A Mid-Week Musical Treat
A Couple of Numbers from Swing Time


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Well, there are a lot more people at my reformed seminary dressed in Halloween-ish attire--not costumes, just orange and black and pumpkin decorations on their clothing, etc.--than like Martin Luther.

I haven't heard Restoration Day mentioned, but I didn't go to chapel.


'Tis the season of misshapen monstrosities, both sartorial and doctrinal.

There is a really disconcerting costume running around here. Not the costume itself, but the fact that the person is wearing it, and *nobody* else is wearing anything out of the ordinary.

We have frequently traveled on the last weekend of October, and I never think about it until we stop at a restaurant and I notice that the waiters all look kind of weird.

That's nice, Craig.


Did Luther pick the eve of All Saints on purpose?

No idea.

Had never thought about this, or maybe even known about it.

Here’s what the Lutherans have to say:

Oct. 31, the date that Lutherans observe as Reformation Day, is also the eve of All Saints Day (All Hallows Day), commonly known in today’s culture as Halloween.

Naturally, Luther was concerned with debating his theses, not marking the pagan Celtic festival of the dead, which was also their new year.

In the eighth century, Pope Gregory II moved the date of All Saints Day to Nov. 1, thus offering a substitute of the popular celebration of the Celtic new year.

The pagan festival embodied the belief that the dead rose to mingle with the living on that date, and any ghosts who visited the houses were greeted with tables loaded with food.

After feasting, villagers would don costumes representing the souls of the dead and parade to the outskirts of town.

Historically, Christians observed All Hallows Day to honor all saints in heaven. At the time of Luther it was one of the most solemn observances of the church year.

Among other reasons, Luther chose this day to post his theses because more people than usual would be attending worship services.

Pretty funny how that worked out.

I read somewhere recently that the idea of All Saints being moved deliberately to counter a pagan festival is not true, but I don't know where it was now. Would a pope in the 8th c have known or cared about a Celtic festival?

Yes and I think it turns out that Christmas was not placed there in the calendar to take over the Winter Soltice pagan festivities either.

Of course, here it's in summer... just to be really confusing :)

So maybe Luther planned Reformation Day to coincide with the pagan festival. ;-)


And the 95 (?) theses were placed in a pumpkin, not nailed to the cathedral door.

Not being Pharisaical, I hope, but I think it's a good thing, in a sense, how Catholic Protestants have become. One meets almost as many Protestants as Catholics on the camino to Santiago.

I think it's a great thing on the whole. I see things sometimes that are not so great, like a tendency to make various pieces of Catholicism toys in a syncretist approach, but, like I said, on the whole...

Just found an interesting list of Martin Luther trivia over at the PBS website. This bit may be the best explanation for why October 31 was the day picked for nailing up the 95 theses on the church door in Wittenberg:

Although Luther objected to the holy relics he discovered in Rome, there were at least as many on his own doorstep. The Castle Church of Wittenberg contained a collection of over 1500 relics including bones of saints and bits of the true cross. Every All Saints day, these would be spread on the grass in front of the church for the local populace to come and gaze at.

Since the theses were largely a protest against the practice of indulgences and a person could earn an indulgence by viewing holy relics, Luther’s timing seems perfect.

Something else that made the list:

Luther thoroughly approved even advocated drinking heavily. When a young man wrote to him complaining of despair at the prospect of going to hell, Luther wrote back advising him to go and get drunk. That, he said, was what he did when he felt despair.


That does make sense. I have to admit that I've never been 100% on board with the relics thing myself. I understand it completely in the abstract, but have never shaken the feeling that it's just...weird.

I have a hard time believing in the authenticity of many individual relics I come across (a relic of St Peter? really?), but I love the idea and the ones I do trust to be real. Maybe it comes of growing up madly saving souvenirs of everything--every birthday card, every letter, programs from every play I saw.

But if you want weird... I read that when St Francis Xavier died, his body was exhibited for the veneration of the faithful and one pilgrim, kneeling piously at the foot of the bier, bit off his toe and took it home in her mouth.

Ok, that's very much in the running for Weirdest of All.

Souvenirs, yes--I do that, too--big file full of birthday and Father's Day cards the children made or sent to me over the years. It's when the souvenir is a body part that I get uneasy.

I understand it completely in the abstract, but have never shaken the feeling that it's just...weird.

Nothing like a good relic, IMO, especially body parts. :)

Maclin - totally OT - have you ever seen "The English Patient"? I watched it the other night and would love to discuss it.

Maybe I should just start a blog again...

My mother took me to see that on my birthday one year. Ugh.


It's when the souvenir is a body part that I get uneasy.

Do you know Tom Lehrer's song "I Hold your Hand in Mine, Dear"?

Yes, I have seen it, but I don't think I remember it well enough to discuss. I remember what happened to the guy's hand, and some sort of sex/nudity scene, and not much more...you can see where my mind runs. I also remember that it was rather richly photographed. I really don't think I had a very strong reaction, but I think it was more negative than positive...as I think more about it, the word "over-rated" is coming to mind. So what did you think about it, Louise? I think Janet's reaction, though brief, is pretty clear.:-)

Or "Margaret's Museum," either the movie or the Sheldon Currie short story it's based on?

No, I don't know that Lehrer song, but I think I get the idea, and I'm laughing. Don't know Margaret's Museum, either.

You've reminded me of this.

Which, be warned, is really pretty gruesome.

It was beautiful to look at, but it was about a terrible person and in the end, his nurse euthanized him.


I AM curious Louise, what you wanted to say about it.


What's this I hear about not liking The English Patient? Say it's not so.

I haven't seen it in a few years, but it lives in my memory as a magnificent film. The cinematography alone ought to be enough to recommend it, but the story is great too: the desert setting, the war, Herodotus, and that heart-breaking scene in the Cave of Swimmers. And Ralph Fiennes. And that woman.

Of course, I am from Canada, where it is forbidden to think badly of Michael Ondaatje or anything associated with him.

But I honestly do like the film!

(And the book is good too.)

Well, there's nothing more dangerous than a well-done film that leaves you feeling good about adultery, betraying your country and euthanasia.


It's funny that I'm so vague about it. It just didn't make that big an impression on me.

You got me there, Janet! Good one.

But wait a minute: there wasn't actually any euthanasia, was there? Was the English Patient euthanized? I don't remember that part.

The adultery was awful, of course, but I though it was portrayed as such. Certainly it was shown as mad and compulsive.

As for treason, Ondaatje's working thesis in the book was that "people are the real countries". The English Patient was just a post-nationalist! He didn't think his country better than others. I can see why you may not like that, but I assure you it's as Canadian as beaver tails and moose droppings.

I seem to remember that his betrayal resulted in the death of a lot of innocent people. And yes, she did do something that caused him to die at the end of the movie. I can't remember what.


Yes, you're right, he did terrible things. I may have to reconsider my admiration for this film.

But it was really beautiful. ;-)


Finally, I have the chance to hop on here and give my impressions.

The first thing to note is that I had no idea at all about the movie - only that it was famous and I'd heard of it.

I rather liked the plot, overall, and I liked most of the characters - just not the English Patient (actually Hungarian?), Almasy, and not the married woman he had the affair with, Katherine. I liked most of the other characters, especially the nurse.
The plot didn't really *require* that Almasy be euthanased, or that he be so unattractive romantically (although I did find him to be otherwise quite interesting) and it did not require his lover, a fairly newly wedded wife, to be basically a Dumb B*tch. (With small boobs- which is not a big problem, but if I really must see nudity on TV, then there should be something to look at. But maybe Hollywood was going through a Be Nice To Small-breasted Women phase or something). I'm not even sure the plot absolutely required adultery either. Also, I hate hate hate sex scenes on TV. Yuck. Get out of my face. I'd rather be enjoying it myself than watching on the TV.

Now let me tell you what I really think!

