I hate “the holidays” Monday, Dec 14 2009 

Ok, so I’ve been in the United States and America for under two days and I’ve already had my sickening fill of “the holidays”. The shopstaff greet you “happy holidays”, Old Navy advertises “holiday cards”, all channels at all hours constantly play “holiday movies”. It’s utterly saturating, and the lengths to which they go in avoiding the word “Christmas” are unbelievable. Holiday cards, carols, traditions and trees simply don’t exist.

As an Australian I get a lot of American television, and thus had heard of the “war on Christmas” – as well as the credible claims that this was just the hallucination of “red under the bed” reactionaries. Now that I’m here though, reading the billboards and seeing the ads, I’m utterly convinced. There really is a war on Christmas.

Santo Niño, have mercy on us.

Pope Benedict: The Great Unifier? Thursday, Oct 29 2009 

Fr John Zuhlsdorf of “What Does the Prayer Really Say?” has for years now described the Holy Father’s work and philosophy as a “Marshall Plan”. This has always irritated me a little, since the original plan was named for George Marshall and thus this new one would rightly be styled the “Benedictine Plan”. Nevertheless, even the slowest of friends and enemies alike are starting to realise the overall consistency of this pontificate. Pope Benedict was initially lauded for his conspicuous warmth to the Eastern Orthodox Christians, particularly Russia and Greece. He then set firmly the practice of offering the Most Blessed Sacrament only on the tongue, to kneeling communicants at all his Masses. Shortly after he took the initiative entirely upon himself to recover for posterity the Mass of heredity. Two years later, acting again on his own initiative he dispensed the four illicitly consecrated bishops of the Priestly Society of St Pius X (“SSPX”) from their excommunications. He went to America and Australia, fortifying the youth in their struggle to find and sustain a Christian identity in an increasingly idolatrous world. He went to Africa and prayed with the people struggling just to live. Then last week, he stunned the world by welcoming the Anglicans back home.

For such a long time, each of these steps have seemed like isolated gestures – “Pope goes to Africa, holds the line against condoms” or “Pope welcomes holocaust denying bishop back to church” but it has now become abundantly clear that above all else, the Holy Father’s utmost ambition for the Church is unity. What confuses people is that he does not see this unity as being merely amongst all Christians who happen to be alive and vocal at the moment, but rather as a true unity both horizontally and vertically.

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Political branding and the New Media Monday, Oct 19 2009 

I have lately rearranged my leisure time to include more reading, especially for my beloved but long neglected blogs. Over at his blog Fr Powell OP has posted on an 8 minute video exploring the continued use of the Obama campaign logo during his presidency. These two things gave me pause to consider just how “the internet” has turned the game around when it comes to the dissemination of information, the considerable production values achieved by virtual “nobodies” and the impact that new technologies have had on popular philosophy.

Let’s start with Fr Powell. (more…)

Miraculous mechanical messiah merits remarkable robotic resurrection Sunday, Jul 5 2009 

So it happened – the successful popular revival of that late 20th century icon, the Transformers franchise. I’ve just watched the sequel moviefilm and despite the surprising criticisms, I found it excellent.

To get it out of the way, I’ll say that I actually sat back and noticed the almost unending action. The movie starts off with wire-fighting robots, explosions, and the “BOO YA!” moments form a consistent basis of the film. There were a few sexually charged scenes and some rough language, though of less crude standard than found on a typical American television programme. What really intrigued me though was the political and almost philosophical commentary that was going on.

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Out of the frypan… Monday, Jun 1 2009 

…and into two tests in one week. Tomorrow is a usual fortnightly progress test (my intensive Japanese course covers one textbook chapter per day, four days a week). Wednesday is our day off, and Thursday we are being tested on all material to date. 25 chapters, including all grammar forms, vocabulary, and of course kanji.

I also need to prepare my second methodological analysis. The first one was (I think) a success, based on observation of the five “groups” of Catholics in Kofu – Japanese, Korean, Spanish, Portuguese, and Filipino. Truth be told the Spanish and Portuguese groups may well be the one group of “Latin Americans”, but they attend separate Masses and have their own priests.

I think the next analysis will be survey-based, and very simple. Perhaps I will compare the level of catechesis amongst typical Kofu Catholics with non-Catholic Japanese, and Australians (both Catholic and non-Catholic). I’ll have to write very basic questions so the meanings are strictly defined in both languages (and understood by non-native speakers). I’ll also have to consider assessing the attitudes of non-Catholic Japanese towards Catholics and Catholicism, compared to that of non-Catholic Australians.

In the meantime, here is a piece of news from last year. Apparently this Spanish-speaking fellow lost something in the moat around the Imperial Palace and went to fetch it. Here we see his mighty weapons employed against the Japanese police: rocks, water splashes, a traffic pole, and nakedness (blurred to preserve custody of the eyes).

True freedom is not found in this world Friday, May 8 2009 

This video is just one of several short, clever, thoughtful, and fun clips promoting various basic elements of Catholic life. Prayer, religious vocation, frequenting the sacraments, the power of Christ in priesthood, and the universal mission of the Church are all explored in a way that is easy to watch, understand, enjoy and pass on.

The best part is that they were all crafted by a priest from Liechtenstein, Fr Johannes M Shwarz. Check him out on Youtube or Vimeo

An oldie, but… Thursday, Apr 16 2009 

Colbert defends the Divinity of Christ on air. Wednesday, Apr 15 2009 

Just saw this over at the rightly famous American Papist blog. Stephen Colbert repeatedly and consistently defended the central dogma of Christian Faith against a run of the mill “the Bible is a lie” author (Bert Ehrman). Here’s hoping the embed works.

Edit: It turns out that unless I move the entire blog to a private server, I can only post videos from select sources (youtube, dailymotion, google etc) and all others are denied by the WordPress backend. Click here for the American Papist entry, and here for a direct link to the video on Colbert Nation. One of the (Papist) comments also brought up an earlier episode of the Colbert Report where Stephen interviews Philip Zimbardo, who claims that “God was wrong and Lucifer was right” about the nature of Man. Watch that too, and take note of Stephen’s response. Looks to me like some courageous consistency.

Obama to speak at Notre Dame US, receive doctorate? Saturday, Mar 21 2009 

This has nothing directly to do with Japan, but as the “president of the world” anything Obama does, particularly when it intersects with the Universal Church, is of international importance.

Via the American Papist and the Notre Dame front page

This is a shocker.
The nation’s premier Catholic institution of higher learning is bestowing an honorary degree, and allowing to give the commencement address, a president who is actively pursuing policies and legislation that threaten Catholic institutions and offend Catholic values:

“President Barack Obama will give the commencement address at the University of Notre Dame on May 17, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said this afternoon.
The address in South Bend was one of three Gibbs mentioned in a briefing to reporters this afternoon. Obama also plans to speak to graduates at Arizona State University on May 13 and at U.S. Naval Academy on May 22.
Obama would be the sixth U.S. president since Dwight Eisenhower to speak at a Notre Dame commencement, according to an article on past commencement speakers on the university’s Web site.” (Chicago Breaking News)

Below is the letter I sent in protest via the contact page on the Notre Dame website. I strongly encourage everyone, Catholics, Americans, and particularly Notre Dame alumni (not that absurd, not-Latin “alums” that Americans use) to contact the university and express your unreserved protest.

Dear Mr President,

I recently learned via the “American Papist” blog of Mr Thomas Peters that Notre Dame intends to welcome recently inaugurated US President Barrack Obama for the purpose of awarding him an honorary degree and giving him a speaking platform. I wish to express my absolute shock and outrage at the thought of the most prominent Catholic university in the anglophone world giving lauds to the most active and prominent proponent of objective evil in the same world. As an undergraduate student of Medicine and Surgery at the University of Western Australia in Perth, Australia I had the pleasure and privilege of living alongside several Notre Dame US students at the St Thomas More residential college. My experiences with them gave me the fondest of memories, especially in the way they each lived the Catholic Faith of their families and their school.

How could it be that these wonderful friends of mine were formed by a university who is willing to act in such contempt of their Catholic charism, the direct instruction of their bishops and the indisputable requirements of universal Canon Law? How indeed can Notre Dame persist in claiming the dignity of a Catholic charism and a true mandate to instill the pursuit of Truth in her students if she is willing to give honour and publicity to the most dangerous promotor of moral, scientific and political obfuscation in contemporary history? The example of your institution is appalling and thoroughly diabolical – please be assured that unless this news is either immediately reversed or shown to have been completely false, the scandal caused by your actions will offend not only a “small number of ultra-traditionalists” in the local region but reasonably thoughtful people the world over, both Catholic and not.

I beg you sincerely as a Catholic, a Dominican, a scholar and a friend of your institution; hold fast to the principles of the Catholic faith which have made Notre Dame the great bastion of academia it is today, and that have sustained it through so many bitter storms. Do not place this charlatan on a podium and give him a platform to spread even more the culture of death.

In Corde Regis,

Robert Anthony Bautista, OPL

Contact information provided by Thomas Peters:

To contact Notre Dame:
Phone: (574) 631-5000
email form: http://president.nd.edu/contact-us

To contact the USCCB:
Phone: (202) 541-3000
email: catholiceducation@usccb.org

On the battering of “gods” Saturday, Feb 28 2009 

It is no surprise that the “Global Economic Crisis” (also pessimistically dubbed “Depression 2.0” has affected struggling Asian economies at least as severely as those of the West. What seems a little different, however, is the way ordinary Japanese have (like their American neighbours) turned to religion in difficult times.

Lost your job and looking for someone to punch up for causing the global financial crisis? A Japanese shrine offers down-on-their-luck visitors a chance to shake off the doldrums by hitting the “God of Poverty.”

The Bimbo Gami shrine is home to a wooden statue believed to be the poverty deity, a thin and filthy man who brings misfortune and impoverishment to the house it haunts. (Reuters)

Clearly some explanation will be necessary for those unfamiliar with traditional Japanese religion.  (more…)