Monday, October 31, 2016

Devoting a Couple of Weeks to Other Writing

As you know, the Bear has other writing duties. At the moment, they require his complete attention for a couple of weeks. Having said that, sometimes the Bear has to write something else to just prime the pump of his creativity, so never say never.

Don't forget the Bear. On the top of the sidebar is an email signup so you won't ever miss an article. As far as the Bear knows, that's all it does. He certainly doesn't do anything with emails.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

The Luther-Bergoglio Reformation Phase Two

Pick Your Pope

Question: What is Halloween?
Answer: A day when old men dress up as popes and give away all your candy.

Please, please, enough applause. The Bear is here until Management decides otherwise.

The Bear could not help but notice that the main page for the Holy See acknowledges two popes. Two popes are "alive." Their deceased predecessors are shadowed. Of course we knew this, and the web page design doesn't really prove much, but still, seeing it brings it home. No one is disputing that there are two popes. Sure, they have different roles. Somehow. One hides and doesn't say much. The other is everywhere and cannot keep his mouth shut.

But it is undisputed that we have two, real, living, popes at the same time. Yet no one has really explained this satisfactorily. But it has to mean something, right? The Bear means, this is kind of a big deal, isn't it?

Heather Has Two Popes?

The Bear finds it interesting that at the very time we have the most destructive Pope in history, we also happen to have another Pope. When the Bear applies his 450 gram ursine brain to this matter, it makes him go "hmm."

The Bear has refrained from saying this before, but even aside from  Francis' what? Error? Evil? Dimness? Insanity? Whatever else is going on, we have, behind the smile and behind the frown, an unparalleled situation that calls into question the validity of Francis's pontificate.

Now, take this unprecedented situation, and add to it an unprecedented, disastrous pontificate of historic significance, and the Bear sniffs something really weird in the air.

Rin Tin Tin
The Bear is aware that others, far more educated than he, have considered the two pope problem and dismissed it as no big deal. The Bear has nonetheless drawn his own conclusions. A: Benedict is Pope. B: Therefore, he never stopped being Pope (really just a restatement of A). C: You cannot elect a Pope when there is already a Pope. D: There is no precedent for a dual papacy. E: Benedict is Pope and Jorge Bergoglio is not.  Q.E.D.

"But Benedict intended to resign," you object. So? The Bear intended to make as much as Rin Tin Tin in Hollywood. "Intent" is only relevant when the act is covered by the law somehow. The Bear can intend to end his relationship as father to his children. He may ignore his children. He may never speak to them again. He may disinherit them. What he cannot do, is "intend" himself out of his biological and legal relation of fatherhood to his children. (An apt example.)

A man is shot. His wife admits to shooting him, but claims it was an accident. Now, whether she had the intent to kill her husband is an important question. To give another example, a couple may intend to get married. They are wedded before the Justice of the Peace. But, the following day, they discover he did not hold that office, but was a joker. Their intent does not matter. You cannot be legally married by a grocer.

You cannot invoke "intent" to justify an act for which "intent" is irrelevant.

Finally, how about this. "I'm still the Pope, but I'm going to arbitrarily change the nature of my duties. As Pope, I will neglect 99% of my job, but you can bet I'm somewhere out of sight, praying. Because, that's what I say is all that is required of me as Pope." The Bear believes Benedict's resignation was void ab initio. We don't have to read the tea leaves to discover what Benedict thought he was doing. He simply had no authority to lay aside some duties of Pope, yet retain some sort of "spiritual pontificate."

Obviously, Benedict knew all this. Did he really think he could resign, yet still be Pope, of a sort? The Bear doesn't know, but it doesn't matter. One Pope at a time, please. That's the rule. If there is a clear rule of canon law that says what has happened is legal, the Bear would love to see it.

The only way Jorge Bergoglio is Pope is if Pope Benedict isn't.

Francis: When Jesuitical Scheming Ceased to be a Joke

It is difficult to say in what sense Francis may be called Catholic. Were he to live long enough to complete his program, the Bear can tell you what kind of Church we would have. Decisions on doctrine will devolve upon the national bishops' conferences. You might have gay marriage in Mexico, but not in Poland. Lutherans would take communion in Germany, but not in Italy. You might even have gay marriage in New York, and not in Peoria.

(Oh, and that Catholic aunt of yours who divorced her lousy husband, and never got remarried? A big toothy Francis laugh at her. "Sucker!")

In effect, we would have national Churches with only a symbolic connection to one another. Like crazy-quilt Orthodoxy without the orthodoxy.

Of course, it would not be called doctrine. It would be pastoral. But in Francis' program of deception, practice drives doctrine, not the other way round. This is key to understanding Francis. Celebrating Luther is not a nice gesture. It is a rejection of orthodox ecclesiology. It is establishing a new doctrine of a church that is just one choice among many. Francis preaches a new gospel.

Phase Two of the Luther-Bergoglio Reformation.

Martin Luther (Actually, Lex
Luthor, who was not as bad.)
Please read the featured post, where Blaise Pascal explains how Jesuits work. The Bear guarantees you will be astonished how a 17th century polemic might come from a good Catholic ephemeris today.

The Bear has no confidence in Pope Francis.

The Bear believes Francis is by far the worse choice between two real popes; or, in the alternative, that Francis was never pope at all. Or if he does actually hold a novel office - The Pope Who Really, Really Counts - the Bear gets sick on the scorpions Francis tries to feed him, and will not eat them. And the Bear will tear the jawbone off of anyone who keeps trying to shove them down his throat.

Let Francis go have his slobbering love affair with Lutheran High Priestess Antje Jackelen, and burn incense before his predecessor and spiritual father. Let him praise Luther for his butchered and misleading bible, in which he deliberately added "alone," to "faith," then bragged about it. Let him parrot generations of Protestant lies against the Church, like it took the Great Luther to "put the Bible in the hands of the people," as Francis said in his latest word salad interview.

Pope Buster

Pope Buster daily releases a different cute picture of himself.
And every month a video of him performing a trick.
Here: "A Lutheran Lady Archbishop?"

Bear calls BS  on the whole sorry mess (Bear Scat, of course.) And he has a hard time working up a lot of warm feelings for Pope Benedict, who put us here in the first place. (However, now that we're here, he's looking pretty darned convenient.) The Bear's dog is next to him as he writes. Buster would be a better Pope. He would not damage anything, except perhaps some furnishings in the papal apartments, in which Bear guaran-damn-tees you he would live. And he would bite Antje Dress Up somewhere below her knees when she jetted in from Gustavus Adolphus' Muslim immigrant Hellhole. 

Buster just said something. He said, to Hell with Martin Luther, to Hell with Gustavus Adolphus, and To Hell with make-belive Protestant prelatesses. The Bear didn't say that. It was Buster.

Sadly, Buster is many years from puppyhood, and his pontificate (he would show his humility by being just Pope Buster) would be short. But he would never lose so much as a period from the deposit of faith. He would give no pressers. He would leave the Church the same as it was when he took the helm.

Whatever Jorge Bergoglio is or is not, the real question is can we safely listen to him? The Bear does not think we need to complicate matters when the answer to that question could not be more obvious.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Ephemeris Milestone

On February 3, 2013, this ephemeris was rebooted after a brief run and hiatus while the Bear attended a school of theology. The first article was entitled The Bear Who Woke Up.

The Bear sincerely hopes he has been a source of entertainment, perspective, and, sometimes, just things you never knew about. Your encouragement is uplifting, and so are the comments. And the salmon. Thank you for being what this ephemeris is really about: you, the audience, in the grandstand, watching a Bear in the center ring riding a unicycle, while juggling Jesuitical plots, and snapping up the tossed catch of the day.

The Bear's ambition is to be the Ealing Studios of this pontificate, the English studio that cranked out comedies to ease the anxiety of WWII.

And just once in awhile, it's a bicycle built for two: the Bear and Ginger. Er, the Bear means his driver, bodyguard, and factotum, Red Death, a.k.a. the Shepherdess and Bear's mate. In her very own ephemeris, she has a new post up where she talks about her beloved Remington 12 gauge pump, escaping llamas, and a yummy recipe for Four Flavor Linguini.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Hail Caesar: Et tu Ethan?

Josh Brolin as Eddie Mannix & Tilda Swison as Gossip Columnist

O Talent Where Art Thou?

Since this is related to the Bear's usual movie fare, and since it is horrible beyond his worst nightmares, the Coens' latest movie, Hail Caesar is the subject of today's ephemeris. The Coens made some very good, and memorable, movies, peaking with the George Clooney comedy O Brother Where Art Thou? in 2000. After that: O Talent Where Art Thou?

2001's The Man Who Wasn't There, with Billy Bob Thornton was an interesting noir feature, except the lead - deliberately - wasn't there. The Bear enjoyed it, but something seems to have slipped a cog in the genius of the pair. 2003 brought us another Clooney vehicle in a watchable rom-com Intolerable Cruelty, but by now, something was clearly wrong.  If there were any doubt, the 2004 remake of the Alec Guinness Ealing Studios classic, The Lady Killers, proved that the duo could make you want to strangle even Tom Hanks.

It has been downhill since then. However, the Coens will remain beloved by critics, especially when they harken back to the ridiculous Barton Fink, and make movies about Hollywood. Oh, how that delights the moths who flutter around the computer animators whose offices used to house the likes of Pandro Berman, Billy Wilder and Howard Hawks.

Although, on second thought, those CGI guys probable just telecommute across the Pacific.

Eddie Mannix

The story is a day in the life of real-life studio fixer Eddie Mannix, played by a world weary, and subtly conflicted Josh Brolin.  Who was Eddie Mannix? For the purposes of the story - and MGM - he was the guy who handled bad publicity before it became publicity. MGM was made up of three studios, and Louis B. Mayer was the salaried boss. On the East Coast, the Schenk brothers ("Skank" here; L.B. would have appreciated that, at least) owned much of the outfit, as well as the Lowes theater chain somewhat important for distribution.

They sent their boy Mannix west to keep an eye on things. "Things" meant every bit of mischief into which the coddled stars of the studio system might get themselves. Mannix got them out of it, using persuasion, bribes or muscle.

As an example, Mannix tracked down every single scrap of of a pornographic short of an MGM star. Did he take a satchel filled with $100,000, like he did in the movie to ransom George Clooney's star of a sword and sandal epic? Or did he bring in east coast muscle? Or is the answer somewhere in between? We do know that when Walter Huston struck and killed a pedestrian, Eddie Mannix was Servicemaster: Like It Never Even Happened.

Hollywood is indeed the dream factory, and at this remove, it is probably impossible separate truth from fiction from many of these legends. The important thing is that MGM had a lot of money invested in its stars' images, and was willing to do anything to protect it.

Mannix was Catholic, so, in Hail Caesar, that means a scrupulous Catholic who tells the priest how long it has been since his last confession by looking at his watch. Then he confesses things like sneaking a cigarette. Funny? You tell the Bear.

A Ransom Note to Hollywood

How many reviews has the Bear read containing the phrase, "a love letter to Hollywood?" This is not a love letter. These people do not love Hollywood. This is a ransom note made of letters cut out of different magazines, and ineptly glued together.

First of all, it looks cheap. Where are the 15,000 extras and 18 acres of sets of Ben Hur? The real lions and fleet of chariots of Quo Vadis? Not to mention the real Roman galleys that burned in the 1925 silent Ben Hur? Mannix walks through empty lots. We might see a handful of people shooting a scene, as where Ralph Fiennes and Alden Ehrenreich are funny as a fussy, polite English director coaxing a cowboy actor through the line "would that it were so simple."

Sure, this is not really a big budget epic, even though it is about a Hollywood epic in 1951. The Coens are asking a lot of viewers to just pretend along with them, even for an alleged comedy. You don't have to make a movie about a Hollywood epic, but if you do, you had better deliver.

These studios were bustling towns in their own right. Why does "Capitol" look like a ghost town? Couldn't they at least have filled this soulless monstrosity with CGI script girls, and directors with their entourages, and actors with even bigger entourages? Granted, extras cost more than two bucks a day now, but really. Why film Brolin on a big empty lot at all.

Scarlett Johannson plays an Esther Williams character who is too pregnant to fit into her fish tail costume. The Coens can't resist trying to film an actual Esther Williams scene. You can put as many names on a scene as you want, but if you do not have the talent to pull off an Esther Williams scene, it's just going to look sad. The Bear was fantasizing about a salmon roughly the size of Scarlett Johansson, but realized the whole thing was so much spoiled meat. Awful.

One might say it was meant to look cheesy as a parody. Well, then how to explain the gay sailor number?

We have Channing Tatum's homosexual subtext sailor song-and-dance number. It is a good number, and competently executed by talented dancers. The Bear supposes he is happy someone still has the ability to do something right. The problem is, it watches like they spliced in Gene Kelly footage from a different picture. Here, it goes on and on, and seems out of place. It is as if they said, "Let's flip to an alternate dimension where we really are filming a musical comedy." It falls flat as a too-long, not-funny, tasteless joke.

In 1951 the producer - no doubt MGM's genius of musicals Arthur Freed - would have been called up for a special chat with management. Ed Mannix would probably have been there. If the joke is MGM had gay dancers, guess what? No one cared in 1951. No one cares now. Red Skelton was walking with an actress and they passed a flowerbed of pansies. "Look, the Freed Unit," Skelton cracked. Certainly no one was going after them, so this is another scene in search of a not only a joke, but a justification.

A scene where a Catholic, a Jew, a Greek Orthodox and a Protestant walk into a bar- no. That at least might be funny. Mannix debating the nature of the Deity at a conference table left the Bear snuffling for the joke. That the long-suffering Mannix is left to conduct the First Council of Nicea? It is straight from Mel Brooks, if Mel Brooks wasn't funny. Not to mention absurd. Louis B. Mayer and Jack Warner and Harry Cohn (Columbia),  who were all Jews, could care less what Jews thought. The joke was that Hollywood was a place where Jews made pictures to sell Catholic theology to Protestants.

And that was true. Catholic prelates set the moral thermostat in America, and Mayer and others knew it.

The Bear found the Confession scenes offensive, as well as the jokey manner the Crucifixion location was handled. Granted, it is filming of the event, so maybe that's just the Bear.

What we are left with is a picture about Hollywood that does not look or feel like Hollywood.

The Russians are Coming!

Worst of all, a group of screenwriters who look like Communists take part in the main conflict of the thin plot. 

There are only two articles of faith in Hollywood.
  1. There were no Communists in Hollywood, and efforts to find them were witch hunts.
  2. The Communists in Hollywood were brave martyrs who had their careers ruined.
The truth is that there were Communists, especially among the writers. The Coens play this hallowed lore for laughs. A group of nutty writers have a sort of Communist book club based out of an oceanfront house. For revolutionaries, they seem harmless enough, despite their undeniable links to Mother Russia. 

The Bear doubts the Coens are skeptical about the sacred lore of the persecuted Communist writers. He thinks they are pulling that lore into the cynical present, where we can now laugh at people who thought there were Reds in Hollywood. Some actors who had gone to bat for suspected Communists at the time, such as Humphrey Bogart, said he had been sold out when he learned some suspects - like Dalton Trumbo - had earlier admitted to being Communists. Indeed Trumbo, who had written Exodus and Spartacus (uncredited) had been a proud Party member.

Either that, or they are painting the revered Hollywood Ten as goofballs. The Bear will win Powerball when that happens. Why, such producers would be... blacklisted! 

Anyway, this leads to another ridiculous, unfunny, rub-your-nose-in-the-idea-there-were-any-Communists-in-Hollywood scene.

The Big Speech

The Coens' Mannix is not above slapping stars back and forth to put some sense in them. (The Bear doubts the "physical property" would be slapped in their valuable closeup, but it's funny with Clooney.) The best scene in the movie is where a radicalized actor - George Clooney's star of the Biblical epic, dressed in his Roman armor - lolls his head back at the ceiling in Mannix's office and starts badmouthing big boss out east "Nick Skank." 

Brolin gives Clooney a slap-and-backhand while giving him a speech that could come right out of 42nd Street. Don't badmouth the management. Everybody's depending on you. The director, the script girls, etc. As a terrified Clooney starts out the door, Mannix delivers a realistic touch. He smiles, and adds, "Go out there and be a star." Now, that, at least, rings true.

Biting Off More of Hollywood Than They Could Chew

Part of the problem is that the Coens unnecessarily bit off more they they could chew, or had to. The funny scenes are the on the small sets: Clooney getting slapped around for the good of the movie industry, and the "would that it were so simple" scene.

Finally, this is a movie looking for a plot, although that itself is a Coen trademark. Mannix walks around doing a bunch of different, unconnected stuff. Fine. But we remember so many payoffs in other Coen movies, starting with the Looney Tunes Raising Arizona starring a decent, but dim Nicholas Cage, and a steely Holly Hunter. "Son, you got a panty on your head." And Fargo's, "And I guess that was your accomplice in the wood chipper." It turns out to be a movie looking for a lot of things. Things the Coens used to deliver.

No doubt the Coens are film making geniuses of historic importance. They release new movies on a regular basis, and they are amazingly versatile. But when you look at the Communists in Hail Caesar, the German nihilists in The Big Lebowski come to mind. 

Say what you will, in the days of the moguls, somebody would have told the writer thanks, then asked him what his next project was, and afterwards filed this script in the "Never to be Filmed" drawer after he left. Maybe the Coens will get over themselves and recover their quirky genius.

Would that it were so.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016


The ONE year the Bear would finish a novel that included this dialogue:

“I’ll answer that question when the Cubs win the World Series.”    

and this:

“Cubs?  Are you trying to jinx me?” 

Anyone got any ideas for something that is synonymous in the American culture for "never gonna happen?" Granted, the Bear may yet be okay, but he had better have a backup  plan. (Bears are careful that way.)

And you would think the Bear would be rooting for the Cubs, wouldn't you? Ah, but the this is a Catholic ephemeris, and the Bear lives in Southern Illinois, so he is a St. Louis Cardinals fan.

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