Friday, August 31, 2012

CNMC: Wow!

We went to the Catholic New Media Conference in San Antonio three years ago. It was ok, but ultimately satisfactory. Somehow it didn't register at the time that that was only the second CNMC.

This year, suddenly registering it was the 5th CNMC, I am able to judge just how very far they have come.

And believe me, there is light years' difference between then and now.

This CNMC is a well presented conference, smoothly done but with plenty of personal contact available between everyone there. The content is simply fantastic. I spent yesterday wishing that Tom was there. As the perpetually curious guy who takes it all in and synthesizes information in a "big picture" way I think he'd have been fascinated by the talks.

As someone just taking it all in myself, just there for the face-to-face time, I found it well-rounded, informative, thought provoking, and mostly entertaining.

(None of us are ever going to forget the very ill-considered "elephant in the room" ... and in the video ... which was the only misstep I saw from a presenter ...)

I'm impressed and y'all know I don't say that if I don't mean it. Let me say it like this. I have no idea where the conference will be next year, but I actually would travel somewhere to attend. Seriously. It came on my radar because it was going to be in Dallas where I only have to drive 30 minutes to get to it. I'll be looking out for it next year, wherever it is.

Today is the Bloggers Day, at which I speak, and I'm looking forward to seeing what everyone has to say.

Congratulations to Father Roderick and the SQPN board and everyone who kept the vision, worked so hard, and gotten the CNMC to this point. I can recommend it without reservations to anyone who may be considering the Virtual Ticket which has audio recordings of every talk.

Thursday, August 30, 2012


I'm at the Catholic New Media Conference ... may be able to check in here, but probably will be super busy the whole time.

If you're there, look me up and be sure to say hi!

Catch ya Monday!

Check out these great people who gathered at my place for some cocktails and pizza. What a fun evening! The rest of the conference just will not be able to match up. Period.

Well, except for that 2:00 slot on Friday afternoon for Catholic Blogger's Day.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Busy with the pizza, the cleaning ... the preparations ...

Since the Catholic New Media Conference is in Dallas (which is what made me even think of submitting a topic for the Blogging Conference Day ... I'm speaking at 2 p.m. on Friday if anyone is going to be attending who is also reading this) ... we're having a group of bloggers over for cocktails and homemade pizza (and suchlike) this evening.

AND Sarah Reinhard will be our houseguest for the duration of the conference. So very much talking as I anticipate ... oh yeah ...

Rides have been coordinated. Housecleaning has been done (do not look too closely in the corners, please!). Groceries have (mostly) been bought.

And now I commence wit da cookin'.

We're having Vesuvio pizza, Garlic Chicken pizza, and a Mexican pizza of my own devising. And some Caesar-ish salad and possibly some Tiramisu to follow.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

What I'm Reading Now: Bleak House by Charles Dickens

Bleak HouseBleak House by Charles Dickens

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Bleak House is on my personal challenge list, meaning that I should be chiseling away at some book from that list or I'll keep putting them off forever and never read one.

Having been surprised by how much I loved A Tale of Two Cities and having heard that Bleak House is Dickens' best, it is the next of his books I thought I'd try. However, it is so intimidatingly hefty that I've had the book on hand for several months before finally launching myself at it. (I'm about halfway through this 800+ page book at the moment.)

Dickens begins by introducing several strands of story and then settling on a first-person narrator, Esther Summerson, at least for this section. At this point we are just meeting Mrs. Jellyby and I actually laughed aloud. I know a Mrs. Jellyby. Don't we all? So much engaged in her African cause that she ignores the very real want in her own family gathered around her. I love the way that everything Esther picks up or tries to use garners the comment, "It was dirty." Children fall down stairs unnoticed, the carpet is coming off the stairs in a most dangerous fashion, dinner is almost raw, and all the while Mrs. Jellyby "fixed her fine eyes on Africa again."
However, as she at once proceeded with her dictation, and as I interrupted nothing by doing it, I ventured quietly to stop poor Peepy as he was going out, and to take him up to nurse. He looked very much astonished at it, and at Ada's kissing him; but soon fell fast asleep in my arms, sobbing at longer and longer intervals, until he was quiet. I was so occupied with Peepy that I lost the letter in detail, though I derived such a general impression from it of the momentous importance of Africa, and the utter insignificance of all other places and things, that I felt quite ashamed to have though so little about it.
I laughed aloud reading this.

Meanwhile, the fog is everywhere. One wonders if that fog which makes lawyers focus on details in the Jarndyce case until the money is gone although they are still making a fine living, is the same which clouds Mrs. Jellyby's vision. It is easy to ignore the real significance of life around you when focusing on the intangible elsewhere gives us the excuse to ignore the immediate demands we find less attractive, like a filthy home or crying baby. It adds a disturbingly eerie element.

I must concede Will Duquette's contention that Dickens characters can be very unrealistic. But who would give them up for the realistic ones? And Dickens does realistic very well, when he needs to. Esther is realistic. Mr. Guppy also ... although so amusing while one is sorry for him. And then there is Mr. Bucket. Possibly one of the best detectives I've ever seen (at this admittedly early point in the book) ... how is it I didn't know Dickens wrote a detective? And one so canny and good at blending in?"

You know, I expected that I'd read a few pages (slogging through them) and intersperse them with a newer book. But I'm hooked. I can never possibly convey how great, how riveting I am finding this book. It is a mystery, a horror novel, a romance, a look at character (or the lack thereof), and much more ... all laced with a self awareness that I find startlingly modern. O Dickens. And here I thought A Tale of Two Cities was sublime. How little I knew...

As a result of my amazement at how good this book is, it will be the November book for A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast. 900 pages of solid goodness. Ladies and gentlemen, start your reading now!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Community - The Third Season

We got the fresh-off-the-press dvd of the third season of Community and have really been enjoying watching it in a concentrated dose.

One thing that hit me, now that we're four episodes from the end, is that I thought it was uneven when watching during the season. But rewatching I see that the entire season was good. It is just that three brilliant episodes made the others look below par.

  1. Remedial Chaos Theory - you know this one, Community fans. Rolling the die to see who goes to get the pizza.
  2. Pillows and Blankets - part of the struggle between Blanketsburg and Pillowtown, in Ken Burns' documentary style.
  3. Basic Lupine Urology - Who killed the study group's yam in Biology? Investigated "Law & Order" style, with a special thank you to Dick Wolf at the end.
I am looking forward to another episode that may join these three in the Hall of Fame: Digital Estate Planning.  (Pierce and his friends must play a video game to see who will inherit his family fortune ... as part of the game.)

Joe Ledger: The Missing Files

This review originally appeared at SFFaudio.

The description for this brief collection of short stories says "... author Jonathan Maberry fills in the blanks in his action-thriller 'Joe Ledger' novels."

This isn't something I'd have picked up myself and, frankly, wouldn't have bothered if it weren't sent as a review book. I am usually disinterested in add-on short stories that sew up "loose ends" of novels or serve to tell us what a character's been doing between one book and the next. In my experience, those are toss-offs and these days, what with 99-cent stories on Amazon, they just serve as money grabbers.

However, we all know I'm a sucker for Joe Ledger and I absolutely love the narrator's way with these stories so if I wasted a few hours on mental cotton candy so be it. Also I was mildly interested in what seem to be two stories that aren't connected to any novels, "Deep, Dark" and "Material Witness."

Countdown: The prequel to Patient Zero and it told me nothing I didn't learn in the beginning of the book. Honestly, it seemed as if it were a story prospectus given to a publisher to gain interest.

Zero Tolerance: The second story added a little to Patient Zero's ending since it could have been called "What Happened to Amirah." (Pardon my spelling as I've only heard the audio for the novel.) Worth paying for? Not to me.

Deep, Dark: Finally, with the third story we get to something interesting. As is the case in Joe Ledger novels, it teeters on the knife's edge between probability and supernatural/horror fiction. The Army has a little problem in one of their underground complexes. A little bio-engineered problem. It's just a "bug hunt," as it goes in one of my favorite lines from Aliens, but one that has righteousness on its side.

Material Witness: This story was more interesting than anything preceding it (or following, as it turned out ... yes, foreshadowing!). However, that was mostly because Maberry was filling us in on another series of his, the creepiness that is Pine Deep, Pennsylvania. Imagine the house from The Shining, but ... it's a whole town! Maberry's melding of the two worlds was rather intriguing but not enough to make me want to get whatever book it was he wrote about Pine Deep. For one thing, spoilers abound. I wonder if I already knew all about that "world" if the story would have kept my attention as it did.

Dog Days: The final story and the one which was the test of whether Maberry had improved at short story writing or whether the previous two just created interest because of the unfamiliar material. Yep. Choose door number two. It wasn't a terrible story, just extremely easy to figure out as Joe Ledger goes to settle a personal grudge against the world's deadliest assassin. The most interesting thing about it to me was the introduction of Ghost, the wonder dog. One feels (at least I do) that this should have been a prequel or flashback in The King of Plagues. I especially feel this since I spent much of the beginning of that book wondering what the heck happened to Ledger's cat and why only one or two sentences gave us the dog's history. This almost reads as discovery writing or something that was edited from a book. Ghost is ok, but he is definitely "made" to be Ledger's dog, as he is a Wonder Dog with super-canine reflexes and understanding.

Summing up - these files could've stayed missing. It's only four hours long but that is four hours you could use on something uniformly good.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

A sale to help raise money for a son's surgery ...

My son needs surgery.

Not planned surgery but that kind of kick-in-the-gut surprise surgery that is halfway between, sure okay and It’s An Emergency.
Heather Ordover is truly one of the most generous and giving people I know ... this is a deserving cause. Please take a look at her sale to help her raise money for her son's surgery.

Or you could just drop something in her tip jar. That works too.

Scott switches to Dapper Dan and Julie sings into a tin can.

O Brother, Where Art Thou is the topic at A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

GeekLady, c'mon down. You won The Right to Be Wrong book giveaway!

Congratulations for winning our book giveaway! I'll be emailing you to get your contact info to give to the publisher of The Right to Be Wrong.

I can't email you because you are very private lady (which I salute). However, WordPress won't let me into your comments boxes (for reasons which I won't go into here except, really, WordPress? Really?).

Anyway, email me at: julie [at] glyphnet [dot] com

Robot & Frank: "like Philip K. Dick without the amphetamine-induced paranoia"

Now that's interesting.

The trailer shows so much of the movie that I had no fear of spoilers in reading this review.

The movie sounds charming and the review completely wins me over by saying that instead of being sappy "The end result feels more like Philip K. Dick without the amphetamine-induced paranoia. If such a thing is conceivable."

That either completely mystifies you or makes you interested. You know which I am.

Social Justice and Ryan the Heretic

You know, I love it when I wake up and can read about relevant Catholic stuff in my paper's editorial section. I like that someone's staying on top of that stuff.

Oh, sorry Dallas Morning News, did you think I meant you? We all know I was talking about the Wall Street Journal. Specifically, about William McGurn's piece this morning.
"I'm not endorsing Paul Ryan," [Paul Ryan's] bishop told me later by phone. "People are free to disagree with him, and disagree vehemently. But it's wrong to suggest that his views somehow make him a bad Catholic."

