Anne Rice Quits Christianity

The Anchoress, Elizabeth Scalia

Anne Rice, whose book Called Out of Darkness was a beautifully-written spiritual confession, has decided that she loves Christ but not Christians.

She’s neither the first nor the last to feel that way.

Sometimes I do, too. Sometimes I hate myself as a Christian, because I do the thing so badly.

Christianity is easy to do badly. You take the dogma and leave out the love – you’re doing it wrong.

You try to “correct” others and bring too much “righteousness” and not enough love – you’re doing it wrong.

Apply too much love, without accountability – you’re doing it wrong, then, too.

We cheat Christ when we do it badly.

We cheat Christ and each other when we teach Him badly.

We cheat Christ and each other and the Church when we catechize poorly, or when we approach the Supernatural with superficiality; when we stop applying thought to it.

Forty years of sloppy, empty elementary catechesis during concurrent social revolution and generational upheaval was a bad choice for the churches, who now reap what they have sown.

Rice writes:

In the name of Christ, I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control. I refuse to be anti-Democrat. I refuse to be anti-secular humanism. I refuse to be anti-science. I refuse to be anti-life.

Rice’s angry frustration with what she (and, let’s face it, many others) perceive to be a sort of Institution of No is interesting. She refuses to be “anti-gay,” but the church teaches that indeed we must not be anti-gay, that homosexual inclinations are not sinful in themselves, but that all are called to chastity, whether gay or straight.

So, what she is refusing is not so much church teaching, which she incorrectly represents, but the worldly distortion of church teaching both as it is misunderstood and too-often practiced. I do not know how anyone could read the USCCB’s pastoral letter, Always Our Children and then make a credible argument that the church is “anti-gay.”

…Anne Rice wants to do the Life-in-Christ on her own, while saying “Yes” to the worldly world and its values. She seems not to realize that far from being an Institution of No, the church is a giant and eternal urging toward “Yes,”, that being a “yes” toward God–whose ways are not our ways, and who draws all to Himself, in the fullness of time–rather than a “yes” to ourselves.

Unfortunately, we Christians teach this poorly and generally make too many excuses for our failings. Too many of us go out into the world seeking to confront and “fix” others, when the key to the Christian life begins with confronting and “fixing” the self. This can only be done through grace, which enters upon the Yes, and moves and grows on the intentional breeze of Willingness, because that is the only thing that counts…

Zora Neale Hurston: Video of her ethnographic work in Florida in 1928

The Library of America

Harlem World recently posted a video containing footage recorded by Zora Neale Hurston during one of her research trips to Florida in 1928. Before—and even after—she became known as a novelist and story writer, Hurston actively pursued many ethnographic research programs. She graduated from Barnard College with a B.A. in anthropology in 1927 and spent several years in the late 1930s and early 1940s collecting and performing folksongs reflecting black culture in her native Florida for the Federal Writers Project (WPA). About these early films, Harlem World notes:

[Hurston] used the loan of a camera to photograph fifteen reels of film preserving the heritage of southern African-American culture. Of these reels, only nine are known to have survived and contain black & white, occasionally grainy footage capturing children at play, a baptism in a river, a logging camp, and footage of octogenarian Cudjo Lewis, the final survivor from The Clotilde, the last arriving slave ship to America (in 1859). No intertitles are presented with these clips, although the musical accompaniment is comprised of spirituals and bluegrass music.

Travel expenses and the cost of the camera were provided by Charlotte Osgood Mason, a wealthy and controversial patron of Hurston, Langston Hughes, and the Mexican artist Miguel Covarrubias. Mason also funded the research behind Hurston’s first work of nonfiction Mules and Men (1935). The University of Virginia Crossroads website offers additional insights into this troublesome patron–artist relationship as well as additional material about the creation of Mules and Men.

The Library of America volume Zora Neale Hurston: Folklore, Memoirs, and Other Writings includes the complete text of Mules and Men and features the original illustrations by Miguel Covarrubias.

Other related LOA works: Zora Neale Hurston: Novels and Stories; True Crime: An American Anthology (includes Hurston’s “The Trial of Ruby McCollum”)

Midnight in Paris, brief shooting

Figaro Blog – Par Constance Jamet

Twenty-four hours after the public appearance of Carla Bruni-Sarkozy on the set of Midnight in Paris, the latest comedy from Woody Allen, people start to speak about the performance of the first lady. Difficult to get an opinion. Opinions differ substantially if one reads People magazine or the tabloid Daily Mail.

People prefer to focus on the prevailing mood among Carla Bruni-Sarkozy and the team of Midnight in Paris. One observer claims that “Carla and Woody were very well understood, they were always talking and laughing between takes.” Similarly, the former model spoke animatedly with the actor Owen Wilson. According to this source, Carla stayed five hours to turn in the neighborhood of the Pantheon. She filmed several times the same scene, a priori, without dialogue: stick in hand, she enters a grocery store down the street Mouffetard.

People For the number of shots required at the scene of groceries rose to 32. For the Daily Mail 35. “She seemed to have trouble not fix the camera, which has not made a good impression on Woody Allen,” the tabloid said quoting an onlooker. “The scene of the stick could not be simpler, but Carla was a big deal. That’s why we had to film it again and again, Woody Allen talking with her, but with great respect … Carla was surrounded by security guards, “the paper said. In another sequence, this time at night, the first lady has received the visit of Nicolas Sarkozy.

Being a novice, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy had anticipated its potential shortcomings as an actress. “I’m not an actress, I may be zero but I can not pass up the opportunity of my life. When I am grandmother, I wish I could say “I made a movie with Woody Allen,” she explained to Canal + in November.

The singer, who plays the role of a museum director, was to turn again Wednesday, this time alongside Marion Cotillard, who plays his assistant. Then she will go on holiday with the Leader of the State in its ownership of Cape Negro.

When Mostly Mozart Was Mostly Chopin


One of the more inventive additions to the Mostly Mozart schedule in recent seasons has been A Little Night Music, a series of recitals in the Kaplan Penthouse at 10:30 p.m. They give anyone who attends the evening’s main performance at Avery Fisher Hall plenty of time to get across 65th Street and may appeal as well to listeners who have not attended the earlier concert. (On Wednesday, for example, someone who, like me, had heard the standard Mostly Mozart performance on Tuesday could have spent the early evening listening to the string quartet Ethel collaborating with pop singers in Damrosch Park.)

The first Night Music event of the summer, on Wednesday, was to have been a Chopin recital by the Romanian pianist Mihaela Ursuleasa. But when she canceled her performance because of a back injury, Emanuel Ax — who played Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 2 with Louis Langrée and the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra at Avery Fisher Hall on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings — stepped in to play another hour of Chopin, along with a Schumann encore.

Mr. Ax is a magnificent Chopin interpreter even at normal concert hall distances, but watching him work his magic at close quarters in the Kaplan Penthouse was a particular treat. He began with a driven but disarmingly poetic account of the Nocturne in C sharp minor (Op. 27, No. 1) and gave bright-hued, almost danceable readings of mazurkas and waltzes.

But the highlight of his program was a texturally rich, deeply considered performance of the Polonaise-Fantaisie (Op. 61). In comments beforehand, Mr. Ax described that work as “the whole world in 13 minutes,” and he made a good case for that expansive description. Often his touch was supple, and he made Chopin’s themes sing, but he also accounted for the sheer passion and power of this work, and for the almost organic way its contrasting sections melt into one another.

Mr. Ax is an engaging speaker. He introduced his concert by explaining that a Chopin program was suitable for a Mozart festival because Mozart was one of two composers Chopin was known to have revered. (The other was Bach.) Mr. Ax can also be needlessly, if entertainingly, self-effacing: when he says he will “try to make my way through the B flat minor Scherzo,” you know there is no need to brace yourself for miscalculations.

