Monday, January 31, 2005


Michael Medved's take on the Oscar noms.

I found this passage shockingly novel and well-conceived: 2005, top nominations went to films that went out of their way to assault or insult the sensibilities of most believers. Both Million Dollar Baby (nominated for seven awards, including best picture, best director, best actor and best actress) and The Sea Inside (nominated for best foreign-language film) portray assisted suicide as an explicitly and unequivocally "heroic" choice. Their success suggests that if Hollywood ever gets around to making "The Jack Kevorkian Story," it, too, would become an automatic candidate for major awards.

Meanwhile, Vera Drake (nominated for best actress, best director and best original screenplay) portrays abortion in a positive, almost sacramental light, while Kinsey (nominated for best supporting actress) ridicules the religious orthodoxy of the main character's father and portrays all conventional inhibitions about sexuality as outmoded, ignorant and destructive.

At the same time, the Spanish-language film The Motorcycle Diaries earned significant recognition for best adapted screenplay with its nostalgic, deeply affectionate portrayal of the idealistic young man who became the Cuban revolutionary Che Guevara. For Hollywood, it seems, a murderous, anti-American Marxist guerrilla counts as less controversial than Jesus Christ.


Filmmaker, Act One faculty member, and friend Charles Carner has a film coming out on DVD in March. I've met many people in this industry. If life in Hollywood can be compared to a big red-carpet reception with lots of people streaming by, making impressions, Charlie stands out on the side of the room reserved for good men. He is that very rare combination of believers who really loves this industry and who really loves God - the Good, the True and the Beautiful.

Charlie makes action movies according to a formula my friend Marianne calls, "God, grit and Chicago." Keep an eye out for his Vanishing POint. Here's the press release...


Charles Robert Carner’s action-packed remake of the cult classic “Vanishing Point” roars onto DVD from Anchor Bay Entertainment, March 8, 2005. Viggo Mortensen (“Lord of the Rings”) stars as Kowalski, the lone hero in the Dodge Challenger who leads an army of lawmen on a wild car chase across the American West.

Featuring jaw-dropping action sequences, spectacular location photography and thought-provoking politics, “Vanishing Point” also stars Jason Priestley, Christine Elise, Keith David, Steve Railsback, John Doe and Peta Wilson.

From Daily Variety: “… this ‘Point’ is well-taken, with a subtle lead performance from charismatic Viggo Mortensen… the portrayal of the FBI seems chillingly accurate… The car chase scenes are the pic’s highlights; Carner’s exciting staging of those sequences matches any action feature.”


Amy Welborn is launching a very interesting weekly feature over at Open Book. She's looking to take the temperature of liturgical oratory in the Church, by asking her readers to report on the preaching they heard at Mass the day before.

I think this is laudably ambitious...and will probably be downright depressing.

I remember, as a child, my Mother would, every now and then, ask us in the car on the way home from Mass, what Father had said in his homily. Generally, her request would generate an agonized silence, while me and my three sisters, and Dad, would rack our brains to try and remember something that we had just been witnesses to less than an hour before. Mom meant the exercise, no doubt, to shame us all into better attentiveness. In defense of my 12 year old self, the ones who should have been shamed were the preachers.

Most Catholic preaching is so bad that the biggest challenge for most Open Book readers will be to remember anything that they heard in a homily, nevermind recollecting some kind of coherent theme. This point can be made even more starkly by asking people to recall something memorable that was said in the homily two or three weeks ago. I bet you one in a hundred will be able to recall anything. And yet, I bet people can remember the gist of episodes of Alias or Buffy the Vampire Slayer from three years ago. (But I'm stepping all over the point of Church of the Masses, aren't I?)

There was one point, a couple year ago, when I would actually bring a spiritual book to Mass, in case the homily was so inane that I would have some healthy place to take my brain, instead of the unhealthy place of simmering resentment. Now, I just keep the weekly missal open on my lap, so that if Father's comments meander off onto the planet Zondor, I can, at least, re-read the day's readings over and over to myself. I haven't put a lot of thought into whether this is right or wrong behavior for a sheep in this post-Consiliar weirdness time. It's my way of surviving. "Lord, to whom else shall we go? You alone have the words..."

Back to Amy's survey, I think it might be interesting for pastors to hear what people are actually hearing in the multiplication of words that they, the pastors, are speaking. At the risk of becoming my mother - which with every passing year seems to me a better and better thing - it is probably a good thing to shame us all into being more active listeners at the liturgy. So, if I know that I will have the opportunity to wax eloquent about the Sunday liturgy on the Monday after, it gives me an added incentive to force myself to stay tuned in.

Do go check out the action here.



To fight aloud, is very brave --
But gallanter, I know
Who charge within the bosom
The Cavalry of Woe --

Who win, and nations do not see --
Who fall -- and none observe --
Whose dying eyes, no Country
Regards with patriot love --

We trust, in plumed procession
For such, the Angels go --
Rank after Rank, with even feet --
And Uniforms of Snow.

I am going to die at 82. When are you? Click here to find out!

Actually, that's kind of young for a Nicolosi-Couture, such as I am. The women in my family tend to live for ever...They also tend to really, really flip out in their late forties. So, that's something to look forward to....

It also means that this year I will turn officially middle-aged. Good, I guess. I spent most of the first half of my life not being taken seriously enough because I was too young to speak with any authority. Hopefully, I'll get a few years of being heard before I am written off as a crotchedty old know-it-all!


Sunday, January 30, 2005


We have just unveiled a revamped Act One, Inc. website. The idea was to give the site a more corporate look to reflect our new status as a separate 501(c)3, and also to be more attractive to potential students, faculty and donors to our new Act One Executive Program.

The links are still being uploaded, but it's basically there. Whaddya think?


And you thought the campaign season was over! The 2005 Best Catholic Blog Nominations are now open! Click here to - let's face it! - let Amy and Mark know how great they are (and hopefully coax Mark out of seclusion!).

I really wish they had a nomination category for movie/tv/pop culture reviews from a Catholic/Christian perspective. Beyond just expanding the glory of COTM, it would be one way to find out who else is out there.

I was trying to think of another category in which this blog might possibly have a chance of being competitive. Here's what I came up with so far...

"Best Blog By a Pro-Life Screenwriter"
"Best Blog By an ex-Patriate Rhode Islander in Hollywood"
"Most Use of Emily Dickinson Poetry By a Blog"
"Most Aggressive Advocacy of the Boston Red Sox By a Catholic Blogger"
"Best Blog By an ex-Nun"

and my absolutely certain winner...

"Best Blog By the Owner of a Transgendered Cat" (reworked, thanks to Steve)

Saturday, January 29, 2005


Here's a fascinating article reprinted at Godspy about current psychological research into the whole area of sex-changes. Turns out, gender is something determined in genetics and is not just the result of a vast societally-based conspiracy. Again, of course, this insight has come from a scan of yet another wasted-life strewn battlefield of the "Sexual Revolution."

Here's a snip...

Reiner, however, discovered that [infant] re-engineered males were almost never comfortable as females once they became aware of themselves and the world. From the start of their active play life, they behaved spontaneously like boys and were obviously different from their sisters and other girls, enjoying rough-and-tumble games but not dolls and "playing house." Later on, most of those individuals who learned that they were actually genetic males wished to reconstitute their lives as males (some even asked for surgical reconstruction and male hormone replacement)-and all this despite the earnest efforts by their parents to treat them as girls.

Human sexual identity is mostly built into our constitution by the genes we inherit and the embryogenesis we undergo.

Reiner's results, reported in the January 22, 2004, issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, are worth recounting. He followed up sixteen genetic males with cloacal exstrophy seen at Hopkins, of whom fourteen underwent neonatal assignment to femaleness socially, legally, and surgically. The other two parents refused the advice of the pediatricians and raised their sons as boys.

Eight of the fourteen subjects assigned to be females, had since declared themselves to be male. Five were living as females, and one lived with unclear sexual identity. The two raised as males had remained male. All sixteen of these people had interests that were typical of males, such as hunting, ice hockey, karate, and bobsledding. Reiner concluded from this work that the sexual identity followed the genetic constitution. Male-type tendencies (vigorous play, sexual arousal by females, and physical aggressiveness) followed the testosterone-rich intrauterine fetal development of the people he studied, regardless of efforts to socialize them as females after birth.

If you are interested in Christians and Hollywood and culture and all the stuff of this blog, click on over to Jan "the (brilliant) Maven" and read her piece for January 27, 2005, "AN ARMY THAT WILL NOT RUN AWAY."

She's talking about believers who come to Hollywood and, then, fade away or run away. Here's the heart of it:

I've seen people run away because they didn't realize how hard the task before them was, and didn't train for what they were going to face (proving the rightness of the sentence). They gave up.

I've seen people run away because they refused to admit that the non-believers they were working for had any authority over them (in a sense, refused to submit to their commanding officers). Some of those only ran away after what could only be charitably called a "dishonorable discharge."

I've seen people run away because their own personal glory was more important to them than whether or not their army won the battle. (Not the kind of folks you'd really want to be next on a battlefield, anyway!)

Saddest of all, I've seen people run away from their faith. Some stick in the battle, but without any understanding why. Some run away from Hollywood, at loose ends as to who they are and what their purpose is.

And I have to say, it all really does come down to training. If we're *trained* to face the task before us, if we're *trained* to be servants, if we're *trained* to stick together as a community, if we're *trained* in what it takes to maintain a vital faith in the midst of darkness and disappointment and rejection.... Then and only then can we persevere to do the job God wants us to do.

Go read the whole thing. (Jan's MY friend...ahem.)

One of the most galling things about Million Dollar Baby is that the characters are actually pagans dressed in Christian clothing. Why did they have to make them us?

First of all, the career ambitions of the main characters, Frankie Dunn and Maggie Fitzgerald, all have to do with beating the crap out of other human beings for sport. I found this troubling as a human being, not even as a Christian. In the Rocky movies, his need for a blessing before a match seemed to have much more to do with him not getting killed, then with killing the other guy. And I found those scenes to always be played with a touch of irony. There is no irony in the religiosity of Frankie and Maggie.

Further, I find the spectacle of women beating the crap out of each other for sport, to be even more abhorrent, again, as a human, not as a Christian. The ultimate victory of radical feminism seems to be that we women are now free to be worse then the piggiest man. Rah. (A lot of the ambivalence in theatergoers as regards this film can certainly be credited to this. The idea of women fighting each other feels kind of obscene...Somebody help me, did the Roman Empire, even in its most depraved days, ever entertain itself with female gladiators? I'd be interested to know.)

But, whatever... I will grant - although I don't believe it - that it is possible for Frankie Dunn to be a basically good man who trains people to be more effectively violent in the ring. I will also grant that it is possible for Frankie to have gone to daily Mass for 32 years, and yet never made the connection that pummeling people's faces to pulp is an un-Christlike thing to do. I'll grant that.

The galling part has to do with the euthanasia part of the movie. The characters in the film do not handle this tragedy like Christians. They are effectively pagans.

Instead of accepting her disability as the wages of her bad life/career choices - people who box will get hurt more than other people - Maggie rebels. She decides that a) her life has no value because it isn't the life she wants, and b) she has the authority to end her life. Neither of these are Christian.

Frankie, has nothing to say to Maggie's suffering. Nevermind as a devout Christian, he doesn't even have anything to say to her as a coach. Just on the level of good screenwriting, this was absurd. This is a man whose life has been spent in motivating people to push themselves beyond their own limits. His whole life has prepared him for this moment when this young woman would need him to coach her out of her self-pity, and beyond incomparable limits. She will be fighting herself, and not someone else now. But no, Frankie just stands there staring. His mute anguish is absolutely pathetic. It certainly doesn't rise to the level of even plain old human love -- nevermind the love of a devout Christian.

The foul-mouthed priest who makes the assinine statement early in the film that "the only reason someone goes to Mass every day is because he has a guilty conscience" (good grief!!!! No priest on the planet would say this!) also is a pagan disguised in Christian clothing. He has no pastoral counsel to give in this moment of suffering. He morphs from being, Fr. Hip and Cynical into being a stammering parody of Jonathan Edwards, "You'll be eternally damned if you do this!!" Even a very, very bad priest, half asleep and with a head injury, could do better than this. See, end of life moments are what priests have the most practice for. That's when people really come to them searching and open.

As Christians, we have TONS to say about the end of life questions. We've got pastoral counsel to burn on the value of suffering, the sanctity of even wounded human life, and the power of God even when man's efforts come up empty. We've got articulate positions on pain, dying, suicide, mercy-killing, and euthanasia. (For the record, the Church would have no problem with turning off Maggie's respirator. No one has to submit themselves to having a machine breathe for them. We do object to the notion of killing people with injections. The first is to let the body die. The second is to kill....just for the record.)

But no, in Million Dollar Baby, the "Christian" characters have nothing to say in the face of tragedy and suffering. It is implied that for Frankie to be a heroic friend (ie. a killer), he will have to be a bad Christian! Being a hero and being a good Christian are incompatible, the film concludes.

