Friday, February 29, 2008

Anne Rice's Christ the Lord: The Road to Cana

And I may have rolled my eyes as Jesus moons over the beautiful young girl who lives across the street. (Not to worry, though; Rice's Jesus knows that the personal problems of a Messiah don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.)

Still, you (by which I mean "I") don't read a novelization of the life of Christ for the plot. You read it to find out what insights, if any, the novelist has into the mystery of the Incarnation.
Disputations got a review copy and pronounces it good, although with a few shakes of the head along the way. I stopped reading Rice's first "Jesus book" ... what was it called ... Out of Egypt? ... a few chapters in. This sounds somewhat less speculative and much better. John's review gives you a good sense of the highs and lows and he ends up enthusiastic (which in itself is worth seeing!) so check it out.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Worth a Thousand Words

Sarcophagus in Pedralbes Monastery by Barcelona Photoblog.

Moloch Throws His Support Behind Obama

No surprises there ...

Moloch speaks ... we will scurry to do the opposite and thwart him.

Around our house, we are trying to shut our ears to all the candidates' recordings ringing through to our answering machine as Texas's primary is next Tuesday. Since McCain seems to have the Republican ticket locked up, current thinking around our house is that Hillary is better than Barack as an adversary. Our history sensei (otherwise known as Rose's history teacher) says his spidey sense tells him that if Hillary runs against McCain, then McCain will win. But if McCain runs against Obama ... well, we just don't want to think about that.

So, we're out to even up the Dems with our two puny independent votes.

Much thanks to Sandy and her husband, for the yard sign. Looks like maybe we'll be overpowering Obama with our four votes! Take that, Obama!

St. Teresa of Avila Talks About the Pew Study

My dear sister in Christ,
This is not the reason numbers have dropped, but I want you to stop and consider one phrase: The Inquisition.

Now, as an unworthy one attempting to be faithful through the pure grace of Our Majesty, I do not wish to brag. I simply wish to remind you that the Inquisition was a concrete reality in my day, and the Inquisitors questioned my work and the mystical gifts I received from God. It was not pleasant. Then my order gave me all kinds of difficulty in creating a more strict observance of the Carmelite charism. My most honorable Padre Juan was kept in solitary confinement from members of the order for a time. It was not a good moment in the history of the Catholic Church, let's say. Perhaps you've heard of it.

So how did we respond?

We became saints. ...
Ironic Catholic has her finger on the pulse of responses to the less than perfect Church ... via St. Teresa. Go read the whole thing. Highly instructive while being handled with a light touch.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

It's Like Law and Order ... With More Women

Yep! I'm Excited! Nothing New About That!

You Are An Exclamation Point

You are a bundle of... well, something.

You're often a bundle of joy, passion, or drama.

You're loud, brash, and outgoing. If you think it, you say it.

Definitely not the quiet type, you really don't keep a lot to yourself.

You're lively and inspiring. People love to be around your energy.

(But they do secretly worry that you'll spill their secrets without even realizing it.)

You excel in: Public speaking

You get along best with: the Dash

Via Question Mark Sarah.

Worth a Thousand Words

All Smiles, from Flickr's Cream of the Crop.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Two Books for Times of Trouble that Can Enlighten Us at Any Time

These are little books but they deliver a big dose of food for thought that seems especially appropriate during Lent.

The Way of the Cross in Times of Illness
by Elizabeth Thecla Mauro
3. Jesus Falls the First Time
Why do we always assume that this first fall came from your weariness and physical pain? Could you have fallen in fear? You, Jesus who are both God and human, you understand how fear and anxiety can paralyze the will, paralyze the strength of the body, and sometimes paralyze even the strength of the spirit.

I admit that there are times when I am overtaken with fear, and I feel unable to move, to think, to pray--even to This fear brings with it a weariness that defies description and snatches away the small pockets of peace I am seeking in my life.

So, I fall now with you, Jesus, prostrated in fear, knowing that I must rise and go on. My face is dirty; I am gasping through the dust of the road.

But I get up with you. I breathe in deeply, and breathe out.

With you, I move slowly forward.

Yahweh, I called on your name from the deep pit. You heard me crying, "Do not close your ear to my prayer." You came near that day when I called to you; you said: "Do not be afraid."
Lamentations 3:55-57 (JB)
I rarely do the Stations of the Cross although I often have one catch my eye during times when I am waiting for Mass to begin, thereby beginning thoughts about it. Most often I will think about them when contemplating the sorrowful mysteries of the rosary. Although this simple, inexpensive book is presented as being for a time of illness, when reading through it I found much that is worthy of contemplation during Lent. It is worded so that the stations can apply to illness, but not so specifically that the contemplations cannot be used at any time, especially in any time of distress. Highly recommended.

Caring for the Dying With the Help of Your Catholic Faith
by Elizabeth Scalia
The Long Tunnel
Some people say the process of dying involves the appearance of a long tunnel through which one passes, moving toward the light. Just as those who report back from a "near death experience" say they felt "pushed along" through a tunnel, you may feel like you are being "pushed along" by circumstances, and unable to halt the forward motion -- a prisoner of sheer momentum. You would be right. As the journey's end nears, there seems to be no further chance to hit the brakes or to pull back a bit.

This is a scary feeling. A new skier would never attempt an advanced trail, and yet here you are moving through this experience at a breathtaking pace. Everything seems out of your control. This might be a good time to make an assessment of what you can control. You can control being wholly present to a person who is dying. That doesn't seem like very much, but it is everything.

Together with Our Lady
When Mary, the mother of Jesus, was told that her Son had been arrested, her world also began to spin out of control. In truth, you are very much Mary's companion right now, just as she is yours. What you are living through, she has survived:
  • Just as your access to your loved one is decreasing as their need for sleep increases, Mary's access to her Son was closed off.
  • Like you, Mary had to stand by and watch helplessly while her loved one took on the "job of dying."
  • Like you, Mary had to watch the one she loved let go of her to take His leave.
  • Mary, too, had to let go, and to trust that she would see Him again.
  • As you lean on family and friends, remember that Mary had John and Mary Magdalene beside her for support.
  • After Jesus' death, Mary had to live and eat and worship with an imperfect "family," some of whom had let her -- and her Son -- down. It is not really a unique experience, as families go.
Being "wholly present" may not feel like you are doing very much. It may seem like a pitiful amount of "control" for an adult to have over any person or event. But as Mary taught us, being "present" to another person has power. It is saying, "I will be a witness to your whole life and death, so that all you are and have been will remain in me,when you have gone. And I will help you say goodbye."

Being wholly present to a dying person is a great responsibility, one that requires all the control of which you are capable.
In the midst of our very busy lives, the last thin we are likely to think about much is how to handle the details of death. for that very reason, when tragedy occurs, we often are faced with many details which we don't understand and about which we are not prepared to make decisions. This immensely practical book is instructive on several levels. Naturally, the main information conveyed is of those modern practicalities so that we can understand them not only conceptually but in relation to Church teachings. Pain management, organ donation, hospice care, living wills, grief management are but a few of the issues upon which this slender book gives straight forward information.

What raises this volume to a different level than a "how to" book, however, is the sensitive and thoughtful spiritual commentary that is intertwined with the practical information. As one can see in the above excerpt, the anguish our souls feel during such a time is met with reminders of how our faith is there to provide comfort and encouragement ... and even, possibly, beauty, grace, and joy.