I cannot understand why this woman had the affair in the first place and why on Earth with Almasy - it made absolutely no sense at all. None.

I didn't like the fact that the nurse euthanased Almasy at his obvious but non-verbal request with an overdose of morphine.

I did like the scenery ;)

And Colin Firth.

And I really liked Kip, except that in the end he was too lame to actually propose to the nurse, Hannah. Lame lame lame.

I have come to the conclusion that moderns/secularists have no sense of the romantic at all, or rather, a perverse one. They fall in love and sometimes do very romantic things, except the most romantic thing - to marry. And then remain faithful. They have sex a lot, which seems to be about the only thing of which they are capable.

And when they try to be poetic and deeply meaningful (as at the last words of the dying Katherine) - be prepared to spew.

So, an aggravating movie b/c it really could have been great but it just wasn't. Such a let down.

But at least it was pretty.

Not that I'm opinionated or anything :)

The adultery was awful, of course, but I though it was portrayed as such. Certainly it was shown as mad and compulsive.

I'd agree with this.

I cannot believe it took me about 36 hours to finally respond to my own topic!

I'm going to be away from computers most of the day, but I just wanted to express agreement with this:

"I have come to the conclusion that moderns/secularists have no sense of the romantic at all, or rather, a perverse one."

I've had a similar thought, and watching old (roughly pre-1965) movies often provokes it. I can think of some exceptions, and I'm sure there are others that I don't know about, but at the very least this is a *very* strong tendency.

Louise, I started to say something similar about his lover's figure, or lack of it. ;-) And about why she had the affair. She had this excellent husband--Mr. Darcy, after all!

You're right about the plot not requiring all those elements, although some of them really happened, and it was the actual events that prompted the book and movie.


It's a long time ago I saw The English Patient, and it didn't make much of an impression on me (for all that my grandfather served in Italy with the Royal Engineers), but I'm trying to remember now who betrayed their country, and how.

Given that the Hungarian surveyor/spy that the title character is based on was an active homosexual, a flat-chested lover may have had a certain appeal.

Am I the only one who is just plain creeped out by Ralph Fiennes? Not sure if I’ve ever seen him do a sympathetic character. I always see the guy from Schindler’s List.

I didn't realise the book/movie was based on real events. That does account for the plot.

Almasy being a homosexual perhaps accounts for his unattractiveness as the romantic interest, although maybe Marianne is right about the actor. I can't recall having seen him in other films, so I can't address the possibe creepiness of the actor.

As far as the story goes, it's biggest downfall for me is that the affair is so unbelievable - at least it made no sense to me. As Janet says, why have an affair when you're married to Mr Darcy? And if you can't believe in a major aspect of the plot, then the story as story is ruined.

I was trying to work out why I dislike nudity in film so much. I really can't stand it unless it's absolutely necessary to the plot, in which case I don't really notice it.

I'm perfectly happy with classical nudity in paintings or sculpture, but for some reason in film (and on the stage) it just strikes me as terribly pretentious. Moderns/secularists seem to have the idea that it's very sophisticated or something, whereas to me it's just plain annoying and even childishly silly. By all means, show me a print of a beautiful painting of a nude woman (there is hardly anything better), but in film - keep those clothes on.

As far as the story goes, it's biggest downfall for me is that the affair is so unbelievable - at least it made no sense to me.

When I say it didn't make sense, I'm not really talking about the rational. Arguably, affairs never make any sense rationally, I just meant that at the emotional level it wasn't understandable either. I have seen other movies where the adultery was believable and understandable at the emotional level e.g. where a husband is a pretty bad sort of fellow and is cruel to his wife. This is a very dangerous type of movie to watch unless the adultery is shown to be bad in its effects or in principle etc.

oops! Italics off!

That's better :)


Is it fixed yet?

Maclin! Help! Help!

I really dislike Ralph Fiennes. I disliked him in EP, I really disliked him in The End of the Affair, but then I hated what they did to the movie, and I was overjoyed when they picked him to play Voldemort. Now there's an unsympathetic character.

