Monday, July 30, 2012

Zombies and Aggies With a Common Cause

The common cause?

Stepping up to counter Westboro Baptist Church's protests.

A Westboro Baptist Church protest was overshadowed Friday when demonstrators dressed as zombies gathered at a DuPont, Wash. military base to counter the radical group's efforts.

After members of the controversial Kansas-based church announced plans to picket Joint Base Lewis-McChord, a military base south of Seattle, 27-year-old Melissa Neace decided to organize a counter-protest, launching a Facebook group titled "Zombie'ing Westboro Baptist Church AWAY from Fort Lewis!"
This is an increasingly popular tactic and one that I love for two reasons. People are showing up personally to take a stand and they are using peaceful methods.
At a similar protest at Texas A&M University, students dressed in maroon formed a circle around a funeral and seemingly discouraged Westboro protesters from ever showing up.
Read all about it here and see videos of both. Via Frank Weathers.

Joe's Back and This Time ... It's Biblical: Reviewing The King of Plagues by Jonathan Maberry


... He paused. "Tell me again what Scofield said to you. About the river of blood."

I closed my eyes and found the words. "'They said that if the rivers didn't run red with blood, then the blood of my family would run like a river.'"

"Yes. That troubles me."

"All of it troubles me. The phrasing doesn't match the rest of what he said. He was clearly quoting, or attempting to quote, something that was said to him. It has a distinctly biblical structure to it. Rivers running red with blood. You're going to need a different kind of specialist to sort that out. Not my kind of job ... I'm a shooter."
When a huge London hospital is rocked by bomb blasts, thousands are dead or injured. Joe Ledger arrives to investigate and within hours is attacked by assasins and then sent into a viral hot zone during an Ebola outbreak.

Joe has tangled with zombies and he's battled with dragons. Now he's up against the seven plagues of Egypt, the best that bio-engineering can provide. What would the seven plagues be without a secret society concocting them for our doom? Not much, of course, and The Seven Kings have a worldwide conspiracy that will test Joe to his utmost.

I especially enjoyed the fact that, unlike the previous two books, readers do not know what the terrorists are planning. Each new attack is experienced along with Joe Ledger as unthinkable plagues descend first upon one place and then another.

That said, the book is still fairly straight-forward about most of the "mysteries" Joe encounters. A young researcher's family connections seem obvious, as does the source of the final attack that Joe and his team must stop to save the world.  Misdirection may be the hallmark of the Seven Kings but it isn't something that Maberry seems to worry about too much. If it works, then it works. If not, well there is still a ripping good thriller to read.

Interestingly, Maberry includes a henchman with more of a conscience than one expects in a conspiracy of unfathomable evil. This follows the trend of The Dragon Factory where Paris, though capable of committing abominable individual acts, draws the line at mass destruction or EVIL as Maberry would call it. Does this mean there is lesser evil and greater EVIL? Or is it rather like saying that Hitler loved dogs so he had a good side to his personality? I'm not sure just what Maberry is getting at, but it is a very interesting development in his villains.

Villains aside, there is not a lot of character development because it simply isn't that sort of book, although we do get a bit more light shed on the mysterious Mr. Church. I also enjoyed the addition of Joe's dog, Ghost, who seems to have almost supernatural abilities of his own as the most perfectly trained attack dog ever. (But, let's be fair. What other sort of attack dog could keep up with Joe?)

On the negative side, an audio book is not the ideal way to experience some of the torture used on the people forced to help The Seven Kings. It is what one expects from this sort of thriller, but one description was enough and we were treated to several. Also, the description of the Biblical plagues and the contest between Moses and the court magicians was one of the worst I've ever heard. It wouldn't have taken much to remove the idea of "God teaching Moses magic" and tell the original story. It certainly would have taken nothing away from the book. However, this is quibbling and not something that is going to dampen most people's enjoyment.

Ray Porter continues to do a pitch perfect job narratin the Joe Ledger books. His narration is a key part of the "Joe Ledger experience" for me and, as I've noted in other reviews, is the reason I prefer the narration to reading the book myself.

Fast paced and tightly written, The King of Plagues just might be the perfect summer superhero book. If you like your superhero as a hard-bitten shooter, with a white dog named Ghost, who likes nothing better than slaying monsters, that is.

This review was published originally at SFFaudio.

Friday, July 27, 2012

A Movie You Might Have Missed: 31

As my pal Scott Nehring says, "If there is such a thing as a chick flick for guys, this is it."
(His excellent review is at Good News Film Reviews.)

 31. The Quiet Man


Sean Thornton (John Wayne) has returned to Ireland after growing up in America. Seeking peace and the family home his mother often told him of, his eye lights on Mary Kate Danaher (Maureen O'Hara) whose red hair, he is told, hints at her fiery temper. As they pursue their relationship, they fall afoul of Mary Kate's loutish brother, cultural differences, and the difficulty marriage can pose at the best of times. Throughout there is a strong humorous vein which is betrayed not only by obvious scenes but in some of the subtler lines and reactions. Which is my way of telling you to pay attention to get all you can from this film.

This is an atypical outing for director John Ford and star John Wayne as they were much better known for Westerns. Ford worked for 14 years to get this movie made and it is a true love letter to Ireland and her people.

Above all, this is the movie that made me fall in love with John Wayne and respect him as an actor. He shows such tenderness, understanding, and charm in his scenes with Maureen O'Hara that one cannot doubt we are seeing some of the real man as well as the character of Sean Thornton. Maureen O'Hara has a delightful time as the beauty with a frightful temper who feels real repentance later. As a couple, they are truly charismatic. I defy anyone to watch the scene where they are caught in the rain and not feel their chemistry ... as well as see their sheer magnetism.

Scott and I discussed this movie on the A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Beckoning Fair One by Oliver Onions

Oliver Onions (yes, his real name) writes a ghost story that creeps up on us just when we're getting comfortable. Part 1 of The Beckoning Fair One is ready for your listening pleasure at Forgotten Classics podcast.

The Quiet Man: "If there is such a thing as a chick flick for guys, this would be it."

Scott and I discuss a classic movie that goes against type for John Wayne and director John Ford ... The Quiet Man at A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

A Garden of Visible Prayer by Margaret Rose Realy


A beginner must think of herself as one setting out to make a garden in which her Beloved Lord is to take his delight ... (St. Teresa of Avila)

This book is a step-by-step approach to help guide you in creating a meaningful sacred space — a place you can step into, close at hand, matched to what brings you personally to inner quietness. ...

This book does not consider the need to landscape your whole yard, but only a very small portion of it so as to be able to attend to the landscape of your soul.
I am not a gardener. At the very most, I have a front porch full of plants in containers which I maintain in a haphazard fashion. Meaning, I'll suddenly look at them and think, "It's 106 today and I haven't watered them for ... hmmm ... well, for a while. Better do that today."

I know. Poor things. Surprisingly, they still seem to flourish, especially my beloved African Iris.

I like the idea of a garden though. I like being outside, hearing water trickle, seeing tall grasses bend under the wind, watching a juvenile grackle beg his mom for food, smelling that elusive honeysuckle every June when I exit my office building, and running my hand over a lavender plant.

Therefore, when I saw Margaret Rose Realy's book about creating a prayer garden, I perked up my ears.

Realy does a fantastic job of taking readers through each step for creating the space you desire most. Even complete novices to gardening or spiritual spaces can follow the process and wind up with a space designed specifically to their needs. Aside from the ordinary garden plan items like soil density, light, and so forth, Realy brought up unexpected items such as whether the point of the garden is for meditation, healing, prayer, or memorial. Scents, colors, textures, and sounds are just a few of the details that I was surprised I had such definite likes and dislikes about, when going through the worksheet process.
Sounds take on a unique quality when we are being contemplative: the sounds of nature, the sounds of water, the sounds of a city, the sounds of our family. We may desire to be receptive to some sounds in our prayer space. Other sounds we may want to minimize.
Sounds can be organic or created. Simply put, the sounds of nature such as birds, wind and crickets are organic. Water is also considered organic and can be manipulated to vary its intensity and type of sound. We can create sounds in our garden with wind chimes or have intrusive created sounds from cars and kids.

[...]

Sounds from water vary in type and intensity. With moving water, the faster the flow over rocks or the higher the fall from the edge of a fountain, the more noticeable the sound will be. If your spiritual elements include a fountain, the flow and fall of water is what you will hear. A pool or pond of still water may have just the soft sound of a bird bathing or a frog plopping into it.

I actually already have three spots I turn to when I want to become immersed in nature and prayer but Realy's book has me examining them differently, with an eye to what can easily be added or taken away so that the spaces are even more welcoming than before. And there is a narrow gap of grass between our garage and the neighbor's fence that I'm considering in a whole new way. That may wind up being the space I take and make my own where I'd never have considered doing anything at all.

The book also mentions a lot of other books that Realy herself uses as resources. My To-Read list has grown and I'm grateful because these are books I'd probably never have discovered otherwise.

Highly recommended.

My one comment otherwise a note to the publisher: the type is gigantic. Sort of a "large type to beat all large type" layout. The layout is fine otherwise and even when using black and white photography it is evocative of the effect the author wishes to show. But the type is so big it is offputting. (Yes, type size is a bugaboo of mine but this has boggled the mind of several others I have shown it to. I think the publisher is just branching out to the book business from what I could discover on the internet so that may be the reason.

Chess claymation - for the fun of it.

I was looking for something else in my archives yesterday and came across this. It made me smile so I think we all need to watch it again. Today!

Give this one about 30 seconds for the charm to really show. When the pieces begin knocking each other off is when the fun really begins.



Via Thomas L. McDonald at State of Play (the gaming blog) who says, "'Scacchi' is not the animator's name: it's the Italian word for chess."

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Notes on Mark: Healing on the Sabbath

MARK 3:1-6
Jesus enters the synagogue and heals a man's withered hand while the Pharisees move toward final judgment. (Read it here.) Once again it comes down to the nitpicking details the Pharisees labeled holiness. Somehow "healing" just doesn't fall under the "work" label for me (although if I were a doctor or nurse that would be a whole other kettle of beans.) The Pharisees had no such qualms. This is easy to see when you know how stringent the rules were about medical care on the Sabbath.

That also makes it all the easier to see why Jesus' pulling that man to the front, asking that question, and then healing him was such an in-your-face challenge. Gotta love it, don't you? He just never backed down from the good fight. He never quit trying to get them to understand what they were doing that was wrong.
Jesus' opponents take for granted that he is able to cure and they guess, rightly, that the sight of the disabled man will move him to do so. But their only interest is in whether he will again violate their interpretation of sabbath law.

[...]

Far from being intimidated by their scrutiny, Jesus ensures that what he is about to do will be in full public view. The verb for come up, egeiro, can also be translated "rise up," and is the same word used for Jesus' resurrection in 16:6. Mark often uses it in healing stories (1:31; 2:9-12; 5:41; 10:49) to indicate that Jesus is bringing about not only physical cures but a restoration to fullness of life.

[...]

Unlike Matthew and Luke, Mark gives us a glimpse of Jesus'' interior reaction: he is angry and deeply grieved at their hardness of heart. "Hardness of heart" signifies a stubborn refusal to be open to God (Jer 11:8; Ezek 3:7; Eph 4:18) ...

At Jesus' word, the man stretches out his crippled hand, and in this very act it is restored. The Pharisees' response to this deed of mercy is swift. Ironically, they answer Jesus' question by their actions: rather than choosing to do good on the sabbath, they choose to do evil and destroy life by conspiring to put him to death. ...
George Montague, Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture: Gospel of Mark
Jewish rules about healing and the Sabbath.
It was the Sabbath day; all work was forbidden and to heal was work. The Jewish law was definite and detailed about this. Medical attention could be given only if a life was in danger. To take some examples -- a woman in childbirth might be helped on the Sabbath; an infection of the throat might be treated; if a wall fell on anyone, enough might be cleared away to see whether he was dead or alive; if he was alive he might be helped, if he was dead the body must be left until the next day. A fracture could not be attended to. Cold water might no be poured on a sprained hand or foot. A cut finger might be bandaged with a plain bandage but not with ointment. That is to say, at the most an injury could be kept from getting worse; it must not be made better...

Jesus knew that. This man's life was not in the least danger. Physically he would be no worse off if he were left until tomorrow. For Jesus this was a test case, and he met it fairly and squarely. He told the man to rise and to come out of his place and stand where everyone could see him. There were probably two reasons for that. Very likely Jesus wished to make one last effort to waken sympathy for the stricken man by showing everyone his wretchedness. Quite certainly Jesus wished to take the step he was going to take in such a way that no one could possibly fail to see it.
The Gospel of Mark(The Daily Bible Series, rev. ed.)
Possible historical precedents cited by Jesus.
Jesus may allude to the precedent of 1 Macc 2:41, where the Jews temporarily suspended Sabbath observance to permit defensive warfare. This was necessary in order to save life from military attacks on their sacred day of rest. If Israel could sidestep the Sabbath to preserve life, then surely Jesus can heal a man's hand on the same day.
The Gospel of Mark (The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible)

Monday, July 23, 2012

Engines of God by Jack McDevitt

The Engines of GodThe Engines of God by Jack McDevitt

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


My review which ran at SFFaudio.

Climate change has Earth on the brink of disaster. The only viable solution is terraforming other planets to ensure survival. For a small group of archaeologists, however, terraforming is the worst possible solution. The only suitable planet is also the one planet with the most promising artifacts of an unknown alien race. Known as the Monument Makers, the aliens’ buildings feature a seemingly uncrackable code on them. The team is looking for the alien equivalent of the Rosetta Stone and must race against time to finish excavations before terraforming begins.

Despite the fact that the book begins by talking about climate change, which always gives me a sinking feeling, that is just the pretext for launching readers into a mystery. The team’s quest takes them to outer space, other planets, and into extreme danger as they follow the Monument Makers’ trail to discover their whereabouts and why every alien civilization has been abandoned.

This book reads as if it were a series of four novellas strung together with the common thread of tracking the Monument Makers. Each of the completed stories gives Jack McDevitt the opportunity to take the reader a bit further into archaeological mysteries while also examining different planets, space travel, and alien beings. Transitions between “novellas” are minimal at best and character development is weak. Still McDevitt wove a mystery that kept me listening at a red-hot pace. This is surprising because the author revealed his story in a very straight forward manner with plenty of foreshadowing. In McDevitt’s case, however, the telling itself was so compelling that I was fascinated to hear what would happen next.
In short, I enjoyed this very much, although at the end the story suddenly threw off narrative and resorted to bullet points to finish things off. “In audio, it was an abrupt ending that startled me, however, that didn’t spoil it as the story itself was done. In fact, I didn’t care about the “[insert name here] went on to do this” summary and it could have been left out without hurting anything.

Tom Weiner did a fine job of narrating the book. His reading was not something that stood out for any reason but which carried the story along very well. It left me with the memory of story rather than reader, which is surely what good narration should accomplish.

McDevitt tells a very good mystery that gives answers to some questions and leaves others to the readers’ speculation. Engines of God is ultimately a satisfying adventure which introduces us to a universe that he went on to write other novels about and which I will be seeking out.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Prayers for Aurora with Office of the Dead

Everything else on the blog today was prepared before I heard the horrific news about the mass shooting in Aurora. I thought, "What has the world come to?"

And then I realized I have had to think that too many times in the past few years.


From Joseph Susanka comes the expression of our heavy hearts:
“I wish it need not have happened in my time," said Frodo.

"So do I," said Gandalf, "and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

So I turn to what I know and can do for those broken hearts and broken lives in Aurora. Prayer.

Via The Anchoress comes the prayer that helps soothe my heart a little and that I hope helps those afflicted:
Have mercy on them O Lord, and make them welcome into your company; in your kindness console hearts broken; bind up the wounds inflicted upon our bodies, minds and spirits, for you are the Source of all healing and all love.

On the cross, you showed mercy; let your example become alive to us in these days of heavy grief, that our pain may not be fed and grown on the poison of suspicion, exploitation, and vengeance — to which our hearts too quickly turn, and by which we are further weakened — but that it may, rather, be bathed in your light of revelation and truth, and soothed by the touch of your all-embracing, all-conciliating peace.

In Christ’s name, we pray.

A Movie You Might Have Missed: 30

This film is a luminous masterpiece that is an art movie in every sense of the word.

 30. The Mill and the Cross



Painter Pieter Bruegel the Elder (Rutger Hauer) explains the meaning of his painting, The Procession to Calvary,  to his patron (Michael York) from within the painting itself. That is the description from the back of the DVD case which gripped my imagination and made me take it home. We were not disappointed. As Roger Ebert said, "If you see no more than the opening shots, you will never forget them."

This is an art movie in every sense of the word. Dialogue is spare, the pace is deliberate, and sometimes it can be difficult to tell where real life ends and the painting begins. Those elements contribute to this movie's power, as we are introduced to a dozen of the over 500 characters in the painting in an extraordinary blend of live action and special effects. As the artist imagines them coming to life with a new morning, we follow the characters to their eventual inclusion within the art. With careful scene framing and lighting as luminous as that of any painting, we truly felt as if we were within a painting.

Most of what I have said would not actually tempt me to watch the film. It must be experienced and is very difficult to describe. It came to my attention after being recommended as a contemplative piece during Lent by Joseph Sousanka, but I think this film stands on its own as a unique piece of art which anyone may appreciate. It certainly should fascinate anyone interested in the making or appreciation of either art or films.

You will either love it or hate it, but you will not forget it. (And then you'll go to a museum.)

Pieter Bruegel's The Way to Calvary
via Wikipedia

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Cure for the Family Summer Doldrums: Catholic Family Fun by Sarah A. Reinhard

Right now the wind may have gone out of your summer sails and family time together may be more about feudin' and fightin' than enjoying each others' company.

I've got the solution. How about trying:
  • Unbirthday Party
  • Mystery Food Night
  • Backyard Circus
  • Silly Story Hour
Catholic Family Fun is a guide families can use for having a great time together, often using supplies from around the house or just plain imagination. Sarah Reinhard has a variety of ingenious ways to have fun in an old fashioned way that doesn't seem "old fashioned." The headings alone point you in the right direction. Who can resist Silly Things to Do Together, Story Starters, or Outdoor Adventures?

Each activity has a several variations, starters to help you get going, faith angles, and a way to "make it yours." There must be over a hundred possibilities when you consider all the alternatives. Some of these are activities that we did with our children when they were little but many of the variations are new to me. I'd have loved this book as an idea generator for a way to grow closer to the kids.

In keeping with the faith theme, the sections Faith with Fun, Ways to Serve, Saints to Celebrate and Praying Together are all just as fun and ingenious as the rest of the book. Somehow I never thought of doing the housework together while singing the Divine Mercy chaplet but just thinking about the house ringing with that song is one that makes me smile.

Although it is Catholic Family Fun, you could easily give it to families who don't care about the Catholic angle. Fun is fun no matter what a family does or doesn't believe. In the faith areas, many of the service ideas, for example, work just as well for any faith orientation with a bit of creative tweaking.

Just reading this book cast my memory back to sleepovers our girls would have when the big event was a musical show. The kids planned, costumed, and scripted it using Disney soundtracks. The next morning, all the parents got a show. Nothing we bought them could have given the fun and excitement they had from those evenings. This book is full of similar ways of "making" your own good times.

Full disclosure: when this book showed up in the mail, I immediately began thinking of which young mother of my acquaintance would be the recipient. Certainly, I planned on reading a few sample chapters at best. Therefore, this book's best testimony is that a third of the way into it, I was wishing I'd had it when my children were small and planning to tuck it away thinking "grandchildren someday."

Families with small children or grandchildren need this book. Period. If I had the cash, I'd keep a supply on hand to distribute to my many friends with small children. This could not only save their sanity but give them the reputation as the most fun mom on the block.

I will leave you with this lengthy excerpt because it makes the point about what a treasure this book is much better than I can. I chose this because I could easily imagine how much fun my husband and the kids would have had planning a course and then coming up with other variations. It shows how flexibility and creativity are the order of the day so that you can get on with having the fun.
Obstacle Course

Prep: High 2-4 hours
Duration: Less than 1 hour
Cost: Medium

My adult love of obstacle courses began recently, when a friend whose house is a frequent landing place for us suggested using an obstacle course setup to teach some math concepts. Watching our then-preschoolers laughing, and then observing how they started playing and modifying on their own, I was hooked.

I began to see the backyard as a canvas. Add some simple ingredients—a hula hoop, some lawn chairs, a folding table, a sawhorse, some PVC pipe, a ball or two, a baby pool, and anything that strikes your fancy from the house or garage. Spend a little time arranging, and voila! An obstacle course!

You may not have a large backyard—or even any backyard—but a room in your house, cleared out, could just as easily host your obstacle course. For that matter, you can build a miniature obstacle course on your kitchen table and race marbles or small objects through it.

Here are some of my ideas for obstacle courses. Let them spark your imagination—and be sure to get input from your family. You may find that creating and building the course if part of the fun!

1. The Whole Body Challenge: This is the full-blown backyard version of the idea. Gather your materials and dedicate an evening to devising and building an obstacle course. These tasks could be part of your family fun agenda.

a. Materials you could use: lawn chairs, buckets, small balls (plastic or foam), beach ball, sports balls (soccer, basketball), PVC pipe, baby pool, folding table, backyard play structures, rope, hula hoops, cardboard boxes, bandanas (for blindfolds), safety cones (overturned buckets, old tires, laundry baskets, or large cardboard boxes can serve the same purpose).

b. A few obstacle ideas to get things started:
  • Balance beam: lay a length of or a plank (wood or cardboard) along the  ground. The object is to walk along it.
  • Ball toss: place a bucket a distance away from a pile of balls. Toss the balls into the bucket. Bonus for doing it blind-folded.
  • Crawl: line up a row of chairs (or a long bench) and crawl underneath it.
  • Kicking weave: Put safety cones (or overturned buckets) in a row, with a beach or soccer ball at the end. Weave among them, kicking the ball.
  • Repetition on the play set: find a way to use the different parts of your backyard play set. Go up and down the slide three times or swing five times back and forth. Try the same course backward—either facing backward or doing things in the opposite order.
2. Tabletop obstacle course ...


3. Croquet with a twist ...

Faith Angle
  1. Life Obstacles ...
  2. Old Testament obstacle course: Build an obstacle course around an Old Testament Bible story. For example, you could use a sandbox for a desert and have a wading pool nearby for a sea, and then have everyone sprint to escape the Egyptians (reference Exodus 14). You could build a maze—life size using cardboard or smaller using toilet paper rolls—for the 40 years the Israelites spent wandering in the desert, winding up with a feast in the "Holy Land."
  3. Saint Obstacles ...
Make It Yours
  • Make it a race to the finish! Use a stopwatch to time the participants as they go through the courses.
  •  Pair up into teams. Have one team build the course and the other team go through it. who built the harder course? Who completed it faster? 
  • Relays are always a fun way to change things up. Give each team a stick to serve as a baton; if the baton drops, the team has to start over. 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A deserted town, outlaws after gold ... just another day in the wild, wild, West with Louis L'Amour.

At Forgotten Classics, where we offer a sample of perfect vacation reading ... Louis L'Amour!

Free or Cheap Classics "Classes" on the Internet

I must say that I have never been so interested in so many truly classic books as right now. My interest has been piqued by various bloggers and podcasters whose discussions are so interesting that I swim in the wake of their enthusiasm. With such guides as these, I am diving deep into the classics and having a grand time.

These are all underway but it is easy to track back and start at the beginning:

The Flannery O'Connor Summer Reading Club - blog
For a simple reader like me, some help is necessary to understand O'Connor's short stories. The reading club has been looking at a different short story each week and I have been enjoying it immensely. Blogger and club host Jonathan Rogers has a book about O'Connor coming out soon and, based on this, it is definitely worth reading.

The Waste Land by T.S. Eliot - blog
I've always been so intimidated by this poem. Its reputation looms large for complexity. Plus, I'm not that into poetry. However, Melanie Bettinelli loves poetry, Eliot, and this poem. She's going through it a few lines at a time which has been very good for helping me digest it. Oddly enough, often my personal feelings about the lines lead to completely different interpretations of Bettinelli's but that is all to the good in this case. Because it means I'm engaged with the poem and her discussion is making me think about it more than I would just sitting down and reading it through.

The Canterbury Tales by Chaucer - podcast
I've also always been intimidated by Chaucer. (Yes, if it is an old classic then I'm intimidated ... let's not discuss Beowulf, please). However, I am now going to get it spoon-fed with some of the best help possible ... from Heather Ordover at Craft Lit.

If you support the Craftlit podcast by subscribing for $5/month, then Heather gives all sorts of delightful goodies which are CraftLit Originals. One is that her husband, Andrew, is narrating his book Cool for Cats, and a wonderful narrator he is of this mystery which I much enjoyed. The other is that she is offering Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. Having just gone through the introductory episode I can say that my anxiety is eased already. Heather is an experienced teacher who truly loves Chaucer and she's recruited a fantastic reader. She is also offering an enhanced version which will have the text, images from that time and much more.

CLARIFICATION: you must subscribe to receive the Chaucer podcast. Here is the link to Heather's explanation and her PayPal spot.

The Odyssey - podcast
Jesse and Scott at SFFaudio have been working their way through The Odyssey four chapters at a time. They're close to the end, but that doesn't mean you can't catch up. I've been reading along in time to their discussions and it has been a good way to experience the entire thing.

Classic Fantasy and Horror Authors - blog
Kindle Review is a great place to find free and discounted Kindle books. There is a list every day, sorted by category. Recently, there has been an extra bonus for those of us who like fantasy and horror. Using the Ballantine Adult Fantasy Series as a guide, there has been a series of posts briefly covering various authors and linking to some of their major works that are free for the Kindle. The Ballantine series, which began in 1969, showcased fantasy and horror writers who had long been long out-of-print or only published in pulp magazines such as Weird Tales.

I know, these aren't the true classics such as the other listings, but they are classics in their own right and difficult to find sometimes.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Religion, The Washington Post, and Media Bias...

Let’s start with three basic observations, after mulling over the contents of this [Washington Post] story:

(1) It appears that liberal Catholics listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit. Conservative Catholics prefer, for some reason, to listen to fallible men called “bishops.”

(2) The Post seems to love, love, love believers whose approach to doctrine and church history mirrors that of the modernized Episcopal Church, especially when those people are billed as reformers in the Roman Catholic Church.