The thing is, this film would not be half so offensive if it had the courage to claim its worldview as pagan. If the film played out as the story of how godless people handle devastated dreams, I would have probably given the thing a pass as a dire warning about what humanity without God will come to. (That is, I would have given it a moral pass -- the artistic problems in the film are so pervasive that I could never give it a craft pass...)

Why did they have to make these characters Christians? Why did we need to see Maggie's ever-present golden cross around her neck? Why did it have to be sprawled awkwardly under her chin in the close up in which she asks Frankie to kill her? Why does Frankie need to be defined as a daily Communicant? Why did the film have to manufacture a dilemma where there really was none? (ie. Just turn off the damn respirator! No one has to accept extraordinary life-sustaining means.)

Why couldn't the filmmakers make the film an occasion to articluate their own worldview and leave us out of it? Why not just embrace the ramifications of paganism instead of trying to dress the characters up as something they are clearly not: lovers of God. The characters could look at one another and shrug their own atheistic ideological platitudes, "This is what it is to be a pagan in an end of life moment. Suffering is the worst thing that can happen, so if you have to kill to stop it, so be it. We are sovereign over our own lives, so we can kill ourselves. We think it is loving to put people down sometimes like thoroughbreads with broken legs."

Million Dollar Baby, articulates the culture of death worldview that has no part nor parcel in Christendom. John Paul II expresses the culture of death worldview as, (paraphrase) "You know you've bought into the culture of death, when you ever think a human problem can be solved by killing someone."

There's only one reason the filmmakers would go to so much trouble pushing the characters' Christianity at us for two hours. This film is really not about boxing, nor is is a love story, nor is it even about euthanasia, as much as it is about the impotence of Christianity in human experience. The film ultimately is making the case that being Christian offers nothing to those who suffer. What Frankie learns is that being Christian is irrelevant when the chips are down. Dogma is silly in the face of real human pain, and the strong man can shake it off to do what he needs to.

It's nasty because in order to acheive the goal of making Christianity look impotent, the film can't allow Christianity to really have a voice. It's what my screenwriting friend Karen Hall calls, "defining Christianity from the outside." The film is a distortion of Christianity so as to lead the audience to reject it. This is the definition of propaganda.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005


We have these lovely spanking new brochures for our upcoming Act One programs - both for Act One: Writing for Hollywood and for the studpendously ingenius and fabulous Act One: Executive Program which launches this summer.

Now, all we have to do, is get them in people's hands.

If any of you would be willing to put a stack or more out at your church, ministry, prayer group, bible study, bookstore, university, business or spaceship, I have it on absolute authority that God will bless you in many and surprising ways. Ahem.

And especially to you pastors out there...we have a short bulletin announcement that would be just perfect to fill in that extra hole in next week's bulletin!

If anyone can help us, please email

The rest of you, please pray that the rest of you will be moved to help us get the word out.

Thanks so much!

Sending out happy 43rd (dark, gurgling laugh) birthday greetings to my (long-lost) older sister, Cynthia. Cynthia has been scholaring in Europe for a decade, only traipsing back to the States as necessary to renew her visa. The rumor is Cynthia is in Ireland these days. Studying still, I imagine.

She doesn't read my blog. But just in case, have a great day and year, Cyn! Come back soon! I promise, America IS big enough for both of us!

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

"Just because nobody understands you, doesn't make you an artist."
(found in my fortune cookie tonight...still laughin')

The Oscar Noms are out, affirming once again, just how very, very sick America’s storytellers have become. I know many of you are very dismissive of the culture’s storytellers, but that is short-sighted. A country with sick storytellers dreams sick dreams, or doesn’t dream at all. Both are societal suicide.

When Jesus healed, some people called Him a demon. Jesus then noted that, “All sins will be forgiven men, except the sin against the Holy Spirit.” The sin against the Holy Spirit, is seeing something that is good, something that God reveals to your inner being as good, and, then, calling it evil. In the same way, we could argue that it is a sin against the Holy Spirit to see something that is evil, and call it good.

So, this year, the top Oscar nominations have gone to…

…a movie that makes a hero out of a man who murders his adopted daughter.

…a movie that makes a hero out of an abortionist.

…a movie that makes a hero out of a discredited researcher who was obsessed with sex and encouraged many others to experiment with various perversions.

…a movie that lionizes a billionaire narcissist who died insane from syphilis.

…a movie that suggests it is funny when an engaged man sets off for a week of debauchery before his marriage with his drunkard best friend.

…a movie that glamorizes four alley cats dressed as beautiful people who fornicate and commit adultery with each other, and indulge in various sexual perversions until the movie ends.

…a movie that makes a hero out of a paraplegic in despair who wants to kill himself.

The truth is, secular Hollywood had next to nuthin' this year. Really. Except for Neverland and the kids movie Incredibles, they got nuthin' this year to give an award to. Nuthin' that people will be watching in five years -- nevermind in fifty. I remember thinking several times during the year as several highly anticipated films turned out to be dreadful (ir. Alamo, Alexander, Troy, Sky Captain), "Wow, God. Your movie was already a global and cinematic phenomenon - do You really have to decimate all the competition too?!"

To my fellow Christian critics who have spent the year straining out gnats and swallowing camels, I have to say that, sometimes, we can be so abstruse that it makes us obtuse. I think this comes as a reaction against the knee-jerk condemnation of pop-culture that is so wrong in much of the Christian community. As a result, lots of us who love movies, end up minimizing the obvious distortion in a project and focus on its subtle strengths. But the fact remains, if a good man would turn his face in disgust and shame from what is on the screen, that should inform our own discernment about a movie. We can get so caught up in technique, that we are essentially gobbling down well-prepared sewerage. "Stunningly arranged!" "Daringly conceived!" "Strikingly performed!" - it's still just poisonous shit.

What makes this year's noms even darker is the fact that there was this one big cinematic elephant out there that, as we all predicted, was passed over for all the top awards. This movie was...…

…the biggest independent movie in cinema history.

….the third biggest box-office movie of the year. (standing corrected)

….a movie that moved millions of people to tears, had the entire world talking, and even led several murderers to turn themselves in!

…the most courageous directoral achievement since Citizen Kane.

…which just happened to be the story of the redemption of the world by the Son of God. Too bad.

Call it the revenge of the blue states. It is a fool-hardy thing to look the global audience in the eye and spit…never mind doing it at a self-glorifying orgy!

