- Powerful Ash-Wednesday piece from Andrew Sullivan, a Catholic, on Marc Thiessen, another Catholic, and former chief speechwriter for Donald Rumsfeld and George W. Bush, who defended waterboarding on a Catholic cable channel. The host never challenged him. Sullivan does: quoting the Catechism and some guy named Pope John Paul II:
...whatever violates the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, physical and mental torture and attempts to coerce the spirit; whatever is offensive to human dignity ... all these and the like are a disgrace, and so long as they infect human civilization they contaminate those who inflict them more than those who suffer injustice, and they are a negation of the honour due to the Creator.
- Russell Shorto's New York Times Magazine cover story, "How Christian were the Founders?," about fundamentalist Christian activists on the Texas Board of Education influencing textbooks for most of the country, can be an annoying read—less for the fundamentalists than for Shorto, since he does a bit of the following: 1) Things aren’t the way you think (Read on!); 2) This is how things are; 3) OK, things are the way you think (Thanks for reading!). Specifically, Shorto says that, despite what you might remember, the founding fathers were overwhelmingly Christian; then he goes on to dissect this in the way we remember. They may have been Christian but most were also enlightened rationalists wary of relgiion and interested in keeping the spheres of reason and faith separate. At the same time the piece made me realize, or re-realize, that the opposition is doing the opposite of what they should do. Rather than pull back from including religion in textbooks, they should push forward and try to include as much religious history as possible. This graf in particular is instructive:
IN 1801, A GROUP of Baptist ministers in Danbury, Conn., wrote a letter to the new president, Thomas Jefferson, congratulating him on his victory. They also had a favor to ask. Baptists were a minority group, and they felt insecure. In the colonial period, there were two major Christian factions, both of which derived from England. The Congregationalists, in New England, had evolved from the Puritan settlers, and in the South and middle colonies, the Anglicans came from the Church of England. Nine colonies developed state churches, which were supported financially by the colonial governments and whose power was woven in with that of the governments. Other Christians — Lutherans, Baptists, Quakers — and, of course, those of other faiths were made unwelcome, if not persecuted outright.
- Teach this. When activists say the founders were Christian, say "Which denomination?" and "What did they think of other denominations?" and "What did they do about it?" and "What parallels do we have to this today?" The first words of the first amendment to the U.S. Consitution are these: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion..." Why? The fundamentalists want religion in textbooks? Give them religion in textbooks—just not the absolutist version they demand. They've been praying for this a long time, but we all know what St. Teresa of Avila said about answered prayers.
- According to Bloomberg News, the 400 highest-earning households averaged $345 million each in 2007. That's before the Big Fall, of course (although during the Big Slide), but, more importantly, Bloomberg also reports (with italics from me): "The top 400 earners received a total of $138 billion in 2007, up from $105.3 billion a year earlier. Adjusted for inflation, their average income rose almost fivefold since 1992, the figures show." Taxed Enough Already. Right.
- Apparently they're going to make a movie about Fritz Peterson and Mike Kekich, the wife-swapping Yankees of 1973, with BoSox fan Ben Affleck attached to star. According to Deadline Hollywood's Mike Fleming (an avowed Yankees fan, and thus now on my list), the highly touted screenplay "has the feel of a Hal Ashby movie." Sounds good! Of course these days that means a release into...500 theaters? 250? Do I hear 100? "Sugar," a great baseball movie about a Dominican pitcher coming to the U.S. to pitch in the minors, and dealing with the inevitable culture clash, and the stangeness and whiteness of this vast world, was distributed last spring by Sony Classics. Its widest release? 51 theaters. Three theaters less than "Dil Bole Hadippa!" (Although one better than "L'heure d'ete," my favorite film of 2009.)
- The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences is finally going too far for Nathaniel Rogers over at Film Experience. He didn't mind past acting winners introducing, and talking to, the candidates at last year's ceremony (I did). He was for, or at least wasn't against, the doubling of the best picture nominees from 5 to 10 (I was agin from the get-go). But now the Academy is... 1) forgoing music; 2) snubbing Lauren Bacall; 3) limiting all those great, teary speeches to 45 seconds. He's written a piece about it for Tribeca Films but his shorter version on his blog is better since his personality is in it. (Nathaniel, I'm sorry. I couldn't get past the first sentence of your Tribeca piece.) Make sure you read the comments field, too. Film Experience is one of the few sites where the comments field doesn't make you fear for the fate of the species. Jimmy, in particular, has a great thought on classic-movie-pairing presenters: Dunaway and Beatty; Redford and Streisand; Thelma and Louise. You'll never get Woody Allen, Jimmy, but you can pair Diane Keaton with Al Pacino. Or with Warren Beatty. How about Beatty and Dunaway and Keaton and etc. and etc.? If I could pick one classic movie couple it'd be Allen and Keaton. But many others come to mind. Hoffman and Voigt. Redford and Fonda. Redford and Hoffman. Fonda and Voigt. What about you? Who would you like to see presenting Oscars?