Monday, June 30, 2008

Worth a Thousand Words

Originally uploaded by pavementpicasso

Since we were just speaking about creativity, art, and the human spirit in the Wall-E review, what is better than this? Check out Pavement Picasso's photostream for some more amazing art.

Wall-E: A Celebration of What Makes Life Worth Living

By now anyone who cares to read a review (and I have plenty of good ones here) knows that Wall-E is a cautionary tale against consumerism, big business, and disregard for the environment. Wall-E is the last of the robots left behind to clean up the earth; a little fellow who does his duty but leaves room to delight in what his curiosity brings to light.

What you may not know is that this is the movie that can also make you anxious about a cockroach's fate (something I surely thought impossible), delight in the indomitable human spirit, and leave you feeling both joy and hope about the future. This is a big accomplishment.

As big an accomplishment is that the movie is largely without human dialogue, aside from the last part of the movie. In the finest tradition of old cartoons such as Road Runner or Bugs Bunny (which the opening short takes us back to in both style and story line), this movie expresses creativity in using sounds and actions to show us exactly how fine an art storytelling can be. We saw the movie with an audience of perhaps 1/3 children (that in itself is an accomplishment for an animated movie under the Disney flag) and never once did we hear anyone plaintively asking, "What is happening?"

Additional creativity is unleashed in the first half of the closing credits where the movie's storyline continues as reflected through the development of art. Not only is it a delight to watch but a clearer underline to the point of mankind's creative spirit could not be made.

Interestingly, this movie blends in images of real people. We only see them via holographs as recordings but they are there to underscore specific important points and to speak to the people in their future.

The movie is full of science fiction references for those who know where to look. Even those who don't like the genre will recognize the reference to 2001's Hal which is used to great effect. Those who know a bit more will recognize some of my favorite references, such as to Aliens in the airlock scene and to a favorite episode of Futurama when they recognize Sigorney Weaver's voice as that of the ship. I know I picked up very few of these references and will be checking out the trivia page at IMDB to find the rest.

There are two criticisms I have seen in reviews that I think are incorrect.

One is that this is a gnostic movie and not a "Christian" movie. Untrue. From time immemorial we have told and loved the story of the humble oddball not following the accepted way ... it is he who shines the light on where everyone else has gotten off track. It is Everyman's story and, ultimately, it holds the seeds of truth to allow us to recognize Christ's story as Truth itself. This story is in that fine tradition of showing what is best in man. Wall-E epitomizes curiosity, creativity, love of art, self-expression, a desire to love and be loved, and self-sacrifice for those he loves in cause of the bigger picture. Christians do not need to have it spelled out more than that. Read the Christianity Today and Catholic Exchange reviews from the link above.

Secondly, I have seen the people in the movie characterized as lazy slobs who only care about consuming more and more. The point, which is made very subtly, is that these people had their lives change little by little until they didn't know there was another way to live. The scenes with John and Mary show this most clearly with the Captain's realizations and the scenes of the babies reinforcing the point. They are not the way they are by choice as they make other choices when the blinders are knocked off and they can see the light of having more than one path.

I also would like to add that, although this movie clearly is against consumerism and big business, it is fair. Big business is shown to try to fix their mistakes. They do a very bad job but they clearly meant it all for the best. They are not shown as evil or plotting. They are simply run by people who lost track of balance. That the people in the movie's past were their victims was through their own choice (here I am applying the message to our own lives as we are meant to).

This movie joins my favorites from Pixar and makes a trinity of good watching which should speak to us as modern men about the choices we make and living thoughtfully: The Incredibles, Ratatouille, and ... now ... Wall-E.

Highly recommended.

Update -- Spoilers!
A commenter made an excellent point that had escaped me entirely and I will quote it here:
... one part I haven't seen commented on was when Eve goes into hibernation (or whatever that was) and Walle takes such good care of her, even though she cannot respond.

It made me think of how we need to take care of the frail among us. The image of Terri Schaivo came immediately to mind.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Jubilee of St. Paul

Today marks not only the feast of St. Peter and St. Paul, but also the beginning of the Jubilee of St. Paul, the 2,000th anniversary of St. Paul.

When announcing this Jubilee last year, the Pope said (in part):
Dear brothers and sisters, as in early times, today too Christ needs apostles ready to sacrifice themselves. He needs witnesses and martyrs like St Paul. Paul, a former violent persecutor of Christians, when he fell to the ground dazzled by the divine light on the road to Damascus, did not hesitate to change sides to the Crucified One and followed him without second thoughts. He lived and worked for Christ, for him he suffered and died. How timely his example is today!

And for this very reason I am pleased to announce officially that we shall be dedicating a special Jubilee Year to the Apostle Paul from 28 June 2008 to 29 June 2009, on the occasion of the bimillennium of his birth, which historians have placed between the years 7 and 10 A.D.

It will be possible to celebrate this "Pauline Year" in a privileged way in Rome where the sarcophagus which, by the unanimous opinion of experts and an undisputed tradition, preserves the remains of the Apostle Paul, has been preserved beneath the Papal Altar of this Basilica for 20 centuries.

It will thus be possible to have a series of liturgical, cultural and ecumenical events taking place at the Papal Basilica and at the adjacent Benedictine Abbey, as well as various pastoral and social initiatives, all inspired by Pauline spirituality.

In addition, special attention will be given to penitential pilgrimages that will be organized to the Apostle's tomb to find in it spiritual benefit. Study conventions and special publications on Pauline texts will also be promoted in order to make ever more widely known the immense wealth of the teaching they contain, a true patrimony of humanity redeemed by Christ.

Furthermore, in every part of the world, similar initiatives will be implemented in the dioceses, shrines and places of worship, by Religious and by the educational institutions and social-assistance centres which are named after St Paul or inspired by him and his teaching.

Lastly, there is one particular aspect to which special attention must be paid during the celebration of the various moments of the 2,000th Pauline anniversary: I am referring to the ecumenical dimension. The Apostle to the Gentiles, who was especially committed to taking the Good News to all peoples, left no stones unturned for unity and harmony among all Christians.

May he deign to guide and protect us in this bimillenial celebration, helping us to progress in the humble and sincere search for the full unity of all the members of Christ's Mystical Body. Amen.
Amy Welborn has a very nice reflection on this Pauline year as well as tons and tons of links.

I always have a bit of a fellow feeling with Paul as he was a convert who literally was struck by Jesus with a dope slap to get him to see the light (as it were). I have been so convinced many times that I knew just what was going on and then had to be dope slapped by God to really take in reality. As for Paul's never give up, never say die spirit ... yep, I can relate there as well. For better or for worse. But what doesn't kill us keeps us humble, right? And that ain't bad ...

Speaking of St. Paul, Fallen Sparrow is taking a look at Toad's addictive personality in The Wind in the Willows, as well as the loyal love of his friends despite all Toad's treachery and bad habits. He then directs us to Romans and has some good thoughts about Paul himself.

