Thursday, April 28, 2016

Sweet, Sweet Doubletake — Forgotten Classics is "What's Hot" in iTunes

I was looking through What's Hot in Literature podcasts when I did a doubletake. Nice! I guess when you get past 300 episodes you get a nod sometimes.

I'm going to begin The Bat by Mary Roberts Rinehart this weekend. Swing by and let me read you one of my favorite Forgotten Classics.

Worth a Thousand Words: Portrait of Mary Sartoris

Frederic Leighton, Portrait of Mary Sartoris, c. 1860
via Arts Everyday Living

Well Said: Jesus' healings

Jesus' healings are not supernatural miracles in a natura world. They are the only truly "natural" things in a world that is unnatural, demonized, and wounded.
Jürgen Moltmann

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

These Just In — New Books You Don't Want to Miss

Thirteen "little sins" that, if left unconfessed, can have a serious impact on our spiritual lives. Through the author's honest (and sometimes funny) examination of these sins in her own life, as well as Church teaching, she gives us the tools to kick these bad habits before they kick us.
First of all, this is Elizabeth Scalia. That means a honest, humorous Catholic writer. Secondly, it is topic which is hits home. I believe I've mentioned before that my problem with confession is not the actual confessing. It is thinking of something to confess. And that is because, especially with my secular background, a lot of the "little" sins slip my mind or don't seem important or are really just a bad habit. Right?

Scalia ain't a gonna let us get away with that. And because she is also a warm and human writer who admits she is first in line for some of these, we don't feel so bad seeing where she's going. This is one I need to read.

This book narrates the harrowing and life-changing experiences of former abortion clinic workers, including those of the author, who once directed abortion services at a large Planned Parenthood clinic in Texas. These individuals, whose names have been changed to protect their identities, left their jobs in the abortion industry after experiencing a change of heart. They have come forward with their stories, not for fame or notoriety, but to shed light on the reality of abortion. They want their stories to change the lives of others for the better.
I did read chapter 4, "Daddy's Little Girl," because it caught my eye flipping through it. It touched me in a very personal way because I had a niece who was having some routine surgery done in a clinic and she almost died because of blood loss and trouble with getting her to a hospital. This chapter brings up that problem, caused by a completely different angle which had never occurred to me. There is nothing gruesome about the chapter but it hit home hard. This book is worth reading.

When Alison Bernhoft set out to homeschool her six children, her grand plans were constantly derailed by the second law of thermodynamics: Entropy. It enters our houses, spreads toys and dishes around, creates chaos throughout the day, and most importantly steals our time. But Alison discovered that chaos and homeschooling are far from mutually exclusive.

Using alternative education methods, marvel at the specialization of birds feet through your kitchen window. Recognize musical eras as you drive. Use raisins to introduce your kindergartener to algebra. 
Ok, this is a highly unlikely book for me to read or promote. That's just how charming this author is. Her email completely captivated me. As did the book when I received it. Just flipping through it keeps grabbing my attention. So I'm going to read it ... and if I were ever going to homeschool (may the good Lord have mercy on any under my tutelage), the entropy approach would definitely be my best friend.

Prolonged, multiple wars in the Middle East. Waves of immigrants crossing the borders. Ongoing economic recession. Increasing political polarization, often with religious overtones. Conflicts over ideologies that pit the progressive against the traditional. Sound familiar? These conditions not only describe the United States, but the situation of the Roman Empire in the third century. That situation led to religious persecution and the eventual collapse of the empire. In the middle of the third century, the Roman Empire was roughly the same age as the United States is now.

This book examines the practices of the Early Church—a body of Christians living in Rome—and show how the lessons learned from these ancient Christians can apply to Christians living in the United States today. The book moves from the Christian individual, to the family, the church and the world, explaining how the situation of the Early Church is not only familiar to modern Christian readers, but that its values are still relevant.
Ok. First, true confession — I don't have this book. Second — it's Mike Aquilina! It's about a year old but it's new to me and the authors' perspective is one that I espouse all the time. But I do so without their indepth knowledge or examples. Not sure how this slid under my radar but in case it slid under yours also, I thought I'd bring it up!

Worth a Thousand Words: Horse

James Ward, Horse

Well Said: Pope for Both

I have to be pope both of those with their foot on the gas and those with their foot on the brake.
St. John XXIII
I don't think things have changed much since then.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Worth a Thousand Words: Hilye

Hilye, Hafiz Osman
This is calligraphy from the Ottoman Period. Isn't it gorgeous?

Lagniappe: Brown Beer Bottles and the Wedge of Lime

Brewers learned long ago that dark bottles protect beer from the light and prevent it from developing a skunky "lightstruck" taste. But it wasn't until 2001 that scientists at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found out exactly what causes that nasty flavor. Certain compounds in in hops, known as isohumulones, break down into free radicals when exposed to light. Those free radicals are chemically similar to the secretions of skunks. And it doesn't take long for the transformation to happen: some beer drinkers will notice the skunky flavor at the bottom of a pint glass that sat in sunlight while they drank it.

So why are some beers sold in clear bottles? First, it's cheaper. Second, some mass-produced beers are made with a chemically altered hop compound that doesn't break down. But if you see clear-bottled beers sold in a closed box, chances are it's because the brewer knows the taste will degrade quickly in light. And the tradition of adding a wedge of lime to the beer? That's just a marketing ploy to disguise the skunky flavor.
Amy Stewart, The Drunken Botanist
AHA! I knew about the brown bottles, light, and flavor degradation. But the lime? That's news to me. Those marketing devils!

Genesis Notes: A Hymn of Creation

God the Geometer, The Frontispiece of Bible Moralisee, mid-13th C.

GENESIS 1:1-31
This chapter is the oh-so-familiar story of the creation of the universe. Anyone who has ever done any Bible study or, indeed, ever had their back to the wall when talking to a dedicated believer in science knows that Genesis is not worried about how creation occurred. It is concerned with the fact that God created everything and that God made man in His image. If you read it out loud and listen to the language and cadence you fall into it almost reads like a Psalm.

The problem that I, personally, always had trouble reconciling is the fact that there are a other creation stories out there that seemed to echo Genesis. If that is the case, then is Genesis just another man-made story as I had been told by nay-sayers? The way that The Complete Bible Handbook explains it helped me sort this out.
The major point made in the Bible is that, however Creation is interpreted, and whatever account of Creation one follows, God is the author of the story; and if there is a design, then God is the Designer. All the accounts of Creation in the Bible make this point. In this respect, the stories of the Bible differ hugely from other stories told about Creation in the religions and beliefs of the nations that surrounded Israel, such as Babylon and Assyria. The biblical writers used different stories of Creation, and at least two of these accounts are shared with Israel's neighbors in the ancient Near East. But the Bible retold these stories of other nations and - from its own point of view - corrected them to make its own basic point: the true reading of Creation sees it as the consequence of One who gives it order and sustains it's being.

The biblical account is coherent with many other stories, whether those of the Babylonian accounts of creation, or, much later, the theories of Darwin and his successors, and has translated them into an account that endures, even when Babylon and Darwin have faded into history. These different theories of Creation are not in competition with the Bible. The stories of Creation in the Bible give the reader the opportunity to go deeper into the understanding of the universe and of our place in it, to understand the way in which God brings all things into being and to understand how God is continually in the act of creating.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Well Said: A healthy dose of self-cricitism

We also need to be humble and realistic, acknowledging that at times the way we present our Christian beliefs and treat other people has helped contribute to today’s problematic situation. We need a healthy dose of self-criticism.
Pope Francis, Amoris Laetitia (Joy of Love)
I'm reading it a little each day and finding it a complex, thoughtful, and rich work. It is especially interesting to consider that the Pope keeps mentioning the other contributing bishops from the synods on the family. This is not just one person's vision. It is that of many of those who serve families around the world.

For those who feel this is too long to face, take heart. I'm not actually reading the 264 page book formatted by the Vatican and released as a pdf. I was able to copy and paste it into my own document which came down to 50 pages. The pdf's tiny pages, large type, and big margins are what made it so long in published form.

Worth a Thousand Words: Opposition

Opposition, England, 1890
from the Library of Congress's Photochrom Travel Views collection

Friday, April 22, 2016

Blogging Around

Kobe Bryant is Catholic?

Yet during one of the darkest moments of his life, Kobe Bryant turned to his Catholic faith. In an interview with GQ last year he explained:

“The one thing that really helped me during that process — I’m Catholic, I grew up Catholic, my kids are Catholic — was talking to a priest. It was actually kind of funny: He looks at me and says, ‘Did you do it?’ And I say, ‘Of course not.’ Then he asks, ‘Do you have a good lawyer?’ And I’m like, ‘Uh, yeah, he’s phenomenal.’ So then he just said, ‘Let it go. Move on. God’s not going to give you anything you can’t handle, and it’s in his hands now. This is something you can’t control. So let it go.’ And that was the turning point.”
Read it all at Aleteia

The Mercy of Shutting Up.

This is one I struggle with, sometimes more successfully than others. Joanne McPortland finds something unexpected in Pope Francis’s recent apostolic exhortation, Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love). I especially liked her specific ideas for applying "hold your peace." The one I mention below seems specifically applicable to Americans (we like to help!) and is one where I am specifically working on improving my own behavior.
Here, then, are just of few of the many situations in which I need to practice mercy by holding my tongue — and atoning for the times I have not.

When I’m just trying to helpful, damn it! This is a trap a lot of us fall into, rushing to meet others’ silence or sadness or need with a flood of unsolicited advice. In almost every such situation, the merciful and truly helpful response is receptive silence, listening presence. Too often, I react instead with links to medical websites, amateur psychoanalysis or (worst of all) anecdotes about how my experience was so much worse.

Work When You Work, Play When You Play

The key to a happier life with more time in it. The problem is that we seem to have forgotten how to do that. Never fear! The Art of Manliness is here ... with ways to combat today's distractions.
Restlessness is one of the acute maladies of our time, and there are many causes of it, from the gap between how fast information moves and the stubborn slowness of “real life”; our increasing distance from nature and lack of physicality; the avalanche of options we have to choose from in all areas of life; and the amount of “shadow work” corporations have outsourced to us consumers.

There’s another obvious factor in our restlessness as well, and that’s the sheer number of distractions that constantly pull at our attention, erode our focus, and keep us from concentrating on the task at hand.

Happily, while the other sources of our restlessness often require comprehensive changes to our culture and our personal lifestyle, this last factor can be attended to with the adoption of a simple principle: work when you work; play when you play.

Well Said: The wood of this cross ...

The wood of this cross that now breaks your back first grew in the soil of your heart.
Staretz Macarius

Worth a Thousand Words: The Neapolitan Girl

The Neapolitan Girl, Hugues Merle

Genesis Notes: Introduction - In the Beginning

“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.”

This is one of the most famous lines in all literature. It begins our journey of discovery of not only one of the oldest pieces of writing in history but about ourselves. Because this book was designed to help us answer the oldest questions of all. Who am I? Who is God? Does He exist? How do I know when I meet Him? How should I live?
The book of Genesis does not merely tell quaint stories about people who lived at the dawn of time. The roots of all that Christians believe are found here. Read properly, Genesis reveals the essence of the nature of God, of creation and man. It shows how man fell from grace and God's friendship. It reveals the nature of sin. In it we see the first hints of God's plan of redemption, and the promises he makes that lay out the blueprint for the rest of salvation history. It is also the beginning of a very important family history: that of the family of God.
I must say that if I took nothing else away from studying Genesis, it is that human nature is the same now as it was 4,000 years ago. The way we live is different, but people are still recognizable as those you might meet anywhere. I was shocked to recognize and often deeply understand these ancient personalities that I met in this book.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Well Said: "I am the resurrection and the life" from a Tale of Two Cities

These solemn words, which had been read at his father's grave, arose in his mind as he went down the dark streets, among the heavy shadows, with the moon and the clouds sailing on high above him. "I am the resurrection and the life, saith the Lord: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me, shall never die."

In a city dominated by the axe, alone at night, with natural sorrow rising in him for the sixty-three who had been that day put to death, and for to-morrow's victims then awaiting their doom in the prisons, and still of to-morrow's and to-morrow's, the chain of association that brought the words home, like a rusty old ship's anchor from the deep, might have been easily found. He did not seek it, but repeated them and went on.


"I am the resurrection and the life, saith the Lord: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me, shall never die."

Now, that the streets were quiet, and the night wore on, the words were in the echoes of his feet, and were in the air. Perfectly calm and steady, he sometimes repeated them to himself as he walked; but, he heard them always.

The night wore out, and, as he stood upon the bridge listening to the water as it splashed the river-walls of the Island of Paris, where the picturesque confusion of houses and cathedral shone bright in the light of the moon, the day came coldly, looking like a dead face out of the sky. Then, the night, with the moon and the stars, turned pale and died, and for a little while it seemed as if Creation were delivered over to Death's dominion.

But, the glorious sun, rising, seemed to strike those words, that burden of the night, straight and warm to his heart in its long bright rays. And looking along them, with reverently shaded eyes, a bridge of light appeared to span the air between him and the sun, while the river sparkled under it.

The strong tide, so swift, so deep, and certain, was like a congenial friend, in the morning stillness. He walked by the stream, far from the houses, and in the light and warmth of the sun fell asleep on the bank. When he awoke and was afoot again, he lingered there yet a little longer, watching an eddy that turned and turned purposeless, until the stream absorbed it, and carried it on to the sea. — "Like me."

A trading-boat, with a sail of the softened colour of a dead leaf, then glided into his view, floated by him, and died away. As its silent track in the water disappeared, the prayer that had broken up out of his heart for a merciful consideration of all his poor blindnesses and errors, ended in the words, "I am the resurrection and the life."
Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

Worth a Thousand Words: Wapping on the Thames

Wapping on Thames by James McNeill Whistler
I've been thinking about "wapping." Is it the inn? Is it the way they are talking or does it mean a late afternoon party. Did someone forget the "r" and they were "wrapping" ... gifts just out of sight?

Of course, none of the above:
Wapping (/ˈwɒpɪŋ/ wop-ing) is a district in East London, England, in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. It is situated between the north bank of the River Thames and the ancient thoroughfare simply called The Highway. Wapping's proximity to the river has given it a strong maritime character, which it retains through its riverside public houses and steps, such as the Prospect of Whitby and Wapping Stairs.
What would I do without Wikipedia and the internet?

Running on Red Dog Road by Drema Hall Berkheimer

Running on Red Dog Road: And Other Perils of an Appalachian ChildhoodRunning on Red Dog Road: And Other Perils of an Appalachian Childhood by Drema Hall Berkheimer

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Gypsies, faith-healers, moonshiners, and snake handlers weave through Drema’s childhood in 1940s Appalachia after her father is killed in the coal mines, her mother goes off to work as a Rosie the Riveter, and she is left in the care of devout Pentecostal grandparents. Drema’s coming of age is colored by tent revivals with Grandpa, poetry-writing hobos, and traveling carnivals, and through it all, she serves witness to a multi-generational family of saints and sinners whose lives defy the stereotypes. 
This book makes me think of To Kill a Mockingbird. Or maybe I'm thinking of Tom Sawyer. Although these are vignettes of Appalachian life instead of a novel, the reader is carried into West Virginia life through a mischievous child's vivid memories of what was then "everyday" life. Drema's stories pull us into her world with turns of humor, poignancy, love and discovery.

Above all, I came away loving Grandma and Grandpa. Their common sense, resilience, ingenuity, and steadfast faith were the anchors of the Drema's life. They provide the anchors for the book too, and the underlying themes which make the book much more than simply the sum of its parts. One of my favorite chapters was when the gypsies came to town and Grandpa caught two of their children who'd been raiding the vegetable garden and henhouse.
The big boy said he was ten but his brother was only seven and wasn't allowed to be out at night. Grandpa took both boys by the hand and walked through the garden, the little one dragging a burlap bag behind.

"You tell me what you want, and I'll show you how to harvest so it won't damage the crop," Grandpa said.

Soon the boys filled the bag with potatoes and onions and carrots and ears of corn. Grandpa showed them how to tie their sack in the middle of a long pole so they could share the heavy load on the way home.

"A load is always lighter if it's shared. I want you to remember that. You want more, you knock and I'll give you what can be spared. I want to show you something else before you leave," he said, leading the boys over to where Queenie was tied.

He unhooked the leash, and Queenie, grateful for freedom, ran to the boys and started jumping up. Grandpa gave a hand signal and the dog sat down, watching Grandpa and waiting.

"This dog is part of our family, and I won't stand for her being tormented. She wants to be your friend. Go on over there now and get acquainted with her." ...

Every week or so after, always just before dawn, we heard a tapping at the front door, getting a little louder if Grandpa didn't hurry down. He pulled pants and suspenders over his long johns and went out to help his new friends fill their bag. Grandma followed him downstairs and put a pot of coffee on the stove. Sometimes she gave the boys a sack of oatmeal cookies or a pint of damson preserves, and a time or two she gave them a basket of eggs.

We never had another chicken disappear.
Running on Red Dog Road shows us a slice of life that doesn't exist any more, while reminding us that such a life is still right here to be grasped — in our families, friends, and the things we share along the way.

I received a Kindle version of this book from NetGalley. My opinion is my own. I'll be buying this in print for myself and as gifts. I know I'll be rereading this one.

Remember Goliad! Remember the Alamo!

Thank goodness that my friend Don never forgets ... he's the one always reminding me it is San Jacinto Day He has told me many a time:
I try to remember all of these good Texas holidays. They really bring home how unique the state –and future Republic?—truly is. This one is a real holiday, not like Cinco de Mayo. I mean, if you have a holiday to celebrate beating the French, then every day would be a holiday!
Ha! No kidding!

Let's all go get a few margaritas and lift them high to the Texian heroes of the decisive battle of the Texas revolution!