Wednesday, June 30, 2010

It's All Downhill from Here

Some midweek humor from Aggie Catholics where Marcel has a hilarious (and authentic) list. His observations are what put these over the top, needless to say. Here are my favorites ...
30 - Saint Gall
-He was brazenly bold.

17 - Saint Kenny
-Only his mother called him "Kenneth"

15 - Saint Conon
-That was close. I thought it was "Conan".

14 - Saint Bru
-Gives a whole new meaning to the phrase "What's up Bru?"

8 - Saint Gwynnin
-Can I buy a vowel?

6 - Saint Olav the Thick
-Just don't call him that.

The Intersection of the Mass and Technology

An Italian priest has developed an application that will let priests celebrate Mass with an iPad on the altar instead of the regular Roman missal.
This story has been around for a while. I didn't comment on it. Tom, ever thoughtful of the historical side, pointed out that the Church has to adjust to technology occasionally, as we all found out after Gutenberg gave the push to printing books rather than hand copying them. My own thoughts were that a book doesn't need to be charged or rebooted if it runs out in the middle of Mass, which would be a horrendous thing to have happen.

Other than that I didn't give it much thought. The Curt Jester, iGeek supreme (and I mean that in a good way), has been mulling this over to some purpose, however, and has a thoughtful piece that is worth reading. For instance, his photo of electric candles took me back to a downtown church in Chicago with those innovative items ... which were tacky beyond redemption and just didn't have the same feel as a real candle.

Here's a bit and then do go read his reflections.
In a Church with sacraments and the sacramental view of things the types of materials used at Mass are not insignificant questions. The type of material used for the chalices should be made of solid and noble material that is not easily breakable or corruptible, is another example of how the Church takes seriously these questions.

Something I Really Like - Blueberry Crisp

Especially when made with the absolutely delicious blueberries from the CSA. Hand-picked, plump, the best quality I've ever had.

Here's the recipe I use.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Something I Really Like - Easy on the Eye

Otherwise known as ... a front porch full of plants!
Our front porch is more of a courtyard really. It has a brick wall which separates it from the street and our front windows provide a lovely view of the empty fountain and ... old bench ... and ... bricks.

I have meant to plant it in the way of the New Orleans courtyards. What stopped me is that I was waiting for some extra money.

After over 10 years of waiting I finally figured out there is never extra money for plants and pots so I turned to my new favorite technique: amortizing purchases.

It worked for the new TV ("if we keep this TV for 20 years, we're crazy not to make this investment!).

It worked too for these plant which I finally gave in and bought a few weeks ago. Hannah went with me and, knowing my nurturing style, would cry in triumph "No deadheading required!" or "Water weekly in case of drought conditions!" or "Easy care plant!" as she drew my attention to the various selections.

She was also careful to look for butterfly attracting plants and we have already seen a few adventurers on the porch. It turns out I have a liking for native plants ... which helps on keeping them alive.

Among our treasures:
  • African Iris (this was our big ticket item)
  • Herbs: Genoese basil, Thai basil, thyme, rosemary, sage (this reminds her of my mother's house and garden), cilantro
  • Balloon flowers (blue)
  • Coneflowers (purple) ... this smells heavenly
  • Echinacea (an orangey-yellow type called Harvest Moon)
  • Lobelia
  • Some sort of vine-ish plant which I should be able to train to grow over the wall and will be covered with white flowers
It completely transforms the view from the living room, as you might imagine, and I am only sorry I didn't get the amortizing thing 10 years ago when we moved in.

Ah well, onward and upward!

Brandywine Books Captures the Essence of You Are What You See

Scott Nehring's strategy, through this book, is to try to equip Christians to understand what is going on in their minds and hearts when they watch a film. To analyze it, to determine the filmmakers' intent, and to judge what they've seen. Movies can corrupt us, but knowledge and discernment are valuable antidotes. In order to help us acquire knowledge and discernment, he spends a fair number of pages breaking down classic story structure, to help us understand how movies are plotted, and how their hidden messages can be recognized.
A discerning review of a book I just picked up again and am enjoying immensely for many of the reasons Lars mentions. (And no I'm not being paid for P.R. ... I just love the book thatmuch!)

Notice: Forgotten Classics book group begun on Goodreads

I have been enjoying the smattering of conversation at the Forgotten Classics group, Forgotten Yarns, on Ravelry (thank you erqsome!) and thought I'd see if a group on Goodreads would yield interesting observations.

You can find and join it here, where I have just the basics up. Eventually I will have a list of past books and such things.

So drop by and speak up!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Something I Really Like - Bookishly

Goodreads.

It's like Facebook for readers.

Here is the link to my 2010 Goodreads shelf but do poke around and explore. For one thing authors have pages there to investigate. It's free to join and the book talk can be interesting.

Speaking of Facebook, you can link your Goodreads to your Facebook account so that everyone can keep up there as well.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

An Unlikely Good Samaritan

From Paw-Nation via our resident just-short-one-credit Wildlife Biologist, Hannah.

Friday, June 25, 2010

A Sense Organ Unique to Fish

A sense organ unique to fish is the lateral line system, a network of electrical receptors that detect electrical current in the water. Muscular contractions generate weak electrical currents that fish can detect. This makes them aware of the movements of other animals — especially predators and prey — in the water around them. Some few species, such as electric skates and eels, can even generate a strong current of their own in order to stun predators and prey.
What!

How long has everyone known about this?

And why has no one told me before now?

I'm telling you, A Life of Life is simply eye opening. It helps that it is in bite-sized pieces.

Something I Really Like - Personally

There is no thrill like seeing the people you love grow to be more "themselves." (If that makes sense.)

Recent examples:
  • Reading the third draft of Rose's screenplay.
    This is a project from her screenwriting class that her teacher (who has sold screenplays under a pen name) feels has great potential, especially after a few more drafts.

    It came alive ... so very satisfying compared to draft 2. It isn't perfect, but ... wow. She's good. And I'm not just saying that because she's our own sweet Rose.

  • Hannah looking at a chirping sparrow sitting in the entrance to a birdhouse and providing the translation of his chirping.
    She's a nut about animals as her Wildlife and Biology degree will attest. Birds are a special passion. I forgot that birds are actually doing some communication beyond singing until that moment.

    The translation? This works best if done in a sing-song ...
    "This is mine. Mine, mine, mine. This is mine. Mine, mine, mine."

    It makes me smile just to think of that little guy staking out his territory.

In which we hear learn some about Fraulein Dollman, consider Von Brunning's cleverness, and change plans

Yes, it's Episode 124 of Forgotten Classics as we forge ahead with The Riddle of the Sands ... and find out about a good source of movie info along the way.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

PSA: Nelnet ≠ Customer Service

I don't use this as a forum for complaining ... well, not usually anyway.

In this instance, however, my personal interest in lowering Tom's blood pressure makes it incumbent upon me to warn people about using nelnet for student loans. A couple of early loans we got for Hannah's college were sold to them which is how we have been flung into the dizzying world of what they laughingly term "customer service."

However, if you have the right sense of the ridiculous, then perhaps the more outrageous of our examples will simply tickle your funny bone.
  • Receiving an email telling you that in 24 hours your statement will be posted to your account.

    Really? This is the computer age, guys. Why not just send the email when it is posted instead of making us check back in 24 hours?

  • Their customer service phone number message tells you they are open from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., Eastern time.

    Why the special hours? Every message leads to a computer and they never sleep. If you try "O" then it kicks you out. This is especially annoying when you are responding to that 24-hour notice email (24-hours later) to tell them that your statement has not been updated.
As I say these are just a few examples of the extremes. On the plus side, if you finally find a phone number that allows you to speak to a human (yes, the "apply for a loan!" phone number), then they are very nice ... but ultimately powerless.

It is too late to save us, but if you're applying for school loans then save yourselves!

Something I Really Like - Fun

My narration of Mike Resnick's "The Bride of Frankenstein" is now live at Escape Pod.

This is one of their series of Hugo-nominated stories and it was a great compliment to be asked to narrate it ... and the story is a lot of fun.  It was a real treat to read it.

There's a bit of depth that Happy Catholic readers will appreciate.

To top it all off, it is guest hosted by my favorite ... Alasdair Stuart of Pseudopod

Enjoy!

(Note: contains a bit of language ... )

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Something I Really Like - Easy on the Eye

Not the puppies, though they are drop-dead cute.

The TV.

Tom bought my MacBook with some of our tax refund. I realized that what he'd really have liked for his birthday was something to replace our 20-year-old television. However, we didn't have that tax refund when it was his birthday. Obviously it was necessary to rectify that oversight. Especially after I heard him going over all the specs for televisions while we were lunching with friends.

Voila!
Apex Digital LD4088 40 in. LCD TV

Key Features
  • Flat Panel Type: LCD TV
  • Aspect Ratio: Widescreen (16:9)
  • Broadcast Format Displayed: 1080p (HDTV) 1080i (HDTV) 720p (HDTV) 480p (EDTV) 480i (SDTV)
  • LCD Response Time: 7 ms
  • Screen Size: 40 inch
  • Contrast Ratio: 1,800:1
It also has provided him with a bonus activity ... a new hobby as he tries to find just the right way to improve the sound, which he says is worse than that of our old television. Being glued to the glorious new "pop out of the screen" vision in front of me, I have hardly noticed.

The first movies we watched on it? Monsters, Inc. and The Incredibles.

Worth a Thousand Words

You may kiss the bride
from Mom, I'm getting married
at the King Arthur Flour Baking Blog
This is a photo that captures sheer joy. If you click through then you'll also see the cake her mother and friends made for her.

Atheists Don't Have No Songs -- Steve Martin with the Steep Canyon Rangers


Much thanks to Mike Aquilina for pointing out this good natured and clever song. I laughed out loud but, then, Steve Martin usually has that effect on me.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Something I Really Like* - Tasty

Truly a delicious potato chip, worth the extra money. Just enough salt, zipped (or is it zapped?) with just enough pepper on hand-made potato chips. One bag per week for the household makes sure we appreciate these savory bits.

If you have a few extra bucks, then it is worth picking up a package of their most recent limited edition.

Hoochey mama, that's a zesty chip! You can read the story behind the flavor here.

Thank you Zapp's!

*Something I really like is one of Dr. Gemma's regular segments on her podcast, which I thought I'd try to adapt as I have so much I'd like to share that I never can get to it. One bite at a time ... maybe I can do it.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Fish, Fish, Fishes, and Grammar

Fish are our first group of animals, but before we discuss them, a note on English. One fish is, of course, a fish. The plural is also fish. However, the plural of different kinds of fish is “fishes.” So if you catch five of them, you’ve caught five fish. If you’re talking about groups, as we will, its fishes.
A Life of Life preps us to dive into discussing vertebrates. (Pun intentional)

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Good Reading for the Weekend at the WSJ

The Wall Street Journal had tons of good stuff ... here are my picks:
  • The Case for Having More Kids
    The main problem with parenting pessimists, though, is that they assume there's no acceptable way to make parenting less work and more fun. Parents may feel like their pressure, encouragement, money and time are all that stands between their kids and failure. But decades' worth of twin and adoption research says the opposite: Parents have a lot more room to safely maneuver than they realize, because the long-run effects of parenting on children's outcomes are much smaller than they look.
    A must read story about having more children which uses statistics and current observations to counter "what everybody knows." Tom and I agree that this story's information and attitude is much needed and a true reflection of what we have experienced. The short version would be: don't worry, be happy, and relax more. I am going to read this book when it comes out.

  • Frederick Douglass's Eloquent Biography
    By its own terms, "Narrative" is the story of "how a slave became a man," and that story is intimately connected with Douglass's discovery, while still a slave, of the power of language. That process, as told in "Narrative," began like a trickster's tale. After learning a few letters of the alphabet by observing the markings on timbers in a shipyard, Douglass started boasting of what he knew to be his very limited knowledge to the white boys he met, knowing that, in their pride, the boys would try to top him by showing him letters he had not mastered. In this way, Douglass recalled, he got "a good many lessons in writing." The true turning point in his education, however, came when he happened upon a copy of "The Columbian Orator," a book of classic speeches, poems and dialogues "calculated to improve youth . . . in the ornamental and useful art of eloquence."
  • The Bumper Book of Nature
    Not so funny but sadder still is the degree to which our own tech-absorbed society is cut off from nature's beauty and cadences. That sentiment, at least, and with gentle rue rather than Betjeman-like invocations of violence, is what emanates from the pleasant pages of "The Bumper Book of Nature: A User's Guide to the Great Outdoors." [...]

    Mr. Moss further urges readers to pursue outdoor pleasures that might seem laughably self-evident. "Climb a tree," he exhorts, and then goes on to explain when it is best to climb (late fall, when the leaves have dropped) and what it is most prudent to wear (jeans and a long-sleeved top, to keep from getting skinned). "Stand out in the rain," Mr. Moss advises. "It doesn't have to be for long—just time enough to appreciate the sensation of pure rainwater."

    Screamingly obvious? Well, sure. Yet the spirit of this sweet book is such that one is inclined less to mock than to think: "What a great idea!" And there is no doubting that Mr. Moss is onto something.
    Hannah, with her training in wildlife and nature (and Wildlife Biologist certificate in sight), has had occasion to bring up the idea several times in the last couple of weeks just how divorced most of us are from nature. Sometimes it is to the point where people are afraid of it in any manifestation. This looks like a nice counter to that tendency. I am going to see if our library has a copy.

  • Three Shaw Films in Their DVD Debut
    George Bernard Shaw loved movies—or, more accurately, silent ones. But he didn't much care for early sound films, especially cinematic adaptations of his plays. That is until the appearance on his doorstep in 1935 of Gabriel Pascal, a gap-toothed, Transylvania-born actor turned producer who, in the words of the playwright's biographer Michael Holroyd, "belonged to a breed of troubadour-entertainers . . . for whom Shaw had special fondness."
  • What I Learned in Pappy's Study
    I can still see him now, balding and bearded, seated behind his massive wooden desk, his powerful shoulders bent over a book, left hand pulling a pencil across the page. I enter Pappy's study and he looks up from his reading and greets me. Sometimes the greeting is light and playful; sometimes it is weary or stern. Always it is followed by the same: "Come, have a seat, son."

    To enter my father's home was to step into his scrutinizing gaze, a gaze that swept over my geometric haircuts, oversized basketball jerseys and voluminous, sagging trousers like an infrared beam, ...
    Sadly, this is only available to WSJ online subscribers and if you are one then I urge you to go read this. For the rest of us (except actual subscribers like me) then go look for William's book, Losing My Cool: How a Father's Love and 15,000 Books Beat Hip-hop Culture. Another one I'm going to be hitting our library for.

Friday, June 18, 2010

"When Catholics are Attacked All Christians Should React "

Scott Nehring, our token Protestant (his label, not mine, folks!) over at Catholic Media Review, has a clip on his blog, Good News Film Reviews explaining why he believes Christians of all denominations should stand with the Catholic Church when it is unfairly criticized or attacked by those in the entertainment industry.

There is a segment in his book titled “Attack on Catholics: Just Because I Don’t Follow You Doesn’t Mean I Won’t Back You Up” where he delivers the same message. Scott told me, "It ends w/ the line 'When filmmakers throw cinematic eggs at the Vatican, they are intended to splatter on us all.'"

We all remember Scott's book, right? The one I read the galley of and can't wait to get a copy of? You Are What You See: Watching Movies Through a Christian Lens

Luckily, Scott is kindly not going to make me break my book fast experiment* as I will be getting a review copy. As he emailed:
Literally, I am sending one to the Vatican, then one to the Texas Chainsaw.
You read that right. A copy of his book will be residing at the Vatican. So you know you'd better read it, just in case the Pope twitters about it.

And, yes, you read that right. He calls me the Texas Chainsaw. Perhaps because of our frequent sparring over movies, most notably Memento.

*No books bought since the New Year.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

“You gotta try and save them. It’s pretty simple.”

In those bleak moments when the lost souls stood atop the cliff, wondering whether to jump, the sound of the wind and the waves was broken by a soft voice. "Why don't you come and have a cup of tea?" the stranger would ask. And when they turned to him, his smile was often their salvation.

For almost 50 years, Don Ritchie has lived across the street from Australia's most notorious suicide spot, a rocky cliff at the entrance to Sydney Harbour called The Gap. And in that time, the man widely regarded as a guardian angel has shepherded countless people away from the edge.

What some consider grim, Ritchie considers a gift. How wonderful, the former life insurance salesman says, to save so many. How wonderful to sell them life.

"You can't just sit there and watch them," says Ritchie, now 84, perched on his beloved green leather chair, from which he keeps a watchful eye on the cliff outside. "You gotta try and save them. It's pretty simple."

Since the 1800s, Australians have flocked to The Gap to end their lives, with little more than a 3-foot (1 meter) fence separating them from the edge. Local officials say around one person a week commits suicide there, and in January, the Woollahra Council applied for 2.1 million Australian dollars ($1.7 million) in federal funding to build a higher fence and overhaul security.

[...]

But he remains available to lend an ear, though he never tries to counsel, advise or pry. He just gives them a warm smile, asks if they'd like to talk and invites them back to his house for tea. Sometimes, they join him.

"I'm offering them an alternative, really," Ritchie says. "I always act in a friendly manner. I smile."

A smile cannot, of course, save everyone; the motivations behind suicide are too varied. But simple kindness can be surprisingly effective. Mental health professionals tell the story of a note left behind by a man who jumped off San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge. If one person smiles at me on the way to the bridge, the man wrote, I will not jump.

By offering compassion, Ritchie helps those who are suicidal think beyond the terrible present moment, says psychiatrist Gordon Parker, executive director of the Black Dog Institute, a mood disorder research center that has supported the council's efforts to improve safety at The Gap.

"They often don't want to die, it's more that they want the pain to go away," Parker says. "So anyone that offers kindness or hope has the capacity to help a number of people."
Obviously I could quote the entire article but please do go read it for yourself. I only know that the man's note who jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge brought tears to my eyes. How much does it affect someone when we are too preoccupied to even notice that another human being is near us and give them a smile? We see that sometimes there is much more at stake than we could ever know.

Via The Anchoress.

Atheist Bus Ads in Chicago are an Opportunity, Not a Threat


The Freedom From Religion Foundation plastered more signs on 75 Chicago buses this week encouraging Chicagoans to skip church and sleep in on Sundays. But that's just the beginning.

Riders also will see 200 interior bus signs with quotations from five famous freethinkers or skeptics, including author Mark Twain, attorney Clarence Darrow, poets Carl Sandburg and Emily Dickinson; and actresses Butterfly McQueen and Katharine Hepburn.The interior ads also will feature a provocative quote from Richard Dawkins, author of "The God Delusion: "The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction."

"Obviously, there are many reasons to reject religion, most of them intellectual," said Dan Barker, co-president of the Freedom from Religion Foundation. "But face it -- one of the immediate benefits of quitting church, besides getting a 10 percent raise because you can stop tithing, is getting to sleep in on Sundays! What the world really needs is a good night's sleep."
I saw this at The Deacon's Bench where the first thing I thought was, "Really? That's the best they could do? Promise more sleep?"

Upon reading the excerpt it turns out that even so-called atheists are not immune to pressure from outside. Of course, that is only possible if they are treating their disbelief as a religion and trying to coax others into seeing what it's all about. Which is sad. Seriously. Give me a good, solid atheist like my Mom used to be. She cared not about what anyone believed as long as they treated others decently because to her all religion was hoo-haw.

Anyway, back to the business at hand. Let's get real. These bus signs are actually more of an acknowledgment of the way things really work. People profess faith but don't examine their profession and all too often do not live it.

Those bus ads are a talking point, a conversation starter for us to be able to talk about what we know and love about our faith. To talk about why we would rather go worship than sleep late on Sunday. We can use this to express our joy and peace in having a person-to-person relationship with God.

If we can't have that discussion honestly, then the ads are a good jump start for self examination of what we do believe, why we do not have the relationship we'd like, and what we might be missing by sleeping late on Sunday.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Hard Hat Zone ... Crane Operating Nearby

I'm finally biting the bullet and updating my template to a more user-friendly version. Blogger gave it the final push by tempting me with a really customizable set of new template designs and images.

All sidebar items will be restored in due time.

You patience is appreciated while I work through the process.

(I know ... no time for posting, but time for template redo? Shhhh. I gotta have some fun!)

Update: as you can see I've been looking at different formats and colors, etc. I like the idea of coordinating a bit with the liturgical time of year (though if I am feeling like sun or sand then that will be a bit more tenuous). So, for now, we have the leafy green feel.

Friday, June 11, 2010

The New Liturgy: Let's Educate Ourselves Before Making Judgments

We are going to begin seeing more and more questions about the new liturgy as it is circulated. In an unlikely place, I came across someone referencing this article and expressing perturbation over the line "Jesus died for many" and then referencing their own belief of what it means.

To have questions is only natural and I wish there a comprehensive, official explanation of the new liturgy, line by line. The USCCB's "coming soon" is not enough when there are dribs and drabs being released. I know that our diocese is having all the priests go to classes to receive training and education about the new liturgical form. Considering how long the translation took, how many countries and committees it had to make it through before getting to us, and the fact that the Church is trying to get us back to important basics ... I would hope we could relax and trust the Church before putting our own hasty judgments on bits and pieces.

However, that is not really human nature. Certainly is is not American human nature.

Therefore, I would strongly advise doing some research about just what the background and meaning is behind any of the new liturgy before making any guesses ourselves.

An excellent book which is very easy to understand and also helps one understand the Mass better is Praying the Mass: The Prayers of the Peopleby Jeffrey Pinyan. It goes through it piece by piece. He has further books coming out on the Prayers of the Priest and more which will I hope will be equally illuminating.

If you are Catholic and have questions about the new liturgy, do yourself a favor. Get that book and read it. Note: the introduction is written in a much more scholarly vein than the rest of the book. If it bogs you down skip it.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Photo of the Week (Maybe of the Month)

RESCUE AND PROTECT: Staff Sgt. Edward Rosa reads the Bible and extends a cigarette to Pfc. Jorge Rostra Obando, who was stunned by an explosion in Afghanistan’s Arghanab Valley. One comrade was killed and two injured in the blast. Pfc. Rostran asked the sergeant to read Psalm 91, a favorite from his childhood. (Ricardo Garcia Vilanova for The Wall Street Journal)

What a surprise and a pleasure it was to see this photo in the middle of the front page of our Wall Street Journal this morning. Two comrades and faith under fire. Inspiring and a good reminder to keep our soldiers in our prayers.
Psalms
Chapter 91
You who dwell in the shelter of the Most High, who abide in the shadow of the Almighty,

Say to the LORD, "My refuge and fortress, my God in whom I trust."

God will rescue you from the fowler's snare, from the destroying plague,

Will shelter you with pinions, spread wings that you may take refuge; God's faithfulness is a protecting shield.

You shall not fear the terror of the night nor the arrow that flies by day,

Nor the pestilence that roams in darkness, nor the plague that ravages at noon.

Though a thousand fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, near you it shall not come.

You need simply watch; the punishment of the wicked you will see.

You have the LORD for your refuge; you have made the Most High your stronghold.

No evil shall befall you, no affliction come near your tent.

For God commands the angels to guard you in all your ways.

With their hands they shall support you, lest you strike your foot against a stone.

You shall tread upon the asp and the viper, trample the lion and the dragon.

Whoever clings to me I will deliver; whoever knows my name I will set on high.

All who call upon me I will answer; I will be with them in distress; I will deliver them and give them honor.

With length of days I will satisfy them and show them my saving power.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Both Sides Now ... WE WISH!

I’m no expert on the issue of celibacy and Catholic priests. Fortunately, I don’t need to be to critique an NPR Morning Edition report headlined “Letter From Priests’ Lovers Reignites Celibacy Debate.” A Journalism 101 student could handle this post.

Let’s start with the question posed by the GetReligion reader who passed along the link: “Isn’t it standard journalistic practice to ‘present both sides’ when a story is news rather than an editorial?”

Um, good question.

Then again, as the perceptive reader noted, “In short, this report appears to be a thinly sourced piece of advocacy masquerading as a news story.”
GetReligion examines this story which I can't believe got past an editor in this condition. Or perhaps, as we are seeing in much of the publishing industry these days, they just bypassed an editor altogether. Truly an embarrassing piece of journalism.

Read Sam Mendes’ Apple iPhone Ad Script

Yes, film buffs and Apple worshipers, what you hear is true. Sam Mendes, the man who brought us American Beauty and Revolutionary Road, has been tapped to direct an iPhone ad. The folks at Engadget have certainly done their homework, reporting that “the ads will feature at least one spot where a mother and daughter are having a video chat conversation using the new front-facing camera.” We can confirm that this is true… because we’ve nabbed a copy of Mendes’ shooting script for the commercial.* Read it here first, after the jump.
Yes, it's a joke but a hilarious one. I'd quote a bit of the "script" but that would ruin it overall. Read it here.

Summer Reading Ideas? We've Got 'Em in Spades.

Actually, this is our Catholic women's book club summing up from last night. But that's no reason not to share it with everyone, is it? Of course not ...

Remember, this is open to any Catholic woman who can get to my house at the right time, on the right day. You don't have to belong to our parish, etc. We're a relaxed crowd and you don't have to have read the book as long as you don't mind us mentioning spoilers in discussion. There were some newcomers last night who I think can attest to that fact. Also, we have refreshments (you can see, I stop at nothing to lure readers in ... ). If you have questions don't hesitate to contact me.

We had a really wonderful discussion last night about Flannery O'Connor and how inspirational she was as a person. This is a real tribute to Abbess of Andalusia author Lorraine Murray. Everyone agreed that the book was very easy to read and told us a lot about Flannery without sugar-coating who she was as a person.

Next up is Quo Vadis. We will be reading half of it for July and finishing up in August. (As soon as I pick up my copy from the library we will know what "first half" means in terms of chapters and pages.)

Quo Vadis by Henryk Sienkiewicz, an epic tale from the days when Christianity was new ... of Romans, Christians, slaves, and ... lions in the arena. Yep, we're doin' it old-school. I think that you can find this pretty cheaply from Half Price Books though I haven't yet looked. I never realized that this was written in Polish and, as it says on Amazon, "The novel has as a subtext the persecution and political subjugation of Poland by Russia."

Upcoming books were also selected. I have arranged them in alternating fiction and nonfiction sequence with the only reasoning behind anything being to keep some of the lighter, shorter books for summer reading and trying to aim close to Halloween in reading The Rite (yes, I'm all about themes).
  1. The Power of Pause (September)
  2. The Bridge of San Luis Rey (October)
  3. The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist (November)
  4. Til We Have Faces (December)
  5. Circling My Mother (January)
I have links and descriptions of these books in the July meeting post.

Please keep in mind that we have an ongoing book recommendations list which I try to keep fairly current with new suggestions. It is good for personal reading ideas as well as for selecting book club readings. :-)

Also, there were many recommendations for summer reading which was just of a generally good nature, not necessarily religious at all. I list them below for your own exploration:
  1. The Help - Kathryn Stockett
  2. Major Pettigrew's Last Stand
  3. My Life with Karol
  4. Mother of Pearl
  5. World War Z
  6. The Heretic

Monday, June 7, 2010

I've Been Listening to The Rookie ... and I Miss Football

THE ROOKIE is set amongst a lethal pro football league 700 years in the future. Aliens play positions based on physiology, creating receivers that jump 25 feet into the air, linemen that bench-press 1,200 pounds, and linebackers that -- literally -- want to eat you. Organized crime runs every franchise, games are fixed and rival players are assassinated.

