Monday, June 18, 2018

Fish or Cut Bait - Thank You!

My sincere thanks for the wonderful surprise when I opened my mail today and found this from my wish list! I've been enjoying Cool and Lam as perfect summer reading and they are just obscure enough that it is hard to get your hands on many of them. Thank you!

Worth a Thousand Words: The Sea View of Cliffs

Guy Rose, The Sea View of Cliffs
via Arts Everyday Living
This just looks so refreshing to eye, ear, and soul. And it makes me think of summer travel somehow. Probably because I've never been to the ocean in winter. Growing up in the midwest and now living in Dallas, I've only traveled to the ocean on vacation.

Well Said: ...happy and confident, as if the dead were waving goodbye and smiling as they left for a journey...

The atmosphere [in the catacombs] is one of faith and trust. The epitaphs carved on the tombs are happy and confident, as if the dead were waving goodbye and smiling as they left for a journey. The words "rest" and "sleep" are everywhere. I could not remember once having seen that word "farewell" which sighs its hopeless way through all pagan cemeteries. As I remembered the dark galleries, the mage came into my mind of a troopship in the dark, with its rows of bunks, their occupants sleeping, confidently awaiting the light of a new day.
H. V. Morton, A Traveller in Rome
I love this so much!

Friday, June 15, 2018

Worth a Thousand Words: Sunflowers on the Banks of the Seine

Gustave Caillebotte, Sunflowers on the Banks of the Seine, c. 1885-1886
Somehow I always think of sunflowers on the plains, being from Kansas. Not in France on the banks of the Seine!

Lagniappe: At the Papal Farm, Meeting the Papal Bull

A bit of H.V. Morton's charming A Traveller In Rome, first published in 1957. Morton's driver "knows someone" who will let them onto the papal farm. Here's a bit.
The Pope walks for an hour or so on the terrace, admiring the gardens, which are those of the Villa Barberini. He arrives by car along a special road built to link the palace with the villa, and I was told that he usually leaves his car on the terrace and walks about, sometimes never lifting his eyes from a book. We entered a little giardino secreto enclosed by hedges, where a statue of the Blessed Virgin stands beside a fishpond.

'You notice that Virgin is holding a little bunch of flowers,' said the driver. 'The Holy Father picks them for her.'

She was holding four or five small yellow flowers of a kind that I had noticed growing on the banks round about, and they were fresh and had been recently picked. What a beautiful moment this must have been: the old pontiff all alone in the garden in his white caped soutane and his red velvet shoes, looking about among the hedge banks on a quiet sunny morning for wild flowers to give the Madonna.


We passed a number of henhouses, each one thoughtfully decorated with a mosaic above the door depicting some incident in hen life. ... I should like to have stopped to examine the hen mosaics, but the driver dashed on towards the dairy. There in a cowshed lined with blue tiles, we saw forty fine Friesland cows being fed in the most modern surroundings. The names, milk yields and maternal particulars were recorded above the mild faces. I was at last able to make the pun that had to be made and must be made by everyone who visits the Pope's farm.

'Where is the papal bull?'

I was led to an adjoining paddock, where an immense, low-slung black and white animal named Christy, the gift of an American to the Holy Father, paused with his mouth full, and gazed at us angrily. He had the bloodshot eyes of an assassin and the lashes of a film star.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Worth a Thousand Words: Copper Mine

Copper Mine, Belinda Del Pesco

Well Said: The problems you must overcome make you stronger in overcoming them

“It is hard to make that boat go as fast as you want to. The enemy, of course, is resistance of the water, as you have to displace the amount of water equal to the weight of men and equipment, but that very water is what supports you and that very enemy is your friend. So is life: the very problems you must overcome also support you and make you stronger in overcoming them." — George Yeoman Pocock
Daniel James Brown, The Boys in the Boat:
Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for
Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Lagniappe: The cover of the book Freddy was reading

The book the Honorable Freddie was reading was a small paper-covered book. Its cover was decorated with a color scheme in red, black and yellow, depicting a tense moment in the lives of a man with a black beard, a man with a yellow beard, a man without any beard at all, and a young woman who, at first sight, appeared to be all eyes and hair. The man with the black beard, to gain some private end, had tied this young woman with ropes to a complicated system of machinery, mostly wheels and pulleys. The man with the yellow beard was in the act of pushing or pulling a lever. The beardless man, protruding through a trapdoor in the floor, was pointing a large revolver at the parties of the second part.

Beneath this picture were the words: "Hands up, you scoundrels!"
P.G. Wodehouse, Something Fresh
Oh, how many books I've enjoyed which were decorated in similar style.

Blogging Around: Suicide, Lost in Space, Harry Dresden

A worthy ministry intended to provided practical support to families grieving the loss of a loved one from suicide.
The Red Door Foundation is a charity that my living children and I want to set up and run in memory of Anthony, my oldest son who died by suicide on March 8, 2017. These are our first objectives:
  • pay for 6 therapy sessions for each member of the immediate family of someone who has died by suicide in our community right after the death.
  • give children who have lost a parent to suicide a build a bear certificate
  • work with victim services of our local police department to offer dinner/food/hotel for families who lose a family member to suicide the day of the death. (this was a lifesaver in my family’s life since we lost Anthony in our home)
  • the big goal is to open a free mental health clinic in our town preferably at our parish and expand into the surrounding areas and as far as we can manage.
This is the dream and the idea. What we need is about $1,000 to set it all up. That includes getting a logo, a website, 501c3 status and a CPA to make sure everything is legit. We will be working to raise the money to set up as well as to cover the expenses for up to 6 families. Since Anthony’s suicide, there has been five more in our immediate community.
Find out more here. Via National Catholic Register which has an interview with founders Leticia Adams and Gabe Jacobs.

Lost in Space is not likely to be a show like West World, which deliberately probes the roots and meaning of consciousness in a way that at least tries to be philosophic. Instead, Lost in Space tackles what it means to be a person by approaching the matter through morality and friendship. What is important about the Robot is not really how he could be a moral agent, but, as with the Cylons in the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica (to which Lost in Space bears some similarities), that it is a moral agent. By examining the Robot’s moral awakening, Lost in Space actually has something to teach us about moral education...
I hadn't paid much attention to Netflix's Lost in Space reboot but this commentary makes me think I'll give it a try.

Melanie Bettanelli's been writing some thoughtful pieces about the most recent developments in the Harry Dresden series. I’ve really been enjoying them. I really disliked the book right before Harry reappears as a ghost and so was over with the series. But I like seeing what’s going on below the surface since I’ve been gone. 🙂

At its recent House of Delegates meeting, the American Medical Association voted to continue to study the principled stance against physician-assisted suicide that has been part of its Code of Ethics since 1994: “Physician-assisted suicide is fundamentally incompatible with the physician’s role as healer, would be difficult or impossible to control, and would pose serious societal risks.”

Advocates of assisted suicide have tried for two years to change this stance to one of “neutrality.” With this vote for delay and further review they will surely continue to do so. But as the AMA’s Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs (CEJA) rightly said after an intensive study of the issue, such “neutrality” can be read as “little more than acquiescence with the contested practice.”

It has been read exactly that way wherever a state medical society has decided to go “neutral” on a proposal to legalize the practice. It sends the signal that there is no serious problem with doctors prescribing lethal drugs so their patients can kill themselves.

At a personal level, neutrality means indifference. As a patient, I’m not sure which statement from my doctor would be more upsetting: “In case you ever ask, I’m willing to help you kill yourself,” or “I simply don’t care whether you kill yourself or not.”
Cardinal Timothy Dolan has much more to say and it's all good.

For my part, I think this is a good reminder that when we appear neutral about some evil then that neutrality is taken as assent or, at the very least, indifference.

It is certainly ironic that in a world where we are decrying several recent celebrity suicides, we also find people fighting so hard for the right to help people kill themselves. There is a disassociation between the two that isn't being pointed out.

I've just got to say that our whole family is excited to see the great reviews that are showing up for this movie. The first was one of the best Pixar gave us, and that's a very high bar. It looks as if this one is in the same league! Can't wait to see it ... though we probably will let the crush die down for a week or two before we get to the theater.

Worth a Thousand Words: Nimitz, Grandfather and Grandson

Captain Charles Nimitz, the founder of the Nimitz Hotel in Fredericksburg (left)
and his Grandson Chester Nimitz, Commander in Chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet during World War II
Via Traces of Texas which always has something good in the pipeline, both photo and facts, as you can see below.
Captain Charles Nimitz, the founder of the Nimitz Hotel in Fredericksburg (left) and his Grandson Chester Nimitz, Commander in Chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet during World War II (right), when Chester was a young man. This remarkable photo was taken in Fredericksburg in 1905, where Chester had been born in 1885. Chester's frail, rheumatic father died before Chester was born, but Chester was significantly influenced by the grandfather shown here, who was a former seaman in the German Merchant Marine. I always thought it ironic that the Commander in Chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet during the greatest military conflict in history was a Texan who was born and raised in a place as dry and as far from the ocean as Fredericksburg.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Worth a Thousand Words: Beware of Dog, Roman Style

A Roman mosaic inscribed with the Latin phrase
cave canem ("beware of the dog"),
from the House of the Tragic Poet in Pompeii, Italy, 2nd century BC

Lagniappe: I didn't know this was a dream of mine until I read it ...

In the future, when Joss Whedon and I are best friends and hanging out together in my tree fort, I hope Neil Gaiman comes over too. Because then the three of us will all play Settlers of Catan together. And I will win, because I'm really great at Settlers of Catan. But I will also be very gracious about it, and apologize for putting the bandit on Gaiman's wheat twice in a row.

Then we will make smores, and I will toast a marshmallow with such deftness and perfection that they will be amazed and realize I am kinda cool. Then we will talk about Battlestar Galactica, and which Doctor is our favorite, and we will tell ghost stories late into the night.

From Patrick Rothfuss's Goodread's review of
The Ocean At The End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
Except in my dream we will be playing Pillars of Eternity. Which I am enjoying the heck out of, by the way. Anyway, other than that, exactly the same dream.

Scott's walking the Christian path using Star Trek as his guide. Julie's reading Jeeves and Wooster for pointers. ...

... Bishop Barron wonders if they even really read his book. Scott and I discuss The Strangest Way by Robert Barron on Episode 184 of A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Pangur Ban: Well Said AND Worth a Thousand Words

You don't have to be a cat lover to love this poem about writing and cats by an anonymous 9th century Irish monk. It's often thought that the monk was working on the Book of Kells when he made this poem.

He describes perfectly the striving and dedication all writers feel, as well our triumph at solving a problem in just the perfect way.

Pangur Bán

I and Pangur Bán, my cat
‘Tis a like task we are at;
Hunting mice is his delight
Hunting words I sit all night.

Better far than praise of men
‘Tis to sit with book and pen;
Pangur bears me no ill will,
He too plies his simple skill.

‘Tis a merry thing to see
At our tasks how glad are we,
When at home we sit and find
Entertainment to our mind.

Oftentimes a mouse will stray
In the hero Pangur’s way:
Oftentimes my keen thought set
Takes a meaning in its net.

‘Gainst the wall he sets his eye
Full and fierce and sharp and sly;
‘Gainst the wall of knowledge I
All my little wisdom try.

When a mouse darts from its den,
O how glad is Pangur then!
O what gladness do I prove
When I solve the doubts I love!

So in peace our tasks we ply,
Pangur Bán, my cat, and I;
In our arts we find our bliss,
I have mine and he has his.

Practice every day has made
Pangur perfect in his trade;
I get wisdom day and night
Turning darkness into light.

Unknown 9th century Irish monk,
translation by Robin Flowers

Cat catching mouse, illustration from Book of Kells

Our Bollywood Summer: English Vinglish, 3 Idiots

Last year at this time we were working our way through James Bond films. This year we have inadvertently fallen down a Bollywood rabbit hole. Here are the latest of our explorations.

The story of a woman who does not know English and is made to feel insecure by her family and society at large. Circumstances make her determined to overcome this insecurity, master the language, and teach the world a lesson on the way to becoming a self assured and confident woman.
We discovered English Vinglish after reading earlier this year about Sridevi's untimely accidental death. I'd been trying to get my hands on the library's one dvd for some time but it was always checked out. I remain impressed that the Dallas library consistently has these generally unheard of films.

It was a sweet and enjoyable family film. It was a bit uneven and there are the requisite musical numbers which didn't grab me but overall we liked it. One of the unexpected insights, since this was made purely for an Indian audience, is that it shows us just how immigrating to America is viewed by Indians.

We liked it even more when we read that the writer/director's own mother had a pickle business in her home and he was embarrassed of her lack of English. This is his apology to her. Sridevi was wonderful. We didn't realize this film signaled her return after a brief retirement and that she was such a favorite that there are other famous Indian actors featured who wanted to be included because they were such fans.

In the tradition of “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” comes this refreshing comedy about a rebellious prankster with a crafty mind and a heart of gold. Rascal. Joker. Dreamer. Genius… You’ve never met a college student quite like “Rancho.” From the moment he arrives at India’s most prestigious university, Rancho’s outlandish schemes turn the campus upside down—along with the lives of his two newfound best friends. Together, they make life miserable for “Virus,” the school’s uptight and heartless dean. But when Rancho catches the eye of the dean’s sexy daughter, Virus sets his sights on flunking out the “3 idiots” once and for all.
I don't remember what path led us to this film except that when we saw Steven Spielberg quoted as loving it we added it to our list.

Enthusiasm waned when we saw the description which sounded like Animal House. A 3 hour long Animal House.

But then we saw it was the highest grossing Indian movie ever when it came out. Courage returned.

Then we saw the movie poster. And we really wondered what we were letting ourselves in for. Coming across Big in Bollywood, a documentary following the American-born Indian cast member, bolstered Tom and Rose's courage. I hadn't seen it but went along for the 3 Idiots ride.

It was something like a cross between Animal House (without the extreme crudeness) and Dead Poet Society. With some song and dance numbers thrown in because it is Bollywood, so of course. And it was surprisingly charming a lot of the time. Uneven but we weren't sorry we watched it. We didn't expect it to tackle very serious themes (that's the Dead Poet Society part) but it was done quite sensitively.

There wasn't a problem getting this from the library since there are nine copies in circulation (nine!), five of which are checked out as I write.

Overall enjoyable as long as you are willing to go along for the ride. And the dance number with the umbrellas is adorable.

We were interested to find that the star Amir Khan is a huge star who has never had a flop and whose films consistently are award winning blockbusters. I hadn't realized he was the star of Lagaan which we enjoyed many years ago. It is on Netflix now and since Rose hasn't seen it we'll probably watch that soon.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Memorial of the Immaculate Heart of Mary

In the midst of the second world war Pope Pius XII put the whole world under the special protection of our Savior's Mother by consecrating it to her Immaculate Heart, and in 1944 he decreed that in the future the whole Church should celebrate the feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. This is not a new devotion. In the seventeenth century, St. John Eudes preached it together with that of the Sacred Heart; in the nineteenth century, Pius VII and Pius IX allowed several churches to celebrate a feast of the Pure Heart of Mary. Pius XII instituted today's feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary for the whole Church, so as to obtain by her intercession "peace among nations, freedom for the Church, the conversion of sinners, the love of purity and the practice of virtue" (Decree of May 4, 1944).
As always you'll find a lot more information, prayers, and activities at Catholic Culture.

I particularly like this reflection which reminds me of why Mary was not only the first and best of Jesus' disciples, but why I should ask her for help in my own Christian journey.
The Preface of the Mass attributes a number of qualities to the Heart of Mary. It is wise, because she understood the meaning of the Scriptures as no other person had ever done, and she kept in it the memory of the words and things relating to the mystery of salvation. It is immaculate, that is, immune from any stain of sin. It is docile because she submitted so faithfully to God's will and to every one of his wishes. It is new, according to the ancient prophecy of Ezechiel  -- a new heart I will give you, and a new spirit -- clothed in the newness of grae merited by Christ. It is humble because she imitated the humility of Christ, who said Learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart. It is simple, free from any duplicity and full of the Spirit of truth. It is clean and thus able to see God according to the words of the Beatitude. It is firm in her acceptance of the Will of God when Simeon announced to her that a sword of sorrow would pierce her heart, when persecution broke out aginst her Son or when the moment of his death was a hand. It is ready, for whilst Christ slept in the sepulchre she kept watchin the expectation of his resurrection, just like the spouse in the Canticle of Canticles.

As we consider the splendour and holiness of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, we can examine today the depths of our own soul: whether we are open and docile to the graces and inspirations of the Holy Spirit, whether we jealously guard our heart from anything that could separate it form God, whether we pull up by the roots our little feelings of resentment, of envy ... which tend to bed themselves down within it. We know that from our heart's richness or its poverty our words and deeds will speak. The good man out of his good treasure brings forth good things. (Matt. 12:35)