Thursday, October 22, 2020

Without a Doubt, James Randi is Dead

 

 
A few hours ago I read in the New York Times:
 
"James Randi, a MacArthur award-winning magician who turned his formidable savvy to investigating claims of spoon bending, mind reading, fortunetelling, ghost whispering, water dowsing, faith healing, U.F.O. spotting and sundry varieties of bamboozlement, bunco, chicanery, flimflam, flummery, humbuggery, mountebankery, pettifoggery and out-and-out quacksalvery, as he quite often saw fit to call them, died on Tuesday at his home in Plantation, Fla. He was 92."
 

Friday, October 9, 2020

Four Years Ago in Paris with Saint Denis


 
With today being the feast day of Saint Denis the first Bishop of Paris, I was reminded of where I was four years ago this day. Being in Paris myself, I was considering whether or not I would visit the Basilica of Saint Denis on his feast day. I decided not to visit, figuring it would probably be very busy and prevent me from exploring the basilica to my satisfaction, so I put it off for the next day. The next day I took a cab from my hotel, which was right across the street from Sorbonne University in the Latin Quarter, and finally arrived at the Basilica of Saint Denis nearly an hour later, being in a northern suburb of the city.

The Basilica of Saint Denis was one of my favorite places to visit in Paris. This basilica was the first to use all the elements of gothic architecture. It is an absolutely beautiful medieval building. As you walk through this basilica, it is as if you are walking through the long history of Paris, in all its glory. Forty-two kings, 32 queens, 63 princes and princesses and 10 great men of the realm lay there, both in the crypt below and the main part of the church above. It is truly a space for the living and the dead, where the reposed sleep under a heavenly glow. Most fascinating is the imagery of Saint Denis, who is often depicted carrying his decapitated head. The basilica remains a vivid example of the beginnings of the Gothic movement and a laboratory to study the careful and brilliant transition from late Romanesque to Gothic style.
 

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

The Best Sermon I Ever Experienced


As I was reading a sermon of St. Kosmas the Aitolos the other day on his feast day, I was thinking what that sermon must have been like for his listeners. I imagined an educated monk with an ascetic appearance from Mount Athos coming into an 18th century Greek village made up of mostly an illiterate population, hungry to learn and to be guided and to be inspired in a time of harsh oppression. They were like sheep without a shepherd surrounded by wolves, but then a saintly shepherd appears in their midst and offers them some refreshment. This made me think of the closest experience I ever had to such a thing, having heard at least a few stand out sermons in my life. Nothing really can compare. However, when I think of the absolute best sermon I ever heard, my mind always goes to the same one.

It was the evening before the feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos, around 26 years ago, when it was my first year in seminary, and I had gone to a local church outside of Boston dedicated to the Dormition of the Theotokos, where the Lamentations to the Theotokos were movingly chanted that night over a decorated replica of her tomb. The fairly large church was full inside, with people pouring out into the parking lot outside, and the Bishop was serving, together with at least a dozen priests. I sat somewhere around the fifth or sixth row to the left, with a clear view of the pulpit. I didn't know who was going to be preaching the sermon that night, but before he came out the church was dimly lit, primarily by the candles, the people sat down, with the service having ended, then up to the pulpit walked a Greek monk from Mount Athos, with an ascetic appearance, long white beard and hair in a ponytail, dressed in a black cassock.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

The Stench of Hagia Sophia (part two)


On July 24th I wrote about the future stench of Hagia Sophia due to the fact that as a mosque it is now required for people to enter Hagia Sophia barefoot onto a carpeted floor. Over time, especially in popular mosques that bring in a lot of people, the carpets begin to contain a horrendous odor. Even though the Muslim worshipers are required to wash their feet before entering, visitors and non-Muslims are not, which makes these popular mosques especially stinky. In the future, those who want to spend some time in Hagia Sophia will have to contend against the inevitable stench.

Friday, July 24, 2020

The Stench of Hagia Sophia


In the Russian Primary Chronicle it is reported that in the year 987, after consultation with his boyars, Vladimir the Great sent envoys to study the religions of the various neighboring nations whose representatives had been urging him to embrace their respective faiths. The result is described by the chronicler Nestor. Of the Muslim Bulgarians of the Volga the envoys reported there is no gladness among them, only sorrow and a great stench. But in Constantinople they found their ideal: "We no longer knew whether we were in heaven or on earth," they reported, describing a majestic Divine Liturgy in Hagia Sophia, "nor such beauty, and we know not how to tell of it." This impressed Vladimir enough to embrace Orthodox Christianity for himself and his people.

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Top Ten Movies of 2020 (So Far)


With a little more than half of 2020 past us, in a time when the pandemic has left us with little else to do but watch movies, yet without many new movies being released, I decided to finally make my list of the top ten movies of 2020 so far. I wasn't going to make this list, because at least 90% of the movies I've seen since March have been pre-2020 releases primarily in drive-in theaters, and my mind hasn't really been focused on new movies. But before March I saw most of the new movies released, and since then I've seen a few though I am woefully behind and need to catch up. I typically don't like to watch movies at home unless it is a movie I have little hope of ever seeing in the theater, so watching a movie at home becomes a last resort. I'm typically very strict in ranking films I only watch in the theater, and I've tried to make my present list reflect those I have seen in theaters, though to reflect the times I did add two that I saw at home. This list may be very different a month from now after I attempt to catch up on films from 2020 that are currently streaming, but as of now here is my list.

Friday, July 3, 2020

Three Personal Experiences with Indiana Jones


A few days ago I had the opportunity to see Raiders of the Lost Ark and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom on the big screen at a drive-in theater, two movies I have watched numerous times, though it's been many years since I have seen either one. Seeing them again helped me recall three personal experiences I have had with the Indiana Jones series.

First of all, I consider Raiders of the Lost Ark to be a perfect movie and I would easily place it in my top ten list of favorite films. When I was in high school my history teacher used Indiana Jones as an example for something, I can't recall what exactly, and he mentioned how his adventures brought him to Africa, Asia, Italy, Germany and the Middle East. Being an Indiana Jones fan as well as Greek I couldn't let him get away without also mentioning Greece. When I added that he also went to Greece as well, he was a bit bewildered, and was trying to think at what point Indiana Jones went to Greece. Then I helped him remember that in Raiders of the Lost Ark, after they found the Ark of the Covenant in Egypt, the Germans brought it by ship to a Nazi occupied Aegean island just north of Crete, where the Jewish ritual took place and they opened the Ark. Though the island is fictional in the movie, still the map that shows the island in the movie is a Greek island. My teacher then confessed that he never noticed that before and would pay more careful attention next time. The next day my teacher told me that he rented Raiders of the Lost Ark after school the day before, and he confirmed that I was right.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Updates and News


As some may have noticed, and I know some did, I've been a bit slower than usual these past few weeks in my output of posts for the Mystagogy Resource Center. This has been mainly for four reasons.

1. There has been a lot of crazy stuff in the news over the past few weeks - not just with the riots and the virus and the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man and Godzilla and all that, but also within the Church. And when there is crazy stuff in the news, people give in to the craziness and become a little crazy themselves. I try to read the atmosphere in which I decide to put things out into the world, and it seems like the last thing people wanted was what I have to offer. It is always my goal to never be bothered by anything that goes on the world, at least not too much, which is why every time I wrote something I realized that people would have absolutely no interest in this right now, so I'm just gonna wait.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Reading "Dracula" According to its Own Timeline


Since it's World Goth Day, I thought I would reveal a current project I am hoping to get through. It should be easy enough and so far so good.

Dracula is definitely one of my favorite novels of all time, but it's been a while since I read it. For a long time I have said that I wanted to read it according to its own timeline. The novel is written in a diary format and takes place chronologically and largely in England and Transylvania within the same year between 3 May and 6 November.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Remembering Dr. Ravi Zacharias


In March 2020, it was revealed that world-renowned Christian apologist and evangelist Ravi Zacharias had been diagnosed with a malignant and rare cancer within his spine. With sadness, he succumbed this morning to this cancer that crept into his life a few months ago. He was 74 years old.