I haven't seen Schindler's List.


I recently watched Greta Garbo’s Anna Karenina. Adultery, but in the context of a believable and romantic love affair, and for the reason you mention, Louise -- her husband was cold and detached and her lover a rather decent fellow. Ralph Fienne’s character in The English Patient, on the other hand, comes across as Rasputin-like, and not pleasant at all. So what we see isn’t anything romantic, just compulsive.

By the way, was it here on this blog that I learned about the book On Pilgrimage (about her experience of doing the Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage) by Fienne’s Catholic mother, Jennifer Lash? I think I found a copy of it in the library a couple of years ago, but can’t remember if I actually read it!

I don't remember that at all.


Well, I see you fixed it. Sorry, I've been gone all day.

I suppose I must have seen Ralph Fiennes (how do you say that?) in something besides the Potter movies, but I can't remember any. (EP, obviously, but equally obviously I don't remember anything much at all about it.)

It fixed itself when it had to go to a second page.


I found the defective tag and fixed it, too, so the first page is ok now.

Ralph Fiennes (how do you say that?)

I think it's something like "Rafe Fines."

For a long time I didn't know that the English "Ralph" is pronounced "Rafe," and I still forget it until reminded. Which reminds me of something that has puzzled me for a long time: why is it that Rafe Vaughan Williams's last name seems to be "Vaughan Williams," as if it were hyphenated, when it's not?

I was trying to work out why I dislike nudity in film so much.
I agree with you. In Margaret's Museum, which I mentioned above, Margaret's husband, a miner, sneaks her into the showers where the miners wash off at shift's end; it's a beautiful gift, because she's only ever bathed in a tin tub filled by hand, but the scene is spoiled by completely unnecessary views of her whole bare torso.

Maybe the difference is that in painting or sculpture the nudity that's depicted is a pose, not part of the subject's ordinary life. We're not really looking at the subject herself. (There are exceptions, such as the Maja Desnuda, and I find those more troubling to look at.) In a movie, the nudity comes while the character is doing whatever the action calls for, so it feels much more voyeuristic for us to see it--we're watching someone naked.

Yes, Anne-Marie, that sounds about right.

A tricky question. I don't know what the answer in the abstract is, or if there is one, but, just speaking practically for myself: I'm pretty sure it's not really possible for me to see a naked woman in a movie and not have it be...how to say this?...very definitely sexual.

And although I wouldn't conclude from that that it's *never* justifiable artistically, the presumption ought to be against it.

I think pronouncing Ralph as “Rafe” is rather unusual or even posh and that probably most British people would pronounce it the way Americans do -- the actor Ralph Richardson, for instance, put the “alph” in it.

A professor of philosophy at the University of Southern California, whose name is Ralph, talks a bit about the pronunciation here: http://www-bcf.usc.edu/~wedgwood/framesetpronunciation.html

Wikipedia says double-barreled last names can be with or without hyphens, so maybe just a personal preference? Some others without hyphens are Andrew Lloyd Webber, Helena Bonham Carter, and Kristin Scott Thomas.

I think it is pronounced Rafe, with no indication it has an 'L' in it. I know his nephew

Yes, the only reason I know of the "Rafe" pronunciation is hearing announcers on classical music radio use it. And I think Ralph Rackstraw in...which is it?...H.M.S. Pinafore, I think...is Rafe. And the only reason I know "Vaughan Williams" is the last name is that he gets alphabetized under V instead of W. I never thought of Lloyd Webber et al as last names. Well, it's good to know there is no arcane rule.

I never watched T.E.P. because I heard from several friends that it cast adultery in a positive light. All of Minghella's films were beautifully done, and he seemed to have a positive understanding of the power of love, which is something, but it also was a very "Romantic" understanding that falls rather short of the Christian ideal. (I think one can say the same thing about David Lynch, actually.)

