Monday, August 31, 2009

The Butterfly Circus: Interesting, Original, Unusual, and Full of Hope

At the height of the Great Depression, the showman of a renowned circus leads his troupe through the devastated American landscape, lifting the spirits of audiences along the way. During their travels they discover a man without limbs at a carnival sideshow, but after an intriguing encounter with the showman he becomes driven to hope against everything he has ever believed. Starring Eduardo Verástegui (Bella), Doug Jones (Pan's Labyrinth, Fantastic Four) and featuring the debut performance of Nick Vujicic.
About 20 minutes long and well worth the time.

Catholic Media Review where I saw this mentioned, says it is up for only one day so don't delay.

What's my defining post?

That's the question raised by Jen at Conversion Diary. Sheez. That gal is great at coming up with interesting questions. She has her answer and for the rest of us to join in, is holding an impromptu carnival to see what everyone feels their own defining posts are.

I'll be thinking about this, but frankly I feel I am so all over the place with posts that I really am not sure. I mean do I go with something like the post I wrote about forgiveness, the post where I first 'fessed up I was married in a nightgown (not the one with the photo and story ... the prequel to that), or the first movie I want to see in heaven? There must be something in between that is more defining.

If anyone has suggestions, maybe something that just springs to mind, I'll be more than happy to hear them.

Back to Movie Watching ... With a Vengeance

It occurs to me that the three movies we watched this week all had an element of, shall we say, forcefulness that was unintentional. C'est la vie ...
  • Chinatown
    The classic neo-noir movie starring Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway, featuring a host of "hey, it's that guy!" character actors. Rose loved this movie so much that she continually asked if I'd seen it yet. Well, now I can say yes and, sadly, tell her how unimpressed we both were. The look was great, the actors were great ... but where was the dialogue? Out for a nap, evidently. Accompanied by the plot, which I found less than impressive as well. My grade: B-/C+

  • Gran Torino
    I basically knew the plot of an aging Korean war veteran, Walt Kowalski (Clint Eastwood), whose neighborhood has changed drastically as it filled with Hmong immigrants and now edges on ghetto. I was ready for the racist talk, the helping the picked-on kid next door to learn what it means to be a real man, the look at how America has changed. What I was completely unprepared for was the much larger lesson underlying the entire movie. I appreciated those who didn't spoil my discovery by spelling out more, so I also will leave that unrevealed. This is going into my Top 20 Movies list ... although I'm not sure what I'm going to kick out to make room. My grade: A+

  • JCVD
    Here's what I knew about the movie. Jean-Claude Van Damme plays himself in a self-aware role. I liked that idea. More about the plot:
    Jean-Claude Van Damme is an aging action star going through a bitter divorce and custody battle. He needs money to pay his lawyers, and new roles are not exactly rolling in by the pile. With few doors left open in Hollywood, Van Damme opts to return to Brussels, his roots, in order to clear his head and maybe find a renewed career in the international market. Upon arriving in Brussels Van Damme travels to the local post-office to pick up the funds he needs to pay his lawyer, only to stumble into a robbery attempt that quickly turns into a hostage situation. Through a combination of bad luck and public (mis)perception, Van Damme gets fingered for the crime-in-progress; his face gets splashed all over the news, and even while cops surround the post-office, a larger crowd of fans begins to gather outside the post office in support of their hometown legend. (Screen Rant)
    Here's what I didn't know about the movie. We expected it to be played much more lightly, a la My Name is Bruce (haven't seen it, only read about it) where actor Bruce Campbell is called upon for help by a town who mistakenly thinks his movie powers apply to real life also. That movie was played very lightly as I understood it.

    We didn't expect to see an art house quality movie where Van Damme breaks the 4th wall repeatedly. A fairly simple story, it showcased Van Damme's acting abilities which were surprisingly good. As well, we know all the jokes about Van Damme's career. So, it seems, does he and these are used in a very effective spot where we see him factually assessing his life and career, for the good, the bad, and the ugly. I'm not sure if we liked it so much because it was so completely something we didn't expect or if it was just that good. At any rate, my grade: B.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Friday, August 28, 2009

Mother's Loving Goodbye Saves Her Baby's Life

... Doctors had told the parents that baby Rachel only had only minutes to live because her heart was beating once every ten seconds and she was not breathing.

Isbister remembers:

I didn’t want her to die being cold. So I lifted her out of her blanket and put her against my skin to warm her up. Her feet were so cold.

It was the only cuddle I was going to have with her, so I wanted to remember the moment.” Then something remarkable happened. The warmth of her mother’s skin kick started Rachael’s heart into beating properly, which allowed her to take little breaths of her own.

We couldn’t believe it – and neither could the doctors. She let out a tiny cry.

The doctors came in and said there was still no hope – but I wasn’t letting go of her. We had her blessed by the hospital chaplain, and waited for her to slip away. But she still hung on.

And then amazingly the pink color began to return to her cheeks. She literally was turning from gray to pink before our eyes, and she began to warm up too.

The sad part is that when the baby was born, doctors took one look at her and said ‘no’. ...
There is more and a current photo of mother and baby. Once again, doctors' don't always know everything and I'm sure they were thrilled to be proven wrong.

Via the indispensable New Advent.

Giants of the Frost

Fleeing a failed engagement and mother who makes life decisions based on a psychic’s predictions, skeptic Victoria Scott joins a weather team on a Scandinavian island. Harassed by insomnia and her unpredictable boss, she writes off her dreams of a breath-sucking hag and forest creature made of twigs as nightmares. Eventually, however, she discovers that these creatures are real and possibly the least of those she may encounter.

The island is actually Midgard, a gate between our world and that of the old Nordic god, Asgard. The book alternately tells Victoria’s story and that of Vidar, a son of Odin, who has been waiting a thousand years for Victoria to be born. In Vidar’s world we meet, among others, his bondmaid Aud, who tells much of the story, and his cousin Loki, trickster god of the Norse pantheon.
The beginning of my review of Giants of the Frost. Read it all at SFFaudio.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Heavens to Betsy, I Almost Forgot St. Monica!

Icon Source
where you also may find a three day novena to St. Monica
(I know ... three day novena ... never mind, you might like the prayers anyway)
I don't mention St. Monica yet, but she and her son, St. Augustine, and I have been on a prayer journey together since right after I came into the Church. I have a special intention and told them that I'd pray for ten years, if necessary, just like she did for her bad, wandering son's conversion.

Thank goodness I didn't realize it was 26 years (or something like that)!

Now, I may be praying for the entire 26 years (or something like that) anyway, because I know God doesn't answer prayers according to our timetables. Good thing I have St. Monica to help me out with persistence in the face of never seeing a single sign that your prayers for someone will be answered. (We're on year 8 by the way.)

St. Monica has much more to recommend her to us than her prayers and persistence over Augustine, however. She put up with a lot and, indeed, is an excellent example for those who might like to insist that though Christ turned the other cheek, we weren't meant to be door mats.
Monica was married to a pagan official by the name of Patricius. He was a very generous man, but violent tempered and dissolute, although tradition tells us he never laid a hand on her. She also had her mother-in-law living with her and this woman is described as being very cantankerous. Monica suffered much insult and ridicule because of her family, but her patience, gentleness, compassion and love won out in the end and both her husband and mother-in-law were converted.
A brief, but good history of her may be read here.

Proclaim It: I am a Roman Catholic. I am not ashamed.

Much thanks goes to expat whose email led me to this video.

Jesus is My Bestie?

Yesterday, I linked to Darwin Catholic's musings in Jesus is Not My Pal. Darwin was prompted by those who like to get reassurance that we know Jesus "personally" to considering the concept of Jesus as "best friend." Which he rejected.
... The ways in which I would normally envision Christ are not guy-next-door, my-buddy-the-savior kind of images. Christ the King, enthroned in eternal splendor into union with whom all Christians wish to enter for life everlasting. Christ Crucified, pouring out his blood for the sins of the whole world. Christ Risen, triumphing over the reign of death which had doomed humanity since the Fall. Christ in the Eucharist, kneeling before the glittering monstrance in which the Body of Christ forms the center of a sunburst of golden rays, with the crucifix above and the tabernacle behind.
I could relate to this. One of my favorite meditations, and I know I am not alone in this, is Psalm 139.
O LORD, you have probed me, you know me:
you know when I sit and stand; you understand my thoughts from afar.

My travels and my rest you mark; with all my ways you are familiar.
Even before a word is on my tongue, LORD, you know it all.

Behind and before you encircle me and rest your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is beyond me, far too lofty for me to reach.

Where can I hide from your spirit? From your presence, where can I flee?
If I ascend to the heavens, you are there; if I lie down in Sheol, you are there too.

If I fly with the wings of dawn and alight beyond the sea,
Even there your hand will guide me, your right hand hold me fast.

If I say, "Surely darkness shall hide me, and night shall be my light" --
Darkness is not dark for you, and night shines as the day. Darkness and light are but one. ...
I think about this and then I reflect upon all life and creation coming to be through Jesus' creative power.


That fills me with awe.

Thinking of that all-creative being stooping to befriend me? Even more awe. And thankfulness. Natch.

Jesus being my bestie though? Nope. I'm not feeling it.

However, Darwin's meditation galvanized Diana, the Faithful Traveler (who makes some great videos of American shrines, y'all ... check them out), into commenting at length about her conception of what a best friend really is and how this translates into her relationship with Jesus. She put her comment both here and at Darwin's, where there are also some other good reflections, though none with the passion which Diana feels and communicates beautifully. I especially liked the prayer she shared, written by St. Augustine (his feast day is tomorrow, btw) which is clearly destined for my quote journal. I have long had a special affection for St. Augustine who is my first saint "bestie."
Prayer of Saint Augustine

O Jesus Christ, you are my Father, my merciful God, my great King, my good Shepherd, my only Master, my best helper, my beloved friend of overwhelming beauty, my living Bread, my eternal priest. You are my guide to my heavenly home, my one true light, my holy joy, my true way, my shining wisdom, my unfeigned simplicity, the peace and harmony of my soul, my perfect safeguard, my bounteous inheritance, my everlasting salvation.

My loving Lord, Jesus Christ, why have I ever loved or desired anything else in my life but you, my God? Where was I when I was not in communion with you? From now on, I direct all my desires to be inspired by you and centred on you. I direct them to press forward for they have tarried long enough, to hasten towards their goal, to seek the one they yearn for.

O Jesus, let him who does not love you be accursed, and filled with bitterness. O gentle Jesus, let every worthy feeling of mine show you love, take delight in you and admire you. O God of my heart and my inheritance, Christ Jesus, may my heart mellow before the influence of your spirit and may you live in me. May the flame of your love burn in my soul. May it burn incessantly on the altar of my heart. May it glow in my innermost being. May it spread its heat into the hidden recesses of my soul and on the day of my consummation may I appear before you consumed in your love. Amen.
I was plagued by this question after reading Diana's defense of Jesus as her best friend. I did not want to bother with it, truth to tell, but it recurred so often that I finally stopped what I was doing and just sat there considering how I would define my relationship with Jesus. I am truly indebted to Diana for her passion as otherwise it wouldn't have occurred to me to so something as simple as just sit and think about how I feel about Jesus. It's a good thing to do. I highly recommend it.

I possibly have shared before that I actually was moved to go on my CRHP retreat (gosh is it really over 5 years ago?) because I realized that I didn't know Jesus well enough. Or how about at all. I was reading book after book where saints and authors were going on and on about knowing Jesus personally. Finally, it occurred to me that I really ought to look into this if I was a Catholic. Certainly I never turned to Him in prayer.

God the Father, sure thing.

The Holy Spirit? Well, no. But no one I was reading at the time was rhapsodizing about the Holy Spirit so He was low on my radar. Ironically enough, I came out of CRHP formation realizing that I had a solid beginning to being in love with the Holy Spirit. That is a love and trust that has lasted and grown. It is a rare day indeed that goes by without my reaching out in prayer several times to the Holy Spirit.

However, this is about Jesus. I did experience Jesus during that CRHP retreat. Not as a friend, whether best or otherwise. As one of the three in one, working hand in hand with the Father and Holy Spirit. I realize that sounds vague but just trust me on this. It was the Trinity in force, albeit also individually, that I encountered. The Jesus I encountered was someone to know, love, and trust personally. But not a best friend. No.

Pondering, I realize now that the person I met in Jesus then and the person who I have become more and more fond of, trustful of, in love with, if you will ... is more than a best friend could be. He is my Master. And you know what? I'm ok with that.

He is my Master in the best possible way, in a way that we really have no equivalent for here on earth. He does embody all those qualities that we love and treasure in best friends. But there is so very much more. What comes to mind are two examples, both from The Lord of the Rings and both of which are better realized in the books than in the movies. Frodo and Sam are a wonderful example of a loving, trusting Master-servant relationship, that transcends best friend. The other that comes to mind is Gandalf and Frodo. I know that Tolkien's letters mentioned Gandalf as a guardian angel, but the loving, protective way that Gandalf guides Frodo and sacrifices himself for the others, while leaving Frodo free to make his own decisions, is for me an aspect of Jesus as my Master.

Clearly, our human language and relationships are all going to fall short of what Jesus means to each person. For Diana, he is "my best helper, my beloved friend of overwhelming beauty" and that is what speaks to her soul. I love that.

For me there is so much more that St. Augustine captures that rises above and goes beyond ... and they are all true for me as well. If I had to pick one sentence from that prayer that makes my heart sing and thrills my soul with recognition it would be this:
... my one true light, my holy joy, my true way, my shining wisdom, my unfeigned simplicity, the peace and harmony of my soul, my perfect safeguard ...
There is no word except the name of Jesus that means these for me. As we are human and must settle for words, however inadequate, I will settle as did St. Peter, St. Paul, and so many other greater souls before me ... my Lord and my God. My only Master.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

On requiring conflict to be a good story ... and trying to find a good shoe to bang on the table

Jesse at SFFaudio turned in an excellent but thought-provoking review of Clifford D. Simak's Way Station, saying:
A couple years back a friend of mine (a filmmaker and used bookstore owner) was telling me about one of the scripts he was working on. He said something to the effect of “every story must have conflict.” That’s probably not a new concept, not original to him, but it was new to me – at least in those words. Now I love such sweeping declarations – they give my dialectical brain something to hack away at. It seems a fairly straightforward a concept – and on the face of it seems likely – but, that always gets me thinking: If it sounds so obvious it is probably at least partially false. So I thought about it for maybe thirty seconds and then pointed out that ‘pornographic films need not have conflict – but they can still have a story.’ Illustrating I said “Pizza delivery guy comes to the door – half naked woman answers – sex follows.” It has a beginning, a middle and a money shot. My friend and I both laughed. But, I’ve been thinking about this meme ever since. Now, with Way Station I think I have a more serious defeater to my friend’s all encompassing rule about storytelling. There is very little conflict in Way Station. That is actually a pretty common thing for author Clifford D. Simak. His stories are highly pastoral, full of backstories being revealed, mysterious farmers and friendly aliens. Conflict may be mentioned, as having happened long ago (or in some distant future) – but shots are rarely fired in anger. I’m thinking back on all of the Simak I’ve read, and in it all I can’t recall much conflict at all. And yet, I love his stories.
Intrigued, I couldn't remember if I had ever read Way Station so I requested it from the library. It really is a wonderful story, easy to read, and thought provoking in its own pastoral way.

However ...

You knew that was coming, right?

However, it is so far from being without conflict that I wondered if Jesse had actually read the same book I did. True enough the story is reflective, pastoral, and low key. Yet within those pages lies governmental interference, an abusive hillbilly father, an angry mob (and I think they might even have torches), galactic unrest, and an angry alien with a ray gun. That is without also taking into consideration the protagonist's very real concerns weighing his humanity and love of nature against his curiosity and desire to leave it behind and become a citizen of a larger world.

This has sparked an interesting conversation between Jesse and myself. As far as I can ascertain, his definition of conflict is so very different from mine as to require direct action. However, I could be wrong about that. (But let's face it, I don't really believe I am wrong about that! I am nothing if not self aware.)

I am hampered in this by having only Jesse's and my own opinions involved. If anyone else has read the book and has thoughts on the nature of conflict, its relationship to a good story, and whether it is contained in Way Station, please do join in the conversation. Nicely, of course.

Now, having found that I tend to wear soft-soled shoes, I am going in search of a properly hard soled one in order to begin pounding on the table!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Happy 21st Birthday, Hannah!

Where has the time gone?

From adorable little one to confident young woman ... all the time together has been a blessing to us. Even the tussles! Especially her gentle, loving spirit and sharp, intelligent humor (as evidenced in this superheroes series).

We will be going to Newport's for sophisticated seafood and for that all-important marker of being a legal adult, a cocktail in public.

I'm making a Doboschtorte, her favorite cake.

We're so happy that she is here with us this year and not already at college! (And we miss Rose, who is already in Chicago and we wish could be here with us for the celebration.)

I'm am repeating this viewing of the things she loves best, slightly updated ... simply lots and lots o' critters. (Don't just pick these up and pass them on, please. Click through on the links to check permissions, some of which I have obtained personally for this blog alone.)

Happy birthday , Hannah!

How Long Has It Been Since You've Seen George Lucas in Love?

Reposted for Mom and anyone else who loves a clever homage melding Star Wars and Shakespeare in Love.

Well, pardner, that's too long.

Update: darn it, the video's been yanked. HOWEVER, the Tim Burton piece below this hasn't been. Apologies all 'round and here's hoping that you enjoy the Tim Burton/Vincent Price collaboration.

I had completely forgotten this until Rose brought home 16 American Short Films.


It also contains a feature by Tim Burton, Vincent, narrated by ... you guessed it ... Vincent Price.

Weekend Joke

Found at Coffee Klatch.
Top 25 Signs You’re Part of the 00’s
(that’s pronounced “aughts”)
  1. You just tried to enter your password on the microwave.

  2. You have a list of 15 phone numbers to reach your family of three.

  3. You call your son’s beeper to let him know it’s time to eat. He emails you back from his bedroom, “What’s for dinner?”

  4. Your daughter sells Girl Scout Cookies via her web site.

  5. You chat several times a day with a stranger from South Africa, but you haven’t spoken with your next door neighbor yet this year.

  6. You check the ingredients on a can of chicken noodle soup to see if it contains Echinacea.

  7. You check your blow-dryer to see if it’s Y2K compliant.

  8. Your grandmother clogs up your e-mail inbox asking you to send her a JPEG file of your newborn so she can create a screen saver.

  9. You pull up in your own driveway and use your cell phone to see if anyone is home.

  10. Every commercial on television has a web-site address at the bottom of the screen.

  11. You buy a computer and a week later it is out of date and now sells for half the price you paid.

  12. The concept of using real money, instead of credit or debit, to make a purchase is foreign to you.

  13. Cleaning up the dining room means getting the fast food bags out of the back seat of your car.

  14. Your reason for not staying in touch with family is that they do not have e-mail addresses.

  15. You consider second-day air delivery painfully slow.

  16. Your dining room table is now your flat filing cabinet.

  17. Your idea of being organized is multiple-colored Post-it notes.

  18. You hear most of your jokes via e-mail instead of in person.

  19. You get an extra phone line so you can get phone calls.

  20. You turn off your Modem and get this awful feeling, as if you just as if you had pulled the plug on a loved one.

  21. You get up in morning and go online before getting your coffee.

  22. You wake up at 2am to go to the bathroom and check your E-mail on your way back to bed.

  23. You start tilting your head sideways to smile. :)

  24. You’re reading this.

  25. Even worse; you’re going to forward it to someone else.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Upcoming Changes to the Mass -- Get 'Em While They're Hot!

Or ... as the USCCB puts it ... ahem ...
This area includes information and resources for the assembly with implementation and practice of the new Roman Missal.
It's got a print button and a "share" button which says that you can post it to your blog, but the Blogger part can't find my blog. Perhaps they were thinking of people who had just the one blog?

So much for that.

Anyway, scoot over there to see a nice chart with old and new.

Via the indispensable New Advent.

Speaking of Books on My "To Read" List ...

... check out Ana Markovic.
Emerging from an alcohol-poisoned sleep that should have left her dead on the streets of Toronto, Ana Markovic slowly began to remember the dream that came to her while she was unconscious. Ana hadn't always been homeless. Once, she had a home and a family. And then there was war and all that she knew burnt to the ground. Ana came to Canada with her husband as a refugee of the former Yugoslavia and fell into a depression that led her into a self-destructive, alcoholic spiral. Eventually, she abandoned her husband and young child to live on the streets in a perpetual state of self-hate. But God was not about to let Ana fall to eternal perdition without a fight. While she lay passed out, St. Michael the Archangel, appeared before Ana to offer her a final chance to redeem her soul and accept her worth in the eyes of God. This story lays bare the struggle for salvation as it travels through the shattered life of one lost soul and beyond to the Garden of Eden, to the life of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the redemption God's love offers every human being.

Author David Murdoch was born in Toronto, Canada and graduated from Queen's University in Kingston. David converted to Catholicism after having been raised as a Protestant. Ana Markovic was written as a means of sharing the gifts God has given him, and doing something with God's grace
Sounds painful but powerful, right? I'm really looking forward to this one ... which is en route, or will be soon.

Perry Como and Abraham Lincoln: you just can't make this stuff up

Tom was looking on Wikipedia at Perry Como's entry after I'd asked him about a crossword clue to one of his songs. He came across this reference which left us both laughing and incredulous.
In downtown Gettysburg, there are two statues in front of the house where Lincoln stayed the night before he gave the Gettysburg Address. One is of Lincoln with his left arm raised, using his stove-pipe hat to point to the window of the room in which he stayed. His right hand is on the arm of a "tourist", as if he's showing the tourist the room. The tourist depicted is Perry Como, in his famous cardigan sweater.
It sure looks like Perry Como ... you can see the photo at Roadside America.

Wow, what a great smile!

Reposting this for Mom and, of course, anyone else who'd like to see it again!

A fantastic little film about validation ... and smiles. It doesn't hurt that it has my favorite cast member from Bones either.

Enjoy (thanks to The Anchoress ... hey, do you know how wonderful she is?)

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Lost Gods Book Review

Kweku Anansi is just another down-on-his luck con man who preys on the more fortunate during the day and goes home to his loving wife at night. That seems rather a comedown for the African trickster god, which is his real identity. ...
My review is up over at SFFaudio as is the link to Podiobooks where you can get the book free.

