Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington



From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302


Media Watch
A look at Herman Hesse; prayer from Notre Dame; ‘Morning Glory’ is ‘enjoyable and relaxing’

by Father Tom Caswell, for the Inland Register

(From the December 16, 2010 edition of the Inland Register)

Movie Reviews

Naomi Watts owns the new film Fair Game, even playing against Sean Penn as her husband. She does a terrific job as Valerie Plame, the CIA agent revealed in the controversy over whether there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq when the United States invaded in 2003.

Fair Game is as a contemporary history film from the point of view of Plame and her husband, Joseph Wilson.

We learn very early in the film that Plame is an important player in world events as a secret CIA agent. Because her husband was an ambassador in Africa during the Clinton years he is asked by the CIA to verify if there are special tubes in Niger being sold to Iraq for nuclear purposes. He finds no tubes, but later a statement by the British that there were tubes is used as one of the reasons for invading Iraq by the government. In July of 2003 Joseph Wilson writes a famous column in the New York Times that said the U. S. government misled the people over the question of tubes from Niger and weapons of mass destruction.

As the story continues, Scooter Libby from the Vice-President’s Office leaks information to a columnist to reveal that Plame is a CIA agent. The movie shows what happens to Plame’s personal and public life as a result of the publication of her job.

In many ways, this is also the story of family life and all the ramifications of revealing who secret agents are.

I must admit the heavy use of a jumpy, hand-held camera designed to make us feel more than a little uneasy seemed over-the-top to me.

If you like history and like to see recent history put together in a story form from a particular point of view, you should find Fair Game an interesting, educational and chilling film.

Fair Game is rated PG-13 for language by the Motion Picture Association of America. The Catholic News Service has not rated it yet. I would guess the film would be appropriate for older teens and adults.

*****

I saw the film Morning Glory with my sister when I was in Minnesota in mid-November. She liked the film very much. I did laugh out loud quite a few times.

The film twists the traditional romantic comedy genre around more than a little bit. Rachel McAdams as Becky Fuller moves from a New Jersey early morning show after being let go to become the new producer of the lowest-rated network morning show titled Daybreak. How she rapidly moves up the ladder to a looser national show is more than a bit hard to believe, but go with it. This film is confection to enjoy.

Her new job looks a little like a deathtrap, but Becky goes out and recruits (against his will) a Dan Rather-type character named Mike Pomeroy (Harrison Ford) who has been let go from the evening news but is still under contract with the network. He is to join Colleen Peck (Diane Keaton) as a co-anchor that does “happy talk.” But Pomeroy won’t do “happy talk,” so Daybreak is in danger of dying.

Becky resorts to all kinds of entertaining features that drive Pomeroy up the wall. But eventually because of his past news contacts Pomeroy gets an exclusive on a major story involving the governor of New York.

Morning Glory is about the dumbing down of the news to get ratings. It is not about the high-minded reporting of the day’s news. But in the process there is lot to laugh about.

McAdams does a yeoman job as the “happy talk” producer who is going to survive in a cut-throat business no matter what. Ford is great as the newscaster past his prime. Diane Keaton is terrific as a somewhat babbling co-anchor who will do anything to keep the show going.

Morning Glory is an enjoyable and relaxing film that will keep you laughing if you go with the flow.

The Motion Picture Association of America rates Morning Glory PG-13 (Parents strongly cautioned). Catholic News Service rates the film A-III-for adults.

Book Review

Last summer someone suggested I read Hermann Hesse’s 1943 novel The Glass Bead Game. I had tried to read Hesse’s Siddhartha 40 years ago and had not gotten very far in reading the book.

About the same time I began reading The Glass Bead Game, I read in The Tablet, a Catholic newspaper published in London, that after the Scriptures, Pope Benedict’s favorite books are The Confessions of St. Augustine and Hermann Hesse’s The Glass Bead Game. So this knowledge pushed me to read the whole book even though it took me a while to get into the story.

The Introduction, revised by Theodore Ziolkowski in 1989, was helpful. It was most helpful after reading it a second and third time when I was well into the book. I must admit I am surprised when he says there is quite a bit of humor in the story. I missed seeing that.

The more I got into the book, however, the more it struck me that this book is particularly helpful for those who find themselves in a position of power, whether it is in government, business, or church.

The story takes place in the 25th century. There is a province called Castalia that draws elite candidates through a long period of education to be protectors of what is called the glass bead game. The game is some kind of cultural event that holds the province in peace. The game reminds me of the life of beauty and culture that Stephan Dedalus found to replace his religious faith in James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.

The main character of The Glass Bead Game is Joseph Knecht, who we follow through his life of education to becoming the Magister Ludi, the protector of the Game. In fact, the original translation of this book in English was titled Magister Ludi. So we follow a very talented young man through his studies, his love of music, and several years in a Benedictine monastery.

The Glass Bead Game does not follow fictional realism in the sense of many novels and films. Hesse is not in the tradition of Ibsen or Dickens. What we have are some very thoughtful discussion of life and death, philosophy and some theology as different characters state their views. We know from the Introduction that several of the characters are based on historic persons, such as Friedrich Nietzsche, Jakob Burckhardt and Thomas Mann.

The story centers on Joseph Knecht following all the rules in good faith and rising to one of the most powerful places in the society of Castalia. But he always wonders if he needs to let go of all that he has accomplished. He wonders if there is something more to life in a real-world setting outside the province of Castalia. He feels he is missing something very real. He would like to be an ordinary teacher. So we walk with Joseph as he seeks to understand the meaning of life.

The ending of the main story is rather abrupt after all the slow meandering through many discussions of life. There seems to be a desire for spirituality separate from religion. In the end this is a challenging book. I may well have missed much of its meaning. However, there is something about this novel, whether the pope likes it or not, that seems like you are on a retreat and helps the reader face into the basic questions of life.

It took me a long time to get through The Glass Bead Game, but I have to say that it was worth the effort.

The book is published by Picador-Henry Holt and Company of New York with a list price of $16.

Recently Received

If you know anyone who is or has been connected to Notre Dame University in Indiana, there is wonderful new book out that would make a great gift, The Notre Dame Book of Prayer, published in hardcover by Ave Maria Press for list price of $27.95.

Each of the 12 chapters on various forms of prayer begins with a picture and story about a place on the Notre Dame campus. These interesting articles center on say the dorms, the stadium, or the Basilica of the Sacred Heart.

The prayers are very wide and useful in any family. They vary from the rosary to blessings to prayers for peace and justice. If you are looking for a prayer or blessing for a special event you may well find it here. The book has an excellent Index that enables you to find the prayer you are looking for.

The Notre Dame Book of Prayer is a book you might keep handy on a coffee table. It is a book that can be used by children through adults. It is first-class addition to books on prayer.

*****

My sister, Patricia, lives in Hastings, Minn. She recently handed me a prayer card she received in her parish. The card is a Prayer for the Beatification of Venerable Solanus Casey, a Capuchin priest who lived at one time in nearby Prescott and Hudson, Wis. Early on, his mother had been in the parish choir at one of the parishes in Hastings.

The story of Father Solanus Casey is told in the 11th printing in May of 2010 of the biography by James Patrick Derum. The biography is titled The Porter of Saint Bonaventure’s: The Life of Father Solanus Casey, Capuchin.

There is a Pacific Northwest connection. In the Epilogue – 2010 section there are short pieces from Holy Names Sisters Sister Anne McCluskey and Anne Herkenrath, who are relatives.

If you have heard of Father Casey and want to know more about his life, whether it be in Wisconsin, New York City, or Detroit, here is the book for you.

(Father Caswell is Inland Register archivist.)


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