Last week my friend Tony and I attended Mass at the church of St. Dominic in San Francisco. It looks a little out of place in the middle of San Francisco with its neo-Gothic architecture, but it is so beautiful compared to its surroundings that it might be better to say that St. Dominic's makes the other buildings look out of place--"What are you even doing here, O pedestrian product of 1970's fashions?" The inside is filled with the stained glass, statues, and other ornate intricacies one would expect of a church of this sort. As an added bonus, the music for that Mass (Epiphany Sunday) was from the Ceremony of Carols by the 20th century British composer Benjamin Britten. (The choir director at the church is himself a Brit.) A very English feel to the compositions, which is a good thing in my book, as I love the English choral tradition. The sights and sounds lent a serenity and a solemnity to the Mass, just as the aesthetic dimensions of the liturgy ought.
Mass was followed by lunch at an Italian sandwich shop in the City called Giordano's. The place is famed for its "all in one" sandwiches: for example, we each got a kielbasa and capacola sandwich with coleslaw, french fries, and a fried egg all between the two slices of bread. It was massive and delicious and will probably cut three months off of my lifespan.
We also stopped by the shrine of St. Francis in the city that bears his name. The shrine includes an exact replica of the Portiuncula church which Francis restored in the town of Assisi 900 years ago. The replica is even constructed of stones brought back from Assisi!
Alas, the next day was a sad day as my beloved Fighting Irish had the tar knocked out of them by the dynastic Crimson Tide of Alabama. Next year, Irish... next year. Good season, boys.
Apart from working, seeing as how there were few folks around since it's still early in the winter break (classes don't start again until February 4), I took the opportunity to see a few movies I'd wanted to see for a while, including:
Gone with the Wind - One of the greatest movies ever made and the all-time box office champ when numbers are adjusted for inflation. Every major element of a movie is done exceedingly well in this one. Good story? Check. Good acting? Check. Good scenery and cinematography? Check. Good character development? Check. Good dialogue? Check. Featuring a total dish like Vivien Leigh? Check. I can see what all the hubbub is about.
The Searchers - Widely regarded as the best western ever made, it tells the story of a man (John Wayne) who spends years searching for his niece who has been kidnapped by Comanches. It's simultaneously gritty and funny and has a romantic subplot that works well where similar attempts in other movies feel forced or flat.
Lincoln - Yes, I do see new movies on occasion, too. I'd been waiting for this one for a while, and it didn't disappoint. It addresses the greatest crisis in our nation's history and does it justice, historically and dramatically. Daniel Day-Lewis is a lock to win Best Actor for capturing our greatest president so well: Lincoln the lawyer, Lincoln the story-teller, Lincoln the devoted father, Lincoln the crusader, Lincoln the compromiser. If you haven't seen it, DO SO.