Friday, January 31, 2014

How to Open a Bottle of Wine Without a Corkscrew

Another good video via my sis on Facebook.

Now, I couldn't help noticing that one video was from Guinness and this one is for wine. Not that I'm judging, mind you, I liked them both. But it does help me confirm this is indeed my sis and not an imposter using her name.

Worth a Thousand Words: The Cat

via WikiPaintings
I grew up with dogs. Lots of big dogs since one of my parents' hobbies was raising Bullmastiffs and showing them. When Tom and I married we got a couple of dogs as a matter of course.

It was when our girls were little and cat crazy that we gave in and got a cat from the SPCA. I called her Puff from my vague memories of Dick and Jane and Sally and Spot and Puff. Yes, I learned to read in those books and fine books they were too.

It was Puff who taught me how to love a cat. She was young and crazy and she enchanted the entire household, including our ChowChow who went from trying to kill cats to playing a game where Puff would dodge out from corners, throw herself under him and play with his feathers (the long fur growing from the back of his legs). After Puff was run over by a car, only several months after we got her, he continued for several weeks to slow down at her favorite "pounce" corners and wait for her attack.

Most of all, Puff loved me. She slept behind my knees, she laid on my shoulder and hit my book, she threw herself at me and shamelessly demanded attention. I was enchanted, like the rest of the household. We had another couple of cats after Puff and I loved them too, though neither was up to Puff on my cat scale of perfection.

All that is a very long way of saying that I understand why Gwen Johns included her cat in so many of her paintings. If I painted, I would too.

In which all is revealed. Well, not "all" (get your minds out of the gutter) ...

...but everything we need to finish our "half-clad Martian warrior maids invading Earth" adventure at Forgotten Classics podcast. Enjoy!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

I Rarely Watch Videos But I'm Glad I Watched This

Via my sis on Facebook.

Well Said: Gentlemen, I am a Catholic ...

From my quote journal.
Gentlemen, I am a Catholic. As far as possible, I go to Mass every day. This [taking a rosary from his pocket] is a rosary. As far as possible, I kneel down and tell these beads every day. If you reject me on account of my religion, I shall thank God that He has spared me the indignity of being your representative.
Hilaire Belloc, 1906 speech in Salford
He won the election. I like his moxie.

Worth a Thousand Words: Blue Rider

Wassily Kandinsky, 1903, Blue Rider
via WikiPaintings
WikiPaintings' commentary points out something I hadn't noticed:
The painting’s intentional abstractness had led many art theorists to project their own representations onto the figure, some seeing a child in the arms of the blue rider. Allowing viewers to participate in the representations of the art was a technique that Kandinsky would use to great fruition in his many later works, which became more and more abstract as his career wore on.
This puts me in mind of a large painting my parents had which was very abstract. I looked at it idly all through my youth, sometimes seeing the inside of a cave with stalactites, sometimes seeing a river and waterfall, occasionally wondering what the painter intended and what other people saw in the painting when they looked. I'm not sure but I think it might have been titled Mirage. Why I never asked anyone else in my family what they saw in the painting, I don't know. It was an internal meditation which I never felt needed airing.

In that spirit, is the rider going to something or away? Are the shadows an encroaching threat or receding in the face of the light? Obviously this is a painting which could reward the viewer with something new many times.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Mark Bible Study - Index


Worth a Thousand Words: Turtles

Claude Aubriet (1665-1742) - Album de coquillages et poissons
via Biblipeacay
I'm a sucker for turtles. Real turtles that is. Old fashioned drawings of turtles are a close second. Aren't these simply fantastic in coloring and details?

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

With Design This Good I Almost Don't Care About a Story: S. by J.J. Abrams and Doug Dorst

S.S. by J.J. Abrams, Doug Dorst

I can't rate this book yet because I just got it home from the library and took a good look at it.

That "good look" took me 15 delighted minutes.

Why so long? Because this "1949" book, perfectly designed in the style of the time, has a correspondence going on in the sides of the pages, between two biblophiles who discuss the author and learn about each other by leaving notes in the library book.

Flipping carefully through to see a few of the postcards, newspaper articles, and photographs left in the pages of the book (as part of the reading experience, of course) made me even more excited.

Based on reviews, people either love the story or find it disappointing. All give full credit for the amazing book design. Obviously, I am so hoping I'm one of the people who loves the story because the layout and design are enough to make me give it 5 stars without reading more than the title page and two pages of the introduction.

It is so authentic looking that when I showed it to one of my favorite librarians (yes, I have favorite librarians. It happens when you visit your library at least once a week for years), she opened it, saw the library stamp and the "Book for Loan" stamp and said, "When was this written?" She looked it up on her database before believing it was new.

Now, if there is one thing I know about J.J. Abrams it is that he can be more style than substance. (Yes, Lost, I gave you three seasons of my life before quitting.)

If there is a second thing I know, it is that he can tell a helluva good story sometimes (Alias, Person of Interest, Almost Human, the Star Trek reboot). All while maintaining that nice, shiny style that is so alluring.

This book is going to take a while to read, as most reviewers have remarked. But I am already intrigued enough to make this a "slow read" commitment and work my way through it.

One thing is definite. This is a love letter to books, turning pages, writing notes, and tucking reminders between the leaves. You couldn't do this with a Kindle, folks. All the postcards would fall out every time you turned it on!

Here's a video that shows the inside of the book.

Worth a Thousand Words: Leonardo da Vinci

Self-portrait in red chalk - Leonardo da Vinci
via WikiPaintings
I was looking at all the beautiful art da Vinci created and then came upon this self-portrait which I found captivating.

He did a lot of sketches, many of which I also liked, but for some reason none of them captured my imagination the way this one did. I think it is the combination of the serious face, almost grim, with the softness of beard and drawing medium.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Notes on Mark: Jesus Curses the Fig Tree

MARK 11:11-26
The whole incident of the cursed fig tree has never really made sense to me, seeming quite out of character for Jesus. This sheds a little light at least in terms of examining that fig tree in my own life.
Jesus' cursing of the fig tree has always been a difficult text for Bible commentators, especially in view of Mark's comment that "it was not the season for figs." It seems odd that Jesus would curse the fig tree when it was not the time to bear fruit...

The barrenness condemned by Jesus can cause us problems as well. We are called to bear fruit; Jesus wants that fruit. If we are willing to be satisfied with legalistic observances, we will remain barren. We can never plead that it is not the proper season to bear fruit, that we have no time for prayer, no need for repentance, no reason for faith. We can argue that we go to church on Sunday, that people call us Christians, that we observe certain religious rituals. God, however, wants faith that bears fruit.
Mark: A Devotional Commentary
(The Word Among Us)
Note: the link above goes to Word Among Us's book store. For some reason it gives a security certificate warning, but when I bravely went ahead, there I was ... where I could buy a book if I liked. Be not afraid!

Worth a Thousand Words: The Little Owl

Albrecht Durer, 1506, The Little Owl
via WikiPaintings
Albrecht Durer is probably most famous for his painting of a hare, but I couldn't resist this little fellow.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Worth a Thousand Words: Ladder of Divine Ascent

The 12th century Ladder of Divine Ascent icon (St. Catherine's Monastery, Sinai Peninsula, Egypt).
Via Wikipedia, where you may read much more about this icon, including what each rung of the ladder represents.

For me, I'm just fascinated by the imagery and surrounding elements ... demons pulling people off the ladder, the people on earth and in heaven all praying for those on the ladder. It is not only beautiful but makes us dig deeper, which is the point in the first place.

Happy Feast Day, St. Francis De Sales!

Scott and I read this saint's classic book for everyday people, Introduction to the Devout Life. We discussed it a year ago on his feast day on our podcast. (Coincidence? I think now!)

Today Scott sent me a couple of beautiful quotes from his notes. Naturally, these are too good to keep to myself so I'm sharing them with you:
It is an error, nay more, a very heresy, to seek to banish the devout life from the soldier’s guardroom, the mechanic’s workshop, the prince’s court, or the domestic hearth.
+ + + + + + + + +
Day is continually turning to night, spring to summer, summer to autumn, autumn to winter, winter to spring; no two days are ever exactly alike. Some are foggy, rainy, some dry or windy; and this endless variety greatly enhances the beauty of the universe. And even so precisely is it with man (who, as ancient writers have said, is a miniature of the world), for he is never long in any one condition, and his life on earth flows by like the mighty waters, heaving and tossing with an endless variety of motion; one while raising him on high with hope, another plunging him low in fear; now turning him to the right with rejoicing, then driving him to the left with sorrows; and no single day, no, not even one hour, is entirely the same as any other of his life.

Day of the Little Way ... St. Therese and Twitter

Here's an initiative which seems like a good way to use Twitter, which I admit I largely use just for links in case anyone there is interested in what I do here with many more than 140 characters at a time.
The Day of the Little Way will marry the ideas behind the New Evangelization and the life changing power of St. Therese’s little way. On Feb. 4, we’re inviting Catholics everywhere to share their faith through 140 little characters on Twitter by tweeting about the ways St. Therese has impacted your faith and life and by using the hastag #LittleWay.

Will you please consider joining us for the Day of the Little Way movement and help us demonstrate the enormous power of simple faith?
Check the link above for more info.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Well Said: Independence

From my quote journal. This works no matter what the source, but it had extra resonance when I read it in The Last Monk of Tibhirine.
Independence is not freedom.
Elisabeth Lafourcade

In which we track a semi-naked woman, dodge nefarious Russians, and make a surprising discovery.

Yes, the second part of Warrior Queen of Mars awaits your listening pleasure at Forgotten Classics!

And so it was that Julie and Scott began to describe themselves walking ...

... and as they described themselves walking so did Abed confirm they walked. At the end of the walking, they sit down to some chicken fingers in the cafeteria and talk about Community. Episode 75 of A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast!

Cool cool cool.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Today is a Day of Prayer and Penance in the United States

Every child who, rather than being born, is condemned unjustly to being aborted, bears the face of Jesus Christ, bears the face of the Lord, who even before he was born, and then just after birth, experienced the world’s rejection. And every elderly person…even if he is ill or at the end of his days, bears the face of Christ. They cannot be discarded, as the ‘culture of waste’ suggests!
Pope Francis, Sept. 20, 2013
Today marks the 41st anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that made abortion legal throughout the U.S.

Since that decision, more than 55 million children's lives have been lost to abortion. That doesn't count those who suffer the loss after they are gone.

Hence the Church's establishment of today as a national day of penance for abortion.
“In all the dioceses of the United States of America, January 22 (or January 23, when January 22 falls on a Sunday) shall be observed as a particular day of penance for violations to the dignity of the human person committed through acts of abortion, and of prayer for the full restoration of the legal guarantee of the right to life. The Mass 'For Peace and Justice' (no. 22 of the 'Masses for Various Needs') should be celebrated with violet vestments as an appropriate liturgical observance for this day.”
– General Instruction of the Roman Missal, no. 373
My prayers are with those marching in Washington D.C. today as a visible sign . Someday I would love to be able to attend that March.

Actually, someday I'd really love to not have to have a March because our hearts have all changed enough that we value life itself for the precious thing it is, without having to "be" or "do" anything special. Just for itself.

Until that day, we work and pray.

The Dallas March for Life was this weekend and we were heartened by the huge crowds and the media coverage. Once again I cast my mind back to the first March for Life we attended when the organizers were ecstatic because they'd doubled the usual number ... to 1,000. How ashamed we were at that moment that we'd never come before. We haven't missed a March since then and have been blessed to see God's goodness reflected in the thousands who now march for life. I think there must have been something like 8,000 people there.

Whoever handles the media has stepped up their game and was able to get all the local television stations' attention, except for CBS. Extra kudos to WFAA, channel 8, for being respectful enough to call us "pro-life" marchers instead of "anti-abortion" marchers, the way the other stations did. We had lovely weather, in the 60s, unlike most of the country where it is freezing today as they march for life.

Notes on Mark: Healing is a Sign of the New World

MARK 10:46-52

I do tend to forget this, that the healing is not an end in itself but a sign of the new world and of the internal changes taking place within us.
The healing of Bartimaeus occurs, in the structure of Mark's Gospel, in the section recounting Jesus' journey to Jerusalem. The context is important to keep in mind. Bartimaeus' healing was the last reported incident prior to Jesus' entry into the city. There, he would suffer his passion, lay down his life and take it up again. There, he would complete his ministry on earth. Just before the final act of this drama, in which Jesus accomplished the mission set by his father, we have an account of a miracle. Like all of Jesus' miracles, it is a sign that the Messiah is present. It is a sign that God saves his people...

... Faith is a gift of God. It was Bartimaeus' faith that led him to cry out to Jesus, to persist in the face of opposition, and come to Jesus when called. His faith opened him up to the work of Jesus in him, and that is an important message for us as well.

As we see the work of Jesus in Bartimaeus and in our own lives, we must remember that the healing we see is not an end or goal in itself. Rather, it is a sign of the new world that emerged from the coming of Jesus and his passion, death, and resurrection, a new world that we will know in fullness when Jesus comes again. Jesus is the door to a whole new existence for us, as he was for Bartimaeus. As great as it was for Bartimaeus to be able to see, he knew this was a sign, a call from Jesus, and he "followed him on the way" (Mark 10:52). As great as any healing is, it should be seen as a call into the new existence that Christ has won for us.
Mark: A Devotional Commentary
(The Word Among Us)

Worth a Thousand Words: Grilled Pork, Saigon Style

Grilled Pork, Saigon Edition
from EatingAsia, taken by David Hagerman
I don't know about you but my mouth is watering. I'm so happy that the EatingAsia folks have a cookbook contract. Will I cook from it? Maybe. Hopefully. Will I read it and look at those photos over and over? Oh yeah.

Well Said: The End of Rome and the Catholic Church

I love H.V. Morton's talent for weaving his current-day travel commentary with the history of each place he visits. In this case, I was riveted by his tale of how Rome declined, the barbarians came in several waves, and the measures taken to try to shore things up. You'll know why I like this bit especially after you read it. It's a little lengthy but worth it.
Every expedient was tried by Diocletian to stave off the crash. He froze wages and prices in 301, and created a bureaucracy animated by the spirit of a century of extortion. The tax collector became the terror of the countryside. Men fled their homes rather than meet him and revenged themselves on the state by becoming brigands. Wealthy landowners, developing a technique of tax evasion, managed to exist on their estates, surrounded by serfs and armed men--a forecast of the Middle Ages--defying and bribing the Treasury.

Perhaps the worst aspect of state control was the decision to freeze men as well as prices and wages. It became illegal for a man to change his employment, and a son was obliged to follow his father's calling. All trades, occupations and professions became hereditary. A man who fled from a baker's shop, wishing to become a silversmith, would be hunted down and brought back like an escaped criminal. ...

In this grim caricature of Plato's Republic, the only place where a man ceased to be a tax-producing unit, and became a human being with an immortal soul, was the Church. The bishops were truly the shepherds of their flocks and had the courage to stand up to authority. St. Basil once offended a Praetorian Prefect by his plain words and was told that no one had ever dared to speak in such terms to him. "No doubt," replied St. Basil, "you have never met a bishop." ...
H.V. Morton, A Traveller in Rome, 1957

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Reading Envy Begins a Podcast

Reading Envy is Jenny's book blog. I got to know Jenny via SFFaudio where she manages the books for review and is often on their podcast. I keep an eye on Reading Envy because Jenny's the sort of person I always admire ... when the Booker List nominees come out ... wait for it ... Jenny sits down and reads all the books to see which she thinks should win!

She does this for lots of award lists.

And she does book challenges for things like reading a book from every country of the world.

I think she might be superhuman.

Jenny is also an interesting reader to stalk on Goodreads because she reads all sorts of books that I'd never pick up. I like seeing her take on them and sometimes ... every so often ... I step outside my own comfort zone and try some of her favorites.

So when Scott Danielson told me that he and Jenny were beginning a monthly book discussion podcast I said, "Where do I subscribe?"

They aren't on iTunes yet, but the first episode is out (thanks to my connections I got an early review copy) and I really enjoyed it. This is designed to be book chat similar to the sort that pals would have when they get together occasionally, not going into anything indepth but just ... talking books.

Really fun and I have a new book on my "to read" list. Give it a try.

The Difference Between Dogs and Cats

As Deacon Greg said at his blog, which is where I saw this adorable video, it becomes obvious in how they teach their young to go down the stairs. Hilarious and adorable.

And we all knew what the cat's teaching method would be, right?

Friday, January 17, 2014

Notes on Mark: Salt, Salt, and More Salt

MARK 9:49-10:1
Salt is taken for granted in these times but not back when Jesus was speaking. Just to mention salt meant a multitude of things to the people who heard what he said.
Salt also functions as a preservative, something that was especially important to people living in a hot, dry climate without the benefit of refrigeration. The Old Testament referred to a "covenant of salt" that the Lord made with the people of Israel as a permanent condition (Numbers 18:19). Thus, salt, the preservative, signified the everlasting contract between the Lord and his people.
Mark: A Devotional Commentary
(The Word Among Us)

Worth a Thousand Words: Leaping Carp

Ohara Koson
Completion Date: c.1910, Leaping Carp
Via Wikimedia

The Bells of Nagasaki by Takashi Nagai

The Bells Of NagasakiThe Bells Of Nagasaki by Takashi Nagai

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

After reading A Song For Nagasaki about Takashi Nagai, I thought it would be good to at least try Nagai's first and most famous book.

It begins on the morning that the bomb is dropped on Nagasaki. I was interested to see it told not only from his point of view but also from that of various other people in the countryside and from different vantage points at the teaching hospital where Nagai was dean. After helping all those they can from the immediate university area, the small band of survivors heads to the countryside to help the many people who are being sheltered by farmers and villages.

I was surprised to find myself laughing at one point. After American planes drop leaflets informing the Japanese that they dropped an atom bomb (so surrender already), Nagai instantly whirls into thought about the implications, both scientifically and to the victims. He comes out to hear the few remaining hospital staff, doctors, and students in a fevered discussion about which scientists were involved ("Einstein?"), how it would have worked ("they couldn't have had a cyclotron on a plane" "fission! it must have been fission!" "Ahhh"), and so forth. Despite the circumstances, as Nagai himself comments after reporting this exchange, they are all scientists first and deeply interested in the development.
We were members of a research group with a great interest in nuclear physics and totally devoted to this branch of science--and ironically we ourselves had become victims of th atom bomb which was the very core of the theory we were studying. Here we lay, helpless in a dugout!

And yet it was a precious experience for us. Placed on the experimentation table, we could watch the whole process in a most intimate way. We could observe the changes that where taking place and that would take place in the future. Crushed with grief because of the defeat of Japan, filled with anger and resentment, we nevertheless felt rising within us a new drive and a new motivation in our search for truth. In this devastated atomic desert, fresh and vigorous scientific life began to flourish.
I'm really glad that I read A Song For Nagasaki first so I have the context of Nagai's life in which to put this story. I think without that it could be desperately depressing. However, there are always very human moments to which we all can relate, such as when the little team is on the road back to a farmer's house and a fart starts a series of jokes, with each person capping the next.

I'd think this would be the mandatory companion to A Song For Nagasaki because I was surprised to find how much Paul Glynn soft-pedaled Nagai's reaction to Japan's unconditional surrender. Nagai in this book tells us how stunned everyone was when the news came, how he cried for 20 minutes, and how devastated everyone felt. I completely understand Glynn's overview of Nagai's overall feeling about war in general, but it did ring very true to me that one would feel a gut-punch to learn one's country had to completely surrender. For a Japanese person it would have been such a part of their very identity that it would be very hard to take. And, the way that Nagai rallied everyone would have less impact if he hadn't honestly told of his own reactions. The conclusions he drew later would be much less powerful, such as what happens after Nagai's sense of overwhelming defeat leads him to reject a man seeking medical help.
In a flash I had a change of heart. Even one precious life was worth saving. Japan was defeated; but the wounded were still alive. The war was over; but the work of our relief team remained. Our country was destroyed; but medical science still existed. Wasn't our work only beginning? Irrespective of the rise and fall of our country, wasn't our main duty to attend to the life and death of each single person? The very basis of the Red Cross was to attend to the wounded, be they friend or foe. Precisely because we Japanese had treated human life so simply and so carelessly--precisely for this reason we were reduced to our present miserable plight. Respect for the life of every person--this must be the foundation stone on which we would built a new society.

Our people had been told that they must suffer these terrible wounds to win the war; but in fact they had suffered in order to lose. Now they were thrown into the most pitiable and desperate situation. And there was no one to console them, no one to help them except us. We must stand and come to their aid. I stood there unsteadily on my tottering legs. And then the whole group stood up beside me. Our courage came back. The determination to continue our work gave us strength and joy.
There is precious little moralizing of the sort that many might expect. In fact, I saw a review somewhere where a person refused to read the book because they found out that Nagai was Roman Catholic. Nagai rarely mentions his faith other than in passing so that person's innate prejudices stopped them from experiencing a very inspirational and thought provoking book about the innate heights to which the human spirit can soar. Highly recommended.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Lagniappe: The Worst Thing I've Ever Heard Of

That's the worst thing I've ever heard. And I've heard of Nazis.
Hannah's friend Alex
This just makes me laugh every time.

Worth a Thousand Words: Siberian Jay

Siberian Jay
taken by the incomparable Remo Savisaar

A snapshot of the Nativity with a vivid sense of place.

A bit behind the season, but here's some lagniappe from Forgotten Classics, A Shepherd I will Remain by Elizabeth Scalia.

The Time of the Dark by Barbara Hambly

The Time of the Dark (Darwath, #1)The Time of the Dark by Barbara Hambly

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I saw this trilogy has been bundled for the Kindle and realized just how many years it had been since I'd read this book, which I used to reread all the time.

It begins with a wonderful premise. What if you've been having a series of recurring dreams, set in a strange world, where you're in the middle of a panicking crowd all running from an ineffable horror? Then, one night, you wake up and you are in the middle of the city. It's no dream. It's real.

That's what happens to scholar Gil Patterson. Where Barbara Hambly takes the adventure from there is a great ride.

You wouldn't normally think of a comfort book as one where you are fleeing with refugees from amorphous enemies (the Dark) in a parallel universe, where it is always freezing and there is never enough food, where you may never get home again because that might let the Dark into your own world ... but there you go. This is a much loved story that I fell back into last night, thinking "why has it been so long?"

Partly this is because I love Barbara Hambly's early books. This, as I just discovered, was her first. Gil, Rudy, Ingold, the Ice Falcoln, are all well drawn characters. They are realistic, imperfect heroes, just as the villains are sometimes people we can understand and relate to, despite the fact that one loves to hate them.

My mind is smoothed to the contours of their world and their struggles. I am really enjoying rediscovering the bits I'd forgotten, such as seeing just how Hambly built in the the underlying story logic through tiny details that show up very early int he book.

Overall this is really a great adventure and world to visit. I'm glad the Kindle reminded me that these actual books were waiting on my shelf.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

I Don't Want to be a Hoo-er by Elizabeth Scalia

I Don't Want to be a Hoo-er: Essays on Faith, Family and FoolishnessI Don't Want to be a Hoo-er: Essays on Faith, Family and Foolishness by Elizabeth Scalia

I enjoyed this little book and read it in one evening. It is a collection of Elizabeth Scalia's favorite blog posts and columns from over the years. As such, it is a good representation of her writing, including some of my favorite pieces including the one written shortly before her brother died. I appreciated the brief introduction that Scalia gives for each piece which helped provide context for inclusion, or in my case a reminder of when I had read many of these before.

I feel about this book the way I do about her blog The Anchoress: I love the inspirational pieces, I relate to the life experience pieces (except baseball - let's face it, I'm a football lover), and I care nothing about the political pieces. This book is a good mix of all those things and I'm glad I have it on my shelf.

It made me want to go back through my own blog posts and pull some of my favorites for rereading.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Lagniappe: In this choose-your-own-adventure ...

In this choose-your-own-adventure we call life, would you rather have me dry the dishes or fold the laundry?
Rose Davis when home for Christmas this year
It's both funny and insightful. It never occurred to me to think of my daily choices as a choose-your-own-adventure story ... but that is exactly what it is.

Notes on Mark: Hell

MARK 9:42-48
Jesus talked about hell a lot more than many people realize. Here we see the associations that would have come to mind for his listeners.
Word Study
Geenna (Gk.): "Gehenna", the valley directly southwest of Jerusalem. Jesus refers to it 11 times in the Gospels as a dreadful symbol of hell. Two associations are made with Gehanna, one drawn from the OT and the other from Jesus' contemporary setting.
  1. Gehenna is a Greek rendering of the Hebrew place-name "Valley of the sons of Hinnom". It was the site of a frightful Canaanite cult that worshipped the idols of Molech and Baal by burning children in sacrifice (Jer 7:30; 19:1; 32:35).
  2. In the NT period, Gehenna served as a smoldering garbage dump where refuse burned continually. Jesus evokes these associations to teach us that hell is not a place of purgation or purification, but one of fiery punishment (Mt 5:22; 18:9; 23:33). In the afterlife, the bodies and souls of the wicked will suffer in hell for eternity (Mt 10:28; 25:41; 46). Other biblical passages corroborate this horrifying prospect (Is 33:14; 66:24; Jude 7; Rev 20:10).
The Gospel Of Mark
(The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible)
Let's face it, Hell as it seems to have been traditionally taught seems old-fashioned, unrealistic, and a lot of us don't like to talk about because it is embarrassing if non-Christians are around. They hold up Hell as an indictment of a loving God.The truth is, Hell is actually God's tribute to our own free will. If we don't want to be in His company, He won't force us. Mary Healy makes it a bit clearer.
Some may be struggling with the question of how a good god could send someone to hell. But the truth conveyed in jesus' teaching is that we choose our own destiny. With every decision and action over the course of a lifetime we orient ourselves either to heaven or to hell, and at the moment of death we embrace what has truly become our choice. C.S. Lewis expresses it well: "There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, 'Thy will be done,' and those to whom God says, in the end, 'Thy will be done.' all that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell." But God never ceases to hold out his unfathomable mercy, even at the very moment when a person steps over the threshold into eternity.
Mary Healy,
The Gospel of Mark:
Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture

Note to Google: You're Not Helping Google Plus. You're Hurting Google.

I swung by YouTube yesterday to look at something. A rare occurrence.

So when they asked if I wanted to sign in as Happy Catholic or Julie Davis, I didn't think about it. Happy Catholic. What difference did it make?

I certainly didn't think about it when they asked if this was how I always wanted to sign in. At YouTube? Sure. Why not?

I didn't realize they meant ... sign in everywhere, for everyplace Google had its little fingers in a pie, even with different passwords.

So this morning, sending off an email to Denmark, from our office's Google email, having it come from "Happy Catholic" really undercut the whole business tone I was trying to set.

Whisking off to my profile settings, I see they offer me more ways than ever to enjoy Google Plus, but ... surprise, surprise ... I can't change my profile to the way it was just yesterday.

Look, Google, I know you're desperate. It's little stunts like this that illustrate the point.

I want to love you but you're making it harder and harder.

Cut it out.

Monday, January 13, 2014

In which we encounter Iceland, an immortal doctor, a 6'4" frozen female, and mysterious memory loss.

Warrior Queen of Mars begins at Forgotten Classics. Get your pulp-fiction goodness now!

Well Said: Love can be hated when it challenges us

From my quote journal.
God is love. But love can also be hated when it challenges us to transcend ourselves. It is not a romantic "good feeling." Redemption is not "wellness," it is not about basking in self-indulgence; on the contrary it is a liberation from imprisonment in self-absorption. This liberation comes at a price: the anguish of the Cross. The prophecy of light and that of the Cross belong together.
Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI),
Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives
This is the continual struggle, at least for me. I can't express how much I appreciate Christ putting up with my continual back-sliding into laziness and self-indulgence.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

We're Not Sure What "Funky" Is, But We Know It When We Hear It.

Muscle Shoals: The Movie is a terrific documentary about music, creativity, and life, and it's the subject of Episode 74 at A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

What's It All Mean? - Patron Saints and Patron Saints for the Year

When I review a book, I don't just post it here. I share the wealth by putting it at Goodreads, over at Patheos, and to just about anywhere I've got access. Which is a lot of places, now that I think of it.

At any rate my review of A Song For Nagasaki brought up some questions over at Goodreads. I had casually mentioned that Takashi Nagai was my selected patron for 2014 and that I'd chosen J.R.R. Tolkien for 2013 (click through on the review for more).

I may have equally bewildered folks here. Just in case, I thought I'd share that conversation. Keep in mind that questions are always welcome and that these answers weren't meant to be a comprehensive treatment of the subject.
What does taking someone as your patron for the year mean?

A patron saint in general is someone who you choose to guide or support or protect you. Catholics choose a patron saint when they are confirmed into the Church. It is often because one relates to the saint's life in some way or they are examples of something one likes. I chose my patron, St. Martha, because she's the patron saint of homemakers and cooks. I like both of those things. Turned out that when I was learning more about her life that we are a lot alike in personality, both in strengths and weaknesses. It's kind of like having a best friend who's ahead of you in school and who helps you through some of the hard or confusing bits. (This may all be really obvious info but better to have too much background than too little...)

Choosing a special patron saint for a new year is an old custom that has found favor again in some spots. It can be a name drawn from a hat of potential saints (one is really leaning on divine inspiration at that point) and there are several Catholic blogs out there that facilitate such choices. The idea is that one is being directed (with help) to become more aware of specific areas in life where special guidance might be necessary. Last year I took the choice into my own hands, asking J.R.R. Tolkien to give me a hand, based on the spiritual insights I received from rereading The Hobbit. I think the choice was inspired because it was so amazing for me.

We'll see how this year turns out with Takashi Nagai helping guide me ... but so far I have already been greatly assisted with a couple of areas in my life where I've needed extra awareness.

Very interesting! So was this one out of a hat then? :)

And does a patron saint for the year have to be Catholic? Or even a saint? Was Tolkien Catholic?

Easiest answer first ... Tolkien was a devout Catholic. He was a major influence on C.S. Lewis's discarding his atheism for Christianity, but was always frustrated that he didn't become Catholic.

Neither Tolkien nor Nagai are saints as recognized by the Church, although I read in a few places that Nagai is given the title Servant of God, which is the first step on the road to canonization. However, I felt that both were inspirational enough Catholics (because of their lives and works) that they could give me good, solid guidance during the year. That certainly proved to be the case with Tolkien and, as I mentioned, Nagai has definitely inspired me already this year.

The Church canonizes saints but she readily acknowledges that there are many, many saints of which she knows nothing. The ones that are recognized enough for canonization are the really big, obvious ones such as Mother Teresa of Calcutta. There are many, such as my grandfather, whose saintly qualities were recognized by all those who knew him but who expressed them through living a very normal life. My grandfather wasn't Catholic, though he was Christian, but he was definitely saintly and beloved by all.

We are all called to become saints. That, in fact, is our calling in life if one is Catholic. It seems like an impossible goal but if we are all doing God's will to our utmost in daily life then that is all that is required. ("All" ... haha!). Mothers, fathers, children, business men and women, can all be saintly wherever they are put. God put us where we are to bring Him into the world in all parts of life.

Neither Tolkien or Nagai were out of a hat. I chose both based on particular circumstances of my life at the time.

Lagniappe: A Very Pleasant Thought

I woke up thinking a very pleasant thought. There is lots left in the world to read.
Nicholson Baker, The Anthologist: A Novel
That is how I feel when I think of how much Dickens I have left to read. It is a very pleasant thought.

One of the things I like about Goodreads is that they have a new quote featured every day. At least half the time they are on the mark for me. This was one of those quotes.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Worth a Thousand Words: Palau Baro de Quadras

Palau Baro de Quadras
taken by Carlos Lorenzo

Do go to Barcelona Photoblog for more information about this gorgeous example of Catalan modernisme. Be sure to check out the photo for the full size and glory of the original photo.

The Faithful Traveler ... in the Holy Land!

Longtime readers may recall that I'm a big fan of Diana von Glahn's The Faithful Traveler Catholic travel show to shrines around the U.S.

Her new series is in the Holy Land. They visit the holy sites and explain their history, talk about the art, architecture, and so forth. Each episode is 30-minutes, so they aren't meant to be in-depth theological looks, but instead, fun and breezy introductions. The goal is to give people the knowledge they need to either go there themselves and know what they're looking at or enable them to be entertained and educated armchair travelers.

Check out a sample here.

There is more info at The Faithful Traveler site where you can see samples of the first series and this upcoming show.

And put it on your calendar ... it begins February 17.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Happy Birthday, J.R.R. Tolkien!

In celebration, eat second breakfast. Then elevensies.

via ThinkGeek's Facebook page

A Song for Nagasaki by Paul Glynn

A Song for Nagasaki: The Story of Takashi Nagai: Scientist, Convert, and Survivor of the Atomic BombA Song for Nagasaki: The Story of Takashi Nagai: Scientist, Convert, and Survivor of the Atomic Bomb by Paul Glynn

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In 1928 young Takashi Nagai was a medical student at the top of his class. An atheist, he passionately believed that science held the key to the future of the human race. He loved his country and believed the "spirit of Japan" would improve his nation's future.

Then came a telegram that sent him racing home to be with his mother as she died.  And his world changed.
"I rushed to her bedside. She was still breathing. She looked fixedly at me, and that's how the end came. My mother in that last penetrating gaze knocked down the ideological framework I had constructed. This woman who had brought me into the world and reared me, this woman who had never once let up in her love for me ... in the very last moments of her life spoke clearly to me! Her eyes spoke to mine, and with finality, saying: 'Your mother now takes leave in death, but her living spirit will be beside her little one, Takashi.' I who was so sure that there was no such thing as a spirit was not told otherwise; and I could not but believe. My mother's eyes told me that the human spirit lives on after death. All this was by way of an intuition, an intuition carrying conviction."
In an unlikely turn of events, Nagai turned to Blaise Pascal's Pensées in his grief and bewilderment, having been attracted to the Catholic poet-scientist in a high school literature class. This was the first step into a spiritual journey that ended in Nagai becoming known as the "saint of Urakami" after the atomic bomb hit Nagasaki.

Nagai's biography is captivatingly told. Paul Glynn combines vivid descriptions, character insights, and just enough Japanese history so that we have context. As a result I wound up admiring the Japanese people even more than I did already. I never realized how many of the Japanese ideals combine with saintly living, especially as seen through Takashi Nagai's eventful life.
At Mass on Sundays and feast days, the Nagais often heard Father Moriyama speak on the beauty of the simple family life at Nazareth. It showed, he said, the great worth of ordinary family life and the grace of God present in humdrum daily work. This reminded Nagai of his boyhood, when his mother taught him how to find the universe in a bowl of rice: "Look at the rice carefully, and discover behind it the countless generations of farmers who pioneered wild land and nurtured rice paddies through droughts and floods, poverty, war and pestilence. See generations of artisans too in the simple, practical beauty of the bowl and chopsticks and in all the merchants who handled Them. See your parents took, who worked hard to be able to buy and cook the rice." Nagai's mother would conclude her lesson by joining her hands and bowing in a gesture of profound gratitude, reciting a prayer that explained all this, and the universe as well: "Namu Amida Butsu. We depend on our utterly, Amida Buddha."

... [The Japanese character] Shigoto, "work," is made of two ideographs meaning "something that is a service." All are the beneficiaries of countless other "workers," and we owe it to the community to do our own job well, not primarily for material recompense but out of gratitude. This was the boy's introduction to Japan's famous work ethic. Nagai the Christian recalled his mother's gentle homespun spirituality with gratitude.
I am really struck by how many modern issues Nagai struggled with: belief in science as ultimate good, humanism, the atom bomb, cancer, and more. His faith gave him peace and the way he lived it in unimaginable circumstances gave that peace and faith to others. I also really admired his absolute dedication to truth, so much so that when he became curious about Christianity he decided to carry out a scientific experiment by boarding with a Japanese Catholic family.

This is much more than a simple biography, needless to say. Because we're following Nagai's spiritual journey, we are invited to look deeper within ourselves and journey also. This book is fascinating and inspirational.

How fitting that this is the first book I finished in 2014. Not only is it the Solemnity of Mary, which Nagai would have very much appreciated, but it is the beginning of a New Year where I am taking Takashi Nagai as my patron for the year. So ... it seems meant to be on several levels.

Highest recommendation.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Worth a Thousand Words: Wonderbook

I love illustrated books. This cover shows precisely the imaginative communications that can happen when images get thrown into the mix. Check out Amazon's "see inside" feature for this book to see just how it pushes the edges of conventional "book" thinking.

This is from BuzzFeed's article 19 Awesomely Designed Books From 2013 That Prove Print Isn’t Dead. They make the case that:
Not only have e-books not killed print books yet, they’ve actually made them better by pushing publishers to give readers a reason to buy print over digital. More and more publishers are doing beautiful and innovative things with design, layout, illustration, and cover art.
Check out the link to see what books catch your eye there.

Via Brandywine Books.

Filets Mignons with Mushrooms

How we started the New Year ... get it at Meanwhile, Back in the Kitchen.

My 2014 Movie Challenge

This didn't work out nearly as well last year as it did in 2012, possibly because I expanded the list. However, I am happy with having watched what I did. For 2014 I have the modest goal of watching these movies which I would otherwise keep skipping over for lighter fare.
  1. Sophie Scholl's Last Days
  2. The Passion of Joan of Arc (silent)
  3. Laura
  4. Tsotsi
  5. Marty

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

My 2014 Book Challenge List

My 2013 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 for the third year in a row.

Some books are carried over from last year and some I dropped because ... well, I'm not married to these lists. If am inspired at all to reach higher than before, that's good enough for me.

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
    This was on my 2013 list and having begun it about a week ago, I'm enjoying it quite a bit. Unabridged. Of course.

    Result: oh the agony! I loved the first bit about the bishop. Then I was gratified to see that the general plot had been well represented in the musical. However, the constant meandering here and there drove me crazy. I'm not usually a "don't bore us, get to the chorus" reader but Hugo beat me. Quitting this book.
  2. Rabble in Arms - Kenneth Roberts
    My second favorite historical fiction author. This is a big 'un I overlooked somehow about the Revolutionary War.

    UPDATE: This book wound up overlapping with my Book Bingo Challenge as A Book Based on a True Story. It kind of saved me because I really hate books based on real stories usually. But it don't get much realer than the Revolutionary War. Especially the way Kenneth Roberts tells his stories.
  3. The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha - Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra —
    One of Rose's favorites which she's been pushing on me for a long time. Also, Scott from Good Story said he was interested in reading it this year. They were too much for my weak will.

    UPDATE: This will be one of Scott's choices for A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast for 2015 - so I don't need to keep it on a challenge list.
  4. Charles Dickens novel
    Not sure which one yet. I'm wavering between Our Mutual Friend and Nicholas Nickleby.

    Result:  Ok, this was decided when a kind friend gave me Simon Prebble's reading of Great Expectations. Not the book I'd have chosen, but it is Dickens and that's good enough for me.

    I struggled my way through Great Expectations (chronicled here). Later I picked up The Pickwick Papers with the idea of something light, Dickens-wise. I raced through it in about a week, really enjoying it (as chronicled here). I'm now very slowly enjoying the novel from the other end of Dickens' timeline, Our Mutual Friend.
  5. Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, and That Hideous Strength - C. S. Lewis
    I've had this pushed at me by everyone and his brother. Never been able to get past the first few chapters of Silent Planet but recently I tried the audio. That did the trick so I have begun. I'll give myself a year. That should be long enough.

    Out of the Silent Planet: Thanks goodness for the audio version or I'd never have made it. As it was I went in and out of being interested in the story, primarily because I was much more interested in the world development and exploration than in Ransom's dealings with his fellow Earthmen. Lewis was fantastically inventive about what the planet and living beings were like. I didn't know he had it in him! The scientist's final letter to the author really caught my attention. In particular, his comments about death among the Hrossa were mind-blowing in their implications about our own life here on fallen Earth. I also really liked the use for "bent" instead of "evil," showing just how we are turned from what we were meant to be. However, this does seem very obviously aimed at those who have Christian interests or mindsets, just as The Screwtape Letters was. I wonder if non-Christians enjoy this book.

    Perelandra: Just as with Out of the Silent Planet, I found the beginning of the book fairly uninviting. However, also just as in that book, having the audio helped me past that to the point. This book is so different from Out of the Silent Planet and yet we see C.S. Lewis's vivid and inspiring imagination just as clearly. I am simply blown away by his vision of creation on Venus. For me at one point, close to the end, I kept thinking that these are almost glimpses of the sort of creativity and inspiration that we will see in Heaven. Amazing insights as to battling evil, the dance of God's creation and plan, and our part in it. I find Lewis's style rather heavy-handed. What I'd change I'm not sure. I think it is simply that these books would go on the theology shelf in my library while something like The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings would go in more general reading. It is not Lewis's fault, and in fact I now want print copies of these books for rereading, but I prefer the purer fiction style to this one.

    That Hideous Strength: As with the other two books in C.S. Lewis's "space trilogy" I found this one difficult to get into and, yet, once I got past the indefinable point where it was no longer a struggle, I couldn't read it fast enough. Consequently this was a 24-hour book for me. It is a testament to Lewis's imagination and writing skill as to how different all three of the books are in this trilogy, while simultaneously all carrying out the same basic theme. No wonder J.R.R. Tolkien loved them.

    Speaking of Tolkien, I was stunned to see Numinor mentioned twice and Middle Earth once in this book. I never dreamed there was such a deliberate, direct connection between this book and the Lord of the Rings, which was not yet published in its entirety when this book came out as Lewis says in the introduction. One can see the way these books and LOTR go hand in hand with similar themes, although expressed differently through the authors' different styles.

    This book itself was really terrific and left me striving to be a better person, to be truer to myself, as did the other two. Not many other books really leave one feeling that way.
  1. The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien — this will move to the 2015 book challenge
    I chose Tolkien as my 2013 saint last year (admittedly not a recognized saint, but at the very least as an inspiring Catholic I wanted to help me on my heaven). It was an amazing year filled with lessons that have definitely helped me. I want to know Tolkien's thoughts in his own words now instead of just reading his fiction.
  2. A Song for Nagasaki: The Story of Takashi Nagai: Scientist, Convert, and Survivor of the Atomic Bomb - Paul Glynn
    Takashi Nagai isn't recognized by the Church as a saint but in my eyes he's qualified. I find him extremely inspiring and am going to spend 2014 in his company, as I did last year with Tolkien. I've begun this and it is really fascinating.

    Result: Superb and inspirational. My review is here.
  3. Art: A New History - Paul Johnson — I'm about halfway through. This will move to my 2015 book challenge
    It's been on my coffee table for about a year. I've very slowly read some and loved it. This may help me read it more dedicatedly.
  4. America: The Last Best Hope (Volume II): From a World at War to the Triumph of Freedom - William J. Bennett
    I really enjoyed the first volume last year. This is on my book stack and, as with Art, I hope this will get me to crack it open. That's all it will take, I have a feeling, to hook me.

    UPDATE: still sitting on my shelf. I'll get to it but not as a book challenge.
  5. The Scarlet and the Black: The True Story of Monsignor Hugh O Flaherty, Hero of the Vatican Underground - J.P Gallagher
    This also was on last year's list. I am really enjoying Song For Nagasaki and hope I'll also enjoy this true story of faith under crisis just as much.

    Result - The story itself is fascinating. The writing is less impressive with everything strung together so fast that it can be hard to keep track of events. The book could have done with just a touch of breathing space.

    That said, this is still very worth reading. One realizes that although the Vatican's official neutrality had to be maintained (as did that of others highlighted in the book), there was a lot of frantic activity below the surface to save lives in Rome right under the Gestapo's nose.
  6. Something that Takashi Nagai wrote. Since he wrote over 40 books I'd like to see what one of those was like. After reading A Song for Nagasaki, that is.

    Result: I read The Bells of Nagasaki which was really amazing. I'm glad that I read Glynn's book first and, yet, also very glad that I didn't let it rest there as Nagai's own words corrected a few things that Glynn had glossed over. My review is here.