Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Traditional Proclamation of the Birth of Christ

The twenty-fifth day of December.
In the five thousand one hundred and ninety-ninth year of the creation of the world
from the time when God in the beginning created the heavens and the earth;
the two thousand nine hundred and fifty-seventh year after the flood;
the two thousand and fifteenth year from the birth of Abraham;
the one thousand five hundred and tenth year from Moses
and the going forth of the people of Israel from Egypt;
the one thousand and thirty-second year from David's being anointed king;
in the sixty-fifth week according to the prophecy of Daniel;
in the one hundred and ninety-fourth Olympiad;
the seven hundred and fifty-second year from the foundation of the city of Rome;
the forty second year of the reign of Octavian Augustus;
the whole world being at peace,
in the sixth age of the world,
Jesus Christ the eternal God and Son of the eternal Father,
desiring to sanctify the world by his most merciful coming,
being conceived by the Holy Spirit,
and nine months having passed since his conception,
was born in Bethlehem of Judea of the Virgin Mary,
being made flesh.
The Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ according to the flesh.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Play of the Nativity of the Child Jesus

I've been saving this one for last, because it's decidedly not cheesy.

If you're looking for a plain old Christmas pageant on screen, you're going to be caught a bit off-guard, especially by the dialogue. This isn't some hokey Hollywood bastardization of the Christmas story. This is modeled after the medieval Nativity plays.

The archaic, rhymed dialogue and the lighting give this an overall tone of reverence and age befitting to such a holy narrative. Notably, the commercials are only at the beginning and end; the play is uninterrupted.

Such a solemn, joyful treatment of Christmas on TV is impossible to imagine today. I doubt it was commonplace even in the early 1950s. If you've watched none of my Cheesy Christmas Movie series, watch this and leave me your thoughts in the comments.

Available for streaming and download here.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012


Today's Cheesy Christmas Movie really does live up to the name. It's not bad in the same sense as the last one, but it will make your eyes roll so hard back you may need a crowbar to retrieve them.

Down the Wyoming Trail is a typical Tex Ritter singing western, with a bit of a holiday twist. It's Christmas Eve, and Tex has (of course) just ridden into town and been asked to play Santy Claus. A local badman overhears that Tex is going to be the jolly old elf, and dons a suit and whiskers to rob a ranch payroll. In the process he kills a man. The dying man fingers Saint Nick as his killer, and Tex narrowly misses getting lynched. In a fashion that would be the envy of O.J., he sets out to find the real killer.

Every western has to have a pretty girl, and Joan Leslie's big sister Mary Brodell is exactly that, in one of her few credited roles. And speaking of credits, it's a never-ending source of amusement to me that White Flash is so often credited higher than any of his bipedal co-stars except Tex himself. I'm only about halfway through this one, but there's a twist beginning to form I won't give away. I'll update this once I finish previewing.

Available for download or streaming here.

Update: Yep, the twist is a good one, but still leaves the whole thing pretty predictable. Yes, and cheesy.

Randy Stonehill: Christmas at Denny's

This is probably the most heartbreaking Christmas song I've ever heard. Well worth a listen.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

A hero

Mary-Ellen at Hopefully Ever After has written an absolute must-read piece, pouring her soul out in pixels.

What are you waiting for? Go read it. Then come back. (Warning: it's extremely descriptive in places. But necessary.)

I have three things to say about this piece.

1. Mary-Ellen is a hero. More on that later.

2. I've inveighed more than once on the witchhunt that has developed around the pervo-priest scandals. I still maintain that many good men are unjustly accused and that many people have profited handsomely from the Big Lie that priests are all potential molesters.

But big lies often grow from small but deadly truths, and this is one of those. Fr. Leo Riley was indeed a child molester. (Mary-Ellen wasn't his only victim, though she may have been his most long-term one.) Which makes it all the more despicable. A stranger who lures a child into a car is vile enough. But when a trusted family friend, a man whose job it is to model virtue, destroys a child from the inside out, it is an unspeakable evil. The same hands that held Christ's body every day snaked over an innocent child's body at night. The same lips that spoke the words of Jesus told manipulative lies to a little girl. This is one of those sins that cry out to heaven for vengeance.

And the ripple effect, while not as personally devastating, is far-reaching and possibly unerasable. A few vermin like Fr. Riley have tainted the reputation of priests for generations to come. The very word "priest" has become a snickered synonym for "hypocritical pervert." His behavior has made the Catholic Church, not just a laughingstock, but a stench to much of the world.

3. I don't know Mary-Ellen's parents, but I'm reluctant to judge them very harshly. The thing to remember is, in the '70s and '80s, child molestation was just beginning to be talked about openly, and lots of people had no idea how to deal with it when it came to light. In my family, there was an uncle who couldn't keep his hands off his nieces, and I don't think anything was done except to keep a close eye on him at family functions. (He died before I was born, thankfully.) The same thing applies to the bishops who kept shuffling accused priests around. Often, they just didn't know better. It had always been done that way.

In fairness, Mary-Ellen's parents did believe her and put a stop to her abuse, even if it was too little to late, and the Stigmatine Order did cooperate with police after policies were put in place in the early '90s. We know what to do now. But back then, the times they were still a'changin'.

Okay, back to point 1. Lots of people have memories of childhood abuse. Lots of them go public about the abuse later. That doesn't make them heroes. It just makes them veterans. It's what they do with their victimhood that counts.

Most people, with a history like Mary-Ellen's, would spend their lives bitter and cursing God for betraying them. (Which, in a way, I suppose He did. At least His representative betrayed her on His behalf. God gets the credit for the good things, and at Calvary He took on Himself all the blame for evil done by Man. In all cases, it comes back to God.)

I would have abandoned a God that I felt had allowed those things to happen. I probably would never have set foot in a church again except to spit in the holy water. Yes, I know intellectually about one bad apple, yada yada yada. That knowledge doesn't bind wounds or soothe fear.

But Mary-Ellen is able to separate Fr. Riley and his evil from the good God that always loved her. She is faithful to the Church that failed her. She talks about her parish's pastor who is the polar opposite of Fr. Riley, a good and Godly man who keeps his vows and works with her where she is.

Mary-Ellen has faith that leaves mine in the dust. She loves God more than she hates her abuser.

That's what makes her a hero.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

From the country that brought you Sartre and Camus

Teacher assigns suicide notes for homework.

And speaking of Sartre...

(A/T to Cassandra for the second link.)

Santa Claus Conquers the (choke) Martians

Today's Cheesy Christmas Movie is dedicated to Lazarus Lupin, who first introduced me to bad cinema more than 30 years ago. Full disclosure; I've never actually sat through more than half an hour of this abomination without trying to chew off my mouse arm like a trapped coyote to escape. My Akubra is off to anybody who can.

Available for download or streaming here.

Monday, December 10, 2012

A note on movies

If you're not aware, the movies I post are all at the Internet Archive. From there they can be downloaded in various formats for offline viewing. And since they're all public domain, it's as legal as Sunday School.

I'll start tagging them with the link forthwith.

A Christmas Without Snow

I did promise more Cheesy Christmas Movies, did I not?

This one isn't really all that cheesy. It's a made-for-TV movie from 1980 that features a handful of known names (meaning ones I recognized) and a fair number that I didn't. It gets sentimental at times, but it's not on the level of "Santa Claus Conquers the Martians," or even of the last film I posted.

This film doesn't have a whole lot in the way of plot, being more a collection of "day-in-the-life" snapshots. The setting is a generic-Protestant church's choir, where they have obtained a choir tyrant of professional caliber and are preparing for a performance of Handel's Messiah.

(Okay, can I just stop there and say that this alone would have sold me on the film? I frimpin' love Messiah. Back when I was a single father, Wharf Rat and I would see how many performances we could catch every year.)

Anyway, the story centers mostly on a divorcee from Nebraska who is trying to get herself established in San Francisco while her son stays behind with Grandma. But along with her we see a minister who takes his parishioners' troubles as his own, a sweet 30-something spinster who is so lonely she's gone a bit north-northwest, a young black man living with his grandmother who just wants to make his way in a world where skin shade still matters a little bit, and so on. Parallel illustrations of the human condition.

A few things to watch for:

This movie has a plethora, not so much of Christian themes, as of Christian incidentals. Hymns are sung without embarrassment. The preacher is neither a closet pervert nor a platitudinizing milquetoast. The church doesn't make vocal stands on social issues; it's a house of worship first and foremost. Not something we see anymore. (Incidentally, notice that when Reverend Lohman is being pastoral to a newly-widowed church member, the background music is "Comfort Ye My People." Nice touch, that.)

The little one-sided catfight over the soprano solo is fun. There's a self-described opera singer who is miffed that anybody else would even audition, and when a soft-spoken Korean woman gets it, Miss Diva leaves in a flurry of fur. The Korean character, incidentally, is the only listed screen appearance of Daisietta Kim. Her audition piece is "I Know that my Redeemer Liveth," and her rendition gives me goosebumples just thinking about it.

The pastor's son is the quintessential PK, a good-natured young man who just one day can't take it anymore. Preachers' wives get the job they signed on for, but their children often find their identities submerged. This kid fits that to a T. The spinster is worth a cringe every time she opens her mouth. And even for 1980, her dress looks dated to me. Am I wrong, ladies?

Enough. Watch the film and leave your thoughts in the comments.

Also available for streaming and download here.

Friday, December 07, 2012

Joe Santa Claus

Today's Cheesy Christmas Movie is short (a half-hour TV special with the commercials removed), but there's a lot packed into it. Ray Montgomery and Maria Palmer turn in competent performances, but for anyone who's seen "Dark Passage," it's a little disconcerting to see Houseley Stevenson playing a kindly old janitor. Little Jeri Lou James redefines the word adorable.  

It's sappy. It's predictable. And if you don't choke up by the end, you have a stone where your heart should be.

Also available for streaming and download here.

Okay, a little more Yogi

Because of this post from HH.

A little touch of Yogi in the night

I'll have a cheesy Christmas movie to post a little later, but for now, here's a little something to get holidayish with: