Wednesday, February 29, 2012

5 Amazing Performances From Actors Who Weren't Acting

Here's my favorite, #2. Casablanca: The Marseillaise Scene:
... Rick (Humphrey Bogart) is upstairs chatting with Laszlo, notorious resistance leader and husband to Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman). Some German patrons begin to annoy the other customers by rudely singing "Die Wacht am Rhein"...To this point, Rick had stayed pretty neutral on the whole "Nazi" issue. But in this pivotal scene, Rick lends a single nod of support Laszlo's way. Laszlo and the other bar patrons find the courage to drown out the Nazis with their own patriotic verse of "La Marseillaise" (loose translation: "The Marseillaise"), and the Nazis, thoroughly out-Glee-ed, leave in a huff.

The patrons celebrate their small victory, some clearly moved to tears. The thing is, nothing in the script actually called for crying. Unlike most of the entries on this list, this one has less to do with a sociopathic director and more to do with the time and place the film was made.

See, this was a World War II movie ... that was being filmed in the middle of World War goddamned II.

It's easy to forget that part, now that hundreds of movies (and seemingly thousands of video games) have been based on the war in the decades since it ended. Casablanca was shot in 1941 during the German occupation of France, at a point where many questioned whether or not the United States would ever step in to help, and when nobody knew how the whole thing was going to turn out.

And the scene included actors who, in real life, had a lot at stake. To shoot Casablanca as a believable port town, producers brought together one of the most ethnically diverse casts in film history, and a lot of these extras turned out to be Europeans who had fled to America to escape the Nazis -- that is, they were basically real-life refugees. They had left homes, friends and families behind, and at this point really didn't know if things could ever return to normal. Which makes us wonder if the director didn't stage the whole war just to get that scene.
Go read it all at Cracked (keeping in mind, of course, that this is Cracked and there is bound to be language that may raise eyebrows).

Pork & Sausage Jambalaya

Fresh from John Besh's cookbook, My Family Table: A Passionate Plea for Home Cooking. Get it while it's hot at Meanwhile, Back in the Kitchen.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

News You Need to Know: Sherlock returns to U.S. TV

On the upcoming CBS series Elementary, Holmes is a respected criminologist, formerly a consultant for the Yard but now a recovering addict fresh out of rehab. The NYPD hires him as a consultant, but makes him take on a “sober companion” to keep him on the straight and narrow. The one he gets is Dr. Joan Watson, a gifted surgeon who lost an influential patient on the table and her license, in quick succession. So she has to ride herd on him during cases, whether either of them like it or not.

Holmes is played by English actor Jonny Lee Miller, the grandson of actor Bernard Lee (the original M).

Dr. Joan Watson is Lucy Liu.

This is going to be awesome.
No kidding.

Maureen has more at Aliens in This World.

What Do Doctors Do When It Is The End For Them?

It's not something that we like to talk about, but doctors die, too. What's unusual about them is not how much treatment they get compared with most Americans, but how little. They know exactly what is going to happen, they know the choices, and they generally have access to any sort of medical care that they could want. But they tend to go serenely and gently.

[...]

Unlike previous eras, when doctors simply did what they thought was best, our system is now based on what patients choose. Physicians really try to honor their patients' wishes, but when patients ask "What would you do?," we often avoid answering. We don't want to impose our views on the vulnerable.

The result is that more people receive futile "lifesaving" care, and fewer people die at home than did, say, 60 years ago. ...
This story from the Wall Street Journal was an eye opener.

It made me grateful that my father didn't try to fight his way back with therapy, an option that seemed unrealistic when it was proffered. It also made us realize that the surgeon who early on advised Tom and his brothers about what he'd do "if it were my mother" was being honest in a way that is rarely seen. (Now, months later, we realize he probably was right. Tom says that in letting themselves be guided against that advice without getting an outside second opinion they should have given his words more weight. However, what's done is done.)

Read the whole thing. This is going to guide me in the future. When I ask "what would you do?" I'm going to insist on a real answer.

(I meant to look for the original article ... here it is at Zocalo Public Square.)

News You Need to Know: Community Returns March 15

Happiness abounds. Thanks to Scott for the tip!
Abed: Jeff, you’ll have to play the part of my dad.
Jeff: I don’t wanna be your father.
Abed: See? You already know your lines.

Notes on Mark: More About the Manuscript and Some Context

A couple of additional items to add to our previous look at the author of Mark and the manuscript.

A fragment of 1st century manuscript of the Gospel of Mark has been discovered. We might think this is not that big a deal, but this bit of the interview about it shows the difference it makes ... we discover we can trust the text we have now. Ok, I did already, but it is interesting to see this verification. (Thanks to Jane for this link.)
HH: Now in terms of what you know about it, does it correspond with the translations that have come down to us? In other words, will it confirm that the translations have integrity through the centuries?

DW: I think that yes, all of these fragments will do that. And here’s how they do it. It’s not a straight answer you can give to this, but I think it’s a very important answer to note. And that is that some of our earlier manuscripts are written by unprofessional scribes. And sometimes, those unprofessional scribes are sloppy in their spelling, or something like that. Others are written by professionally trained scribes, and they’re concerned with making pretty letters, and they often leave out words or add words by accident. But none of those places, in the last 135 years when we’ve been discovering New Testament papyri, there’s not a single place where any manuscript discovery of the last 135 years has introduced new wording to a passage that was not found in any other manuscripts before, that now scholars say this is authentic.
I like the point made here that Mark is not afraid to tell the plain, unvarnished truth. Which means I can trust him even more.
Mark offers a bold portrayal of Jesus. He is not afraid to report features that may have stunned, or even scandalized, his audience. He recounts that even Jesus' family thought he was mentally deranged (3:21). Only Mark records Jesus' question to the rich man: "Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone" (10:18). Where Matthew says that Jesus did not do any miracles in his hometown because of the people's unbelief, Mark says he could not do any miracles there (6:5). He shows Jesus as ignorant of what his disciples were discussing (9:16, 33) or the end of time (13:32). He depicts a profoundly human Jesus who trembled at his approaching death (14:33) and felt abandoned by God (15:34). Yet for Mark these human touches do not in any way diminish Jesus' sovereign majesty as the Father's beloved Son. It is Mark who records the most direct affirmation by Jesus of his divine sonship found in any of the Gospels (see on 14:61-62).

Monday, February 27, 2012

And You Thought Government Interference Was Bad Now. Reviewing: "The Hunger Games" by Suzanne Collins

The Hunger GamesThe Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I always knew that eventually I'd have to read this book. For one thing, I figured that Scott would choose it for the A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast, because I know he's a fan. Then, of course there is the upcoming movie which looks darned good in the trailer. And the myriad book buddies who are incredulous that I haven't read it.