As I read through this book, I was moved to contemplate Jesus' passion as experienced by those around him, which is most appropriate for this time of Lent as we draw closer to Holy Week. It is not the sort of book I would normally read but some of the images have remained with me and will doubtless feed my contemplation during Holy Week. This is a book that I would recommend everyone keep on hand for those unexpected times when our lives are thrown into anguish and we need solid advice of both the practical and spiritual sort. Highly recommended.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Dallas Blogging Buddies

I have meant to put this section in my sidebar for some time. Now Stevie's discovery of the bloggers who are from our parish made me remember to do it.

These folks are Dallas bloggers who I know personally. Somehow I'm thinking that I'm missing at least one person. Let me know if that's the case. Also, I have not kept up with the general sidebar too well for some time. If I should have a link to you in there, let me know.

Worth a Thousand Words

The Reader, 1856, by Ferdinand Heilbuth (1826-1889)

Quick Looks at 5 Books and 1 Movie

In my continuing efforts to mention a bit of something about everything I read or watch this year ...
  • Seven Archangels: Annihilation by Jane Lebak**** - see my review here.

  • Faith, Reason, and the War Against Jihadism by George Weigel**** - it is as good as everybody has said. This review by The Curt Jester says it all, and far better than I would.

  • Quarter Share by Nathan Lowell**** - Audiobook - Coming of age story set in the future where trading ships wend their way from planet to planet. Ishmael Wong has become an orphan and joins a ship's crew as cook's assistant. He makes friends, works his way through tests that will increase his job potential, and comes up with trading ideas that not only make money but serve to bond a group of friends. The first of a trilogy, this was enjoyable and you can see that the story will grow in complexity as it goes.

  • In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto by Michael Pollan *** - Pollan's first words in his introduction set up what he will be talking about for the rest of the book, "Eat food, not too much, mostly plants." He then goes on to prove his premise. A personably written but workmanlike book. Not anything we haven't seen somewhere else. This review at Tigers & Strawberries is indepth from a reader who has read Pollan's previous, immensly popular book, "The Omnivore's Dilemma."

  • Playing for Keeps by Mur Lafferty**** - Audiobook - enjoyable story set in a city where superheroes and villains are common occurrances. Keepsie runs a bar for people whose "superpowers" don't quite measure up enough to make them real superheroes. Until, of course, an unthinkable emergency arises and they must rise to the task. Light, humorous, and a lot of fun.

  • Avenue Montaigne**** ... subtitled in French ... light comedy about a young waitress, Jessica, seeking her fortune in Paris. This is an area where the elite work and play. She comes into contact with a concert pianist, an actress, and a widower who is selling his art collection in a nearby gallery. Each character has a primary motivation behind their story which we see developed as the waitress carries trays across the street to where they live and work. Although this movie is handled quite differently from Amelie, the main message is quite similar; one must take a risk to gain what one needs from life. My favorite moments, and those which communicate the movie's sweet heart best, is watching Jessica's love for her grandmother shown through her patience. When her grandmother inevitably asks, "Did I ever tell you how I worked at the Ritz?" Jessica always says no and settles back to listen to the story again. Highly enjoyed by the whole family.

Friday, February 22, 2008

While We're Rediscovering the "Old Ways" ...

... (as in the need for some good "old fashioned parenting") ... let's include "old fashioned play."
When we were trying to sell our home, we decluttered all the kids' toys. We stored everything except blocks, books, cars and barbies. They did not miss any thing else. They didn't ask where the fisher price little people and all their farms, castles, houses, zoos and trains went off to. They reinvented the blocks each time they sat down with them.
Veronica (whose presence at the Beyond Cana retreat is one of the things that made it a joy for me to work on) has some words of wisdom while reflecting on a recent NPR story about the far reaching benefits of old fashioned play. Do go read it all.

The Millennial Generation ... When Employers Must Be the Parents

... "Their orientation is so different from Gen Xers, who were the latchkey kids and are self-starters. These kids are fabulous at building teams, but they're challenged by responsibility and accountability."

All true, says Ms. Looney, a certified reality therapist and retired director of children and family ministry at St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church. And many employers are backing away from hiring them because they're so high maintenance.

"They've been overparented, overindulged and overprotected," she says. "They haven't experienced that much failure, frustration, pain. We were so obsessed with protecting and promoting their self-esteem that they crumble like cookies when they discover the world doesn't revolve around them. They get into the real world and they're shocked.

"You have to be very careful in how you talk to them because they take everything as criticism."
Read the whole story here in The Dallas Morning News. Twenty-seven year olds are the oldest of this generation that has had their self esteem coddled to the point where they feel they deserve a pat on the head simply for showing up for work. I thought it was bad hearing about parents who were calling their children's college teachers to complain about grades. This article talks about parents who call their children's employers to complain about reviews. Heavens to Betsy! I have more to do with my time than follow my kids around and make sure they are "treated right."

Tom and I read this article and both suddenly felt we had a better handle on understanding some of our last hires which never worked out. We needed someone to do the work and learn the subtleties of how graphics and web design worked as our clients needed. We got people who would rather sip coffee and debate the philosophy of one kind of code over another.

Naturally, this is a generalization and not applicable to many people ... I know many people in this age group who are hard workers and don't expect recognition for their mere existence. In some cases, I also know their parents who laughed every time there was a school awards ceremony giving a certificate to kids who hadn't missed a day of school or never got a detention. (Back in the day, we used to call that the bare minimum of what was expected ...)

Worth a Thousand Words

Impressionable by Karin Jurick

Why So Defensive?

Many years ago, I attended a teacher in-service day. It was in another city, I had to go, and I had to go through incredible hassle to get child care for my kids. I got to the in-service day, and this was the schedule: 1)Welcome 2)Mass 3)Sharing on some reflection questions or other 4) lunch 5) go home.

So yes, we got evaluation forms, and yes, I wrote a negative evaluation, in which I voiced what I thought was probably a common opinion, which culminated in the point: ”You want to give me an inservice day? Let me stay at school and grade papers. “

A few days later, I was called into the principal’s office. Yes! Called into the principal’s office!

He had a fax of my evaluation on his desk and said that the Superintendent had been very displeased with what I had said.

“How,” he asked, “Would you feel if someone criticized something you worked hard to plan?”

I thought…I’m a teacher. Welcome to my life!

I also thought about my years as a DRE, getting criticized from all sides on every score: Too much content, not enough. Too much parental involvement required, not enough. Etc., etc.

I thought, in conclusion…isn’t that just …life?
Amy Welborn at Charlotte was Both has a very good post about all out defensiveness which doesn't allow for any dissension. Do go read it all. She is speaking specifically about Catholic things but I think we see this everywhere. It is interesting to me that as "political correctness" has grown, so too has this intolerance for any disagreement from one's own viewpoint.

Of course, we can disagree, but we have forgotten how to allow others the "right to be wrong," as it were. (Incidentally, here is a review of a good book about that very subject.) Wouldn't it be nice if we all had a mature, adult model more like that of G.K. Chesterton's? He could have a vigorous debate with George Bernard Shaw, laugh heartily at Shaw's sallies against him, and then refute Shaw's point. Later both would go to dinner together.

