Arts

  • Two Cheers for Javert

    But I think I've fallen for the villain. Here, I will play the role of devil's advocate and offer a few words in praise of Javert. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

    According to our contemporary critical pantheon, I'm supposed to disdain Tom Hooper's film version of Les Misérables (though Stanley Fish has me feeling a little bett...

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  • Identity Cooking

    Convivium contributor Julia Nethersole reflects on the power of food to set a framework for honest and open dialogue.

    I was recently asked about the best meal I've ever had. Being the daughter of a man who thinks about what he'll be having for lunch at breakfast, and knows what he'll be making for Sunday dinner on Tuesday, it is without doubt that I took this question quit...

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  • Real People, Real History

    It is easy enough, after all, to dismiss the Christian story in such vulgar and casual terms from the comfort of a fashionable latte salon in Toronto or the newly pretentious cappuccino corridors of Calgary. It is quite another to stand just outside the forum in Rome and view the prison in which the likes of the apostles Paul and Peter were imprisoned. Or to gaze from the Acropolis in Athens at Mars Hill, where Paul evangelized or the grand theatre where his message to the Ephesians was proving so persuasive the silversmiths ran him out. The list goes on; real people, real history.

    Given the rise, at least within the once-popular press, of the mantra of neo-atheism and secular fundamentalism, the Mediterranean remains a refreshing option for those of us who, to use the terminology of the newly fashionable, still believe in "fairy tale...

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  • Committing Ink

    Oh, to write a letter. To "sit down, pull out a piece of paper, and think about someone the whole way through . . . with intention", as Hannah Brencher says in her recent TED Talk, is a pleasure that satiates a need to recognize and be recognized for who we uniquely are to one another.

    I recently lamented the fact that I don't get many letters these days. Even as I glance apprehensively at the growing number of unopened emails in my inbox, and hear the incessant beep announcing the arrival of another text or Facebook message, I am sorely ...

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  • Memento Mori

    New York is not a place known for its contemplation of mortality. The glitz, the money, the movement, the power, the sheer seething of the place contributes to a sense that it is a place that will never die. It's hard to remember, living in a city that never sleeps, that each of us will one day sleep in the cold ground.

    Remember, man, that you are dust, and to dust you shall return (and the same for your buildings).

    New York is not a place known for its contemplation of mortality. The glitz, the money, the movement, the power, the sheer seething of the place contrib...

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  • The Kung Fu Panda Problem: Gangnam Style goes Global

    Now none other than Fareed Zakaria has weighed in on Gangnam Style, arguing its success is culturally iconic for the pluralist South Korean society. In an interview with Evan Osnos, Osnos says that the reason that South Korea could produce something as off the mainstream, and frankly as bizarre, as Gangnam Style is because of the high prize of parody. Gangnam Style, as almost no one with the internet needs to be told anymore, pokes fun at a class of Korean pop and high society. It's the safe for work equivalent of America's Lonely Island. It's the evidence of a society that knows how to make fun of itself, of a culture at ease with its own idiosyncrasies.

    The global sensation gangnam style has swept the globe in recent months, and even the Cardus office, if in uneven waves of enthusiasm. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has ...

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  • Whatever is Left of Him

    Yet there, yesterday, was the character named Rope who, when I last imagined him, was kneeling face down on a downtown sidewalk with his eyes full of broken glass, slowly bleeding to death to end a short story called "Orange and Peel." Yesterday he sat, flesh and blood, on the steps of a flower shop between Hingston and Beaconsfield in Montreal's Notre-Dame-de-Grace neighbourhood.

    It is not a little unnerving to meet a fictional character you've created.

    Yet there, yesterday, was the character named Rope who, when I last imagined him, was kneeling face down on a downtown sidewalk with his eyes full of broken glass, slowly blee...

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  • Forgetting Jane Austen

    I'm likely better off for it, because speaking of laughable opinions, I recently came across an article about Hannah Rosin's controversial new book, The End of Men and the Rise of Women. Rosin argues that "hook-up culture" is helping women become more successful in their careers. From the Business Insider piece:

    I am aware that this this is entirely cliché, but I shamelessly admit to being bewitched, body and soul, by the prose of Jane Austen. Despite the disdain of friends and family members, I am content to reference her work at the first opportunity. As Jane Ben...

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  • The Barefoot Artist

    The visual arts can be a mirror or a window. Many critics have warned of art's demise. Artist Ted Mikulski has written of American's failure to appreciate the visual arts in his book, Art is Dead. Sociologist Philip Rieff described contemporary artists as purveyors of an anti-culture, in effect a deathwork.

    A piece of glass can be a mirror or a window. It makes all the difference to what one sees.

    The visual arts can be a mirror or a window. Many critics have warned of art's demise. Artist Ted Mikulski has written of American's failure to appreciate the...

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  • Sesame Street Politics

    "I like PBS. I love Big Bird . . . But I' m not going to keep spending money on things to borrow money from China to pay for it." It wasn't Mr. Romney's most memorable line, but it definitely was more effective than the typical "blah-cut-spending-blah-deficit-blah-blah" monologues that are ignored daily.

    Republican Candidate Mitt Romney referenced Big Bird in last week's U.S. Presidential debate. A bit juvenile? Perhaps. But it was a transparent attempt to concretize a discussion about government cutbacks, a theme so overpromised and under-implemented that ...

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  • The Challenge to Triviality

    The Dark Knight Rises plot was a hybrid of Robin Hood, the Bolshevik Revolution, a Twilight Zone episode, and some biblical allegory. But did anybody notice connections? The plot themes predictably explored the nature of wealth, hegemony, power, and what happens when the structures of society break down into anarchy. And of course, the blurry line of stealing from the rich (or in modern sensibilities, the emasculation of the wealthy) is presented as a radical solution to complex problems.

    Recently—late, I know—I went to see The Dark Knight Rises. Sure, it was a wonderfully entertaining and a frivolous way to spend a couple of hours of my life . . . but this is not a movie review. This film has been analyzed to death everywhere, includ...

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  • A society watching The Dark Knight Rises has something wrong with it

    In this morning's Globe and Mail, columnist Lynn Crosbie takes the case a step deeper and challenges literary creators to respond with essential grace when their creations go damnably wrong. In contrast to the harrumphing galumphers who churn out endless pure political commentary, she works from the assertion that the electoral, parliamentary, and policy cliques are to our lived meaning as WWE wrestling is to Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot: a bombastic sideshow relation to the authentic theatrical absurdity of contemporary life.

    My Cardus colleague Josh Reinders makes a brilliant argument in yesterday's blog for literature's powerful formative role in creating a culture of saving grace.

    In this morning's Globe ...

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  • Myth-making

    We are a civilization of creators. Or, through the eyes of The Lord of the Rings author, we are sub-creators. Our histories are deeply marked by the devices we create. From the wheel to the atomic bomb to the microprocessor, humans carry an innate propensity to create tools and devices to make our lives easier and help to further the development of the human race. We as beings want to create.

    We have come from God, and inevitably the myths woven by us, though they contain error, will also reflect a splintered fragment of the true light, the eternal truth that is with God. Indeed only by myth-making, only by becoming 'sub-creator' and in...

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  • America Is Not The Greatest

    Aaron Sorkin is an Academy and Emmy award-winning American screenwriter, producer, and playwright, whose works include A Few Good Men, The American President, The West Wing, Sports Night, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, Charlie Wilson's War, The Social Network, and Moneyball. He has presided over some of the greatest moments in TV and he did it again recently in the opening episode of The Newsroom.

    "Why is America the greatest country in the world?" a coed asks the assembled media pundits on season opener of HBO's The Newsroom.

    Aaron Sorkin is an Academy and Emmy award-winning American screenwriter, producer, and playwright, whose works ...

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  • A Culture on Fire?

    What kind of culture will Pentecostalism produce? There has been a lot of talk lately among scholars about the rise of Pentecostalism as a global force. Much of it is focused on the implications of Pentecostalism on the church, the state, and the economy—sociological talk—but not, to my admittedly limited knowledge, little is focused on the impact that Pentecostalism will have on arts culture.

    ...

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  • Seeing and Believing

    Completely uncharacteristically (okay, maybe not completely uncharacteristic), we emerged from the gallery locked in a vigorous debate. It was touched off when I said how much I dislike plaques, signage, headphone audio commentary or similar distractions at an exhibit such as the Van Gogh. My son, a doctoral student in history who was visiting Ottawa to do research at the National Archives, was appalled.

    My son and I recently spent a Saturday afternoon together in Ottawa taking in the Van Gogh exhibit at the National Gallery of Canada.

    Completely uncharacteris...

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  • An Absurdly Large Country

    Conscious of the fact Canada is a rather large country—the entire United Kingdom and its 60 million people fit into a land mass 36% the size of the province of Alberta and its 3.6 million people alone—they were curious to know precisely how far it is between Calgary and Ottawa.

    A couple of years ago at a conference in Washington, D.C., I shared a dinner table with a couple of chaps from Britain who were fascinated by the fact that while I reside and am stationed in western Canada, my travails take me on a somewhat regular commute ...

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  • When Reality Overwhelms Satire: What The Hunger Games Reveals

    We've all used the excuse, when a joke's recipient takes a cutting remark meant in jest as fact. Somehow the excuse is supposed to remove the sting. But in fact all such jests always have a modicum of truth thinly veiled in the humour. It is sometimes worth examining the truth that the humour exposes.

    "I'm just joking."

    We've all used the excuse, when a joke's recipient takes a cutting remark meant in jest as fact. Somehow the excuse is supposed to remove the sting. But in fact all such jests always have a modicum of truth thinly veiled in the hum...

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  • A Band of Love

    Music is also a part of death and dying, and there it is very noticeable, because it says a great deal about who we are as individuals and as a culture.

    We are surrounded by music; immersed; soaked in it. It's in our heads when we jog, when we drive, when we shop, when we go up elevators, when we watch sports, when we watch films, when we work. Music is a part of life, and yet we only notice it sometimes....

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  • Our Dystopian Rut

    Gene Rodenberry's Cold War idealism had company in others, like Isaac Asimov's Foundation series, in which psycho-history grounded an intellectual approach to the macroscopic manipulation of the rise and fall of empires. If it was possible, argued Asimov's science fiction, to know with certainty the position of every particle and speck in the universe at one moment, one could predict their movement and, thus, the future.

    I grew up on the cowboy colonialism of Captain James T. Kirk, during a Cold War that my students are taught, but no longer remember. Kirk was a lot of things: vain, ambitious, violent, domineering, a womanizer—absolutely no question there—and, certainly the...

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  • According to Doyle

    But if political Doyle deserves the fate of fictional Clancy's foes in the famous song from Jack Benny's 1940s radio show, TV critic Doyle is one of the most perspicacious fight pickers in the Globe and Mail's pages. Doyle made the point that he brings to his TV critic's role not only a wealth of journalistic experience but also a Master's degree in Anglo-Irish Studies from University College, Dublin. It was not braggadocio. It established his bona fides as a writer steeped in the milieu of the masters of English literature.

    Whenever Globe and Mail TV critic John Doyle gets my Irish up by straying into politics, I pray that Clancy will lower the boom boom boom on him.

    But if political Doyle deserves the fate of fictional Clancy's foes in ...

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  • God for Artists and Artists for God: Part 3

    We mustn't understand art simply as expression. This is how it becomes instrumental or utilitarian. Indeed, expression, it seems to me, is too restrictive and inappropriate a category to ground art from a Christian standpoint. Not to mention, too whimsical a characteristic to ascribe to art in general.

    (Parts one and two of this series can be found here and here, respectively.)...

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  • Outbreak of the Divine

    Discovering deep meaning in Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life.

    Vögelin's emphasis is on how every human soul undergoes experiences of the divine. In his 1966 German work, Anamnesis (from Plato's Greek word meaning "recollection" or "remembrance"), translated into English in 1978 (now included in Volume 6 of the 2002 ...

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  • Taking the Wide(r) Angle

    Theologian photographer, Christophe Potworowski makes the church newly visible in the world.

    Photography sounds easy. You see something you like, you click, and there you go. Yet most of the time, we end up photographing not what is in front of us but what is in our minds. We make reality fit our preconceptions: "This would make a great picture, it...

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