I can't say I knew Ravi personally, but I did take two courses of his while I was a student in Charlotte, North Carolina. One course was on World Religions and the other was an Introduction to Christian Apologetics. Pretty much the entire school took those two classes, being a popular and celebrity name, so it was almost impossible to interact with him during that time, though we did meet and I even have a few photos with him somewhere. If there is one thing I remember about meeting him, is that he was a very gentle and humble man, always with a smile on his face. In the classroom, he taught from a level of deep knowledge and personal experience, and you left every class not only better informed on a particular subject, but even inspired since he couldn't help but teach without his words invading your heart as well as your mind.

Monday, May 18, 2020

Not an Obsolete Debate


I think now is a good time to think about human freedom and whether or not our rights come from God or from the government. After all, the Declaration of Independence, by way of justifying the enormous steps the Founding Fathers were about to take, states “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” And “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men . . .” That is, first comes the Creator, who then endows his creatures with “certain unalienable rights,” and then the creatures form governments to “secure those rights.” Does the government today, not only on the federal level but on the local state level, recognize the fact that they are merely in existence to secure the unalienable rights endowed on humanity by the Creator, or do they think that our rights come from the government itself? This is an interesting debate that is going on in our country today.

Friday, May 15, 2020

Covid 19: Judgment Day


A few weeks ago I recorded my thoughts on the state of the world in the current circumstance we are in, told through some of my experiences since I last wrote about them on March 16th, and I concluded with my opinion on these matters and what should be done now. I got into some political issues as well. I never published this. It totaled 23 pages in length, written quickly with many random thoughts. I was going to publish it here. As I thought about it, it was decided by me to delete it and wipe it from existence. Even though I stand by everything that was written, I thought it best to not share with the public. This was my judgment, and I stand by it.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Why I Watch "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" Every Year on the Sunday After Easter


When I returned from a trip to Paris a few years back, I started a tradition of watching different versions of The Hunchback of Notre Dame every year on the Sunday after Easter, which is known as Thomas Sunday or in the West as the Octave of Easter. The reason I do this is because I love the story and because of the link with the name of the hunchback: Quasimodo.

The deformed Quasimodo is described by Victor Hugo as "hideous" and a "creation of the devil". He was born with a severe hunchback, and a giant wart that covers his left eye. He was born to a Gypsy tribe, but due to his monstrous appearance he was switched during infancy with a physically normal baby girl, Agnes. After being discovered, Quasimodo is exorcised by Agnes's mother (who believed that the Gypsies ate her child) and taken to Paris, where he is found abandoned in Notre Dame (on the foundlings' bed, where orphans and unwanted children are left to public charity) on Quasimodo Sunday, the First Sunday after Easter, by Claude Frollo, the Archdeacon of Notre Dame, who adopts the baby, names him after the day the baby was found, and brings him up to be the bell-ringer of the Cathedral.

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Movie Recommendation For The Times We Live In


In December 2019 it was announced that a local movie theater was going to be screening a film from 1950 directed by the acclaimed Greek director Elia Kazan called Panic in the Streets. This was a Kazan film that I had never seen before, so I bought my ticket in advance for the one night only showing which was to take place on February 10th. This film was part of a monthly popular series at this theater called "Science on Screen", which I attend every month, where they invite a local specialist in a scientific field to give a scientific introduction to a film. For this film they invited a local microbiologist who is working on the growing threat of antibiotic resistance, so she was going to talk about this and the new approaches that are being developed to control bacterial infections.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Random Coronavirus Thoughts


Living in a city where the authorities are daily pushing healthy people more and more into isolation in the name of safe social distancing, I spent the past weekend as I normally do, save for the few places I like to frequent that have been shut down for the next month or so. I wanted to test the waters and give it time to see if all the hype is justified. In other words, I have not been practicing social distancing that much. Instead, here is what my weekend was like.

First, before this whole coronavirus panic started, I was writing a short post for my Honey and Hemlock website on author Mary Shelley and her views on Greeks and her references to Constantinople in her writings. She is famous of course for writing Frankenstein, but she is also the author of a lesser known novel called The Last Man. The Last Man is basically about a plague that emerges in Constantinople and spreads over to Greece, with Greeks being main characters in the story, and from there throughout the entire world until finally a last man survives. I read the book many years ago, and as I was writing I realized I needed to read this book again. The next day, the coronavirus panic began, and I began to slowly reread The Last Man. If anyone is looking for good reading material during this epidemic, I highly recommend The Last Man by Mary Shelley.

