Thursday, June 30, 2011

Zombies in England

I've been enjoying reading about the Zombie Parent's misadventures as he and his family bravely travel to England. God is good, giving them many, many opportunities to develop their patience and sense of humor (poor things).

For example, where but England can you lock yourself in your own home and not be able to get out?

"Brave" Teaser Trailer

Now that we're all done hoping beyond all hope that Cars 2 would be better than the trailer looked ... here's a look at the teaser trailer for Pixar's next original movie. Which looks much more interesting.

Pat Gohn's Recommended Summer Reading: Happy Catholic

I got this ready and then discovered that it somehow went into drafts instead of posting! I'm just glad I discovered it there ...

Pat Gohn talked today with Brian Patrick on the Sonrise Morning Show about her summer reading suggestions. Imagine my surprise and delight when she gave me the heads-up that Happy Catholic is one of the books she discussed.

I was even more excited when I saw the distinguished company I was in, Edward Sri and ... wait for it ... Henri Nouwen. I never in my life imagined that anything I wrote would be mentioned in the same sentence with Henri Nouwen. Life is full of surprises, isn't it?

Thank you Pat!

Take a minute while you're at Pat's and look at her podcast, Among Women. Pat is a thoughtful and interesting podcaster and you're sure to learn something new. Don't believe me? Then just check out her column at Patheos. She's the real deal. Always inspiring, intelligent, and passionate about the faith.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Does the Pope Know How to Celebrate His 60th Anniversary as a Priest or What?

He's tweeting.

On an iPad.

Let no one say that it isn't important to stay young at heart.

Actually, he celebrated the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul at Mass and in his homily reflected on his vocation and on friendship. Happy anniversary, Papa and may you have many more!

A Jesuit Walks Into a Bar ...

No, wait.

I don't think one of these jokes begins that way. However, there are a lot of great Jesuit jokes up over at Siris (which I found via the Darwins, who like a good joke almost as much as I do).

Here's one of my favorites and then you can go over and read the rest.
At a conference discussing various religious orders and societies, the Jesuit representative was asked how Jesuits managed to maintain their vow of obedience.

"It's easier than you would think," the Jesuit replied. "Our superiors just ask us what we want to do and then direct us to do it, so that takes care of most of the problems."

Then someone asked about people who don't know what to do.

"Even easier," the Jesuit said. "We make them superiors."

The Sixth Seal ... from Dr. Boli

And I beheld when he had opened the sixt seale, and loe, there was a great earthquake, and the Sunne became blacke as sackecloth of haire, and the Moone became as blood. And the starres of heauen fell vnto the earth, euen as a figge tree casteth her vntimely figs when she is shaken of a mighty winde. And the heauen departed as a scrowle when it is rolled together, and euery mountaine and island were moued out of their places. And the Pope sent his first tweet.
How does he make me laugh so hard? Thank you, Dr. Boli!

It's An Ill Wind That Blows No Good ... or Blows a Pear Tree Down

Actually, if wind blew down our pear tree it was over a long time as when the tree finally went over it was with a gentle rustle that left Tom wondering what he'd heard outside.

In fact, we didn't discover it was the tree going over until several hours later since it was in the narrow gap between our house and the one next door.

Other than knocking off a hot air vent it did no real harm and gave employment to the arborist we employed to finish taking it down, grinding the stump, and all that jazz.

Now, with a gaping hole in our roof, we are just about the only people in North Texas who are hoping it doesn't rain. And we're waiting for Hannah to bring us a one-way animal door from her job so that we can keep critters out ... other than the one who was clearly trapped when Tom perched the air vent to block the hole. Yes, we had to take it down again to let Lil' Scratchy out ...

The good, other than there is one less blooming pear to annoy Rose's olfactory senses, is that we suddenly have a lot more light in our kitchen and guest bathroom. I never realized just how much was being blocked by that one tree.

That's a dark part of the house and I love lots of light so this is some good news that I think evens the tally column against the roof work and arborist costs!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

How to Kill E. coli on Vegetables

Monica Reinagle, The Nutrition Diva, has the answer and it is not the one that I thought I knew. Everyone ought to get this information and be sure you listen to it all.
I wondered whether these very toxic strains of E. coli might be especially hard to kill. It turns out that they’re not really that invincible—they’ve just developed some very clever survival tactics. “If these E. coli bacteria were just floating around in a bucket of water, a little bleach or even some vinegar would kill them right away,” Dr. Brackett explains. “But once the bacteria have attached themselves to the surface of a vegetable, they become much harder to kill.”
You may read or listen to her information at the link, which I heard on her podcast.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Get Low: Why You Never Should Get Your Theology From the Movies or TV

Felix Bush (Robert Duvall) is a hermit who has no regard for anybody in the town or anyone who wants to get to know him. But one day, after a fellow old hermit as died and he hears people in the town telling stories about him, he decides that he needs to get these stories out in the public. He recruits Frank (Bill Murray) the local funeral home director to host his own funeral. This way he can hear what everyone is saying about him, and get the truth to his past out in the open. But will he be able to get anybody to come? And will he be able to reveal his secrets? (IMDB storyline)

This movie was recommended by a couple of people so it was one of the movies we watched this weekend.

It had several problems. First, the plot was extremely simple. There wasn't any subplot and I, frankly, never had much suspense as to whether Felix was going to get that party or reveal his secrets. It needed another time (or five or six) around the writing table. There were some humorous moments and some poignant moments, but not enough to make up for the lack of plot.

Second, Bill Murray may have been speaking the parts written for him but they all felt somehow as if he was improvising in a way that made it all too modern. The movie is set in the past and every other actor always sounded true to the time period (1920s? 1930s?). I'm not sure if it was Murray's acting or the directing, but he never quite fit in. I get it, by the way, that he was a Northerner living in the South and so he wouldn't fit in anyway. However, sounding too flip and modern wasn't the way to achieve that.

