Episode 195: Shag (The Movie)

That’s a great little movie, from 1989. But I’m afraid it’s going to get banned one of these days, by the Ministry of Truth. Right from the “get go”, there’s an image in it that’s distressing today.

Which gives me a chance to talk Christianly about how to deal with
distressing or upsetting material? Do you rid yourself of it by burning it? By hauling it down and cutting it up, and “take out the paper and the trash” (The Coasters, 1958)? Ecrasez l’infame!?

I don’t think that works. (Wish it did.) The averse material, if it touches something strong in you, or in someone else, just burrows down. It “migrates”, or rather, digs down a little bit deeper. Becomes a sleeper cell. And it returns later, to fight another day.

“There’s got to be another way” (Frankie Goes to Hollywood, 1984).

That way is the assimilation of negativity. It’s the essence of the New Testament: “Not to condemn the world, but that…” This cast is about another way of dealing with distressing material. It’s a way of mercy and acceptance, acquiescence and surrender. Trouble is — for the secular world — It Works.

Episode 196: Cimarron

Cimarron2The movie Cimarron, which was released in 1931, won the Academy Award for Best Picture that year. (Did you know that?)

It’s great blessing, Cimarron — which was based on the novel Cimarron, by Edna Ferber. But you’d never know it’s a blessing if you relied on the critics.

Cimarron has become notorious in recent times for its racial and ethnic stereotyping. When you read contemporary descriptions of this movie, it’s as if you’re being told to put your hands over your eyes and also cup them around your ears.

Yet the amazing thing is that Cimarron is actually the opposite of what it’s accused of being. It’s actually a definitive portrait of “Radical Hospitality”, as the pharisees and hypocrites are all smote; and the outsiders and excluded people are all promoted! Cimarron depicts the triumph of the “minority” in life. You’ve got to see it.

But only if you aren’t carrying so much presuppositional baggage that your eyes are already closed and your ears already shut. Cimarron is a portrait of that great House for All Sinners and Saints.

Oh, and there’s a mistake at the end of the cast: The music is not by Chrissie Hynde. It’s by Talk Talk.

This cast is dedicated to Christie Walker.

Episode 197: The Sacraments Rightly Understood

Here’s a howdy do — an episode of PZ’s Podcast that is concerned explicitly with a theological subject of Reformational interest and weight.

Yes, “Smokey Sings” (ABC), and so do The Lemon Pipers. But the thrust is theological.

I think the church has become over-eucharisted to such a degree that the sacrament has lost much of its original meaning and application. I honestly can’t remember a service Mary and I have attended in the last dozen years that wasn’t Holy Communion. Unless it was maybe compline or a “destination wedding” — where I invariably lose my sunglasses and feel like a minister in an episode of Miami Vice.

Anyway, I’ve always taken a different line on the sacraments. Tho’ the church did, too, until 1979.

Holy Communion is nice — the way “Rice is Nice” (1967) — but it’s a stand-in for something, not the thing itself. Ironically, the more we’ve diverted attention from the Thing Signified to the Sign, the more the service has become rote, way too normal, and basically phoned in.

Back in ’82 Karla Bonoff got it just right, in her song “Personally”. It sums what I’m tryin’ to say:

I’ve got something to give you
That the mailman can’t deliver
I can’t mail it in
I can’t phone it in
I can’t send it in
Even by your closest kin

I’m bringing it to you
Personally, personally

This podcast is dedicated to Nancy Hanna.

Episode 198: Mirage Fighter

Talk about being misunderstood!: Artur London was one of the 11 most misunderstood men on the planet, at least at the end of 1951. London was a defendant in the Slansky Trial, a “show trial” under Joseph Stalin, which took place in Prague.

After suffering extreme torture and brainwashing, London was sentenced to life imprisonment for crimes not one of which he had come 10,000 light years close to committing. He was so “under the influence” that he confessed to every crime of which he was accused by the Stalinist state.

london_artur_liseLater on, Artur London was released from prison, rehabilitated; and now they name streets after him. The Czech Republic has given all the accused defendants, eight of whom were executed by the state in 1951,
posthumous medals.

Artur London said that his life’s struggle was to differentiate between the essence of an ideal, and the form in which that ideal had taken shape politically — a debased and wicked form, it turns out. London also said that being a Communist in a Soviet prison was like being a Christian tortured by the Spanish Inquisition. Christians, like Communists, could only survive, and persist, if they clearly separated the Thing Signified from the Sign — the Substance from the Form.

Good luck, Artur! How’s it working for you, Paul? Or is it a clean sweep, the other way?

Episode 199: What Actually Happens

If you don’t factor in the element of romantic love — or at least its possibility — you’ll surprise yourself when you start making decisions in life.

Sometimes I wish I could give a college commencement address. (No one’s ever going to ask.) But I should like to talk about romantic love, and its over-riding, over-reaching, superseding strength as an element — the decisive element — in personal decision-making.

I can’t really say that, though. Many people seem to “privilege” career and/or professional choices over their love life. They seem to want to, at least. But then you surprise yourself! You quit your job, or apply for a job in another city, or go back to school; and the real reason is that you’ve met someone, or want to. Even desperately want to.

Romantic love always wins. Tho’ it takes too long these days. So much romantic time is wasted by the effort, energy and time, g__dammit, given to careers that end up, eventually, feeling phony, futile, arbitrary, and selfish.

What am I saying? Put romantic love first. Hey, and then, work’s a piece of cake. You’ll probably be promoted at work the moment you start promoting yourself to her.