Thursday, January 31, 2013

Spinnin' the DVDs: Looper / Ace in the Hole

No football this weekend gave Tom and me a chance to watch a couple of flicks, both worth watching if you haven't seen them.

Movie description:
HUNTED BY YOUR FUTURE, HAUNTED BY YOUR PAST. In the futuristic action thriller Looper, time travel will be invented but it will be illegal and only available on the black market. When the mob wants to get rid of someone, they will send their target 30 years into the past where a looper, a hired gun, like Joe is waiting to mop up. Joe is getting rich and life is good until the day the mob decides to close the loop, sending back Joe's future self for assassination.

My take: 5 stars
An interesting time travel concept that avoided going in the ways I expected it to. I am loathe to say too much about it beyond the basic description because I don't want to ruin it. It is about much bigger themes than one would think and the way those are connected leave one with much food for thought. This is definitely one that opens up when it is talked about and so, I imagine, would lend itself to repeat viewings.

Movie description
One of the most scathing indictments of American culture ever produced by a Hollywood filmmaker. Kirk Douglas gives the fiercest performance of his career as Chuck Tatum, an amoral newspaper reporter caught in dead-end Albuquerque who happens upon the story of a lifetime and will do anything to ensure he gets the scoop.

My take: 3-1/2 stars
I can't say I liked this movie but I didn't dislike it. We watched it because Tom's been intensely curious about it ever since reading a bio of Billy Wilder and learning that he thought this one of his best films ... and we'd never heard of it. It is completely effective as a scathing indictment of the American media circus that arises under the guise of "caring," whenever disaster strikes somewhere. As we all know, this is a trend that has not changed in the slightest today, so the story is very modern. Kirk Douglas does a fantastic job as the sleazy, self-serving media hound who corrupts almost everyone near him in order to be the sole mouthpiece for the story of a man caught in a cave. I imagine this probably also hasn't changed much these days, if only we knew the entire story.

Want Your Heart to Soar? Watch This.

Use full screen mode and enjoy. It is only 10 minutes.

Introducing a groundbreaking technique that seamlessly merges computer-generated and hand-drawn animation techniques, first-time director John Kahrs takes the art of animation in a bold new direction with the Oscar®-nominated short, "Paperman." Created by a small, innovative team working at Walt Disney Animation Studios, "Paperman" pushes the animation medium in an exciting new direction.

Via Joseph Susanka.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Tribune by Patrick Larkin [Updated]

The TribuneThe Tribune by Patrick Larkin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Promoted to a tribune of the Sixth Legion, Lucius Aurelius's task is to quell a war in Galilee that has already claimed the lives of the Emperor's foot soldiers. But the scene of the alleged slaughter turns up only a peaceful settlement of farmers, leaving the suspicious Lucius to question why has he been sent on such a futile mission...
I really enjoyed this book about young tribune Lucius Aurelius, a first century Roman whose personal guiding star is honor. Unfortunately for Lucius, few of his superiors have that same value and the ones who do are not very good at guarding their backs against their ambitious counterparts. Weaving his way through greed and corruption while trying to unravel a mystery which constantly has just one more thread to a larger story, Lucius must feel his way to the truth. His family physician, a small boy, and a corps of Gallic cavalry are on his side but that doesn't seem like enough when the odds are stacked against him. There are a couple of very nice twists in the story which I foresaw only a few pages ahead of Larkin's explication.

This is the first of Patrick Larkin's books that I've read. He has written a string of political thrillers from the looks of his body of work and you can see that history in this lean, tautly driven story. I was often surprised by the direction the plot took. The only lack of surprise was when our hero finds himself in Judea meeting a few recognizable characters, albeit often briefly. I enjoyed those encounters, especially since Larkin made them enough his own that I gradually forgot to think of a Biblical association.

Sometimes Larkin's background as a thriller author shows in other ways such as the occasional lack of character development. For example, in the case of a romantic encounter, the subsequent attachment seems all out of proportion, as does the guilty response. A little more depth would have been welcome.

These things aside, I did enjoy reading the book which kept my undivided attention until I finished it. That is no mean feat. I was glad to see a chapter of the sequel at the end of the e-book because I had grown fond of Lucius Aurelius and would like to read more of his adventures.

This review was revised because of a significant change made to part of the book, which is not reflected in the print version. I would give the print version 3 stars because of a graphic sexual encounter.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

When the King Was Carpenter by Maria von Trapp

When the King Was CarpenterWhen the King Was Carpenter by Maria von Trapp

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I discovered this poking around in the Kindle resources after seeing a book by Maria von Trapp was used by for their liturgical year e-books (which I really, really like, by the way).

What a treasure this little book is. Unable to answer questions from her children about what Jesus ate for breakfast, von Trapp began asking priests and collecting books to find out about daily life for the Holy Family. She then wrote this account which, although simple, I find strangely riveting.

It is just brushed slightly with the fiction brush, being largely a historical "you are there" book to bring us into what life was like for a faithful Jewish family back then. Von Trapp doesn't dwell on Jesus' future as Messiah and these tend to read a bit more like the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. In fact, I was so engrossed reading about 6 year old Jesus that it struck me like a blow when she was talking about the family's annual trip to Jerusalem for Passover and ended by saying:
As a little boy He had greatly enjoyed spending part of the day roaming around with cousins and friends through the fabulous bazaars of Jerusalem, but as He grew older, He no longer felt drawn to these childish pastimes. He wanted to "dwell in the courts of the Lord," as had His ancestor David.

More and more, too, He saw that their Feast of the Passover had a twofold meaning. It was a memorial of the great things God had done for His people in the past, but it was also a symbol of things to come when, in a much greater Passover than the ones they were then celebrating, He would redeem His people from their sins."
There used to be many books of this sort written in the 1950s or so telling us about what life was like in those days. I wish some of them would either be reprinted or a new tradition would arise to write some today. In the meantime, this is a fine start. I'm looking forward to searching for the books in the bibliography listed in the back of the book.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Friday, January 25, 2013

Back to the Blogs!

Last week I realized that those easy "Share" buttons have changed my blogging somewhat. I will share things on Facebook and Twitter that I never bother to take five extra minutes and include here.

What is the world coming to? I am not a real participant at either Facebook or Twitter. I believe blogs are much better. And yet, I fell into their trap.

Melanie Bettinelli at The Wine Dark Sea realized she also had fallen into that trap. As have many others I imagine.

No more!

Here is this week's worth of links, which usually I'd call Blogging Around, but in honor of my realization, I am calling Back to the Blogs!

Damn you all to hell
Tom Hanks' charming letter (it really is ...) written to the Nerdist podcasters after they asked him to appear on their podcast and bribed him with a 1934 Smith Corona typewriter. I'll just say right now that I love Hanks even more since discovering that he's a typewriter collector.

On Jacob's Ladder
On Jacob's Ladder is a new blog where John is going to try to spend 2013 reading the Bible from front to back and sharing my reactions. I like some of his reactions I have to admit. Such as being bored when God is working his way through the plagues of Egypt because Phaoroah is hard hearted.
But then suddenly I saw myself in the Pharaoh. God shows me the way--through the Word, through the Church, through the love of those around me; I promise to walk more closely in the path He calls me to; I wander off or get distracted and forget my promise; I feel lost; rinse and repeat. It particularly hit home during the plague of darkness, when the Egyptians could see nothing, not even the people around them. Like me when I wander off from God and forget Him.
A Message from Ben Bernanke
Dr. Boli recently received correspondence from his old friend and his musings are as salutary as always. Here's a bit.
Dr. Boli is pleased to hear from his old friend Mr. Bernanke (and he is sure he will recall when they met any moment now), but he does have one suggestion. Would it not be possible to hire, say, an advanced-placement English student from a local high school to tune up the punctuation and wording a bit?
Not to mention amusing.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Julie's looking for bees holding onto pebbles while Scott bears small trials patiently.

Yes, it is St. Francis de Sales' feast day and we're discussing his classic Introduction to the Devout Life at A Good Story is Hard to Find.

When I add that neither of us had any idea this episode would air on St. Francis' feast day, you'll know we were meant to read this book!

Join us!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Vote for Your Favorite Catholic Books, Blogs, Podcasts, and More

Every year, the About Readers' Choice Awards showcase the best products, people, organizations, and services in multiple categories, from technology to hobbies to parenting to religion. The readers of make the nominations; each Guide chooses the finalists (up to five in each category) from among the nominees; and the readers and others vote to choose one of the finalists as the best in the category for that year.

The Catholicism GuideSite first participated in the Readers' Choice Awards in 2011, and the response was overwhelming, with thousands of nominations and tens of thousands of votes.
There are ten categories including everything from Catholic Books to Catholic Apps to the your favorite Catholics to follow on Twitter.

Be sure to check it out and nominate your favorites.

Thanks to Sarah for mentioning this at Happy Catholic's Bookshelf or I'd never have known about it.

In which Nan discovers how creatively everyone avoids telling the truth.

Chapter 9 of The Unforeseen is ready for your listening enjoyment at Forgotten Classics!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Eight Reasons Not to Use Graphic Abortion Images at the March for Life

Simcha Fisher has a great piece that you should read if you're considering doing this.

As someone at last weekend's march for life who was subjected to gigantic signs of such images (accompanied by neo-Nazi style shouting from the sign holders), I can assure you that she is right.

Free E-Book Wed. and Thurs.: Archangels: Rise of the Jesuits

I haven't read this yet, but if you're interested then Wednesday and Thursday are your chance to get it free ...

Italian intelligence specialist and former Jesuit student Michael Visconte is shocked by the brutal murder of a Jesuit priest, who turns out to be a hedge fund manager for the Vatican. The victim, Father Matteo Pintozzi, achieved an unblemished record of extraordinary returns.

The next day, Michael is visited by two Jesuits who ask him to investigate the murder, and Michael soon finds himself in the middle of a struggle for power and control over the finances of the Vatican. Unfortunately, his lucky break—one that should provide critical evidence—blurs the line between good and evil and not only endangers the lives of Michael and the Jesuits, but also imperils the lives of his wife and children. 

ARCHANGELS: RISE OF THE JESUITS is published financial expert Janet Tavakoli's debut fiction thriller.

Via Amazon Kindle: United StatesUnited KingdomItalyFranceSpainJapanGermany  Amazon Prime members can borrow this book for free on Kindle.

Don't Have a Kindle? No problem! Read your Kindle books on a tablet, phone, PC, or Mac with free Kindle reading apps, or try Kindle Cloud Reader.

Print Edition
The print edition (324 pages) is now available on Amazon and will be available in other venues within a few days. It hasn’t yet been linked to the electronic version, and the eBook reviews don’t show up yet, but that should happen in a few days; it’s the same book as the electronic version. I originally meant to put this out as an eBook only, but many people requested a print edition.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Dallas 2013 March for Life [UPDATED]

As always, participating in the march was inspiring. It was a sunny, warm day and there were more people than ever participating, which was really heartwarming. We were in the usual large parking lot behind the federal building and were asked to move over because so many people still were marching in. We couldn't believe that people were still coming.

I recalled that when we first participated in 2008 they were elated at having possibly a thousand people. I was shocked at the time and also ashamed to not have marched before.

You will understand then why it brought tears to my eyes to find that there were 8,000-10,000 people trying to find room to hear the speakers in that lot. All cultures, all ages, all races, and all passionate about giving life a chance.

I recently had a discussion with a friend who said that one of the reasons she supported abortion rights was because she didn't feel women were given enough support after having the babies, especially poor women. I know that kindness, however misplaced, is at the root of the issue much of the time. I also know that another common reservation is because of the terrible circumstances to which unwanted children may be born.

For that reason I really appreciated abortion survivor Angela Martinez Balderaz's story. Definitely unwanted and subjected to horrific conditions as a baby, she is now a vibrant, articulate young woman. She is grateful for her life and to God, no matter the early conditions in which she lived. This was a vivid testimony that none of us knows God's ways and it was through the many helping hands He sent that Angela Balderaz is the person we saw on Saturday.

The best photos I found for the event are at The Dallas Morning News, where I was gratified to see a great slideshow and an accurate accounting of numbers.

The Morning News was so much better than local NBC news coverage. Although the story itself was fine, their website headline showed just a touch of bias: "Hundreds Hold Anti-Abortion Rights Rally In Dallas"


Anti-Abortion Rights.

As I said, the story itself was fine and that was what most would see. It was definitely better than the other news stations where we couldn't find any coverage.

What I learned this year, above all, was that the key is to personally invite people to march with us. If they have time to plan for it, many simply must be invited to feel that they will make a difference. My mistake was that by the time I began personally contacting people, they were locked into other activities.

So my strategy next year will be to issue those invitations early enough. It's on my calendar for January 2014, where I hope the numbers will be 10,000+.

UPDATE - Where are the men?
I forgot to mention another very powerful speaker, Chris Wheel, Fatherhood Ministry, Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship. Fatherhood Ministry. I love that, I really do. Especially when you consider that Chris Wheel's talk, which energized the crowd like no other, was punctuated continually by his cry of, "Where are the men?"

There are a lot of answers to that question, of course. But what occurred forcibly to me is that the question needs to be asked all the time, of every community, of ever culture where abortion is commonplace. Which is to say, everywhere.

SECOND UPDATE - Women in Crisis
A very powerful story about why the "women in crisis need abortion" argument is wrong. You need to go read for yourselves. Here's a bit:
When I got that positive pregnancy test, the one that changed my life, I was addicted to crystal meth.

And do you know what the people around me did? They didn’t take the secular line and say, “this baby’s life would be horrible. You’re unfit to be a mother. Better for it to not be born at all.”

But neither did they take the typical pro-life line in that situation and say, “you are clearly unfit to be a mother, but all you have to do is carry the baby to term and give a stable couple a wonderful gift.”

The Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold

The Curse of Chalion (Chalion, #1)The Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Two readers I trust, Will Duquette and Amy H. Sturgis, have strongly recommended both this author and book. I certainly am glad they did, although if Goodreads allowed it I would give it 4-1/2 stars instead of the full 5, simply because I feel the ending was rushed as if the author was ready to get this situation done and the book sent out. I felt this especially in the case of the romantic resolution for the protagonist.

However, overall I really enjoyed this tale of a bedraggled, galley ship survivor who, despite his best efforts to the contrary, finds himself in the middle of royal intrigue. If that weren't enough, he is also pulled into the the affairs of the divine as a result and this complicates his life as one might imagine. This is a land of various gods and strong, dark magic. It is, however, also a land where free will matters in the outcome of events.

I must admit that about 5 or 6 chapters into it I almost put this book down, thinking it was much of a muchness with other such tales. Luckily, Amy H. Sturgis picked that moment to comment that this was one of her favorite books. I was not going to be the one who quit on her after that. I respect her too much. I'd read to the end and either be bored by it or love it for the entire thing. Just about then was actually when it got more interesting, so if you find yourself in similar straits, just keep going.

The Curse of Chalion reminded me strongly in some ways of Barbara Hambly's Sun Wolf trilogy, especially in the author's examination of a mature man humbled by events and forced to learn who he is below the surface. However, Curse is altogether more layered and interesting.

How much did I like it? I gave the book's name to both daughters yesterday with the comment that I'd be looking forward to discussing it with them. (And yes, Scott, you may as well beware too ... it will be coming to Good Story sometime soon I have a feeling.)

Will Duquette's review of the sequel, Paladin of Souls, included this comment, which works pretty well for this book also:
See, this is a fantasy series, but it's almost what you might call theological science fiction. That is to say, Bujold has invented a theology (a very interesting one, I might add) and a religion to go with it--and then, having set up the rules, she's seeing where they take her.

Friday, January 18, 2013

J.R.R. Tolkien Book Giveaway

Brandon Vogt's giving away two books I'd dearly love to have (yes, I know it's a random selection of winners, but I'm just sayin'):
  • The Lord of the Rings ... the one-volume version that I've been eying at Amazon over and over (but resolutely NOT buying)
  • Tolkien: A Celebration - edited by Joseph Pearce ... which is the Pearce book that really caught my eye of the several Brandon listed yesterday.

Books on J.R.R Tolkien's Catholicism
Brandon's giveaway ties in with his interesting list yesterday, passed along from Joseph Pearce's blog. Brandon thoughtfully included covers and descriptions to make it easy for us. Definitely worth perusing if you are at all interested in the subject.

I read the list with interest, since I have been making a list of my own of similar books, thanks to the insights I've been gleaning from The Tolkien Professor, whose podcast I recommend highly. (Either click on the course name or go to iTunes to get episodes.) I've mentioned this before but Professor Olsen's comments have really helped open up what Tolkien meant when he said that The Lord of the Rings had a Catholic moral worldview.

Here are a few from my list that weren't on Brandon's (or should we say on Joseph Pearce's). They're not specifically about Tolkien's Catholicism, but they are about looking below the surface, which in many ways is the same thing.

I'm in a huge hurry so won't be as thoughtful as Brandon, but there are links that will take you to descriptions.

Compendium: Catechism of the Catholic Church

Compendium: Catechism of the Catholic ChurchCompendium: Catechism of the Catholic Church by USCCB Publishing

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I got this when it came out, flipped through it, and then put it on the shelf, where the poor thing was never moved until I gave an explanatory talk last night to the RCIA class about how to navigate your way around the Catechism (and other related topics such as Imprimatur stamps, etc.)

When I was looking through it this morning to attempt to answer a question (this group is sharp and curious, although I TOLD them I wasn't an expert on the Catechism, but was good at navigating the numbering system) ... anyway, so I was looking for specific info and realized I'd never given this a proper read.

The Q & A structure originally put me off, although now that I read the introduction I see it is meant to reflect an ancient style, to "reflect an imaginary dialogue between master and disciple ... that invite the reader to go deeper in discovering ever new aspects of his faith." And now that I've had more experience with having to answer the unpredictable questions that RCIA attendees ask, I can appreciate the format more. Also, it is intentionally kept brief, intending to spark interest in digging deeper in the actual Catechism.

Digging deeper I saw there are some very good features I never noticed. For example, although it has some absolutely gorgeous art, I never noticed that each illustration is accompanied by a thorough explanation, whether it be of the symbolism, related commentary, Church Fathers' meditations, prayers, or a combination thereof. Not only do these invite further reflection, they serve as examples of how to "read" devotional art.

Also, there's a nice appendix of common prayers.

I believe I'll be reading this along with my daily Catechism pages.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Forming Intentional Disciples

It’s easy to shrug off the call for evangelization and discipleship by saying, “Oh, we already do that.” We have a men’s club. We have religious ed. Everybody’s happy, all are welcome, Jesus shows up for every Mass – but sure, I’ve heard other parishes are in trouble. Mine’s fine.

Maybe so. But Weddell opens the book with extensive and detailed evidence that no, things are not fine. She defines the scope of the problem both statistically – how many Catholics in the pews don’t even believe in a personal God? – and qualitatively.

I've seen this book mentioned in a lot of places ... and although my "to read" stack is alarmingly high, I'm beginning to believe this is required reading. Jen Fitz's review at confirms that.

What the Church Teaches About End-of-Life Issues

What I learned is that the Church teaches, "God loves you, God loves you, God loves you." Always and forever, in the darkness of doubt, and in the light of the truth.
I did skip ahead a bit, but I just can't read that enough. It makes me smile. It makes me tear up a bit. And it makes me love God more.

Don't stop there, though. Go read all of Simcha Fisher's terrific piece.

The Julianne

A new cocktail creation ... at Meanwhile, Back in the Kitchen.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Night Watch by Sergei Lukyanenko - UPDATED

Night Watch (Watch, #1)Night Watch by Sergei Lukyanenko

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Sergei Lukyanenko is a science-fiction and fantasy author, writing in Russian, and is arguably the most popular contemporary Russian sci-fi writer. His works often feature intense action-packed plots, interwoven with the moral dilemma of keeping one's humanity while being strong.

In The Night Watch, set in modern Moscow, the "Others" live among us, an ancient race of humans with supernatural powers who swear allegiance to either the Dark or the Light. A thousand-year treaty has maintained the balance of power, and the two sides coexist in an uneasy truce. But an ancient prophecy decrees that one supreme "Other" will rise up and tip the balance, plunging the world into a catastrophic war between the Dark and the Light. When a young boy with extraordinary powers emerges, fulfilling the first half of the prophecy, will the forces of the Light be able to keep the Dark from corrupting the boy and destroying the world?
This book was recommended by both daughters and Jeff Miller. Plus I liked the movie, though I realize the book is different in many ways. And now I can say I'm reading Russian novels. No need to say which Russian novels since people assume the big classics ... right?

The book is three novellas, linked by their setting and the fact that each is told by Anton, a Light Other who is now getting field experience after being a file clerk for several years. As he gets more experience, the reader learns more about the subtleties and intricacies of the world between Light and Dark. Each of the stories is thoroughly engrossing and although they build upon each other, the first two stand alone fairly well. The third conclusion brings the book's overall story arc to a conclusion.

The first page of the book has two messages, which are puzzling and amusing as an introduction. However when I had finished the book I realized they also served to sum up how the author uses the different stories and characters:
This text has been approved for distribution as conducive to the cause of Light.
The Night Watch

This text has been approved for distribution as conducive to the cause of Dark.
The Day Watch
Final result: simply fantastic. The way the three stories all look at Light and Dark, treaties and compromises, and even what it means to be unyielding on one side or the other ... not only provides a gripping adventure, but food for thought about our own lives.


Audio notes:

I was delighted to find the audio CD available for only $10 and promptly began listening in preparation for discussion at A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast. Narrator Paul Michael has a low key style in reading this book. His dialogue reading features what sound like authentic Russian accents which enhance the book greatly since Anton's thoughts are read in a regular American accent. Initially I found this refreshing since I'd just been listening to one Jonathan Maberry's Joe Ledger series, which has a trademark intense, hard-hitting narrative style.

However, I soon noticed that whenever a character spoke there was very little emotion portrayed, no matter how stressful the moment. There are plenty of stressful, action-filled moments and to have them all conveyed in such a subdued fashion drained the color and excitement of the story for me. Eventually, the entire book seemed so colorless that I stopped listening and picked up the print copy to read the third novella.

My husband regularly has conference calls with Russians and says that he has noticed that monotonous quality when they are speaking English. He attributes it to the difficulty in speaking a foreign language and conducting business simultaneously. We both know from seeing the Night Watch movie that Russians are perfectly capable of verbally conveying a wide range of emotions.

Whatever the reason, I cannot recommend the audio if you want to experience the full flavor of the book.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Forgive me, Oprah, for I have sinned ...

I was shocked when Lance Armstrong was proven to have cheated and lied about his competitions.

However, I was unsurprised when Lance Armstrong admitted it to Oprah. Why else would he bother to appear? What is wrong with things when winning a sporting event is worth all that lying, cheating and trouble?

I know, I know, it's the way things are. Of course, that's part of our larger problem when we accept that such is the way of the world.

I was reading this morning in the WSJ how Armstrong's private defense until this point was roughly, "Every other pro sports discipline cheats."

I hadn't really thought about him until then but that was when I realized how immature Armstrong was, without a real moral compass, or possibly so confused by the unreal world he's inhabited for so long that he doesn't know which side is up any more? (And then I think of poor Tony Scott with all that the world counts precious who killed himself last year ... there are a lot of people who've been lied to about fame and fortune.)

It's been put into context because I've been listening to The Two Towers, the middle book of The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien.

I am just at the part where Gandalf talks to Saruman after the Ents destroyed Isengard. Their exchange makes me think of this whole situation, especially since I just heard the part where Tolkien remarks that Saruman's voice was so beautiful that people would be charmed. Then when they repeated his words later they would realize that they were very ordinary. It was his voice that was so compelling.
Suddenly another voice spoke, low and melodious, its very sound an enchantment. Those who listened unwearily to that voice could seldom report the words that they had heard; and if they did, they wondered, for little power remained in them. Mostly they remembered only that it was a delight to hear the voice speaking, all that it said seemed wise and reasonable, and desire awoke in them by swift agreement to see wise themselves. When others spoke, they seemed harsh and uncouth by contrast; and if they gainsaid the voice, anger was kindled in the hearts of those under the spell.
There is an awful lot in The Lord of the Rings about deceit and it's subtle ways that I find myself applying to my own life. Where do I rationalize and listen to the compelling argument because it is what I want to hear rather than what is actually true? We all do it. That's how we recognize it in the book and understand Saruman's power so well.

I feel sorry for Lance Armstrong. I pity him, rather like Gollum, addicted to his fame (his precious). How will he live without it? By crawling after it if he must ... poor fellow. Let's keep him in our prayers.

In which Virgilia sees big trouble ahead and Nan is left in the dark.

Chapter 8 of The Unforeseen is ready for your listening pleasure at Forgotten Classics!

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Partially Examined Life: Gorgias by Plato [AUDIO DRAMA]

The Partially Examined Life podcast is doing something different with their latest podcast, an amateur full cast production of Gorgias by Plato (sort of). Gorgias is a Socratic dialogue, basically a script in which characters discussing philosophy. It was probably written around 380 BC.

The subject of Gorgias is rhetoric, the art of persuasion, and is highly relevant to thinking about politic speech, advertizing, and personal charisma.
Interesting, isn't it? Get the link to the podcast at SFFaudio which is where I read about it.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Of Withered Apples ...

This is a Philip K. Dick story that is in the public domain. It's a fascinating riff on classic fairy tales, done the way that only Dick can do it. For example, darned if I know what fairy tale it is, but he invests it with "classic" all the way.

I read it for SFFaudio and also participated in the conversation about it afterward. Get it here.

A Smart Idea

Now here's a smart idea ... the Stainless Steel Grocery Bag Garbage Can, which I found via Orson Scott Card.

I don't have one yet. But I do need to replace a trash can or two around the house and this may be the perfect option. Just thought I'd share ...

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Best Actress Nominee Quvenzhané Wallis

For a change I've seen several of the nominated movies for the 2013 Oscars. I don't think Beasts of the Southern Wild (my review here) deserves a Best Picture award, though I think that director will earn them in the future.

However, there is no doubt in my mind that pint-sized Quvenzhané Wallis, from that film, does. She was formidable.

Cafe Maria Theresia

Coffee, orange liqueur, and whipped cream. What's not to love? Get it at Meanwhile, Back in the Kitchen.

Scott threatens to destroy the Earth if Hollywood doesn't stop remaking classic movies.

In other news,Julie and Scott travel the universe, telling civilizations to stop shooting at them. Scott's robot suit is starting to chafe.

Yes, we discuss The Day the Earth Stood Still - the awesome 1951 version, not the why-did-they-make-this 2008 version ... at A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Review: Catholicism Pure and Simple by Fr. Dwight Longenecker

If a good person decides to fight against evil he will always be at a disadvantage. ...

The evil person will naturally use every devious and nasty trick he can think of. That's why he's bad: he is a liar, a cheat, a murderer and a thoroughgoing scoundrel.

However, the good person cannot use the same evil tricks. So the evil one will lie and scheme. He will punch below the belt and throw salt in the good guy's eyes. But the really good person is not allowed to lower himself to dirty tricks. Jesus taught us this principle. When our enemy slaps us we are told to turn the other cheek. When our enemy takes our coat we are to offer him our shirt as well.

This disadvantage that the good person suffers is the key that unlocks the whole mystery. You see, evil gets worse and worse in the world when we do not fight with goodness. We usually respond to suffering by causing more suffering. We seek revenge and return evil for evil.

When we do this evil breeds in the world and will never be defeated. This is why Jesus teaches us to return good for evil, to forgive our enemies, and pray for those who hurt us. Jesus is trying to get across to us that the only way for evil to be defeated is to smother it with goodness as water puts out a fire.
I've been a fan of Dwight Longencker's writing for a long time, definitely since before he became a Catholic priest. Catholicism Pure and Simple may prove to be my favorite of his books. For one thing, it is chock-full of passages like the one above, which helped me for the first time in my life really get a grasp of why Christ insists on the necessity of returning good for evil.

Overall Catholicism Pure and Simple is a basic explanation of the Catholic faith. It would be a great refresher for someone who wants to know their faith better, a good text for RCIA classes, or an introduction for those curious about what Catholicism teaches (rather than what "everyone" says it teaches). Following the general topic guidelines that the Catechism itself follows, Longenecker takes readers from why we believe God exists, through who Jesus Christ is, how the Catholic Church came to be, what it means to be Catholic and how to live the faith.

Although the explanations are basic, they are well developed and thought provoking. Catholicism Pure and Simple is a riveting read, written in straight forward terms, designed to take each person to an understanding Catholicism. I myself particularly liked the way Longenecker takes longstanding modern beliefs and stands them on their heads, encouraging us to look at what "everyone knows" with new eyes.

For example, what "everyone knows" is that religion evolved because cave men, afraid or impressed with thunder and lightning, concluded that a being lived in the clouds who needed to be appeased. From these beginnings came the development of religious worship. At least, that's the story that I always believed before becoming Catholic. Look at a bit of how Longenecker discusses it.
Did you notice how this argument makes certain assumptions about cave men? It treats the cave man as a noble savage. Because he feels a sense of wonder at the natural world he is portrayed as a ignorant, but touchingly sensitive brute; but have you seen the trick? Because he is a cave man we assume that he must be inferior to us; therefore his conclusion that there is a big person beyond the clouds who caused the thunder must also be primitive, and wrong.

Although cave men may not have been as educated as we are or have such whiz-bang technology, were they really so much stupider? ... We don't have evidence for that. Instead, when their graves are opened we find beautiful works of art and craftsmanship, and when we go into the cave itself we find mysterious and beautiful wall paintings. The evidence we have tells us that whoever painted those graceful bison and deer were not primitive brutes, but sensitive artists. ...

The caveman is being quite sensible, in his own way, to observe nature and see the signs of an unseen intelligence. Like most easy theories, this theory of where our religious instinct comes from is both right and wrong. It is right because it tells us that even primitive people can see the power of nature and conclude that there is a mind behind it all.

However, the theory is wrong in what it assumes. It assumes that because modern humans understand the physics of thunder, and have telescopes to study the stars, that they no longer have a need for God. ...
Catholicism Pure and Simple both delighted me with examples and inspired me overall by the pure and simple truth contained therein. I cannot recommend this book highly enough.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

History of Philosophy talks about Church Fathers

Peter Adamson, Professor of Ancient and Medieval Philosophy at King's College London, takes listeners through the history of philosophy, "without any gaps." Beginning with the earliest ancient thinkers, the series looks at the ideas and lives of the major philosophers (eventually covering in detail such giants as Plato, Aristotle, Avicenna, Aquinas, Descartes, and Kant) as well as the lesser-known figures of the tradition.
I've enjoyed this podcast in the past but had dropped it due to time constraints. Hey, you aren't gonna get through the Lord of the Rings in audio without a few sacrifices.

Imagine my surprise when I checked recently and found that Peter Adamson had made it to the ancient Church Fathers. Origen, Maximus the Confessor, the Greeks, the Latins ... and Augustine's confessions are among the episodes. Looks like it's time to begin fitting some History of Philosophy into my earbuds.

Get it on iTunes. Or get it from their website.

Review: Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

Radio Announcer: The final mission to save mankind has failed...the 70 mile wide asteroid known as 'Matilda' is set to collide with Earth in exactly three weeks time, and we'll be bringing you our countdown to the end of days, along with all your classic rock favorites.
The world is going to be destroyed by a huge meteor. In the month that's left, what would you do with the rest of your life? Steve Carrell decides to find his high school sweetheart. Tagging along is his neighbor who's trying to get to her family. Yep. It's a road trip at the end of the world.

Finally. A Steve Carrell movie that I can recommend without saying, "Except for these stupid scenes." And one that made me interested in Keira Knightly in her recent roles since it seems as if she's matured some as an actress as well as in her appearance since the early Pirates and soccer movies I saw her in.

It's a gutsy and interesting movie that dares to take the above premise and make a romantic comedy. It mostly works except for a few plot holes which we were willing to overlook.

I enjoyed this all the way through. Tom felt the middle sagged but they grabbed him again in the last third. I would say the difference between our attitudes may lie in the fact that once I grasped this as an apocalyptic tale, I settled in for the standard formula of having the middle of the story being travel that exposes us to different ways of coping with the disaster. Tom didn't have that formula to fall back on. That said, this could have been a trimmer and nimbler film at 90 minutes.

More than anything, this affected me profoundly with the idea of everything being over. Done. Kaput. Finis. The End.

You'd think that, as a Catholic, I'd be used to the reality that life can end at any moment. Like many things, intellectual understanding is different than having a concrete example right in front of you. I like to think that I'd be ready to meet my Maker if I was hit by a truck today, but am I really? So this led me to some consideration of Final Things (death, judgment, heaven, hell) which was doubtless good for me. Certainly, it provided additional depth and direction to my spiritual meditations over the next few days.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Best Movies of 2012

Top movies I saw in 2012 with descriptions in 10 words or less. In no particular order. (My top books list is here.)
  1. Red River (1948) directed by Howard Hawks, stars John Wayne, Montgomery Clift
    Possibly the perfect Western. (my review here)

  2. Skyfall (2012) directed by Sam Mendes, stars Daniel Craig, Judi Dench
    An exhilarating combination of new and old which remakes the Bond franchise. (my review here)

  3. Life of Pi (2012) directed by Ang Lee, stars Suraj Sharma
    One castaway boy, one raft, one Bengal tiger ... and God. (my review here)

  4. Les Miserables (2012) directed by Tom Hooper, stars Hugh Jackman, et al.
    Mercy, courage, and God's saving grace. With some fantastic singing. (my review here)

  5. The Avengers (2012) directed by Joss Whedon, stars Robert Downey Jr, et al.
    Supervillains from space threaten Earth. Superheroes save it. Spectacularly.

  6. John Carter of Mars (2012) directed by Andrew Stanton, stars Taylor Kitsch
    Derring do, a maiden to rescue, a battered but worthy hero ... on Mars. (My review here)

  7. Brave (2012) directed by Mark Andrews, Steve Purcell, Brenda Chapman
    Pixar's "girl" movie. A delightful fable with strong, likable women.

  8. The Mill and the Cross (2011) directed by Lech Majewski, stars Rutger Hauer, Michael York
    Luminous masterpiece based on Pieter Bruegel's The Way to Calvary. (my review here)

  9. Love in the Afternoon (1957) directed by Billy Wilder, stars Audrey Hepburn, Gary Cooper
    Frothy fun. Detective's daughter is fascinated by a playboy.

  10. Margin Call (2011) directed by J. C. Chandor, stars Kevin Spacey, et al.
    24-hours of decisions in a financial crisis. It works.

  11. Moneyball (2011) directed by Bennett Miller, stars Brad Pitt
    Building better baseball with computer analysis. Sounds terrible. It isn't.

  12. Bill Cunningham, New York (2011) directed by Richard Press
    Documentary about a man obsessed with fashion. Unlikely but terrific.

  13. The Mark of Zorro (1940) directed by Rouban Mamoulian, stars Tyrone Power
    Power is a subtler, funnier, better swashbuckler than Errol Flynn. Watch this.

  14. The Body Snatcher (1945) directed by Robert Wise, stars Boris Karloff, et al.
    Grave robbing and worse in 1831 Edinburgh. Karloff's a stand out.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Friday, January 4, 2013

The Crimes of Galahad by H. Albertus Boli, LL.D.

The Crimes of GalahadThe Crimes of Galahad by H. Albertus Boli Ll.D.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I've long been a fan of Dr. Boli's Celebrated Magazine. I was mildly interested when The Crimes of Galahad was published and then read a review from two reviewers I trust who both enjoyed it and also declined to describe much of it. This piqued my interest. The good Dr. Boli's secretary has provided me with a review copy, which I very much appreciate, especially since the inscription was beautifully written in calligraphy, although the paper was not Bousted's Number 8 or even Number 6.

I am moved to say that upon opening the book, I was captivated by the perfection of the layout and typesetting as a 19th century novel (especially of the title page). Many know I am a type and layout crank ... so this was a very pleasant surprise.

"But what of the story?" you very reasonably ask.

Galahad Newman Bousted (pronounced Boasted) is the son of a simple stationer in the 1800s. In the depths of despair over his lack of prospects, he comes across a review of a French book, The Pursuit of Evil. It argues that the superior man chooses evil in accordance with the dictates of nature. It is impossible to get a copy of the book, but the logic strikes Galahad so forcefully that he immediately determines to give himself to evil, by which he means to make all decisions based on self-interest. He sets forth to seek his fortune and woo the woman of his dreams. Can Galahad achieve a life of pure evil?

I would tell you more but that would both prematurely unfold the the tale, skillfully written by Dr. Boli, and spoil the point. The book not only entertained me considerably but also made me mull over the conclusion ever since I've finished it. There is a deep grounding in truth versus appearance, intention versus actions, and many other puzzles of human nature. It also made me look up Francois Boucher's paintings on Wikipedia. Ooo-la-la!

All in all, The Crimes of Galahad is a book I highly recommend and one that I suspect I must discuss to mine it's full value.

Blogging Around: The Serious Stuff

Les Mis: Just Men, Minimized Women and Immodesty?

Two very different women, coming from very different perspectives, are unhappy with Les Miserable. Their unhappiness reminds us that though we polish and burnish our preferred lenses, we obscure our own capacity to see.
One is a feminist upset at the lack of women "doing anything" and the other is a Catholic upset at the "gross sexuality" on display. Both are examples of seeing only through our own defined filters and the Anchoress capably discusses this. My comments are in her comments box. Go and read. It's good stuff.

10 Best Arguments for Same Sex Marriage ... And Why They're Flawed

Perhaps no issue is more nerve-wracking today than "same-sex marriage." It’s a magnet for controversy and evokes strong reactions from those on either side of the debate. But underneath the fiery passion and rhetoric, we must evaluate the real arguments.
Brandon Vogt discusses the arguments from a civil marriage, nonreligious point of view, not from the Church’s sacramental understanding. This is really valuable since many of those we may get caught up in conversation with are not going to have care about sacramental understanding. Common sense and logic is the order of the day. An excellent piece and one that gave me a new understanding. I never actually stopped to think that civil marriage laws are from the point of the child, not the "happy couple." Fascinating.

Ashes From Burnt Roses

Manny, a long-time commenter here, has begun a literary blog, Ashes From Burnt Roses, where he's put some T. S. Eliot, Dean Martin, and Robert Burns so far. Check it out and say hi.

Catholic Stories at the WSJ Today

The Cleric Behind Les Mis

As Hugo worked on the novel, his son Charles, then in his 20s, objected to the reverential treatment of the bishop. He argued to his father that the portrayal gave undeserved respect to a corrupt clergy, bestowing credibility on a Roman Catholic Church opposed to the democratic ideals that he and his father held. Charles instead proposed that the catalyst for Jean Valjean's transformation be a lawyer or doctor or anyone else from a secular profession.

The pushback didn't work. Not only did Hugo hold his ground, but he amplified the importance of Charles-François Bienvenue Myriel, affectionately known in the novel as Monseigneur Bienvenue (Bishop Welcome). The book's first hundred pages or so are a detailed chronicle of Myriel's exemplary life, showing that his intervention on behalf of Jean Valjean was part of a long track record and not a singular aberration. Apparently Hugo recognized no contradiction between his anticlericalism and the possibility—or certainty—that grace could be mediated by a just priest who was transparent to the divine and never betrayed the human.
Rose gave us the priest's back story before we saw the film because she was worried the film wouldn't do a good job. She needn't have worried even though the bishop was only in the piece for a few minutes. A great piece that you can read here.

Notre Dame's Holy Line

Before Monday night's national championship game, a University of Notre Dame football captain will lead the team through a prayer called Litany of the Blessed Virgin. "Mother of our Savior," a captain will say. "Pray for us," the team will respond.

It's a ritual familiar to Catholics. But most players on the Notre Dame squad aren't Catholic. So participation in that ritual is voluntary. And should any concern arise about praying to the Virgin Mary—a concept some non-Catholic Christians find objectionable—team chaplain Father Paul Doyle stands ready to respond. "We're not praying to our blessed mother," he says. "We're asking her to pray for us."
And that ain't all. I had no idea ... read it here.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Cool for Cats by Andrew Ordover

The release of the audiobook, read by author Andrew Ordover, prompted me to update my review. The price can't be beat - $5.00! For why you want to hear it, read on!

And I didn't want to rely on Internet archives. First of all, our local paper is crap, and it keeps crap archives online. But more importantly, when they do archive stories, they do what everyone else does--they reformat them into a computer-friendly layout. Well, I didn't want that. I wanted to see the paper, the way the paper looked back then. I wanted the articles, sure, but I also wanted the short items, the calendar listings, the classified ads--the whole newsprint enchilada. As a professional snoop, I've found that not everything of importance comes with a byline, or over the fold.
Jordan Greenblatt is a small-time detective. He drifted into detective work the way he drifted into playing bass with a local jazz combo. He does both ok, but he's never going to hit the bigtime with an attitude like that. And that's ok with Jordan. He doesn't mind being a supporting player.

Until his phone rings with a request to look into an old hit-and-run case ... and Jordan realizes that he knows the victim. He had a big crush on Giselle Palmer and never even knew she was also in Atlanta. So he takes the case, even though it is completely unlike his usual work trailing cheating husbands. What Jordan uncovers is not only a murder but the key to his own future.

I liked this book a lot. Andrew Ordover gives readers a slacker detective who just needed the right motivation to stand up and move in a new direction. We follow Jordan as he figures out how to look at more than one clue, how to think like a real detective, and how to put together the puzzle pieces of an important case that is getting attention from the authorities.

This is Ordover's first book but it only shows in the lack of layers (for want of a better term). Part of the lack of complexity is due to Jordan's slacker personality, part may be because until Jordan deals with his own past he can't move forward. Also, I wished for more depth from Jordan's wife, Susannah. She objects when threats arise after Jordan's digging gets him close to the heart of the mystery. However, those objections do not seem fierce enough and she forgives extremely easily. Or perhaps that is how Susannah is wired. I never felt that I got enough about her to know one way or the other. However, that is a small point overall.

Originally I read Cool for Cats in paperback. However, Ordover has now released the audiobook on his website, which he reads himself, and it works spectacularly. As in the best cases, where the author knows the character inside and out, he brings Jordan to life in a way I didn't experience when simply reading to myself. Because of this, I genuinely understood Jordan's growth both as a detective and as a human being on a deeper level. At $5.00 for the entire book, it is a steal.

Another nice little riff is the connection with a playlist, if you like, of albums referenced in the book, via a widget in Ordover's website sidebar. Jazz is integral to Jordan's character and is referenced frequently. If you're a jazz fan, the playlist idea is a great one for hearing the music that's playing in his head.

Quibbles aside, Cool for Cats is a solid, entertaining mystery from this new author. It is one that left me hoping there would be a sequel.


SPECIAL FEATURE: Andrew Ordover narrated the first chapter for me over at Forgotten Classics. Go listen for free.

This review also appears at SFFaudio.

(Full disclosure - I am email pals with Ordover's wife Heather who is the podcaster at CraftLit ... and who provided me with a review copy. I'd have liked it anyway.)

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Pick a Saint for 2013. J.R.R. Tolkien for me!

For a few years it was a thing around the Catholic internet to choose an extra saint (or have one drawn for you) when the new liturgical year began. I did that for a while but invariably would forget my "extra" saint, though I know they were so good as to remember me.

Brandon Vogt reminded me of this habit when he wrote about choosing a saint for 2013. You know, it seems easier when I think of the calendar year somehow. He linked to Jen Fulwiler's saint's name generator (a clever invention, to be sure ... she's into writing code to relax ... I also have a pal who enjoys reading math books to relax ... love 'em both but do NOT understand them).

So I gave it a whirl.

The results:

St. Vladimir I of Kiev

Feast: July 15

Patronage: Converts; Parents of Large Families; Reformed and Penitent Murderers

Eeek! I don't like what that last bit may imply ... but I'm going to ignore it and focus on the "converts" part.

What I really liked about Brandon's pick-a-saint post was that he chose C.S. Lewis as his patron last year. Not canonized, but Brandon gives his reasoning, which I fully agree with.

Here's the thing. Brandon's articulating something that I've been doing unconsciously, but didn't notice until his post helped me recognize the pattern.

Lately, I have been turning to my favorite author-mentors in the last few months with special petitions: Flannery O'Connor, C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien.

It seems to be a natural outgrowth of my tendency to focus on one of those authors for about a year at a time.

First I read Habit of Being and fell in love with Flannery. Then I became attracted to C.S. Lewis, both due to my book club and many encounters online. Now, I am hip-deep in J.R.R. Tolkien's writing and yearning to read his letters. Now that I think of it, that began around the beginning of the liturgical year when I reread The Hobbit for A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast. He's tricksy, that J.R.R.

Let's put a saver on Dorothy Day as I have been dipping into her letters and writing for Catholic Worker a little.

I like the idea that these authors who had saintly yearnings are looking out for those of us who noodle around with words.

At this point, I'm happy to hang with these authors in general, but it seems to me that my year is going to be under J.R.R. Tolkien's protection.

Thanks Brandon!

Galactic Pot Healer by Philip K. Dick

Galactic Pot-HealerGalactic Pot-Healer by Philip K. Dick

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The Glimmung wants Joe Fernwright. Fernwright is a pot-healer - a repairer of ceramics - in a drably utilitarian future where such skills have little value. The Glimmung is a being that looks something like a gyroscope, something like a teenaged girl, and something like the contents of an ocean. What's more, it may be divine. And, like certain gods of old Earth, it has a bad temper.
I must thank Jesse from SFFaudio for recommending this book. Although it began on a very depressing tone that didn't entirely lift during the story (which I'm told is par for the course for P.K. Dick), I nonetheless enjoyed it.

The idea of a Lovecraftian elder god having a benevolent bent toward humankind and working with others to achieve a goal is one that tickles my funny bone. I also have a feeling that at least one writer for Futurama read this book also, based on the way the Glummung physically works with others. I don't want to give anything away so won't elaborate on that, but if you've seen it and read this book then you know what I mean. I laughed aloud when I got to that part.

I had to think about the end of the book for a little while (which I'm told is also par for the course for PKD) but in the end I liked it. Although I have a feeling that perhaps PKD didn't feel the same way I did. I think that's my Catholicism coming through. My youngest daughter Rose is going to read this and since she's read several of PKD's novels already, I am looking forward to talking to her about it.

Dappled Things' Fund Drive

How many billions, with a “b,” were spent during the last election? Whether your candidates won or lost, please consider the following question: now that the great electoral effort is over, are we any closer to a society in which the center of our common life is the truth that we are beings created in the image of God? If your answer to that question is in the negative, then we want you to consider supporting Dappled Things, a journal dedicated to transforming our culture. We believe that when a culture is not dehumanizing, but ennobling, electoral politics will take care of themselves.
Dappled Things is having a fund drive so they'll make it through the next year. I missed their initial plea because of the holidays. In case you did too, here's where you can find out more.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

My 2013 Personal Book Challenge

My 2012 book challenge was so rewarding, making me pick up books I would just keep skipping over in favor of lighter reading. I'm doing it again this year. Some books are carried over from last year and some I dropped because they just didn't look interesting to me right now. But you can see I have plenty of others to fill in the gaps.

As before, I may not get through all of them in a year, but I will be trying always read one of them despite other distractions. In no particular order.

  1. Les Miserables - Victor Hugo (required of self after seeing musical)
  2. Middlemarch* - Eliot
  3. Belly of Paris* (Emile Zola)
  4. Wuthering Heights* - Charlotte Bronte (began this in 2012, finishing it in 2013)
  1. Momento Mori - Muriel Spark
  2. Last Call* - Tim Powers (not a true classic, I know ... but still a "challenging" read which is what all these are for me)
  3. Galactic Pot Healer - Philip K. Dick (I wanted to try a novel instead of short stories and this was recommended as being one of the most complete stories told in a novel.)
  4. Journal of the Gun Years - Richard Matheson (I'm so curious to see what sort of Western Matheson writes since he was such a science fiction award winner)
  1. Introduction to the Devout Life* - St. Francis de Sales (began this in 2012, finishing it in 2013)
  2. The Way of Perfection* - St. Teresa of Avila
  3. A Song for Nagasaki - Glynn
  4. The Scarlet and the Black - Gallagher
  1. The Sand Pebbles*
  2. Nine Princes in Amber - Zelazny
  1. Tolkien's Letters
  2. The Inklings - Humphrey Carpenter
  3. H.V. Morton travel book
  4. King Peggy

* Carried over from the 2012 Book Challenge.

My 2013 Movie Challenge List

This worked out pretty well last year, with putting an emphasis on movies I want to see but won't get around to unless I force myself.
  1. 12 Angry Men
  2. Sophie Scholl's Last Days*
  3. Water* (India)
  4. Blue* (French w/ Polish director, 1st of trilogy)
  5. The Passion of Joan of Arc* (silent)
  6. Laura
  7. Of Gods and Men* (2011)
  8. Metropolis* (German)
  9. Tree of Life
  10. Tsotsi
TV Challenge
Finish Buffy. I stopped halfway through season 3 and haven't moved forward since. I hear that seasons 6 and 7 are completely worth the time put in to get there ... so I consider the goal well worthwhile.

* Carried over from the 2012 Challenge List.