I agree that Ralph Fiennes rarely plays sympathetic characters (with at least one major exception), but I generally find him to be an attractive unsympathetic character, as such things go. I liked him as the English Patient, and I also liked him in The End of the Affair (despite that film's problems). His Coriolanus from a year or two ago was also quite good; naturally he played the nasty title character. I've not seen the Harry Potter films, and I didn't know he played Voldemort. Does anyone remember him in Quiz Show? That was an excellent film, and he was both good (as an actor) and likable (as a flawed but sympathetic character).

About nudity in film, there are two main reasons why I do not like it. First, because I do like it. Second, because I always think of the circumstances under which I imagine it was filmed: a set, a crew standing around, people walking in and out, multiple cameras, multiple takes, etc. It feels exploitative to me.

I do remember Quiz Show, and I liked him in that. That was before I knew he was Ralph Fiennes. ;-)

It's funny, I never heard of the movie Coriolanus until I saw it while I was clicking around Netflix, trying to find something to watch. I didn't notice that RF was in it.

I agree completely with your second reason. I've often thought about that. I agree with your first reason for those that do like it, but I don't.


"...there are two main reasons why I do not like it. First, because I do like it."


I saw Coriolanus six weeks ago and thought it excellent. I have no objection to nudity in films.

Fiennes not only starred in Coriolanus, but directed it as well. (He didn't write it though.)

I'm really having a hard time visualizing a guy without a nose playing most of these characters, especially a romantic lead.

For those who haven't seen the Potter movies:


I was trying to work out why I dislike nudity in film so much.

I hate it, too. In Margaret's Museum, there's what could have been a lovely scene in which Margaret's miner husband sneaks her into the showers where the miners clean off at shift's end. It's a gift to her, because she has only ever bathed in a hand-filled tin tub, but the scene is spoiled by completely unnecessary frontal shots of her torso.

Maybe the difference between nudity in pictures or sculpture vs. nudity on stage or screen is that in pictures and sculpture we're not really looking at the model herself--she's posed for the occasion, usually with little context, rather than being depicted in her real life. (I can think of a couple of cases of less anonymous nude pictures, and they bother me more.) Stage or screen nudity is nudity of the character we are watching; it seems more voyeuristic.

I don't think that's especially applicable to my reaction, though it makes sense as a woman's reaction. There's something more subtle that makes the difference for me, something that makes the difference between sexualised and purely (or mostly aesthetic) nudity.

I can't remember its name now, and it wasn't very good, but there's a sort of feminist-y movie about Orthodox Jewish women seeking deeper spirituality (or something) in which several women--two young, one middle-aged, if I remember correctly--go into these baths at night for...well, I forget what for, but it's all meaningful 'n' stuff. The two flawlessly beautiful young women were shown fully nude, but the middle-aged one wasn't. I thought that sort of undermined any claim to artistic justification for the nudity.

Hmmm...thought I'd posted.

Oh, never mind--I just didn't see the second page of comments. Duh!

Craig, your second reason also applies to scenes involving children. I once knew someone whose twin sons together played a child's part in a soap opera. She yanked them from the show when the script called for a scene in which the child character walks in on his mother in bed with some man.

Nudity is just about always there for titillation purposes, isn’t it? And not really necessary to move the plot forward or develop the characters? Think of the classic, Double Indemnity. No nudity, but the scenes between Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray are pretty steamy.

Although the Europeans have been romping naked in films, well, forever, I used to think in American, and maybe British, films that it was a sign of an actress who was either always going to be a minor one or one who was “big” but fading.

I remember either Roger Ebert or Gene Siskel saying that the bathing scene in Witness (Peter Weir, 1985) was the only truly eloquent nude scene in American film history. Which would imply that most of the others were largely unnecessary, I guess?

I have some thoughts on a specific instance of this that I will put in a post in a day or two. But about children in movies like that: I've often thought about what a bad situation that is for children. Maybe even worse, really violent movies. And of course there's that species of filmmaker who thinks it's really funny to put risque or crude words in a child's mouth.

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