Archive for Thursday, February 26, 2004

Bits and Pieces

Politics, religion heat mid-winter conversation

February 26, 2004

If you have been watching the news recently during these cold weeks (and who hasn't?) ,you know we have been bombarded with more than we ever wanted to know about the Democrats finding a suitable presidential candidate, President Bush being under attack for not finding WMDs in Iraq, and for allegedly failing to show up for National Guard duty in the early 1970s.
Mel Gibson's new controversial movie of the passion of Christ, Janet Jackson's "unveiling" during the Super Bowl, as well as the many star-studded film and television awards, have been in the headlines.
John Kerry's face is on every newspaper or magazine you pick up these days. As the Democrats' apparent choice in the upcoming presidential race, he has experienced a huge rise in popularity by winning, 13 primaries, isn't it?
As I said before in this column, he was my first choice, but I fear for him as the nasty part of this race for the presidency is only beginning. It began recently with both Kerry and Bush camps duking it out in television ads designed to point out the weakness in each man as well as to discredit both in whatever way possible.
Bush's lack of a war record countered by Kerry's war record in Vietnam is currently the most popular. However, Kerry has his own problems trying to portray himself as a man of the people when his wife Teresa (pronounced "tuh-ray-za") is by a previous marriage the heir to the Heinz fortune, estimated at more than $500 million.
I wish we could get through this election without the usual mud-slinging that always seems a part of the process, especially at the end, when subtle and outrageously expensive television sound bites attack candidates' characters while reminding us why only the very wealthy can seek this office.
I wonder if the office of president has always been sought in such an undignified manner. Where are the history buffs when we need them?
We have also been reading and hearing a lot about Gibson's movie, "The Passion of the Christ," which has begun to show this week. In a preview shown to the clergy several weeks ago, the opinions were mixed.
Some asked why the big uproar when this it depicted what most of us know about Christ's life and death as told through Scripture?
Without having seen the movie but watching Gibson being interviewed by Diane Sawyer recently on television I have decided to reserve judgment on the movie. But I admit I think Gibson came off as a smart aleck in the interview, religious conversion or not.
The movie is being praised by large numbers of Christians who seldom enter movie theaters. Not only are they attending this one, but they are also taking their children along as well. Being rated R for violence, a priest's comment heard recently on NPR's "Weekend Edition" was that he was shocked to think people were taking children, as he found the film more graphic and violent than "Saving Private Ryan." In fact, he described the violence as "numbing."
While there are those who claim the film stirs the ancient pot of anti-Semitism, the official word within the Catholic camp here in our diocese comes in a recent copy of The Leaven, our official Catholic paper. In it, Archbishop Keleher states, "Of course, we all know that Jesus was himself Jewish and that he was crucified by the authorities of the Roman Empire in the 1st century.
I hope this film will give us all a true sense of the historical experience of the passion of Jesus at the hands of the Roman Empire, and not a bigoted judgment on our Jewish brothers and sisters. In no way can anyone rationally condemn the Jewish people for the crucifixion of Jesus. And we must remember that this film is the interpretation of one man's reading of the Gospel accounts. That's good enough for me.
Moving on to the Janet Jackson/Jason Timberlake fiasco, I have only one question: What in the world could those responsible parties possibly xpect when they contracted MTV to provide the entertainment for the Super Bowl?
And lastly, the movie and television awards. Having already missed or slept through two of these, I am hoping to at least stay awake for the really big show -- the Oscars.
Having seen several of the movies, it's always fun to see who comes away with the big prize as well as checking out the fashion show that precedes the event as the stars walk the red velvet runway in costly designer gowns and glittering jewelry, to say nothing of Johnny Depp's hats.
I do take exception to the fact that each nominee, win or not, takes home a gift basket valued at $40,000. Can you imagine?
In a recent "Inside the Actor's Studio" interview I was impressed with Renee Zellwegger's account of the fame and adoration that surrounds the life of a star. Answering the question of how to succeed in this very tough business, she gave what I thought was a thoughtful response, which I am paraphrasing. She told the young would-be actors that being a movie actor is just like any other business except you are the commodity, which can be bought and sold.
She cautioned them no matter how glamorous it seems; the dizzy world of fame is only an illusion and not where real living occurs. She seems to have done very well in this department, keeping her public life separate from her private. We only hope her own wise words keep her grounded.
The following is a quote I read recently in a book entitled, "The Key to Rebecca" by Ken Follett, which struck me as appropriate for those blessed or cursed with celebrity. He writes, "Would the sudden excommunication from the familiar glittering world make them wonder even more than usually whether that familiar glittering world could possibly be real?"
The rest of us will never have to struggle with this problem and what would we do without the glitter and glamour of celebrity to brighten up an otherwise un-eventful February?

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