Monday, March 9, 2020

The Many Religious Roles of Max von Sydow


The world was informed this morning of the loss of one of the great actors of our time this past Sunday at the age of 90 - Max von Sydow. Despite being, according to reports, an agnostic or an atheist, he could probably be credited with playing the most religious roles of any other actor throughout his career in which he featured in more than 100 films and TV series.

Max von Sydow has actually been on my mind this past week. In the past few days alone I have purchased tickets to three films he is in that will be soon shown by a few local theaters on the big screen. The first is The Exorcist which I will see in a few weeks, the second The Greatest Story Ever Told which will be shown on Catholic Good Friday, and the third is Shutter Island which I will see at the location where it was filmed in a few months. These are the only shows I have purchased in advance because they are all sure to sell out, and the common denominator in all of them is that they feature Max von Sydow.

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

The Year I Kept the Holy Three-Day Fast at the Beginning of Great Lent


When I was fifteen my grandmother in Greece told me how she once met a monk who ate or drank absolutely nothing for the entire first week of Great Lent beginning on Clean Monday until after the Divine Liturgy on the first Saturday of Great Lent. The only other ascetic feat I remember her telling me about this monk was that every time it rained he would go up to the roof and stand outside with his face upwards towards the sky until the rain stopped. I was fascinated by this, and it was the first time I ever heard about the tradition of keeping a strict fasting rule for the first week of Great Lent. It was then that I also learned about the tradition of keeping a three-day fast from Clean Monday, or more specifically from Forgiveness Sunday Vespers, till after the Presanctified Liturgy on Clean Wednesday, during which time absolutely no food or even water is permitted. When I asked my pious grandmother if she ever did it, she replied no, because of its great difficulty.

Monday, February 10, 2020

Thoughts on the Academy Awards


Watching the Academy Awards every year usually diminishes the exciting films I enjoy watching throughout the year. It's long, mostly boring, and it takes itself too seriously at times and not serious enough at other times. No wonder every year its ratings get worse and worse. I'm not arguing in favor of a short and fun Academy Awards ceremony, but I am arguing in favor of it being more interesting. Of the 3.5 hours or so last night, I think only about 3 or 4 minutes was interesting. In order for the Academy Awards to be great, at least half of it should be interesting. I've studied many films, I know what makes them interesting, but you never get the sense that films can be interesting by watching the Academy Awards. Many critics argue that the reason the Academy Awards tanks every year is because they talk about boring subjects and films no one watches. They think the answer is to get rid of certain segments, make the show more fun, and reward films people actually see. I sort of disagree with all these approaches. The answer is to get people so interested and excited about the films nominated and awarded, that they will want to go out and see the films as soon as humanly possible, and if they have seen them they should inspire them to want to watch them again.

Saturday, February 1, 2020

The Birth of Sci-Fi Cinema


I just realized today that it's been a month since I wrote anything here, so I figured I should write something. It was a busy January and didn't have much time to write anything for this website. My last post was on my favorite films of 2019. To continue the movie theme, two things I did in January was begin a seminar at Harvard University on the Nine Silent Films of Alfred Hitchcock, which is still underway for the next two weeks, and the other seminar that I just completed Thursday was on the Birth of Sci-Fi Cinema. The nine silent films of Hitchcock can easily be looked up, and I highly recommend them all if you're a Hitchcock fan, but below I will list all the films I saw this past week on the big screen related to the birth of sci-fi cinema, all of which were excellent films and highly recommended, especially if you can catch them some time on the big screen. So if you're interested in sci-film films and were interested in the origin of them, check these out:

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Top Twenty Movies of 2019


20. Judy



19. Knives Out



18. Long Day’s Journey Into Night



17. Midsommar



16. Us



15. The Lighthouse



14. American Woman



13. Honeyland



12. John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum



11. Marriage Story



10. Uncut Gems



9. Ford v Ferrari



8. Little Women



7. 1917



6. Joker



5. Jojo Rabbit



4. Avengers: Endgame



3. The Irishman



2. Parasite



1. Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood