day they will die."
I don't know how much or where it takes from (a bit of the palantir comes to mind), if at all, but dang, that has some meat to it! The problem is parts like this sort of just sit there in the movie; they lack cohesion of more fully developed myth.

There's also the Widow of the Web. But one of the scenes especially drew my memory to an image or idea I seemed inherently attracted to as a kid, which is the king with the key.

As Prince Colwyn travels with his two first companions, they are waylaid by a gang of merry outlaws. But Prince Colwyn, who looks an unlikely king, enlists the gang of robbers into his service. Taking a key from his glaive-medallion as a sign of his kingship - a key in the shape of a cross - he unlocks one of the robber's shackles, and offers to unlock all the shackles on their wrists if they promise to help him in his hopeless quest (sound familiar?).

What film today would even dare to approach such unabashed symbolism as a king carrying a master key in the shape of a cross that can unlock all the robbers'/outcasts'/sinners' manacles (or any lock on the planet) after calling them on his quest? Even Peter Jackson's last installment floundered in failing to adequately portray Aragorn's fearless and authoritative rousing of the cursed dead (yes, Krull's is better). What is it about such an archetype that even in its most meager, tossed-on-the-table, unadorned state it remains resonant, rich, ponderable - that is, something with a deep well of Real-History-within-our-small-history behind it?

Watching this scene on youtube, something like 26 years after the last viewing, my mind strove back to try and reclaim something just on the border of memory; again, something I was struck and enamored with as a kid and which still greatly tantalizes (and in the same degree eludes me) to this day: it is Christ as Trailblazer and Christ as Warrior-King, who also happens to possess the master key and, what is more, actually uses it; unlooked-for but suddenly appearing.

Can there be such a thing as a master key? Isn't that the stuff of…fairy tales? A king who we "waylay" who calls us to his quest is one thing in itself, but one who also carries a master key? "But," the child wonders to himself, "what if there really was? After all, it seems there would be if it's something so seared in my imagination."

With the incarnation of Christ there is. He goes before us, and has gone before us. His mercy is bestowed in a reckless yet seeing manner in rousing the outcasts to Himself, not as a tyrant, but as one who has become one of us, and as one who, being more than us, has an enormous task Himself to accomplish (the essential core of which He has already accomplished) and wants us with Him in that task. His sights are on us but also beyond us towards His end, His goal (which is completed) that subsumes us. How penetrating, how "lawless" is His calling and releasing of the outlaws! He is both king and rebel (rebel to the powers of tyrannical darkness).

What is this wonderful characteristic of Christ that He doesn't want us to be somehow chained to always recognizing his unchaining of us (No, I'm not a fan of the song Amazing Grace), as though that were the sole end of everything, but lifts our sights up to the distance He Himself is looking towards, the very helix-center of His quest? (Pope Benedict put it somewhere that Christ does not want us to be the "mere objects of His mercy". It goes without saying, we must recognize His mercy, but His mercy is not quantifiable; it's endless.) Therein lies our freedom; our freedom takes place within a larger task. We join Christ on His quest: thank God, it's not all about us. And yet within this larger picture we gain our true form, our true name; somehow miraculously our own small part is a very big part.

With an Apostolic echo, at the end of the movie, Prince Colwyn gives the master key over to the leader of the outcasts. Some criticisms of the movie are aimed at Ken Marshall's acting as Prince Colwyn (too shallow), but I like the bright lightness in how he both rouses the outlaws and gives the master key to Torquil (Alun Armstrong).

There's also the score by James Horner (who most recently scored Avatar). You can probably hear like-sounding elements from Krull's score in a number of scores throughout the 80's (many by Horner himself). The difference between them though is that Krull's score came first, and is easily one of Horner's best. Here's a good chunk of the score in the following scene. Prince Colwyn and his gang of merry outlaws are riding the Fire Mares over one thousand leagues to the Black Fortress; having disclosed its location from the Widow of the Web, they are trying to reach the fortress before it teleports to another location at sunrise in order to rescue the captive princess (yes, I liked writing that sentence):

"There it is."

"Yeah, and only a madman would want to get this close to it."

"We're going to get a lot closer. And quickly; it's almost dawn; we must get inside before the twin suns rise! Haw!"

Come on, you know you love it.

As for the way the film ends - not the very ending, but the defeat of the Beast - it is lame to say the least. In fact, just when you think the movie has expended itself in the matter of cheese, it takes a turn and seems to re-double the quantity in an amazing feat. But even in this lameness there is a noble recognition of the sacramental union of marriage and its power, whence the Prince derives his power to defeat the Beast.

And who really gives a shit about Avatar and its "new era" omni technology.

If you wish, you can watch the entire movie right here. Have a good time.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Cloud Mystery - or That Inconvenient Universe

Charcoal Trees

Ink Trees


I made stollen (German Christmas bread) for the first time on Christmas Eve. It turned out excellent. I love the fact that you soak the candied fruits (cherry, citron, dried currants, almond slices, sultana and golden raisins) in dark rum overnight. I put marzipan in the center of three of them.

I can eat fruit cake; I can appreciate it, but typically it's just too overbearing. Stollen though is pitch perfect; more evocative than those hefty fruit bricks. Is it cake or is it bread? I guess one would call it a sweet bread.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Prose Poem

Wood and rock-hearted pagans, unless transformed
by the child in the blooming desert, cannot change
their own hearts to flesh. Only the child does this.
No development but newness can deal our fullness,
and the newness brought to the shepherds in the night
is the new that is not comparatively new;
is the new that makes no sense and makes all sense;
is the new that makes of the old an unknown precedence:

Every heart is of wood and rock, and to hear the news
of the child in the blooming desert is to be stricken dumb
and emptied, as the soul becomes a cosmos that holds the child;
a desert that painfully blooms, and tenderfully, in the night.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Support Dappled Things

The following is a letter from Dappled Things who are in financial need to the tune of an Al Gore luncheon. Surely we can muster up that much. If you are familiar with Dappled Things, surely you would not want to see it go under.

And if you are not familiar, go there and familiarize.

Dear Friends,

No doubt at this time of the year many organizations are approaching you with appeals for your financial assistance. I will be brief, therefore, in explaining why you should support the work of
Dappled Things today. This year, more than ever, we are in special need of your help.

The current economic crisis has left no one wholly untouched, but its effects have been particularly severe on us. Our work depends primarily on donations and advertising revenue, but our income from these categories has declined significantly this year. Almost as a rule, companies are slashing advertising budgets and it is uncertain when they will be able to expand them again. Many individuals are likewise limiting their charitable giving. Since we are still a fledgling organization in terms of our financial resources, these developments have placed our work in serious jeopardy.

But why should you give to us in particular? For better or worse,
Dappled Things is the only nationally (and internationally) distributed magazine that not only speaks about the importance of transforming culture through the riches of the Catholic faith, but actually tries to do so with creative work informed and inspired by the Church’s tradition. A concrete image or story has greater power to affect a life than an abstract philosophy. Consider that Jesus spoke in parables, not syllogisms. Yet the stories our culture tells itself today are increasingly defined by narcissism and despair—is it any wonder our civilization turns increasingly desperate and narcissistic?

Dappled Things seeks to tell a different kind of story. Do not let it remain untold. If we do not receive enough support during this campaign to ride out the storm, it is a real possibility that Dappled Things may founder. Yet all we need is $10,000. Please help us continue our work by giving today. A gift of $75, $50, or $25 would go a long way in supporting our activities. Think of it as a Christmas present to our impoverished culture. Even $15 or $10—the cost of a visit to McDonald’s—would be a big help.

In a year when your ability to give may be limited, a donation to
Dappled Things is an excellent way to make a serious difference with little money. Despite our small budget, new readers consistently tell us how impressed they are with the magazine’s design and production value, not to mention its content. We can do so much with so little because Dappled Things is produced entirely by volunteers. All our resources go to printing and promoting a journal that, even in its physical design, reflects our commitment to spreading the True, the Good, and the Beautiful amid a culture in which falsity, evil, and ugliness abound.

Financial difficulties will keep many from giving this year. We will need larger donations to make up the difference. If you can, please consider supporting us as a Saint Francis De Sales Society donor. A donation of $1000, $500, or $250 would make a crucial difference to Dappled Things. Members of the Saint Francis De Sales Society will receive a high-quality, autographed, limited-edition print of Matthew Alderman’s
Our Lady, Queen of the Apostles, with an Attendant Angel, a sublime illustration featured in our Mary, Queen of Angels 2008 edition.

Please contribute today to this vital campaign. You can make your secure online donation via PayPal by visiting You can also mail a check or money order, payable to Dappled Things Magazine, to:

Dappled Things Magazine
c/o Katherine Aparicio
2876 S. Abingdon Street, C-2
Arlington, VA 22206

I thank you in advance for your generosity, at whatever level you can give.

Wishing you a blessed Advent and Christmas,

Bernardo Aparicio García
Dappled Things

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Desert Fathers

XVIII. A brother asked a certain old man, saying, "There be two brothers, and one of them is quiet in his cell, and prolongs his fast for six days, and lays much travail on himself: but the other tends the sick. Whose work is the more acceptable to God?" And the old man answered, "If that brother who carries his fast for six days were to hang himself up by the nostrils, he could not equal the other, who does service to the sick."

Monday, December 14, 2009

How Cold Is It?

My Friend John writes the following:

Edmonton −60°c

The forecast for Edmonton was about −40° celsius, −50° Celsius with windchill. Today Edmonton reached −48° Celsius without windchill, −60° Celsius with windchill!

Let’s discuss that for a moment, shall we? How cold is −60? Edmonton’s temperature, −60 Celsius, is the Eutectic Point for all biological life. The Eutectic Point is the point at which all entropy (activity) stops in molecular biophysics. All activity stops in biological molecules. That includes decomposition. That includes oxidization. That means whatever biological material is −60 will no longer be alive, but also not decay or change in any way due to internal activity (there is none). Commercially, it’s the lowest temperature used by mankind in practical application. It’s used for “superfreezing” foods. It’s so cold that meat a foot thick will “freeze to the bone” quickly. Super-frozen foods don’t discolour and look as fresh as when they were super-frozen once thawed. That’s not subjective, it’s fact. There will have been no ability for any decomposition, decay or oxidization to change the biological matter. Science uses temperatures lower than −60, but they are uncommon and not commercial in nature. Most frozen foods are actually done much warmer than −60 as well. −60 is the premium of flash freezing.

For all intents and purposes, −60 is as good as anything colder. Anything colder really makes absolutely no difference to any form of life. Activity in molecules stops and from there it only effects atoms. That’s cold! Finger skin starts freezing at −10° Celsius. At −30° Celsius, any exposed skin freezes in 20 minutes or less. If a person’s core temperature reaches 23° Celsius, they will have a heart attack, respiratory failure, pulmonary edema and die. Edmonton is very cold! I’ve been there at −30 or so (without windchill). I can’t imagine −50!

--John Taschereau

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Twilight Series

"Here, then, is the embedded spiritual narrative (probably invisible to the author and her audience alike): You shall be as gods. As with Harry Potter, you shall be as nice gods. You will overcome death on your own terms. You will be master over death. Good and evil are not necessarily what western civilization has, until now, called good and evil. You will define the meaning of symbols and morals and human identity. And all of this is subsumed in the ultimate message: The image and likeness of God in you can be the image and likeness of a god whose characteristics are satanic, as long as you are a “basically good person.”

In this way, coasting on a tsunami of intoxicating visuals and emotions, the image of supernatural evil is transformed into an image of supernatural good."
From The Twilight of the West, by Michael D. O'Brien.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Chapters: get some real books

The "Christianity" book section at the Chapters store I visited today has finally triumphed (the last time I visited was around a year ago) in being rid - as far as I could see - of anything remotely resembling actual Christianity and its plenitude of literature. Last year there was at least something like one third of the section that was reasonably solid. By lord, there was even Pope Benedict's Jesus of Nazareth - and faced to the front!

Going over the section with wrathful scrutiny, my eye took in nothing but that which is new and already old: clichéd controversy, leftist garbage. Paul Was Not a Christian; Jesus in the Lotus; The Gnostic Gospels; With or Without God, with the ridiculous subtitle: Why The Way We Live Is More Important Than What We Believe. As if the two were ever at odds.

Why What We Believe Determines The Way We Live more like it. Oh, what lameness! like the one that blurbs about its title, Paul Was Not A Christian: because there was no verifiable religion at that time called Christianity! Wow, you mean the first followers of Christ hadn't yet adopted the name Christian? My mind has been blooooown awaaay! What a bunch of pathetic, perfumed rat shit.

There are a whole lot of variations on the same tired post-worn post-this and post-that titles: how to be "spiritual" without, you know, a church. As if a church is there to make you "spiritual".

But C.S. Lewis is still there. They don't mind having him in prominence, and Thomas Merton. There's just enough - just enough - in those two writers to lend themselves to the abovementioned Give Me Jesus Without The Church Please. Oh, and please can Jesus also be left-wing?

Just enough - together with a lot and a lot of twisting and outright ignoring by said I-won't-have-no-church ignorant reader - or I should say, just enough in Old Merton (this cheese is starting to get to me...hey look, zen!), whereas in Lewis it is more like merely enough.

An Erasmus Prayer

Lord Jesus Christ, the world's true sun, always rising, never setting, whose life-giving warmth engenders, preserves, nourishes and gladdens all things in heaven and on earth, shine into my soul, I pray: scatter the night of sin and the clouds of error; blaze within me, so that I may go on my way without stumbling, taking no part in shameful deeds done in the dark, but ever walking as one born to the light. Amen.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Advent Prayer

Almighty God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life, in which thy Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the quick and the dead, we may rise to life immortal. Amen.

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Desert Fathers

XIII. The abbot Agatho said, "If an angry man were to raise the dead, because of his anger he would not please God."

Saturday, December 5, 2009


Frederic Chopin (1810-1849) Nocturne in E minor Op. Posth. 72 nr. 1 from ingvi on Vimeo.

Advent Prayer

Grant the will, we beseech you, almighty God, to your faithful people, that, running to meet the coming of your Anointed with the gift of good works, we may be found worthy to be gathered at his right hand and thus possess the heavenly kingdom. Amen.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Listen Up

Shall not Lebanon in a very little while become a fruitful field, and the fruitful field be regarded as a forest?

On that day the deaf shall hear the words of a scroll, and out of their gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind shall see.

The meek shall obtain fresh joy in the Lord, and the neediest people shall exult in the Holy One of Israel.

For the tyrant shall be no more, and the scoffer shall cease to be; all those alert to do evil shall be cut off—

those who cause a person to lose a lawsuit, who set a trap for the arbiter in the gate, and without grounds deny justice to the one in the right.

Therefore thus says the Lord, who redeemed Abraham, concerning the house of Jacob: "No longer shall Jacob be ashamed, no longer shall his face grow pale.

For when he sees his children, the work of my hands, in his midst, they will sanctify my name; they will sanctify the Holy One of Jacob, and will stand in awe of the God of Israel.

And those who err in spirit will come to understanding, and those who grumble will accept instruction." --Isaiah 29: 17-24

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Desert Fathers

I. The abbot Anthony said, "There be some that wear out their bodies with abstinence: but because they have no discretion, they be a great way from God."