Pink Floyd backs Iranian protest song

Pink Floyd’s anthem “Another Brick in the Wall” has become a hit for Iran’s resistance movement.

Telegraph – By Peter Hutchison

The 1979 song, which was released in the same year as the Islamic Revolution, has been reworked by two exiled Iranian brothers.

The song is available for download on iTunes with proceeds going to Amnesty International.

Roger Waters, a founding member of Pink Floyd, gave the rights to Blurred Vision, a duo living in Canada, to remake the classic under the title Another Brick in the Wall (Hey Ayatollah, Leave Those Kids Alone).

The video, which features images of Ayatollah Khamenei and footage of street violence following Iran’s disputed elections last year, has become a YouTube sensation, attracting more than 100,000 hits.

It has been made by Sepp, 28, and Sohl, 35, who do not reveal their surname for fear of putting the lives of family members in Iran at danger.

The brothers hope that the song’s “anti-authoritarian message” will highlight to the world the suffering of many people in Iran.

Solving the 800-year mystery of Pisa’s Leaning Tower

Professor John Burland has spent the last two decades striving to save – and understand – the Leaning Tower of Pisa. After defying gravity, Italian bureaucracy and accusations of corruption, it seems he’s finally cracked the case.

Telegraph – By Alastair Smart

All six donkeys were impeccably behaved. They’d been ridden into Pisa’s main square, the Piazza dei Miracoli, last November by vexed vets from Pisa University and ceremoniously set down beneath its Leaning Tower. In protest at government cuts across Italian education, the profs duly gave an al fresco lecture on donkey anatomy to hundreds of bewildered tourists. Silvio Berlusconi’s photo appeared on many a banner, beside the words ‘The biggest ass of all’.

From 1990 to 2001, the tower remained closed – many doubting it would ever reopen – as the International Committee for the Safeguard of the Leaning Tower strove to save it from collapse. Visitors to Pisa dropped off by 45 per cent…

Such a display of faculty dissent would have been impossible a decade ago, when the area of piazza around the tower was completely cordoned off. It looked then more building site than World Heritage site and the howls of protest from local Pisans were far louder than a few braying donkeys…

The tower has tilted pretty much since day one and down the centuries proud Pisans have proclaimed only God was holding it up, out of love for their city. The name Piazza dei Miracoli seemed apt.

In the 19th century alone the tower crept southwards by a metre. Yet it wasn’t until the collapse of the San Marco belfry in Venice in 1902 that the authorities were roused in Pisa. Investigations were held throughout the 20th century – 16 different committees were appointed, of which Burland’s was the last – but nobody could work out what was causing the inclination. If the soil was uniformly unstable, why should the tower lean south rather than north?

Cue confusion, consternation and no end of wacky proposals, such as attaching helium balloons to the tower’s top, to hold it up; or re-landscaping the piazza, so it sloped in the same direction as the belfry leans, giving an optical illusion of everything being upright.

Mussolini, meanwhile, thought a wonky tower was a wholly unfit symbol for Fascist Italy and tried to restore its verticality, by drilling holes through the floor and pouring 80 tons of concrete into the foundations. As in so many things, though, Il Duce failed, and the tower continued its steady lurch, reaching 4.7m off-centre in 1989, the year yet another medieval belfry fell, the Civic Tower of Pavia (near Milan), killing four bystanders…

In response, in 1995, the committee opted for 10 underground steel anchors, to invisibly yank the tower northwards. Little did they know, though, this would bring the tower closer to collapse than ever before, in an episode now known as Black September.

‘That was our darkest hour,’ Burland shudders. The anchors were to hang, 40m deep, from tensioned cables connected to the tower’s base. In view of Pisa’s high water-table, the committee froze the underlying ground with liquid nitrogen before any anchors were installed, to protect their excavations from flooding. The only trouble is, water expands when it freezes, so the shallow frozen groundwater pushed right up beneath the tower and then – once the freezing had stopped and the anchors were in place – created gaps in the soil for the tower to settle into.

On the night of September 7 1995, the tower lurched southwards by more than it had done in the entire previous year. Burland was summoned for an emergency committee meeting, and Ladbrokes were offering 11-4 odds the tower wouldn’t survive into the 21st century. ‘We really were within days of losing it,’ Burland says. The anchor plan was immediately abandoned and another 300 tons of lead ingots added.

The locals were up in arms, the Mayor of Pisa railing that a ‘plumber with a toilet-jack’ would have done a better job…

Via his data analysis, Burland unlocked the 800-year mystery as to why the tower leans south not north: namely, a fluctuating water-table on the upper layer of silt. By a quirk of local geography, Pisa’s water-table rose higher on the tower’s north side, often reaching within one foot in rainy season, and this gave the tower an annual ratchet southward.

Armed with this vital information, in 2003, Burland introduced a new drainage system beneath the piazza’s north side, one that lowered and stabilised the water-table, so there’s no kick in either direction. Problem solved.

The inclination continues to be monitored daily by the OPP and new figures reveal that the tower didn’t move at all between 2003 and 2009. ‘It’s stopped leaning completely. After soil extraction and now the water-table stabilisation, the tower is safer than ever,’ says Burland with a mixture of pride and relief.

The Pisans, though, are a hard people to please. Some accuse Burland et al of sterilising their tower – for, part of its old mystique had been the possibility it might collapse at any moment, the frisson that a voyeuristic visitor might witness such a fall. ‘You can’t please all of the people all of the time,’ Burland shrugs…

Will the new book by Diana author Andrew Morton be the bombshell that ends Brangelina?

Daily Mail – By Nicole Lampert

His latest explosive book – Angelina: An Unauthorised Biography – is due out in the U.S. this week. It’s filled with scurrilous claims about Angelina’s past: heroin addiction, S&M parties, psychiatric hospitals and the time she says she tried to hire a hit man – to kill herself.

It’s true that Angelina has almost boastfully alluded to many of these scandals in the past. But one thing she certainly hasn’t admitted to is, according to Morton at least, is an alleged penchant for married or attached men.

Privately, Angelina has strongly denied these claims of Morton’s – particularly his most controversial allegation that she was determined to win Brad Pitt from his then wife, Jennifer Aniston.

Morton claims she wanted the actor before she had even met him in the flesh. ‘Pitt was one of the triumvirate of men – the other two were [fellow actors] Johnny Depp and Willem Dafoe – whom Angie had watched and wondered about from afar,’ Morton writes.

Apart from the obvious attractions, it may not have gone unnoticed by Angelina that Brad had a wholesome image – which she was then lacking – and a production company when jobs were few and far between for the actress.

Morton claims Angelina, now 35, visited Jennifer, as he puts it, to get to know the competition.

She was about to commence filming Mr And Mrs Smith, with Brad as her leading man. Morton writes: ‘The moment Angelina unexpectedly arrived on the [set] of Friends, Jennifer Aniston should have been on red alert. “Brad is so excited about working with you. I hope you guys have a good time,” Aniston recalls telling her.’

Morton also claims: ‘Angie artfully conjured up a different kind of perfect woman for Brad – maternal yet still dangerous, sexy yet a goddess…

The young Angelina was troubled. Morton says this was when she started cutting herself (self-mutilation is one of the many problems she has admitted to), claiming that one drunken night she cut him and he cut her back.

‘They were both covered in blood,’ he writes. ‘It was a moment, as she saw it, of primitive honesty, giving her a sense of being both dangerous and alive . . . she had broken free of her emotional bonds.’

The obsession with blood was to continue until she met Brad; when she married British actor Johnny Lee Miller she had his name scrawled across her dress in blood; with Billy Bob they both wore vials of each other’s blood.

Angelina’s psychiatric problems have been well documented. After winning a supporting actress Oscar for her role in Girl, Interrupted, she checked herself into a mental home and tried to hire a hit man to kill herself.

She also experimented with cocaine and heroin – and came off the drugs only when she married Billy Bob.

Morton says: ‘On at least one occasion, Marcheline [had] to pick up Angie when she collapsed and was freaking out and out of control, after taking a psychedelic drug.’

Morton also alleges that the actress, who looks severely underweight, has suffered from anorexia.

Morton claims that while filming Playing By Heart in 1998 Angelina became ‘so thin that she had to be padded beneath her clothing’.

There is already much speculation in the American press that this book may be the end of the Brangelina show.

Star magazine quotes a source as saying. ‘Brad always knew she was not an angel but this could be the final straw.’

The FCC, freed of ‘indecency’: a boon for free speech or free rein to bad behavior?

LA Times – By Robert Lloyd

On July 13, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit, directed by the Supreme Court to address the 1st Amendment issues in Federal Communications Commission vs. Fox Television Stations, et al. — a case that has to do with the sort of “fleeting expletives” that occasionally escape the mouths of overexcited participants in televised live events — found the FCC’s indecency guidelines to be “unconstitutionally vague” Now, until the commission can formulate new guidelines that are satisfactorily less vague, or the Supreme Court weighs in again, we are in a state of regulatory free-fall in which most of the already few rules that applied to content on broadcast TV have been suspended. The fear, or the hope, depending on where you stand in the culture wars, is that anything can happen now.

The decision of the appeals court seems a sensible one, the very word “indecency” being itself vague and mutable and therefore applicable to varying political ends; even when interpreted with goodwill, inconsistencies will necessarily creep in. And to levy multimillion-dollar fines for accidental transgressions that in most households would merit dropping a quarter in the swear jar is not work for grown-ups. It’s like writing someone a ticket because his fly is open.

At the same time, I can sympathize with those displeased with this decision, which essentially extends the 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. “safe harbor” — during which networks were already legally free to air pretty much anything less than outright pornography — to the whole broadcast day. (“For parents and families around the country, this ruling is nothing less than a slap in their face,” said Tim Winter of the Parents Television Council)…

If we should not discriminate between art and garbage when applying the 1st Amendment, we should nevertheless remain mindful of the difference between the two, and remember that the defense of the former is routinely used as a cover for the latter. There is art in television, but there are a lot of cheap effects too. Material represented as “adult” is often better described as juvenile.

Penis jokes abound. Sex, or the lack of sex, seems to be what everyone — scripted and unscripted characters alike — thinks about and talks about whenever they are not solving crimes or saving lives or working in public relations, and sometimes while they are. Even in the milder reaches of broadcast TV you regularly hear words that writers at this paper are forbidden by policy to use.

My objections to such things are not moral so much as they are environmental and social. They are rooted in the fact that, although the airwaves appear to be the property of the networks who occupy them in apparent unyielding perpetuity, they are a licensed (not even a leased) public trust that belongs to you and me — not a marketplace but a city park, a town square that broadcasters inhabit at no charge in supposed exchange for serving the “public interest, convenience and necessity.” (In practice, the public to a broadcaster is mainly a commodity to deliver to its sponsors.) And as in any commonly held or occupied space, regard for others, and other sensibilities, ought to be the order of the day. We may be living in a time when the line between the public and the private has blurred, but most people still know how they’re expected to act in a crowd.

Some argue that broadcast television needs to be able to compete with cable television on cable’s looser terms. That might have some commercial merit, but it’s a narrow view of storytelling that confuses surface with substance and edginess with ideas. There are more important things than bad words and unclad bodies that make cable series uniquely attractive: They’re creator-driven, the seasons are manageably short; they can survive on a smaller audience and so explore less obvious subject matter less obviously. If you’re watching TV and think, “What this show needs is some profanity, nudity and unusually graphic violence,” you are probably not watching a very good show: It has failed creatively to make its case…