P.S. (For Jeffrey) I do not think it is a sin against the Holy Spirit to not like TPOTC! My use of the Scripture text was to point to the industry throwing accolades at films that are essential depraved in their themes. In some cases - generally acting - these films are remarkable -- but we can't let the excellence in craft obscure the fact that the hearts of these projects are 'rotten and full of dead men's bones.'

However, if I had the time - and maybe I will find it - I could demonstrate that the films up for the most Oscars this year are not stellar examples of craft. In several cases, the films are sub-standard...which is pretty much why I posted this in the first place. Why, oh why, would the Academy want to give awards to mediocre films? The same reason so many folks voted for John Kerry. Anybody but Bush - Any film but the one about Jesus!

Monday, January 24, 2005



To earn it by disdaining it
Is Fame's consummate Fee --
He loves what spurns him --
Look behind -- He is pursuing thee.

So let us gather -- every Day --
The Aggregate of
Life's Bouquet
Be Honor and not shame --

Saturday, January 22, 2005


On this, the High Holy Day of the Culture of Death, please take a moment of silence to mourn the loss of much of the future.

This is the day that will live in infamy, for it sactioned the deaths of 30,000,000 Americans before they were born. It is an incalcuable loss.

Mourn the lives that wont inspire, the sacrifices that wont be there to save, the words of comfort and wisdom that will never be spoken, the beauty that wont be called forth, the hands that wont be held. Mourn the hospitals that wont heal, the buildings that wont reach into the sky, the innovations that will never be there. Mourn the innocents who wont be defended, the books that wont be written, the friendless who will go unloved. Own it.

It is an incalcuable loss. But press on.

Before they could save anyone, the scientists who were supposed to cure AIDs and cancer and Parkinsons and Alzheimers, had their skin flayed off with our burning saline solution.

We lost countless "alternate sources of energy when the genius who was going to free us from the tyranny of the combustion engine, had his ideas sucked into a vacuum along with his tiny body.

The greatest soprano of human history never got past the silent scream as we pulled her arms and legs off one at a time and reassembled them on a sterile stainless silver tray.

The visionary who was going to give us light speed, drowned under a towel in a bucket of formaldehyde.

The man who was going to reconcile us to millions of foreign enemies got scissors shoved into his little skull before he could take one breath.

The deformed woman confined to a wheelchair, whose pure love and prayers were going to save countless souls, got flushed down a toilet with what was left of an RU-486 tablet.

Someone will say, "But wait! It isn't just the good who perished! In those 30,000,000 we have destroyed the murderers and rapists too! Along with those tiny bodies, we have side-stepped the home-made sex videos of hotel heiresses, the degenerate Senators posturing and sneering, the women drowning in cars, the interns being sexually exploited, the sodomizers preying on the innocent, the Hustler magazines wrapping themselves in the Bill of Rights, the filmmakers turning murderous euthanizers into heroes, more music like the Spice Girls! All of this we can claim as abortion's gift to the world!"

No. It is no victory. My faith makes me an optomist, and my philosophy assures me that good and evil are not equal - especially in the human person. Even the sins of the victims of abortion are a loss - for every act of dishonor was an occasion of heroism for someone else. Every act of violence, presages an act of mercy, forgiveness and repentance.

There is no victory in abortion. Click here for more convincing. (Thanks to Amy for the link.)

God forbid that Lincoln's prophecy be on us as a curse: "until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword."

Thursday, January 20, 2005


Just finished watching the hour-long prayer service that was W's second inauguration. Wow, talk about not bowing to the sniping critics who hate you bringing your faith into everything! What a brave man.

And - have to say it - what a difference from Clinton's inaugurations - especially the first one, which was such an unadulterated celebration of himself. Maybe it was becase he had a boatload of Hollywood folks orchestrtaing the events, but they seemed much more like an AFI Gushfest than the transfer of power in a democratic republic. Who can forget Clinton making the ridiculous pilgrimage to JFK's tomb, biting his lip and staring at the eternal flame as if to say, "Hell, I'm here to pick up where you left off - (you skirt chasing son of a gun!)" Could anybody else hear Lloyd Benson's intonation over that scene, "Mr. Clinton, I knew John Kennedy. He was my friend. You sir, are no John Kennedy." Then there was my other "Most Nauseating Moment" - when Sally Field and Goldie Hawn ran out on stage during one of the inaugural galas, holding hands and saying something to the effect of, "Aren't we all wonderful?!" It was, in short, revolting.

W's got a whole other style - one that hearkens back to George Washington waving off being called, "Your Exellency." "But, what shall we call you sir?" he was asked. "Call me, Mr. President." W's speech was one of the best I've ever heard. Huge ideals. Huge. Eloquent without being flowery. Delivered without one little stumble, in a voice of authority - "and not like the scribes/Senate..."

Would that all Americans would reflect on this speech and the ideals to which it challenges us. I have been wont to think that we are the last days of the republic - but maybe not...

Text of Bush's Inaugural Address

(Jan. 20) --

Vice President Cheney, Mr. Chief Justice, President Carter, President Bush, President Clinton, reverend clergy, distinguished guests, fellow citizens:

On this day, prescribed by law and marked by ceremony, we celebrate the durable wisdom of our Constitution, and recall the deep commitments that unite our country. I am grateful for the honor of this hour, mindful of the consequential times in which we live, and determined to fulfill the oath that I have sworn and you have witnessed.

At this second gathering, our duties are defined not by the words I use, but by the history we have seen together. For a half century, America defended our own freedom by standing watch on distant borders. After the shipwreck of communism came years of relative quiet, years of repose, years of sabbatical - and then there came a day of fire.

We have seen our vulnerability - and we have seen its deepest source. For as long as whole regions of the world simmer in resentment and tyranny - prone to ideologies that feed hatred and excuse murder - violence will gather, and multiply in destructive power, and cross the most defended borders, and raise a mortal threat. There is only one force of history that can break the reign of hatred and resentment, and expose the pretensions of tyrants, and reward the hopes of the decent and tolerant, and that is the force of human freedom.

We are led, by events and common sense, to one conclusion: The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands. The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world.

America's vital interests and our deepest beliefs are now one. From the day of our Founding, we have proclaimed that every man and woman on this earth has rights, and dignity, and matchless value, because they bear the image of the Maker of Heaven and earth. Across the generations we have proclaimed the imperative of self-government, because no one is fit to be a master, and no one deserves to be a slave. Advancing these ideals is the mission that created our Nation. It is the honorable achievement of our fathers. Now it is the urgent requirement of our nation's security, and the calling of our time.

