Aliens in This World

An ordinary Catholic and a science fiction and fantasy fan.

Monday, October 13, 2003

Arts Week

I've spent the week after my brother Sean's wedding going to a lot of art things. I don't know why it's worked out this way; certainly this is no slur on all the quality baseball games being played. It just seems to be my week for appreciating beauty.

It isn't fair, of course. Terri Schiavo is days away from having her murder sanctioned by the state. My best friend's mother has had a stroke. The anniversary of my maternal grandfather's death is next week. But after I've done what you can to help and pray, there's no point brooding (as I'd usually do). Beauty helps remind me that there is more to the world than horror, depression, despair, and the autumn fading of the world. I need that.

So: last Monday I went to the Vatican art exhibition currently at the University of Dayton's Marian Library. "The Mother of God: Art Celebrates Mary" is well worth seeing, but I have to say it's a good thing it's free. All the pieces are good, and demonstrating the diversity of Marian imagery is good, but none of the pieces were really great in that "I wish I could take this home" way. On the other hand, the two Roman sarcophagi bits were really nice. How often do you get to see the Magi presenting the gifts the way they drew 'em back in the fourth century? However, since you not only get to see the Vatican stuff but also the Marian Library's normal collection of prints (including some Durers), a new display of Rosaries from around the world, a stray icon triptych leaning against the wall near someone's office, and the library's seasonal display of Nativity scenes (including the incredibly stunning one that incorporates all of salvation history into one diorama),
you can't lose.

Thursday I could have gone to a Marian art history lecture at UD. (They're having one every week till the Vatican exhibit leaves.) Instead I went to see Lois McMaster Bujold, who would make a rather elegant model for a portrait of Mary, now that I think of it. Our Lady, Queen of SF. (Or is that Andre Norton, notre grande dame de SF?) Perhaps I'm overly influenced by all the cool pictures of Mary reading, being taught to read, or teaching Jesus to read which you find in the Marian Library. ANyway, Lois continued to be one of the classier writers ever, answering as many questions as we wanted and talking a bit about her intent in exploring religion, prayer, doing the will of God, sainthood, miracles, and other interesting but currently underdiscussed topics through her Chalion alternate-world fantasy novels The Curse of Chalion and Paladin of Souls. She hesitated, stammered, and once seemed to blush. This was a bit comforting to me, as it suggested I'm not the only one who finds belief something almost too intimate to be exposed in public.

Saturday was my day to watch movies. Kill Bill, Volume One finally gives Uma Thurman a role which allows her to be more than just beautiful -- something only dimly heralded by her work as Maid Marion in the Patrick Bergin Robin Hood. It is fun, beautiful, wrenching and a must-see for anyone who likes action and martial arts movies.

Anyone over a certain age, that is. I still can't believe somebody brought their cute little five-year-old daughter to watch Kill Bill. Just for the record, I actually broke etiquette enough to ask the adults with the kid if in fact they realized this was going to be an exceptionally violent and gory movie. "Yes," they huffed at me. Well, I'd tried. I went back to my seat and left them in peace. But it haunted me, because this movie does have a theme in which people see their parents being killed. Bambi had this theme. As a child, that movie disturbed me so profoundly that as an adult, I found great comfort in an episode of Tiny Toons which showed the toon deer actress alive, well and old in a toon trailer park. And ya know, Kill Bill is just a tad bit more graphic than Bambi, friends.

So there we are, in the middle of a scene in which a mom gets killed in a very domestic setting...and I hear the little girl asking her mommy why this is happening. Why is this happening, Mommy? Why are you giving your kid nightmares? It's not Quentin Tarentino's fault; he'd never take a five-year-old to a hard R movie. He supports Ain't It Cool News' Saturday morning matinees in Austin of kids' movies for kids. No, Mommy and Daddy, every nightmare and trauma your munchkin has this week is all courtesy of you. Next time, try something like School of Rock.

Awesome movie, by the way. The first movie I've ever seen which actually conveyed the experience of forming a band and playing out, as well as writing songs and fighting for self-confidence enough to perform music. Jack Black was born to be in this movie, singing these songs with these kids. It reminded me right before OVFF that music is not only fun and communal, but important. Almost nobody left before the credits ended. Afterwards, I saw two little girls in the lobby enthusiastically entering a contest to win an electric guitar. It warmed the cockles of my heart.

The morning after this double feature, I was supposed to help cantor at Mass as well as sing in the choir. Unfortunately, I didn't remember this until I was already going to be late for practice. I didn't manage to run up the hill quickly enough, either. I had remembered to eat before the fasting hour kicked in, but unfortunately all the jogging made my full stomach feel sickish. Oh, and did I mention I was not really awake? And that I didn't really have the psalm verse down yet, but we were going to go over it again at practice? Yeah, it was a wonderful job I did. Bah. At least nobody but the choir folks and I noticed. Needless to say, not all the reminiscences of the lessons of School of Rock could keep me from going into deep depression right in the middle of Mass. The new music director must now be certain I'm a flake. Sigh. And he wouldn't be far off, either.

I love being able to sing well and beautifully, but as with all my talents, it also makes me feel miserable. There will never be a time when I will really be convinced that I do well enough, because I will always expect better of myself. Perfection wouldn't be enough, and of course I'm far from that. The best that I can do is ignore my true feelings and keep going.

Sunday was pretty much a total waste, then, until Big O came on. It was a sad episode this week. Roger finally realized something of his feelings for the robot R. Dorothy, but only after it was too late. People's memories are being revealed as untrue -- or perhaps they're just being deceived by a memory control device? We found out what happens if a Megadeus giant robot doesn't like its Dominus (pilot), and it's not pretty. Yes, there's an invasion in Paradigm City, and the world will never be the same. Just two more episodes to go. (But if you've never watched Big O, Cartoon Network will be showing it from the beginning, Monday to Thursday, beginning November 3rd. Forget that Matrix and watch this noir nature-of-reality sf series, ne?

Finally, this Monday I attended a concert at St. Mary's by Archiglas, a Russian a capella group. Half the program was sacred music, the other half Russian folk. (Here's the set list.) Their encore was "God Bless America", which made me cry. It was very good and very beautiful, and its setting was, too. If they come to your town, be sure to go see them.

Well, I'm off to bed. Probably I'd be less depressed if I got more sleep....


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