Follow the story of Quentin Barnes, a 19-year-old quarterback prodigy that has been raised all his life to hate, and kill, those aliens. Quentin must deal with his racism and learn to lead, or he'll wind up just another stat in the column marked "killed on the field."
I was listening to Luke Burrage's excellent review of The Rookie audiobook when I realized I had set it aside about halfway through in order to listen to something else (can't remember why) and forgotten to go back to it. I'm finishing up the last few chapters now. but as always Sigler writes completely entertainingly. Not a deep story but more of a coming of age story in space. The alien races created are very creative, as are the adaptations of the football rules to accommodate their participation.

Warning: when he says with glee "lots and LOTS of violence" he means it.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Narration on StarShipSofa

Just a quick mention that I am one of the two narrators in the Juliette Wade story featured in the most recent "Then and Now" episode at StarShipSofa. I remember enjoying the story and enjoying the reading but not much else since I did it a long time ago (maybe a year ago?). I'm looking forward to hearing the story as a whole again.

Then and Now episodes feature a classic sf story and a new story. Listeners then vote on which they prefer. It's just for fun. And you get two stories for the price of one. This episode also features a Philip K. Dick story.

Friday, June 4, 2010

"R" We Thinking About What We Pray?

If you love ... you will perceive the divine mystery in things, and once perceived, you will begin to comprehend it ceaselessly.
Fyodor Dostoevsky
The Brothers Karamazov
Mark Hart obviously lives his life and faith according to Dostoevsky's insight above. The "R" Father showcases Hart's musings on the Our Father (Lord's Prayer) broken down into 14 segments, all based around a single word beginning with R such as response, revelation, relationship, and reunion. A young husband and father, Hart shares the way that daily living helps remind and reinforce the lessons of the Our Father, as well as opening a more detailed look into theology as a further extension of those musings.

I truly enjoyed this book. Even when I thought that I knew where Hart was headed, he still managed to pull out a few reminders and observations that would stick with me into my own daily life. For instance, the excerpt below is one that came back to me repeatedly in the weeks after I read it and influenced my actions when interacting with other people.
"Who Art"
The Art of RESPONSE


... the minute we returned home [from a family vacation], I had to head to the airport for a work trip. My three-year-old daughter entered the room as I was pulling out my bag. "Are you leaving, Daddy?" she asked, with tears welling up in her eyes.

I was puzzled at her question, to the point of being almost indignant. Had I not just spent the better portion of five days discussing the intricate ins and outs of various Disney princess story lines? Had I not just packed up every stuffed animal in a six-foot-square radius of our home, transported them across state lines, and followed detailed instructions for their arrangement each night in the hotel bed? Had I not just stopped at every McDonald's restaurant on a ten-hour trip home, one that should have taken less than seven? How could she give me those eyes? What more could she possibly want from me? Was she so blind not to see that Daddy now had to leave and actually make money to pay for the vacation we had just enjoyed? Was she just blind to life's realities?

No, she wasn't. Like Bartimaeus before me, I was the blind one (Mark 10:46).

She had enjoyed my constant and consistent fatherly presence in the previous five days. With the idea of her daddy leaving now, there was a deep void, a true emptiness. ...

... while "who art" reminds us of God's constant presence, it also reveals his constant response to his children--to our wants, our needs, and our hearts. God is a Father who is always watching, not as a disciplinarian waiting for any misstep, but as the proud father at every sporting event, the front row with video camera in hand, refusing to miss a moment of his child's precious life. In our childishness we often want our Father present only when it suits us. How often we desire a Father to respond to our needs without desiring his response to our daily life. We want the loan when things are bad, but don't make the phone call when things are good. ...

God, our Father, is love (1 John 4:8). We teach it. We proclaim it. Do we believe it? How often do we really stop to ponder all that those three words contain? Nothing on earth proclaims love the way being present to someone does. My vacation experience drove home this fact to me: Love is spelled t-i-m-e.
The reflection continues into deeper issues related to this which were also influential on me during that same time period. Definitely recommended.

You can read another excerpt at The Word Among Us website. The book I read was a review copy from The Word Among Us.

Still insanely busy ...

... so if you've emailed and I haven't gotten back to you ... I'm working on it.

Thanks for your patience.

Oil Spill Images

In case you are like me and thought that the lack of images of wildlife covered with oil meant that it wasn't affecting things much ... here are some. (Not for the faint of heart.) Via A Momentary Taste of Being where Steven Riddle usually is talking about books.

Book Club Meets on Monday

Just a reminder for anyone in the Dallas area who was interested in dropping in on our Catholic women's book club ... we meet on Monday.

A bit more about it and a link to the club site can be found here.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Back Tomorrow

Rose is only here for one more day of her one week visit.

Also, several big projects requiring much time ... and many meetings.

Back later, y'all. :-)

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand: A Story of Surprising Depth

"Women always ask," she said. "My aunt Noreen is having migraine attacks from all the scandalized ladies dropping by to ask her about me."

"Nasty things, migraines," said the Major.

"Men never ask, but you can see they've made up a whole story about me and George in their heads." She turned away and placed her fingers where the rain ran sideways along the glass of her window. The Major's first impulse was to claim he never had given it a thought, but she was very observant. He wondered what truthful comment he could make.

"I'm not going to answer for men, or women, in general," he said after a moment. "But in my own case, I believe there is a great deal too much mutual confession going on today, as if sharing one's problems somehow makes them go away. All it really does, of course, is increase the number of people who have to worry about a particular issue." He paused while he negotiated a particularly tricky, right-hand turn across the busy road and into the shortcut of a narrow back lane. "Personally, I have never sought to burden other people with my life history and I have no intention of meddling in theirs," he added.

"But you're making judgments about people all the time--and if you don't know the whole story ..."

"My dear young woman, we are complete strangers, are we not?" he said. "Of course we will make shallow and quite possibly erroneous judgments about each other. I'm sure, for example, that you already have me pegged as an old git too, do you not?" She said nothing and he thought he detected a guilty smirk.

"But we have no right to demand more of each other, do we?" he continued. "I mean, I'm sure your life is very complicated, but I'm equally sure that I have no incentive to give it any thought and you have no right to demand it of me."

"I think everyone has the right to be shown respect," she said.

"Ah well, there you go." He shook his head. "Young people are always demanding respect instead of trying to earn it. In my day, respect was something you strove for. Something to be given, not taken."

"You know, you should be an old git," she said with a faint smile, "but for some reason I like you."
This is one of the relatively few straight forward commentaries about modern behavior found in this delightful book. However, it still managed to surprise me with that last truthful observation about earning respect. Keep in mind that the major here is speaking of the respecting of an individual versus the respecting of people in general. That is an important distinction and one which the major himself must be reminded of during the telling of this wonderful story. Adding another layer of irony is the fact that the Major's policy has failed entirely in his own son, who we love to loathe.

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand is a wonderful romance late in life by two people. As well it has a wonderful look at the tensions of old-style English village life versus modernization, the older generation versus the newer and generally callower generation, and various other issues of the times in which we live. All of it is handled gently and with humor.
"I wonder if it might be a little spicy for the main course," said Grace, cupping her hand around her mouth as if making a small megaphone. "What do you think major?"

"Anyone who doesn't find this delicious is a fool," said the Major. He nodded his head fiercely at Mrs. Rasool and Mrs. Ali. "However. . . ." He was not sure how to express his firm conviction that the golf club crowd would throw a fit if served a rice-based main course instead of a hearty slab of congealing meat. Mrs. Rasool raised an eyebrow at him.

"However, it is perhaps not foolproof, so to speak?" she asked. The Major could only smile in vague apology.

"I understand perfectly," said Mrs. Rasool. She waved her hand and a waiter hurried into the kitchen. The band stopped abruptly as if the wave included them. They followed the waiter out of the room.

"It's certainly a very interesting flavor," said Grace. "We don't want to be difficult."

"Of course not," said Mrs. Rasool. "I'm sure you will approve of our more popular alternative." The waiter returned at a run with a silver slaver that held a perfectly shaped individual Yorkshire pudding containing a fragrant slice of pinkish beef. It sat on a pool of burgundy gravy and was accompanied by a dollop of cumin-scented yellow potatoes and a lettuce leaf holding slice of tomato, red onion, and star fruit. A wisp of steam rose from the beef as they contemplated it in astonished silence.

"It's quite perfect," breathed Grace. "Are the potatoes spicy?" The elder Mr. Rasool muttered something to his son. Mrs. Rassol gave a sharp laugh that was almost a hiss.

"Not at all. I will give you picture to take back with you," she said. "I think we have agreed on the chicken skewers, samosas, and chicken wings as passed hors d'oeuvres, and then the beef, and I suggest trifle for dessert."

"Trifle?" said the Major. He had been hoping for some samples of dessert.

"One of the more agreeable traditions that you left us," said Mrs. Rasool. "We spice ours with tamarind jam."

"Roast beef and trifle," said Grace in a daze of food and punch. "And all authentically Mughal, you say?"

"Of course," said Mrs. Rasool. "Everyone will be happy to dine like the Emperor Shah Jehan and no one will find it too spicy."
Helen Simenson tells a story of Major Pettigrew's path to true love, sacrifice, and redemption as it can only be told in a small, unspoiled English village. That is to say, she tells it using everyday people and problems, none of which are completely good or bad. In fact, the least fleshed out character in the novel, who commits an act of villainy, is allowed to deliver a few sentences which do not alleviate our dislike of the character or their actions, but likewise lend us understanding of their own history and motive.

For Steven Riddle's comprehensive review, go here.