Thursday, June 27, 2013

Well Said

Going into my quote journal.
Favoring man-woman marriage no more "demeans" and "humiliates" other sexual relationships than favoring our Constitution demeans and humiliates the governmental systems of other countries.
Supreme Court Justice Scalia
Very true.

What demeans or humiliates other sexual relationships, it seems to me (and I'm no expert), is the "business" associated with marriage. If one lets the insured choose whoever they like for their beneficiary, if one lets the dying leave their worldly goods to whoever they like, and so forth, then much of the feeling of being a second class citizen would dissipate. That would leave a clearer view of what true marriage is and might make it able to simplify any remaining debate. To put it on a very simplistic level, obviously.

Caravans by James A. Michener

CaravansCaravans by James A. Michener

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I read one Michener book, The Source, long ago ... in fact, long before I became Christian ... just as a compelling way to travel through the history and people of a region. I still recall much of it vividly.

Michener was brought to my attention recently when I was looking through Kindle samples and reviews of more recent versions of geographical/gigantic historical fiction. As I discarded author after author, I found myself captivated by the couple of Michener samples I'd downloaded (specifically Caravans and The Source). I also realized I'd forgotten his shorter fiction such as Sayonara and The Bridges at Toko-Ri.

This book reminded me most of an H.V. Morton travel guide, but with a fictional veneer. Michener takes the reader through myriad facets of 1946 Afghanistan ranging from city life to nomad caravans. He simultaneously ponders civilization, faith, and man's essential nature. Written in 1966, this book also considers those who adhere to traditional thinking versus those who feel that progress means breaking away from civilization. Altogether a fascinating combination.

Bye bye Google. Hello Bloglovin.

Not sure yet, but I might like this better than Google Reader. At any rate, Bloglovin is where I wound up for now.

Scott, all in black, moves with panther-like grace. Julie practices knife throwing.

They both deal in lead, friend. Lead and talking about The Magnificent Seven, that is. Get it now at A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Worth a Thousand Words: The Water Garden

Childe Hassam, The Water Garden
Metropolitan Museum of Art (view it full screen there)
Via lines and colors

Notes on Mark: Real Defilement Comes From Within

MARK 7:14-23
It is such a common idea these days to define someone's actions by their intentions rather than what they eat or wear or other such customs. Barclay reminds us how very unheard of that was in Jesus' day. I really enjoyed his references to Maccabees. Those books are some of my favorites of the Old Testament. The stories of the widow and her sons as well as one of an old man who refuses to give up his faith even though urged to because of his age are some that have really stuck with me. The speech that the old man and the widow each give are really beautiful examples of witnessing to faith.
Although it may not seem so now, this passage, when it was first spoken, was well-nigh the most revolutionary passage in the New Testament. Jesus has been arguing with the legal experts about different aspects of the traditional law. He has shown the irrelevance of the elaborate handwashings. He has shown how rigid adherence to the traditional law can actually mean disobedience to the law of God. But here he says something more startling yet. He declares that nothing that goes into a man can possibly defile him, for it is received only into his body which rids itself of it in the normal, physical way.

No Jew ever believed that and no orthodox Jew believes it yet. Leviticus 11 has a long list of animals that are unclean and may not be used for food. How very seriously this was taken can be seen from many an incident in Maccabean times. At that time the Syrian king, Antiochus Epiphanes, was determined to root out the Jewish faith. One of the things he demanded was that the Jews should eat pork, swine's flesh but they died in the hundreds rather than do so ... Fourth Maccabees (chapter 7) tells the story of a widow and her seven sons. It was demanded that they should eat swine's flesh. They refused. The first had his tongues cut out, the ends of his limbs cut off; and he was then roasted alive in a pan; the second had his hair and the skin of his skull torn off; one by one they were tortured to death while their aged mother looked on and cheered them on; they died rather than eat meat which to them was unclean.

It is in the face of this that Jesus made his revolutionary statement that nothing that goes into a man can make him unclean. He was wiping out at one stroke the laws for which Jews had suffered and died ...

With one sweeping pronouncement Jesus had declared ... that uncleanness has nothing to do with what a man takes into his body but everything to do with what comes out of his heart.
The Gospel of Mark
(The Daily Bible Series, rev. ed.)

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Worth a Thousand Words: The Artist in His Museum

Charles Willson Peale (1741 - 1827), The Artist in His Museum , 1822
Via Idle Speculations where you may read more about the artist and museums.

How Fortunate the Meek ...

A friend noticed my mention of meekness in my review of The Quiet Light last week. The thoughts on meekness came from Fire of Mercy, Heart of the Word and it deserves to be more than a brief mention on my part. Here is a longer excerpt.
Matthew 5:5

how fortunate the meek,
for they shall inherit the [promised] land.

The meek, the gentle, the kind: far from implying any attitude of contented passivity, much less the tameness of a cowering dog living in fear of the next beating, the virtue called [Greek word] connotes an ever-vigilant openness, a disposition of goodwill that is always ready to encounter a situation with a view to building it up and re-creating it. It is the same word Matthew will use in 11:29, putting it again in the Lord's mouth: "Bend your necks to my yoke, and learn from me, for I am meek and humble-hearted; and your souls will find relief." ...

Jesus praises an active meekness that does not return evil for evil but that always returns something positive--good for good or, more typically, good for evil. It is not content with a static indifference "in the name of God." The meek imitate Jesus' spiritual activity; they become vessels that transmit the goodness, mercy, and power of God, which Elijah found, not in the storm, but in the barely perceptible breeze. Such Christian meekness rests, not upon constraint and resignation, but upon the freedom of the person who knows he is always and everywhere loved by God. This knowledge liberates from the compulsion and the convention of using the violent means of the world for self-defence and aggression, the despairing struggle to maintain one's "place in the sun." The meek person has found his place in the Heart of God and has no time or interest for any other activity but that of reflecting the sovereign peace of God's nature.

... Jesus shows that the virtue of "meekness" in a special way reflects the nature of God by saying of himself: "I am meek and humble of heart," which is to say, "I have my effect by bestowing the goodness of my Father on the world. I do not fight with the world's weapons, because they are ineffective for the task I must accomplish."
It is no surprise to anyone who knows me that I continually need to ponder the true meaning of meekness. I am not too bad at having goodwill toward others, except when I suddenly feel that I am not being properly appreciated or understood. You get the picture.

Intertwined as it is with being "humble-hearted," true meekness is something I strive for and fail to achieve a lot of the time. It is a balance that I now think of St. Thomas Aquinas when I look for a model to imitate.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Yet Another Con: Black Heart by Holly Black

Black Heart: The Curse Workers, Book ThreeBlack Heart: The Curse Workers, Book Three by Holly Black

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Girls like her, my grandfather once warned me, girls like her turn into women with eyes like bullet holes and mouths made of knives. They are always restless. They are always hungry. They are bad news. They will drink you down like a shot of whisky. Falling in love with them is like falling down a flight of stairs. What no one told me, with all those warnings, is that even after you’ve fallen, even after you know how painful it is, you’d still get in line to do it again.
That's Cassel Sharpe for you. He's stuck on Lila Zacharov and stuck good. It's a real shame that he's under duress to work undercover for the FBI and she's enthusiastically training to take a place in her father's crime family. If only that were his only problem.

As in the previous two books of the Curse Workers trilogy (White Cat, Red Glove), where certain individuals are born with the ability to curse others with the touch of a finger, we're working up to a big con job that will save the day. Meanwhile Cassel is continually attempting to become a better person, a good person, while navigating a gritty maze of gray moral choices.

He's given plenty of opportunities because his special curse working skill means that everyone wants to use him. Sorting through lures, threats, and blackmail from family, the mob, and the government becomes a way of life and gives author Holly Black plenty of room to weave plots.

Cassel's mother is held hostage, a long-ago diamond heist must be solved, a fellow student needs help against a blackmailer, the government needs him for a special mission that could end bigotry against curse workers, and his roommate has girl friend problems. And let's not forget the main attraction, Cassel's tumultuous relationship with Lila, who now hates him. Yep. It's all in a day's work for Cassel Sharpe.

As always, it comes down to an elaborate con which pulls everything together and wraps things up, while managing to stay plausible. Black has the courage to bring her trilogy to a definite end and I applaud her for doing so. The ending is not tidy, but I liked it that way. It managed to be satisfying while simultaneously reflecting the uncertainty of Cassel's life. And that is quite a feat.

Interestingly, this last book of the trilogy contained a spot where author Holly Black suddenly took a misstep in writing from a male perspective. In a love scene a guy would not be talking about his flat stomach and corded muscles ... that's a girl's turn on. He'd be talking about her ... ahem ... various attributes. Black did such a good job the rest to of the time that this rang particularly false and it isn't a big deal. Just ... interesting.

Audio Notes: As with the preceding Curse Worker books, Jesse Eisenberg's narration is perfect for conveying Cassel's awkwardness. I particularly enjoy the moments when he portrays other characters through slight alterations which manage to communicate a surprising amount about the people he is voicing. His narration is a big part of my enjoyment of the series. Would I read other Curse Worker books instead of listening to the audio? Probably not. Eisenberg is Cassel and I like it that way.

This review originally ran at SFFaudio who provided the review copy.

Friday, June 21, 2013

The Con is On ... Again: Red Glove by Holly Black

This review originally ran at SFFaudio, who provided the review book. 

Red Glove is the second book in Holly Black’s Curse Workers series, the first of which was White Cat.

As the book begins, we get more of a feel for the insecure world in which Cassel grew up. It is the end of summer vacation and he’s living with his mother in Atlantic City, drifting from hotel to hotel, helping her con a series of wealthy gentleman friends for support. It is an anxiety-filled existence, with the potential for exploding violence at any moment.

When his senior year at boarding school begins, Cassel is glad to reenter the familiar environment. That is derailed when Lila, the girl he loves but must avoid, begins school there as well. Inevitably, it seems, she becomes one of his circle of friends and the angst of seeing the girl he cannot have is constantly on his mind.

Just a few days into the school year, Cassel’s oldest brother is murdered and the Feds try to recruit him to help solve that case and investigate a possibly related string of unsolved murders. The only clue is video footage of a woman wearing red gloves but whose face cannot be seen. They also want Cassel to become an informant on the Zacharov crime family, with which his own family has long been aligned. Complicating matters, the Zacharov’s also want to recruit Cassel to use his transformation powers on their behalf. As if that weren’t pressure enough, the state government is heightening efforts to test everyone to identify curse workers.

As Cassel attempts to untangle the web of lies in which he finds himself, he must resort to a big con to both discover the truth and solve his problems about who he will work with. Naturally this is great fun and there are many plot twists and cliff-hangers along the way in the story which make it somewhat addictive listening. Only the final twist of the book was fairly predictable. However, it is fairly unimportant to the book overall as it serves to act as the bridge to carry the reader forward into the next book of the series.

Red Glove conveys more of the feel of Cassel’s age since much of the action takes place around classes or with school pals. However, as in White Cat, the key issues are still those of trust, betrayal, friendship, identity, truth, and true love, all on a higher level than the ordinary book set among this age group.
As in the first book, Cassel walks a tightrope between right and wrong in his world of gray ethics. The fact that he now has some close friends allows us to see him opening up to others and extending himself in their time of need. He will use his con skills when needed but is taking increasing chances by telling the truth to those around him. This allows for personal growth that makes his choices harder much of the time, but which we can see slowly building to a way out of the crime-filled, worker world he has always inhabited.

Black does us the great favor of not worrying much about back story or lengthy flashbacks. She will add a sentence or two when the stories overlap to be sure the reader is oriented and then moves on. This kept the story moving at a fairly brisk pace, although it did bog down a bit in the middle when Cassel goes hunting for who set up a particular murder victim.

As before, Jesse Eisenberg narrated the book with great skill, conveying Cassel’s emotions as the awkward high school senior longing for normalcy. Usually he would simply alter his voice a bit to portray other characters but occasionally would use accents to great effect, as in his portrayal of the head of the Zacharov family.

Red Glove is not as fresh and sparkling as White Cat, but it is a worthy successor. I definitely enjoyed it and am considering getting the print version for rereading. Recommended.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Worth a Thousand Words: Sommer

Sommer
by Edward B. Gordon

The Quiet Light by Louis De Wohl

The Quiet LightThe Quiet Light by Louis De Wohl

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Having finished G.K. Chesterton's The Dumb Ox for my book club, I thought it would be good supplementary material to read a more straight forward biography of this saint. Chesterton is amusing and clever and did a fine job of making me appreciate Aquinas, but he obviously was counting on the reader to already know the basics. As I know only a smattering of legends, I needed more! Based on reading de Wohl's The Restless Flame about Augustine, I thought he'd be a good source for Aquinas's life story.

I chose wisely, because I thoroughly enjoyed The Quiet Light, which spent as much time on the Aquino family and their Holy Roman Emperor problems as it did on youngest, determined son Thomas. My admiration for De Wohl only increased as I saw how he used both storylines to paint a full picture of the times. Thomas in Paris proved, as his teacher Albert the Great predicted, that "this dumb ox" had a roar that would be heard throughout the world, while English knight Piers headed off to (St.) King Louis's court in Paris. Simultaneously St. Bonaventure was being called upon to defend the Franciscans. I had no idea that all these saints were contemporaneous. I especially appreciated the rare mentions of Aquinas and Bonaventure's mutual respect and friendship, always coupled with how very different both were from each other.

On a personal level, I was inspired by Thomas's ability to let insults slide off, simply ignoring them. This goes hand-in-hand with reading Fire of Mercy, Heart of the Word about the beatitude discussing meekness. It said that meekness is not being a doormat but is the ability to always be open to the opportunity to do good, to turn evil into a work for God. Methinks there is a very powerful message for me in all this.

I am not sure when De Wohl wrote this in relation to his book about St. Augustine, but this one showed considerably more expertise in conveying information while keeping the reader engaged. Although St. Thomas is seen relatively rarely in the overall story, it has the effect of making the impact much greater. I may never forget the vivid description of him dismantling the opposition's faulty treatise in front of the board of cardinals. I read it three times for the beauty and clarity of the passages.

Highly recommended.

Well Said: God's own admiration

From my quote journal.
One cannot help noting God's own admiration for the beauty of the craftsman, the farmer, the fisherman, because in a most fitting way those occupations reflect God's own being and manner of acting. After all, Jesus himself, by this call and election of Peter and Andrew, exhibits himself to be the primordial "Fisher of Men." This act of Christ's, like all his acts, manifests something essential of the being of God. God is fisherman by nature, we might say, and entrapping fish out of a lake is a visible reflection of the manner in which God eternally attracts beings to himself...

... The strategy of "entrapment" is given to us where we least expect it: we may be looking at the fish in the lake, but Jesus is looking at Peter and Andrew by the lake. The immediacy with which they are "caught" reveals the simplicity and awesomeness of the ruse. Beaming from the face of Christ, the voice and the glance of God have made themselves perceptible to human eyes and ears. Just as surely as these can see and hear the splashing of the water on the shore can they behold the glory of God in the man addressing them. And they are magnetized. Their own strategy in "catching" man will simply be an extension through the person of their own encounter with Jesus.
Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis, Fire of Mercy, Heart of the Word, vol. 1

Catholic Writers' Guild LIVE!

From my inbox comes good news for Catholic writers.
2013 Catholic Writers Conference--LIVE
Tuesday, March 19, 2013 (17:49:10)

Registration is now open for the 2013 Catholic Writers Conference LIVE!

We're heading back East. This year, we return to the place of our first conference, Somerset, New Jersey, and back to a familiar time--the first week of August.

Mark your calendars! The conference runs August 7-9, in conjunction with the Catholic Marketing Network International Trade Show. As before, membership in CWCL provides you with entry to the trade show; however, there are special events that require tickets. We should have full pricing on those special items soon.

This year we are hosting:
•workshops on marketing and writing
•presentations on marketing and selling your work
•in-person pitch sessions
•group critique sessions
•national CWG Members meeting (guests welcome, of course)

We're still firming up our speaker list - so stay tuned!
Go here for more information or to sign up.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Worth a Thousand Words: Portrait of Rosalind Russell

Portrait of Rosalind Russell. Nicolai Fechin (Russian-American, 1881-1955).
Oil on canvas. Acquired directly from the artist by Mary Pickford.
Via Books and Art

The Apathy of Leisure

Roy H. Williams hits the nail on the head. Again. Here's a bit, then read (or listen) to his Monday Morning Memo.
A person capable of creating is happiest when they are creating.

Artists create visual and auditory artifacts that affect our thoughts, moods and attitudes. Riddle-solvers perform feats of engineering and invention. Teachers create new understanding in the minds of their students. Entrepreneurs create businesses that offer us new and different experiences. Communicators create stories and speeches and ads.

Made in the image of God, humans are creators by nature. All humans.

Yes, that includes you.

What do you create? What do you change? What effect do you have on the world around you?

The Success Myth of our culture is an evil one. We are told that "the freedom to do nothing" is the reward provided by great wealth. Have you spent much time among the idle rich? Sadly, I have, and on many occasions.

Heads Up: $1.99 Kindle Daily Deal Today - 4:50 From Paddington by Agatha Christie

I love this book which in America was titled "What Mrs. McGillicuddy Saw."

When I began browsing Agatha Christie's other Kindle titles, I saw that "They Came to Baghdad," another favorite of mine, is also $1.99. It may or may not go away after today since it isn't listed under the daily deals.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Creatures of the Abyss by Murray Leinster

Creatures of the AbyssCreatures of the Abyss by Murray Leinster

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


I listened to the LibriVox free audio version, narrated by the wonderful Mark Douglas Nelson.

Radar expert and electronic engineer Terry Holt has been recruited by a scientific expedition in the Phillipines to make underwater listening devices. They won't tell him what his inventions are meant to investigate. And that makes him mad.

He has some ideas though. Orejas de ellos, the things who listen, have been the explanation by fishermen about strange catches of fish. Are they real or just superstition? What are the mysterious shooting stars that seem to fall with such frequency into the Luzon Deep? Why do mysterious swarms of fish gather in one specific area of the ocean?

Had Leinster been reading Jules Verne? Had he been reading H.G. Wells? Or is this a completely new creation? Those are the questions I repeatedly asked as I vacillated between three different theories about the mysterious "fish herding" and who is doing it. As Leinster always does, I was glued to this adventure story investigating what comes from the abyss, which may be deadly, especially to those who are set on discovering the truth. I will disclose only this ... I was very surprised by the end of the story. Bravo, Murray Leinster.

Well Said: Railways and the Church

From my quote journal.
Railways and the Church have their critics, but both are the best ways of getting a man to his ultimate destination.
Wilbert Vere Awdry

Monday, June 17, 2013

Worth a Thousand Words: Vintage

Vintage
by James Neil Hollingsworth

Notes on Mark: Running to Jesus

MARK 6:53-56
I never noticed this before and certainly never thought about it ... but who would not run to see Jesus if he showed up nearby?
Have you noticed how in Mark's Gospel, when people heard that Jesus had arrived in a certain place, they ran to him. They did not walk to see Jesus, they ran to see him. They ran to the other side of the lake to listen to him (Mark 6:33), and when he returned, they ran to bring the sick to him (6:55). When he returned from the mountain where he was transfigured, the people ran to him again(9:15), and later, the rich young man ran up to him (10:17).

The people ran because they were powerfully drawn to Jesus. They saw that he was able to heal and to teach them, and it attracted them. They earnestly longed for what he offered: Words of hope and comfort, revelation about the love of the Father, and the power of a humble, surrendered life. They ran just to see him heal the sick. There was an urgency: We must go to Jesus now!
Mark: A Devotional Commentary
(The Word Among Us)

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Reading Updates ...

From my Goodreads updates because, let's face it, I'm kind of addicted to Goodreads.


Friday, June 14, 2013

Worth a Thousand Words: The Princess and the Unicorn

Armand Point (1861-1932), The Princess and the Unicorn
via French Painters
This is a wonderful complement to my mindset as I listen to Legends of King Arthur and His Knights podcast.

Just a couple of weeks until Google Reader shuts down ...

... and I still have no idea what I'm going to do. Curl up in a fetal position?

Actually I have updated my sidebar and will use that, at least for a while.

Tom told me that Digg is working on a reader (and if you want to know down to the second when the Google Reader shuts down, it's a handy link).

In which there is murder, mayhem, and a missing person in the night ... and a mysterious umbrella.

The latest chapter of Doan and Carstair's adventures in Mexico, The Mouse in the Mountain, is ready for your listening pleasure at Forgotten Classics.

ANGELA - Updated - You won 21 Ways to Worship by Vinny Flynn

Congratulations!

All I need is your contact info and I'll get your copy of 21 Ways to Worship in the mail!

You can email me: julie [at] glyphnet [dot] com

-----------

UPDATE
This notice has been posted for a week but I haven't heard from Angela. This is the last notice to claim the book.

If I haven't heard from Angela by next week, I'll do another drawing.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Julie's got tension. Scott's got apprehension. But no dissension has begun. They both like The Demolished Man.

"Tension, apprehension, and dissension have begun." We discuss The Demolished Man by Alfred Bester at A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast.

Notes on Mark: Rowing Against the Wind

MARK 6:45-52
In all the times I have read this segment with Jesus walking on the water through the storm to the disciples, never have I given much thought to the fact that the disciples are wearing themselves out rowing against the wind. If I did it was only to apply it to my own struggles. However St. Bede also saw a larger message in it that makes a lot of sense to me, especially when considering how often the Church Fathers saw things like Noah's Ark symbolizing the Church.
St. Bede the Venerable comments on this whole episode in this way: "In a mystical sense, the disciples' efforts to row against the wind point to the efforts the Holy Church must make against the waves of the enemy world and the outpourings of evil spirits in order to reach the haven of its heavenly home. It is rightly said that the boat was out on the sea and He alone on the land, because the Church has never been so intensely persecuted by the Gentiles that it seemed as if the Redeemer had abandoned it completely. But the Lord sees his disciples struggling, and to sustain them he looks at them compassionately and sometimes frees them from peril by clearly coming to their rescue.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Quick Flicks ... and Some Dalek Trash Talk

Attack the Block

★★★-1/2

This one's been on my list for a couple of years and it was an unexpected delight in the same way that Pitch Black was. A good, solid monster movie with a basic puzzle to solve in order to rid oneself of the monsters. In this case, the twist is that the monsters are faced by a gang of young thugs in a council block (that translates to "the projects" in the U.S.). Thoroughly enjoyable if one doesn't expect too much from it and watching the young actors is a delight, many of whom were recruited from local acting schools.

I especially enjoyed the fact that you can tell the aliens are not CG. The young actors said that they were actually frightened during action sequences because they were acting with real, unpredictable "creatures" ... it both shows and enhances the film.

The director went to a lot of trouble to get the place right. He interviewed council block kids to find out what weapons they'd grab if aliens landed. They use real slang and at times I felt as if I were watching a foreign language film with the captions off. However, there was always enough understandable dialogue for context.


Cars 2


★★★

This was the only Pixar movie we hadn't seen so I finally bit the bullet and rented it. It wasn't bad, especially considering their true demographic is children and not me.

The animation especially was a delight, as always. We really enjoyed picking out how they had "auto-ized" famous landmarks in the cities around the world.

The plot was basic as was the dialogue, which was a disappointment considering the high standard Pixar has set for itself in those departments. However, for what it is, a movie for children, it is perfectly adequate.


Dr. Who - Doomsday (Season 2 finale)

We're gradually working our way through these and I was quite ready for Rose to be trapped in a parallel universe. She was fine, but I did get a bit tired of her. So it was all quite sad and so forth as she and the Doctor were parted.

But the real joy was watching the Cybermen face the Daleks. Hannah is far ahead of us in the show and had mentioned that the Daleks have some of the worst trash talk ever. Indeed. Here's a sample and I both loved it and cracked up simultaneously. Of course reading it just can't do the exchange justice since the Daleks continually scream their dialogue (in a robotic sort of way) and the cybermen have toneless robotic voices.

Cyber Leader: Daleks, be warned. You have declared war upon the Cybermen.
Dalek Sec: This is not war. This is pest control!
Cyber Leader: We have five million Cybermen. How many are you?
Dalek Sec: Four.
Cyber Leader: You would destroy the Cybermen with four Daleks?
Dalek Sec: We would destroy the Cybermen with one Dalek! You are superior in only one respect.
Cyber Leader: What is that?
Dalek Sec: You are superior at dying!

Worth a Thousand Words: Monk Parakeet

Monk Parakeet (Myiopsitta monachus) in the Ibera Marshes, Argentina on 2 April 2006
via Wikipedia

Just a little something to continue yesterday's theme of our new neighbors.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

What's Goin' On ...

A few little things that I wanted to share ... and they just might add up to a blog post.

Two Great Podcasts - Myths of Ancient Greece and Legends of King Arthur
Paul Vincent began retelling the Greek myths to his children and then, luckily for us, he began recording them for a podcast, Myths and History of Ancient Greece. Now that he's finished the myths and begun on Greek history, he has begun a new podcast about Legends of King Arthur and His Knights. When those are done he'll follow them up with the corresponding British history.

These are great not only for the entire family but for adults as well. Paul Vincent's storytelling style brings a smile to my face because he manages to communicate so much, so simply but so well. If you have any interest in either subject, give these a try. Get them through iTunes or the links above.

Vocation is a Lack of Obstacles
Scott mentioned this to me once and I think it is a valid criteria. Certainly, we were all wondering what the deciding element would be to whether Rose stays in L.A. for a while. Until a couple of days ago, we were planning to drive out and help her move when her lease was up in August. That was all any of us had to go on in the fluctuating world of free lance work, apartment leases, and week-to-week uncertainty.

Then, suddenly, within a few days everything began to fall into place. Free lance work lined up for several months, a friend in need of living quarters replaced a departing roommate ... and so forth and so on. Ok, that's not vocation. But it certainly was an answer to prayer about "a sign, Lord, any sign..." and so we will not be driving across Death Valley in August (which I take to be another very good sign).

The Stars My Destination and Alfred Bester
I was telling my mother that Scott and I recorded our Demolished Man podcast this morning and we began talking about Alfred Bester's novels. As I've mentioned on the podcast, I read them because my parents had them sitting around the house when I was a kid. Which always seems to surprise people. Hey, my parents were sf fans from waaay back...

My mother told me that she keeps a copy of The Stars My Destination in her purse. Whenever she's stuck in a line she pulls it out to read. And when she gets to the end, she begins it again. She said that there's so much in there, you always see something new each time around.

Love it! I want to be like my mom when I'm her age.

My New Favorite Pen
I was picking up some yarn at a craft store and happened across the sketching section. I'm always looking in vain for a decent pen and suddenly realized that if there would be one anywhere, it should be here. I found Paper Mate InkJoy pens and I must say they are a smooth, satisfying writing experience.

Juvenile Grackles
Morning walks are extra fun these days because there are lots of juveniles out and about. Slender, skittering robins, mockingbirds, squirrels, and more can be seen everywhere. A special favorite of mine are the young grackles who are seen squawking, fluttering wings, and opening mouths wide to their mothers ... who are unconcernedly grabbing food and using it to entice the babies to feed themselves. After an attempt has been made, mom stuffs something into the wide open mouth, flutters somewhere nearby, and the whole routine begins again. It makes me smile every time.

Speaking of Squawking - Monk Parakeets / Quaker Parrots
I have mentioned before that we have wild parrots living near the neighborhood, thanks to nearby White Rock Lake. We were charmed this weekend that some were spending time in the neighbor's tree. I wondered if perhaps there were a nest and hatchlings. A few days later and we are considerably less charmed with the continual squawking. Flying, roosting, eating, or whatever ... all seem to require a lot of conversation. Tom feels as if our outdoors has turned into a large pet shop since the noise is reminiscent of one. However, I still enjoy trying to see if there's a nest up in that live oak tree. I can't think of any other reason that some of them would suddenly settle down there.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Well Said: What kind of head-space am I going to be stuck in now?

From my quote journal.
There exists a quality of a book that I do not have a name for; it is approached by terms like “mode” and “voice” and “the writer’s world-view”, but isn’t quite any of these. I short-hand it as, “What kind of head-space am I going to be stuck in now?” And is it one I that will enjoy being stuck in? We seek out, I think, any favorite writer’s other books, even if they are varied, in the hopes of entering that agreeable head-space again.
Lois Bujold, reviewing Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch
I like that ... "head space." Of course, she is precisely right.

Worth a Thousand Words: Coreopsis, Near San Antonio, Texas

Coreopsis, Near San Antonio, Texas by Julian Onderdonk, 1919.
via Wikipedia

Notes on Mark: Feeding the Five Thousand

MARK 6:35-44
Just really thinking about Jesus feeding the five thousand is mind blowing. For one thing, our deacon told us in a recent homily on the subject that only the men would have been counted. So when including the women and children there may have been actually ten thousand or more people there. Barclay tells us that each loaf was not what we would think of as a loaf of bread but more like a small roll. Not that it really matters but it just signifies God's abundance even more. I also liked this commentary about how the miracle of the loaves connects with the Last Supper.
The miracle of the loaves looks both to the past and the future.

(1) It recalls miraculous feedings from the OT, like the heavenly manna God provided for Israel in the wilderness (Ex 16) and the multiplied loaves and leftover baskets provided by Elisha (2 Kings 4:42-44).

(2) It also anticipates the later institution of the Eucharist, where the same string of verbs (taking ... blessed ... broke ... gave) is found together, something that only occurs here and at the Last Supper (14:22; CCC 1335).
The Gospel of Mark(The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible)

Friday, June 7, 2013

Worth a Thousand Words: The Convent School

Martín Rico y Ortega (Spanish, 1833-1908), The School Patio, 1871
We saw this charming painting last night at one of Dallas's best kept secrets, the Meadows Museum at SMU. They are hosting "Impressions of Europe: 19th-Century Vistas by Martin Rico.

I'd never heard of this artist but Thursday nights are free and Tom and I made a date of it. It was really enjoyable, just the right size for an evening's art appreciation to take you out of the everyday world.

Of course, this blog post can't possibly convey the charm of the actual painting, where one is free to examine it closely, seeing the textures and expressions the artist included.

Here is another painting, just to try to lure any Dallasites to the exhibit before it closes on July 7.

Martín Rico y Ortega (Spanish, 1833-1908), The Tower of Las Damas at the Alhambra, Granada, 1871.

Lord Hear Our Prayer

This week's prayer requests are originally posting on the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus so it is appropriate we consider her headlong obedience to God as we pray.


Stained glass depiction of Jesus and His Most Sacred Heart, in Germany.
via Wikipedia
Almighty and everlasting God, look upon the Heart of your well-beloved Son and upon the acts of praise and satisfaction which He renders unto you in the name of sinners. In your great goodness, grant pardon to those who seek your mercy, in the name of the same your Son, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you, world without end.

Thanks and gratitude for:
  • A husband who plans dates and who shows me in many ways that he loves me as I am.
  • The love shown through careful selection of gifts for my birthday ... it really is the thought that counts.
Lord, hear our prayers for:
  • My mother in law, who is patiently suffering the ravages of old age and ill health
  • Newborn baby Lazarus, suffering from dire health problems
  • Pat the Protestant's friend, whose surgery for lung cancer has not improved the situation.
  • Pat's friend's mom who is going into palliative care.
  • Pat's friend with two elderly female wolves, one of whom is in her last days. "My friend loves both the old girls very much. Please pray for both wolves, the sick one and the one about to lose her sister who has been her lifelong companion, and my friend."
    Continual prayer intentions ...
    • For our government officials to have a change of heart and uphold our right to religious liberty
    • An end to abortion and a reverence for life in all stages of age and health.
    • Our priests and for vocations
    • Abortion providers, Lord open their eyes and hearts
    • Strength, joy and peace for oppressed Christians in China, Asia, and the Middle East. Also that their oppressors may have their eyes opened to the truth. And for all those oppressed, actually.

    Thursday, June 6, 2013

    Worth a Thousand Words: What Happens Next?

    What Happens Next? Guglielmo Zocchi (Italian, 1874-1957)
    via Books and Art

    Something I'm Reading: America , The Last Best Hope (Vol. I) by William J. Bennett

    America: The Last Best Hope, Volume 1: From the Age of Discovery to a World at WarAmerica: The Last Best Hope, Volume 1: From the Age of Discovery to a World at War by William J. Bennett

    My rating: 5 of 5 stars


    This is just what I wanted. An American history that is even-handed and thorough, yet doesn't bog me down so I can never get the overall gist (such as telling all the details of every campaign that was fought during the French-Indian wars).

    Also it is so clearly written and engaging that it is my breakfast reading and I often have to hurry through my remaining routine because I was too caught up in the book to keep track of time.

    A few things I have learned about American history:
    • I already knew that John Paul Jones "had not yet begun to fight." What I didn't realize was that the scrappy Scotsman took the naval fight to the British during the Revolution. Yes, believe it or not, he was attacking British towns! Now that is spunk!
    • An incident and quote I'd never heard: When Benjamin Franklin witnessed a hot air balloon ascension in Paris, one of the witnesses asked him what practical use it was. "The most practical man on earth answered simply: "What is the use of a new-born baby?"
    • I never realized that slavery was a big issue from the founding of our country onward. I mean to say, I knew it was a big issue coming up to the Civil War, but somehow when they're teaching kids about their country's history they don't start out talking about how the Founding Fathers had to make concessions right from the start so the states would all band together into a country. Fascinating and it makes a sad underlying theme to our country's first 100 (almost) years.
    • Andrew Jackson was already on my black books for his treatment of the Cherokee Nation and rejection of the Supreme Court when they tried to enforce fair treatment as per their judgment. (Didn't he coin the phrase, "You and what army?" Followed by, "Oh, right. I have the army.") Then I read how he sent the country into the Panic of 1837 because of his unreasoning hatred of the Bank of the United States, followed by his destruction of same. He had to go through two secretaries of the Treasury before appointing Roger B. Taney ... who we will hear from later for further infamy. Then Jackson left Martin Van Buren holding the bag. I now only have one good thing to say about Jackson which was that the "shoot" in his eyes allowed for no breaking up of the Union, even though he was sympathetic to the slave holders.
    • Frederick Douglass -- who knew this guy was such a fire eater? Wow! I knew of his famous book which is one I mean to read someday. But he's in there mixing it up, refusing to back down, even teaching President Lincoln that although a black colony in South America sounds like a progressive, good idea, it is actually just as bad as slavery since these black men are Americans and have the right to live in their homeland. He was such a brilliant logician that he'd leave no one with a leg to stand on.
    • I already admired Abraham Lincoln as a hero. I now can admire his powerful intellect, diplomacy, and good heart even more. I am struck more and more by the similarities between the fight against slavery and the current day fight against abortion. I especially liked this argument from his debates with Stephen Douglas:
      "Although volume upon volume has been written to prove slavery a very good thing, we never hear of the man who wishes to take the good of it by being a slave himself."
    • Raised a Kansan, it was a shock to move to Texas and hear the Confederacy justified by the argument of "states' rights." This was a new idea and one I didn't cotton to, though I grew resigned to hearing about it. Now having raised a generation of Texans, this argument still comes up (yes folks the Civil War can still start arguments between family members). So this was fascinating and also made me laugh.
      The most important aspects of the Confederate constitution were, however, less obvious. For a movement that claimed states' rights, their constitution allowed no state the right to emancipate slaves. No state could even be admitted to the Confederacy from the old Union unless it agreed to maintain slavery always. And, a stunning development: the drafters of this constitution debated and emphatically rejected a passage that would have recognized a right of a state to secede from this Confederacy.

    -- I'm about 2/3 of the way through so will probably have more revelations as I go --

    Wednesday, June 5, 2013

    Worth a Thousand Words: Straight on to Altair, Fellas.

    Straight on to Altair, fellas. Make it so.
    Rose has a fondness for only showing half her face on Facebook. When taxed with this (by many more people than just me), she obliged with this gem.

    A Movie You Might Have Missed: 37

    Actually, if you've even heard of this movie, I tip my hat to you. It is a rare one. 

    37. Everyone Says I Love You

    This hasn't been available for a while so when I saw the dvd at Amazon I grabbed it. Why had I been on the lookout for it? Because this is one of my favorites of Woody Allen's movies. Few people know that he wrote and directed a musical and for those few who do know it, no one is neutral. We really liked it and, upon viewing it last night I was surprised that it didn't seem to have aged. The only tell that this movie is 17 years old is how extremely young some of the actors seem.

    This is Woody Allen's love letter to musicals, Hollywood love stories, and New York, this is the tale of a wealthy family's year. It is told as a musical, with the large cast of well known actors all doing their own vocals. The songs are classic, fit into unexpected situations, and occasionally accompany dance routines. The actors don't come off as professional singers or dancers, but have just enough awkwardness to lend everything a sincere, realistic feel. As with many musicals from earlier times, the plot is a simple vehicle to move everything along and much of the pleasure is in seeing the movie unfold.

    Well Said: Stories and Spiders

    From my quote journal.
    Stories are like spiders, with all they long legs, and stories are like spiderwebs, which man gets himself all tangled up in but which look pretty when you see them under a leaf in the morning dew, and in the elegant way that they connect to one another, each to each.
    Neil Gaiman, Anansi Boys

    Question

    I've been asked if I know of any Scripture where two tribes each go up to the top of two different mountains and pray/lament in a sort of call-and-response method.

    I have no clue and quick searches aren't turning anything up.

    In case any of our learned group knows, I'm passing the question on!

    Tuesday, June 4, 2013

    In which Doan and Carstairs rejoin the tourists ... and the plot thickens.

    Chapter 9 of The Mouse in the Mountain by Norbert Davis is ready for your listening pleasure at Forgotten Classics.

    The Restless Flame by Louis de Wohl

    The Restless FlameThe Restless Flame by Louis De Wohl

    My rating: 4 of 5 stars


    Having dropped The Brothers Karamazov and realizing I will have to resort to Cliff Notes before my book club meets in August (there's a first time for everything), I am moving on to the next BIG BOOK they chose. The Confessions by St. Augustine.

    Now I love St. Augustine. He is my first "saint pal" so to speak. However, I've tried several times to read The Confessions and always gotten bogged down in the early pages. (I must add this was not due to the book itself but to the fact that I got tired of Augustine going on and on about his tutor beating him when he was young.) As I was girding my mental loins for the prospect of throwing myself into the fray again, a Goodreads' friend recommended one of Louis de Wohl's Christian historical fictions.

    I tried de Wohl some time ago and found it very simple. Certainly nothing to match my beloved Samuel Shellabarger or Kenneth Roberts. Not even on the par of such Christian historical fiction as The Robe, Ben Hur, or Quo Vadis. (I now believe that perhaps I read one of his books written for younger readers.)

    However, I checked out the beginning pages of the recommended book on my Kindle and found that it was more complex and interesting than my long ago sample about Helen and the cross, if I recall correctly. At any rate, in an attempt to get in the mood for The Confessions, I got The Restless Flame from the library and have been enjoying the way de Wohl brings Augustine, Monica, and others to life. This was enhanced by the fact that, having read Saints Behaving Badly I know that Augustine's steadfast friend, Alypius, was a real person who had to fight a serious addiction to blood sports. And so this makes it ring even more true.

    The middle of the book was rather slow as it centered around Augustine's philosophy, teaching, and rhetoric of Manichaeism. But such was Augustine's life so I can't really complain about that. It was rather inspiring to see how seriously these young men took the search for Truth and philosophy. I really looked forward to the part where Augustine and Ambrose met. The author surprised me on that bit but seeing how Ambrose stood his ground against the emperor's mother was a treat. This book was thought provoking, stretched me mentally as I jumped with Alcypius behind Augustine from one philosophical concept to the next, and inspired me in its depiction of Monica and Augustine overall.

    I've seen many people saying that de Wohl's books are really just for young adults. I'm not sure that is the case. True, this one isn't 600 pages with exhaustive details of Roman, Carthaginian, Milanese, and African living at the time. But that isn't always needed to get a good feel for a person. This one gave this fully adult reader just what was needed.

    Monday, June 3, 2013

    Worth a Thousand Words: Fukagawa Susaki and Jūmantsubo

    Hiroshige (1797–1858), One Hundred Famous Views of Edo #107,
    "Fukagawa Susaki and Jūmantsubo"
    Via Wikipedia
    Tom gave me a beautiful art book of One Hundred Famous Views of Edo. For some reason there is no better way to spend a Sunday morning before heading off to 11 a.m. mass than looking leisurely at a huge art book while sipping coffee.

    I do realize this is an indulgence denied to those with young children. Which just makes it all the sweeter than I have earned this luxury, I do assure you.

    At any rate, I've been enjoying it so far and I love the perspective given with the bird of prey descending in the foreground while we look past it to the landscape and defining mountain beyond.

    Well Said: The Very Heart of Religion

    From my quote journal.
    Gregor flushed as he went on: "The entire content of the Confesions could be put into one single sentence in the book: when Augustine addresses God, saying: 'Thou hast made us for Thyself and our heart is unquiet until it rests in Thee.' This sentence, my lords and friends, is immortal. It contains the very heart of religion."
    Louis de Wohl, The Restless Flame

    Blogging Around: The "You Don't Know What You Think You Know" Edition

    THE MISUNDERSTOOD POSSUM
    For years, I’ve thought that opossums — or possums, as most people call them — receive a bad rap because they’re not as cute and cuddly as, say squirrels or raccoons. I’ve known of people killing them just because they don’t like possums.
    The Imperfect Gardener has a good piece about how possums rid your property of pests and other facts you might not know about them. I never minded them but once I discovered that they enjoy eating cockroaches, I gave them carte blanche to help themselves! (Via Hannah on Facebook)

    THE CONTRADICTIONS THAT MAKE UP OUR LIVES
    I’m confronted by a great deal of grand and worthy ambition from this student body. You want to be a politician, a social worker. You want to be an artist. Your body’s ambition: Mulch. Your body wants to make some babies and then go in the ground and fertilize things. That’s it. And that seems like a bit of a contradiction. It doesn’t seem fair. For one thing, we’re telling you, “Go out into the world!” exactly when your body is saying, “Hey, let’s bring it down a notch. Let’s take it down.”

    And it is a contradiction. And that’s actually what I’d like to talk to you about. The contradiction between your body and your mind, between your mind and itself. I believe these contradictions and these tensions are the greatest gift that we have, and hopefully, I can explain that.

    [...]


    I talk about this contradiction, and this tension, there’s two things I want to say about it. One, it never goes away. And if you think that achieving something, if you think that solving something, if you think a career or a relationship will quiet that voice, it will not. If you think that happiness means total peace, you will never be happy. Peace comes from the acceptance of the part of you that can never be at peace. It will always be in conflict. If you accept that, everything gets a lot better.
    A fascinating commencement address from Joss Whedon. I believe it says much about why he is a good storyteller. (Via Scott Danielson.)

    SHUNNING CULTURAL CATHOLICS ... AND ... TWO ATHEISTS WHO CHANGED THEIR MINDS
    I have a friend who left the Church because once a priest told her in an unfriendly way that she could not be Catholic and pro-choice. Not, mind you, that she couldn’t receive communion, but that she wasn’t Catholic. This is the problem. The message my friend received wasn’t, hey you know the Church’s teaching on life is beautiful, you should come and learn more about why she teaches this. It was, get out, you aren’t welcome. Now I wasn’t there and I didn’t hear the exact words the priest used, but whatever was said, the effect wasn’t one of evangelization, you know?
    Melanie Bettinelli at The Wine Dark Sea has an interesting post considering the way some Catholics can look down their noses at others. She links this with a couple of recent testimonials from atheists who were surprised to find themselves engaged in civil, thoughtful conversation with Catholics.
    When I came to this subreddit to post the question, I expected some insightful answers but also some nasty comments. What I got instead was insightful and patient answers to my questions as well as an outpouring of a highly intelligent, well thought-out theological discussion/debate amongst Catholics whom I was surprised to find out did not share a monolithic view of Catholicism. It was so much more than I had hoped.
    My overall comment is this: it comes down to good manners.

    If we are able to keep candid comments to ourselves and politely try to address things we don't agree with, the world becomes a better place. Certainly our efforts are be better received than if we lash out.

    What is the point of winning if others are left with such bad feelings that they will never listen again? The truth is, then we have actually lost.

    I often think of my grandparents as I try to moderate my own ill-mannered ways. They were always polite, always cheerful, and if they disagreed with something they just went ahead and addressed it in a practical fashion as best they could. All without causing a lifetime of hurt feelings. No wonder everyone loved them.

    They are my role models.

    I was already coming to this conclusion and then I read How to Defend the Faith Without Raising Your Voice by Austen Ivereigh.

    I'll review this next week.

    Here's the short version.

    Every Catholic should read this book. Period.

    And if we did what this book says, there would be fewer surprised atheists and more Catholics who've been attracted to live their faith in a deeper, more meaningful way.

    Sunday, June 2, 2013

    Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ


    SOLEMNITY OF THE MOST HOLY BODY AND BLOOD OF CHRIST

    This Solemnity goes back to the thirteenth century. It was first established in the diocese of Liége, and Pope Urban IV instituted it in 1264 for the whole Church. The meaning of this feast is the consideration of and devotion to the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. The center of the feast was to be, as Pope Urban IV described it, a popular devotion reflected in hymns and joy. In the same year Saint Thomas Aquinas, at the Pope's request, composed for this day two Offices which have nourished the piety of many Christians throughout the centuries. In many different places the procession with the Monstrance through specially bedecked streets gives testimony of the Christian people's faith and love for Christ, who once again passes through our cities and towns. The procession began in the same way as the feast itself.

    In places where the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood is not observed as a holy day of obligation, it is kept on the Sunday after the Most Holy Trinity as its proper day.

    For many years God fed manna to the people of Israel as they wandered in the wilderness. This was an image and symbol of the pilgrim church and of each individual who journeys towards his or her definitive homeland -- Heaven. That food given in the desert of Sinai is a figure of the true food, the Holy Eucharist. This is the sacrament of the human pilgrimage ... Precisely because of this, the annual feast of the Eucharist that the Church celebrates today contains within its liturgy so many references to the pilgrimage of the people of the Covenant in their wanderings through the wilderness (John Paul II)....

    Today is a day of thanksgiving and of joy because God has wanted to remain with us in order to feed us and to strengthen us, so that we many never feel alone. The Holy Eucharist is the viaticum, the food for the long journey of our days on Earth towards the goal of true Life. Jesus accompanies us and strengthens us here in this world, where our life is like a shadow compared to the reality that awaits us. Earthly food is a pale image of the food we receive in Holy Communion. The Holy Eucharist opens up our hearts to a completely new reality.
    In Conversation With God Vol 6
    Daily Meditations, Special Feasts: January - June
    Some excellent historical information can be found at The Way of the Father about this feast and about the reality for the Church from the beginning.