Thursday, May 31, 2012

Refreshing: a newspaper that won't let readers forget about the Church's battle for religious liberty

How ironic it will be if Catholic voters, about 27% of the electorate, put the first Mormon in the White House some 50 years after John F. Kennedy became the first Catholic president. More telling, though, about the current state of the American mind will be the fact that after more than a thousand days and events in Barack Obama's presidency, the reason for this result will be an unexpected reaffirmation of an American principle older than the country's first presidential election: the free exercise of religion.
A friend sent me something the other day linking to outraged reactions at the "media blackout" of the 41 religious institutions suing the Obama administration over the HHS mandate.

I was confused. Then I realized that the Wall Street Journal has been quite free of any sort of black out. To the contrary, we've been getting regular news articles and editorials. As with the one today which, as far as I could see, was just a good summary of the whole situation and keeping it top of mind.

Because, you know, this isn't just a Catholic battle. It is one for all Americans who wish to exercise freedom and follow their consciences.

I like that. I like it a lot.

[That's not to say the WSJ is perfect. We see the flaws, never fear. Only today Tom was annoyed because a business article skipped giving vital information about a company's customers so they could blame da man instead (that man being President Obama). Give me the facts, thanks. I can figure out who to blame on my own. However, it is still head and shoulders above the local Dallas Morning News, so we are content. Mostly.]

Julie, Scott, and Jimmy Stewart are watching all of you through binoculars ...

... and arguing over whose turn it is next. Alfred Hitchcock's classic Rear Window is up for discussion at A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast.

Surprisingly Captivating: The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara

The Killer AngelsThe Killer Angels by Michael Shaara

Normally, historical fiction about the Civil War is not my bag. Aside from Gone With the Wind, which I suppose technically is historical fiction though I have never thought of it as such until this very second as my fingers fly across the keyboard. (What an odd thought that is to me...)

At any rate, this is Scott Danielson's choice for our next A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast book. I complained about one of Scott's previous selections, East of Eden by John Steinbeck, until about 100 pages in when I began loving it. So I thought I would take that as a lesson and embrace this choice that I would never make when he picked this book.

I was unnerved, however, to see maps when I opened it. Maps with arrows indicating troop movements hither and thither around Gettysburg.

I do not care about maps in books. Even for Lord of the Rings I ignored the maps. I hasten to add that I actually love real maps ... on a wall, in an art book, on a blog. I just do not want to have to make my mental image when reading have to conform to the reality of a map.

Feeling brave despite my unnerving experience I soldiered on. (ha!) I would like everyone to note that my reading of Coraline (for both Good Story and also SFFaudio) was not in vain. Bravery consists in keeping going when one is afraid (or even merely unnerved).

It only took reading the descriptions of the leaders to begin re-embracing the book. I now have read the first chapter and am captivated. Who knew?

I am looking forward to this experience in Gettysburg, which could hardly be more appropriate in terms of such real life experiences as summer vacations. (Not that I'm going on vacation or would head for Gettysburg deliberately if I were ... but it is summer ... and there are such things as theme here ... so this is our summer theme.)

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

E-Books for Africa

I missed the kick-off for this project and I hear tell they've already raised a lot of money. But that's no reason not to join in. We're all about reading around here and thinking of seminaries without reading materials just plain hurts, right?

It is a month-long initiative being promoted by Brandon Vogt who is all about e-books.
In Cameroon, Africa, books are rare--especially the good ones. My friend Linus is studying in one of the seminaries, and he says there the situation is even worse. The seminaries are bursting at the seams with young men yet they lack solid Catholic materials. (Most of the seminaries do have computers, yet the internet is spotty at best.)

But what if we could change that? What if we could get provide good Catholic books for every seminarian?

I think we can. Through the power of the Catholic blogosphere, I'm convinced we can crowd-source a solution.

The plan is to send 2,000 CDs to all the seminarians in Cameroon, each loaded with Catholic eBooks including:
  • The Holy Bible
  • The Catholic Encyclopedia
  • The complete writings of the Church fathers
  • St. Thomas' entire Summa
  • Classic books by authors like G.K. Chesterton, St. Therese of Lisieux, and Cardinal John Henry Newman
  • Modern titles on preaching, the priesthood, and new media by Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop Jose Gomez, and several by Pope Benedict XVI
Each CD will cost $2 to produce and ship to Africa and to raise the money we're running a month-long campaign at Indiegogo.com (think Kickstarter, but open to religious groups.) The purpose is not to have one single charity fund the project but to give everyone a chance to play a part in this. For just $2, anyone can donate one CD and join the movement.

Several people have combined their resources to make this happen including Our Sunday Visitor, New Advent, Aquinas and More, Word on Fire, Lighthouse Catholic Media, and Libreria Editrice Vatican. These groups have also provided some great giveaway perks for donors:
  • $2 donation - Digital photo of a Cameroon seminarian receiving his CD
  • $15 donation - CD w/ talk by Dr. Scott Hahn
  • $25 donation - "Best of Fr. Barron" CD including 10 talks
  • $50 donation - Church and New Media book (Brandon Vogt)
  • $75 donation - Catholicism book (Fr. Robert Barron)
  • $200 donation - Complete set of Catholicism DVD series
This Africa eBook project is an experiment in new media solidarity. Its goal is to unite the energy of the online Catholic world and channel it into a global work of mercy. With new media we can do that. We can share new books and help form priests halfway across the world.
Brandon Vogt has the full scoop on money raised and ultimate goals.

AUDIOBOOK/READALONG: The New Mother by Lucy Clifford

Over at SFFaudio, we discuss the strangely fascinating and yet horrible tale, The New Mother by Lucy Clifford. Which Heather Ordover (CraftLit) reads aloud first so we can all begin on the same page.

Or is it horrible? Perhaps it is just intensely clever.

That's what Jesse, Heather and Tamahome think. Me? Listen and find out.

We also discuss related tales: The Father Thing by Philip K. Dick and Coraline by Neil Gaiman.

C'mon over!

Lagniappe: You deserve ...

From my quote journal.
You deserve a longer letter than this; it is my unhappy fate seldom to treat people as well as they deserve.
Jane Austen

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Worth a Thousand Words: Crested Grebe

Crested Grebe
taken by Remo Savisaar
I'm sharing this not only because this bird just doesn't look quite real somehow, but also as a commemoration of the fact that Tom downloaded Peterson's Birds of North America app onto his iPad.

We've been spending a lot of time sitting on our patio in the weekend mornings over coffee and evenings over cocktails while trying to identify bird calls. We've done very little of this but it is a huge help to be able to play the calls to help us narrow things down. And, sometimes, we know there is a bird in the area because they will answer the app.

We also can tell because if we're in the house when Tom's trying one out and it's a local bird ... our big Boxer Wash goes nuts. I should explain that he is self-appointed guardian of keeping all birds and squirrels out of our back yard. And he knows the calls of the most frequent offenders.

Also, We Saw The Avengers This Weekend

And, yes, I reveled in the Joss Whedon-esqueness of it.

If you haven't seen it, be sure to wait until all the credits are done (every single bit) because there's a second, after-the-credits bit that runs.

You wanna see acting without a single word, then wait for it.

UPDATE
I also meant to say that I loved the fact that Iron Man understood Loki so well because they are both divas. (Also, both easy on the eye, but that is a different sort of ... ahem ... love.)

My Book-a-licious Birthday

I received some wonderful non-book gifts (Wrath of Khan Director's Cut DVD, come to mama! And the new crucifix that is now gracing our living room ...) but for this crowd, I know that quite often the books are the thing. So let's take a look ...


The Homemade Pantry: 101 Foods You Can Stop Buying and Start Making
by Alana Chernila
This one's from Rose who knows a cookbook is always a safe bet for me. Over the years I have come across many foods we usually buy from the store but that we can also make at home. Beginning with my parents who routinely made butter, tomato paste, pasta, and other delicious comestibles in the 1960s and 70s. (We won't even get into raising their own chickens and pigs ... but I can tell you there is nothing like a duck egg for breakfast. It beats a chicken egg all to flinders for excellent flavor.)

I have picked and chosen where I am willing to buy storebought and where it is worth the effort to produce it myself. Pesto, bread, mayonnaise - yes. Pasta - no. However, for the generation coming up simply cooking is a monumental feat much of the time as they have never been taught anything about it. I think of the brief and probably bewildering conversation I had with a pal as we picked up our CSA coolers from the farmer on Saturday. She was not sure why she couldn't saute a green bean without burning it or adding extra water. Poor, poor thing. She's coming over to my house soon for coffee so I can show her my kitchen equipment.

However, I digress. All of that is to say that the author's breathless excitement at producing ricotta and yogurt are praiseworthy and valid ... and probably very reassuring to those who have never considered making such things at home. For me, I like her enthusiasm and am interested to see the technique tweaks in a few places so far. (You can always learn something, even when you think you know everything and I am far from knowing everything.)

And it is good for me to be prodded out of my usual routine so that I actually do try some of the things I've read about so much. For instance, that ricotta ... it's going to happen soon, I think. Mozzarella I've always found tasteless, even the fresh stuff that I can get locally from Paula Lambert's Mozzarella Company. Provolone, now ... which I substitute for mozzarella ... that I might try making.

Hieronymous Bosch
by Larry Silver
Who knew that watching In Bruges was going to kick off an interest in Hieronymous Bosch that would lead to this gigantic book being one of the prize gifts I received? I tore open the paper and saw half of the back cover ... squealed "Hieronymous Bosch!" like a Twilight fan seeing Edward Cullen saunter by twinkling in the sunlight. This is a big brute of an art book but well worth it so far as Silver delves into Bosch's paintings and provides me with much food for thought and an education into looking at art.

Instructions: Everything You'll Need to Know on Your Journey
by Neil Gaiman
A children's book. But a children's book written by Neil Gaiman with wonderful illustrations. Anyone who loves traditional fairy tales will love this tribute to the "rules" we all learn from them ... and how you can follow them to get through the story.

The Architecture of the Arkansas Ozarks
by Donald Harington
This one was a complete surprise as I have never heard of it or the author. That's not good or bad, just a surprise ... am going to be interested to hear my mother tell me why she likes it since she's never mentioned it before.

A Dog's Purpose
by W. Bruce Cameron
Another that I have no idea what to think of. As a kid I reread Beautiful Joe and Black Beauty with no problems, though as an adult I cringe from revisiting those tough stories. As an adult I love Watership Down, but my overall experience with animal POV stories is that they tend to be sadder than is my preference. Reading Alice Walker's comment on the cover somewhere that she cried like a baby (ok, I'm paraphrasing) makes me wary. However, I do trust my mother, who gave me this, so I will dip a toe into this doggy tale.

Introduction to Christianity
by Pope Benedict XVI
This is thanks to my husband who knows who my favorite authors are. I'd no sooner ripped the wrapping off before I was flipping through the introduction and saying, "Oh, even back then he had the same style for considering arguments ... just listen" and then reading aloud. (Yes, he is a patient and loving man, my husband.)

Pope Benedict. On the creed. It doesn't get much better than that.

And he dedicated it to his students in several towns, including Tubingen. Which I've been to. And have fond memories of. From even before Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict) was on my radar.

So I guess it can get better. It just did.

More as I get a chance to read beyond the introduction.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Awesome: Marine Corps Professional Reading List (UPDATED)

Yes. It exists.
"Each Marine is required to read the Commandant's choice "First to Fight" by LtGen (Ret) V. Krulak. Each Marine shall also read a minimum of one book per grade per year." (ALMAR 027/11 effective 8 July 2011)
With Ender's Game on it. Or they did when my informant was required to read from that list which is what made me speed over there to see it.

I see Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein.

And The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara which Scott just picked as our next book at A Good Story is Hard to Find.

I've gotta give them props for an interesting list.

I thought all the books would be like this fine selection for Lieutenant Colonels: At the Water's Edge: Defending Against the Modern Amphibious Assault by Theodore Gatchel.

Not that there's anything wrong with that. I want them to be able to defend against the modern amphibious assault.

You can pick up a pdf of the list at the site.

Thanks to one of my favorite Marines, Frank at Why I am Catholic, for the tip on this list.

UPDATE
He provides the original list which had Ender's Game on it. And a bunch of great looking books.

Happy Birthday to Me

Just got word ... the media screening for Beasts of the Southern Wild? I'm in.

Can't wait. Seriously.

Blogging Around: Summer and Movies

There is something about summer and movies that just go together, at least in America. Seems as if all sorts of things have come on my radar lately.

Beasts of the Southern Wild
I received an email about this movie, which I hadn't heard of, but whose trailer captivated me. Do go watch it.
I thought I would place this film on your radar, Fox Searchlight Beasts of the Southern Wild. I don’t know if you’ve seen or heard of this film that won Sundance this past year and is now the front runner, according to Time, to win Cannes. It’s an extraordinary film and I’ve never seen anything like it…the NY Times said it was one of the best films to play in over two decades (not that they always get it right ). There’s not a description, synopsis, or trailer that can adequately reflect it. I will say it is gritty and intense (setting in New Orleans during Katrina, but it’s not about the hurricane or politics). The film releases at the end of June...
I'm waiting to hear if I'm going to get into the local screening.

Vito Bonafacci
Also received in email was notice of this very small, independent film. Again, something about the trailer grabbed me although this isn't usually the sort of movie I'd be interested in.
Vito Bonafacci chronicles Vito's journey through a spiritual crisis where he comes to realize that his materialistic life is an illusion, and what is important in life is what he doesn't have. Thus leading him on a soul searching journey to understand life's purpose and a renewal of his Catholic faith. The film features a strong emphasis on the sacraments and what it really means to be Catholic in a corrupt world.

So far, it has been shown in theaters in New York City, Cincinnati, and St. Paul, MN. We are now proud to announce that it is available on DVD.
Usually a movie written specifically about being Christian or Catholic forgets that the point is carried more in the storytelling than in the points being hammered home. This trailer looked as if they understand that the story matters. I'm awaiting the DVD.

The Grown-up's Guide to Summer Movies
For those interested in movies that go beyond the big summer blockbusters, the Wall Street Journal has a good feature mentioning several interesting movies that look more into the human heart than for the next explosion.

Orson Scott Card on the Avengers and Being on the Set of Ender's Game
I love reading science fiction author Orson Scott Card's column every week. An opinionated but charming writer, he gives his thoughts on everything from toilet paper to books to local driving hazards. Uncle Orson Reviews Everything from May 17 is particularly movie-centric as he examines Joss Whedon's many strengths as a writer and director for the Avengers. He segues into his recent observations on the set of Ender's Game, arguably Card's most famous book. I particularly enjoyed his comments about Harrison Ford's strengths as an actor. I've always maintained that Ford could convey more with an eye twitch than most actors could with a speech.

Life's Like a Movie: The Hitchihiker's Guide to the Galaxy
B-Movie Catechism takes us on a dizzying ride from his truck's binary communication with him to The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy to the meaning of life.

Ten Things You Should Know About The Raven
I think we all know thing number one, don't we? Which is to avoid it like the plague. Genevieve Valentine watched it so you don't have to and then entertainingly charts the problems for us. I love reading her thoughts on movies. Smart and funny, always a winning combination.

Yet Again ... We Celebrate the Third Most Important Day of the Year


I say this every year, but that's just because it is always true. First is Easter, then is Christmas, then is ... my birthday!

Some people ignore their birthdays or don't want much fuss made. Not me. Everyone in the household knows it too. (To be fair, they all regard their birthdays to be the third most important day of the year.)

You notice that only Jesus trumps this day for me ... so then imagine the place He holds to overcome a lifetime of "most important day of the year" before I became Christian.

Hannah showed the proper spirit several years ago when she was filling out a job application on Sunday and asked me what the date was. Then she answered her own question with, "Oh, wait. It must be the 22nd because I know Wednesday is the 25th." Yep, just like Christmas. All other dates are figured around this one.

We'll go to Fireside Pies ... and then home ...

In past years I have flirted with other desserts than cake ... Strawberry Tart as I made a couple of years ago, not even Tiramisu as last year (which was tempting) and Amazing Chocolate Pie (albeit made with real whipped cream).

This year, Tom nobly has thrown himself into the breech, proving once again how much he loves me. There is a local bakery, Stein's, which is a place of legend. I remember once, many years ago, at a party having some of the most delicious, homemade seeming lemon layer cake. It came from Stein's. We'll see if they have it available now, these many years later. Stein's isn't close but this is where husbandly dedication comes in as he rearranges his schedule to get there.

Also I love the fact that this is also St. (Padre) Pio's birthday. I still remember the sense of joy and light-heartedness that I received while reading a biography of him. It was a photo of him with his head thrown back laughing that first made me notice him. I thought, "Now there is someone I could talk to..."

While praying before a cross, he received the stigmata on 20 September 1918, the first priest ever to be so blessed. As word spread, especially after American soldiers brought home stories of Padre Pio following WWII, the priest himself became a point of pilgrimage for both the pious and the curious. He would hear confessions by the hour, reportedly able to read the consciences of those who held back. Reportedly able to bilocate, levitate, and heal by touch. Founded the House for the Relief of Suffering in 1956, a hospital that serves 60,000 a year. In the 1920's he started a series of prayer groups that continue today with over 400,000 members worldwide.
And it is the Venerable Bede's saint day which is also very cool. You will never read a better death than that of the Venerable Bede.
On the Tuesday before Ascension Day he was decidedly worse : a swelling appeared in his feet. Nevertheless he continued to dictate cheerfully, begging his scribe to write quickly, for he did not know how long he might last, or when it might please his Maker to take him. That night he lay awake, giving thanks alway. The next morning he urged the
brethren to finish writing what they had begun, and when that was done, at nine o'clock, they walked in procession with the relics of the Saints the origin of our "perambulation day," according to the custom of the time. One stayed with him while the others were thus engaged, and after a time reminded him that there was still a chapter to finish, would it weary him to be consulted about it ? " Get out your pen and ink," was Bede's reply, " and write fast, it is no trouble to me."

[...]

Even on the day of his death (the vigil of the Ascension, 735) the saint was still busy dictating a translation of the Gospel of St. John. In the evening the boy Wilbert, who was writing it, said to him: "There is still one sentence, dear master, which is not written down." And when this had been supplied, and the boy had told him it was finished, "Thou hast spoken truth," Bede answered, "it is finished. Take my head in thy hands for it much delights me to sit opposite any holy place where I used to pray, that so sitting I may call upon my Father." And thus upon the floor of his cell singing, "Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost" and the rest, he peacefully breathed his last breath.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Zombies and Star Trek: Night of the Living Trekkies

Night of the Living TrekkiesNight of the Living Trekkies by Kevin David Anderson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I remember seeing this book when it came out and then it slipped my mind. Stephen's review put it squarely back in the middle of my radar. To be fair, Stephen's reviews are always good reading, but this one was so darned enthusiastic that I paid extra attention.


If you hate both Star Trek and Zombies...

I don’t know what to tell you. You obviously have made some wrong decisions in your life that have led you to this unfortunate circumstance. Maybe you should go and take a long hard look at yourself in the mirror and figure out where things began to fall apart. It’s not too late...the first step is admitting you have a problem.
At about 5 bucks on Amazon (and me with Amazon Prime) it was a no-brainer (yes, that was intentional).

A quick litmus test is if you smile upon reading Jim Pike's name. Which I suspect anyone picking up this book did. You don't have to get every reference, but the more you understand the more enjoyable the book will be. It spans the gamut of Star Trek movies and series (and as a Deep Space Nine fan, I appreciate that).

Super-quick summary: Jim Pike felt he failed as a leader of men in Afghanistan. Retreating to a hotel security position at home, he finds himself facing first a Star Trek convention and then a zombie apocalypse. As a Trek fan, he's able to tread water. As a horror fan, he's on less solid ground when it turns out that zombies actually do exist. As someone eschewing any responsibility, he's in full retreat when people keep turning to him for leadership in combat situations.

Best of all, however, is that this is a true horror novel. Salted with Trek references and turning on several necessary Trek points, nonetheless you don't need to be a Trekkie (or Trekker) to enjoy the book. I admit it definitely will help, but the authors make it worthwhile with their fresh take on the zombie genre while maintaining solid ties to both Trek and Star Wars worlds. It's a survival story, it's an apocalypse story, it's an "us against the world" story, it's a geek story, and there's even a bit of a mystery thrown in.

A deeper litmus test is this which should make you laugh aloud and then want to read it aloud to someone.
"Have you been able to reach the outside world?"

"I've tried, but so far, no dice. Nothing but snow on the TV. Phones are toast. And no Internet, which is really strange. It was originally designed to serve as a fail-safe communications mode during a nuclear war, so it's very, very resilient. To lock it down this tight, you'd have to have someone very smart and powerful actively denying service."

"Or maybe it's gone," Jim said.

For a moment the line was silent.

"What?" Gary finally said. "What do you mean?"

"Maybe it doesn't exist anymore. Maybe it suffered some sort of catastrophic, worldwide failure."

"Oh, no," Gary said with disturbingly brittle finality. "That's not possible. Somebody's keeping us from getting to the Internet, but the Internet is still there. It will always be there."

Jim decided to back off. ...
Night of the Living Trekkies is a light, summer read and one that I will be saving on my "stress rereading" shelf for an enjoyable adventure in a world where no man has gone before.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Super Busy, but hope to be back to blogging by tomorrow

That's it.

Just wanted to let everyone know I haven't died. Or gone back to L.A. (that would be like a trip to Heaven, right?)

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Now In Our "Avoid Like the Plague" Category: Zone One by Colson Whitehead

Zone OneZone One by Colson Whitehead

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Well, well. Proof positive that a zombie novel can be made yawningly boring.

Colson Whitehead has all the requisite apocalyptic-survivor-zombie elements but chooses to mash together flashbacks and current action with so much thinking and reflection that he manages to turn it all into bland, grey mush. Or wait ... was that my brain after I got done reading this? Even the end, which was supposed to be striking and should have been, was greeted with a shrug by this reader. Stick to World War Z or The Reapers Are the Angels.

Enter Zone One at your own risk ... and don't say I didn't warn ya!

In which we come to the end of the beginning ...

... the conclusion of Genesis by Robert Alter at Forgotten Classics.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Notre Dame Joining the Fray for Religious Liberty

A friend tells me:
Notre Dame is joining the fray against the HHS mandate. As you know, other Catholic (and protestant) universities have already sued the government. What makes this different is that Notre Dame is a self-insuring employer, meaning that the Obama Administration's "accommodation," which shifts the burden of paying for abortifacient drugs from the religious employer to the insurance company, doesn't apply to Notre Dame. Thus, the accommodation does nothing for Notre Dame, making it a great plaintiff to keep pressure on the government. A final note, Notre Dame is represented by a great law firm, Jones Day, so they should be in very good hands.
Excellent!

Here's the complaint (long but good).

Saturday, May 19, 2012

How Pixar Almost Deleted Toy Story 2



Thank heavens for newborns to save the day! Via Kotke.org. Thanks to Chris for sending this my way.

Weekend Joke: In Honor of Our 28th Wedding Anniversary

As Tom says, it is the couple that can laugh at this joke who will be able to survive the reality of it! We're not there yet, but we are still laughing together, 28 years into our journey through life together.
An old couple were having problems remembering things, so they decided to go to their doctor to get checked out to make sure nothing was wrong with them. After checking the couple out, the doctor tells them that they were physically okay but might want to start writing things down and making notes to help them remember things. The couple thanked the doctor and left.

Later that night while watching TV, the old man gets up from his chair and his wife asks, "Where are you going?" He replies, "To the kitchen." She asks him for a bowl of ice cream and he replies, "Sure."

She then asks him "Don't you think you should write it down so you can remember it?" He says, "No, I can remember that."

"Well," she then says, "I also would like some strawberries on top. You had better write that down cause I know you'll forget that." He says, "I can remember that, you want a bowl of ice cream with strawberries."

"Well," she replies, "I also would like whipped cream on top. I know you will forget that so you better write it down." With irritation in his voice, he says, "I don't need to write that down, I can remember that."

He fumes off into the kitchen. When he returns twenty minutes later he hands her a plate of bacon and eggs. She stares at the plate for a moment and says, "You forgot my toast."

Friday, May 18, 2012

Bloggers, Zombies, and Conspiracy ... Again: Deadline by Mira Grant

DeadlineDeadline by Mira Grant

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'd probably never have picked up this book. I was perfectly happy with how Feed ended and had no interest in a story being told by Shaun, instead of by George. Also, the mystery was so easy to solve in Feed that I didn't hold out great hope for the sequel being a lot better.

Then my co-worker showed up proffering Deadline with a pleased smile. What can I say? Reader, I read the whole thing.

I am quite surprised to report that I really like it. It bogged down in the middle but the beginning when they have to evacuate their place in Oakland and the end ... which is a rip-roaring roller-coaster ride of action and (thankfully) surprise answers ... were definitely worth the time spent. In fact the end was so action-packed that when I think back on it, I literally hear in my head the Aliens theme accompanying the story just as it would from the end of that adrenaline-filled movie. When a book gives me "theme music" I've gotta say that it had a powerful impact.

The book begins with a CDC researcher showing up on Shaun's doorstep, having faked her own death in order to bring vital information about the conspiracy they thought was ended in Feed. Namely - it's alive - and much worse than they thought. Interestingly, although there was one unexpected twist after another throughout the story, I still knew early on who the main villain was. The plot is much improved over Feed but Mira Grant's still got to figure out how to present viable villain candidates that aren't obvious throw-aways. Perhaps she didn't grow up reading Agatha Christie books as voraciously as I did.

Still, that's a small quibble. It was really a great read and I actually am eagerly anticipating the release of the next book.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

What a Busy Bee I Am

I know it shows and I apologize but work is busy (which is a good thing) and I am currently obsessed with a thing I'm writing (which is also a good thing, eventually we hope) ... so I haven't much time for blogging at the moment.

However, we know how quickly things change ... and I'll be blathering on about more than quotes and art soon ... thank you for your patience!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Weekend Joke: Zen Garden

From Dr. Boli's Celebrated Magazine.

ASK DR. BOLI.

Dear Dr. Boli: I have been trying to grow a zen garden without success, and I am wondering whether I have been using the wrong sort of seeds. Where does one purchase viable zen seeds, and how does one keep them viable until one is ready to plant them? —Sincerely, Zen Master Irving McPreen, West End.


Dear Sir: You must listen for the sound of a single seed sprouting within your own heart. Then you must take up another hobby, such as philately.

Friday, May 11, 2012

The Rite for the Blessing of a Child in the Womb

At the request of His Eminence Francis Eugene Cardinal George, Archbishop of Chicago, at the time President of the Conference of Bishops of the United States of America, in a letter dated December 12, 2008, and by virtue of the faculty granted to this Congregation by the Supreme Pontiff Benedict XVI, we gladly approve and confirm the English text of the Rite for the Blessing of a Child in the Womb, as found in the attached copy.

All things to the contrary notwithstanding.

From the offices of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, December 8, 2011.
Released by the USCCB just in time for Mothers' Day.

This is a lovely and much needed prayer (which Deacon Greg excerpted for us):

[For the unborn child]:
God, author of all life,bless, we pray, this unborn child; give constant protection and grant a healthy birth that is the sign of our rebirth one day into the eternal rejoicing of heaven.

[For the mother]:
Lord, who have brought to this woman the wondrous joy of motherhood, grant her comfort in all anxiety and make her determined to lead her child along the ways of salvation.

[For the father]:
Lord of the ages,who have singled out this man to know the grace and pride of fatherhood, grant him courage in this new responsibility, and make him an example of justice and truth for this child.

[For the family]:
Lord, endow this family with sincere and enduring love as they prepare to welcome this child into their midst.

Lord, you have put into the hearts of all men and women of good will a great awe and wonder at the gift of new life; fill this (parish) community with faithfulness to the teachings of the Gospel and new resolve to share in the spiritual formation of this child in Christ our Savior, who lives and reigns for ever and ever.

Amen.

The bells! -- The bells, bells, bells, bells, bells, bells, bells -- the rhyming and the chiming of the bells!

In case you hadn't guessed ... The Bells by Edgar Allen Poe ... a little lagniappe from Forgotten Classics.

Happy Birthday, Dear Rose

Far from home, in exotic L.A. (where I'd like to be myself), Rose is plying two unpaid internships while gathering work credit to hopefully propel her into the film industry.

That means that she and Zoe (our Boxer who has become Rose's Boxer) are far from home on her 22nd birthday. She has instructions to go to Porto's Bakery (which I spoke of in our L.A. Diary) and select a decadent cake.

Perhaps the Parisian? (Devil’s food chocolate cake, layered and decorated with chocolate whipped cream. Finished with chocolate shavings.)


Or the Strawberry Shortcake? (Yellow cake, soaked in a light French brandy syrup, with a layer of fresh strawberries/real whipped cream, and a layer of vanilla custard. Topped with real whipped cream and surrounded with puff pastry crumbs.)


Or even the Cappuccino Mousse Cake? (A layer of chocolate-fudge cake, a layer of chocolate mousse, a layer of white sponge cake, and a layer of cappuccino mousse. Finished with a clear glaze marbled with coffee extract.)


We can see that I am interested in providing Rose with a delicious cake. I'd rather have her here and be making a cake (if memory serves, she prefers a Chocolate Buttermilk Layer Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting). It wouldn't be as pretty, but I bet the company would make up for it. I've sent gifts (thank you Amazon!) and I can buy her cake, but I can't give her a hug.

So I miss Rose on her birthday but I hope it is a wonderful day for her. She will be celebrating with friends, one of whom shares a birthday with her.

Happy Birthday, Rose!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

A Cross of Centuries: Twenty-five Imaginative Tales About the Christ

A Cross of Centuries: Twenty-five Imaginative Tales About the ChristA Cross of Centuries: Twenty-five Imaginative Tales About the Christ by Michael G. Bishop

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I picked this up dirt cheap after Scott Danielson told me that Jesse Willis brought it to his attention. Editor Michael Bishop is a Christian but is interested here in presenting stories by believers and unbelievers alike, as long as the stories are good ones. Therefore, this is a collection of pieces by some of the most celebrated science fiction authors around including Ray Bradbury, Michael Moorcock, and Gene Wolfe. When any of the authors fall far out of line with Christian thinking it is because they don't understand the basic underpinnings of the faith or simply outright reject them for reasons of their own. However, the stories are generally quite good.

As with many short story anthologies showcasing a wide variety of authors, it's hard to give a five-star rating because individual taste varies so much. From my perspective as a science fiction fan I could appreciate the skill that went into the work included. From my perspective as a Christian, some of the stories from unbelievers were quite sad because they highlighted various authors' misperceptions and, sometimes, their flippancy with the subject. Be that as it may, my favorite stories were:

• Lignum Crucis by Paul di Fillippo
• The Detective of Dreams by Gene Wolfe
• Shimabara by Karen Joy Fowler
• The Man by Ray Bradbury
• Early Marvels by Romulus Linney

Definitely recommended for anyone who wants to read thought provoking writing about Jesus and our human responses to Him.

In which we visit the Cavern of Bells, meet a third handmaid, and hear from a Mouse.

Three more chapters of Bridge of Birds by Barry Hughart is ready and waiting at Forgotten Classics. As well as a podcast highlight from over the sea!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Blogging Around: The Brilliant Edition

So many brilliant things to share. So little time.

So here's the cream of the crop.

Catholics Acting Catholic: It shouldn’t make the news — except that yes, it is news.

The US Bishop’s campaign for religious freedom, and the Vatican’s pending reform of the LCWR, have been met with skepticism by much of the mainstream media, and by a good chunk of the Catholic population as well. Why? Would we hear this same outcry against another religious group, however weird and wacky, that sought to assert its beliefs and practices?

We could guess at any number of nefarious reasons for all this alarm at Catholics acting Catholic, but I propose one common thread: No one thinks Catholics really believe this stuff.

(For the record: Yes, we do.)

The American church has spent I’m not sure how many decades wallowing in a lukewarm faith — my entire life, at the very least. Do an exit poll after Mass this Sunday: How many parishioners really believe all that the Church holds to be true? In many quarters, the simple act of asserting that the Church holds some things to be true incites an outcry of protest about rights of conscience, and personal discernment, and accusations of judging other souls*.

And we’re still wallowing.
I could just put her whole column here because it is ... you guessed it ... brilliant. Go read it all at Riparians at the Gate.

Don't Feed the Trolls?

There are many that say “Don’t feed the Troll”, now I would say “Pray for the Troll” –except I am not really that fond of the world Troll as it is another word that dehumanizes people so you can ignore them. Sure fervent commenters can be quite annoying, but most of us can be quite annoying and we are called to even love our comment box enemies by willing them good.
I read The Curt Jester every day but this piece about trolls was so good it has been bugging me to call it to your attention. Because it's ... brilliant. And also charitable. And Catholic in the best ways. I gave you the finale but go read it all.

Can't Have the Sweet Without the Bitter

It is often argued that a loving God would not allow His children to suffer. But, if you subscribe to Seneca’s position that without hardships man can be neither happy nor virtuous, and if you believe that God desires his children to be both righteous and joyful, the question then becomes, “How could a loving God not allow suffering in the world?”

And yet an embrace of the bitter-sweet concept does not only bring meaning to theists, but also imparts purpose to the atheist who has made self-actualization his life’s goal. Through it he can come to see hardships as the classrooms of self-knowledge, opportunities to prove himself and grow as a man, vital training on the path to becoming superhuman.
The Art of Manliness is one of my favorite stops. True, I skip the "build a manly campfire" pieces, but you can't beat their historical and philosophical columns for perspective and character building tips. This is one such (brilliant) piece. Be sure to read it all because you really don't want to miss the Seneca excerpt that lead to this.

Also, don't miss their History of the Bachelor in three parts: colonial and revolutionary times, post-Civil War, and 20th and 21st Century.

Some Things You May Not Know About Antonio Vivaldi

1. Vivaldi was a Catholic priest. He was ordained in 1703 at the age of 25, in Venice. However, it would seem the active priesthood did not suit Vivaldi. Within a year he asked to be excused form the daily celebration of Mass, due to a “tightness of the chest,” which he complained of his whole life. Most scholars think this is a reference to asthma, though there may have been other causes including heart related matters. But a deeper reason may lie in the fact the he was pressured to become a priest. In those days, going to a seminary was often the only way a poor family had to ensure free schooling for a son. Music seems to have been his passion. While it is hard to gauge the accuracy of the story, it is noted in some of his biographies that he would sometimes leave the altar to go into the sacristy and write down a musical idea that had come to him!
Well, whaddya know. That is interesting. And I didn't know it. Since I just finished listening to the BBC's Discovering Music about Vivaldi's Four Seasons, it is even more interesting. Go see what else you don't know about this brilliant Catholic composer, courtesy of Msgr. Charles Pope.

An American In Paris at Holy Week

My trip started off as expected: Fortified by a lovely luncheon in Montparnasse of a chicken fricassee with spring vegetables and a delicious white wine, I wandered down to my favorite neighborhood, Saint-Germain-des-Prés. Entering the dark medieval church that gives the district its name, I lighted some candles, offered a few prayers and reveled in the quiet. The emptied church suited my need to escape, and I figured it foreshadowed a quiet, low-key holiday spent in dark, empty churches.

I was to be proven wrong. Religion in France is far from dead. Yes, Islam is growing more confident among France's North African and Middle East immigrants, but Catholicism is alive and well.
He went for the food. He was captured by the faith. I'm late bringing you this but it is good no matter when it is served up: An American in Paris at Holy Week.

Gulliver's Travels at CraftLit/Just the Books
Heather Ordover cleverly chose a book that is very timely, considering the upcoming elections and the assortment of Yahoos all around. Not only does Heather provide insightful commentary to place the book in context as we go, but she recruited Ehren Ziegler from Chop Bard to read it. Brilliant. I might have to say it twice so you understand what an opportunity we are all being given. Brilliant. (Also, if you like Shakespeare, or wish you did, Ehren's podcast at Chop Bard will do it for you. Oh yeah. A third brilliant is clearly called for.) Go. Listen. CraftLit, Just the Books (all the books with none of the craft talk), Chop Bard.

Neighbor, how long has it been since you read Deus Caritas Est? Well, pardner, that's too long.*

God Is Love--Deus Caritas Est: Encyclical LetterGod Is Love--Deus Caritas Est: Encyclical Letter by Pope Benedict XVI

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was my third time through Pope Benedict's brilliant first encyclical God Is Love. Our Catholic women's book club read it for our May discussion.

Just reading the opening paragraphs made me remember what a wonderful piece of thinking and writing this is. And how brilliant Pope Benedict is at expressing not only the intellectual but also the heart of the matter. He also shows his practical side and that he is not isolated in an ivory tower but understands very well what it means to be human, craving the love of God and of our fellow men.

This is a piece I could recommend to everyone: atheists wanting to know the point of Christianity, non-Christians wanting to know the heart of the Gospel, Christians wanting to know more about Catholics and ... more than anyone ... to Catholics who need to be refreshed in their faith and reminded that love is the heart of God and the heart of our faith. What a powerful work by someone who thought so deeply and yet is able to communicate so well. Amazing.

I am so inspired that I plan to reread the two follow-up encyclicals that complete the trilogy of love, hope and charity.



* Thank you Wolf Brand Chili who, as most Texans remember, has long had their famous slogan, "Neighbor, how long has it been since you had a big, thick, steaming bowl of Wolf Brand Chili? Well, that's too long!"

Monday, May 7, 2012

Divine Mercy Chaplet - Thursday evening, St. Thomas Aquinas, Dallas

A small group of us will be meeting once or twice a month at St. Thomas to pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet together.

What's that, you may ask?
Saint Faustina stated that Jesus asked her to pray the Chaplet and instruct others to do so. Although the Chaplet is said on beads like the Rosary, it is about a third of the length of the Rosary, and unlike the Rosary that has evolved over the years, the form and structure of the Chaplet has remained unchanged since Faustina attributed it to a message from Jesus.
According to Faustina's visions, written in her diary, the Chaplet's prayers for mercy are threefold: to obtain mercy, to trust in Christ's mercy, and to show mercy to others.
You may read more about it here. It doesn't take much time but is a wonderful devotion.

If you'd like to join us, just show up. You don't need anything special and we'll have the prayers printed out.

Thursday, May 10
7:00 p.m. "ish" (after the Rosary group finishes their prayers after Mass)
St. Thomas - front of church (we'll say the Chaplet inside the church)

If you have questions or would like to receive emails about future dates we'll be meeting, let me know and I'll forward them to the person who organized this.

What I've Been Reading: Feed by Mira Grant

Feed (Newsflesh Trilogy, #1)Feed by Mira Grant

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


I'm a bit tired of the zombie genre, however, this was of interest because of the large part that blogging plays in the story. In fact, blogging is the reason for the story, as it turns out. And that is the reason my friend pressed the book upon me, as he knew my long time blogging and podcasting habits.

Set in 2040, the world has seen the zombie apocalypse thanks to well-intended medicinal cures going awry (isn't that always the way? thank you, I Am Legend movie). The major media downplayed the idea of "zombies" rising from the dead and cost thousands of lives. But the plucky blogging community of citizen reporters gave everyone the truth and helped save civilization. Variations of George and Shaun are the most popular children's names now thanks to society's debt to such movie makers as George Romero and movies like Shaun of the Dead for giving tips to how to avoid and kill zombies. So, yes, the book is heavily invested in pop culture, as one would expect

At the time of the story, bloggers are the new celebrities and our heroine, Georgia, and her brother, Shaun, are among the most popular. They are picked to cover an up and coming presidential candidate as he campaigns before the Republican National Convention. It soon becomes apparent that someone is out to stop the campaign and our intrepid reporters are out to uncover the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

I'd have marked this up another star except the solution to the mystery was so extremely simple that I'd considered it early on and rejected it as too obvious. Yes, both where the adversary was getting information (and why) and who the villain was (and why).

I really enjoyed the environment of the Newsies, Irwins, and Fictionals and how they worked together within their news organization to create full news coverage. I also appreciated the thorough thought the author gave to the virus and the implications to the living population. That actually gave the story a complexity that was lacking in the mystery details. As well, I liked the basic story and characters, although I could have done with much less of Georgia's ever present headaches due to the virus' effect on her eyes. Got it and don't mind a few reminders, but they could have cut it in half and it would have been enough.

Overall, though, high marks for a thrilling, fun to read story that kept me interested so that I kept picking up the book every time I had a chance, reading it in two days. Ironically, my overall comment would match the one that we kept reading throughout the book when others would comment on our heroes' "blogging as journalism" ... not perfect, a bit rough and could use improvemnt -- but it has great heart. I'm looking forward to reading the sequel and crossing my fingers for a more complex plot.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Weekend Humor: The Other Avengers

The Other Avengers Read
via Awesome People Reading
If you didn't get it, then you have pleasure in store. Here's a bit of YouTube goodness. And you can read more at Wikipedia (natch).

Friday, May 4, 2012

Do you know how insidious the music from Cheers is?

I mean ... do you?

Tom and I began watching Cheers from the beginning a couple of weeks ago, after I heard a Story Wonk Daily where they were talking about watching it as a textbook on how to develop "story." (Also, they love it.)

I watched it all when it was on (and before you begin adding on your fingers, I'll help ... 1st season: 1982). And so did Tom. But we'd forgotten so much. And it is like a stage play. A really well done, clever stage play.

It is fascinating to watch an episode an evening (streaming free - Amazon Prime) and see the actors become comfortable with their characters and the writers give the audience credit for intelligence ... and lean a little further with the subplots and side jokes.

The problem is that Cheers song. What an earworm (thank you German for such a descriptive term).

I find myself humming it. It pops into my head off and on all day.

I confessed as much to Tom.

Who's having the same problem.

Insidious. That's it.

UPDATED: National Day of Prayer ... in which some offer thanks for not having to pray

Today is the National Day of Prayer in the United States--or, as President Obama put it in his either-ironic-or-clueless-depending-on-how-much-slack-you-give-him presidential proclamation, our National Day of Giving Thanks for the Freedom of Religion that Allows Us to Abstain from Praying. There used to be an interfaith prayer breakfast hosted by the White House on this day, but the President has chosen to exercise his right to abstain from eating food that might have gotten blessing all over it, and canceled that.
Just going on the record here to say how much Joanne McPortland can crack me up.

I loved this paragraph so much I read it three times.

And then shared it with you, of course.

What makes it great is that Joanne is not necessarily in support of a National Day of Prayer. And I myself am fairly indifferent to it.

Not that Joanne isn't in support of prayer (as, you all hopefully know, I am also). She talks about the prayer that the nation's people do and it is well worth reading. It's a good read so go thou and do so!

UPDATE
I'm so silly. I thought that people would click through to look around Joanne's blog and see what she's like. I did not account for our national tendency to rush to comment (and I've been guilty of that myself, many a time, so I should know better).

I also thought I gave little hints that Joanne and I are usually in a state of interesting tension with one another. She really does not hold many of the same ideas that I do about the best way to solve national problems. (We haven't spoken directly about this but it's just "the vibe of the thing." Joanne, you may correct me if I'm wrong on this.)

No matter. I love the heck outta her. Which means she is a rare, honest, and winsome person because these days opposition in thinking equals strident expression. On either side. She don't do that thing.

So, believe me when I say that the funniest thing to me about her introductory paragraph is that she is the "cut him slack" person she mentions. I myself can imagine President Obama's wry look at reading this from the proclamation that I am sure some administrative writer put before him:
On this National Day of Prayer, we give thanks for our democracy that respects the beliefs and protects the religious freedom of all people to pray, worship, or abstain according to the dictates of their conscience.
(bolding is mine, of course)

But it's the "correct" thing to do, right?

So there they went.

I was given many an opportunity to chuckle over the opportunities that George Bush (pick one) gave people to laugh. And I appreciate it when anyone can see things clearly enough to do so over President Obama, even if they may support him in many ways.

Before we comment in anger, can we all take a deep breath and just lighten up a bit?

We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Why Life and Love Matter

A simply beautiful piece from The Anchoress about the real value of life, linking to other good things to read. As always, however, The Anchoress pulls it all together thoughtfully and makes us think too.

UPDATED: Dickens, Melville, Paradise Lost and ... Ricardo Montalban's chest!

"From Hell's heart I stab at thee..."

Yes, we watched The Wrath of Khan (Star Trek II).

All so glorious that we just keep talking and talking at A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast. With guest Heather Hutchinson Ordover from Craft/Lit and Just the Books podcasts.

UPDATE
I am glad to see that we are influential enough to inspire others in our choice of a film.

Joseph at Zombie Parent's Guide reflects on The Wrath of Khan which he watched in preparation of our newest episode.

I wonder if people somewhere are scratching their heads over a sudden spike of rentals or downloads? (Yes, a gal can dream...)

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Literary Paint Chips: Gallery 1

From the Paris Review Daily - Paint Samples, suitable for the home, sourced from colors in literature.

For example if you want to see that gray green greasy color of the river Limpopo, this is where you're gonna go.
“Then Kolokolo Bird said, with a mournful cry, ‘Go to the banks of the great gray-green, greasy Limpopo River, all set about with fever-trees, and find out.’ ” “The Elephant’s Child,” Rudyard Kipling.
I noticed that one of the people credited is Ben Schott who wrote a couple of my favorite trivia books. And I see he also has done some almanacs.

Thanks to Scott for this link.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Americans and Obedience: Oil and Water

The Anchoress has also been thinking about obedience and has a really good piece on it.

The fact that she mentions my piece on obedience and links multiple times ... that has nothing to do with my liking for her piece. (ahem)

Actually, I know that she was already thinking about the subject. Anyone paying attention to the LCWR kerfluffle can hardly avoid it. But our pieces do dovetail nicely because when you're Catholic ... well, you're pointed to one example for obedience. It's no surprise that we would think along similar lines.

The Feast of St. Joseph the Worker


We celebrate two feast days for Joseph: March 19 for Joseph the Husband of Mary and May 1 for Joseph the Worker.

There is much we wish we could know about Joseph -- where and when he was born, how he spent his days, when and how he died. But Scripture has left us with the most important knowledge: who he was -- "a righteous man" (Matthew 1:18).