Looking around I found this little tidbit which I thought that y'all might enjoy as well.
Chesterton used to do a stand-up routine, called for purposes of advertisement a "debate," with his good friend George Bernard Shaw. They disagreed about practically everything. Shaw was a socialist, Chesterton a distributist, which Shaw thought amounted to being a socialist, but Chesterton didn't. From a 1928 debate:

Shaw: Now I have a very limited legal right to the use of [my] umbrella. I cannot do as I like with it. For instance, certain passages in Mr. Chesterton's speech tempted me to get up and smite him over the head with my umbrella.... But should I abuse my right to do what I like with my property--with my umbrella--in this way I should soon be made aware...that I cannot treat my umbrella as my own property in the way in which a landlord can treat his land. I want to destroy ownership in order that possession and enjoyment may be raised to the highest point in every section of the community. That, I think, is perfectly simple....

Chesterton: Among the bewildering welter of fallacies which Mr. Shaw has just given us, I prefer to deal first with the simplest. When Mr. Shaw refrains from hitting me over the head with his umbrella, the real reason--apart from his real kindness of heart, which makes him tolerant of the humblest of the creatures of God--is not because he does not own his umbrella, but because he does not own my head.

Protecting Us from Every Threat ... Even Zombies

Clearly this reporter has never read World War Z or seen Shaun of the Dead for an idea of how "slow moving" zombies can be a threat. And what about those super-fast zombies in 28 Days Later (yes, I know we're not supposed to use "the z word").

Much thanks to Buster, who clued in The Anchoress to this funny start to my day.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Worth a Thousand Words

Sliced Bread No. 2 by Neil Hollingsworth

Watching the Hip Slide into Cluelessness

When you have children you are provided with a whole new way to see the world. Young children allow you to relive those days of your own long gone youth when the world was new. Having teenagers shows you the freshness of "trying on" adult behavior, the excitement of seeing a whole future ahead of your, and ... is a vivid reminder of what it was to always be on the cusp of knowing the hippest music, movies, and trends. Thanks to Rose and Hannah, we have seen Daywatch (twice), a Russian vampire movie that very few of our regular acquaintances have ever heard of, unless they are movie geeks.

We hear at least some of the music (a few songs of which have found their way onto my play list), watch the movies together, and get asked if the latest Facebook rumor could be true (sorry, I don't see any confirmation that Firefly is going to film a second season for television ... it's a lovely dream though). It is a small window and one that will close as they grow older but interesting while it's open. We ourselves aren't hip, but we know how to recognize the real thing right now.

What was brought vividly to me recently, however, is that my teenagers also are like a window on those slightly older people who are just getting the scoop that they are no longer on that cusp.

I remember a while back when a friend in her late twenties was talking to Rose at some event we had dragged her to. My friend was trying to talk about music to Rose and asked if Rose liked to listen to Justin Timberlake, who was just then making his "comeback." The look on Rose's face was truly laughable. She was struggling to keep a straight face and be respectful, while simultaneously trying to think of how to gracefully communicate that no one with musical savvy of her age would listen to Timberlake. My friend saw that look and, confused, said, "Isn't he popular? Who do you listen to?" Rose then reeled off a list of bands that my friend had never heard of. To her credit, my friend started laughing and said, "Well, I guess I'm not as cool as I thought I was."

More recently, Tom and I were at a birthday party for a younger friend, probably in her late twenties or early thirties (yes, I should remember as it was a birthday party, but ... I don't). A friend of hers gave her a CD and then sparkled at me that, "We have to help her stay cool you know!" I don't remember who the singer was, but I do remember that it was someone who was only cool if you were of a certain age. I smiled and asked if she liked a similar sort of artist who Hannah and Rose listened to. She had never heard of them.

I didn't put these incidents together until much more recently.

Again, I was at a gathering and found myself among several couples who are parents of young children. One of them asked, "What is Facebook?" A small silence and then another said, "It's like MySpace." Another small silence and I said, "It's a social networking thing. You know so that it's easy to get people together for parties and things like that." My friend said, "What? I just made little cards and drew beer mugs on them." This struck me as sweetly quaint ... and certainly slow. I was trying to explain that things would move too fast sometimes, "You know, sometimes Hannah's friends will ask 17 people in the afternoon to go to the movies that night ..." There was an incredulous, "17 people to the movies!"

Bantering began about the fact that no one is going to do that and "movies is code for kegger..." I was still trying to explain and heard someone say, amid howls of laughter, "Julie thinks they are really going to the movies!" "Right! And popcorn is code for ... " At that point I gave up. There was no point in giving examples of the many times I had fed up to 20 kids who hung out at our house until time to go on a scavenger hunt (code for ... scavenger hunt) or to the midnight movies. It was completely good natured on their part and these are some of my favorite people so I didn't want to be ... uncool. Which didn't stop it from making me mad because no one likes to be laughed at for being clueless.

Now, if I had had one or two more drinks, I probably would have laughed along and reminded them that I am just a tad more clued-in than they thought. Thanks to the hounding of others, for example, I actually have a space on Facebook, for example. Sadly I was not that cool. I probably showed my feelings a bit too much before turning to other subjects with other people. Oh well, none of us is perfect. (Interestingly when I told Hannah and Rose about this, each was indignant at the aspersions cast on their characters ... and those of their friends. But they've never been under any illusions that they and their friends aren't geeks ... which, in it's own way, is a cool thing in itself.)

However, Tom had heard most of it. Later on, he said, "You know, the really funny part of all that? They think they are still in touch with what is hip. But they have slid out of it just like everyone does. They just don't know it yet."

That made me remember those other examples ... and see it as one more little window on the world, an interesting cultural observation point, that we have through our kids. For the moment. Until they too, slide from knowing what is hip into cluelessness. Which is completely fine. As long as you know it.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Andy Timmons where have you been all my life?

Much thanks to Onthepodcast for playing Resolution in Episode 4 (yes, that's a hint y'all ... go listen to the last half if nothing else to hear the song).

You can find Andy Timmons' website here and listen to samples if you like.

Book Review: Annihilation

Although this book has strong religious elements which makes it appropriate to suggest for Easter reading, it most assuredly has excellent writing first and foremost, telling a compelling story that engaged my interest the entire time. I read it in three days.

Without wanting to, for the hundred-and-eighth time, Mephistopheles relived the scene. Their Guard, unbreeched. The way the Cherub had screamed for God. Camael's energy drilling into Gabriel. The Cherub unable to move, unable even to cry out by the end as they disconnected one piece from the next from the next from the next. That flash of raw light as Lucifer finished.

Mephistopheles sat on the floor and closed his eyes.

I made that possible.

Remiel insane. Angels not singing. Raphael crippled.

I did that.

A great victory. Everyone said so. A crowd of revelers chanted so. Even the minions of Heaven seemed to think so. Victory.

Mephistopheles' eyes flew open.
Jane Lebak gives us a fantasy novel with an interesting premise. What would happen if Satan, in his unending battle to overcome Heaven, discovers how to kill an angel? This raises not only the question of whether God would allow such an action, but of how the Heavenly host would react, and what long-term ramifications would result.

Satan's angels kidnap Gabriel to test their newfound annihilation discovery. The Heavenly angels storm to the rescue but cannot break through Hell's defenses. It would seem that Gabriel has been destroyed. However, things are not what they seem, as one might expect. The story proceeds with strategizing, rescue efforts, battles, and, less typical of an action novel, personal encounters with God. Intertwined are the personal struggles of the angels to do the right thing. One Heavenly angel goes insane. Will she condemn herself to Hell? An angel from Hell is overcome with regret. Will he turn to God and repent?

This story operates on several levels beyond the action. We are reminded forcibly that Hell also is populated by an angelic host, albeit one that is creatively directed toward destruction fueled by their resentment against God's supremacy. Although visits to earth are sometimes included, most of the story takes place in Heaven and Hell, showing us the angels as they interact during this emergency. Naturally, this also includes the Heavenly host's interactions with the persons of the Trinity.

As with the human condition, God will not interfere directly but leaves the angels to their calling in resolving the situation. The Heavenly host can hear God's answer to their prayers clearly, yet this does not mean that His answer to prayer is any less cryptic than the answers we may feel we sometimes receive. A favorite interchange of the novel for me illustrating this point is when Gabriel is under attack.
A moment later, Raphael's urgent voice: God says "Remember your strength."

Gabriel shored up Israfel, slipped out of Satan's hold again, and then had to brace Israfel once more.

Quit being cryptic, he prayed. I've got a lot going on here.
This book is quite satisfying as a straight action novel, however a thoughtful reader will find much to ponder.

Lebak follows Catholic theology for how angelic classifications but then goes on to her own imaginings of the need for angels to be bonded with others in a match that is complementary to each one's nature. This opens the story to considerations of friendship, with all the benefits and abuses that can result therein. This becomes especially telling when one sees that the demonic angels necessarily also bond with each other. Satan cannot stand and it drives him to distraction as an inherent weakness of angelic nature. Even in Hell, he is set apart because he denies his nature in a way that the other angels do not or cannot. This plot point leads to the consideration of evil as the denial of one's true nature.

Heavenly angels are so close to God that they hear his voice clearly in their hearts. They see Jesus face to face and walk with him as he gives friendship, support, and guidance. The Holy Spirit is almost tangible for them. This leads us to consider our own relationships with the Trinity. On a personal note, I took some of these images into my own prayer life and it has been a very helpful reminder about God's nature.

The weakest point of the book is Lebak's handling of Mary, Mother of God, as a character. In a depiction as the perfect disciple, Mary is a quiet figure constantly in the background. Her suggestions are always followed up on by the angels without comment and those suggestions often are given with the comment "Jesus instructed." Mary shows her support for the Heavenly angels by baking and making hot beverages. The angels must incorporate real bodies to consume these treats which they protest but then do to humor her. A bit of this makes the point about discipleship but Lebak carries it on to the point that by the time Mary shows up somewhere with banana bread and hot chocolate it struck me as almost a running joke. It may not strike others this way, however, a little went a very long way.

I will not call this Christian fiction as it stands well as a fantasy novel. That said, anyone who does not subscribe in some form to basic concepts of God and Heaven, necessarily is going to find this heavy going because of the subject matter. Although Lebak is Catholic, those who are not Catholic will find that her writing, as one person asked me, "Is it not overwhelmingly Catholic but still sort of Catholic?" Lebak is informed by Catholic theology, as mentioned above with the angelic classifications, but it is not anything that should intrude on any Christian's enjoyment of this book. For example, although Peter very briefly appears twice in the book, I defy anyone not to thoroughly relish his last line.

Highly recommended.

For those who would like to sample the book, the first few chapters can be found online.

Cross posted at Catholic Media Review.

Monday, February 18, 2008

The Battle of New Orleans

I don't know why I find this amusing but I do. As well, it took some considerable care with the stop motion to get the drumming right (and I liked how the cannons rolled back when they shot). But then, I'm easily amused.

"You play the Moses card a lot."

I don't know if anyone else has been catching Eli Stone but it is pretty interesting so far.

Lawyer Eli Stone is on the fast track. He is a high powered attorney, with a gorgeous fiancee, and the head of the firm is his mentor. Then one day he begins hearing music that no one else hears. Soon he is seeing visions and fearing that he is crazy. Willing to try anything, he goes to Dr. Chen, an acupuncturist, who helps him to recall important memories from his youth.

Eli's brother, an equally high-powered doctor, finds that Eli has an inoperable brain aneurysm. Dr. Chen tells him that "aneurysm" is science's explanation. Chen points out that there could be a divine answer for the visions -- Eli may be a prophet. Of course, Eli goes on to follow the "clues" from his visions which send him to represent a case that his firm would never take on and thus help the little guy.

What I find interesting in the show, aside from the fact that each episode has featured a song and dance number thus far, is that each seems to be pointing out a characteristic of the traditional "prophet." It makes us look a little deeper past the comedic effects of Eli having jumped onto a grenade from a vision and come to himself face down in a cake. Eli has been living the good life as a shallow overachiever, but we see that such a life is coming to an end as his prophetic duties overcome him. As well, the quite shallow fiancee is being allowed to show that she can have unexpected depths, rather than remaining a cartoonish character for Eli's secretary to make the target of her barbs.

On the other hand, I suppose it is du rigeur in prime time television to have Eli and his fiancee continually leaping onto the couch to make love, but I could do without it.

Beyond Cana: the Retreat

Much thanks to everyone who stopped and said a prayer for the Beyond Cana retreat.

Eight couples came in various stages of apprehension, excitement, or nerves. Eight couples left looking relaxed, happy, and glowingly in love.

What a privilege to help in such an endeavor. I know that this retreat brought special blessings to Tom and me in several ways. I know of some blessings that flowed also over others of our team ... and am sure there were many more I simply do not know about.

When we got home, Rose was there with a big hug and many whispers about her days while we were gone (while Tom slumbered on the couch ... my several-hour-nap came shortly thereafter). My usual entourage of two dogs and a cat were more determined and close behind me than ever.

The fridge is bare. I have a flat tire being fixed which I will pick up this afternoon.

And I am smiling anyway.

God was at work and we were allowed to participate.

What Does It Mean to Be Human?

We humans have lost our identity. As a people, we no longer have the answers to these questions:
  • Who am I?
  • What is the purpose to life?
  • Who is God?
  • Why was I created?
These questions and the corresponding answers directly effect what we believe, how we view life, and how we live. The root of the issue is this - without an identity in Christ, we cannot see ourselves, others or the world in the proper context. We mistake a lie for the truth.
Marcel LeJeune, at Mary's Aggies, has been tackling this question lately.

First, read this, whence came the above excerpt. It is good and thoughtful.

Secondly, take a look at this review of a documentary about what it means to be human. Here is a bit of it but there is much more and it is well worth your time to read it. I also am putting the movie trailer below. If you watch, please view the trailer in its entirety as the beginning seems rather grim, but actually is setting up the reason the movie was made.
The story of the film revolves around a young man and his brother and their quest to find what it means to be human in light of their own experiences and struggles. They have three different life-transforming experiences in search of the answers to the questions about the meaning and purpose of life. What does it mean to be a human? Why do we have to suffer? Where is God? Where can we find hope?

The movie never gives an explicit answer to these questions and I believe that it achieves it's ends much more effectively because it doesn't provide the answer for us. It challenges us to do the same as the young men in the film - go and find what it means to be human. They never get preachy in the film, but rather witness to what makes us all human by experiencing those situations where hope seems distant. ...

"I teach Sunday school..."

I am positive that this Stephen Colbert clip has been making the rounds but haven't caught up with blog reading this morning. Possibly one of the greatest compliments I have received this year was the email I got this morning with the link that said, "I've been reading your blog for a year or more and I thought of you when I saw this the other night."

Warning, this contains an epithet, bleeped out.

This ties in nicely with the fact that I was at the retreat with Gino who is both more charitable and much more knowledgeable than I am about the faith. During a break time, when Brad (also very knowledgeable) asked the difference between plenary indulgences and plain indulgences, Gino reeled off the explanation without blinking. And without fanfare, which I probably could not have done.

The clip above also makes me think of last week's House, which we watched last night. It delved into matters of faith and whether a person can ever really change. As a person who has changed for the better (as House's patient had claimed to do), I was interested to see where the writers took this question. One of the main delights, as above, was in watching the patient's husband, a Hassidic Jew, point out logical fallacies and groundless assumptions in the statements of the doctors. Which for me, is connected with watching Colbert above.

Catholic Blog Award Nominations Open

I see that while I was away helping with the Beyond Cana retreat, the nominations opened for The Catholic Blog Awards. They'll close on Friday, February 29 at noon (central time). Voting will begin on Monday, March 3.

These are always fun and a good way to find new blogs ... as well as "tip" your current favorites for a year of enjoyable reading. I have several that spring instantly to mind you probably do too.

Here are the categories:
  • Best Overall Catholic Blog
  • Best Designed Catholic Blog
  • Best Written Catholic Blog
  • Best New Catholic Blog
  • Best Individual Catholic Blog
  • Best Group Blog
  • Best Blog by Clergy/Religious/Seminarian
  • Funniest Catholic Blog
  • Smartest Catholic Blog
  • Most Informative & Insightful Catholic Blog
  • Best Apologetic Blog
  • Best Political/Social Commentary Catholic Blog
  • Best Insider News Catholic Blog
  • Most Spiritual Blog
Much thanks goes to CyberCatholics who put in a great deal of work gratis every year to provide us with this fun. If you enjoy it, consider letting them know by dropping a little something in their tip jar to help offset their expenses.

Worth a Thousand Words

Pirena Dog Show: Boxer by Barcelona Photoblog.

Any fellow Boxer lovers will understand why I just couldn't resist this picture.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Terry Gilliam’s The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus will keep on filming

Terry Gilliam fans knew that Heath Ledger's death carried a blow beyond that of his loss. Heath Ledger was starring in Gilliam's upcoming movie and his scenes weren't done shooting.

However, Ain't It Cool tells us that the twists and turns of the story make it possible for his character to be played by other actors (this I've gotta see). Three actors have been confirmed to step in for Ledger as a final tribute. Three of my faves as it turns out ... find out who they are here.

To see how Heath Ledger and Terry Gilliam worked together, go watch The Brothers Grimm. Odd but good ... we really liked it. Via Jeffrey Overstreet.

"This ain't gonna be easy."
"Not as easy as it used to be."

Also in movie news, here's the new Indiana Jones trailer. So far so good ...

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Worth a Thousand Words

Blissful Tiger taken by karma1410
and found on Flickr.

Click through on the title to see more of karma's wonderful animal photos.

Which Version of Dante I am Reading ... and Why

Dr. Steve asks:
Can you tell me which translation of Dante you're reading? Did you give that issue much thought?...
I actually did give this a great deal of thought. The library had translations by Anthony Esolen (the newest translation of Dante if I am not mistaken), Allen Mandelbaum, C.H. Sisson, Jefferson Butler Fletcher, Charles Eliot Norton, and John Ciardi.

The library must have wondered if I was doing a research paper because I checked them all out and then took a look at the first chapters to see which seemed to be the easiest to read. John Ciardi won, hands down. And his rhymed which won many points as some of the other translations did not and I wanted a sense of poetry even while understanding that it would not equal the original.

Then I looked at the notes and, again, John Ciardi won. He had ... would you call them "headnotes" (?) ... which came at the beginning of each Canto to give a sense of what one would read. This was followed by thorough end notes in which he not only clarified many points obscure to us today, but also would not his "work arounds" to make a rhyme happen and then give the exact translation as it would have read.

This is not to say that the other versions weren't good. It is just that Ciardi's felt most like something I would have a chance of continuing to read. As has proven to be the case. I read a canto every morning although it took me a while to fall into that rhythm.

The sad thing is that I have had the library's copy for about a year, renewing it online every three weeks and it has never been requested by anyone else. I know this because if it was, then I would not have been allowed to renew it. Ah well.

Also, I would be remiss in not mentioning the book that made me truly interested in reading the Divine Comedy in the first place. That would be Inferno by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. You can find a partial review here and more thoughts about it here. It is highly recommended, especially to any science fiction lovers (such as The Anchoress' sons!).

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Lent "Re-Branded" as Christian Ramadan

As if we needed proof that Western culture is on a long down-hill slide in some places.
Dutch Catholics have re-branded the Lent fast as the "Christian Ramadan" in an attempt to appeal to young people who are more likely to know about Islam than Christianity. ...

"The image of the Catholic Lent must be polished. The fact that we use a Muslim term is related to the fact that Ramadan is a better-known concept among young people than Lent," said Vastenaktie Director, Martin Van der Kuil.
Read it all here. Via John C. Wright.

"It may be gross. It may seem creepy."

Sarah at Mary's Aggies has a good analogy. Go read it all, but here's a bit to intrigue you.
... God comes to us eager and willing to work. He longs to clean out our hearts – even those places we often pretend don’t exist or the ones we have long since tried to forget are there. He bends and reaches and sees trash we aren’t even aware of. He doesn’t tire of his work. He longs to make us whole.

You may be tired. You may be timid. You may be eager to leave this task for another time. It may be gross. It may seem creepy. It may be tempting to leave this project before it is completed.

But let him in. Give him full reign to clean up your heart.
Yep. There are many ways God may want to do this work. In my own life, it began most fully in this Lenten season with going to confession last Saturday. I didn't want to. I was eager to leave this task for another time. No one would see it. Except God and me.

If you haven't been for a while, I can't recommend it enough.

Let him in.

Lenten Reading

  • Sarah has just finished reading one of my favorite books, Adventures in Orthodoxy by Fr. Dwight Longenecker. I don't know if she chose it specifically as Lenten reading but it is Lent and she did just finish reading it. So that counts. Go check out her review of a really wonderful book you probably never heard of that both The Curt Jester and I really love.

  • Darwin Catholic continues his Lenten tradition (it's the second year so that makes it tradition) of commenting on Dante's Divine Comedy. His first post answers the question, "Why read Dante for Lent? Why read Dante at all?" As someone who is very slowly working her way through Dante and has made it to the beginning of Paradisio ... it has changed how I think about my life and sin. Consider that I began reading Dante to cross it off my reading list and then think about how it might change your life ... or go see what Darwin has to say.

  • Woodward at Thursday Night Gumbo tells us what he's reading and invites us to tell him what we're reading.

  • The Anchoress just received Questions and Answers: Pope Benedict XVI and also The Greatest Gift; The Courageous Life and Martyrdom of Sister Dorothy Stang. She has a bit about them. I also received these but haven't had a chance to crack the covers yet.
I am reading two books which I began long before Lent but got sidetracked from by other books. Part of my overall Lenten resolution to focus and simplify is to finish these excellent books!
  • The School of Prayer: An Introduction to the Divine Office for All Christians by John Brook. Interestingly Brook partially presents this introduction to promote ecumenism for he points out that praying from the Psalms makes Protestants feel right at home in the practice. This book not only tells about the divine office, but has an explication of the psalms commonly prayed so that we more easily find Christ in them.