I did appreciate Felix's honesty in taking responsibility for his sin, which is one that many people these days wouldn't consider much of a sin. (It is, by the way, a big sin, but how times have changed, n'est ce pas?) I also appreciated the fact that he knew by becoming a hermit he had "put myself in prison for forty years."

However, after his preacher friend reminds him that he needs to ask God for forgiveness, Felix visits a graveyard and says:
They keep talking about forgiveness. "Ask Jesus for forgiveness." I never did nothing to him.
When the movie was over, we were talking it over and Tom brought up that quote. He said, "Jesus' forgiveness is supreme and over all other forgiveness. The point is that you will have to have His forgiveness or none other matters."

I'll just say right here that I'm paraphrasing because I was stunned ... I've never heard Tom make a statement like that before (he's the guy who lives his faith, doesn't talk about it). And he was absolutely right.

The other point is one that I made, which is when you sin against anyone, you are ultimately sinning against Christ, who resides in us.

This helps mitigate the quite unrealistic public confession that Felix makes later to a huge crowd, many of whom he doesn't know. For a hermit of forty years to just pop out a long story like this, just didn't feel right. Especially since he was making whooshing noises to illustrate catching on fire, which Hannah said later made her wonder if this was the "funny take" that wasn't supposed to be used but got edited in by mistake later.

At any rate, complaints aside, when we sin against one person, we sin against everybody, especially if one considers the fact that we are the Body of Christ. There is a ripple effect which we usually can't see or understand (mystical effects of sin being what they are on a global scale). But those effects are there and so, although I found the request for forgiveness wrong from a story point of view, it felt right from that standpoint. (Still doesn't trump the wrongness of not going to Jesus, but I probably hammered that nail hard enough already.)

However, that isn't enough to redeem either the story or the underlying moral underneath the story.

I've been trying to think of a movie to recommend instead. Tom thought we should rewatch Tender Mercies. I'm not sure that fills the bill here but will have to consider further.

I went to read Scott Nehring's review of this movie which I'd been avoiding until I'd watched it myself. Scott and I often differ widely in our appreciation or lack thereof about different movies. This turns out to be one such film.

However, he did have a take on the "Jesus' forgiveness" comment that I found valuable and enlightening. Go read his review for that of someone who liked the movie, but I'll include his comment here for those who don't want to click through.
His misunderstanding of the point of Christ's sacrifice and that indeed he DID do something to Him is an important point.  Without His forgiveness man is condemned to live much like Felix did, alone and trapped in an isolating guilt, sentenced by our own conscious.


Ultimately, this is a tale of untended sin and the results of man trying to take on his condemnation alone.
Very good point.

I'm still not crazy 'bout the movie.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Brands Cheat Sheet

Several people asked for a copy of the grocery store brands cheat sheet I put together so that I can avoid Kraft, PepsiCo, and Nestle products*.

 Here's a pdf that you can download. I realized that I didn't double check to be sure that it included Cadbury (owned by Kraft now) which has quite a few products of its own to watch out for. Obviously anything with Cadbury in the name, but also unexpected products like Trident and Chiclets are made by them.

Also, I removed most of the brands that are available only in foreign countries and a couple of things like power drinks that I never use. Just FYI.

I'll do that on Monday and update it if need be.

As well as boycotting, be sure that you write or email the companies directly to express your concern about Senomyx's flavor program and their participation. Also it would be nice to contact Campbells' and Solae to let them know you appreciate their pulling out of Senomyx' program once they knew the full truth.

To make it easy, I'm including the contact info again below.

Contact the companies at:

Kent Snyder, CEO
4767 Nexus Centre Drive
San Diego, California 92121

Paul Bulcke, CEO
Nestlé USA
800 North Brand Boulevard
Glendale, CA 91203

Jamie Caulfield, Sr.VP
PepsiCo, Inc.
700 Anderson Hill Road
Purchase, NY 10577

Irene Rosenfeld, CEO
Kraft Foods/Cadbury Chocolate
Three Lakes Drive
Northfield, IL 60093

Contact Campbell and Solae with appreciation at:

Edmund M. Carpenter, CEO
Campbell Soup
1 Campbell Place
Camden, NJ 08103-1701

Mr. Torkel Rhenman Chief Executive Officer
4300 Duncan Avenue
St. Louis, Missouri 63110

*Because of their participation in a flavor program that uses HEK 293 – human embryonic kidney cells taken from an electively aborted baby to produce taste receptors.

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Power of Rescuing Others


From the NY Times, thanks to Scott Danielson for sending me this.

A Cook and His Vegetable Patch

I forgot to mention here that I highlighted a cookbook I'm enjoying very much, Tender by Nigel Slater ... that's up at Meanwhile, Back in the Kitchen.

The Con is On: Reviewing "White Cat" by Holly Black

Found this via SFFaudio, as a free audio book from Random House. Here's the review that I wrote for them. I'm now listening to the second in the series, Red Glove which SFFaudio obtained as a review copy through so, yes, you can see that I liked it quite a bit.
I wake up barefoot, standing on cold slate tiles. Looking dizzily down. I suck in a breath of icy air.

Above me are stars. Below me, the bronze statue of Colonel Wallingford makes me realize I’m seeing the quad from the peak of Smythe Hall, my dorm.

I have no memory of climbing the stairs up to the roof. I don’t even know how to get where I am, which is a problem since I’m going to have to get down, ideally in a way that doesn’t involve dying.


I’d dreamed of a white cat. It leaned over me, inhaling sharply, as if it was going to suck the breath from my lungs, but then it bit out my tongue instead. There was no pain, only a sense of overwhelming, suffocating panic. In the dream, my tongue was a wriggling red thing, mouse-sized and wet, that the cat carried in her mouth. I wanted it back. I sprang up out of the bed and grabbed for her, but she was too lean and too quick. I chased her. The next thing I knew, I was teetering on a slate roof.

A siren wails in the distance, drawing closer. My cheeks hurt from smiling.

Eventually a fireman climbs a ladder to get me down. They put a blanket around me, but by then my teeth are chattering so hard that I can’t answer any of their questions. It’s like the cat bit out my tongue after all.
Born into a family of curse workers, Cassell doesn't have the magical powers to be a "worker." Curses come in all shapes and sizes from transforming victims into something else down to emotionally influencing people. All that is needed is the touch of a finger. This makes gloves much more than a fashion accessory since they are a necessary item of protection.

Curse work is illegal so curse workers are all either part of the powerful crime families, con workers, or exist with their secret on the edges of society. Cassell's family owes allegiance to a powerful crime family and working cons is as normal as breathing. In fact, working the con is the thing that makes up for not being a worker and Cassell eyes the world from this vantage point, which makes him a solitary figure with few friends.

Cassell has a dark secret, a problem with sleepwalking, and a family who specializes in running cons. He also lost the love of his life, Lila, long ago. However, he put that all behind him and is concentrating on life in boarding school and building a normal life, along with keeping book on the side. (Hey, a guy has to have a little spending money, right?) So when a white cat begins following him everywhere, terrifying dreams bring Lila back into his waking thoughts, and those dark secrets begin surfacing again, Cassell begins to suspect that he is a pawn in a complicated con game.

Can he out-con the pros and solve his problems? Well, of course he can or what would be the point of reading the book? The fascination is with watching Cassell have to admit that he needs help from others, seeing his longing for family ties even as he fears that he may have been betrayed by them,

Holly Black has a fully realized alternate world where the presence of curse working and magic define much more than Cassell's personal problems. There is a slight but interesting subplot about an organization that is working for "worker's rights." The government has begun pushing a testing program, urging workers to come forward and be identified. Family loyalty along with the inner workings of crime families are also interesting embellishments to the plot. The magical abilities described are fascinating, as is the concept of "blow back" which besets anyone who works a curse. Nothing is done with impunity so you'd better be darned sure you want to curse someone because you will suffer some sort of severe reaction in turn.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the book is that Cassell is an unreliable narrator. What is more, he knows he is an unreliable narrator as he is afraid that he is too influenced by dreams or that his memory has been worked. Everyone around him is fairly unreliable as well since Cassell is never sure when someone is working a con or being natural. Although the major plot twists are fairly well telegraphed ahead of time, this hardly matters because we are so concerned with the fact that Cassell may be working a con we don't see or that he is being conned himself.

The story is narrated by Jesse Eisenberg, who is probably best known for portraying the awkward college student in Zombieland or the equally awkward Mark Zuckerberg in Social Network. His trademark delivery works perfectly as the story is told by Cassell who is equally as awkward as either of  those movie characters. Furthermore, Eisenberg alters his voice slightly but effectively to portray different characters: a fortune teller, Cassell's mother, his roommate Sam, and the crime boss all get slightly different intonations which perfectly convey character. I would have liked the book anyway as a straight read, but with Eisenberg's narration I bought it hook, line, and sinker. Just like an average mark, in fact.

It is called urban fantasy but didn't really feel that way to me. It is fantasy because of the curse working element but other than that there are precious few fantastic elements. Likewise, it is labeled YA, but aside from the age of the narrator and some elements like having to attend classes, it didn't feel like something written for younger readers.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. What can I say? I like con stories. I like the universe Holly Black created. Jesse Eisenberg's narration pulled me into the story so I stayed there long enough to care about a boarding school student with an interesting set of problems.  I also liked the fact that the story arc was concluded in this book except for one element which obviously serves as a bridge to the second book of the series.

It's just plain fun all round and moves at a fast, addictive pace. Recommended.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Pulp Fiction, Purple Prose, and Great Fun: Space Vulture

My review of a space opera book that is a wonderful throwback to the 40s and 50s ... by Gary K. Wolf and Archbishop John J. Meyers. Yes, you read that right. Archibishop John J. Meyers ... who knew he loves sci fi?

This week's A Free Mind column over at Patheos.

Intrigue, skullduggery, and love ... in renaissance Italy

Scott and I discuss Prince of Foxes by Samuel A. Shellabarger (one of my favorite works of historical fiction) in Episode 13 of A Good Story is Hard to Find. Join us!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Free: Aquinas and More Catholic Classic edition of Story of a Soul for your e-reader

We're giving away the Aquinas and More Catholic Classic edition of Story of a Soul for your e-reader as part of our Catholic Summer Reading celebration. All you have to do to get your copy is like our Facebook page and download it!
It doesn't get much easier than this!

While you're at Aquinas and More, browse the store. You're gonna see something you need! Plus they're super-nice!

An Appreciation of Happy Catholic (UPDATED)

From my good friend, Scott, comes this wonderful appreciation of Happy Catholic, the book.
If I had this book back when I was feeling conflicted, I’d have realized that I was not alone. When Robin says to Batman, “Self control is sure tough, Batman,” I would have known that I’m not the only one that thought “Isn’t that interesting… my priest said that in a homily last week. It’s not supposed to be easy.”
He shares some of his personal faith journey as a context for his appreciation ... which means a lot to me. Thank you, Scott.

Scott generously put his review on Amazon, Goodreads, and Library Thing. I was stunned to see that there are more Amazon reviews than the last time I looks ... and also very pleased to see that people liked the book enough to take the time to write something.

Thank you to all who have gone to the effort to review the book in a place where others might be interested. That is like receiving a lovely thank-you note.

I really, really appreciate it! :-)

Drive-by review: Don Juan Demarco

A young man (Johnny Depp) in a cape, mask, and old-school Spanish garb winds up in the looney bin (yes, it was that sort of movie viewing weekend since we saw K-Pax the day before). He tells doctors that he is a descendent of Don Juan, the famous lover. Certainly from what we see of his credentials at the beginning of the film, it seems like a fair bet.

Dr. Mickler (Marlon Brando) takes on the case only to find that as Don Juan tells his story, his own life is becoming transformed. The real delight in this for me was the flashback storytelling done by Depp's character. It is perfectly in the old style of movie making and story telling, while retaining just enough modern honesty that Depp's comments occasionally are hilarious in their effect. Overall an enjoyable light film.

The Father Corapi Thing

If you've never heard of Father Corapi ... he's a celebrity priest who was accused of sexual misconduct, loudly declaimed his innocence and frustration with "the system", now is loudly declaiming some more, and also leaving the priesthood ... although not, as I understand it the Catholic Church.

Don't like that description? Sorry, but I know next to nothing about him so you may be interested in knowing that is the general vibe of who he is and what his deal is.

So, amongst all the writing, I have found these to be the most helpful, in order of helpfulness to me.
  1. The Curt Jester's analysis ... fair and even-handed to both sides and reflects my own feelings, based on what I have read (which has included some of Fr. Corapi's declaiming)

  2. This opening from a blogging priest's reflections at the hermeneutic of continuity, which struck me as good advice not just for priests but for us all. Though the whole piece is good. I'll add that I read this much, nodded and moved on (much struck by that wisdom), only coming back to read the rest later. I think this is enough, frankly.
    Fr Corapi has published another defence of himself, including a further attack on his accuser, the process by which he was being investigated, and the people conducting it. I think most priest bloggers will be profoundly disturbed by all of this, and, if sensible, will make a serious examination of conscience.
  3. This was not a commentary at all, but struck me quite forcibly after reading through some of the various pieces about Fr. Corapi. Via Margaret at Ten Thousand Places, it is from A Man For All Seasons.
    William Roper: So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!
    Sir Thomas More: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?
    William Roper: Yes, I'd cut down every law in England to do that!
    Sir Thomas More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned 'round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man's laws, not God's! And if you cut them down, and you're just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake!
Keep in mind that I proffer these for two reasons. First, there are two or three Catholics I know for whom this is their sole source of Catholic news. I thought they might be interested in some good links should they hear of the story.

Second, I look at this as an opportunity to do that self examination. Other than prayer, I can't affect anything about Fr. Corapi or the whole situation. But I can look at my own response when accused. How often I fail to turn the other cheek ... so often ... and yet, that is what Christ taught in both words and example. I see this as a real-life cautionary tale.

Embracing the Opportunity To Be Liturgical Codgers

I mentioned before how much I was enjoying The Ironic Catholic's book which pulls together some of her amusing send-ups, written as news articles.

Our weekly scripture study has turned to studying the USCCB's program on the new liturgy, under our pastor's tutelage. We have had the chance to ask questions and also studied a prayer for Advent in the original Latin, the 1973 version, and the 2010 new version. Very enlightening and, although I have read several books on the subject, this is enriching my understanding.

Some of the conversation last night (though not the attitudes) put me in mind of IC's gentle humor and one piece in particular. This, more than anything, shows her talent and why you need to take a look at her book.
39-Year-Olds Embrace Opportunity To Be Liturgical Codgers

The Vatican II generation of the Catholic Church now has their chance to wax poetic about "the way things used to be"....

With the change of the English translation of the liturgy, the oldest of the those born and raised with the initial English vernacular translation of the Mass--used for nearly four decades--are expressing relief that they, too, will get the opportunity to be the "old liturgical codgers" of their Church.

"I can't tell you how many times I heard from my dad that he gave up on the Catholic Church after learning all that Latin to be an altar boy and being told it was unnecessary," said St. Michael's parishioner Susan Tarrywood, 39. "Nothing has ever measured up for him since. I am in awe that my dad has spent most of his life complaining about this; that's just who he is. Now, here's my chance. This is my opportunity to be an old codger just like him wailing 'it isn't as good as back when...' for the second half of my life."

Other middle-aged parents of teenagers and elementary school children agreed wholeheartedly. "I've been looking for a cause to get grumpy about in my impending dotage, and this will fit to a tee," said Roger Lerdton, 37. "We've had a few great models in the elder generation of our parish--they still complain that the priest expects them to pay attention to the Word and Eucharist rather than pray the rosary during Mass. Personally, I think I can nurse this 'not worthy to have you under my roof' line for a long time."

Elena Garcia-Lopez, 38, was grateful to the bishops for providing some focus in her discontent. "Let's be honest, we all want to be grumps for the younger generation. It's a cultural tradition and a church tradition--no one likes the younger generation's music, or taste in movies, or liturgies. It's part of the rythym of life. So I embrace my impending codgerhood as part of our catholic tradition. And I thank the bishops for giving me a focal point: I will bemoan the loss of the liturgy I grew up with the rest of my life."

Susan Tarrywood smiled wryly. "I'm calling on my inner Amos to get me through to my eighties."

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Drive-by review: K-Pax

Kevin Spacey plays Prot who is from K-Pax (or IS he?) and who gets picked up by the NY police and then sent to the looney bin.

Unlike most of this sort of movie where we are taught the truths that only the gentle inmates can see, this actually focuses mostly on whether Prot is really an alien and the psychiatrist's (Jeff Bridges) efforts to solve the mystery of what trauma caused him to form such a perfect false persona to hide behind. Also, we see Jeff Bridges' alienation from his family due to work and generally being a jerk to his wife (no wonder she is his second one) ... this part is fairly shallow and predictable.

For me the most interesting thing was whether Prot was an alien or not. Well acted, well shot, and well edited.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Florida Journal

A few snippets of things from my visit to central Florida last week.
  • First and foremost, thank you to everyone who prayed for my mother's health and wrote to me. She began improving steadily from the moment I arrived. (Isn't that nice? I got the fun of watching her improve while my poor sis got the worry of watching her decline ... )
  • Tempting the invalid's appetite became my daily occupation. It was an unexpectedly interesting occupation to see what starchy dish (doctor's orders) sounded good and then to figure out how to keep it retaining flavor and appeal while steadfastly keeping any additional fiber out of it. I learned much about grating onions, for example, and straining the juice while discarding the fiber (there is more than you'd think in an onion). Also, I kept forgetting that Mom had cookbooks handy and cooked out of my head for the most part. Pasta with basil and parmesan, potato salad (twice), and Risotto alla Milanese (for that I used the cookbook) all were received with approval. Which was gratifying as well!
  • Florida ... quite warm, but more than that - humid! So very humid! I didn't mind the heat since north Texas has been getting hot blasts for some time but I melted a lot when out of doors.
  • My sister's porch serves as an ideal wildlife observation deck since two sides of her backyard is edged by a tiny wilderness of undeveloped lots. We would sit out there first thing in the morning, drinking coffee, watching doves dive bomb tiny mammals away from the bird seed, a bunny on his hind legs pulling down a leafy stalk to nibble ... and jump when a nearby woodpecker would hammer on the flashing and sound like a jackhammer on the metal.
  • I was reminded of the importance of "living in the present moment." It is hard to do much else when one is hanging out or cooking most of the time. However, when I returned home I realized yet again how much I allow myself to be distracted by email, the internet, and so forth. They creep into a lot of my day where they aren't necessary ... and I need to keep them shoved back into their own allotted places in my schedule.
  • I also was reminded of what a privilege it is to serve others. This realization came not just from cooking for my mother but in watching my sister who is a cheerful and practical servant to my mother and her own family. She might argue that her own needs have been pushed aside, but I would say that is because of emergencies that have arisen. Watching her made me realize that I had been doing too little of that for my own family and indulging too many of my own hobbies (see above note on distractions).
  • When you leave a husband and 22-year-old daughter to their own devices for a week, they will take care of animals, do their own laundry (as they always do), and dust/sweep/etc. before you return. They will, however, live like the ultimate bachelors ... off of cereal and sandwiches. And when all the good bread (white) is gone and all that is left is kinda gross (whole wheat), they will just go ahead and eat the whole wheat rather than go to the store themselves. Ahhh, I am needed! If only to go grocery shopping and cook meals! ha!
  • When you get home after a week in Florida and it is 6 p.m. and you know about those bachelors ... the best thing to do is go straight to Mariano's for beer, refried beans, and brisket tacos. Don't go home. Just go straight to the restaurant.
  • Heroism in action: despite my laughing about bachelors,  Tom and Hannah had hard duty since right before I left Wash hurt his knee to the point where he wouldn't put weight on his foot. The vet's orders? Bed rest to try to avoid surgery. Which for a Boxer means 100% time in the crate except for necessary walks outdoors. This particular Boxer had never been alone in his life and so would howl like a banshee when everyone left the room. Luckily we had enough crates to move one to the living room (which would then be taken to the bedroom each night ... don't forget: howling banshees otherwise). But it was no picnic for anyone. However, it seems as if it has paid off. He is 90% better and we are now taking him for short exercise breaks to rebuild strength. Fingers crossed, he'll be out of the crate soon and jumping around like a Mexican jumping bean!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Still in Florida, But Talking as Much as Ever ... Today With "The Catholics Next Door" at 11:20 Eastern Time

Gee, I think that headline says it all!

Here's where you can see more about The Catholic Channel on Sirius 129 XM ... and about Jennifer and Greg Willits, those Catholics next door.

Hope you get a chance to listen in!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Ironic Catholic News ... All the Catholic News That's Fit to Laugh At (and more...)

Hear ye, hear ye! Felon Blames 1970s Church Architecture for Life of Sin: The Ironic Catholic News, Vol. I is published and available as an ebook atAmazon (for Kindle) andSmashwords (for every other e-reader out there, as well as your trusty computer). Other online retailers to come! And the paperback version will be complied with volumes 2 and 3 later this year.
It's no secret (or shouldn't be) that I'm a fan of Ironic Catholic's humor which is evident everywhere on her blog.

I received a review eBook and haven't had a chance to read all the way through. But I have read enough to know that you need to go get your own copy. I'll be picking up the print version when all volumes are ready ... this is too good to keep to myself. So. Very. Funny!

Today I'm Talking with Wendy on Relevant Radio at 2:00 (Eastern time--because I'm in Florida right now)

Relevant Radio ... where they bridge the gap between faith and everyday life.

Sounds tailor-made for Happy Catholic, doesn't it?

We'll be talking about the book and who knows what else ... maybe zombies? For a full hour. So tune in.

And if you don't have Relevant Radio station in your area or can't listen at 2:00 (or 1:00 Central, etc.), then here is the archive where you can pick it up at your convenience (they think of everything, don't they?).

Elsewhere in the Blogosphere ...

I may be out of town and away from my computer most of the day, but everyone else isn't. And they're letting me know what's going on. Here's the best of the mailbag ... check it out!
  • The Chronicles of Master Li and Number Ten Ox is available again thanks to Subterranean Press. This book is super hard to find and I count myself lucky to have taken a flier on the Science Fiction Book Club omnibus long ago when I noticed it. I received permission lately from author Barry Hughart to podcast The Bridge of Birds, the first book of the trilogy.  (Thanks to Scott, my partner in crime at A Good Story is Hard to Find, for passing this info along.)

    From Publishers Weekly (Starred Review):
    "Reading Hughart’s endearing historical fantasy trilogy, first published almost 20 years ago, is much like 'wandering blindfolded through a myth devised by a maniac,' in the words of Master Li, the greatest and most frequently intoxicated wise man in a colorful seventh century 'China that never was.' Their rollicking adventures pit them against everyone from murderers and thieves to emperors and gods. Numerous Chinese legends, filtered through Ox’s simple perspective, blend seamlessly into both lighthearted and heartrending.

  • Building a Catholic eBook Library on the Cheap: Brandon Vogt is a new Kindle-maniac (I can relate!) and has compiled an interesting and useful list of Kindle formatted books of special interest to Catholic readers. He lists prices along with the links, which is really handy. Plus he give links to Catholic publishers with good eBook sources and the Why I Am Catholic bookshelf. A great post to bookmark and keep handy.

  • Pay It Forward: many thanks to Holly for honoring Happy Catholic as her choice for the Pay It Forward blog this week. What's Pay It Forward?
    “Pay It Forward” is an avenue to connect with each other, and reap the benefits from what that connecting can do: find new friends, make you laugh a little, cry a lot (maybe that was only me), and affect you in a way that keeps you thinking for days afterwards.
    You can see why I loved seeing Holly name Happy Catholic for this ... not only for the Catholic stuff but also for the Texas Enchiladas and the latest thing that drove me B.A.T.T.Y.! Thank you Holly! Go check out her blog and the other Pay It Forward participants.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Out of Town for a While

The timing worked out for me to zoom over to Florida to visit my sis and, more importantly, my mom. Haven't seen her for waaaay too long.

So blogging will be light, though I'll be in and out. Thank you for your patience!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Weekend Joke

This little vacation joke is British but we'll move it to the U.S.
Two fortune-tellers met at the beach one sunny summer day.

"Lovely weather," said the first fortune-teller.

"Yes," said the second. "It reminds me of the summer of 2014."

Friday, June 10, 2011

In which we hear a story of Stickly-Prickly Hedgehog, Slow-Solid Tortoise, and Painted Jaguar.

Will Duquette does a tip-top job of narration with his usual verve and flair ... on Rudyard Kipling's Just So tale, The Beginning of the Armadillos ... at Forgotten Classics.

Facebook in China: What Price Free Speech?

Mr. Zuckerberg hinted at how he'll answer those who worry about compromises Facebook might make to get into China:

"I don't want Facebook to be an American company," he said. "I don't want it to be this company that just spreads American values all across the world. ...For example, we have this notion of free speech that we really love and support at Facebook, and that's one of the main things that we're trying to push with openness. But different countries have their different standards around that. ...My view on this is that you want to be really culturally sensitive and understand the way that people actually think."

Soon afterward, Mr. Zuckerberg made the rounds of Chinese Internet companies, visiting Baidu and Sina. Facebook continues to explore possible partnerships, and Mr. Zuckerberg, who is studying Mandarin, may travel to China again this year.

"This is a train wreck waiting to happen," says a businessman in Beijing familiar with China's Internet legacy. He and others believe Facebook will be allowed into the country, subjected to the same treatment Google and Yahoo received, and then spit out—its reputation for openness damaged, and its technology metabolized by a China eager to find new ways to spy on its citizens. The potential price for Facebook: its standing in the U.S., its most important advertising market.
An eye opening story that you should read from the WSJ.

So Mark Zuckerberg is either sensationally bad at spin, "notion of free speech that we really love and support at Facebook" (Notion?  Nice downgrading of a basic American value that has helped him to become wealthy and privileged. Albeit a notion he is reluctant to "force" on other countries, evidently.) ... or he possibly thinks we weren't watching when Google or Yahoo tried to do a little business in China.

I remember what happened at Tiananmen Square. So does the Chinese government who has been jailing bloggers, church goers, and others with American-style notions.

I keep thinking of Reagan and his, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down that wall" speech.

But then Reagan had the courage of his convictions.

If Mark Zuckerberg were there, he'd have acted as if the wall didn't exist while bribing the guards to let him through ... as long as he could make money on selling chocolate bars on the other side ... and apologized for being an American.

I'm not Facebook's target audience and, truth be told, I use it minimally. They wouldn't care much if I dropped my account.

However, Hannah's rather upset about this little development. She says she can live without Facebook if they go into China.

Question is, can Facebook live without Hannah and her friends ... if enough people like her feel they're are endorsing torture every time they use Facebook?

How lucky does Mark Zuckerberg feel?

Reviewing Breakfast With the Pope by Susan Vigilante

Meanwhile, at the same time we are going through all this, the whole in vitro revolution is happening. In vitro fertilization. IVF. The baby maker, the magic petri dish, the source of happy young families all over the country.


The Big Hope.

Forbidden by the Catholic Church.

Ok, go ahead. I know you're dying to say it. So come on, gimme your best shot.

"A bunch of celibate priess have no business telling married people how to run their lives.

Whoa! You thought that up all by yourself. Well, aren't you the quick one.

"The Catholic Church is always standing in the way of scientific progress. Galileo! Galileo!"

Please. Do we really have to go through the whole story of the world's original scientific publicity hound again. Because I hear the real problem was the telescopes weren't selling too well until he backed some clueless cardinals into a corner and forced them to put him on trial.

Any others?

Ah, yes, how could I forget.

"You Catholics have to learn to think for yourselves. You can't just go through life being blindly obedient to Rome."

Sorry. Three strikes and you're out. Call me when you've got one I haven't heard.
There in a nutshell is Susan Vigilante's struggle. She is suffering the heartbreak of childlessness and searching for God, wondering why her prayers never seem to be answered. Oh yes, and she is a writer who suffers from such writer's block that she hasn't written a book. Add in the fact that loved ones are stricken by devastating illness. As if that weren't enough, there is betrayal to deal with too.

That would make a sad and despairing memoir, except that just when the reader is ready to sink into a decline over the weight of Vigilante's struggles, she throws a curve ball of refreshing, funny, direct, straight-talk.

We follow Vigilante as she meets the friends who help sustain her through this time of trial. They are inspirational, funny, and integral to her spiritual journey. We become invested in the friendships as we read. Along the way, they open doors that Vigilante never could have expected, including one that leads to breakfast with the pope.

The end is surprising and I won't reveal it so that it may unfold for each person. However, I will say that I was shocked to the point of having several email conversations with another friend who had just finished the book.

This book reveals a woman who sticks by the Catholic Church when it isn't convenient. A woman who values truth above all and clings to it despite times when feelings, advice, and circumstances make her want to do what is easy. Which is to say that Susan Vigilante is a woman who values God above all. And straight-talk. Which is just what we need as we too examine where is God in our lives, are our prayers answered, and can we make tough decisions.

Dig in.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Gifted: a definition


adj \ˈgif-təd\

Definition of GIFTED

: having great natural ability : talented <gifted children>
: revealing a special gift <gifted voices>
gift·ed·ly adverb
gift·ed·ness noun
Not a verb.


So you can't say that someone gifted you with a book.

There's already a word for that.


Someone gave you a book. As a gift, if you need to describe it further. But usually there is no need.

A gift is given or received. Not gifted. The gift was gifted to me? No.

I realize this word is in the process of changing in the popular vocabulary but ... it. is. driving. me. batty.


No Man Is An Island ... Talking About "About A Boy"

Scott and I can't say enough good things about the 2002 movie About a Boy.

Plus we talk about Dan Brown books, Twilight books, endorsements on book covers, and much more.

Drop by and listen in!

Summer Reading Recommendations

Mystery, thrills, science fiction ... and, of course, zombies await you in my latest Free Mind column at Patheos, where we look at some very entertaining fiction by Catholic authors. Swing by and see what you want to take to the beach!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Doesn't Everyone Like the Healthy Glow These Runners Have?

Super creative to get that glow with glow sticks and Christmas lights, I'd say.

Hannah is in blue and it's hard to see her until you look at this photo.

They mostly walked but I think that maybe JC has it right when she wonders if the wind resistance on the tutus affected their time. More here at Pound by Pound.

Facing the Mistakes of Life ... One of Our Great Privileges

Life is simply time given to man to learn how to live. Mistakes are always part of learning. The real dignity of life consists in cultivating a fine attitude towards our own mistakes and those of others. It is the fine tolerance of a fine soul. Man becomes great, not through never making mistakes, but by profiting by those he does make; by being satisfied with a single rendition of a mistake, not encoring it into a continuous performance; by getting from it the honey of new, regenerating inspiration with no irritating sting of morbid regret; by building better to-day because of his poor yesterday; and by rising with renewed strength, finer purpose and freshened courage every time he falls.
A simply wonderful piece written in 1909 and featured at The Art of Manliness.

Mistakes sting, no doubt about it. But if I can face them with this attitude, I will be better for it.

Texas Enchilada Casserole

Delicious. Simple. And Texan.

What's not to love?

Over at Meanwhile, Back in the Kitchen.

Holy Moly, Georgette Heyer's "Cotillion" is free for the Kindle right now!

Get it while the getting's good!

Via Kindle Review blog which has daily features of free or "on sale" stuff.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Castle ... Yes, Again

Our family just loves the 1997 movie The Castle.

I've seen it so many times that I can practically recite the lines in my sleep. We force everyone we can to watch it.

That is why it is #3 of A Movie You Might Have Missed.

That is why it was my first movie pick to talk about with Scott at A Good Story is Hard to Find.

And, that is why I am delighted that Jesse from SFFaudio was interested enough after hearing Good Story to try it. Because he is delighted with it too. Here's his IMDB review which he shared with us:
Like Ray Bradbury's Wonderful Ice Cream Suit but Australian. Well maybe not exactly like "Wonderful Ice Cream Suit" but it surely has the same inner beauty.

Ignore the quotes on the video's cover they utterly fail to capture what this film is about. Whoever designed the cover has obviously not seen the film. It is nothing like Crocodile Dundee or The Full Monty. And you will stop laughing it is more touching and heartwarming than it is hilarious.

Go, go now, stop reading this and go out and get a copy of The Castle. Gather up your loved ones because this should be a family experience.

The Kerrigans lead a simple life but then their simple themselves. They are tremendously supportive and loving. Their material wealth is next to nil, but the family makes lemons out of all the lemonades life gives them. Every meal is a banquet, every anecdote is a saga.

Lets face facts, Australians make the best films! Hollywood makes some good films but the Australians always seem to make better ones. Too Wong Foo Thanks For nothing when you can have Priscilla Queen of The Desert and The Castle. Go out right now and find a copy of The Castle. Don't expect convulsive laughs like in There Is Something About Mary. Expect giggles and a renewal in your faith in humanity. Are you still reading this? Go, I said go, go out and get The Castle!
I loved Ray Bradbury's story but have never seen the movie made from it. Perhaps it is time I do so!

And for all of you who haven't yet watched The Castle, take Jesse's words to heart. Go get it!

Monday, June 6, 2011

How to Tie Your Shoes

I know. You thought you knew how.

Give Terry Moore three minutes and he'll change your double-knotting ways.

No need to thank me. The increase in the Gross National Product from increased productivity and less falling down is thanks enough.

The Ascension, The Holy Spirit ... and the Key

Our priest recently mentioned several reference works that provide good "sparks" for one's own pondering on Scripture. Writing by Roland Faley was among them, although no specific title was mentioned.

I took a chance and got Footprints on the Mountain: Preaching and Teaching the Sunday Readings.

Holy Moly, people, this is solid gold! Why haven't I come across this before?

Probably because the few reviewers and blurbs mention what a great resource it is for homilists, liturgists, teachers, and catechumenal directors (yawn).

True enough this book does provide scriptural background on all the readings for each Sunday (nicely divided up into A, B, and C years), as well as at least eight ideas for directions one's own teachings might take. However, that background also discusses why they complement each other and specific insights to be found for each.

Plus, this is summed up in a brief but pithy reflection on what these readings and points mean to believers.

In essence, it is like the perfect Bible study guide. I find it extremely inspiring and had to refrain from sitting down and just reading it through like a novel. Toward that end, however, I have ordered Faley's Reflections on the Weekday Lectionary Readings so I can get some of this goodness every day. This covers the A and B year readings.

The reason I bring all this up, aside from cluing you into this resource, is that after reading the Ascension commentary, background, and reflection for year A, I was left with one sentence resonating through my mind. (Now, if only I had copied it down ... this will be a paraphrase.) "Jesus' ascension marked the end of Jesus' time on earth and the beginning of the Holy Spirit's age on earth."

As I say, this is a paraphrase, so don't come after me on this.

However, as I listened to the the Kyrie and the Glory to God gorgeously sung by our choir (one of Mozart's mass compositions), my mind ranged over not only my contrition and need for mercy, but that "age of the Spirit". Suddenly, it clicked. I could understand that Jesus was the "key" in the lock that opened the door for the Spirit to flood over us. No wonder Jesus is the fulcrum on which history swings, the most glorious point of salvation history. Not only is there his sacrifice and resurrection, bringing our redemption ... but there is also the fact that without his obedience, the Holy Spirit wouldn't have been loosed the way it was during Pentecost. So much more than we could have predicted, desired, or understood.

Words can't really express what I felt and understood in that moment. I have made a mess of it in trying to explain.

But, like a shining star, this reality lit my mind's eye during the entire Mass ... and it obviously stuck with me to this moment.

What does this mean in my life?

I honor and love Jesus for his obedience and sacrifice even more since I have that little bit more understanding. I know that my own obedience can bear greater fruit than I can imagine or understand, if I truly try to live the faith with my whole heart. This goes for daily prayer, daily writing, daily dishwashing, daily overlooking of others' faults, and so much more.

I sure am glad that I took a chance on that book.

On the other hand, I am sorry to say that I cannot recommend Faley's other reflections book, Reflections on the Weekday Lectionary Readings.

Not as detailed as Footprints on the Mountain, it focuses on the commentary for each day's readings during years A & B. I picked it up hoping that it would provide the same sort of insights to aid my reflections and prayer.

Despite the fact that these reflections are fairly brief, Faley rarely misses an opportunity, even if he has to force it, to talk about ecumenism, global warming, caring for the environment, and so forth. Although I am sure that he means these to spur us to action, the result was that I felt as if I were constantly being scolded (whether or not I deserved it).

I definitely support those and all social justice issues, but we are overrun with those messages on a daily basis from both secular and faith based groups. I realize this book is aimed at helping priests with homily topics, but seriously if a priest started going on and on about global warming when I was trying to connect with God at Mass, I'd be jolted right out of any connection into a state of annoyance. Surely if we are brought closer to God, then living fully as Christians and the other things follow also? At least they have for me ...

It is too bad as about half of the reflections are those which I feel would open the readings and bring me closer to God. However, the cringing I do the other half of the time, not to mention being jolted out of prayer, are not worth it. I'd recommend the In Conversation with God: Meditations for Each Day of the Year  series by Francis Fernandez instead. He manages to bring up all those issues while still keeping our eyes on Christ.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Weekend Joke

In the form of a bumper sticker, from Dr. Boli where you will find other amusing things including more bumper stickers.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Solemnity of the Ascension of Our Lord

Salvador Dali. Ascension. 1958. 
In the first book, Theophilus, I dealt with all that Jesus did and taught until the day he was taken up, after giving instructions through the holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. He presented himself alive to them by many proofs after he had suffered, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.

While meeting with them, he enjoined them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for "the promise of the Father about which you have heard me speak; for John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the holy Spirit."

When they had gathered together they asked him, "Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?"

He answered them, "It is not for you to know the times or seasons that the Father has established by his own authority. But you will receive power when the holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."

When he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight.

While they were looking intently at the sky as he was going, suddenly two men dressed in white garments stood beside them.

They said, "Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky? This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven."

Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a sabbath day's journey away.
Acts 1:1-12
The solemnity of the Ascension of Our Lord falls on the 40th day of Easter and so happens on a Thursday. It is a Holy Day of Obligation, however, in most dioceses in the United States the bishops have moved it to the following Sunday.

So, unless you are in Boston, Hartford, New York, Newark, Philadelphia, and the state of Nebraska, it will be folded in with Sunday worship.

For me, that is like saying that Christmas is going to be folded in with the nearest Sunday because it's handier that way. Nothing takes the "special" out of a celebration like making it "handy."

Therefore, we have a little acknowledgment here on the proper day before being obedient to our bishop and celebrating the Lord's Ascension on Sunday.

Legalities like that aside, I understand why they were looking intently at the sky. Who wouldn't? I also like the angels' prodding. It is easy to let the wonder of something like the ascension overtake us and keep us from acting. We have to somehow manage to balance the wonder with our witness in everyday life.

Not an easy task.

Which is why, perhaps, we settle into reading Acts throughout the Easter season. Not only is it Church history of what happened next, but it is like a manual both of what the early Church taught and of how to put your faith into action.

Nine days after this comes Pentecost.

In preparation, I'll be saying the Novena to the Holy Spirit beginning tomorrow ... and, of course, posting it here.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

When Pigs Fly, You'll Meet The Dark Wizard

Dark Lord of Derkholm (Derkholm, #1)Dark Lord of Derkholm by Diana Wynne Jones

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Imagine that your world has real elves, dragons, wizards, and all those items necessary for a good fantasy tale. Then imagine that an enterprising person from an "otherworld" much like ours stumbled through a portal and discovered this real "fantasy" world. Forty years later you might have a problem much like that in this book where Mr. Chesney's Pilgrim Parties come on tour wanting to enjoy a classic fantasy adventure.

The only problem is that Mr. Chesney's contract is so airtight that it devastates the fantasy world and everyone is at their wits' end trying to fulfill their obligations. So when the Light Oracle and the Dark Oracle tell the ruling council what to do to end this devastation, no one asks questions. Except, that is, for Wizard Derk since part of the requirement is that he becomes this year's Dark Wizard. This leads a mild mannered wizard who only wants to develop new forms of animals into an increasing spiral of management and chaos.

This is a unique concept for a story that hooked me from the beginning. When you add in Diana Wynne Jones' brand of humor you will understand why I read this book in a dead heat in one day, occasionally cackling with laughter ... which everyone got used to as the day progressed. I will never again be able to say, "when pigs fly" without cracking up.

Get this book and read it.

View all my Goodreads reviews