Worth a Thousand Words

Shown by permission from the talented Remo Savisaar. See more by clicking through on the link above.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Odd Thomas, Action Hero

I had done so much racing, jumping, crawling, running, dodging, scuttling, climbing, and swimming that I ached from head to foot and felt my energy ebbing.

During the evening, I had developed considerable admiration for Matt Damon. In spite of his amnesia and in spite of being opposed by numerous nefarious government goons with infinite resources at their command, he waded through squads of ruthless assassins, killing them or sometimes letting them live but making them wish they had never dedicated themselves to fascist ideologies, and he just kept going, indomitable and undiminished.

Here I was, a pathetic excuse for a paladin, complaining about exhaustion when I had not yet even been through a car crash. Already Matt Damon would have been through six. ...
Odd Hours by Dean Koontz
Can you tell that Dean Koontz has been watching the Bourne Trilogy movies? I never thought about this before but the Odd Thomas books each do have an encapsulated "story style" about them. The first book is like the horror movie in the small town, the second definitely looms in my mind as a haunted house (or haunted castle would be more accurate), and the third is the "isolated in the mountains and snow storm and there's something big out there trying to eat us" horror story. This one is the "action movie" thriller story.

As such it is humorous and also startling at times. For one thing I never knew that Odd had it in him to be so ruthless. It seemed not quite in character to me. The omnipresent fog was a character in its own right and the people popping in and out of the limited visibility added to the isolated feeling that Odd had as he prowled the town looking for answers.

This is the smallest story and the least effective, in my opinion. I still enjoyed it but would not recommend it to those who don't already love Odd as a character. For those who do, it is a perfect "beach book" read.

The fact that it is a shallower, smaller story doesn't mean that Koontz still has much to say. He slips in plenty of choice observations such as this.
I have only been in a position to overhear bad men conspiring to commit evil deeds, and on every occasion, they had been pretty much like Joey and Utgard. Those who choose to livie criminal lives are not the brightest among us.

This truth inspires a question: If evil geniuses are so rare, why do so many bad people get away with so many crimes against their fellow citizens and, when they become leaders of nations, against humanity?

Edmund Burke provided the answer in 1795: The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.

I would only add this: It is also essential that good men and women not be educated and propagandized into believing that real evil is a myth and that all malevolent behavior is merely the result of a broken family's or a failed society's shortcomings, amenable to cure by counseling and by the application of new economic theory.
Odd Hours by Dean Koontz
Brother, you just said a mouthful.

All the Reviews I Can't Read Yet for WALL-E

I have eagerly been reading the beginning and ending of WALL-E reviews ... I really don't want to know more than the trailers have told me. I am printing these out and looking forward to reading the middles after I have seen the movie. By the way, Jeffrey Overstreet warns us that Roger Ebert's review gives a giant spoiler right in the middle with no warning. Bad critic!

I don't usually do this with more than one or two trusted sources but everything I've read so far makes me think that this is going to be something extraordinary ... here are some snippets in case you are similarly curious.

Rod Bennett at Catholic Exchange

Via Catholic Media Review.

Pixar Animation Studio was founded in the 1980s by media moguls George Lucas and Steve Jobs, but whether they knew it or not, the guys who made their latest film release WALL*E (in theatres tomorrow) were working for God. So says this reviewer, anyway.

It’s not heresy. Catholics have been saying since at least the 2nd Century that God sometimes uses secular voices to speak to the world, especially when it comes to unreached peoples or neglected truths. Writing about the poets and mythmakers of ancient Greece, St. Justin Martyr put it this way, c. 155 AD: “Even unwillingly, these men were on your account forced to say many things by God’s compassion for mankind…For all these writers were able to see realities darkly through the sowing of the implanted word that was in them.” Well, storytelling techniques have certainly come a long way since the days of Pindar and Sophocles — WALL*E pushes the high-tech art of computer generated graphics to hitherto undreamed of heights — but God’s willingness to communicate vital realities via the mediums of myth and fable has apparently continued unabated. WALL*E (directed by Finding Nemo’s Andrew Stanton) is funny, touching, beautiful, clever, and wildly entertaining — but it may also be the most powerful warning against consumerism, idolatry, and addiction to luxury ever to be offered in a mainstream film. ...

Christianity Today
This is science fiction the way science fiction is meant to be. It creates a world that's clearly not our own, but it's totally believable as the place we're headed, maybe a hundred years down the line. But it's not cynical or misanthropic; like the best sci-fi, it uses these imaginative conceits to ask big questions about our world and our humanity. It's a movie about love amidst chaos, about the dangers of unchecked greed and the forces that overcome it. ...

And it is absolutely not a political movie, no matter how hard a small faction of political bloggers might try to pin it as one. Yes, it has a message about the environment—take care of it. And yes, it has a message about capitalism—too much of it can be sinful. These aren't political points; they're very basic moral ones, and no rational Christian has any grounds on which to object to them.

But even more than a great work of sci-fi, this is a great work of cinema. WALL•E is Pixar's boldest, bravest film yet, opening with half an hour in which no dialogue occurs. Much of the story is told, then, only through images, and in this regard, it's the most sophisticated and subtle film Pixar has yet made. ...

And yet, the greatest feat of WALL•E—its most seemingly-impossible achievement—might be this: Despite the fact that it's hard science fiction, that it paints a dystopian picture of our future, that it's subtle and sophisticated, and that it's very light on dialogue, it's every bit the crowd-pleaser that we've come to expect from this studio—funny, romantic, imaginative, and utterly gripping. This is Pixar's magic. ...
Jeffrey Overstreet's interview with Andrew Stanton
In addition to Stanton's insights, he has links to many reviews that make fascinating points such as this tidbit from Moises Chiullan.
The movie is more fundamentally about what it is to exist and believe in hope. Every science fiction film with a desolate Earth as a backdrop does not make that its main focus, and neither does WALL*E. I’ve let WALL*E roll around in my head for around a week and a half since seeing it, and I can’t shake it (a good thing). It would be one thing if I were exploding with praise the day after seeing it, but the fact that it’s still as captivating almost two weeks later, to me, means the movie has to be the real deal. This movie falls under the Important Cinema banner regardless of what piece of its narrative you fall in love with. This really could be one of the movies people will still argue about in 25, 50, or 100 years.
First Showing's Review: The First Perfect Movie of 2008
Movies have the ability to make us feel every possible emotion. There are times we cry, times we laugh, times we love and times that we are scared out of our wits. With all the different feelings that I experience during the many films I watch, it wasn't until after seeing Wall-E that I realized there is one emotion that movies so rarely make me feel. The emotion that I'm talking about is joy. To be honest, Wall-E has so consumed my thoughts that I can't even bring another movie to mind that has made me feel the pure joy that I felt during or after seeing Pixar's Wall-E. ...

Catholic Blog Reviewer Program

For podcasters, vidcasters, and webmasters too ... The Catholic Company is beginning a reviewer program.
Are you interested in receiving free books, DVDs, and gifts to review on your site?

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Gospel of Matthew: Keeping Our Faith in the Storm

Matthew 8:18-27

Why does Matthew tell us the story of Jesus calming the storm? Multiple reasons but there is a specific one for disciples.
While the incident of the storm at sea provides a glimpse of what sort of man Jesus is, Matthew's focus in recounting it is on what sort of disciples Jesus wants. Jesus invites his disciples to be with him wherever he goes, sharing his life and enduring the hardships he endures (verses 19-20). His disciples must put following him above all else (verses 21-22). They must remain firm in their faith, no matter what storms rage about them (verses 23-26). An ordinary teacher deserves respect; a Lord who has the authority to command winds and seas deserves absolute, unwavering commitment.
My review is here of Bringing the Gospel of Matthew to Life by George Martin.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Casting Call for Obama ... It's Funny Because It's True

Brilliantly put by Rob Long from his radio show KCRW's Martini Shot. This is a snippet. Then go read or listen to the whole thing (another one that is no more than 3 minutes long ... Long is always eminently enjoyable).
But just because Hollywood is unable to make some big casting decisions, there's no reason why everyone else can't.

Barack Obama, for instance, is busy with a casting problem of his own. He's looking for a…well, not a lead, but a strong supporting player. Someone with real chops of his -- or her -- own, who could maybe handle a spinoff in a few years, who knows how to deliver a joke, and who isn't supposed to be the star. Obama is the star. He's where the heat is. He's looking for the best friend character, the anchor.

Just the Links, Ma'am...

It Started Here. Let It End Here. ... And the Closing of the Aaron Women's Health Center.

First of all, there will be a Mass of Thanksgiving on Saturday, June 28, for the closing of the Aaron Women's Health center.
A Mass of Thanksgiving and Prayer Service for the closing of Aaron’s will be celebrated by Rev. Msgr. Mark Seitz at 8:00 am on Saturday, June 28, at St. Rita Catholic Church, located at 12521 Inwood Rd., Dallas. St. Rita was the location of the opening Mass and kickoff rally for the 40 Days Vigil held in 2004-05. Following Mass we will take buses to Aaron’s for a closing prayer service and then return to St. Rita Sweeney Hall for a reception. All are invited to attend.
Laura has some more on this as she is a sidewalk counselor (or maybe finishing up her training) and has the scoop.

Secondly, Leticia noticed something that I didn't even connect. I quote her post in its entirety but go to her place to comment and see the links.
Last year, I remember Julie at Happy Catholic's post, It started here, let it end here, an initiative of prayer and fasting by Dallas, Texas Catholic bloggers to end abortion. Since Norma McCorvey of Roe v Wade was from Texas, these bloggers took responsibility for the Supreme Court Decision and began a vigil of prayer and sacrifice to end abortion.

This is one of the first fruits of their efforts, and thousands of others whose prayers stormed Heaven to end the killing at this mill. Well done!

NOW let's imitate them in our area.

I live in the abortion capitol of the world, so I have my work cut out for me.

Here's the story.

Our Lady of Victory, pray for us!

Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever!
I am just that clueless. It didn't occur to me to connect that clinic's closing with the intention for which we have prayed and fasted for over a year now. (I figure I'm a lifer on the deal anyway ... or until it ends. Either way.)

However, I am not clueless enough to think that our prayers and fasting did more than support the very evident hands-on work of the people willing to go stand on sidewalks outside the clinic while praying or offering help to mothers-to-be.

I am not clueless enough to think that our prayers and fasting did more than add to the swell that is already there from the faithful across the nation and around the world in working to stop the slaughter of babes.

What I am is grateful that Leticia showed me that connection, that what we do in prayer does make a difference ... both for those for whom we pray and for ourselves in our walk with God.

My fasting this month may be the usual combination of willingness and annoyance (I am nothing if not human) but it will certainly have just a bit more awareness that what I am doing will make a difference somehow.

And if anyone else wants a personal way to work for the end to abortion we invite them to join us every first Friday in fasting, praying, and adoration for this cause.

Special thanks to Mark Windsor for conceiving of this effort and enrolling me in it.

Mark asked that I pass this on - "No thanks to me. All glory to God! His will be done. (And I couldn't be happier!)"

Amen, brothah!

Our Foster Child Puppy

Hannah brought her home without warning last night ... a six-week-old, round bellied, white puppy ... except for those two black circles around her eyes.

This baby came to the vet where Hannah works two weeks ago from the emergency vet clinic where she was found dropped off in a box (maybe? sadly, H has a lot of these sorts of stories so I may be getting this one confused with another). She was chock-full of worms at 4-weeks old. She's also been spending her time in a spare room at the vet's clinic and her evenings alone in a crate at the clinic. So we understood when Hannah wanted to give her some company last night.

She's sturdy, full of spunk, still has puppy breath and ... of course ... is completely adorable.

I took one look and began calling her Patches. While telling Hannah that she was our foster-puppy and that the clinic should be working on finding her a real home.

The cat took one look, puffed to twice her size and hissed warningly. At which the puppy wisely backed away. The cat began seeking high ground ... everywhere ... the better to keep an eye on this new threat.

The big black dog, who thinks he's a little dog, is terrified of our cat. He took one look at the puppy and must have thought, "That is little. Wait a minute! The devil (a.k.a. cat) is little. Therefore, that = devil." And spent the rest of the evening and this morning avoiding her, only taking time out to approach for little sniffs when her back was turned ... the better to assess this new threat.

The Boxer took one look and knew that this was a good deal ... interesting, fun, and maybe, just maybe, good for playing with. Sadly she doesn't really understand how to play with such a tiny puppy. The puppy was game to a certain extent but also didn't understand how to play with a giant!

Tom took one look and (I have a feeling) began dialing to his "No new pets" statements. Though he quite agreeably served as a soft napping spot when she just couldn't keep going any more.


Postscript: I think it is a very bad sign that here in my office I feel as if I should still be getting a little puppy breath fix.

Worth a Thousand Words

From Blue Sky Search which has pages and pages of these fascinating labels.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Scott Simon on Obama

Just had a chance to listen to Scott Simon's Reflections on Race and the Presidential Election.

It's only 3 minutes long so it isn't a chore to go click and listen right on your computer.

I guess it is sad that I was so surprised at his column. Because he was saying on NPR what many knew but didn't dare say out loud ... for the very reason Simon cites at the end of his piece.

As I said, go and listen.

Problem Solved ... Refreshingly

From The Curt Jester comes this vignette of a problem ... (natch, the whole story is at his place)
As announced in the Saint Joan of Arc bulletin last week:

Pride Week at SJA: Please join us on Wednesday, June 25 at 7 pm in the church for a prayer service to celebrate and give thanks for the gifts of our Gay / Lesbian / Bisexual / Transgendered community. Celebrate with us in prayer and song - we'll be joined by guest musician and SJA favorite Ann Reed. This service is part of Pride week in the Twin Cities. FFI on the week's events contact Julie Madden at the Parish Center. ...
... and a refreshing response to a letter of complaint to the diocese. It is sad that we are surprised by this straight forward and faithful answer. This is just a snippet so do go read it all.
... We apologize that you were scandalized by these violations of Church teaching but assure you that our Archbishop will not permit such infractions to be repeated or to continue.

An Invitation for Art Lovers in Pasadena

Belinda Del Pesco
New Work: Paintings & Printmaking

Artists' Reception
Sunday, June 29 • 4:00 -6:00 pm

Gale's Restaurant
452 South Fair Oaks Ave.
Pasadena, CA 91105
PH: 626/432-6705
Hours: Tues-Thurs 11:30am-9:00pm
Fri-Sat 11:30am-10:00pm
Sun 5:00pm-9:00pm
Closed Monday

50 Pieces of Original Art
Watercolors & Hand Pulled Printmaking

Preview selected work;
Web Site
Daily Art Blog

Treat yourself to a delicious Northern Italian dinner at Gale's after the reception.

For more information, call: 818-640-3475 or email:

Feel free to forward this invitation to any art-lovers you know.
Any regular readers know that I'm a fan ... and would be there in a New York minute if we were anywhere near this ... as instructed I am passing it on to any other art lovers who will be in the area.

Yet one more reason to love Ray Bradbury's writing

"Lord, how they've changed things in our 'parlors' these days. Christ is one of the 'family' now. I often wonder if God recognizes His own son the way we've dressed him up, or is it dressed him down? He's a regular peppermint stick now, all sugar-crystal and saccharine when he isn't making veiled references to certain commercial products that every worshiper absolutely needs."
Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451
Going into my quote journal. Found at SF Gospel where a nice contrast is made between the above and ... wait for it ... Rick Warren. Go and read.

The Wednesday Food Section

Mostly food-ish things today ... such as the right beer to have with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich (check these hot links).

Which is just the kind of thing that I would care about considering I chose a fruity Zinfandel to have with our chicken nuggets (from a German deli so that makes it ok, right?) and Ore Ida french fries last night. The salad with homemade creamy garlic dressing was all that allowed me to maintain any integrity at all in the kitchen.

Or check out the East-West Spaghetti and Meatballs I made the other night ... which also allowed me to hold my head high while deciding whether to have 6 or 7 of those chicken nuggets the next evening. Delicious!

Worth a Thousand Words

This one's for Hannah and Rose ... found at the practically perfect in every way food blog, Tigers and Strawberries. Check it out for lots of good, practical food talk and wonderful recipes.

Gospel of Matthew: Jesus Was Amazed

Matthew 8:5-13

Once again George Martin points out an important detail that I had noticed but not realized the significance of.
10 When Jesus heard this, he was amazed--the only time in Matthew's gospel that Jesus is amazed or surprised. Jesus is so amazed that he comments on his amazement. He turns from the centurion and seys to those following him, "Amen, I say to you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith." Jesus notes the faith of the centurion--the centurion's confidence that Jesus has such authority over afflictions that he is able to heal with a simple word of command. This is the first mention of or praise of a person's faith in the Gospel of Matthew--and the faith-filled person is not a Jew but a Gentile companion. No one in Israel--that is, no Jew--has demonstrated such faith in Jesus as has this Gentile centurion. Jesus' disciples, whom he is now addressing, are included in the no ones; they have a "little faith" (6:30) but not such faith as has the centurion. Jesus is amazed that he has found such great faith in a Gentile.
My review is here of Bringing the Gospel of Matthew to Life by George Martin.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Welcome Villainous Company Readers

Those Meyers-Briggs Prayers are just the tip of the iceberg 'round here so please do come in and take a look around.

I am not much for reading political writing but I love the way that Cassandra at Villainous Company turns a pretty (and humorous) phrase. For instance:
Came home. Went to sleep, eventually. Woke up to find the post-racial candidate playing the race card like it was the world's tiniest violin:...
If you haven't happened upon her blog go check it out.

Gospel of Matthew: Building on Rock

Matthew 7:24-29

The practicalities of how Galilee is physically situated shed interesting light on this parable. Martin's comments make me think about how this also ties in with Jesus' previous words cautioning against taking "the broad and easy way."
24 ... The Greek word for wise could also be translated as "prudent" (see 24:45); this man's prudence lay in his choice of a site to build his house (real estate has always been a matter of location, location, location). Galilee is dotted with limestone hills covered by an uneven layer of soil. Houses commonly had stone walls; an outcropping of rock provided a stable base for such walls. This wise builder picked a site where he could build his house on rock.

25 The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock. The rocky hills of Galilee do not readily absorb rain; a heavy rainfall can become a flood of water crashing down hillsides and filling ravines. A stone house built on rock can withstand floods and windstorms.

Jesus says that those who listen to his teachings and act on them, "will be like" (verse 24) a wise builder whose house withstands a storm; the phrase "will be like" points to something that will happen in the future. Prophets used storms as an image for God's judgment (Isaiah 28:2; 29:6); 30:30; Exek 13:10-16). Jesus is again speaking of the last judgment (see verses 13-14, 19, 21-23), now by means of a comparison or parable. Those who take Jesus' words to heart and act on them will withstand God's judgment, just as a house built on rock withstands a storm.

26 And everyone who listens to these words of mine but does not act on them will be like a fool who built his house on sand. Rain flushed soil and sand down from hills to the floors of valleys and ravines, providing some temptingly level places to build a house. A foolish builder might choose such a site, laying the lowest course of house walls directly on sand.

27 The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. Storm runoff surged against the house, washing way the sand beneath its walls and undermining them, and the house collapsed and was completely ruined. Just as a house built on sand will collapse in a flood so those who do not live according to Jesus' teachings will face utter ruin at the last judgment.

For reflection: Upon what am I basing my life?
My review is here of Bringing the Gospel of Matthew to Life by George Martin.

You know how you discover a fascinating blog? And then somehow forget all about it?

I don't know why that happens ... too many good blogs out there, for one thing!

Anyway, I have rediscovered Fallen Sparrow. Go. Read. Think.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

A Man, His Doll, and Responsibility

Lars: I was talking to Bianca, and she was saying that in her culture they have these rites of passages and rituals and ceremonies, and, just all kinds of things that, when you do them, go through them, let you know that you're an adult? Doesn't that sound great?

Gus: It does.

Lars: How'd you know?

Gus: How'd I know what?

Lars: That you were a man


Gus: Okay, you know I can only give you my opinion.

Lars: That's what we want.

Gus: Well, it's not like you're one thing or the other, okay? There's still a kid inside but you grow up when you decide to do right, okay, and not what's right for you, what's right for everybody, even when it hurts.

Lars: Okay, like what?

Gus: Like, you know, like, you don't jerk people around, you know, and you don't cheat on your woman, and you take care of your family, you know, and you admit when you're wrong, or you try to, anyways. That's all I can think of, you know -- it sounds like it's easy and for some reason it's not.
You wouldn't think that a movie about a man and a life-size, anatomically correct sex doll would be described as charming, heart-warming, and delightful but Lars and the Real Girl pulls it off.

Lars suffers from crippling shyness and an extreme desire to be alone, to the extent that even enduring dinner with his brother and sister-in-law is a severe trial to all concerned. Six weeks after his cubicle-mate shows him a life-size sex doll, Lars' new girlfriend "Bianca" shows up and is treated as real, to the natural alarm of his family. The town doctor advises that sometimes such severely dysfunctional behavior is a way to work through problems and tells them that they should also treat Bianca as real. She then prescribes a weekly series of "treatments" for Bianca's "low blood pressure" which give her the needed excuse to talk with Lars and try to help him work out his problems. For those worried about the fact that Bianca's original manufacture was for unnatural purposes, Lars' faith is very important to him, and, therefore, to Bianca who is given a spare bedroom at his brother's house.

The tale that emerges borders on the edge of fantasy, just as does The Castle, another small film that takes a fantastic premise and uses it to show a bigger picture. In the case of The Castle it is the strength of family love. In the case of Lars and the Real Girl, it is exemplified in the exchange excerpted above between Lars and his brother. Gus must come to terms with how his past choices have affected Lars and take responsibility. Lars uses Bianca not only as a shield from the world which terrifies him but also as a way to gain experience and strength in order to become an adult, ready to take on responsibility. This transition is shown in small fits and starts that give the actors a chance to show their talents as many of them are not spelled out and must be inferred from glances or other small signs.

Additionally, we are shown how various townspeople care enough for Lars to take on the fiction of Bianca's reality in order to help him. This gives them a chance to indulge in an opportunity to play as Bianca eventually takes on a life of her own in a way that is both humorous and charming.

This is an understated movie and the reflections on these themes are not deep but they are heart-felt. For those willing to let go and also play along this movie has big rewards.

Rated PG-13 for some sex-related content, which is fairly minimal and due to the fact that Bianca is a sex doll which leads to far less joking around than you would expect and in much better taste.

Highly recommended.

Friday, June 20, 2008

1 Down ... 5 to Go (in Dallas)

Breaking News!
Late-term abortion center in Dallas to close

Aaron Women's Health Center performed abortions up to 23 weeks. Last day for abortions is reported to be Saturday, June 28th.
  • Aaron's was the focus of a previous 40 Days for Life Campaign - the 2nd one held in the nation, from December 12, 2004 (Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe) - January 22, 2005 (anniversary of tragic Roe v Wade decision) when it was remodeling to do late-term abortions

  • Rumored to have been sinking financially

  • Prayer Service tentatively set for Saturday, June 28th

  • 1 down, 5 to go. Last abortion center in Dallas closed in May of 2001.
Just got this via my CPLC pal, Laura. WOOHOO!

ENFJ ... Again!

Prompted by the prayer based on personality types, my curiosity got the better of me and I took the Briggs-Meyers test.


You know, I could have sworn that I took it before.

Turns out I did, three years ago ... also ENFJ. Not surprising.

The surprising thing was the differences in the percentages. Although it makes sense to me internally as I would have thought I'd have changed some in the last few years.

Perhaps, though, it is due to changed activities in the last three years. For instance, I have a feeling that the lessened "extroverted" score is because I am now involved in many more activities with lots of people ... so my answers to practically everything about spare time wound up involving reading a book or spending time at home.

Extroverted 33%
Intuitive 38%
Feeling 25%
Judging 78%

Extroverted 22%
Intuitive 62%
Feeling 12%
Judging 78%

Ah, but I see the judging is just as strong as ever! (Ahem ... sorry 'bout that y'all!)

I found this to be insightful as a general commentary on the ENFJ personality ... and this really spoke to me. It is a trait that I have noticed and that has annoyed me ... but it seems it is perhaps par for the course.
TRADEMARK: "The first shall be last"

This refers to the open-door policy of ENFJs. One ENFJ colleague always welcomes me into his office regardless of his own circumstances. If another person comes to the door, he allows them to interrupt our conversation with their need. While discussing that need, the phone rings and he stops to answer it. Others drop in with a 'quick question.' I finally get up, go to my office and use the call waiting feature on the telephone. When he hangs up, I have his undivided attention!

So Are Catholics Literalists?

I am slowly working my way through the excellent podcast series studying Torah (Foundations of Biblical Theology) from St. Irenaeus Ministries. I continue to be impressed by the practicality, common sense, and deep truth conveyed by these scripture studies.

This in particular hit me in the face this morning when listening to Interpreting the Scriptures. Beautifully put.
So are Catholics literalists? Well, the problem is one of precise meaning of a tendentious term. Don't use the term I would strongly advise you. Don't use the word "literal." You'd have guilt by association.

So what do we say?

I would say something like this:

"I don't like the term literal. It's mostly misunderstood but I seek to believe and to obey all that the Bible teaches according to God's intention in giving us this text.

I believe that it is true. I believe that that it is without error in all that it teaches us; things which are vital to our salvation and growth and holiness. In our relationship with God I believe that this is vital.

I take it realistically within the normal canons of interpretation and human speech according to what the text purports to be.

I take it seriously and I tremble at the word of God. It is the power of God for salvation. I want to be transformed by it. Those who reject it and minimize its truth multiply their sorrows and their troubles in the sight of God."
David Higbee, FBT - Interpreting the Scriptures

(And yes I transcribed this for you phrase by phrase ... that's how powerful I found it.)

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Meyers-Briggs Prayers

I don't care what personality type you are ... these will leave you laughing (and also a bit thoughtful...). From Coffee Klatch where they have a link to the test, just in case you don't know your "type." (I don't know ... but also don't care ... which probably in itself says something about me.)
ISTJ: Lord, help me to relax about insignificant details beginning tomorrow at 11:41:23 a.m. E.S.T.

ISTP: God, help me to consider people’s feelings, even if most of them ARE hypersensitive.

ESTP: God, help me to take responsibility for my own actions, even though they’re usually NOT my fault.

ESTJ: God, help me to not try to RUN everything. But, if You need some help, just ask.

ISFJ: Lord, help me to be more laid back and help me to do it EXACTLY right.

ISFP: Lord, help me to stand up for my rights (if you don’t mind my asking).

ESFP: God, help me to take things more seriously, especially parties and dancing.

ESFJ: God, give me patience, and I mean right NOW.

INFJ: Lord, help me not to be a perfectionist. (Did I spell that correctly?)

INFP: God, help me to finish everything I sta

ENFP: God, help me to keep my mind on one th - Look a bird! - at a time.

ENFJ: God, help me to do only what I can and trust you for the rest. Do you mind putting that in writing?

INTJ: Lord, keep me open to other’s ideas, *wrong* though they may be.

INTP: Lord, help me to be less independent, but let me do it my way.

ENTP: Lord, help me follow established procedures today. On second thought, I’ll settle for a few minutes.

ENTJ: Lord, help me slow downandnotrushthroughwhatIdo.

Quick Linkiness: books and movies and related topics

All worth reading (at least to me) so I'm sharing them ... enjoy!

Worth a Thousand Words

From Art Knowledge News
(click through the link to get a larger view)

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Worth a Thousand Words

Lawrence of Arabia? I Don't Think So ...

As Rose is working her way through the AFI's top 100 movies list this summer, she was in the perfect frame of mind to watch AFI's 10 Top 10 special last night. We watched along and found ourselves in an "Oscar watching" frame of mind. As each category came up we'd guess what movies were on the list and which were sure to be in the top 3 for each.

Sometimes we were right and sometimes wrong. And, as is the case with all such lists, sometimes we were very disappointed. Saving Private Ryan and All Quiet on the Western Front in the Epic category? No thanks. For that matter, why isn't there a War category?

Where was Inherit the Wind when they were passing out Courtroom Drama awards? Behind the door? They put in Kramer Versus Kramer and completely ignored Inherit the Wind? Kramer Versus Kramer? No thanks.

Harold and Maude in Romantic Comedies ... ugh. What about An Affair to Remember? Pick either the first one or the remake. Or failing that, put it in there instead of the excruciatingly boring Sleepless in Seattle. Which referenced An Affair to Remember endlessly.

Ah well ...

We actually didn't have any problem with Lawrence of Arabia being in the top 3 of the Epics. My preference would be to have it as #3 ... and moving Gone with the Wind up to #1. Scarlett O'Hara was an infinitely more interesting character than Lawrence and the Civil War definitely more "epic" than the desert ... although your milage may vary on this.

The Animation category did put us in the mood for the movie that we've been waiting for impatiently for some time ...

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Worth a Thousand Words

"John Singer Sargent: Madame X (Madame Pierre Gautreau) (16.53)".
In Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. (October 2006)

To Bishop Trautman, from Anne Hathaway: a definition

“One of the things about Barbara Feldon is she has a certain ineffable quality. You either have that or you don’t, and I leave it up to the audience to decide whether I do.” —Anne Hathaway
Once again, Bishop Trautman is complaining about the very difficult words that we will be faced with in the new liturgical translation.

It turns out from the linking and conversation I see around the blogosphere that Bishop Trautman chose poorly when he was tossing out words that will confuse and bewilder the average Catholic. Or perhaps, he is drawing on his own vocabulary deficiency. Should Anne Hathaway's quote not provide enough contextual clues (taught in grade school these days, Bishop), we will help things along a bit.
Main Entry:
Middle English, from Latin ineffabilis, from in- + effabilis capable of being expressed, from effari to speak out, from ex- + fari to speak — more at ban
14th century
1 a: incapable of being expressed in words : indescribable <ineffable joy> b: unspeakable <ineffable disgust>2: not to be uttered : taboo ineffable name of Jehovah>
(No need to thank us Bishop. Next time check online at Merriam Webster.) Actually, if he'd read Good Omens, he wouldn't get into these sticky situations. It had a wide audience and that word is key in the book. Honestly, that is the first thing that sprang to my mind when seeing that word being bandied about.

For more about this little contretemps (check here for that meaning, Bishop), check out the Paragraph Farmer's pithy commentary chock-full of good links. For further commentary as well as refreshing our memories about the last time that Bishop Trautman felt "John and Mary Catholic" couldn't get it, check out Amy Welborn.

Thanks to Amy for linking back to my commentary on the whole John and Mary Catholic contretemps (there's that pesky word again!). The most valuable part of my old post is the link to the pdf of the comparison our priest provided between the current and proposed liturgy. Check that out and see how many words you can't pick up from contextual clues ... if, in fact, you are as undereducated as the good Bishop seems to think.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Gospel of Matthew: No Room for "Righteous" Anger

Matthew 5:20-21

I have come across many Christians who feel that righteous anger is justified by Jesus' anger at the moneylenders in the temple ... and that their own anger is equally righteous. I, myself, certainly have struggled with the impulse to nurture my own anger because it is justifiable. "Hey, I'm right! That makes it ok!"

However, this bit of the gospel from Matthew, as examined by George Martin, surely should give us all pause before we give ourselves permission to be angry. Or even to sling around a mild insult.
22 But I say to you: the I is emphatic; Jesus is proclaiming something on his own authority. Not only murderers but also whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment. At issue is consciously harbored anger, not an unbidden and passing emotion. Deliberate anger can lead to murder; by prohibiting anger Jesus eliminates a source of murder. But what about when we think we have cause to be angry? Jesus does not seem to leave room for "righteous anger," which is often really "self-righteous anger," anger we wish to justify. Jesus' condemnation of anger is sweeping and covers whoever is angry. Matthew's first readers would have understood the word brother to mean a member of the church. For Christians to be angry with each other impairs the mission of the church to be the light of the world, which requires behaving in a way that leads others to glorify God (5:14, 16).

Jesus takes up verbal expressions of anger: and whoever says to his brother, "Raqa" will be answerable to the Sanhedrin. The Aramic word raqa is roughly equivalent to "blockhead" -- an insult, but not the worst thing someone can be called. Those who hurl this insult will be answerable to the Sanhedrin, which was the highest Jewish executive and judicial council. Similarly, whoever says, "You fool," will be liable to fiery Gehenna. The expression you fool is equivalent to raqa, not a worse insult, yet those who call another a fool will end up in fiery Gehenna. Some Jewish writings used Gehenna (the Hinnom Valley on the south and west sides of Jerusalem) as a symbol of punishment in the age to come. Jesus' words might be paraphrased in modern terms as, "A disciple who insults another disciple will be hauled before the Supreme Court in this life and go to hell in the next." Jesus seems to be exaggerating to make the point that abusive speech is a far more serious mater than one might think. (See 7:3-5 for another example of Jesus using exaggeration to make a point.)

For reflection: What is my reaction to Jesus' words about anger and abusive speech?
My review is here of Bringing the Gospel of Matthew to Life by George Martin.

Inspirational Story of Young Mother Giving Life for Baby

Thousands of Poles lined up to say their final goodbyes to Agata Mroz, a young volleyball star who died on June 4 after postponing a bone marrow transplant in order to allow her daughter to be born.
Much thanks to Mark W. for passing along this truly inspirational story (yes, I cried) of a young Polish athlete who put her unborn baby's welfare ahead of her own. It is short but worth it. Go read.

A Convert's Story

... Before we begin, you should know I don’t believe in faith. I take nothing on faith. Nothing. Things must make sense in order for me to believe. Logical sense. My mind is stubborn that way and because of my stubbornly logical mind I was the oldest Catholic that Easter morning to have his head rubbed with oil. However, that same stubbornly logical mind makes it impossible for me to be an atheist. ...
Dirty Harry is taking us through his conversion in a multi-part story. I found this, as with so many good things, via The Anchoress.

I have to say that I didn't realize I'd already been reading Harry's writing over at Libertas where I enjoy their take on movies and Hollywood. (They say what I'm thinking a lot of the time.) I like that tough-minded take on faith and am really looking forward to the other parts of the story.

The Meaning of Life

Thanks to my friend Cyndie for this one.
On the first day, God created the dog and said: "Sit all day by the door of your house and bark at anyone who comes in or walks past. For this, I will l give you a life span of twenty years."

The dog said: "That's a long time to be barking. How about only ten years and I'll give you back the other ten?"

So God agreed.

On the second day, God created the monkey and said: "Entertain people, do tricks, and make them laugh. For this, I'll give you a twenty-year life span."

The monkey said: "Monkey tricks for twenty years? That's a pretty long time to perform. How about I give you back ten like the dog did?"

And God agreed.

On the third day, God created the cow and said: "You must go into the field with the farmer all day long and suffer under the sun, have calves, and give milk to support the farmer's family. For this, I will give you a life span of sixty years."

The cow said: "That's kind of a tough life you want me to live for sixty years. How about twenty and I'll give back the other forty?"

And God agreed again.

On the fourth day, God created man and said: "Eat, sleep, play, marry and enjoy your life. For this, I'll give you twenty years."

But man said: "Only twenty years? Could you possibly give me my twenty, the forty the cow gave back, the ten the monkey gave back, and the ten the dog gave back; that makes eighty, okay?"

"Okay," said God, "You asked for it."

So that is why the first twenty years we eat, sleep, play and enjoy ourselves.

For the next forty years we slave in the sun to support our family.

For the next ten years, we do monkey tricks to entertain the grandchildren.

And for the last ten years, we sit on the front porch and bark at everyone.

Life has now been explained to you. Enjoy and Thank God everyday for what you have.

Worth a Thousand Words

Facing the Sun by Qiang-Huang
Used by permission. Click on the link above for more beautiful art by this painter.

Friday, June 13, 2008

On the Home Front

  • Rose is reading Auralia's Colors and liking it a lot. Though she is picking up Biblical character types in it ... which surprised Hannah and me since we didn't notice anything like that.

  • Mouth Wide Open has another installment up at Forgotten Classics podcast. Never fear. We shall return to The Wonder Stick and Ru's adventures next week.

  • Tom and I are going away for two days to celebrate our anniversary (late). So if there is a lack of updating around here, I'm sure you'll understand why.

  • Getting ready for the trip to Rose's school in July (doubling for our family vacation), I've reserved the dogs their places at a unique boarding experience ... the Canine Country Club Day Spa and Resort. Isn't that too hilarious? It is attached to the vet where Hannah works and I'd heard good things about it a few years ago from an acquaintance. So we shall see ...

  • I just began reading A Long Retreat: In Search of a Religious Life and am finding it strangely compelling reading. Just a few chapters in but will keep y'all updated.

  • I finished Silence last night. WOW, WHAT A BOOK! I was (happily) surprised not to find it depressing as I had heard many others say. What I found was it was so very thought provoking. I think I probably will have to reread the last chapter (not the Appendix) as I need to think about this some more. I will do more of a "proper" review later but can HIGHLY RECOMMEND IT! I'm really looking forward to discussing this with the book club.

  • Hannah has been watching Arrested Development. I had forgotten just how drop-dead funny it was. That may be a series we need to buy.

  • Hannah also has been reading the Deathworld series from Harry Harrison. I'd also forgotten just how entertaining those books are. Next, I'm going to show her West of Eden ... a masterpiece of sci-fi.

  • Rose and I finally began finally catching up on Lost. It will give you an idea of how far behind we are when I say that we just watched "The Other Woman" where Juliette has a fling with ... Godwin (?). Nothing like a little adultery to get everyone's emotions going. Although Ben takes possessive to new heights.

  • Tom took on a personal project that benefited ... me! He brought home a computer from the office that wasn't being used and set it up for podcasting. In a separate room so people don't have to tiptoe around and I don't have to get up on Sundays at 6 a.m. so I'm not bothering everyone. Bought a new microphone ... and a mixing board. Installed free software (at great expense of hours and patience!) and has been working with it to set levels, etc. All his own idea. What a sweetheart!

  • My pal, Laura, has begun an internship as a sidewalk counselor at abortion mills locally. It is, naturally, emotionally wearing for her. However, it has been a really good reminder for me every single day as I hear her stories that I need to keep everyone ... babies, mothers, families, counselors ... in the front of my mind and my prayer life. As well as praying for the softened hearts of those in the abortion industry.

Worth a Thousand Words

This seems just about right for Friday the 13th, doesn't it?

Check out the link above for more of Barcelona Photoblog's great photos!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

There is no loophole with God

A couple of days ago, walking through the parking garage in the morning, it crossed my mind to pray for patience.

I recalled a conversation from the night before where a friend said that he didn't pray for patience because he didn't want to be sent occasions to practice. So he would pray for the other people, the ones who were causing him grief. We shouted with laughter over this idea that he had found a loophole. (One of the best known examples of this idea of God sending occasions to practice can be found here.)

However, it had rubbed off enough that when the thought crossed my mind, I pushed it away. I didn't want to bring extra practice upon myself (and I have had plenty of experience with that ... just try asking the Holy Spirit what you need to work on. Oh, the humanity!). Oh, bad influence that I allowed my friend to be!

Then I went on to have one heckuva day. Holy Moly, did it test my patience repeatedly. In fact, I found myself constantly thinking, "Just hold on. Be patient. Don't lose it." In trying circumstances I am not usually that self aware.

As I wearily returned to my car, much later than usual, the morning's thought came back to me. I told God, "Look, it was a stray thought. Not an actual prayer!" And then had a hearty laugh at myself for my silliness.

Later I realized that perhaps that had been a nudge because I was going to need patience and a prayer for help would have given me some extra grace.

Oh so foolish as we are to think that we can outsmart God.

Worth a Thousand Words

On the Verandah

Used with permission.
For more by this talented photographer, go to Visual Thoughts.

Gospel of Matthew: And Afterwards He Was Hungry

Matthew 4:1-2

This is a meaning I never would have given to that text ... but boy it sure makes sense. And gives me a whole new perspective on Jesus' time in the desert since I'd always thought of Jesus' fast as a penitential act.
Jesus is not immediately tested by the devil. First he fasted for forty days and forty nights. Forty is a biblical round number indicating an extended period. It is not obvious why Jesus fasted. Jews fasted when too grief stricken to eat, but Jesus had nothing to mourn. Jews fasted also as an act of penitence, but Jesus hardly needed to do penance for his sins. Fasting had become a pious practice for many Jews, and Jesus approved of such fasting if done properly (6:16-18). Yet during his public ministry Jesus apparently neither fasted (11:18-19) nor required his disciples to fast (9:14). Perhaps Matthew's choice of words provides a clue to the nature of Jesus' fast: Jesus fasted for forty days and forty nights. This expression echoes Exodus's account of Moses being in God's presence on Mount Sinai. Moses stayed there with the Lord for forty days and forty nights, without eating any food or drinking any water" (Exod 34:28). If one could be too grief stricken to eat, so might  one be so caught up in the presence of God that no thought is given to matters like eating. I interpret Jesus' fasting as a by-product of his communion with God, after God declared him to be his beloved Son (3:17). I also interpret Matthew's next words in this light: and afterwards he was hungry. Jesus was not aware of hunger during his time of communion with his Father but afterwards noticed that he was hungry.

For reflection: How do I understand the purpose of Jesus' fast?
My review is here of Bringing the Gospel of Matthew to Life by George Martin.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Goodbye L'il iBuddy

The time we had together seemed so fleeting. From our first adventures together to the time when ... it still hurts to think of it ... your hard drive failed yesterday. It was so sad, so tragic to see the apple clicking on ... clicking off ... clicking on ... clicking off ... and nothing we did could help.

[Give me a minute ... I'll be ok ...]

Now we have the new puppy l'il silver buddy prancing around the place, making himself at home.

Sure it's micro, sleek, and ... yes, I'll say it ... sexy. But it's so tiny I'm afraid that I'll lose it, that it will fall out of my pocket, never to be found. Or that I will drop it (such a strange shape when I'm used to a rectangle).

Will it ever have a playlist that will hold podcasts ... the way you did, my faithful friend?

It might, but it will never match the adventures we had together. ...
P.S. By the way, on a practical note, I can't get the darned thing to read playlists that have podcasts in them. From what I see around the internet I am afraid that playlists only will work with songs in them now ... is that right? Anyone know?

Worth a Thousand Words

Bronze Bird and Roses

Featured by permission.
Click through on the link to see more of Belinda Del Pesco's wonderful art.

Ambrose-a-rama, Babies, and the Chinese

I was summoned back into the doctor's room with the English speaking nurse. The doctor started talking and the nurse translated for me that I was pregnant. Then she asked me, "Do you need this baby?"

What an odd question, I thought. Did she confuse the English words "want" and "need?" I remember hearing other kids' parents telling them that they had their wants and needs confused when the kids told them they needed some outrageuosly priced thing. Was she really asking me if I wanted this baby? Would I admit that at the age of 35 I was so human that, yes, I think I need this baby. Not just want, but need. I think Randy does, and I especially know that Myles does. But she probably really meant "want" and that in turn really meant that the doctor was ready to schedule me for an abortion if my answer was no.

I just told them yes, this baby was wanted. The doctor wrote something in a booklet I was supposed to bring with me everytime I returned to the hospital. The hospitals (and my dentist here) do not maintain records. Every patient is responsible for keeping track of their own medical records in these little booklets. There would be no appointments, no referrals to a recommended OB with privileges at the hospital. I knew it couldn't be just like the US, but I didn't realize it would be like this. The doctor wrote out some notes in my booklet and gave me a box of folic acid "for the baby's brain." The nurse told me to come back in about three weeks for an ultrasound, though later I would wonder if she really was supposed to say three months. When I did return, there was much confusion about my being there so soon, and even after paying the 100 RMB VIP charge and the ultrasound charge (another few hundred RMB), she said they were too busy to see me, and that they might not be able to see anything anyway, so could I come back the following week?
An interesting saga is unfolding for those of us who keep up with Ambrose-a-rama.

Jen is pregnant and encountering some astonishing attitudes as she goes about searching for the right fit in health care for pre-natal care and the birth of their baby. Follow them and see what they find. So far she has chronicled: "Do You Need This Baby?", "You Have the Lowest Birthrate in the World?", and "What You White People Want".

Fascinating. And, of course, also sad.

10 Signs You are at a Catholic Summer Camp

I just couldn't resist ... these are laugh-out-loud funny ... so I swiped Alive and Young's list. You're missing a very entertaining blog if you aren't reading it ... so swing by and check it out.
10 Signs You Are at a Catholic Summer Camp
  1. Morning and night Prayer prayed every day.
  2. Before rejoining a game of Man Hunt, after being caught, you are required to pray a decade of the rosary for the souls in purgatory.
  3. Daily Mass, Rosary, and Benediction.
  4. You find the missing campers by the lake practicing the Salva Regina for nigh prayers.
  5. The campers pick team names like Benedict's Six, Catholics on Patrol, The Kyrigma Kids, and The Perichoresis Pack.
  6. Evening activity consists of a rousing game of "Conclave" where the campers take the role of cardinals and elect a Pope.
  7. Calling another "Henry VIII, Zwingli, and Sister Joan" are the most server form of insult.
  8. Charity is exemplified by choosing not the smack your opponent in the head with the dodge ball when another body part will suffice.
  9. Virtues are a key component to the Camp.
  10. You hear someone yell, "Last one there is a Martin Luther."

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Sister Scholastica ... Hurricane Hunter

Why, you might ask?

Just head on over to Brother Andrew's place and see.

Practical Ideas for Cutting Back

Catholicsm+Wine is making a "to do" list of ways to cut back. She's looking at take a bit better care of the environment and frugality. I can give an "AMEN" on no dry cleaning, cooking meals, and menu planning. Also, as our antenna works perfectly fine, we don't have cable. We use our vcrs or rent movies.

I would like to add also a plea for people to investigate their libraries. Many offer audiobooks, television shows, and movies. Before I buy a book I always get it from the library if possible to make sure I'll like it enough to read more than once.

More ideas? Hie thee over to Catholicism+Wine to add to the comments.

Worth a Thousand Words

Bobbin Lace
Click through the above link for more photos from Barcelona Photoblog.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Why Big Brown couldn't deliver ...

Creative Minority Report has the scoop.

Two Books I am Keeping Stockpiled to Give Away

I can't tell you how often in the last few months I've encountered someone with a desperately ill or dying family member.

I was so very happy that I had these books on hand. Now I am ordering five more of each because they have given such comfort to those who have received them. Seriously. You should read the thank you notes.

I am going to reprint my original reviews here so you can get the full "whammy" on why these are so helpful to those in need.

(P.S. Although the books are from the Catholic perspective, especially "Caring for the Dying," they have been much appreciated by nonCatholics as well.)

These are little books but they deliver a big dose of food for thought...

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.

Superhero Highlight: Detective Lemon

Continuing the stories of superheroes devised by Hannah and Jenny (more about that can be found here as well as the first description)

Detective Lemon

Power: Shoots citrus out of wrists

Origin of power: During an attempt to make lemonade, the Detective foolishly stuck both hands in a blender while blending lemons (the Detective did not know how to make lemonade). Amazingly, she was unharmed, and the citrus was fused into her hands. She discovered her extraordinary power when disaster struck at a diner: the waitress brought NO lemons with the water. Distraught, the Detective pondered her fate, when suddenly citrus shot out her wrists, and into her suddenly-much-more-delicious beverage.

Cover: Mild-mannered private eye (a gorgeous private eye at that)

Cover name: Penelope Pennyworth

Introduction to partner: While searching for clues in a dumpster, the Detective came across a sleeping hobo (a gorgeous hobo at that): none other than . . . Hoborella! After the Detective treated Hoborella to a delicious brunch (with a slice of cantaloupe at the end) in exchange for information on the crime, the two forged an unbreakable bond and became a duo of justice.

Archnemesis: The waitress who forgot to bring the Detective her lemons. As a sidenote, justice was served: the Detective tipped very poorly on that and all subsequent visits.


Next superhero feature coming: Hunky McDreamboat (ladies you are gonna like this one ...)