  • Beginning to Pray by Anthony Bloom. This book is written with complete simplicity but yet somehow contains depths that one thinks of for some time afterward. Let's just begin with this ... "If you look at the relationship (us and God) in terms of mutual relationship, you would see that God could complain about us a great deal more than we about Him. We complain that He does make Himself present to us for a few minutes we reserve for Him, but what about the twenty-three and half hours during which God may be knocking at our door and we answer 'I am busy..."
Also, thinking ahead for Easter reading recommendations, I am reading a couple of review books ... sci-fi and fantasy, both of which I am thoroughly enjoying I will put links here so you can take a look if you are interested. Reviews will come when I have finished the books which I do not anticipate being long as I am finding these riveting and that makes me read even faster.

Heavens to Betsy!

Was that my Catholicism bursting out all over the place at the end of Fausta's blog radio talk? I believe it was. Let me just scoop that up and put it away ...

A very interesting conversation about men and women and all that jazz. In which I start talking and then can't shut up ... so it's all normal, right?

It will be posted here on iTunes or at Fausta's blog a little later.

Worth a Thousand Words

Classic Chevrolet via Flickr Cream of the Crop.

More Blog Talk Radio

Fausta, Siggy, and others who I am not sure about (maybe Laurie Kendrick?) will be on Fausta's blog radio show at 11 a.m. Eastern (10 a.m. Central, which would be my time zone). The call in number is 646-652-2639.

The link for Blog Talk Radio is here at Fausta's. I don't understand a thing about how it works but I do know that it is podcast later so you have a variety ways to listen if you are interested. I also am not sure what we're talking about but they always come up with something interesting and I never seem to be at a loss for words. Not sure if that is a good or a bad thing!

Anyway, tune in!

Monday, February 11, 2008

The Two Pronged Attack of Deception

Yesterday's readings were familiar to most of us. Specifically, the OT featured Adam and Eve being tempted by the cunning serpent while as is always the case in the first Sunday of Lent, the NT showed us Jesus being tempted by the devil. (See the readings here.).

There are many ways that these can be viewed, of course. However, what it really boils down to is what was talked about by Fr. L. yesterday.

First, the facts are put in doubt.

Second, the motivation is put in doubt.

Think about that when you are reading the pieces of conversation featuring the serpent or the devil. Then apply it to the larger world. This works on so many levels and from so many sources, whether human or supernatural. Yet it goes back always to the very first case of temptation and deception.

First, the facts are put in doubt.

Second, the motivation is put in doubt.

I especially thought of the quite surprising number of people I have encountered lately who have doubts and questions about the Catholic Church and the magisterium's authority. Some are merely questioning, some are defiant, however all have either left the Church or are in the process of coming back. I thought of all the reasons that people question the Church, including my own journey down the road to reading myself into agreement with Church teachings.

First, the facts are put in doubt.

Second, the motivation is put in doubt.

I am not saying that we should not question. Far from it. We were given our intelligence for a reason. It is through questioning that I wound up in the Church and later came to a greater appreciation of all She offers. However, we must be sure that we are not being led down the garden path by a subtle twisting of truth that leads us to suddenly change how we look and trust ... Read Eve's response to the serpent ... and see how differently she looks at the tree after that conversation.

We surely must be wise and also pray for guidance to be able to discern when we come up against these deceptions in our lives.

Worth a Thousand Words

Shinagawa by Tokaido Goju-santsugi (found at Kyoto Daily Photo).

Now This Is Fun Design

Isn't this fun? Got it from Siggy who has lots of other great design graphics up also.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

The Father is Very Fond of Us

I went to Confession yesterday. Usually I have thought about it, figured out and analyzed my sins, and then prepped my confession speech, so I am not at all worried about confession. I usually feel that this is the official stamp of absolution because God and I have already been discussing these issues indepth.

This time was different. Oh, I did the analyzing, the examination, the discussion with God. But I had a couple of new things on my heart, revealed to me through my ever-so-slow reading of Dante's confessions. When I saw some of the same things showing up in Purgatorio that I did in Inferno, I realized that there were examples lurking in my own soul that I doubtless should be taking more seriously.

Ok, so what?

So, these newbie realizations were some that I cringed from making out loud. In retrospect, I realized that this was because they'd ruin my "rep" with whichever priest heard my confession. Boy oh boy, is that silly. Not only are these sins the routine sort that any priest might hear many times a day, it was a true internal indicator of my pride, my dislike of appearing less in someone elses' eyes.

Which is just the sort of thing that I should be examining and bringing out into the clear light of day for applying balance in my soul ... and for asking God's help ... as well in in those particular "Dante-esque" sins.

Yesterday, no matter where I turned I couldn't forget confession, for which I blame thank my guardian angel who knew just what I needed.

Finally, I realized that, as someone I knew had told me long ago, "God and the angels watched you sin when you did it. You aren't telling anyone anything new, except maybe yourself."

Truer words were never spoken.

I came away from the confessional laughing at myself, with my sense of balance restored. The priest nodded at those sins I didn't want to mention and then concentrated on others that I was all too familiar with confessing. That which I dreaded mentioning was only new and completely embarrassing to myself. Gee, is it all about me or what? Not only did I get absolution, additional graces to help me continue the battle, but a good mirror into my soul.

All for free. What a deal. No wonder God want us to go regularly to confession. He's always wanted the best for us.

Which brings me to the article that inspired me to post all this.
... "Well, it's funny. I didn't, like, confess. I just talked to him. Told him what was going on. It was good. I decided that I didn't want to ask for absolution, though."

It seems our protagonist and his priest had enjoyed a lengthy back-and-forth about the nature of sin, what constitutes sin, and what role conscience plays in that definition. "Some of the things I've done, I know I'm going to do them again. I didn't mind confessing, but it seemed wrong to say an Act of Contrition when I'm not even sure I'm contrite. I know what the church teaches, but God knows everything; He understands my mind and heart. He knows I'm not out to defy him; I'm just living my life, and exploring and growing up. Me and Jesus, we're okay."

Apparently the priest enjoyed this. He told the un-penitent that he appreciated this thoughtful confession over the "lip-service" he so often heard. But there was the matter of absolution. "I don't know how to do a 'partial' absolution, and it seems pointless. Your venial sins are absolved in the Mass, anyway."

"I know," the young man agreed. "I'll just have to stay away from Communion until I can get this all sorted out."

The idea of anyone withholding himself from Communion for what could be years threw me, but he explained, "I'm not going to live a casual, sloppy faith. I believe God would rather have me play fair and be respectful than make a rote confession. So many people just mouth the right words and only half mean it -- as if you can game the system or fool God into thinking you're alright. Who's alright, anyway? Isn't that why God is merciful, because none of us is alright? I love the Eucharist; I won't treat it so carelessly. I can still make a spiritual communion. If it's true, the grace should be able to sneak in."

He had me there. ...
Go read all of this excellent reflection on confession.

The beginning puts me in mind of "A" who recently emailed me that he wasn't receiving communion because he "had to get things right with the Lord." Not what you expect to hear from a college sophomore but just the sort of total honesty that "A" lives his life by.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Hell Abolished, God Adopts Gold Sticker System

... As reported at last week’s press conference, after reading a book on self-esteem in children, the Lord realized that all “Children of God” could benefit from immediate positive reinforcement.

“As it turned out,” the Lord said, “tossing sinners into Hell was seriously damaging their self-esteem.”

“This just goes to show that you’re never omnipotent or omnipresent enough not to learn a thing or two from time to time,” the Archangel Gabriel said. “Do we serve a great God or what?! What a guy!”

Support for the initiative came from at least one surprising source.

“This initiative couldn’t have come soon enough,” said the original Prince of Darkness, Satan, who wept openly at the press conference. Satan wore a “Nice try!” sticker, “If I’d had one of these way back when, things could have been different. A lot different.”

In the first phase of the initiative, angels were dispatched to Earth with hundreds of thousands of rolls of stickers. Whenever a human was “caught in the act” of doing something terrific, such as praying, helping another, reading the Bible, or working for peace, the angels were charged to present the human with a sticker. ...
A "news article" that is simultaneously hilarious as well as scathing commentary. Do go read it all. Not easy to pull off, but philangelus from Seven angels, three kids, one family does it perfectly. This just makes me even more interested in reading her new book, Seven Archangels: Annihilation.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Weekend Joke

From Rose, via BL Live (their in-school news show).

How do you get Pikachu on an elevator?

You Pokemon.

Godspy is Back! Woohoo!

They've been on hiatus which I have found quite frustrating ... but they've redesigned and looks better than ever. So what's new and what's the same? That scoop is here.

The first thing I read was The Pope of Hope by David Scott. It reminded me of just how much I loved Benedict's latest encyclical and of what good Lenten reading it would be. Also, of just how much I enjoy reading David's writing.

I'm looking forward to exploring more of the new look and articles this weekend.

Just a sec, let me get that little spot on the inside of your monitor ...

Just click here and that'll take care of it ...

Worth a Thousand Words

Fox Puppy taken by that photographic genius, Remo Savisaar
(Click through on the title link to go to the blog and see more of his amazing nature photography.)

Thursday, February 7, 2008


When cruelty and holidays collide, the weak-willed find solace in self-pity and comfort foods. And now, Despair Inc. is pleased to announce that we've combined BOTH into a radical new offering.

Introducing Bittersweets® - The Valentine's Candy for the Rest of Us.
From the good folks at Despair.

We should all be so corny ...

... as John Wayne as he talks about what he wants for his new baby girl.

Via Libertas where they rightly point out that today's sense of entitlement stops modern stars from a similar sense of gratitude and love of country.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Protecting the Church's Freedom in Colorado

Colorado HB 1080, pushed by the Anti-Defamation League after failing in a similar attempt last year, presents itself as an effort to bar discrimination. But the so-called “discrimination” HB 1080 targets is actually the legitimate freedom of religiously affiliated nonprofits to hire employees of like faith to carry out their mission. In practice, HB 1080 would strike down the freedom of Catholic Charities to preferentially hire Catholics for its leadership jobs if it takes state funds.

Of course, Catholic Charities can always decline public funds and continue its core mission with private money. In the Archdiocese of Denver, we’re ready to do exactly that. But the issues involved in HB 1080, and the troubling agenda behind it, are worth some hard reflection. ...
Archbishop Charles Chaput has a very good column in First Things discussing the church versus state situation in Colorado.

Abortion Changes You

... Over the years I’ve heard many heartrending stories about abortion. Although each story is unique, a common thread moves through them all—abortion changes you. Yet there is no forum to help abortion participants—and the people who are closest to them—explore this tragic truth. Although abortion has touched many of us, we rarely share our personal experiences regarding it.

This is what led me to write a book that shares some of the stories I’ve heard. There was also a need for a safe space for people to tell their stories, explore the ways abortion has impacted them, and find resources. We created to fill this need. ...
Abortion Changes You is a new outreach that will be launching nationally in a few months. Go explore the site. It looks very interesting.

Worth a Thousand Words

Violin Player by Barcelona Photoblog

Some Quick Reviews

  1. Bone Dance: A Fantasy for Technophiles by Emma Bull***** ... perhaps this is best described as cyberpunk fantasy. Sparrow is an expert at collecting old technology that has survived a near apocalypse, especially movies and music, for collectors who have enough money. This book flips premises three times, while continuing the story line as if the reader already understands all the cultural references that characters are making. Somewhat challenging to hang on during the flips but it is well worth while for the interested reader. Highly recommended.

  2. In the Country of the Blind by Michael Flynn***** ... less science fiction than a thriller written around the premise that around the time of the Civil War, a secret society discovered an equation that predicts historical events. They still exist today and will go to any lengths to keep their identity a secret. Unfortunately for Sarah, who is merely trying to uncover a good name for a real estate development, her research uncovers them.

  3. Lourdes: Font of Faith, Hope, and Charity by Elizabeth Ficocelli**** ... despite my complete lack of interest in Lourdes, Ficocelli's writing was compelling enough to draw me through the book to the end. A combination history of Lourdes and guide to how it is set up today, this is highly recommended for anyone who has any interest in this famous Marian site.

  4. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley**** ... discover the original behind the monster movies. Victor Frankenstein clearly shows mankind's shortsightedness in many ways (or as I said to Rose, "What a moron!"). The monster ironically is anything but monstrous as he shows the ideal of "tabla rasa" and what mankind could be if given the opportunity. As well as a study of how repeated rejection will sour the sweetest personality.

  5. Helvetica***** ... are you a "typomaniac?" If you come out of this movie with a crush on Helvetica, as Hannah's friend Jenny did, then you know that the answer to that question should be yes! This documentary, done on the typeface Helvetica's 50th birthday, manages not only to tell us about this particular typeface but to remind the general viewer that type is now a design element that is all around us. In the various attitudes and feuds of the type designers that are interviewed, one also gets a glimpse of the passion that art arouses. Yes, even those who practice the art of graphic design. We had to wait for over a month to rent this documentary as it was always out every weekend. Which just goes to show how quirky our neighborhood is, full of designers and advertising people.

  6. Moliere**** ... this movie is a la "Shakespeare in Love" but much better done. On the point of his triumphant return to Paris, Moliere flashes back thirteen years to remember a pivotal time in his life. This is a very funny movie on several levels and if one knows his plays it is undoubtedly even funnier. As someone who does not know Moliere's work, I can recommend the movie anyway.

  7. 30Rock - The first season**** ... not a movie but surely logging in all these hours counts for something! Absolutely hilarious and we could kick ourselves for not having watched sooner. Set behind the scenes of a variety show a la Saturday Night Live, this focuses on the writers, actors, and management.

  8. Extras - The first season**** ... again not a movie but a truly funny and sometimes poignant British television series. Focusing on an actor who seems doomed to always be an extra and desperately wants to get a line in a production, this character-driven comedy is funny on many levels. Not the least of that comedy is that each episode features a well-known actor who is shown "behind scenes" with humor deriving from the fact that they are playing against type of their well known public personas. This is when you realize what good sports Kate Winslet, Patrick Stewart, and Ben Stiller really are. Doubtless I would realize that about British actors Ross Kemp and Les Dennis except I never heard of them before.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

"E" for Excellent

Wife and Mom of Two kindly awarded Happy Catholic a rating of "E." Thank you very much!

Now it is my turn to pass this on to ten other bloggers. As always, my problem is where to draw the line. All the blogs I read are excellent ... or I wouldn't read 'em.

However, since I must choose ... here goes with an eclectic mix of places you might not have seen me mention lately ... or at all ... but that I find irresistible:
  1. The Way of the Fathers
  2. Barcelona Photoblog
  3. Mary's Aggies
  4. The Mad Tea Party
  5. The Doctor is In
  6. Finding Grace Within
  7. Wittingshire
  8. Big Mo's Presidents Review
  9. Just Another Day of Catholic Pondering
  10. The Raft on the Tiber

Blog Talk Radio ... Again with Siggy, Fausta and Me

The three of us will be on Fausta's blog radio show at 11 a.m. Eastern (10 a.m. Central, which would be my time zone). The call in number is 646-652-2639.

The link for Blog Talk Radio is here at Fausta's. I don't understand a thing about how it works but I do know that it is podcast later so you have a variety ways to listen if you are interested. We're starting off discussing gender differences, based on Siggy's post from a few days ago.

Seriously, I never, ever would have thought that I could talk about gender differences and sex for an hour and not be bored. Yeah, I know, that doesn't sound right does it? But really, the only thing more boring than that for me would be politics. But Siggy and Fausta make it so much fun! It was a blast guys! Thanks so much for having me on the show! You can listen to the podcast via iTunes soon ...

I just want to add that I was very excited that Laurie Kendrick was there too as I have been reading her blog for a few weeks. That girl cracks me up. And I believe that I may have a serious crush on Shane as well a great admiration for his very wise mother.

Can you tell I had a blast? Of course you can!

Not Strictly Spiritual

A great website from author Mary DeTurris who has "The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Catholic Catechism" coming out soon. Can I wait? Well I guess I must but I don't want to!

She also has a blog with an interesting post about the Antarctic and the Lenten desert. Check that out for sure.

As if that weren't enough she is a columnist ... be sure to investigate all the tabs. I've been looking around here for a couple of weeks (or maybe more) and really enjoying this site.

The Big Question of the Day ... What Are You Giving Up for Lent?

I'll go first ... I'm severely cutting back on podcast listening. I vow to daily load on a single hour each of nonfiction and fiction podcasts onto my iPod. And not to replenish when they are gone ... until the next day.

Ooooo, you wouldn't think this would be a penitential act, but I'm tellin' ya ... it will be. Just to reinforce that, when we were talking at dinner last night about what we were giving up, my husband was nodding his head more and more emphatically the whole time I was talking. That's when you know you're doing the right thing.

Adding on ... praying the liturgy of the hours, in the morning, at noon, and the evening anyway. I did this long, long ago and don't know why I drifted away as I found it beneficial in so many ways. Beginning with that regular touching base with God, of course. So this is my chance to get back into it.

Today, I'm celebrating Fat Tuesday by listening to podcasts and cleaning out my iPod (similar to the pancake feast to clean out the dairy from your pantry, but on an audio basis).

Monday, February 4, 2008

Latin Bleg

Any pronunciation tips for this?
Jam sol recedit igneus ...
Translation: The setting sun now turns our gaze to Thee.

This link is too funny not to post ... but comes with a warning.

If you are a Cowboys fan and don't mind Hitler, Nazis, or bad language, then you are going to find this hilarious. Brilliant use of war movie footage and football game subtitle dialogue.

However, the warning is serious so don't go there if Hitler, Nazis, or bad language will upset you. I'm not kidding.

Die-Hard Cowboys Fan

Note to Hollywood ...

... before making another war movie, watch the NFL We are Americans ad first.

I was thinking this because I'd recently read Andrew Klavan's brilliant article, The Lost Art of War about where modern Hollywood is missing the boat in war movies. I found the article via Libertas.

I see that today Libertas is advising that Hollywood Could Learn from the NFL just for the way to tell a story, a la Super Bowl as epic confrontation. Indeed Libertas is correct.

In Thanksgiving for a Broken Arm

When bad things happen and we can't see why, sometimes it is because we are right in the middle of living through the good that God will bring out of the bad. We don't have perspective because we're not on the other side of the event yet.

As witness, we have Sarah's epiphany about her broken arm ...
If I hadn’t broken my arm [a year ago], I wouldn’t have cut back my hours at work and started taking off two afternoons a week.

If I hadn’t taken off two afternoons a week, I wouldn’t have decided to start seeing Grandma and Grandpa once a week. ...
Go read it all.

Now That's Good Football

Finally, the Super Bowl had that rarest of occurrences, two teams who were well matched and who fought it out until the end. My favorite moment of the game ... when Eli Manning popped out running from two defenders who I thought surely had him down and then threw to ... can't remember the other player (Mary tells me it was David Tyree ... fantastic catch!) who caught the ball on top of his helmet and went to the ground clutching it for a huge advance in yards. Second favorite moment of the game was seeing big brother Peyton Manning's ecstatic reaction to the final touchdown throw in the last minute of the game.

Its a good thing that the game was good since there were not too many new commercials and, of those, few were very good. Two of those were from the NFL itself.

One was the tribute "We Are Americans" which brought a tear to our eyes. It was nice to see some unabashed pride in America.

Or how about the NFL ad featuring the oboe player working in the grocery store who'd never thought of playing football?

My other favorite ad was the Carville Frist Coke Ad. If only it were this easy, I'd spring for some Coca Cola for the government myself. However, I like this view of shared humanity under the politics.

Worth a Thousand Words

A Small Museum by Qiang-Huang

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Which Candidate Would You Want to Break Bread With?

That's what The Anchoress asks, prompted by a comment from Bender (I miss Bender around here ... I'm just sayin').

She thinks she'd like Obama and family. I think I could host for Obama at dinner as he seems personable enough to keep things pleasant even if we got onto politics. Otherwise, just looking for a pleasant evening and not trying to "question a candidate" I think I'd enjoy breaking bread with John McCain. He seems real if you know what I mean.

Improv on a Mission

Place: Grand Central Station
Number of Undercover Agents: 207
The Mission: Freeze in Place at the Exact Same Moment

After five minutes they "unfroze" and moved on. Great fun to see their effect on bystanders and the varied things they were doing when they "froze. See it here.

Thanks to The Anchoress for the tip on this one. Yeah, she knows what I like.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

For Hannah ...

Poor, poor Hannah ... she has an ear infection, and a very sore throat, and ... well, various other unsavory symptoms. She is taking five kinds of medicine (those A&M doctors are quick with the prescription pad) ... but although her friends are keeping her company and giving her chicken soup, there is no Mom to make her a grilled cheese sandwich. And change the Futurama DVDs whenever she wants ...

Wish you were here, sweetie ... praying for you to feel better soon. Love, Mom. :-)

If You Live in Dallas Do Yourself a Favor and Go See Ella

We just got back from this show which combines the best elements of live performance and fascinating life story. Ella Fitzgerald may have been known as "the nice one" compared to Billie Holiday but that's just because she didn't spread her life out in public for everyone to see. There was much I didn't know about Ella's life and it was told in an engaging manner that incorporated some of her best known songs along the way.

E. Fay Butler did a fantastic job singing in Ella's style and telling her story. Her scat alone would have been enough to earn the standing ovation she received at the end. The live band was also wonderful and I am going to look for that trumpet player's CDs. You can see a video clip here ... just scroll down.

For those of you who don't have the time to take in the show (or are just in the wrong place in the country) put some Ella on the CD player ... after all, no one can match those smooth tones or three octave range but the lady herself.