So it is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world.

This is not primarily the task of arms, though we will defend ourselves and our friends by force of arms when necessary. Freedom, by its nature, must be chosen, and defended by citizens, and sustained by the rule of law and the protection of minorities. And when the soul of a nation finally speaks, the institutions that arise may reflect customs and traditions very different from our own. America will not impose our own style of government on the unwilling. Our goal instead is to help others find their own voice, attain their own freedom, and make their own way.

The great objective of ending tyranny is the concentrated work of generations. The difficulty of the task is no excuse for avoiding it. America's influence is not unlimited, but fortunately for the oppressed, America's influence is considerable, and we will use it confidently in freedom's cause.

My most solemn duty is to protect this nation and its people against further attacks and emerging threats. Some have unwisely chosen to test America's resolve, and have found it firm.

We will persistently clarify the choice before every ruler and every nation: The moral choice between oppression, which is always wrong, and freedom, which is eternally right. America will not pretend that jailed dissidents prefer their chains, or that women welcome humiliation and servitude, or that any human being aspires to live at the mercy of bullies.

We will encourage reform in other governments by making clear that success in our relations will require the decent treatment of their own people. America's belief in human dignity will guide our policies, yet rights must be more than the grudging concessions of dictators; they are secured by free dissent and the participation of the governed. In the long run, there is no justice without freedom, and there can be no human rights without human liberty.

Some, I know, have questioned the global appeal of liberty - though this time in history, four decades defined by the swiftest advance of freedom ever seen, is an odd time for doubt. Americans, of all people, should never be surprised by the power of our ideals. Eventually, the call of freedom comes to every mind and every soul. We do not accept the existence of permanent tyranny because we do not accept the possibility of permanent slavery. Liberty will come to those who love it.

Today, America speaks anew to the peoples of the world:

All who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know: the United States will not ignore your oppression, or excuse your oppressors. When you stand for your liberty, we will stand with you.

Democratic reformers facing repression, prison, or exile can know: America sees you for who you are: the future leaders of your free country.

The rulers of outlaw regimes can know that we still believe as Abraham Lincoln did: "Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves; and, under the rule of a just God, cannot long retain it."

The leaders of governments with long habits of control need to know: To serve your people you must learn to trust them. Start on this journey of progress and justice, and America will walk at your side.

And all the allies of the United States can know: we honor your friendship, we rely on your counsel, and we depend on your help. Division among free nations is a primary goal of freedom's enemies. The concerted effort of free nations to promote democracy is a prelude to our enemies' defeat.

Today, I also speak anew to my fellow citizens:

From all of you, I have asked patience in the hard task of securing America, which you have granted in good measure. Our country has accepted obligations that are difficult to fulfill, and would be dishonorable to abandon. Yet because we have acted in the great liberating tradition of this nation, tens of millions have achieved their freedom. And as hope kindles hope, millions more will find it. By our efforts, we have lit a fire as well - a fire in the minds of men. It warms those who feel its power, it burns those who fight its progress, and one day this untamed fire of freedom will reach the darkest corners of our world.

A few Americans have accepted the hardest duties in this cause - in the quiet work of intelligence and diplomacy ... the idealistic work of helping raise up free governments ... the dangerous and necessary work of fighting our enemies. Some have shown their devotion to our country in deaths that honored their whole lives - and we will always honor their names and their sacrifice.

All Americans have witnessed this idealism, and some for the first time. I ask our youngest citizens to believe the evidence of your eyes. You have seen duty and allegiance in the determined faces of our soldiers. You have seen that life is fragile, and evil is real, and courage triumphs. Make the choice to serve in a cause larger than your wants, larger than yourself - and in your days you will add not just to the wealth of our country, but to its character.

America has need of idealism and courage, because we have essential work at home - the unfinished work of American freedom. In a world moving toward liberty, we are determined to show the meaning and promise of liberty.

In America's ideal of freedom, citizens find the dignity and security of economic independence, instead of laboring on the edge of subsistence. This is the broader definition of liberty that motivated the Homestead Act, the Social Security Act, and the G.I. Bill of Rights. And now we will extend this vision by reforming great institutions to serve the needs of our time. To give every American a stake in the promise and future of our country, we will bring the highest standards to our schools, and build an ownership society. We will widen the ownership of homes and businesses, retirement savings and health insurance - preparing our people for the challenges of life in a free society. By making every citizen an agent of his or her own destiny, we will give our fellow Americans greater freedom from want and fear, and make our society more prosperous and just and equal.

In America's ideal of freedom, the public interest depends on private character - on integrity, and tolerance toward others, and the rule of conscience in our own lives. Self-government relies, in the end, on the governing of the self. That edifice of character is built in families, supported by communities with standards, and sustained in our national life by the truths of Sinai, the Sermon on the Mount, the words of the Koran, and the varied faiths of our people. Americans move forward in every generation by reaffirming all that is good and true that came before - ideals of justice and conduct that are the same yesterday, today, and forever.

In America's ideal of freedom, the exercise of rights is ennobled by service, and mercy, and a heart for the weak. Liberty for all does not mean independence from one another. Our nation relies on men and women who look after a neighbor and surround the lost with love. Americans, at our best, value the life we see in one another, and must always remember that even the unwanted have worth. And our country must abandon all the habits of racism, because we cannot carry the message of freedom and the baggage of bigotry at the same time.

From the perspective of a single day, including this day of dedication, the issues and questions before our country are many. From the viewpoint of centuries, the questions that come to us are narrowed and few. Did our generation advance the cause of freedom? And did our character bring credit to that cause?

These questions that judge us also unite us, because Americans of every party and background, Americans by choice and by birth, are bound to one another in the cause of freedom. We have known divisions, which must be healed to move forward in great purposes - and I will strive in good faith to heal them. Yet those divisions do not define America. We felt the unity and fellowship of our nation when freedom came under attack, and our response came like a single hand over a single heart. And we can feel that same unity and pride whenever America acts for good, and the victims of disaster are given hope, and the unjust encounter justice, and the captives are set free.

We go forward with complete confidence in the eventual triumph of freedom. Not because history runs on the wheels of inevitability; it is human choices that move events. Not because we consider ourselves a chosen nation; God moves and chooses as He wills. We have confidence because freedom is the permanent hope of mankind, the hunger in dark places, the longing of the soul. When our Founders declared a new order of the ages; when soldiers died in wave upon wave for a union based on liberty; when citizens marched in peaceful outrage under the banner "Freedom Now" - they were acting on an ancient hope that is meant to be fulfilled. History has an ebb and flow of justice, but history also has a visible direction, set by liberty and the Author of Liberty.

When the Declaration of Independence was first read in public and the Liberty Bell was sounded in celebration, a witness said, "It rang as if it meant something." In our time it means something still. America, in this young century, proclaims liberty throughout all the world, and to all the inhabitants thereof. Renewed in our strength - tested, but not weary - we are ready for the greatest achievements in the history of freedom.

May God bless you, and may He watch over the United States of America.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005


Friend, award-winning author, attorney and Act One Board of Directors member, James Scott Bell has started blogging. Jim's a great guy (....even if he doesn't respond to mentions of Giant with the appropriate awe-filled trembling) and has an encyclopedic knowledge of classic Hollywood cinema. Jim is a welcome addition to the blogosphere.

Check his place out

Monday, January 17, 2005

2690 Beechwood Dr., Los Angeles, CA 90068

(Just down the hill from the Hollywood Sign)

A close-up


We never know we go when we are going --
We jest and shut the Door --
Fate -- following -- behind us bolts it --
And we accost no more --

Thank God for Finding Neverland! After spending the last couple of months at the theater feeling mostly like a sewer inspector, here, at last, is a beautifully written, produced and acted movie, that leaves you better as a human being.

I admit I was slow to see the film because of the story details I had heard about it, and well, I just didn't trust Miramax to tell this kind of story. Basically, the story is based on the friendship (notice I am not putting that word in quotations) between J.M. Barrie, the author of Peter Pan, and a recently widowed woman and her four boys. I kept waiting for the film to get into hints of pedophilia, or else adultery, but while the film raises both things as nasty gossip whizzing around the protagonists, it is very clear that neither are predicable of the characters’ relationships. Instead, the film serves up a poignant story of a playwright whose work goes from bad to great, when he switches from writing for himself, to writing out of love to bring joy to others.

The ensemble here is very good, with Johnny Depp fleshing out Barrie's awkwardness, isolation and anguish, mostly without words -- but when he does speak, it is with a flawless Scottish accent. Kate Winslet, who always does well, also fills out a role that in one of the few flaws in the screenplay, is underwritten. Still, Winslet does a great job of convincing us that she cares about her sons, and Barrie, and that latter, not in a sexual way.

The actor who plays Peter - on whom Barrie bases his play - has been receiving lots of raves for his performance. He certainly is very, very cute, but - like the other children in the cast - I didn't find his acting as strong as other great child actors we have seen. His line of sight is off in several scenes, and I found his emotional movement jerky. It was telling to me that I cried over Winslet's anguish as opposed to his... But, ultimately, he is so cute, with big innocent eyes, that the impulse is to go with him.

There isn't a lot of movement in the story, although arguably, there is just as much as the writer needs to make his point. And the use of imagination sequences certainly goes a long way to covering the story's few beats.

But this is quibbling. Unlike Peter Pan, who just misplaces his shadow side, there is no shadow to Finding Neverland. It is a lovely, engaging story that hits many positive notes, all the time telling a story of isolation, marital estrangement, sickness and death. Underlying these details of the story is a great message about creativity - ie. that creativity as service/communication will have a compelling power and beauty about it.

While this isn't a children's film, there is nothing objectionable here, and much good. The Christians who were all tricked into making the dreadful Surviving Christmas a hit, should all be flocking to see Finding Neverland.

I do believe in Finding Neverland! I do! I do!

Wednesday, January 12, 2005


I'll be posting my own review of Million Dollar Baby soon. (Does anybody else just hate that title? It feels like the movie should be one of those 1960's family comedies...instead of, you know, a pro-euthanasia female boxing drama...) But here's an interesting review from a disabled writer.

And here I thought Clint Eastwood just had an irrational prejudice against the Catholic Church. Turns out his lip also curls at people with limps and cleft palates...

Thanks to Amy for the link.

Monday, January 10, 2005


In honor of the rain drenching us all here in So Cal...


There came a Wind like a Bugle --
It quivered through the Grass
And a Green Chill upon the Heat
So ominous did pass
We barred the Windows and the Doors
As from an Emerald Ghost --
The Doom's electric Moccasin
That very instant passed --
On a strange Mob of panting Trees
And Fences fled away
And Rivers where the Houses ran
Those looked that lived -- that Day --
The Bell within the steeple wild
The flying tidings told --
How much can come
And much can go,
And yet abide the World!

Act One is now accepting applications for this July's Hollywood writing program. In support of application recruitment, we have snazzy 2005 program brochures ready to be distributed. (Our new graphic artists, Jason, is the ultra-talented guy who also designed the artwork for The Passion of the Christ)

We need your help to get the brochures out to prospective Act One writers. If you can pass these out at a college or university, bookstore, prayer group, church, organization or street corner, please do send us a message.

Send an email to Let us know how many brochures you can use, where you will be distributing them, and where we should send them.

Applications and program information are also available on-line here. Please encourage all talented writers who love Jesus and movies and television to apply.

Thanks on behalf of Act One...and, you know, the future.

Sunday, January 09, 2005


That pretty much sums up my response to a recent query about how I feel about some of the entertainment projects that Christians are working on or have worked on. In this case, a Christian writer friend wanted to know why Act One would countenance writers on our faculty who wrote "the likes of" That 70's Show, for example."

We get asked this question all the time. And depending on the querier's place on the cultural spectrum, the objections have been raised on every faculty project from Hellraiser V and Batman Forever to M*A*S*H* and Roseanne on the TV side. So here, for posterity, is version #425617239 of my answer to this question.


I have only ever seen a few episodes of That 70's Show, and I didn't find it more objectionable than any prime-time sit-com. Our friend who writes for the show has noted that the show has the honor, along with Everybody Loves Raymond, of having been the only sit-coms for several years that revolved around a happily married couple. (Now there are several, but both Raymond and 70's have been on for several years now.) That 70's Show is clearly not moral rocket science, however, deriving most of its humor from scatalogical and sexual innuendo. But it is certainly no Sex in the City or even Desperate Housewives, in terms of its content.

(I want to qualify right away that I think there are definitely projects in the business that I can't wrap my brain around having Christians be part of. These would be projects that are intrinsically evil in their intent and method: all porn, and many horror projects. Although, I constantly hear arguments from the Christian horror film people...I win these arguments so far, but I might be brought around on Hellraiser 37 eventually.)

But, you are right, there is a larger issue in this that I have wrestled with very, very often. When all the power in Hollywood resides with the pagans, there will be very few projects that Christians can sign on to with full, happy hearts.

But is the entertainment industry so different in this dilemma? Should a Christian write for the NY Times? Or, citing a dilemma one of my RN friends in Boston went through, should a Christian nurse work at Mass General where they are aborting babies on the fifth floor?

My position is yes, we need Christians to enter into all social structures so as to, as St. Teresa of Avila said it, "bring God where He is not." I resolved this matter when I was in film school at Northwestern.

I got accepted to the Masters program at what was then the #4 film school. The problem was, it was way more than I could afford. So, I applied for a campus job, and, lo and behold, I was called by the Undergrad Student Life Office. Hark! They had just received a $20,000 grant to hire a grad student to head up a new"Multi-Cultural Advocate" program. It would mean free room and board for me, plus $10,000. My prospective boss told me on the phone that she was a proud volunteer for Planned Parenthood, and that she saw this new position as getting in student's faces and forcing them out of their systemic midwestern prejudices. She went on to say that most of the students come to NU as racist, homophobic and unfeminist, and that it would be my job to fix that. She also told me that the next candidate in line was the guy who currently runs the campus Bisexual Gay and Lesbian office. She was reluctant to give him the job, she said, because she didn't want to divert him from the important work he was doing already.

I almost cried. Here I was a fanatical pro-life, orthodox Catholic, Reagan Republican, how could I possibly take this job in good conscience?

I talked to my Mom about it and she said, "Honey, you have had a life-time of preparation in a solid, prayerful family. You had a four years of philosophy and theology in a Great Books program. You spent nine years in religious life doing lots of Scriptural meditation and daily hours of adoration. Is it possible that you have been uniquely prepared to enter into this admittedly repugnant arena? For the sake of the hundreds of students who will be affected by this program, can you make this job something you can do?"

I did take the job. I made the year all about cutlural diversity and heroism. I supervised 30 students, one from each dorm, and we literally spent months discussing the nature of heroism and, then, what heroic choices would look like in a modern world where people are discriminated against for their age, disability, sex or race. And yes, sexual orientation.

My boss never really caught on, because every week we were having another gala celebration of another culture's contribution to the human family. Damn, if we didn't celebrate every nation on earth that year! The students loved it. And many of the kids in my group were absolutely empowered by the discussions to be people who always seek to make "a heroic choice."

I did have to sit through dreadfully subversive weekly meetings with the heads of the campus gay and women's organizations, among others, but I quickly found some allies among the other undergrad service offices, and we started playfully subverting lots of the weird cynical projects that the others were always proposing. I remember killing a campaign to put "Gay Safe Zone" stickers on every campus dorm room under the argument that they would render the whole issue "invisible" by making it trite. The year taught me a lot about winning a point by co-opting the other's side's tenets.

Anyway, I say all this because it is the same latitude which I extend to my brothers and sisters in Christ who are making beachheads all throughout this pagan industry. Very often, the most many of my friends have been able to do was keep some violating material off the screen. And they have had many victories known only to God. But already, things are getting better for the next generation because of these quiet heroes. (And yes, I would fight hard that our friend at 70's, sitting in the daily writers room with a group of foul-mouthed wise-asses who hold nothing sacred, is a hero. It has been a crushing weight for him many times, such a terrible place for a godly person to be...but he has done much good in the offices and on the set....and now, he is able to pitch his own show ideas.)

But this missionfield is clearly not for everyone. Working in this business is like swimming in shark-infested waters. So, why would anybody swim there? Only one reason could justify it from a Christian standpoint: because there are other people drowning there, and they have to be saved.

The Oscar noms will be out soon, and, according to the buzz around the biz, The Passion of the Christ is going to be completely shut out.

Before the triumph of red statedom back in November, the word was that the film would be only mostly ignored, but would probably get noms for cinematography and production design. But then Bush won, and, frankly, having Oscar ignore the red state movie has become some kind of pathetic blue state revenge. It's striking considering that back in July Daily Variety noted that the two leading contenders for Best Picture in 2004, "have to be reckoned Fahrenheit 911 and The Passion of the Christ."

[ADD-ON FROM BARB: Here's an article someone just forwarded me on this same issue.]

A few of us have been brooding as to whether Christians should have some kind of co-ordinated response to what will clearly be an act of blatant religious bigotry, if The Passion is completely ignored. Some ideas coming in are...

...barn storm every newspaper, radio show and TV news show with expressions of protest, using the occasion to highlight religious bigotry in the entertainment industry.

...boycott the Oscar night telecast. (Frankly, boycotts are almost always lame. They're like screaming, "We have no power!!!")

... The only "boycott" that would make sense is if we could get everybody who is disgusted by the bigotry, to watch some other little show that night -- like say, something on PAX, THAT would send a newsworthy message....Maybe we can get some station to air The Passion of the Christ up against the Oscars! Then, we'd have something to watch that night...

Any body have any other ideas?

...on ABC'S Lost last week. I don't know if it was a repeat - I always count on catching up on the shows that survive the first half of the season during the second half re-runs.

I like the show. It's so refeshingly devoid of cops and lawyers...and while the hero is a doctor, he has no hospital to push gurneys around in, so he might as well be a stock-broker. (No there's an under utilized arena for a prime-time show. Wouldn't you think Wall Street could be either comic or dramatic?)

Anyway, Wednesday's episode featured a black female character reaching out to Charlie, the drug-addicted rock band guy. Charlie was sinking into paralysing self-loathing over a mistake he had made which led to another character's demise. So, after she goads him out of his isolation, Charlie starts to attach himself to her as a friendly presence. But she looks at him and shakes her head, "It isn't me you need." Next thing we know, she is talking to Charlie about God.

It was a very nice moment...only diminished by the fact that the female character was black. WHAT I MEAN IS, Black people are the only sympathetic Christians allowed to be on primetime. I think the pagans in the biz see Black Christianity as being some kind of a cute cultural thing, and so somehow not threatening? I know, it's racist, but have patience, we're working on Hollywood.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005


Take the quiz: "What Historic Woman Are You?"

Queen Hatshepsut
She was an Egyptian princess who wanted to be King. So she pasted on a fake beard and called herself King Hatshepsut. Everyone knew that she was a woman, but she had to pretend to be a man because Egyptians couldn't have a blatantly female ruler. You are strong, and will do whatever it takes to get what you want, just like Hatshepsut. Read more about her:

This will certainly be recurring feature here at COTM, as our ever-expanding network of Act One alumni continue to expand their influence in the cultural marketplace. I can barely keep up with them all, but, for your greater edification, and - who am I kidding?! - in the hopes that you will send us money and find us major donors to send us lots of money - I'm going to try!

So, here is a press release from ALIAS ENTERPRISES about a new generation of comic books soon to be in release. Act One alumn, Ben Avery, is one of the writers of The Imaginaries, one of the first titles in the new series. Kudos Ben!


Comic book publisher ALIAS ENTERPRISES debuts in April, 2005 with twelve titles and a radical new vision for the industry. One of the most common stereotypes among non-comic book readers is that comic books are for kids.

The reality? Comic books are for kids,says comic book industry veteran Mike S. Miller, just as much as they're for everyone else.

Enter ALIAS ENTERPRISES, a new publishing company launching in April, 2005 that is dedicated to stocking comic book shelves with books for all-ages, with books ranging from the G-rated titles The Imaginaries and Pakkins Land to the more mature and adult-oriented Deal With the Devil and 10th Muse.

"If there's one thing we're about at Alias," said Miller, who serves as the company's executive director, "it's variety. We're not looking to publish titles that are tied together by a particular look, feel, or theme; we have titles in just about every genre imaginable, with plenty more to come down the road."

What does tie the Alias titles together, however, is quality. "In preparing for our debut in April, we've been very picky about which books and studios we'd pick up," said Miller. "Simply put, we're interested in working with established titles that have already stood the test of time or titles from up-and-coming creators and studios that are of high quality but have simply lacked the exposure and resources they needed to get on comic book shelves. When readers discover the Alias section in their local comic book store, they're not going to find one kind of book that only appeals to one kind of person. They'll find a collection of titles that are able to offer something to just about anyone."

Some of the titles debuting in the spring include:

(written by Mike S. Miller and Ben Avery, art by Mike S. Miller and Greg Titus)

A child's faith is a powerful thing. It gives life to his imagination, and that imagination can even take on a life of its own. But what happens to the imaginary friends, the childhood superheroes, the playmates and stuffed animals when the children who gave them life no longer believe in them? They go to the IMAGINED NATION. Join SUPERHERO G as he explores this strange new world, full of the imaginings of billions of children around the world. Follow him as he meets strange and wonderful characters, the kind only a child could believe in, and discovers a new purpose for his existence unbound by the imaginings of his creator, and free to become more than even he has ever imagined before.

(written by Mike S. Miller, art by Sherwin Schwartzrock)

The tale of a man who once had it all; family, faith, health, the respect and adoration of his peers, and the reputation as the best homicide detective in FBI history. In his last case, his prey became his hunter, and his career was ended in shame and worthlessness. Four years later, his nemesis returns to ask for... his help. Find out why in this thrilling journey through the darkness in a world where things are never what they seem...

(by Monkey Pharmacy, written by KENNETH LILLIE-PAETZ, art by BRIAN DENHAM)

Did the Apocalypse already happen without anyone noticing? Angels scour the sky and demons stalk the streets. Meanwhile, the patients of Elsinore Mental Hospital are under the control of a secret society. Locked up without treatment, the inmates are developing supernatural powers. Humankind's only hope for survival is descending further into madness... The end begins here.

(Previews of all three of these titles are available at

"We've got twelve titles to start with, and we'll be adding more as the months go by," said Miller. We've got some great talent signed on, including Dabel Brothers Production (Legacy, The Hedge Knight, The Imaginaries), Runemaster Studios (Lions, Tigers and Bears) and Blue Water (Tenth Muse, Judo Girl), as well as some creators and studios we'll be announcing down the road."

Alias Enterprises is a comic book publisher based in San Diego. Founded by Brett Burner (owner, LampPost Publishing) and Mike S. Miller (veteran comic book industry artist and writer), Alias is dedicated to publishing high quality comics for all ages and genres, offering readers both original works and reprints of established, popular titles. Its first wave of books are due to hit shelves in April, 2005, with more to come throughout the year. For more information about Alias, its partners and affiliates, please visit

Monday, January 03, 2005


(And I fixed the link, so you can actually get to the article now. Thanks, Margo.)

From B.W., somewhere in the Northwest U.S....

I was sent your article by an iconography study group in the Northwest. [NOTE FROM BARB: Cool...Somewhere, people are studying me!] I couldn't agree more with your assessment of the "art of teaching art" in a classroom setting.

I would like to tell you about yet another new Catholic college in the works which has a different approach to art. I am part of a group of Byzantine Catholics working to open the first non-seminary Byzantine college in the U.S.

The curriculum for Transfiguration College will be loosely based upon the classical Great Books approach, with modifications for the Eastern Christian approach to Theology--we will read the Fathers, for instance, rather than basing the Theology courses upon Aquinas. [NOTE FROM BARB: HMMMM...Isn't that kind of like studying electricity, and stopping with Ben Franklin....]

But, included as an integral part of the curriculum will be the insistence that all students must have a course in basic iconography. The course will begin with the "Theology of the Icon" and with the very basic preparation of the board. Throughout the first year of study, the student will be expected to finish four icons--Theotokos, Christ the Teacher, their own patron saint and one subject of their own choosing.

The theology course will run concurrently with the painting aspect of the course; they will definitely have to "feed their souls" while engaged in iconography. The theology and the painting are inextricably intermingled, actually. All this is to
be done specifically in a studio setting.

The studio will be an integral part of the campus, but the operations will not be limited to only the students at Transfiguration. There are a large number of local people already engaged in serious iconography due to a series of workshops in the area.

There is, of course, a tremendous difference between the approaches to liturgical art in East and West. The East has always placed art (or the approach to God under the aspect of Beauty) at the center of the liturgical life. The icon is an inescapable part of the Divine Liturgy; the very theology of art is radically different in the Eastern mentality. Eastern religious art is strongly contemplative of its very nature, whereas Western art would tend to be a more meditative...

In any event, I think you have touched upon an important part of the argument concerning Catholic religious art. More is needed than simply beautifying churches with something of a higher order than "burlap banner art"--clearly much work must be done to align artistic mentalities and spiritualities with the mind of the Church. Logically (if God is unified and simple), there must be a correct approach to religious art which must rule out the individualistic artistic anarchy which has prevailed in the West for so long.

Art, at its base, must be an expression of the Beauty of God, and not an expression of the individual artist's vision. There are objective standards which apply to religious art if heresy is to be avoided; the East has largely kept to
these standards...

NBC has given a cast contingent pilot order for a dramedy called Book of Daniel. The story follows the life of a minister who chats with God, helps those in need, and at the same time...... fights his own addiction to painkillers. (per Hollywood Reporter).

Reserving judgment. Just keeping you posted.