Unfortunately, suggesting that Mr. Ryan is a bad Catholic is the entire case. Stuck with the fact of Mr. Biden, who has long since made his peace with the party's absolutism on abortion, progressive Catholics know that it would be laughable to try to present Mr. Biden as faithful to church teaching. They know too that clarity about church teaching does not work to their advantage. The only way to take on Mr. Ryan is to tear him down.

Think about that. In another age, Catholic progressives would have laughed at the suggestion that people were corrupted by reading certain works; now they believe Paul Ryan's soul is in peril for his having read Ayn Rand. Before, they would not have feared science; now they insist that a program such as food stamps ought to continue ad infinitum without consideration of its effects. And while they believe that the pope and bishops have nothing of value to offer about the sanctity of marriage or the duty of protecting unborn life, when it comes to federal spending, suddenly a miter means infallibility.
Do go read it all.

Review: Odd Apocalypse by Dean Koontz

Odd Apocalypse (Odd Thomas, #5)Odd Apocalypse by Dean Koontz

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The basic setup:
Once presided over by a flamboyant Hollywood mogul during the Roaring ’20s, the magnificent West Coast property known as Roseland is now home to a reclusive billionaire financier and his faithful servants. And, at least for the moment, it’s also a port in the storm for Odd Thomas and his traveling companion, the inscrutably charming Annamaria, the Lady of the Bell. In the wake of Odd’s most recent clash with lethal adversaries, the opulent manor’s comforts should be welcome. But there’s far more to Roseland than meets even the extraordinary eye of Odd, who soon suspects it may be more hell than haven.
I love the Odd Thomas books overall. However, what this book showed me above all is that I love the first trilogy of the Odd Thomas books. (Odd Thomas, Forever Odd, Brother Odd). Each of those were written as complete stories showing sweet, gentle but capable Odd Thomas fighting evil supernatural for the good of the innocent who were threatened. They have beginnings, middles, and ends ... or at least resolutions of an evil situation with Odd sometimes on the road to find somewhere that a simple fry cook can earn a living.

The second trilogy, as I've come to think of them since seeing another book, Deeply Odd, is on the way, are told in a completely different fashion which I find ultimately unsatisfying. Beginning in Odd Hours Koontz just drops us in the middle of the action, a la a thriller where we learn the back story later after having begun with a pulse pounding chase. I actually could forgive that if there ever seemed to be resolution to the story. There is a resolution to Odd's current predicament, however, nebulous hints about the "big meaning of things" are all we get, despite all the action. Ho hum ... and they drive off into the sunset ...

Odd Apocalypse picks up about a week after Odd Hours ended, we are finally told after a thoroughly confusing intro where we've been dropped into a series of very odd events (ha!). Poor Odd is put through a series of gyrations and problem solving tasks because no one can give him a single straight answer. Now, I expect this from the bad guys. But for Annamaria, his mysterious companion picked up in Odd Hours, to do the same is just annoying. She may have a mystical hold on everyone she encounters, but I am mysteriously untouched by it. Odd Thomas tells us this is a haunted house book but for my money it gets a toehold in the Lovecraftian universe before settling down solidly into H.G. Wells country. I won't say which book so as to avoid spoilers but it becomes very obvious toward the end.

Koontz seems to have just thrown everything but the kitchen sink into this book without remembering to give us what was so satisfying about the first three books. An actual story.

I will read the next one simply to see if this ongoing murk ever clears up, but at this point feel it will be more from a sense of duty than anything else. And to give Koontz a chance to pull it all together in a way that makes me like all three of the second trilogy in a "really one book" sort of way.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Almost done chopping this CNMC talk down to 20 minutes Bloggers' Summit, August 31

That's what made me suddenly look at the clock and realize how late it is ... with no quote of the day or art or anything!

I'm one of the seven who will be speaking at the International Bloggers’ Summit on the last day of the 2012 Catholic New Media Conference. Be sure to click through on the link to see the range of topics being covered.

My topic is — Catholic Bloggers: Are We the 1st Corinthians of the Internet?

If you don't know 1st Corinthians that may be a bit confusing. Here's a bit more:
Catholic blogs may be the only chance to "meet" a Catholic in real life for many people. What sort of example do we give them? All too often, the face of the Catholic church on the Internet is more scandalizing than inspiring. Readers dropping by may witness division and infighting, criticism of Catholic teachings, and very little love. What does this cost us as bloggers and as Christian examples to others? And can it be fixed?
There's much more, of course, but that gives the gist of the thing.

If you are there be sure to come up and say hello!

Friday, August 17, 2012

The Book J.R.R. Tolkein Read to His Children: Snergs

Pssst! All fans of The Hobbit! And lovers of fantasy, in general...

My latest offering for "Project Kaitlyn" (stories for my niece) is an unabridged reading of The Marvellous Land of Snergs (1927) by E.A. Wyke-Smith, which J.R.R. Tolkien read to his children and acknowledged as a sourcebook for his The Hobbit. This is a most clever and delightful story. But you don’t have to take my word for it. Take Tolkien’s: “I should like to register my own love and my children’s love of E.A. Wyke-Smith’s Marvellous Land of Snergs...”
What's even better is that you don't have to take anyone's word for it.

Amy H. Sturgis, writer of the words above, read this book not only for her niece, but is generously sharing the files with all of us. She is a superb narrator as anyone who regularly listens to StarShipSofa knows. Just click through and download.

If you want to know more about the book itself, Amy's review on Goodreads is here. I have only listened to the first half-hour and already can see the great appeal of this clever, whimsical book which combines just the right amount of reality and sweetness, while never underestimating the intelligence of the reader.

A lot to say based on one half-hour? Yes. But all true. Download for yourself and give it a try. After all, J.R.R. Tolkein can't be wrong.

4 Things Science Fiction Needs to Bring Back

Beginning with optimism.

A great list from Keep in mind that this is Cracked and they will use offensive language.

Still, it is a great list and perhaps the reason why I still enjoy listening to old science fiction from LibriVox. It's usually got those four things.

The Squeaky Wheel Gets the Grease: Myths About Atheism and Christianity

Third, the international polling outfit WIN-Gallup International has released a new global survey that shows atheism is on the rise, but 59 percent of the world's population still describes itself as "religious."

Taken together, the results seem to debunk two persistent myths about global religion:
  • Atheism is mostly a Western phenomenon. Instead, Asia is by far the world's most atheistic continent, with China alone home to two-thirds of the roughly 900 million atheists on the planet.
  • Christianity is in decline relative to other world religions, especially Islam. Instead, nine of the world's 10 most religious nations are majority Christian, and people who self-identify as Christian are more likely to describe themselves as "religious" than Muslims (81 percent to 74 percent).
A few of John Allen's cogent observations about myth and reality as exposed in the latest poll results released about international religion.

Western atheists are the loudest and Islamic terrorists are the loudest. And we let them define truth for us oftentimes.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

In which we meet the unique detective team of Doan and Carstairs.

Holocaust House by Norbert Davis, part one at Forgotten Classics podcast.

Don't blame the Church for wicked Christians

This is from Day 201 in A Year with the Church Fathers by Mike Aquilina. Tom and I joke that at the rate we are working our way through this it will be more like 4 years with the Church Fathers. However, we continue reading them to each other at work during lunch whenever we get a chance.

St. Augustine has timely advice which also serves to remind us that human nature doesn't change.
Don't bring up against me those people who claim the name of Christian but neither know nor show any evidence of the power of their profession. Don't hunt down the numerous ignorant people who, even in the true religion, are superstitious, or so given up to evil passions that they forget what they've promised to God. I know that there are many who get really drunk over the dead, and who bury themselves over the buried in their funeral feasts, and indulge their gluttony and drunkenness in the name of religion. I know that there are many who claim to have renounced this world, and yet desire to be burdened with all the weight of worldly things, and rejoice in those burdens.

My advice to you is this: that you should at least stop slandering the Catholic Church by protesting against the conduct of those whom the Church herself condemns, trying to correct them every day like wicked children. Then, if any of them are corrected through good will and by the help of God, they regain by repenting what they had lost by sin. On the other hand, those who persist in their old vices with wicked will are indeed allowed to remain in the field of the Lord,and to grow along with the good seed, but the time for separating the weeds will come.
St. Augustine, Morals of the Catholic Church, 34

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Book Giveaway! "The Right to Be Wrong: Ending the Culture War Over Religion in America"

... Ask either faction whether it believes religious liberty is a human right and you’ll get a passionate, tub-thumping — mostly hypocritical — speech in favor of the idea. That’s because religious freedom is so familiar, so American a concept that nobody can really admit to opposing it. That would be like opposing apple pie. So even those who are at each other’s throats over religious liberty have to insist they all absolutely love the stuff. Instead of confessing that they’re actually opposed to religious freedom for all, the Pilgrims and the Park Rangers among us equivocate. When they say they support “religious freedom,” the Pilgrims mean the freedom of their religion, while the Park Rangers mean freedom from others’ religions. That way, they can all sound so very American — they can say they’re in favor of something called religious freedom — and still be as oppressive as they want to be.
I'm a huge fan of The Right to Be Wrong by Kevin Seamus Hasson, which has just had an updated paperback version released.

I believe if we respected each person's right to conscience, their "right to be wrong," our country would be a much more peaceful place. My ability to articulate this belief was both solidified and made easier to articulate when I read Hasson's book. It's a book we all need to read in these contentious times.

Hasson is a constitutional lawyer who heads up a non-partisan, public-interest law firm that specializes in defending free religious expression for all faiths. Hasson asserts, “We defend all faiths but we are not relativists. On any given day, I think most of my clients are wrong. But I firmly believe that, in an important sense, they have the right to be wrong.” This is not a very long book and it is written in a conversational and easy style, but it packs a heavy punch.

The updated book adds a chapter and afterward that discuss the latest set of religious struggles, which have been elevated past the tussles over Nativity scenes on government property to include federal healthcare insurance.

Read my original, indepth review here.

To enter for a chance to win a copy, leave a comment for this post!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Roger Ebert's Review of a documentary Rose edited

Curators of Dixon School (a documentary Rose edited when she was in college) premiered at the Black Harvest Film Festival and Roger Ebert gave it a great review.

(And no comments about pacing, so that's a win for the editing side!)

Thought you guys would want to read it!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Review: Holiness for Everyone by Eric Sammons

Friendship has a powerful impact on people's behavior. Parents often worry that their children will succumb to "peer pressure," implicitly acknowledging the power that friends can have on someone's life. Children aren't the only ones influenced in this way -- adults, too, allow their personalities and choices to be shaped by the company they keep. Communal-ness is part of human nature. We want to be accepted by others. We don't want to seem odd. Natural as this is, it, too, often leads people away from the Faith and into the culture of death in which we live. But friendship's power can work both ways: The Christian who remains faithful to his beliefs and stands up for Christ in this life can have a great influence over those closest to him, even without saying a word.
Very true. For example, I often ask myself "What would Mike Aquilina do?" Never have I been around a nicer guy who consistently sets me on the path of right behavior ... never through a word of criticism but always through his own behavior and words.

I am not a member of Opus Dei, the spiritual movement founded by St. Josemaria Escriva.. Never been much of a joiner really. However, I am well versed in the fundamental way that St. Josemaria Escriva thinks about holiness and every day life thanks to the In Conversation with God series, which I have used for over a decade. Written by a priest from Navarre University, which Escriva helped found, it reflects a lot of Escriva's spirituality which I like. The beauty of the ordinary, the everyday, offered to God is a very practical way to live, as Holiness for Everyone's subtitle reminds us.

Sammons gives a quick look at St. Josemaria Escriva's life and works. He then sets the foundations of what it means to have God as our father and what true love, freedom and holiness really mean. Finally, he comes to how to live a saintly life in our everyday, ordinary lives. Whether at work, at home, with family, with friends, or just driving to the store, the methods to becoming holy are all around us.
Mortifications are all those activities which help us to control our sinful impulses and desires. They can be as simple as denying ourselves a second helping at dinner, allowing others to speak first in conversations, or choosing the longer line at the checkout counter.
This is all interwoven with another theme dear to my heart, that we are all meant to be saints. Becoming a saint sounds like a lofty and unattainable goal because we have only seen the saints after they achieved their goals. Through stories, examples from his own life, and many other sources, Sammons gives us the tools to understand how we too can be saints-in-training right here on earth.

For example, I was struggling with grudgingly doing something I knew God wanted of me. (This is a continual struggle on this particular topic, by the way ... something of a thorn in my side which I must continually strive to overcome.)
A son or daughter of a king is uniquely privileged -- but bears a demanding load of responsibility as a result of his or her lineage. Just so, as children of God, we are called to act in accord with our nobility. Humble submission to the will of our Father will mark us as true children.
It was a real help in my struggle to suddenly see myself as a grown, royal princess, standing to the side of her father the king, awaiting his bidding. This is an image I call up time and again. It helps.

Even if you have no interest whatsoever in St. Josemaria Escriva, you will find something of value in this book. Few of us can pursue holiness aside from the demands of work, family, and friends. Holiness for Everyone gives help and the proper perspective to journey to heaven, together. Highly recommended.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Review: The Odd Life of Timothy Green

On the night they receive the news that they will never be able to conceive a baby, Cindy and Jim Green hold a unique mourning ceremony. They write down all their hopes for what their child would have been like and bury them in a box in their garden. They're surprised when a 10-year-old boy named Timothy shows up in their house, covered with dirt, calling them "Mom" and "Dad," and with leaves growing out of his legs.

This gentle fairy tale looks at parent-child relationships the same the way that The Parent Trap and Freaky Friday did, but using the problems today's children have with their parents. Cindy and Jim are eager to do everything right, be perfect parents, and spare Timothy any of the anguish that they recall from their youth. In no time at all, they are hovering over Timothy's every move. "He can have secrets," Cindy tells Jim. "As long as he tells them to us."

Their own issues with family members come to light as they react to Timothy's experiences. Also, since Timothy's leaves make him "special" they are determined that he will not be made fun of which just increases the hovering.

Writer/director Peter Hedges wrote What's Eating Gilbert Grape and About a Boy, both wryly quirky movies that I enjoyed for their ability to provide insight and humor when viewing the world from an unusual angle. This movie is no different, although it has been necessarily Disney-fied.

Timothy's unusual origin and the difference his presence makes is a nicely original concept and a humorous way at looking at the helicopter parent generation. We enjoyed it and so did the audience we were with which had a nice sprinkling of children throughout. They laughed a lot throughout and gave the movie a round of applause at the end. This is just the sort of movie our girls would have liked when they were young and I am definitely going to recommend it to the parents and grandparents I know who are looking for a good summer movie.

The Odd Life of Timothy Green opens August 15.

It's the end of the world. Who do you choose? The Dark Man or Mother Abigail?

Scott and I discuss that classic tale of good versus evil, The Stand by Stephen King, at A Good Story is Hard to Find.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Gregg Allman: "After all I’ve been through, I can’t help but feel I’ve been redeemed, over and over."

Mockingbird just finished reading Gregg Allman's memoir and shares some of his story about finding God. Which includes this interesting tidbit.
At one point I was going to convert to Catholicism, but they had so many rules. I have to say that the Catholic Church is very much about who has the nicest suit, the valet parking–too much about the money. I don’t think you have to dress up or show God a bunch of gold for him to forgive you your sins, love you, and guide you. Then I went to an Episcopal church in Daytona, and it just felt right. The Episcopal Church isn’t about gimme, gimme, gimme. The Episcopalians are like enlightened Catholics. They have the faith, but they’re a little more open-minded.
I was thinking, "What Catholic church did this guy visit? " Doubtless there are Catholic churches like that but even ours, which has leanings toward Gregorian chant and kneeling at the altar rail, also sees its fair share of families in shorts, blue collar workers and the dispossessed even at the most formal masses.

Strange Herring (where I came across the story) says it better, as always:
So look, if he found some kind of spiritual peace at an Episcopal church, God bless. But I do wonder what Catholic church he wandered into. Not that I have a dog in this fight. And I’ve known some Catholic parishes — in Manhattan and even in London — where you’d think every Sunday was the wedding of Count Romeo to Lady Juliet. But I’ve also been in Catholic churches where it may as well have been the parish of Our Lady of the Alien Homeless. It’s sorta funny that an Episcopalian church is seen as the “everyman’s” church. If ever there was a status-conscious denomination, good gravy. Once upon a time, the church use to rent pews to families, and the more you gave, the closer you were allowed to be to the action (and the farther from hoi polloi).
I base my knowledge of Episcopalians strictly on my grandmother and the few times I accompanied her to church. So, that may not be strictly accurate, but Strange Herring's take is similar.

Well, wherever he wound up, I'm glad he wound up somewhere.

In which Oleron investigates the unnatural happenings.

The finale of The Beckoning Fair One at Forgotten Classics.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Prime Directive ...

Savage Chickens does it again. Doug Savage says, "The last time I watched ST:TNG, I was surprised how many episodes were about romance with aliens." Me either but it is undeniable.

This one is for Hannah and all her friends who are watching various Star Trek series for the first time.

10 Things I Wish a Facebook Meme Knew About the Church

10. When Jesus forbade judging, that included you.

And when Jesus forbade fornication, that included you. And me. And all of us. Jesus did not say to sinners (by whom I do not mean depraved sick subhumans deserving persecution in this world and eternal damnation in the next, but all of us, “It’s OK, because you are in love, and I will never judge you harshly or tell you you can’t do exactly what you want to do, because even though I’ve talked my ear off about what constitutes the way my Father wants you to live, I realize that’s haaaaard, so I’ll cut you a break because you’re a good person and I wouldn’t want my personal religious beliefs to bother you or anything.” Instead, he accepted their sincere repentance (which means owning up to having been judged by God and found wanting, as are we all), blessed them, and said, “Go and sin no more.”
10 Things I Wish a Facebook Meme Knew About the Church from Joanne K. McPortland is a perfect example of why I love this lady's writing so much. The logic is just part of it. Go. Read.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Free Jack Vance ebook!

Jack Vance is not only a great sf writer, but a great American writer. He started out writing fairly standard pulp adventure sf (albeit very clever and well-written pulp), but over the years, his eccentric writing style, biting view of human nature, humor, and skill at building strange new worlds became more and more important, although they are still allied closely with pulp adventure and tons of plot in a small space. He never loves his sentences more than the whole. He’s a lot like Cabell, if Cabell had written better women and had had more interest in sf and sense of wonder.

Cabell would never have written a character saying, “I would offer congratulations were it not for this tentacle gripping my leg.”


Anyway, his friends and relatives have made an ebook of The Chasch (aka City of the Chasch) available for free, till the end of August. What a deal! It is part of the thrilling ‘Tschai’ or ‘Planet of Adventure’ series, in which an interstellar scout investigating an old distress call shipwrecks in the middle of an undeveloped planet full of alien (and alien human) cultures, and has to get to the spaceport. It turns out that all of the planet’s alien species (native and not) have variously enslaved or formed odd relationships with the descendants of humans that landed on the planet, so it’s not easy to get around. The weird societies which have resulted, and how the main character disrupts them by his actions, are pretty much the star of the show. There are four books in the series. ...
Maureen from Aliens in This World sums up why you want to try this book. (She says more about the author and his work so do click through.) Pick up the ebook at Jack Vance's site. You do have to register and log in, but it is simple.

Say It Ain't Solo

This short film trailer is hilarious! I'm  a fan of The Tobolowsky Files podcast, which makes it even funnier to me, but even non-Tobo fans will like this one.

Chick-fil-A and a Teachable Catholic Moment About Marriage and Homosexuality

Deacon Ken took yesterday's readings where people were hungry, added Chick-fil-A's incident of last week and gave us a fantastic homily that clarifies two very important points of Catholic teaching.

Please do carefully read the entire thing.

Or you may listen to it (or download it from the link), if you prefer, since he recorded it. (Mass scripture readings are here.)
Homily for 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time

In today's Gospel story, thousands of people flocked to the place where Jesus was because they were hungry.  They had witnessed, or had heard about the event that took place in the part of the gospel that we read last week where Jesus had fed the 5000 men.  We don't know how many women and children there were but he fed a whole lot of people and they had their fill.  That food came from just a couple of fish and some loaves of bread.

Well, when they heard that Jesus had left, they tracked him down, they followed him, they found him and they showed up because they were hungry.  But Jesus pointed out to them rather quickly that they needed to strive for something more than food.

This past Wednesday, thousands of people flocked to Chick-fil-A restaurants all around the country to eat lunch or dinner.  And they were hungry too.  Some of them were just hungry for chicken and they didn't know about the events that were taking place and so they were quite surprised to see the thousands of people who were showing up in the restaurants all over this country.

The rest may have been hungry for food as well but their greater hunger was to make a statement of support for the president of the company who had, in an interview, witnessed to his Christian faith and had openly spoken his support for the traditional definition of marriage as being one between one man and one woman.

Others were there as a statement of support for his right to speak his principals without suffering the persecution that arose from some segments of our society.

Now if you've been following this you know that a firestorm arose around the country as his statements and his position were taken to be by some, rather than pro-marriage, they were taken to be anti-gay.  Boycotts were called for, even a couple of mayors of some large cities had proclaimed that they would do whatever they could to prevent Chick-fil-A from expanding in their cities.  So Wednesday's events were to counter those boycotts as well as to express their support.

So I thought that in the midst of this controversy which is making national news, that today might be the right time, a good time, without all of the emotion and all of the words being slung, to clearly outline two things.  To have a teachable moment.  To really outline two things about this subject as they relate to our Catholic faith. 

There's tons and tons of material out there.  You can read it, research yourself.  And hopefully very soon, this week, maybe even by the end of the day because he was here at an earlier mass, our webmaster will have posted links to the documents that I'm going to quote from today on our website.  And I just wanted to make this clear and concise which is why I'm up here today instead of down there and why I have notes.

First point, our US Bishops have made very clear that the Church's teaching is that marriage is, and must continue to be, defined as the union of one man and one woman.  This definition is not new.  This definition comes not from man, and not from government, it comes from God.  We see it in the beginning, the book of Genesis.  God created man in His image; in the divine image he created them; male and female he created them.  God blessed them saying to them: be fertile and multiply.  Fill the earth and subdue it.

In a pastoral letter the Unites States Conferences of Catholic Bishops that was issued in 2009 called Marriage: Love and Life in the Divine Plan the Bishops state:
"We Bishops feel compelled to speak against all attempts to redefine marriage so that it would no longer be exclusively be the union of the man and the woman as God established and blessed it in the natural created order."
Further down they reiterate:
The Church has taught through the ages that marriage is an exclusive relationship between one man and one woman.  This union once validly entered and consummated gives rise to a bond that cannot be dissolved by the will of the spouses.  Marriage thus created is a faithful privileged sphere of intimacy between the spouses that lasts until death.
And so this profound, this beautiful document goes on and on to talk about the beauty of a sacramental marriage between a man and a woman. I encourage you to read this pastoral letter Marriage: Love and Life in the Divine Plan.  And our Bishops have been very vocal recently about supporting this definition of marriage and opposing any effort to change the definition of marriage.  So that's point number one.

Point number two. And I want to make this briefly but pointedly, is that this stance by the Church is not a hate filled action or statement against men and women who are gay.  That's what all the controversy was about in the Chic-fil-A event.  It's not an anti-gay action.  There is no place in our faith or in our church for hatred or discrimination.  Period. 

As Catholic Christians, we're called to listen and to embrace the words of the statement from a document entitled Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care for Homosexual Persons. And this was from the then Cardinal Ratzinger, better known now as Pope Benedict XVI. He was, in 1986, when this was published, the Prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith.  It says:
"It is deplorable that homosexual persons have been and are the object of violent malice in speech or in action.  Such treatment deserves condemnation from the church's pastor wherever it occurs."
So hateful actions against someone who is gay has no place in our lives.  Furthermore I think it's important to make this point and I would venture a guess that not many of you have ever heard this.  And I'm summarizing here some statements in Ministering to Persons with a Homosexual Inclination: Being a homosexual is not a sin.

Being a homosexual is not a sin.  Entering into homosexual acts, that's a sin.

Just as entering into any intimate act of a man and a woman outside of the sacrament of marriage is a sin.

Therefore we, you and I, must help nurture our friendship with those who are gay.  We must nurture our friendship with God so that the virtue of chastity among all of us is both embraced and strengthened.

So please, I encourage you to be open to God's truth.  I encourage you to pray about this.  To embrace the Church's teachings about marriage.  To reject the worldly position that somehow embracing the traditional understanding of marriage, which has been that way since the very beginning, that somehow that's a hateful action against those who are homosexual. 

Knowing that for some this may be a bit challenging, I think we should now look back at the Gospel story for help in understanding how we can accomplish the works of God.

How we can grow closer to the Lord so that there is no place in our hearts for straying from the truth or rejecting the Church's teachings.  So there's no place in our hearts for having hatred or malice.  Remember in the Gospel the people said to Jesus, "What can we do to accomplish the works of God?"  And His response to them was, "This is the work of God.  That you believe in the one He sent."  There is the bottom line.  To believe in Jesus Christ.

Because you know what?  Just like the people in the Gospel, whether we know it or not, whether we accept it or admit it or not, you and I are hungry for more than just chicken.  We're hungry for the presence of Jesus Christ in our lives.  In our hearts.  Opening our hearts to God's message, opening our hearts to His Son, knowing the one He sent are so essential to us being the men and women that God calls us to be.

God, as we heard in that first reading, is the one who fed the Israelites in the desert with manna.  That same loving God sent His only son to be for us the Bread of Life.  Not just the food that feeds our worldly hunger, but the food that fills the God shaped vacuum that is within each one of us.  That God shaped vacuum that can only be satisfied and filled by the presence of Jesus Christ. 

He is the food that gives life, eternal life to those who believe.  He is the food that overcomes hatred with love.  He is the food that brings us closer to Him so that we constantly seek His will and not the will of the world.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Random Thought About Our Very Ordinary Planet, Galaxy, Universe

I'm doing invoicing today so have plenty of extra mental capacity to also listen to podcasts. I'm trying out The Science of Everything which seems to be good based on Episode 22: Our Place in the Cosmos. It is "a journey through Earth's location in the universe."

Almost at the very end, the podcaster says that Earth is a fairly ordinary planet, orbiting a fairly ordinary star, in a fairly ordinary location in the Milky Way Galaxy, which is fairly ordinary-sized galaxy, which is in a fairly mundane section of a relatively small and insignificant super-cluster, in a not particularly important section of the universe.

What is special he says is that it is the only planet we know of that has life.

As he was going through his list, I kept thinking, "Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?" (John 1:46)

In the same pattern that we see repeatedly throughout the Bible, God's way of thinking is not ours at all. Jesus came from a backwater, had a public life of 3 years and was crucified.

So our fairly ordinary planet, etcetera, etcetera, is perfectly in line with that logic (which doesn't seem logical at all).

That's all. Return to whatever you were doing.

In my case, matching invoices and envelopes. Oh, and then putting on stamps!

Joss Whedon and Much Ado About Nothing

Including Nathan Fillion .... finally, Shakespeare I can't wait to see! (Yes, Joss Whedon and Nathan Fillion are what it takes to make that happen. So sue me.)

It's debuting at the Toronto Film Festival in September. has photos.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Beckoning Fair One, part 2

In which Elsie is threatened and Oleron has an encounter. More ghostliness over at Forgotten Classics podcast.

Free Audiobooks: "Daughter of Smoke and Bone" and "A Tale of Two Cities"

Every week SYNC gives away a contemporary book paired thematically somehow with a classic novel. This is directed at YA readers to get them to listen to a book if they won't pick one up to actually read.
What is SYNC?

  • SYNC is the audiobook publishers’ and AudioFile Magazine’s commitment to introducing the listening experience to the young adult audience.
  • SYNC will give away 2 FREE audiobook downloads each week for 10 weeks this summer.
  • The weekly SYNC audiobook pairings will offer a popular Young Adult title and a related Classic.
  • SYNC hooks readers by introducing a free download of a Young Adult “first in series” or prolific author.
  • SYNC demonstrates that Required Reading can be completed by listening.
YA or not, they've featured some interesting books. I've been tempted. However, until this week none of the books have tempted me enough to make me fight my way through the jungle of the specialized download software needed to get the files ... Overdrive Media Console.

However, I love Simon Preeble who lured me through "Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell" when I simply couldn't get into the printed page. He narrates "A Tale of Two Cities" which is a book I adore.

Also, I have had "Daughter of Smoke and Bone" on my To Read list since trying a sample on my Kindle.

So both those made it worth picking up the machete and venturing into the jungle. It wasn't easy. It certainly wasn't "organic" and I had to feel my way, but I finally got that darned software to download mp3 files. Those files did pop right into iTunes when I clicked them, so it was all worth it in the end.

These stories will be available for a week so drop by SYNC and check it out!

Happy Birthday, Dear Mom!

If we all were in Glendale today, I'd get Mom this Chocolate Raspberry Mousse Cake because I know how delicious everything from Porto's Bakery is.
One layer of rich chocolate-fudge cake, one layer of white sponge cake, one layer of raspberry mousse, and one layer of chocolate mousse...
Although, now that I think of it, if we were in the same place I would make her a cake with my own two hands, which would be a pleasure.

However, she is in Florida and I am in Texas. We had a good talk over the phone this morning but that isn't the same as being there in person. (I am quite thankful for the phone and for video Skype, which are both so much better than a letter at "being there.)

I'm making Mom's gift and am still working away on it, so she'll have to take my best wishes for a wonderful day until then.

Love you Mom! Happy Birthday!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Movie Review: Millions

This originally ran at Spero News which now seems to have gone off the interwebs. I am rerunning it here so we've got it on hand ... and because it is one of my favorite movies.

“Millions” is a simple movie about a child’s innocent faith. Yet it has unexpected layers of depth thanks to director Danny Boyle’s insightful, sophisticated approach. The result is a magical movie that appeals to all ages.

“Millions” is about a small boy, Damien, whose mother has recently died and who sees saints regularly, never failing to ask if they have seen his mother, “Saint Maureen,” in Heaven. One day, while in his hideaway near the train tracks, a huge bag stuffed with money falls out of the sky. Damien sees this as a gift from God that should be used to help the poor. Charmingly, when his older brother, Anthony, sees the money and reacts with delight, Damien says, “Oh, so you see it too then?”

How to handle the money becomes the main plot of the movie. Anthony counsels that they must not tell their father because of taxes. He spends generously to become one of the cool kids in his new school while planning real estate deals for financial security. The scene where he and his sunglassed “posse” stride into the school is destined to become a classic. Damien, on the other hand, is determined to find poor people to shower with largesse. He takes people on the street to Pizza Hut for a feast. Three Mormon neighbors find their mailbox stuffed with bills after Damien finds that they have no dishwasher. There is never any sense that Damien is trying to buy his way into Heaven. He merely is doing what God would want as if it were the most natural thing in the world. Ultimately their father finds out and the source of the money is revealed but none of this is handled in a predictable fashion. As a side note, I will add that Great Britain does not use the Euro so the currency conversion deadline in the movie, though thoroughly effective, is merely a plot device.

It is clear that scriptwriter, Frank Cottrell Boyce, understands the fascination of saints as distinct individuals each with their vices and virtues while director, Danny Boyle, shows it to perfection. The many saints that Damien encounters are thoroughly human without losing their saintliness. Clare of Assisi, smokes a cigarette and describes Heaven by saying, “It’s bloody infinite up there, boy.” What perhaps is lost on the American audience is that “bloody” is a word that earns much more than a PG rating in Great Britain. Saint Peter is a salty fisherman who, as patron saint of locks and keys, can’t resist picking up stray keys and analyzing them before telling the story of how he thought that he fooled Jesus by saying that a miracle had happened.

In the hands of a lesser director, this would be the ultimate, corny family movie but nothing could be farther from the truth. Director Danny Boyle uses film angles, sound, and editing to bring an edginess that is unique to anything I have ever seen in a movie where so much of the story depends on the believable innocence of children. His ability to change styles to suit the mood is showcased without ever intruding on the story itself. A house is constructed before our eyes in whimsical sequences that put me in mind of Tim Burton. The reconstruction of a train robbery suddenly whisks viewers into a bona fide action movie, without ever endangering the PG rating. I was especially fascinated by his use of sound cues such as the supernatural sounding hiss that accompanied the villain whenever he would appear, reminding us that there was a larger element of evil to his character.

“Millions” is so imbued with Christian faith and values that if it were not made by a director of Danny Boyle’s talent and reputation it would be condemned to church youth group viewings forever. Boyle is known for showing the human condition against darker tales of drugs (“Trainspotting”) or virus-induced zombies (“28 Days Later”). His reputation and the fact that “Millions” is an indie (independent movie) are carrying this message into unexpected areas. Locally, a popular radio station’s director praised “Millions” as “must see” on their most popular morning show. Based on that recommendation, two different couples of my acquaintance, who normally would never stoop to seeing a “family movie,” can’t wait to see it. A younger, single, male co-worker told me, “You’ve got to see this movie,” while marveling at Boyle’s versatility. If I had described this movie without the “indie, Danny Boyle” connection this person would have smiled politely and put it out of his mind as he has done with other art house favorites of ours.