(3) Based on years of reading Post coverage of the many doctrinal battles between liberal and conservative Episcopalians, it appears that it absolutely crucial for conservative Episcopalians to obey their liberal bishops (and everyone heads to secular courts if they cannot work things out), but it isn’t terribly important for liberal Catholics to obey their conservative bishops, even when those bishops are acting in obedience to that Bishop of Rome guy.
Read it all at GetReligion.

I couldn't help myself. This made me laugh because it is not simply true of The Post, it is true of practically every media outlet these days.

And, also ... I like lists of things that make me laugh.

Monday, July 16, 2012

3-D, Frames Per Minute, and the Clash of the Titans

The titans being Peter Jackson and James Cameron. Roger Ebert has an interesting piece on film quality, 3D, movie length, and much more at his journal.
Throughout movie history Hollywood has bragged about ever more stupendous motion picture "events." It has used technical innovations like sound, color and widescreen to increase its impact in theaters. The era of 70mm "roadshows" produced some great movies. Now it appears that 3D has its claws in certain kinds of new productions, and even a director like Martin Scorsese has embraced it.

I think there may be a marketing error here. Moviegoers are growing less attentive to picture quality at a time when many are actually willing to watch a movie on a cellphone, and lower-def streaming occupies more than half the bandwidth on the Internet in the evening. While there will always be an audience for "The Hobbit" or "Avatar 2," at least as long as Jackson and Cameron maintain their standards, I believe there is lessening consumer enthusiasm for paying extra to see "Kung Fu Panda" merely because it is in 3D.

I've seen a lot of 3D movies lately. I no longer routinely devote a paragraph at the end of my reviews to comments about the 3D. That was getting boring. But this fact remains: No matter what they tell you, current 3D involves a loss of picture brightness of at least 20%. Watching one of these movies is like sitting though a film using a projector whose bulb is near the end of its life span.

I have a little ritual I invariably perform during 3D movies. I lift the 3D glasses off my eyes and see how bright the picture would look without them. That is a reminder of what the movie is supposed to look like.
That trick with the glasses is what I kept doing during Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter. The 3D was so very dark.

Do go read his column if you are a movie lover.

Class Alert: Science Fiction, Part 1 - From Modern Beginnings through the Golden Age

I have been a fan of Amy H. Sturgis ever since hearing her talk about science fiction history at StarShipSofa podcast. I'm gonna say that, based on that experience alone, you'll get a wonderful class if you are interested in the subject. But let's let Ms. Sturgis tell you all about it.
I’m thrilled to say that this fall, online and worldwide, I’ll be offering the first of my two-part history of science fiction course, Science Fiction, Part 1: From Modern Beginnings through the Golden Age, for the innovative Mythgard Institute. It’s a graduate-level course, but students don’t have to be seeking a degree from Signum University in order to “sit in” (or audit) just for the love of the subject. Anyone may sign up. Registration is now open!

You can see a full list of the lecture topics, assigned readings, and more here.

The class will consist of 24 90-minute online lectures with live Q&A. These lectures will also available to registered students for immediate download as audio and video files. I’ll also accept emailed questions in between lectures. There will be a class discussion forum available 24/7.

The second half of the two-part course will be offered soon and will build upon this one. It will begin with the New Wave.

Here are the vital bits...

Who? Dr. Amy H Sturgis
Where? The Mythgard Institute
What? The History of Science Fiction, Part 1

Notes on Mark: About the Sabbath

MARK 2:23-28
Jesus is passing through a field of grain on the Sabbath and the hungry disciples pick and eat grains. The Pharisees are all over this like white on rice. (You can read it here.) 

Here are a few notes that add to our understanding of the nuances of this passage.
The fourth controversy, like the second, involves a meal—but this time it is a meal on the go, the ancient equivalent of fast food. Mark notes several occasions when Jesus and his disciples are so busy ministering to the throngs of people that they have no time even to eat (3:20; 6:31; 8:1).

[...]

In drawing this comparison [between himself and David], Jesus is declaring that the requirements of his messianic mission (here, his disciples' need for nourishment on the road) take precedence over the prescriptions of the law. But he is also saying more than this. Jesus is likening himself to David, and his disciples to David's loyal band of soldiers. David was the "anointed one" who had been chosen by god to lead Israel (1 Sam 16:13), but who spent years being hunted down by Saul before finally taking up his royal throng.  Like David, Jesus is the Lord's anointed one, his Messiah, pursued and persecuted by the leaders of Israel until the day when he will take up his throne. ...
George Montague, Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture: Gospel of Mark
===========
"Son of man": the origin of the messianic meaning of this expression is to be found particularly in the prophecy in Dan 7:13, where Daniel, in a prophetic vision, contemplates 'one like a son of man' coming down on the clouds of heaven, who even goes right up to God's throne and is given dominion and glory and royal power over all peoples and nations. This expression appears 69 times in the Synoptic Gospels; Jesus prefers it to other ways of describing the Messiah -- such as Son of David, Messiah, etc. -- thereby avoiding the nationalistic overtones those expressions had in Jewish minds at the time.
===========
when Abiathar was high priest: The priest who provided David with bread was actually Ahimelech, Abiathar's father (1 Sam 21:1). This apparent discrepancy causes some modern scholars to accuse Jesus of misquoting Scripture, although this conclusion is unnecessary.

Jesus probably mentioned Abiathar instead of Ahimelech to post a warning for the Pharisees. Abiathar is infamous in OT history as the last high priest of his line, who was banished from Jerusalem and the priesthood for opposing Solomon, the son of David and the heir of his kingdom (1 Kings 2:26-27). He thus represents the end of an old order that passes away with the coming of David's royal successor. As Jesus compares himself and the disciples with David and his men, he likewise draws the Pharisees into the story by casting them as figures like Abiathar. The Pharisees, then, represent an old order of covenant leadership that is about to expire, and if they persist in their opposition to Jesus, the new heir of the Davidic kingdom, they will meet the same disastrous fate that befell Abiathar. Jesus' allusion to this OT tradition was a subtle yet strategic way to caution the Pharisees against their antagonism to his ministry.
The Gospel of MarkThe Ignatius Catholic Study Bible

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Weekend Joke: Too Darn Hot

As George got out of the shower he said to his wife, “Honey, it’s too darned hot to wear clothes today, what do you think the neighbors will say if I mow the lawn naked?”

“That I married you for your money.”

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

It was a pleasure for Julie and Scott not to burn any books during the recording of A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast. Go listen before someone else pulls out the flame thrower.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Sarah Reinhard Joins Happy Catholic's Bookshelf

Woohoo!

I snagged another prolific book reader whose reviews always make me add to my "to read" list. Sarah Reinhard begins today by sharing six(ish) great books to read on vacation. Check it out!

In Search of London ...

... in which we discover that there's more to London than meets the eye. Pick it up at Forgotten Classics.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Think always of me ...

I die in the Catholic Apostolic and Roman religion, that of my fathers, that in which I was brought up, and which I have always professed. Having no spiritual consolation to look for, not even knowing whether there are still in this place any priests of that religion (and indeed the place where I am would expose them to too much danger if they were to enter it but once), I sincerely implore pardon of God for all the faults which I may have committed during my life. I trust that, in His goodness, He will mercifully accept my last prayers, as well as those which I have for a long time addressed to Him, to receive my soul into His mercy. I beg pardon of all whom I know, and especially of you, my sister, for all the vexations which, without intending it, I may have caused you. I pardon all my enemies the evils that they have done me. I bid farewell to my aunts and to all my brothers and sisters. I had friends. The idea of being forever separated from them and from all their troubles is one of the greatest sorrows that I suffer in dying. Let them at least know that to my latest moment I thought of them.

Farewell, my good and tender sister. May this letter reach you. Think always of me...
From Marie Antoinette's letter to her sister-in-law, written eight hours before she was beheaded, found at Letters of Note. It is touching and worth reading.

The Mystery of the Hopping Cardinal

Walking through the neighborhood this morning, my eye was caught by a young male Cardinal that landed in the grass not too far away.

He was obviously a juvenile, being slim and fairly small, but with a bright red color that contrasted wonderfully with the vivid green grass.

He looked around cautiously and then gave a great hop forward. Again, he looked around and another great hop. The third time this happened I thought, "What is going on?"
Via Wikipedia

There was a grasshopper just ahead of the bird, as it turns out. Every time it gave a hop so would the cardinal. Since I was standing and watching, all the nearby birds got quiet. Except for one chirp from overhead in a tree. I couldn't see the bird but I wondered if that was mama calling.

Sure enough, that little guy caught his hopper and flew up to the roof. Bam -- the other bird landed near him. Significantly larger, but definitely female, this had to be mom. She surveyed him as he gulped.

I rarely get to see those sorts of scenes acted out in nature so it was a real treat.

An Old Classic Still Has Power to Surprise: Heidi by Joanna Spyri

Heidi (Kingfisher Classics)Heidi by Johanna Spyri

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I came across this when perusing Semicolon's list of 55 Free Kindle Books Worth Reading. I don't know why Heidi appealed to me at that moment but I remember loving the book when I was a child and reading it many times. I began reading it this weekend just to get a taste of the classic I loved, but had no intention of reading all the way through. Imagine my surprise to find myself hooked and when the story was about 25% through, saying to myself, "What else is there to it? Isn't this most of the story?" As I went on, I remembered that the story was more complex than I remembered.

Briefly, for the handful of people who haven't any idea of the story, Heidi is a Swiss children's classic about a five year old orphan, Heidi, who is left with her grandfather, the Alm Uncle, in his isolated hut high in the Alps. Heidi's adventures with her grandfather, Peter the goatherd, the goats themselves, and the mountains (which are a definite character in the book) are just the beginning of the story. When she is suddenly swept away to the big city, how will Heidi adapt? What will happen to those left behind who have come to depend on her sunny personality? And so forth and so on. This is a much more compelling story than I am making it sound, albeit with a nice touch of Victorian moralizing about learning to read, how hard work never hurt anyone, etc.

That leads us to the second surprising thing: about half to two-thirds of the way through, with the introduction of Clara's grandmother, there was also an introduction of God into advice and conversation about how Heidi should live. It was done in a very natural way but I didn't remember it at all. Neither did I remember how Heidi took her personal experiences with God and passed them on to others who then put them to good use.

Something this made clear to me is that atheists who worry about exposing their kids to Christian novels shouldn't fret. Raised by atheists who just didn't think religion was worth discussing, I remember talking with my mother about the details we both loved in the book. Evidently the God-talk just passed right by me as particular to the characters but not something that I was interested in at all. (God had to wait for the right moment which was 20 or 30 years later.) I did vaguely recall that the grandmother (Peter's, not Clara's) was mightily attached to her hymns but that also was a vagary I applied to her personality (or old people, possibly?) and not something which mattered to me.

I think this also applies to a lot of things that people worry about their kids being exposed to. My twenty-something girls still talk about the shock they experienced rewatching The Little Mermaid a few years ago and hearing the double entendres in Ursula's song. They accused us of exposing them to wanton behavior. We laughed at them because why would they be so shocked if they understood it in the first place? Likewise this applies to why kids love Coraline by Neil Gaiman from the first page while adults often take a while to warm up to it (guilty as charged).

Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

Definitely the influences we expose our children to should be age appropriate, but we can relax a little about a lot of the specifics.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Keeping the Sabbath in Modern Times

I was listening to Heather Ordover's wonderful commentary on Gulliver's Travels (which comes with audio of the book specially recorded for us, y'all). In this particular episode of Just the Books, she mentioned a New York Times article about a good way to be able to fully enjoy vacation. It is to "practice" turning off electronic devices and taking a day to rest every week (as far as I gathered). Essentially, let's keep the Sabbath (secular style) everyone!

Heather and her husband have been working gradually in that direction and resolved to turn off electronic devices and do activities with their children that they wouldn't normally do during the week ... on Saturday for them because they are Jewish.

Love it!

You know that I have struggled to try to keep the Sabbath holy. It can be tough, especially at first, but as time has gone by I have found it becoming an easier habit and an almost unconscious practice. I fully realized this on the 4th of July when I was deliberately not turning on my computer or iPod. And then I said, "Self, this isn't Sunday, it's ok."

But you know what?

That made it less of a "special day" so I went ahead with my Sabbath-style "no electronics rule." I did have to work preparing holiday food, but it was special food work and so also contributed to the holiday mood. That is how I tend to treat Saturday, as a matter of fact ... fewer electronics, more time for weekend cleaning and cooking and books and things.

Here's the email I sent to Heather, who is used to getting my emails when I'm all excited. It's my on-the-fly version of our journey to keeping the Sabbath holy.
Anyway, I think I've already mentioned that we try to "keep the Sabbath" also? For about a year or so, I'd say. It began because of a book [The Power of Pause by Terry Hershey - my review here] that was loosely tied to spiritual practices and the point that keeping the third commandment (not a request, but a commandment) comes above honoring your father and mother as well as above "thou shalt not murder."

Darn it.

Partway into it, I then read Rabbi Heschel's amazing book, The Sabbath, which was partly above my head but most of it was amazing and brought me to that understanding that the "lounging around, wasting time, turning off devices, just hanging with our loved ones" is what life IS SUPPOSED TO BE LIKE ALL THE TIME.

Of course, I say this as a Catholic ... the younger brothers of our elder brothers, the Hebrew people ... but seriously. If we are to love God and then to just have a blast hanging out, essentially loving each other too? C'mon. That's a bit of Heaven on earth.

Though I have to make my Saturdays super-full to get it to work, that's ok (and that's also why I have to quit typing soon) ... it is so worth it.

Now I feel as if I'm cheating to turn on the computer, iPod, etc. So I don't. And it is lovely. We visit Tom's mom, we talk to Rose on video Skype, Hannah comes over and we have cocktails, a meal, and a movie ...of course, we go to Mass ... and you know, when you have a whole day with "nothing to do" then you can focus on Mass because you're not
busy making that mental list of what else to do the second you get out the door.

Of course, it is not always like that. But our rule of not doing something that can be checked off a list is one that works. And it makes it like a little vacation every week.
I'll add that I was already being influenced as well by a bulletin insert I wrote about the third commandment (yes God uses everything to get my attention).

Friday, July 6, 2012

BBQ Chicken Pizza and Fahrenheit 451

No, that's not the temperature I want you to cook the pizza at.

BBQ Chicken Pizza is at Meanwhile, Back in the Kitchen.

While you're fixing it, you can listen to my sample of Fahrenheit 451, at bit of lagniappe at Forgotten Classics.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Kenyan Muslim youth will provide a vigilante service to the Christian churches

Mr Wachu said that at a meeting the Inter-Religious Council of Kenya on Tuesday it was unanimously agreed the church attacks were acts of "terrorists and terrorism".

"Therefore we all resolved to stand together as one united front," he said.

"We decided as solidarity that the Muslim youth will provide a vigilante service to the churches not only in Garissa but in any other places that the Christians may deem fit."

He said that it was now up to the Muslim leaders in Garissa to organise out how the estimated 30 churches in the town would be protected.

"Muslims felt that because those Christians are a minority in their domain they must be protected at all cost."
Get the whole story here (via Deason's Bench). God bless them.

Venus is occupied by bathing beauties who need Earthmen to fend off the vicious space-dinosaurs ...

(1) Space colonization not only is possible, but Venus is occupied by bathing beauties who need Earthmen to fend off the vicious space-dinosaurs, and Mars is occupied by Amazonian nudists who lounge about the dead sea bottoms and in the jeweled, deserted, antique cities, yearning for Earthman love. For some reason, these advanced alien societies all prefer to use swords rather than firearms;
There are few things more entertaining than John C. Wright in a scientific debate. The Space Princess Equation, for example, proves my point.

Nothing + gravity + time = Leonardo da Vinci

Strange Herring wrestles with the God-Particle question and shows just one of the reasons I love reading it.

Garlic-Glazed Chicken Pizza

Oh, so good ... and, despite the length of the instructions, simple ... get it at Meanwhile, Back in the Kitchen.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Casual Vacancy - J.K. Rowling

When Barry Fairbrother dies in his early forties, the town of Pagford is left in shock.

Pagford is, seemingly, an English idyll, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, but what lies behind the pretty fa├žade is a town at war.

Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils…Pagford is not what it first seems.

And the empty seat left by Barry on the parish council soon becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen. Who will triumph in an election fraught with passion, duplicity, and unexpected revelations?

A big novel about a small town, The Casual Vacancy is J. K. Rowling’s first novel for adults. It is the work of a storyteller like no other.
I hadn't seen the plot summary before. I'm not sure what I expected Rowling's book for adults to be about, but this is not the sort of thing I expected. It does look like the sort of book I enjoy though so my hopes are cautiously rising.

The Liberty to Do What We Ought, Fortnight for Freedom, day 13

The quality we Americans most cherish is liberty. It is here that we Christians, while patriots, often find ourselves restless. Not that we are not grateful for our freedom – you bet we are! But we admit that too often liberty has been misinterpreted to mean license. No one articulated this apprehension better than Pope John Paul II, who taught, “genuine freedom is not the right to do whatever we want, but the liberty to do what we ought.” So, our American freedom is not a “cutting loose” from God, morality, virtue, or responsibility, but a bracing impetus to carry out the duties that are ingrained deep in our soul.
Cardinal Dolan's latest post says it perfectly, so go read the whole thing.

=====================

Let us pray: for our country, to change hearts, and for those living where taking your faith seriously means taking your life in your hands ...
Prayer for Religious Liberty

Almighty God, Father of all nations,
for freedom you have set us free in Christ Jesus (Gal 5:1).

We praise and bless you for the gift of religious liberty,
the foundation of human rights, justice and the common good.

Grant to our leaders the wisdom to protect
and promote our liberties.

By your grace may we have the courage to defend them,
for ourselves and for all those who live in this blessed land.

We ask this through the intercession of Mary Immaculate, our patroness,
and in the name of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, with whom you live and reign,
one God, for ever and ever.

Amen.

St. Thomas More, pray for us
St. John Fisher, pray for us
St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, pray for us
Bl. Miguel Pro, pray for us
Venerable Fulton Sheen, pray for us
St. Monica, pray for us
St. Augustine, pray for us
St. Teresa of Avila, pray for us

Passionate Knitters Force Olympics Apology: "we would again like to apologize to the members of the Ravelry community..."

In case you hadn't heard, the US Olympic Committee came down hard on knitting site Ravelry's "Ravelympics," threatening a lawsuit and in general throwing their weight around.
We believe using the name "Ravelympics" for a competition that involves an afghan marathon, scarf hockey and sweater triathlon, among others, tends to denigrate the true nature of the Olympic Games. In a sense, it is disrespectful to our country's finest athletes and fails to recognize or appreciate their hard work.
They didn't expect the public outcry that resulted. Or perhaps it is more accurate to say, they didn't know how many passionate knitters and spinners would take their displeasure straight to the USOC. The USOC is maintaining their right to the Olympic name, however, they are being conciliatory.
As a follow-up to our previous statement on this subject, we would again like to apologize to the members of the Ravelry community. While we stand by our obligation to protect the marks and terms associated with the Olympic and Paralympic Movements in the United States, we sincerely regret the use of insensitive terms in relation to the actions of a group that was clearly not intending to denigrate or disrespect the Olympic Movement. We hope you’ll accept this apology and continue to support the Olympic Games. ...
Mason-Dixon Knitting haven't taken this lying down and before the apology, they began their own offensive ... the knitterly way, using hand knit socks as incentive for Stephen Colbert to publicize the battle.
The whole thing reminded me of one of Stephen Colbert's "PEOPLE WHO ARE DESTROYING AMERICA" segments. You know, where he exposes the deep damage done to the social fabric and the Values We Hold Dear that is being done by, say, a lady who wants to air-dry her laundry to save energy, in a community that has a strict rule against clotheslines.

Stephen Colbert needs to expose this travesty! He needs to protect the pure and noble Olympics from tarnishment by association with millions of handknitters watching the games this summer.

In an optimistic but not too strenuous effort to make this happen, I tweeted Mr. Colbert. (He is @StephenAtHome on Twitter.) I went so far as to promise him that if he did a piece on the Knitters Who Are Destroying the Olympics, there would be a little something in it for him: a lifetime supply of handknit socks.
Of course, there are now 573 knitters in the Socks for Stephen Ravelry group knitting as fast as they can. I see that the apology did nothing to slow the knitting down. See, when these knitters begin a project, they do not stop until they are done.

This is much more amusing than watching the actual Olympics. When I read the original USOC complaint letter my first reaction was that the Olympics are not what they used to be back before they began allowing professional athletes to compete against the amateur ones. After that happened I lost most of my interest in the Olympics.

So for the USOC to complain about a lot of enthusiastic people organizing their days and evenings so they could knit along with the Olympics ... it just showed they don't get it. At all.

Summertime and Corn Salad is Easy

Or so my mother tells me. A recipe that has everyone begging for more ... at Meanwhile, Back in the Kitchen.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Gloria Purvis, Fortnight for Freedom, day 12



Gloria Purvis is so articulate, reasoned, and intelligent that I am letting her speak for us today.

=====================

Let us pray: for our country, to change hearts, and for those living where taking your faith seriously means taking your life in your hands ...
Prayer for Religious Liberty

Almighty God, Father of all nations,
for freedom you have set us free in Christ Jesus (Gal 5:1).

We praise and bless you for the gift of religious liberty,
the foundation of human rights, justice and the common good.

Grant to our leaders the wisdom to protect
and promote our liberties.

By your grace may we have the courage to defend them,
for ourselves and for all those who live in this blessed land.

We ask this through the intercession of Mary Immaculate, our patroness,
and in the name of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, with whom you live and reign,
one God, for ever and ever.

Amen.

St. Thomas More, pray for us
St. John Fisher, pray for us
St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, pray for us
Bl. Miguel Pro, pray for us
Venerable Fulton Sheen, pray for us
St. Monica, pray for us
St. Augustine, pray for us
St. Teresa of Avila, pray for us

Happy Catholic Bookshelf: Now More Happy Catholics to Love

Or at least more happy Catholics to review books for you over in our little corner of Patheos.

Jeff Miller's been over there for a few weeks and now we are joined by Will Duquette from The View From the Foothills.

If you haven't dropped by then you might want to take a look. Jeff just dropped in some really interesting posts about The Dark Tower Series, The Egg and I, and The Real (which has discussion about Kindle, new authors, and a link to a blog that lists free Amazon books every day).

Will posted his excellent review of The Killer Angels which is a plus for anyone who might want to read it without having to listen to Scott and me natter on forever about it.

C'mon over!

Cowboys and Aliens ...

We watched Cowboys and Aliens this weekend. Once again, Tom said, "Why are the critics so hard to please?"

It was basically a straight-forward Western, albeit with aliens standing in for surly prospectors invading the area and terrorizing the locals. (Extremely small spoiler follows). And there's a gold rush.

Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford step up and stop them.

I saw some critics complained about the lack of humor, but many a good Western has not been humorous. It wasn't perfect, but it didn't have to be. It was a perfectly serviceable Western. We recommend it.

We particularly enjoyed the fact that Harrison Ford's character was the one that experienced marked growth. Not only was it good to see him in a decent part, but interesting that Daniel Craig wasn't given all the attention.

Ladies, I celebrate the costumer who fitted Daniel Craig's duds. Truly, you will not find your time wasted if you enjoy a fine figure of a man.

An Enchanting New "Classic" Fairy Story: The Hidden Princess by Stephanie Angelini

The Hidden PrincessThe Hidden Princess by Stephanie Angelini

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


A thousand days walk from here, all made in lefts, there was some time ago a young kingdom and a younger King. Even the mountains of the kingdom were young -- sharp and callow and reaching, with a forest thick and thieves and rock upon rock falling over into the sea.

The people were as simple as the salt they did without and the young King was not far behind. While the people toiled to squeeze their life from the stony earth, his majesty spilled the blood of the mountains. Animals of every kind, shy and quick, hid in the trees and streams, the rocks and boulders, the cliffs and crags. These were the meat of the royal table and it was often put there by royal hands.

One day the King went hunting, as he often did, alone and on foot. As he walked, he came across a man sitting near a stone ledge with a strange tool in his hand. Coming closer, the tall, straight King cast a shadow on the bent, old man, who squinted and said nothing. ...
The Hidden Princess is that most unexpected of things ... a modern fairy tale that is beautiful, evocative of "classic" fairy stories, and riveting.

The language is beautifully chosen as you can see. What you cannot tell is that The Hidden Princess hews to standard fairy story convention in such a way that you almost think you recognize it (Is it Sleeping Beauty? No! Wait, maybe it is Snow White). It then turns a corner and becomes once again its own tale, until it again hews close to almost recognizable territory.

Because it is a fairy tale and, because we all know the fairy tale conventions, we are fairly sure where this story will end, but the getting there is such a treat that it is difficult to stop reading. I literally kept reading "just one more page" so that I was continually late all day when I read this. When I finished, I went to the beginning and began reading again, which is the sure test of a tale well told.

At this time, The Hidden Princess is available only as an ebook but it deserves to be in print with beautiful illustrations like those by Arthur Rackham or Heidi Holder.

Highly recommended.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Christ in Three-Space, Fortnight for Freedom, day 11

I realized during one of the quiet meditative bits that I could still be praying. The trouble was that I hadn’t memorized very many prayers, and St. Patrick’s Breastplate was not one of them. But I figured, I might not know the litany accurately, but I know the general form. ”Christ in one place, Christ in a diametrically opposed place.” That’s how I ended up praying something like this:
Christ above me, Christ below me,
Christ within me, Christ beside me,
Christ when I rise up, and Christ when I lie down,
Christ in three-space, Christ in tiny rolled up dimensions where gravity lives
I figured that was probably ok, as it’s totally what St. Patrick would have written if he’d been able to share in the delight of God’s creation through theoretical physics.
Leah Libresco's been up to Math-Related Prayer Hijinks. I say, preach it sister! He is everywhere and at the same time we are held in the palm of His hand. If that isn't using theoretical physics, I don't know what is.

Let us pray: for our country, to change hearts, and for those living where taking your faith seriously means taking your life in your hands ...
Prayer for Religious Liberty

Almighty God, Father of all nations,
for freedom you have set us free in Christ Jesus (Gal 5:1).

We praise and bless you for the gift of religious liberty,
the foundation of human rights, justice and the common good.

Grant to our leaders the wisdom to protect
and promote our liberties.

By your grace may we have the courage to defend them,
for ourselves and for all those who live in this blessed land.

We ask this through the intercession of Mary Immaculate, our patroness,
and in the name of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, with whom you live and reign,
one God, for ever and ever.

Amen.

St. Thomas More, pray for us
St. John Fisher, pray for us
St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, pray for us
Bl. Miguel Pro, pray for us
Venerable Fulton Sheen, pray for us