Your mission: get Chad, Matt, and Rob to their twelve o'clock meeting without dying ...

Reposted for Mom, and anyone else who hasn't seen this video.

Enter The Time Machine, an interactive adventure. I loved those adventure/mystery books where you got to choose which action the hero would take ... and that choice would send you to a specific page and change the story.

Here's the video version from Chad, Matt, and Rob. Brilliant! Via the indispensable Miss Cellania. (Whose site, I am constrained to mention, sometimes has explicit material. Use your discretion.)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

It's All Downhill from Here

An advertisement from Dr. Boli's Celebrated Magazine that should certainly make us all pause in uncertainty. (Click the ad to blow it up for easy reading.)

Klingon Night School. 'Nuff Said.

Another blast from the video past that I'm reposting for Mom ... and any other Trekkies out there.

Via SF Signal.

Two More Things from the Chicago Trip ... Or, The First Movie I Want to See When I Get to Heaven

Kurosawa's Gojira (Godzilla) Movie
Listening to Tank Riot's Akira Kurosawa episode we discovered that he was good friend with the Godzilla movie director. Kurosawa always wanted to direct a Godzilla movie but the studio was terrified of the monstrous costs that doubtless would be incurred. Rightfully so I am sure. Don't you know that if we worship God through our art, then Kurosawa immediately got to work with that Gojira movie?

Now I must add that I have never seen a Kurosawa movie (hanging head in shame) although I hasten to add that there are several on my movie list. However, upon learning that Kurosawa liked The Magnificent Seven so much that he sent director John Sturges a samurai sword, I thought that I probably had a little feel for his movies. I am going to begin actively looking for them at the library.

(Note about Tank Riot: this group podcast is a lot of fun to listen to on a variety of esoteric subjects. If you are touchy about criticism, however, beware as one of the guys has a problem with the Church and Pope Benedict and lets it pop out at unexpected moments. It was like a slap in the face that surfaced completely out of nowhere during the pirates episode, for example. Based on inaccurate info as well. Ah well. However, be that as it may, that is a small thing and is not usually intrusive enough to be a problem.)

"That sounds just like something on Happy Catholic."
Mom completely cracked me up with that accusation when I was commenting on some situation (I no longer remember what). I told everyone here that what you see is what you get (albeit a little toned down and more polite). What more proof do you need?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

I Wanna Be A Zimmer When I Grow Up

Reposted here from the archives for Mom and, of course, anyone else who wants to watch. (Note: I see they've disabled embedding, but just click through on their link to watch.)
Meet "The Zimmers" - a rock band of 40 OAP’s with more aggression than Nirvana and more style than The Who.

I always have told Hannah and Rose that when I'm in an old folks home they'll play Rolling Stones instead of Muzak. Looks like they're already there. (Warning for the faint-of-heart ... some true rock and roll band behavior is exhibited in this video.)

When You Return to 776 Posts in Your Google Reader After 3 Days of Not Using the Internet, You Know You're Reading Too Many Blogs

Oy veh!

Overall the fast turn-around to get Rose to Chicago and get home again went well, but we will never do it that quickly again. The 16-hour trip is brutal when done back-to-back without at least a day of rest in between. However, we are home again safely and that is what counts at this point.

Highlights and tips:
  • Who knew that the Illinois State Fair happened in August, just at the time we'd be driving through looking for a hotel room? And that it would overflow the town's hotels practically completely? We wound up at the downtown Abraham Lincoln hotel which was completely luxurious, especially when they upgraded the regular smoking room we would have settled for into a "club level" room. Oooo la la. Crabtree & Evelyn soap and shampoo in the bathroom ladies. And those fluffy bathrobes are quite nice. Yes, indeed.
  • Tom and I daringly didn't make a hotel reservation in Chicago, having heard all those relatives tell their tales of "day of" reservations on Priceline getting fantastic discounts for a nice hotel. No such luck on our attempt. However, the downtown TravelLodge isn't too bad either price-wise or as a hotel, though it is fairly dumpy. But it was close to where Rose lives and just a block away from Grant Park.
  • Let me highly recommend Thai Spoon. Highly. Really fantastic food. Also the price was actually inexpensive. Rose says that many Columbia College students like it because they can order a large meal and have leftovers for several days. We fed eight people, with three beers and a Thai iced coffee for $100 flat. In downtown Chicago. Absolutely delicious. Try it.
  • After the Thai Spoon, Tom and I took a walk in Grant Park where we eventually wound up at Buckingham Fountain. We'd noticed a young couple taking photos of each other near us. The young man came up to Tom and asked, "Will you take our picture? And then will you keep taking pictures while I propose?" Can you see the smile on my face just thinking of it? It was sweet and romantic and we will treasure always being "that couple who took our picture" in this young couple's memories. Of course, she cried and laughed and said yes ... and had a huge diamond on her ring. I will be praying for them and their marriage every time that memory flashes across my mind.
  • Finally we got to see the inside of Holy Name Cathedral for Sunday Mass, after having been kept away first by renovations and then by the fire damage. Overall it is absolutely gorgeous. It is too bad that someone came through in the 1970's (our guess) and replaced all the original stained glass and slapped on various other "improvements" that are all too indicative of the bad taste of the time. Those bits stood out like a bandaid on a Van Gogh. However, the original work is gorgous, as I said. Also, there was a wonderful girls' choir visiting from Germany. I thought that might be a little sample of how the angelic choir sounds.
  • Stopped off on the way up to take Mom her new laptop and then on the way back to make sure it was connected to the wireless internet (woohoo! Hi Mom!) which is so much faster in their assisted living place than any sort of internet was at their house in the country. Now she can actually watch those videos I post. Also we went to lunch at Ocean Zen which is truly excellent and if you are near Springfield, MO, you should definitely try it if you've never been.
And now we are home ... ready to do those lovely mundane thing like clean bathrooms, grocery shop, and go to work (which I must do now!).

Friday, August 14, 2009

On th Road to Chi-Town

Taking Rose back to Columbia College. Perhaps time to blog then, but probably not as we're doing a two-day-up turnaround for a two-day-back trip.

We'll be stopping off to give my Mom her new laptop. This will give her time to try it out and figure out what questions she has before we stop back by on the way home.

More later ...

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The problem with real life ...

... is that it leaves no time for blogging when you get really, really, really busy.

So, there you go. Apologies all 'round, but clients wait for no man and family likewise.

Check my sidebar for Google reader links of some great stuff in the blogosphere that is just waiting for you to discover it. I'll be back to more than the quote and photo of the day soon, I hope!

Monday, August 10, 2009

"Does going to confession make you feel better?" What I said. What I'll say next time. Hopefully.

My brother and nephew are in town for a couple of days. I have so much fun talking with my brother but every so often such a question arises as it did when we were out having a Tex-Mex family dinner. I had laughingly said that I needed to get to confession over something we'd been mentioning ... then said, "no, not really, though I've got to get there on Tuesday over something else."

Which raised that question from my brother, who is a nondenominational Protestant. Somehow, knowing the way he thinks and what he does for a living (which involves occasional mind manipulation), I always feel I've got to stand up for the Catholic way even if he is just phrasing it as a mild mannered question. Which probably says more about me than anything else.

I answered, "Yes."

Then thought, "well, not always sometimes yes and sometimes no. But this time I am really looking forward to it and so I probably will feel better."

By which time he'd said, "I understand."

I said, "No you don't understand."

He said, "Yes, I understand better than you'd think."

You have to understand that I'd had most of a nice strong margarita by then and anyway am not nearly as good at explaining myself when speaking as I am in writing. Also, I didn't suddenly want to dive into the depths of discussing confession as a sacrament in the middle of a restaurant at a family dinner.

Swirling through my head were thoughts of how to explain confession as a sacrament, feelings versus truth, and that when I go to confession I have thought and prayed about my offenses so that I already have gone to God personally about whatever it is. And the fact that "feeling better" makes it sound like a substitute for therapy, which it is not. The one thing I did know was that I was unequal to that task at that moment.

I let it go.

This, hopefully, has prepared me better for another time. Then I might be collected enough to answer, "Sometimes I feel better and sometimes I feel nothing. But it's not about feelings. It's about the reality of the sacrament of absolution from sin and reconciling myself to God."

If it carried on, we could go into how telling a doctor my symptoms might make me feel better sharing the burden, but it would be the medicine itself which would effect the cure. About how a sacrament is a visible sign of spiritual reality.

I am a poor apologist in person. But there's always next time. Hopefully.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Heads Up! The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri FREE @ Christian Audio

This is where it turns out handy that friendly pagans like Jesse at SFFaudio have an interest in the Divine Comedy as the first fantasy novel.

Check it out and note Jesse's careful instructions for receiving this free audiobook.

Thanks Jesse!

First Friday Fast to End Abortion

I haven't forgotten but just hadn't posted it yet ... for those fasting for an end to abortion, it's First Friday!

By the way, listening to this episode of Philosopher's Notes helped me go into this cheerfully and purposefully. He's not kidding when he says, "99% is a b***h; 100% is a breeze. You can listen, download, or read the transcript there.

Our Lady of Guadalupe: More Than Flowers

Continuing with excerpts from Our Lady of Guadalupe, we continue to see the depth of symbolism speaking in every item and gesture being used. For instance, I didn't know that the bishop-elect had been lied to. The stories I remember just implied that he was a crusty old so-and-so who didn't like Indians (which is completely untrue as I discovered in reading this book). I didn't realize those flowers had to do double duty. Read on and see what I mean.
The bishop-elect, disarmed by Juan Diego's confidence, sent two men to follow him to make sure that Juan Diego was not up to any tricks. The two men trailed Juan Diego for a good while but lost sight of him as he crossed the ravine near the bridge to Tepeyac. After a desperate and unsuccessful search, they returned to Friar Zumarraga's home and, infuriated with Juan Diego for having wasted their time, told Zumarraga that Juan Diego was a sorcerer and a fraud who deserved punishment to prevent him from lying again. ...

[Our Lady gives Juan Diego a sign for Friar Z. by putting roses in his tilma.]

Perhaps it is in this moment, as the Virgin stoops to rearrange the flowers in Juan Diego's tilma, that we are given the most poetically poignant expression of what the apparitions at Guadalupe would have meant to the Indian people. In her appearances on Tepeyac, the Virgin takes what is good and true in the Indian culture and rearranges it in such a way that these same elements are brought tothe fulfillment of truth. In the Indian culture, flowers and song (which, you will recall, Juan Diego heard just before the first apparition) were symbols of truth -- more specifically, the truth that, though somehow intuited by reason, is never comprehensively grasped. Thus the Virgin's sign of flowers, which had to undo the lie told to Firar Zumarrage by the false messengers, possesses a double meaning: more than a sign for the bishop-elect that is impossible to explain away as a mere trick by Juan Diego; for the indegenous people it is a sign of truth.

[Juan Diego takes the flowers to the bishop who recognizes the truth, unties the tilma from around Juan diego's neck, takes it immediately to his private chapel, and welcomes Juan Diego to spend the day in his home.]

In the account of the Guadalupan apparitions and miracles, there are many significant moments of reconciliation. In the image itself, one sees a perfect harmony of cultures and their respective symbols that convey the same truth. But for the Indians and laymen, the impression of the Virgin's image on the tilma and the acceptance of Juan Diego's tilma into the chapel are perhaps the most significant moments. In the Indian culture, the tilma reflected social status. A peasant's tilma would be plain and undecorated, while a tilma with color or decoration was reserved for noblemen and peole of high social rank. For the Indians, the Virgin, by placing her image on Juan Diego's tilma, gives a new and elevated dignity to the common person and especially the Indian.

Moreover, this dignity is recognized by the bishop-elect when, as the head of the Church in Mexico, he publicly and personally accepts the tilma into his own private chapel and welcomes Juan Diego into his home. At this moment, all of Juan Diego's roles that had previously impeded his total participation in the Church after the conquest -- as an Indian, a convert, a layman, and a man of limited social significance -- are welcomed as having an important and decisive place in the Church and its mission of evangelization.

I Miss Scott Nehring!

Thanks. Just had to get that out of my system.

Some Very Good Advice: Duty Before Holiness

Just as I was feeling doomed to unwittingly stray away from God by following "good" inspirations that would end up negatively impacting my life or the lives of my loved ones, I came across a three-word nugget of wisdom that would end up being one of the most helpful pieces of advice I've ever heard:

Duty before holiness.
A must read from Jen at Conversion Diary.

This quote ranges a bit wider and applies to everyone a bit more than a similar one which I like from St. Francis of Rome.
A married woman must often leave God at the altar in order to find Him in her housework.
We get the point though. It is tempting to be pulled away from everyday, mundane activities that are nevertheless of paramount importance: spouse, children, family, home. However, these are the places where God manifests Himself if we are striving to walk in Jesus' footsteps.

After all, let us not forget, Jesus spent all but three years of his life as a regular Joe, a carpenter with an everyday life in the back end of nowhere. If it's good enough for God, then it should be good enough for us.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Do People Still Cook? Michael Pollan's Answer Raises Hackles But I Think He is Right.

Just for a break from the usual controversial subjects that may be broached around here, let's take a look at the latest food world controversy. The upcoming movie Julie & Julia there has been an anticipatory swell of writing. I, personally, am looking forward to seeing Meryl Streep's take on Julia Child which is supposed to be really wonderful.

However, it prompted food writer and activist Michael Pollan to write a long, thoughtful article for the NY Times which has garnered some surprising response. Naturally, I have my own take on it as it dovetailed in with a conversation I had during the Beyond Cana retreat. Those who are interested will find it here at Meanwhile, Back in the Kitchen.

It's All Downhill from Here

A little something from Dr. Boli to brighten us as we move through the week.

I hear that Whole Foods is planning a return to their natural food roots. Now we can see the strength of their argument!

Those Aren't Fighting Words

“I don’t love you anymore. I’m not sure I ever did.”

His words came at me like a speeding fist, like a sucker punch, yet somehow in that moment I was able to duck. And once I recovered and composed myself, I managed to say, “I don’t buy it.” Because I didn’t.

He drew back in surprise. Apparently he’d expected me to burst into tears, to rage at him, to threaten him with a custody battle. Or beg him to change his mind.

So he turned mean. “I don’t like what you’ve become.”

Gut-wrenching pause. How could he say such a thing? That’s when I really wanted to fight. To rage. To cry. But I didn’t.

Instead, a shroud of calm enveloped me, and I repeated those words: “I don’t buy it.”

You see, I’d recently committed to a non-negotiable understanding with myself. I’d committed to “The End of Suffering.” I’d finally managed to exile the voices in my head that told me my personal happiness was only as good as my outward success, rooted in things that were often outside my control. I’d seen the insanity of that equation and decided to take responsibility for my own happiness. And I mean all of it.


I said: “It’s not age-appropriate to expect children to be concerned with their parents’ happiness. Not unless you want to create co-dependents who’ll spend their lives in bad relationships and therapy. There are times in every relationship when the parties involved need a break. What can we do to give you the distance you need, without hurting the family?”

“Huh?” he said.
An eye opening example of perspective, maturity, and love from this NY Times story. Also, though there is no mention of faith, to me this is a powerful example of covenantal love, giving your spouse 100% even when you are getting zero.

Via my dear Rita who, with her husband, brought Beyond Cana to our parish. She saw it at Faith & Family Live where Danielle Bean makes some good comments as well.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

So now the air conditioner compressor is out at work

So now it looks as if the only place I have AC is in my car.

Really, I hate to have a whole building of people take it on the chin for the Beyond Cana retreat. It must be bearing fantastic fruit right now.

And I have something new to offer up. So ... if I live through it, then its all to the good!

Warm, but good.

Memo to Current Generation: Be Not Afraid. Keep Hope Alive.

More and more, we are hearing from people who might best be described as anti-birthers. Their claims have nothing to do with long- versus short-form Hawaiian birth certificates. Instead, they advance a simple proposition: that the birth of each additional American child is a kind of calamity for the environment.
You know when I see a WSJ op-ed titled American Babies Are Ruining Everything that I am going to stop and read it.

It is brief and I encourage you reading it, especially since I'm going to give a spoiler. I'll wait ...

Essentially, this is a summary of the creeping attitude we all know too well these days, especially if one is pro-life. Babies hurt the environment and make life harder for the rest of us so they are not really an occasion for celebration if one has more than two.

Tom blames Malthus. So do I. That Negative Nellie who predicted horrible things from overpopulation may have alerted us to the need for feeding the world better, but he left no positive message to look forward to after that. Later generations have taken his negativity and simply tweaked it to their own uses. The latest of these, of course, is the environment, which for many is elevated far beyond the original concerns of making sure that it can sustain life for all as it should (which I support so don't get all over me about this ... I recycle newspapers and suchlike). For many "the environment" as a cause has taken on religious undertones that make it equal in itself to human life.

Never have I been more happy to be Catholic. The Church understands and promotes stewardship of the earth but always with the understanding that human life, people, are the most precious of God's creations. Supporting man's dignity and right to life itself therefore trumps specious semi-scientific claims of environmental good in this case.

I find it interesting that in the age of technology, living more comfortably than any generation has, we also are more afraid than ever that our earthly comforts might diminish in some way. What has happened to the spirit of exploration and discovery that fueled some of man's greatest inventions? We have walked on the moon, looked at far away stars with the Hubble telescope, developed penicillin and other "wonder drugs" that extend life, built pyramids with little more than ingenuity, and so much more. Why now are we such a bunch of nay sayers, fearful of the future?

I was infused with the optimistic belief that man will overcome obstacles long before I became Catholic or even discovered that God does indeed exist. In the early years of our marriage, Tom turned me on to science historian James Burke's television series Connections and The Day the Universe Changed. At the time, the big science worry was the depletion of the ozone layer. I will never forget the mingled sense of relief and revelation that struck me as he calmly pointed out the many ways that we could continue to survive easily should such a thing occur ... with current technology. He went on to point out that many of our brightest minds would be busily working away on new inventions to solve both the problem and subsequent results. I felt a renewed optimism. "Why," I wondered, "had no one ever pointed this out to me before?"

We won't go into the various failures of news media on this point.

I just know that we have a spirit of pessimism these days. My grandparents enthusiastically hailed new inventions, even if it was just putting Tang, the breakfast of astronauts (!) on the table. The comparison between their view and that generally held these days is heartbreaking.

Now for the spoiler. Hopefully you've read the editorial in full.

I am pleased to see that there are still places where we can find proper perspective in national media.

The real answer, of course, is to have a little more faith in the creative powers of human beings. Given the freedom to grow and innovate, surely the same people who have licked polio, sent a man to the moon, and given us a revolution in information will sooner or later come up with new technologies that will provide for our energy needs while being friendlier to the environment.

The task is not without its challenges. But we’re not likely to get far with a “science” that defines the problem as American babies.

I turned to Tom yesterday morning and said ... (updated)

... "so now our air conditioner is broken and it's going to be 100 degrees today, my mother's got some old problems resurfacing, my father's health has taken a little downward slant, our Wall Street Journal wasn't delivered, our puppy has begun defecating on the patio again, and I couldn't sleep for three hours in the middle of the night ... again. Really? NOW is when we get all this? That's the best The Enemy can do? Now he's punishing us afterward?"

Tom laughed and nodded and said, "No kidding."

Let us add that yesterday afternoon we discovered that we may have to get a new furnace. Of course, that is a several thousand dollar investment which eventually comes to every long time home owner but the timing now is particularly bad. Of course.

And Rose had about 12 friends coming over for marathon movie watching and a friend's birthday celebration. (Never have I appreciated more the fact that our back room [where the television is] gets so little air conditioning that we have long had a little window unit. Let us thank God for hidden blessings. That was the one tolerable room in the house.)

Hey. At least I remembered to call my mother on Sunday and wish her happy birthday. I'll take the good where I can find it.

I sent some of this out in an email to the retreat team and had several people emailing back their experiences of backlash also.

We are used to taking hits from the very displeased Enemy before the retreat. Not just us, of course, but the entire team finds life is suddenly filled up and overflowing with troubles of many sorts before a retreat. We have learned to take it as a compliment, email each other that we are going to have "the best retreat ever," pray more than ever, and keep on going.

However, this is the first time that we've been hit so hard afterward.

Maybe it is a backlash of frustration. It does feel rather petulant.

There is no doubt that much good was worked by God through this retreat for the couples. In fact, there were even reports of a miracle or two.

I felt all weekend as if we were under a web of protection. Not the best way to put it perhaps. I could say "web" but to me there were no holes, it was a solid crystal sphere over us. As if angels were surrounding us, holding their wings out to keep anything external from entering the retreat. There was definitely more than one visible sign of God's love and power for us all.

You know what? If that's the price it takes, then I'm happy to take one for the team. Bring it.

Should have mentioned this sooner. This is just giving me more to offer up. So it's like a double whammy of "why bother?" Seriously. Do I need to point this out? Although smart isn't always what I hear applied to the Enemy.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Divorce Entrance Dance

You may find this spoof of the wedding dance video amusing. I know that I did. Via Kiwi Nomad.

The Senate Doctors' Show

Senator John Barrasso, M.D., and Senator Tom Coburn, M.D., are seeking your questions as Congress debates health care reform. We want you to be a part of this important debate. Send us your questions and comments by e-mail, Facebook, YouTube, or Twitter. Senators Barrasso and Coburn will respond to some of them in future episodes, which air every Tuesday and Thursday at 5 pm EST.

Fascinating. See their page with all past show links here.

Thanks to Terry for this, who as someone in the health biz knows a thing or two ... and also points out, "Sen. Coburn's bill deserves to be heard."

Thank you for your prayers

The Beyond Cana retreat was really great. Eleven couples went away glowing with renewed love and their plans for improved marriages.

The experience of presenting the retreat is rewarding for us in so many ways. I am always reminded of how much I love the other couples on the team and how rewarding it is seeing their marriages grow richer. Also, I look at how many of them have young children and what they sacrifice in order to give to these other couples. It is a sacrifice that we don't have to make since our children are so much older ... and a real life example of how God takes it all and benefits both the giver and receiver. It keeps Tom and me grounded as well. The whole thing is a gift.

Many thanks to all who supported us in prayer. That support is essential and we appreciate it so much!