Who knew that it would be fellow small group facilitators at RCIA who would make the final push? We were whispering together in the back of the church while the catechumens (nonbaptized who are converting) and their sponsors were practicing for last weekend's Rite of Call (or something like that) where they are presented to our church at Mass this week. (Let's not get into the fact that I am now going to have to add Les Miserables to my "to read" list and my movie list. Yes, these guys are into great stories.)

Anyway, that made me wonder if it were available to borrow for my Kindle since I'm a Prime Member. Sure enough, I was able to begin reading after the click of a button.

We all know what this is about, right? In a dystopian future, Panem is the Capitol of the land, surrounded by 12 outlying districts. Life is severe and difficult in the districts and, making matters worse, a harsh tribute is exacted as punishment for a failed rebellion. A boy and a girl from each district must travel to the Capitol and participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV. This is rightly regarded as a death sentence, so when her little sister is chosen, 16-year-old Katniss steps forward in her place.

I was surprised at how interesting I found this book, to the point of staying up much too late to finish it at break-neck speed. It is a formula with the usual elements of a girlie adventure book adhered to with somewhat depressing predictability (she's prettier than she knows, just saying what she thinks and being her own awkward self engages the crowd, etc.). However, the competition and her relationship with Peeta raises this above the usual fare, especially since we know she will survive the games. Heck, she's telling the story for one thing.

Although I've heard the other two books of the trilogy are less solid I know that eventually Katniss is gonna have to take out those bahstids at Capitol (foreshadowing was heavy on that) and I am curious to see what happens. I'll have to wait a bit though since I can't check out another Amazon book until March 1 and the library has 117 people waiting in line before me for an available copy. So I will rejoin the tale in a couple of weeks.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Weekend Joke: What Causes Arthritis?

Thanks again to Seth for sending this my way!
A drunk man, who smelled of liquor, sat down on a subway next to a priest. The man's tie was stained, his face was plastered with red lipstick,and a half-empty bottle of gin was sticking out of his coat pocket.

He opened his newspaper and began reading.

After a few minutes the man turned to the priest and asked, "Say Father, do you know what causes arthritis?

The priest replies, "My Son, it's caused by loose living, being with cheap, wicked women, too much alcohol, contempt for your fellow man, sleeping around with prostitutes and lack of a bath."

The drunk muttered in response, "Well, I'll be damned."

He returned to his paper.

The priest, thinking about what he had said, nudged the man and apologized. "I'm very sorry. I didn't mean to come on so strong. How long have you had arthritis?"

The drunk answered, "I don't have it, Father. I was just reading here that the Pope does."

Friday, February 24, 2012

In the News: WSJ Edition*

Interesting, very interesting.

J.K. Rowling to write a novel for adults
I'm interested. The Harry Potter series was so great that I hope she can do something equally good about a different subject.

McDonald's New Accent: The McBaguette in France
The French response seems to be a sneer. Understandable even if one isn't French. I'd like one though. Please?

Awake
Cannot wait to try this series which begins next Thursday and the review looks good.

Want to Know What Rick Santorum Bashers Will Say?
Read this editorial from Dorothy Rabinowitz for a preview. Sheez. She really does not like this guy. What Ms. Rabinowitz found inexplicable, I found perfectly understandable since I am a practicing Catholic. What Ms. Rabinowitz found opportune for a cheap shot (public schools), I found perfectly clear since I am a practicing (read that tax paying) American. I bet if Mr. Santorum is asked about these issues in greater detail, he can explain with perfect clarity.

I am not sure about the American citizenry. I am willing to give Mr. Santorum the benefit of the doubt since he is the only candidate doing well it the polls who not only has standards but who is also unwilling to shift them for a vote. That is a refreshing change. But it is perfectly clear that Ms. Rabinowitz finds Mr. Santorum unpalatable.

*I saw it first at the Wall Street Journal, but since they have paid subscription for most stories online it is anyone's guess as to whether they'll let you read more than a little. Here's a tip if the story is cut off - search for it online via Google, Bing, or whatever. You usually get to read the whole story that way. Or someone's story about the same thing.

Get Religion: Media shirk debate on religious liberty

... you wouldn’t know it from media coverage but the Obama Administration has issued a strict mandate that deeply concerns many religious liberty observers. Because that mandate requires everyone to pay for abortifacients, sterilization and contraception for their employees — even if they have religious objections to it — the media have decided to adopt the framework that this is a battle over “women” and a battle over “belief” in “birth control.” That’s not even close to an accurate description of what concerns the religious liberty activists, but it doesn’t matter. And it’s a sexist dismissal of all the women, such as myself, who care deeply and passionately about religious liberty. But it doesn’t matter. It’s the way many in the media have decided to frame the issue and they don’t care how many Jews, Lutherans, Baptists, Catholics and Zoroastrians (female or male!) say otherwise, it’s going to be about birth control. And there’s nothing you can do about it.
GetReligion, how I love it. They never let the media off the hook on how they cover religion. Go. Read. And enjoy.

Notes on Mark: The Author and the Manuscript - UPDATED

So I'm reading this really great Catholic commentary on the Gospel of Mark and I remembered that I have a ton of Bible study posts for the Gospel of Mark. I'm going to begin reposting them, interspersing them with new material as it is appropriate. Kind of an old again, new again thing that we'll be doing. 

This is a repost to get us started.

I like the idea that the Gospel of Mark is just about as close to an eyewitness account as we can get.
The earliest manuscripts of the second Gospel are titled "According to Mark". This heading is not part of the original work but was added by the early Christians. It summarizes the Church's uniform tradition that Mark, a disciple of Simon Peter, wrote the second Gospel. Although Mark did not write as an eyewitness of Christ's public ministry, he was a channel of apostolic tradition through Peter, who was his primary source of information about the life of Jesus. His association with Peter is evident in both the NT and the testimony of the early Church. Within the NT, Peter refers to his companionship with "my son Mark" in 1 Pet 5:13, and interpreters have noted that the general outline of Mark's Gospel is similar to Peter's presentation of the gospel in Acts 10:36-43. Outside the NT, several Church Fathers insist that Peter's authority stands behind the second Gospel. Papias (A.D. 130) describes Mark as the "interpreter" of Peter, while Iranaeus (A.D. 180), Clement of Alexandria (A.D. 200), and Tertullian (A.D. 200) echo this tradition.
The Gospel of Mark
(The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible)
Even though Mark was writing based on Peter's authority, he also knew Jesus himself.
We can be sure that Mark knew Jesus Christ personally, although he was not one of the twelve Apostles: most ecclesiastical writers see in Mk 14:15-52, the episode of the young man who leaves his sheet behind him as he flees from the garden when Jesus is arrested, as Mark's own veiled signature to his Gospel, since only he refers to this episode. If this were the only reference it would be ambiguous, but it is supported by other circumstantial evidence: Mark was the son of Mary, apparently a well-to-do widow, in whose house in Jerusalem the first Christians used to gather (Acts 12:12). An early Christian text states that this was the same house as the Cenacle, where our Lord celebrated the Last Supper and instituted the Holy Eucharist. It also seems probably that the Garden of Olives belonged to this same Mary; which would explain Mark's presence there.
More interesting, historical stuff about the book itself.
There is a very interesting thing about Mark's gospel. In its original form it stops at Mark 16:8. We know that for two reasons. First, the verses which follow (Mark 16:9-20) are not in any of the great early manuscripts; only later and inferior manuscripts contain them. Second, the style of the Greek is so different that they cannot have been written by the same person as wrote the rest of the gospel.

But the gospel cannot have been meant to stop at Mark 16:8. What then happened? It may be that Mark died, perhaps even suffered martyrdom, before he could complete his gospel. More likely, it may be that at one time only one copy of the gospel remained, and that a copy in which the last part of the roll on which it was written had got torn off. There was a time when the church did not much use Mark, preferring Matthew and Luke. It may well be that Mark's gospel was so neglected that all copies except for a mutilated one were lost. If that is so we were within an ace of losing the gospel which in many ways is the most important of all.
The Gospel of Mark
(The Daily Bible Series*, rev. ed.;
)
* Not a Catholic source and one which can have a wonky theology at times, but Barclay was renowned for his authority on life in ancient times and that information is sound.

UPDATE
I have been contacted by a gentleman who begs me to stop quoting Barclay's comment that Mark 16:9-20 is not in any of the early great manuscripts.

Therefore, I turned to Mary Healy's excellent Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture to see what she said. Here we go, sports fans!
Verses 9-20, commonly called the Longer Ending, do not appear in the earliest manuscripts of the Gospel. Scholars are virtually unanimous in holding that these verses were not written by Mark but by a Christian of the late first or early second century who sought to fill out the abrupt ending of verse 8. (Footnote: a few ancient and medieval manuscripts of Mark insert other brief endings, which the Church does not accept as canonical.) Yet the Church accepts this addendum as part of the canon of inspired Scripture. The Holy Spirit's gift of inspiration is not limited to the original writer, but encompasses each biblical book in its final edited form.

The author of the Longer Ending was apparently familiar with all four Gospels (or with the oral testimonies on which they were based), and compiled these verses from the resurrection accounts in Matthew, Luke and John. ...

in which Scott finally admits to Julie that he's a digient. Julie knew it all along.

The Lifecycle of Software Objects by Ted Chiang - at A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

“Religious liberty does not depend on the benevolence of who is regulating us.”

Much remains to be done. We cannot rest when faced with so grave a threat to the religious liberty for which our parents and grandparents fought. In this moment in history we must work diligently to preserve religious liberty and to remove all threats to the practice of our faith in the public square. This is our heritage as Americans. President Obama should rescind the mandate, or at the very least, provide full and effective measures to protect religious liberty and conscience.
The broad reaching implications of this impasse finally struck home to me (closing hospitals, schools and the like if the administration doesn't back down) ... and so I've been praying a lot for our bishops to have the courage of their convictions. It's no wonder I am pleased to see this recent statement from Cardinal Timothy Dolan to his fellow bishops.

Via The Curt Jester, whose comments are spot on. He also has some good news from the courts about conscience protection, so go read about it.

Cooking the Books: Weber's Big Book of Grilling

I've been meaning for some time to tell y'all about my personal 2012 Cooking Challenge. I have quite a few cookbooks and yet I cook from them so rarely. Many of them I have read numerous times but still have never been impelled to do more than cook the same two or three recipes that interested me originally.

This year I thought I'd make two-three dishes from a particular cookbook each week. If all goes well, I'll have provided much more variety to my usual round of "go to" default meals.

Find out more at Meanwhile, Back in the Kitchen.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

About that which is none of your business, shut up.

(Language alert for those who care.)
The herd will not have it. The herd hates outliers. It’s nothing personal; it’s just for protection. If you stray from the herd, you get eaten. It’s as simple as that. It’s natural selection. So stick together.

But nobody’s trying to eat us, so why can’t we get over our herd mentality? Why can’t we relax and let people be? Why do we even care?

You would think there would be strength—and comfort—in numbers. You would think that if 95% of the women you know are wearing Fashion X this year, they wouldn’t need to tease or sneer at the 5% who wear something different. You would think that if 95% of the men you know prefer drinking beer and watching football to drinking wine and watching opera, they wouldn’t feel the need to call the 5% fags. Who cares what the other 5% do, or like, or wear, or think?

But we do care. We’re a herd. And we care a lot. We can’t be “us” unless we’re all us. One weirdo makes us question our us-ness, our whole group. And we don’t like that. So we’d better bring the outliers back into line. It doesn’t have to be through violence or coercion—it can just be gentle mockery. We’re teasing. Don’t take everything so seriously. Don’t take it all to heart. Just take it.

If you’re lucky, as an adult, you find a place or make a place where this kind of nonsense doesn’t occur, where people are genuinely tolerant of difference—or, better, indifferent about it. Indifferent about difference. I don’t want you to tolerate what I am; I want you to not give a shit, one way or the other. I want you to accept the fact that who I am is none of your goddamned business, and live accordingly.

Ah, how much of American political discourse would vanish overnight if we could just apply this one, simple rule: About that which is none of your business, shut up.

Of course, in far too many places, people think that everything is their business. In far too many places, the message is clear: it’s not that we want you to be exactly like us; we need you to be exactly like us. We can have no bell curve here; the outliers must be brought into the fold. We must be one flat line, stretching across the horizon forever. It is an absolutist, totalitarian impulse buried deep in our heart of darkness, and the insecurity and fear it reveals is troubling.

And surprising. I mean, who knew a head cheerleader’s sense of self could be so precarious?
The way I feel right now, this resonates. Andrew Ordover goes on to look at the specific example that spurred him to write, that of his son. Which also resonates. We've all either been there or seen that done.

I still remember the Japanese intern for our Catholic school's third grade class, Maya. She stayed with us for a year and it was a lot of fun. But one of the things that she thought was most wonderful about America was how we were free to be ourselves, to be different.

She told me, "We have a saying, 'The nail that sticks out gets hammered down.' To see how the children treat each other in school, how they pick on each other. It can be terrible. Here in America it is so much better."

Maybe it is wishful thinking to say that it used to be so much better. There has always been a "herd" to bully those who aren't just the same, especially among children. Adults aren't always better.

It is what makes it so important to stand up for the little guy when he's being hammered down. Kudos to Andrew Ordover for articulating it so well.

Lenten Reading Ideas - Updated

WHAT I'M READING
I am already reading two books that are really hitting me where I live. How handy! I can just keep going with them through Lent.

Night of the Confessor by Tomas Halik
Night of the Confessor is rich and deep, with somehow simple ideas. Just when the author says something that I have a knee-jerk reaction of "that's not how faith works" he goes further and deeper so that I understand the reasons behind the surface statement ... and usually agree. This is thoughtful and thought provoking writing which I am letting sink in. And it is enriching my internal life. A fuller review is here with a lengthy excerpt.

Gospel of Mark, The (Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture) by Mary Healy
This is a really great commentary. Healy combines a lot of the information that I have in a variety of other commentaries (both Catholic and Protestant), but then pulls it all together with additional observations that make it very accessible while still being scholarly. She follows up many sections with items for reflection.

Sometimes I am enlightened by the factual information which gives me new insights into the text. Sometimes it is from the material for reflection. However, it is a rare day that I fail coming away with an insight that I ponder the rest of the day. Highest recommendation and I will be getting another in the series after I am done with this book.

OTHER GREAT BOOKS
Here are some other books that I either have read for Lent or would gladly read. Some may be familiar because I just can't stop pushing them (or rereading them).

To Know Christ Jesus by Frank Sheed
Sheed looks at Jesus' life by weaving together all four Gospels. He also takes into consideration the times in which Jesus lived, how the people then would have interpreted Christ's teachings and witness, links to the Old Testament, teachings of the Chruch Fathers, archaeology, and more. The goal of all this is to give us a richer, deeper understanding of Jesus since to know the Father you must know the Son ... and there is nowhere better to meet him than through the Gospels.

The School of Prayer: An Introduction to the Divine Office for All Christians by John Brook
Interestingly Brook partially presents this introduction to promote ecumenism for he points out that praying from the Psalms makes Protestants feel right at home in the practice. This book not only tells about the divine office, but has an explication of the psalms commonly prayed so that we more easily find Christ in them.

Beginning to Pray by Anthony Bloom
This book is written with complete simplicity but yet somehow contains depths that one thinks of for some time afterward. Let's just begin with this ... "If you look at the relationship (us and God) in terms of mutual relationship, you would see that God could complain about us a great deal more than we about Him. We complain that He does make Himself present to us for a few minutes we reserve for Him, but what about the twenty-three and half hours during which God may be knocking at our door and we answer 'I am busy..."

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Harry is an incredible Christ-figure as I discovered when I reread the series recently. Of course, this only works for those who have read the series before. For more depth and as accompanying materials, readers may want to listen to Episode 26 of A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast where Scott Danielson and I discuss the book and the entire series from a Catholic point of view.

Contemplating the Trinity: The Path to Abundant Christian Life by Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa
He was the preacher to the papal household for Pope John Paul II and continued in that capacity for Pope Benedict XVI, at least for a while. I always have found his writing and homilies to be both easy to understand and inspirational. This book to be the same sort as The Interior Castle in that reading a few paragraphs a day lets the message sink in each day. I read this during Lent a few years ago and it was wonderful.

In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden
This extraordinarily sensitive and insightful portrait of religious life centers on Philippa Talbot, a highly successful professional woman who leaves her life among the London elite to join a cloistered Benedictine community. That's the official description but it doesn't begin to cover the richly woven tapestry Godden weaves with nuanced personalities, mysteries to solve so that the order may continue, Philippa's internal struggles, and much more.

Five for Sorrow, Ten for Joy by Rumer Godden
Another Godden book about a completely different order of nuns. This is an inspiring tale of conversion and redemption told in flashback sequence. We meet Lise when she is being released from prison where she has served her term for murder. She is going to join an order that ministers to those on the fringes of society. Through Lise's thoughts, we watch her go from being a young WWII staffer in Paris, become seduced by a man who has a brothel and eventually turns her into a prostitute where later on she becomes the manager. The reasons behind the murder become clear as the threads come together again in the people around Lise in current time. My full review is here.

Paul Among the People by Sarah Ruden
Sarah Ruden goes to great pains to put St. Paul's writings in the context of Paul's "modern times" of Greek and Roman culture so we can see just what cultural forces he was referring to when he wrote his letters. By juxtaposing her knowledge of those cultures (which were considerably cruder and more hostile to Christian religious concepts than we would think) and writings of the people (not high-brow philosophers) with Paul's writings and concepts, a new picture emerges of just what was being battled and why Christian concepts would be so welcome and revolutionary. My full review is here.

The Reapers Are the Angels by Alden Bell
Of course, I'm still pushing this book. It is rare, to find a book about the zombie apocalypse that addresses the larger themes that one finds in science fiction apocalyptic literature. The Reapers Are the Angels is just such a rarity. Author Alden Bell looks beyond the popular appeal of zombies to the depths of the human soul. The column I wrote for last Lent about this book is at Patheos.

IF THOSE DON'T HIT THE SPOT
Here are last year's recommendations, both nonfiction and fiction.

UPDATE
I have been reminded that there are two other books that make excellent Lenten reading:

Happy Catholic - my book! In either softcover or Kindle / Nook format.

Lord, Open My Heart (this is properly a booklet, but is I wrote it specifically for Lenten meditation)

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

2011 Nebula Nominees Audio

The 2011 Nebula Nominees have been announced. Tamahome at SFFaudio gives us links to all the available free audio versions. He also gives us the SFsignal link to available online written versions available.

Got Kindle? Free Story by Sergey and Marina Dyachenko

Maureen at Aliens in This World gives us a heads up:
Marina and Sergey Dyachenko are prolific, award-winning Russian/Ukrainian fantasy/sf writers. Their novel The Scar is coming out in translation at the end of the month.

But right now, you can read a translation of their 1999 award-winning story “The Burned Tower” for free on the Kindle.

You never know where trouble’s waiting… and there are some beings out there that you shouldn’t give rides. But it may be even more dangerous to charge them something.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Lest the White House Think Prohibiting the Free Exercise of Religion is Going Unnoticed ...

In one of the boldest, most audacious moves ever made by a President of the United States, President Barack Obama is on the brink of successfully rendering moot the very first clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” (emphasis added). If he forces the Catholic Church to comply with the Health and Human Services ruling to provide its employees with insurance that covers activities the Church has long held sinful — abortion via the morning after pill, sterilization and contraceptives — then the precedent is clear: when religious beliefs conflict with government decrees, religion must yield.
A very clear article from Forbes magazine shows exactly how the White House is trampling religious freedom and why they picked the Catholic Church to be the first victim. Go read it all.

This is not just a cause for Catholics or even those who agree that the HHS's chosen issue for forcing the fight (contraception) is wrong. It is for all Americans.
I am not a Catholic, nor do I believe in the Church’s opposition to contraception. But I pray that the leadership of the Catholic Church will have the faith and courage to stand for its core beliefs and use all of its moral power and political influence to defeat the President’s edict. I pray they will reach out across the political spectrum to people of all faiths, agnostics and atheists in the name of religious freedom and individual liberty. By so doing, they, and the institution of the Catholic Church, will have my love and respect for the rest of my life.
I urge you to contact your legislators again on this issue, beginning with President Obama. Here is the USCCB's page with links and more information.

Blogging Around: Bookish Things

The Psalms of David
Reviewed by Joseph at Zombie Parent's Guide.
This particular edition of the Psalms is the King James Version with illustrations by James Freemantle. Freemantle was a British soldier who traveled all over the Middle East. During his second marriage, he began to transcribe the Psalms and illustrate the book for his wife Clara. He included much of the flora and fauna of the Middle East, practically on every page of the book. It took over thirty years to complete and he died the year he finished it. His son decided many years later to publish his father's work in facsimile edition.
Joseph includes some scanned pages and I now am fascinated by this book. Must. find. copy.

The Spirit of Catholicism
Reviewed by Jeff Miller at The Curt Jester.
It was one of those books I was tempted to highlight every page. If I hadn’t read the ebook version I could have saved myself time by just dipping the book in highlighter yellow.
Been there. Wished I could have done that.

The January Dancer
Reviewed by Will Duquette at The View From The Foothills.
There are a number of authors best known for writing fiction whose non-fiction I generally prefer. Mark Twain is first among them; I’m afraid I’d much rather read Life on the Missippi than Huckleberry Finn. And as it happens, Mike Flynn is another. In the Country of the Blind left me cold; there’s much to like about Eifelheim, but I don’t love it the way many people seem to; but what I really enjoy are his blog posts, which are intelligent, witty, and informative. In fact, I enjoy his blog so much that I truly feel a little bad about not enjoying his books more. It’s like admiring Richard Feynman for his bongo playing.
Luckily, he does enjoy this book quite a lot.

The Kindle Meme
Memes used to be all the rage but now they are few and far between. So it was nice to see The Curt Jester had one posted and even nicer to be called a fellow book addict and tagged.
So, here are the rules. You post the rules and a link back to the person who tagged you. You also tell them that they’ve been tagged on their own blog, rather than just hoping they’ll discover it for themselves. Then you decide what three books are essential reading for anyone with a Kindle. Reasons would be good, but not essential. Then you tag five people.
My problem is that I am finding myself more and more using the Kindle for reading samples from Amazon to be sure I am interested in troubling the library staff to send it to my branch, or reading review books that publishers won't provide in physical form, new book giveaways, or very old books from Project Gutenberg that I can't get any other way although you can often find these books provided free via Amazon.

I find I really prefer actual books. However, I have discovered many old, forgotten books which I truly love but never would have found if not for browsing Amazon via my Kindle during lazy weekend afternoons. I do truly love the Kindle for that purpose.

Therefore, you can see that my "essential" books are going to be old but not necessarily thought of as classics, since that is what Gutenberg is populated with.

  1. Jack O' Judgment by Edgar Wallace: a rip-roaring thriller with masked vigilante Jack O' Judgment as the nemesis of the notorious Boundary Gang. I was kept guessing until the end as to Jack's identity by the simple means of misleading me very effectively so that I thought I knew who it was all along. Twists and turns and delightful over-the-top villains who one longs to see Jack bring down in sensational style.
  2. Through the Wall by Cleveland Moffett: A noted detective is getting ready to go to Brazil for an important job. He drops by Notre Dame where a young woman he never met says a few sentences to him that leave him pale and canceling his trip. A young woman, deeply in love, spurns her lover's marriage proposal because she loves him too much. A international celebrity is found mysteriously killed in a variation of the locked room mystery. All these events are connected and are set in 1909 Paris, where the atmosphere is romantic and mysterious and the art of detective investigation is very much to the fore in the story.  It is a locked room mystery, which I normally do not like, but the way the author slowly uncovers layers truth behind the mysterious situations is already very apparent. It has the effect of a book of one cliff-hanger after another and a splendid plot.
  3. The Essential Works of Norbert Davis which I actually spent .99 on in order to get all the Doan and Carstairs mysteries. These are a great combination of hard-boiled and humorous, which may be typified by the fact that Doan is the toughest private detective around but is short, round, and mild-looking while Carstairs is his Great Dane who is a character in his own right (but without talking or any other goofy attributes ... and he's hard-boiled in his own way).
Bonus books (which Hannah has found for free on her Kindle):
  • The Count's Millions by Emile Gaboriau
  • Baron Trigault's Vengeance (the second part of The Count's Millions)
I am not sure who else I know who has a Kindle, other than Scott Danielson who just informed me he is so into digital books that he's discarding his actual copies as fast as he can. So I'll tag Scott.

Anyone else? Just jump on this one.

Funny Stuff: Kerning

From the brilliant mind of xkcd. I know kerning's made my life a living hell more than once.

Friday, February 17, 2012

So I'm Reading Jen Fitz's Lenten Reading List ...

... thinking, "I really need to get a list like that together. Maybe I can post one on Monday."

And I'm liking her categories, specifically the first one, "Pure Lenten Fiction Poke-n-the-soul" and am thinking, "Hey, I can do categories!"

Which just makes it that much more fun, right?

(If you like lists, then you know what I mean.)

And then I get to #4, the "Proof that some people can watch TV without rotting their brains" category and just about fall out of my chair.





Now, that was a pleasant surprise!

I never, ever thought I might be someone's Lenten reading.

(Well, except for Lord, Open My Heart but that was designed as Lenten reading so it's different. Somehow.)

Thank you, Jen!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Blogging Around: Character Building Edition

Gaining the World and Losing Your Soul On "Once Upon a Time" 
Tony Rossi writes about one of my favorite shows.

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The B-Movie Catechism Movie of the Week: Night Breed
Skillfully written as always, this piece takes us from monsters to lepers to how our sin affects our community as well as ourselves.


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The 4 Qualities of a True Statesman
The Art of Manliness has yet another of their trademark pieces on classic qualities, in this case those of a true statesman. Be sure to read it, but here's where they begin:
  • A bedrock of principles
  • A moral compass
  • A vision
  • The ability to build a consensus to achieve that vision
This makes a vivid contrast with Deacon Greg's quote of the day from yesterday.
I confess I no longer understand Obama. He did not go to the mat to end the Bush tax cuts for the super-rich. He did not go to the mat for comprehensive immigration reform. He did not go to the mat to close Guantanamo Bay. He did not go to the mat for Card Check. He did not go to the mat for a public option in the health care reform. But, he went to the mat over the principle that a Catholic college or charity or hospital is not really religious.
The quote is from Sean Michael Winters who is sorely disillusioned but still writes with hopefulness and evenhandedness toward all sides. Read his piece here.

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Eating the Frog-With a Side of Soul Food
Betty Beguiles melds two methods to overcome procrastination, making life simpler, and having a joyful life.

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Brandywine Books
It's been too long since I've mentioned Brandywine Books, a blog I depend on for book reviews filtered through a lens of sane Christianity. They lean toward mystery and thrillers, which I like anyway, but are not averse to including other genres. Plus, they throw in links to interesting articles about writing and books. And Lars Walker is an author so there's that.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Lies, Damned Lies and 98 Percent of Catholic Women

Guttmacher did say in its summary that “Among all women who have had sex, 99% have ever used a contraceptive method other than natural family planning. This figure is virtually the same, 98%, among sexually experienced Catholic women.”

But that’s not in any way an accurate statement of what its own survey found.

On the very same page, it explains that its survey was restricted to women aged 15-44, so that cuts out all women who were older than 44 at the time of the survey. And a footnote explains that a rather significant chunk of women were excluded from this figure of “all women” — namely, women who are pregnant, post-partum or trying to get pregnant.” A later footnote says that the only women who had sex in the last three months were included in this group. Finally, included in this 98 percent figure of current contraceptive users are the 11 percent who report no method.

So I guess we could say that among women aged 15-44 who had sex in the last three months but aren’t pregnant, post-partum or trying to get pregnant, 87 percent of women who identify as Catholic used contraception. It’s worth pondering just who is left out of this 87 percent, other than, you know, everyone who doesn’t use contraception. Great stat, team journalist! I mean, the study was designed to find only women who would be most likely to use contraception. And it did.
Tom and I were talking about the "numbers game" as the government's justification for HHS mandate just last night over dinner (yes, riveting conversation goes on at our house).

You can see why this story from GetReligion, Lies, Damned Lies and 98 Percent of Catholic Women, resonated with me. Go read the whole thing to see them examine how the media and the White House have been using these flawed numbers. Go read it to get an eyeful about just how painstaking a lot of these journalists are about what they report.

As Tom pointed out, even if that number were actually true it doesn't make the Church's teachings any less true. It certainly doesn't change our responsibility to try to live by those teachings. And it doesn't mean that our religious freedom can be overrun by the government because they have decided our teachings aren't really being followed. That's not their job.

It just means the Church is full of sinners. So, nothing new there, right? Because we're all human and, therefore, flawed.

Which is something I take comfort in, actually, since it means that I'm among friends who all know just how much we need our Mother the Church. Friends and the Church who help me get back up after I've fallen short, and then try again to follow in Christ's steps.

New Petition
By the way, the White House closed the previous petition against the HHS mandate when Obama came up with his noncompromise. Now there's a new one. Go here to sign it.

Night of the Confessor: Objective, Subjective, and God

Night of the Confessor: Christian Faith in an Age of UncertaintyNight of the Confessor: Christian Faith in an Age of Uncertainty by Tomas Halik

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a dense book ... so much so, as far as I can tell, that even the back cover blurb forces the reader to slow down, absorb it, and think.

Night of the Confessor is rich and deep, with somehow simple ideas. Just when the author says something that I have a knee-jerk reaction of "that's not how faith works" he goes further and deeper so that I understand the reasons behind the surface statement ... and usually agree. This is thoughtful and thought provoking writing which I am letting sink in. And it is enriching my internal life.

I'm only about halfway through so this is not a final review although I may not be able to ever adequately describe it except to say that it is amazing me every few pages. Tomas Halik's observations about "Christianity in an Age of Uncertainty" hit the mark time after time. In one sense, one must simply sit back and take in the view, letting his writing wash over you until the point is reached; at which point, I dive in and mentally wrestle with the content. Occasionally I may disagree with him, but that is fairly rare and even when I do disagree it is because we have a different perspective. I can always see his point of view and it is not a non-Catholic one but just is different from my own. Which is also valid, as I believe Halik himself would say.

I am going to begin sharing nibbles of this beginning today. This is actually fairly lengthy so "nibble" may not be the right term, but I want you to get an adequate sample.
When reality was separated into the "objective" and the "subjective" at the beginning of the modern era, God was made homeless. Any attempt to place Him into one or another of the categories always resulted in "the death of God." God did not belong in the world of things, the world of visible, measurable, provable, and above all, manipulable "realities." But nor is God a "feeling," a "thought," or an "idea," even if human thoughts and feelings can become attached to Him (until they eventually discover that not even they can penetrate His mystery, and at best they can just about touch the "hem of his garment").

"My Kingdom does not belong to this world." God's place is in the "kingdom of the impossible," in the "kingdom of absurdity," somewhere where a totally different logic applies than in "this world" -- the logic of the paradox: if you want to be bigger, then be the least, be the servant of all; whoever loses his life will gain it; those who have will receive, while from those who have not, even what they have will be taken away; the laborer hired for the last hour will receive the same wage as the one that has "borne the day's burden and the heat"; the master from whom the "dishonest steward" has stolen, praised him for acting prudently; the father shows more feeling toward the prodigal son than toward the son who has been faithful and obedient; the Son of the Most High is born in a stable and executed on a cross with felons; the dead come to life, the blind see, and those who say "we see" have become blind.

Is that any basis for some system, logic, or morality, for some rational, healthy, and successful "lifestyle"?  It's impossible. Viewed "from here" it is the "kingdom of the impossible." "For human beings it is impossible," Jesus often enjoyed saying, "but for God all things are possible." "Nothing is impossible for God." What is impossible for humans is possible for God--and we can see God only in "what is impossible for people." People's attempts to penetrate the mystery of God's essence inevitably go astray; maybe there is only one path where we might conceivably encounter the ever astonishing kingdom of the impossible that is coming. That path is the path of paradox.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Are you a patriot or a vampire?



If loving this trailer is wrong, then I don't wanna be right.

Via Scott Danielson.

Unintended Consequences of President Obama's "Compromise"

Featured in A Second Letter to President Obama, Under the Assumption That He Missed the First from Bad Catholic. Where you may also find explanation as to why President Obama's "compromise" is actually nothing of the sort ... if you hadn't already figured that out for yourself.

The President and His Very Deep Belief

Jacob Lew told “Fox News Sunday” that the compromise offered last week to address objections by the Catholic Church is clear and consistent with the president’s “very deep belief that a woman has a right to all forms of preventive health care, including contraception.” ...

So the President is an allowed a “very deep belief” and Catholics are not allowed a deeply held conviction, in fact teaching, backed up by the whole history of the Church extending back to the book of Genesis. Pro-choice once again means choice for me, but not for you.
The Curt Jester thoughtfully looks at the White House shell game on the HHS mandate to deprive loyal Americans of their right to practice their religion.

Back to Beyond Cana

We're back and we're exhausted. But it's a good kind of exhaustion!

It became quite clear over the weekend that God wanted us back at that retreat and also in the retreat program at our parish. It was like having a giant invisible hand gently shoving you into your spot on the chess board, if I may be allowed to use that analogy. We could have said no at any time but we've learned that God's way is the best and certainly the easiest (even when it doesn't seem like it at the time).

Naturally, we had a grand time reconnecting with all the people who we hadn't seen for about a year. The best part was getting to know the attending couples just a little and watching the transition take place as they worked through the process to greater openness and love. There is nothing like it.

When in L.A. I received an email from a woman who was considering signing up but who was worried that the retreat would be too sappy. She'd read Happy Catholic for some time and seen me mention Beyond Cana so she came to me for the straight scoop. I, naturally, told her that if it were sappy I wouldn't have made it through myself. And then forgot all about it. I wasn't involved with the retreat, right?

Of course you know what happened. I was introducing myself to the arriving attendees when a young woman said, "I'm the person who emailed you when you were in L.A."

Oh! Got it! Just another of God's little jokes.

She and her husband were so much fun to talk to and I look forward to furthering our acquaintance with them ... when that good kind of exhaustion has faded and "real" life seems normal again.

Just one of the many benefits of Beyond Cana, y'all! You might meet friends you didn't know you had!

In which Number Ten Ox and Master Li encounter a tiger, a dragon, and a ghost.

Bridge of Birds is back at Forgotten Classics. Get it while it's hot!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

It's a Little Nuts Around Here

BTW, gonna be scarce for a few days.

Our parish's Beyond Cana marriage enrichment retreat lost their spiritual directors (work conflict) for the retreat this weekend and Tom and I are the only back ups.

So it's a little nuts around here right now since it begins tomorrow and we've got to get free of "usual life" in order to help out.

Awake - Full Trailer



I was intrigued by the shorter trailer that ran during the Super Bowl for this upcoming series. After being urged to watch the longer trailer I am glad that I did. I am curious to see if the show can be as interesting and good as this sample promises.

Read more at /Film.

Julie bought a life-size Johnny Depp doll, and Scott got a little uncomfortable ...

... Luckily, they had a movie called Lars and the Real Girl to talk about. At A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Lord, Open My Heart: Scriptural Reflections for Lent by Julie Davis

I know it is too early to be talking about Lent, really. I'm so excited by this booklet though that I just had to mention it now.

I thought I was ghostwriting this for Creative Communications for the Parish. Now I see that they have my name on the cover. Woohoo!

These are brief day-by-day scriptural reflections for use during Lent and I'm much obliged to Will at The View from the Foothills for announcing it ... and also buying it! What a pal!

It's available in booklet, Kindle, and Nook formats. Pick it up in any of these formats at Creative Communications for the Parish or at Amazon for your Kindle or at Barnes & Noble for your Nook.

Here's a sample.
Ash Wednesday
A Transforming Time

Pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you. — Matt. 6:6

I have friends who love Lent and eagerly look forward to it every year. I’m not one of those people. I always have to work at the proper frame of mind before I can approach a time of penitence with anything close to sincerity. Let’s face it, I don’t like giving things up.
I have to remind myself that it isn’t about what I am sacrificing so much as it is about what I am making room for. It is a sort of spring-cleaning of the soul.

It is about restoring proper perspective, through denial and sacrifice, so my whole heart is given to God. He generously gives me every good thing in my life. I inevitably come to Lent knowing that I have let some of those good things become more important to me than God himself.

It is a time of transformation. I must approach Lent expecting to be radically changed otherwise there isn’t any point to observing Lent at all. Simply going through the motions doesn’t cut it.

Ash Wednesday begins a time of penitence that I embrace (eventually) with interest and anticipation. What will God transform in me?

Rescind the HHS Mandate Petition ... 24,000 Signatures!

Now that's what I call good news!

Go sign and please pass the word along.

We need 25,000 to get the White House to nod at it, but let's go for gold. Let's show up with numbers they can't refuse!

Especially since Frank from Why I Am Catholic, who began the petition, noticed that NARAL has begun their own petition.
You see, not content with convincing the Administration into drafting a program that will strip religious organizations of their conscience protections, NARAL, and their allies, have launched their own petition too. Last night, when I first sighted it on my scope, it had 290 signatures.

"Which do you think I’ll regret more? Letting you live or letting you die? Andrew, help me make a good decision."

Tony Rossi discusses one of my favorite shows, Person of Interest and what makes it interesting and worthwhile.

I was pulled in by the combination of Jonathan Nolan (creator), Jim Caviezel, and Michael Emerson (from Lost). The stories have been getting more interesting and the larger story arc is complex and talks about revenge as well. In a sense, I have begun feeling that Caviezel's character is Batman-esque in his desire for redemption while doing what is necessary to save other people in violent situations. Which echoes Nolan's roots in working with his brother, Christopher, on the Batman movies.

Anyway, go read.

Monday, February 6, 2012

SUPER Busy!

Work took an unexpectedly busy turn so I'm down to the basics of a bit of art and a quote for today.

However, I will also leave you with this link to the WSJ's article about Super Bowl ads with which our household generally agreed ... Clint Eastwood exhorting America to get up from half time and rally, the fat dog, and the Silverado surviving the Mayan apocalypse are the ads that spring to mind as being our favorites.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Weekend Joke

Thanks to Seth for this one!
An Irishman goes into the confessional box after years of being away from the Church.

He is amazed to find a fully equipped bar with Guinness on tap. On the other wall is a dazzling array of the finest cigars and chocolates in the world.

When the priest comes in, the Irishman excitedly begins..."Father, forgive me, for it's been a very long time since I've been to confession, but I must first admit that the confessional box is much more inviting than it used to be."

The priest replies, "Get out. You're on my side."

Friday, February 3, 2012

Blogging Around: HHS and Komen

Frank's petition is soaring.
There are 16,529 signatures so far. Needed: 8,471 to make the White House blink and take notice.

If you haven't signed, please get over there and do so!

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Lillian Hellman Sticks Up for Our Right to Not Violate Our Consciences
“I cannot and will not cut my conscience to fit this year’s fashions. I was raised in an old-fashioned American tradition and there were certain homely things that were taught to me: To try to tell the truth, not to bear false witness, not to harm my neighbor, to be loyal to my country, and so on. In general, I respected these ideals of Christian honor and did as well with them as I knew how. It is my belief … that you will not expect me to violate the good American tradition from which they spring.”
Ok, she's actually writing during another time that the U.S. government tried to trample citizens' rights, to the The House Un-American Activities Committee investigation of communism in Hollywood. Without opening that can of worms, Deacon Greg's homily points out just how relevant Hellman's words are today and why they resonate (or should) with all lovers of freedom.

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The USCCB has a big post with lots and lots of links, including some national media who have covered the story in a responsible fashion.

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Media Genuflect Before  Church of Planned Parenthood: GetReligion gets down on media who hasn't covered the Komen/Planned Parenthood news well.
What we have embedded here is one of the worst pieces of journalism I’ve ever seen. I probably shouldn’t announce this, lest tmatt tell me to pack my bags, but I rarely if ever watch broadcast or cable news. I read my news online. The last time I watched ABC News was probably in the 1980s. But I was notified that the ABC piece was bad and so I searched it out. I almost wish I hadn’t. The performance of the mainstream media over this Komen funding issue has not reflected well on journalism in general.
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The Day of the Bullies:  The Anchoress has some good points on Komen and Planned Parenthood, especially now that Komen has caved in (disappointingly).
Understand what has happened, here. Komen did not break the news that they were defunding, Planned Parenthood — the “unpolitical” operation — leaked the news in order to sic their buddies in the senate and in the media on Komen. The assault was readied and rolled out, and damn near rabid — all out of proportion to what it should mean for one charity to decline to give $700,000 to another charity worth a billion! The message was clear: get back in line, or we will destroy you; we will bring the full power of the elite media and the government against you.

And so, like a good but weak soldier, Komen has essentially destroyed itself: hardline leftists will never forgive it; hardline rightists will never forgive it for caving. Neither side will trust it, and if no one trusts you, you’re gone.
Another thing that The Anchoress points out is that a lot of Catholics don't know the struggle for freedom of religion is going on (the HHS mandate issue) because mainstream media is not exactly covering it well. We had quite a discussion about it last night at RCIA and one person knew nothing about it. Despite our bishop's letter in the bulletin and a reminder to read it issued from the pulpit before we left Mass. Some people just don't read their bulletins.

So part of our job is to spread the word, be persistent, and above all be patient. If this isn't going to be a flash-in-the-pan struggle, then we must keep at it.

2012 Personal Reading Challenge Book Report: The Politically Incorrect Guide to English and American Literature

The Politically Incorrect Guide to English and American Literature (Politically Incorrect Guides)The Politically Incorrect Guide to English and American Literature by Elizabeth Kantor
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is two, two, two books in one. There is the enthusiastic author who loves classic literature, understands the context and wants us to read it. And we do want to read it after she discusses it so lovingly.

There there is the angry, bitter hater of modern interpreters who twist the classics' meanings for their own purposes. I get it. I even understand that such is part of the schtick of the Politically Incorrect Guide format. However, this book would have been so much stronger substituting thoughtful "modern interpreters may teach that ... blah, blah, blah ... and here's where they go astray" than in labeling everyone in sight and blasting them into a crater with angry, angry words. It weakened the main message and lessened my respect for the author.

I believe her on both counts, the enthusiastic and the bitter, but since most of the people reading this book already know that the modern twisting exists there was a lot of space wasted in "convincing" us.

Also, as many already have mentioned, Kantor gives American literature unnecessarily short shrift. No Steinbeck? No examination of our longer literary pieces? Despite her claim that we are a short literature and short story nation, there is evidence to the contrary. For example, let's look at one of my newest favorite books, East of Eden. Oh, wait, it's by John Steinbeck and therefore invisible. (ha!)

I still give this good marks because it made me want to read books I'd never considered before. I now wish that Ms. Kantor would write a straight forward, more comprehensive guide to literature that I could use as my own guide in exploring the classics.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

I'm going to be on "Meet the Author" on Radio Maria ... in an hour!

I can't believe I forgot to post this. I'm looking forward to talking with Ken Huck about Happy Catholic (the book!).

Radio Maria is very well known around the world with over a thousand stations; however, here in the U.S. it is just getting started with ten stations, smart phone apps, an internet feed, and podcasts.  Radio Maria is a very small operation with mostly volunteers. The studio is in Alexandria, Louisiana where the feed is uplinked to satellite for all ten stations.

Meet the Author is live for 60 minutes on Thursdays at 3 PM ET. The program is rebroadcast the following Sunday at 3 pm eastern.

Flight of the Conchords: Robots



This is for Scott who hasn't had the pleasure of seeing the zaniness contained in The Flight of the Conchords.

For anyone else who hasn't seen the series: Bret and Jermaine try to achieve success as a band in New York City and develop an American fan base. Their songs are woven into the plot of each episode, often as music videos ... truly hilarious and what we're watching before bedtime during weeknights.

Barbara Stanwyck Reads: It's Like Looking in a Mirror


Feel free to imagine this is how I loll around the house when I'm perusing a book.

I myself am going to imagine that very thing the next time I'm lying on the couch reading!

Via Awesome People Reading where there are many wonderful images of readers.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

About Time: "Amid abortion debate, Komen cancer charity halting grants to Planned Parenthood"

The nation’s leading breast-cancer charity, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, is halting its partnerships with Planned Parenthood affiliates — creating a bitter rift, linked to the abortion debate, between two iconic organizations that have assisted millions of women.
Washington Post - get whole story there
Planned Parenthood says it is because Komen is bowing to political pressure. Komen says it is because Planned Parenthood is under investigation.

Either way, I approve.

When Choosing Life ... or Death ... is in the Palm of Your Hand

The nurse told me the antibiotics she'd administered, that we'd need to wait some time for HIV testing, and then handed me a box - Plan B, and told me we had 24 hours to use it.

So there it was. The whole moral conundrum of abortion in a little green box in my hand.
You must go read this story at Kissing the Leper.

It is about letting God work when evil visits you. I won't say more because I don't want to spoil it, but this story deserves to be read by many.

L. A. Diary: Lettuce Love

Part 1: We Begin
Part 2: On the Road
Part 3: We Arrive
Part 4: The Strange Encounter
Part 5: The Best Deal (or Two) in L.A.Part 6: Land of Dreams
Part 7: Meeting New Old Friends

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The produce! Oh the produce in the L. A. grocery stores.

Even the average, nonorganic, run-of-the-mill green leaf lettuce is as fresh and crisp as if you had just picked it yourself.

Never let them tell you that travel time doesn't matter, evidently. Every store we tried had the most wonderful produce although it was rather odd to see the "locally grown" and realize it meant "from California."

Also, it was funny to see that they have the same stores but just call them something else. Let's see if I get this right ... Krogers is Ralph's (yes, really), Safeway is Vonn's, and then there's a store called Gelson's which is fairly high end but like a Simon David-ish store would be here.

Also they have Trader Joe's but after being in one in Chicago I am disenchanted. They are nothing special. Cheap but nothing special.

Chilaquiles

Another of those wonderful recipes Rose made for us when she was the cook of the house ... before flitting off to L.A. to seek her fortune. Get it at Meanwhile, Back in the Kitchen.

Couch Potato Report

How to Tame Your Dragon
Chosen by our movie night pals, this was a better-than-average Dreamworks animated feature which was quite enjoyable. If the kids were still small, this would have been playing nonstop for a while at our house. Grade: B-

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 2
 My personal afternoon viewing while I finish knitting the border on Rose's afghan. I must be about halfway through because (SPOILER!) Angel has just become Angelus. See, girls? This is why we don't do the nasty with a 200+ year old vampire, no matter how true our love is. I already knew this was coming because I watched Angel first. Still quite satisfying and, I must say, Drusilla does crazy almost as well as Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard.