Archive Sept 2007
a month back in school I still don't feel settled in. Trying to use some
artistic resources as usual, but it's hard to find time to use new ones.
Did use the Confession scene from Prison Break when I was doing
the Sacrament of Reconciliation with 6th years, along with my older material
e.g. confession scene from X-Files. Taped another recently, though
too late for class, from Only Fools and Horses. Not my favourite
programme. The confession scene had the main character feeling bad that
a scam he got caught up in involved swiping lead off the Church roof.
He seemed genuine, but the resulting leak in the ceiling inspired him
to set up a weeping statues scam to raise funds to save an old folks home.
Not really offensive, but not sure of it's educational value! You'll get
a flavour of the episode here
on YouTube. Might add it to the video page later.
Saw The Fighting Temptations on RTE 2 Friday last - a film that
centres around a gospel choir. There's great music, but the storyline
was a tad corny and predictable - in order to get an inheritance a guy
must get the local (and useless) gospel choir into shape for a competition.
Guess what the outcome is! The film is favourably disposed to faith in
a lukewarm kind of way, though church busybodies get a lash! The main
character is a habitual liar, but he learns to be true to himself, though
without any major religious conversion. The stereotypes would make you
cringe at times, but the script is witty, and the whole thing so cheerful
and upbeat that it's easy to enjoy and hard to get annoyed at. Some of
the gospel music segments (including gospel rap - my son left the room
in disgust at this stage!) might be useful in class to illustrate the
variety of religious music, and the whole movie might make a useful example
of a film with religious themes.
I didn't think I'd be disappointed with Prison Break, the US drama
series back for a third season on RTE 2 last Thursday night. Fair play
to RTE for getting it first on this side of the Atlantic, but I'm beginning
to wonder if the producers should have ended it on a high last season.
The first season concentrated on efforts to break an innocent man out
of a Chicago jail, the second serried followed the exploits of the prisoners
on the run and maintained high standards of plotting and character development.
Now, rather implausibly, many of the same characters are back in jail,
this time in Panama, and we're set up for another jailbreak. The Chicago
jail was bad enough, but this one is completely savage, making for some
very uncomfortable viewing. I won't be surprised in the Panamanian government
starts kicking up.
One of my favourite programmes from the nineties was The Transatlantic
Sessions and I'm thrilled to see it back on RTE 1 on Friday nights.
The formula is simple - get some of the best folk musicians from Ireland,
Scotland and USA together in a big house in Scotland and let them play
away to their hearts content. Just two little disappointments to report
here - it's not quite as good as the previous two series, with the material
and performers just a tad weaker, and considering the musical roots involved
I would have expected some gospel music to figure strongly - the nearest
so far in what I've seen are two songs by Joan Osborne (well known for
What If God Was One of Us, theme of the short lived Joan of
Arcadia series). St Teresa, and Holy Waters seemed to
be just using religious terms as metaphors.
I see a spectrum - on one end obvious respect, and on the other blatant
blasphemy. The difficulties arise when you get near the middle, where
artistic expression in particular treads a fuzzy borderline.
The Simpsons treads that line often, digging more at our human
expressions of faith rather than the faith itself. Another animated series,
God The Devil and Bob, offended some religious people with influence
and it was pulled from the schedules in the USA, while others saw it as
being quite respectful even if it was a bit raunchy at times. Jesus:
The Guantanamo Years is a comedy show by Aibe Philbin Bowman, working
the conceit that Jesus, being a Middle Eastern bearded man on a mission,
would have been hauled in by US immigration and sent into internment.
On Saturday Edition on Newstalk last weekend he defended the show
against DUP councillor Christopher Stalford from the North, who took issue
with him using Jesus like this. Stalford insisted he wasn't against freedom
of expression, or seeking for the show to be censored or banned and it
was worthwhile hearing his point of view getting a good airing. But his
case was seriously undermined when he made out that this kind of thing
wasn't funny, even though he hadn't seen the show! I don't subscribe to
the idea that you can't criticise anything unless you've experienced it
personally (e.g. drunkenness, or an infamously pornographic film) but
Stalford just wasn't convincing in his arguments, while Bowman came across
as being respectful of Jesus, and actually supportive of what he taught
- arguing that the prejudice shown towards those of Middle Eastern origin
was not consistent with the teachings of Jesus. Mind you his claim that
his show "totally understood" Jesus was over the top. He covered other
bases carefully - he was quite happy with any terrorists in Guantanamo
being jailed after a fair trail, appreciated that the USA was a much better
country than many others, but felt that it was undermining the values
that had made it so good. I checked out a clip from the show on the internet
and while I was a bit uncomfortable with him playing Jesus in comedy stand
up (complete with symbolic crown of thorns), I really couldn't argue that
it was disrespectful, though I thought it would be funnier and more dynamic.
The item reminded me of a discussion on The Last Word a week or
so earlier, when Rev David McIlveen, also from the North, criticised the
Harry Potter franchise for drawing children towards the dark arts and
ultimately Satan. The Reverend has read his Bible, but unfortunately for
him he hasn't read the Harry Potter books so it was quite easy for Eileen
Battersby of The Irish Times to take him apart.
The interface of religion and the arts often figures on BBC 1's Heaven
and Earth show, which came to the end of its run last Sunday morning.
One of the special guests was a favourite singer of mine, Beth Nielsen
Chapman, one of whose albums, "Hymns", is a most beautiful collection
of mostly old Catholic Latin hymns from her childhood. On the show she
spoke warmly of God as the "creative spirit" who goes by many names. Her
upbringing on US army bases where a single space was used by many religious
traditions gave her an appreciation of the presence of God in these religions.
Her next album, "Prism", available later this month, will be a collection
of spiritual songs, one of which she performed with great enthusiasm on
the show. "God is In" was a simple but infectious song on the theme that
God is everywhere. There were lines that might raise some eyebrows - "God
is in those dancing pagans … God is in the atheist and all those things
that don't exist". Irony or what? Anyone offended?