Friday, October 31, 2014

The Oval Portrait by Edgar Allen Poe

The Oval Portrait as narrated for SFFaudio by me and also by Wayne June. Take your pick as to which interpretation you like best! I personally like Jesse's illustration most of all. Check it out!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Worth a Thousand Words: Impression, Sunrise

Impression, sunrise, Claude Monet, 1873
via WikiArt
You can read more about this at WikiArt but I included it because it looked hauntingly foggy.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Worth a Thousand Words: Last Leaf Left

Last Leaf Left
taken by Remo Savisaar

Halloween Lagniappe: When the Night Wind Howls

From Ruddigore by Gilbert and Sullivan.
When the night wind howls in the chimney cowls, and the bat in the moonlight flies,
And inky clouds, like funeral shrouds, sail over the midnight skies –
When the footpads quail at the night-bird's wail, and black dogs bay at the moon,
Then is the spectres' holiday – then is the ghosts' high-noon!

Ha! ha!
For then is the ghosts' high-noon!

As the sob of the breeze sweeps over the trees, and the mists lie low on the fen,
From grey tomb-stones are gathered the bones that once were women and men,
And away they go, with a mop and a mow, to the revel that ends too soon,
For cockcrow limits our holiday – the dead of the night's high-noon!

Ha! ha!
For then is the ghosts' high-noon!

And then each ghost with his ladye-toast to their churchyard beds takes flight,
With a kiss, perhaps, on her lantern chaps, and a grisly grim "good-night";
Till the welcome knell of the midnight bell rings forth its jolliest tune,
And ushers in our next high holiday – the dead of the night's high-noon!

Ha! ha!
For then is the ghosts' high-noon!

Julie's lost her voice but luckily Scott already read the Halloween story for us.

One of my favorite creepy stories, The Judge's House by Bram Stoker, is read for Forgotten Classics podcast by Scott Danielson. And he does a wonderful job of it! Go listen!

The Perfect Halloween Cocktail?

Possibly ... if you want to be one of the walking dead. Zombies this way, at Meanwhile, Back in the Kitchen.

Friday, October 24, 2014

In an attempt to make the best zombie movie ever ...

... Julie and Scott meet their friends at the train station late at night to film a Big Scene. It gets crazy after that. If it wasn't for Tam, their explosives expert, they'd have been in a real mess.

We discuss Scott's movie choice, Super 8, written and directed by J.J. Abrams, at A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast.

In which we go camping and encounter a terrifying trio at the Wailing Well.

An M.R. James classic ghost story (with Boy Scouts!), read for us by Scott Danielson and awaiting your listening pleasure at Forgotten Classics.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

2014 Ladies' Horror Film Fest Report

This isn't every movie we tried because some movies ran into technical or other difficulties (Shaun of the Dead had accents too strong for Mom to understand but we couldn't get the captioning on her tv to work right, for example). Some she just didn't like so we quit watching after 15 or 20 minutes.

We also took a leisurely attitude. Sometimes we did outside activities like cutting out quilting materials for Mom or making a cake or sitting by the ocean for a lovely dinner. And so forth. Such are the joys of homegrown film festivals!

The ratings below reflect my own opinion and not those of my fellow viewers. Also, don't miss below for What We Learned!

It was a blast overall and I highly recommend such festivals to any movie-loving family! In fact, we were already beginning a list for the next film fest (not horror based) before we left.

FRIDAY

Halloween 1978

★★★★★

Part of the horror film fest that my mother, oldest daughter and I had over the weekend. We watched my mother's copy. Yeah. You read that right. I told you she was a horror film fan, which was confirmed when she said she watched The Texas Chainsaw Massacre to see why a friend liked it. Bottom line, she was surprised that it was so funny.

My daughter and I hadn't seen Halloween before. Loved it! There is one scene that suddenly brought the whole thing into focus and made me embrace it ... you know what I'm talking about, probably. It involves a gravestone and a pumpkin ... Truly a classic horror film that was delightful in its simplicity.

Poltergeist 1982

★★★

The second of our ladies' horror film fest (Mom, daughter Hannah, and me). This did not age as well as one could have hoped for. As my mother said, it came off as a combination of ET and a horror movie. It was a bit slow in the story telling and as a look back at that particular style I could appreciate it. However, the second ending was too much and I wish they'd have wrapped it up more quickly.




The Woman in Black 2012


★★★★

The final film of Friday for our horror film fest. I'd always meant to watch this and I can understand complaints I'd seen that it was a bit slow and not much happened. However, we were all pleased with the sheer beauty of the film and the hovering spookiness of Daniel Radcliffe's experiences in the old house. Honestly, if you want someone to stand around looking gloomy and startled, I can hardly think of anyone who could have done it better.

SATURDAY

The Haunting 1963

★★★½

This was on Saturday's bill of fare for our horror fest. We all had read The Haunting of Hill House (on which it is based) so many times that we could pick out where it diverged from the original story. Honestly, they did a really good job of adapting the book faithfully, except for Eleanor's love interest and the character of the professor's wife. None of us could figure out how those changes were an improvement to the story or any easier to film but they didn't make the movie any less enjoyable.




Mama 2013

★★★★★

Saturday evening's showing in our horror film fest. I'd been avoiding this because I thought it would be a lot more violent and disturbing than it actually was. It had the feel of a lot of Guillermo del Toro's work, which isn't surprising since he produced it and one wonders if he didn't advise also. However that may be I was surprised at how much I really liked this movie.





SUNDAY

The Night of the Hunter 1955

★★★

Mom has been pushing me to watch this for years and not surprisingly it was her pick for winner of our horror film fest. I was not quite as taken with it. It felt like three different movies sewn together with Mitchum's terrorization of the kids leading into a slow, meditative Huck Finn turn, followed by spunky Lilian Gish showing us how good parenting is really done while taking on Mitchum. I really loved Lillian Gish's sung response to Mitchum's trademark gospel song. I can understand why Charles Laughton's direction is always mentioned because he had some really wonderful moments of staging that will stick with me for a long time.


Pitch Black 2000

★★★★

A guilty pleasure and not strictly part of the ladies' horror film fest we were staging. We didn't think Mom would enjoy it, so Hannah and I put it on and watched it bit by bit whenever Mom was taking a nap. We didn't finish it but somehow it was always there in the background. Alien monsters and Vin Diesel. 'Nuff said.






Young Frankenstein 1974

★★★★★

This was the final film we watched in our horror film fest. It was just what we needed to wind up feeling good and finding our way back into the real world where people don't sit around watching movies all day long. It's practically perfect in every way.







WHAT WE LEARNED
Watching so many of these back to back we soon learned that there were common themes for certain elements. We took these to heart. So much so that by the last evening I was made nervous by looking in a bathroom mirror

Disregard these hard-earned lessons at your peril!

In no particular order:
  1. Do not trust ethereal women in black. They are not nice.
  2. If you've seen a mysterious, masked, disappearing man and then the boy you're babysitting sees a mysterious, masked, disappearing man — they are connected. Listen to the children.
  3. If a doctor/professor is writing a paper on psychic phenomenon, do not think he ever has your best interests at heart.
  4. Flickering lights almost never mean a bad electrical connection.
  5. You are never going to get a good night's sleep in a looming house — especially on a hill — especially when it is loaded with Victorian decorations.
  6. Begin investigations in the morning, not in late afternoon when it's getting dark and all you have is a candle or tiny flashlight.
  7. Do not look in the mirror. I repeat — do not look in the mirror.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

We're Leaving Town - Bye, Bye


Hannah and I are winging our way to Florida to see Mom. We're going to be soaking in the horror movies for three days solid since that's a passion that Hannah and Mom share.

Me? I'll be counting on Hannah to tell me when jump scenes are coming.

Of course, we'll also be having fun cooking and talking and everything else that goes with fun family visits. But it's mostly about the horror. Of course.

Mom's choices: Halloween • The Night of the Hunter • The Haunting

Hannah's choices: 28 Days Later • Sharknado • The Conjuring (and about 15 more)

My choices: Aliens • Young Frankenstein • Attack the Block • King Kong (the original of course!)

And a couple of non-horror choices just in case we need to break the mood: Stranger Than Fiction • Lars and the Real Girl

I'll let you know how many of these we got through when we return.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Well Said: A Lesson We All Need

It is a lesson we all need—to let alone the things that do not concern us. He has other ways for others to follow him; all do not go by the same path. It is for each of us to learn the path by which he requires us to follow him, and to follow him in that path. Let us remember our Master's injunction, and we shall be saved from many pitfalls: "What is it to you? You follow me" (John 21:22).
Saint Katherine Drexel
It is impossible for me to state how very strongly I agree with this statement.  Therefore I will simply leave it here for contemplation without further comments.

Worth a Thousand Words: Self Portrait on the Way to Work

Vincent van Gogh, The Painter on the Road to Tarascon, 1888, reportedly destroyed during World War II
Of the some 30 self-portraits by Van Gogh, The Painter on the Road to Tarascon, created in Arles during the summer of 1888, is the most unique. Instead of the usual studio portrait, Vincent depicts himself striding across the hot landscape of southern France, overloaded with the tools of his artistry. He also, as he informs his sister in the excerpt above, is minus his beard, although because of the poor quality of the reproduction below, you might not be able to detect that detail. Look, too, at the distinctive shadow that seems to be following Vincent as he pursues his creative mission.
I really enjoy the way that Arts Everyday Living blog features paintings under themes I'd never have thought of. Last week's look at paintings that have been destroyed or that have come back from the grave (so to speak) was fascinating. And the commentary, as you can see above, does more than just give bald facts. It gives context, mood, and personality to each artist and painting.

The snippet I've shared is just a bit of what the fascinating look at lost art. Do go see for yourself.

In which we sample some of the ghastly, ghostly goodness ...

... from The Big Book of Ghost Stories. Now at Forgotten Classics.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Well Said: A Holy Curiosity

The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. one cannot help but be in awe when he contemplate the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery every day. Never lose a holy curiosity.
Albert Einstein
Yes. Yes, yes, yes.

Worth a Thousand Words: Nothing like a mud bath to get the wrinkles out

Nothing like a mud bath to get the wrinkles out
taken by Valerie, ucumari photography
Creative Commons License, some rights reserved

Troubleshooting and the Synod on the Family

Will Duquette has some sound advice on why you shouldn't either flip your lid or celebrate too soon over some of the news scraps coming from the Synod on the Family.

He points out that the Synod is essentially a troubleshooting session, just laying everything on the table to see where it all fits (or doesn't) into understanding and approaching solutions. He makes me think of the scene from Apollo 13 where Ed Harris dumps a box full of odd items onto the table and tells the scientists they have to come up with an air filter.
First, you have to consider all of the possible causes, including the ones that seem obviously wrong on the face of it. Things really do work better when you plug them in, and just because you think it’s plugged in doesn’t mean that it is.

Second, you have to consider all of the possible solutions, including the ones that seem obviously unworkable, infeasible, or (in this case) unethical or heterodox. ...
Go read all of it before reacting or commenting or anything else.

This makes me think of something I just came across in The American Catholic Almanac where Pope Paul VI had asked a commission to consider contraception. The committee drafted The Majority Report and a few dissenting members drafted The Minority Report.

The Majority Report said Catholics should be allowed contraception, which makes it easy to figure out what the Minority Report said. The pope considered both reports for about a year before coming out with Humanae Vitae which explicitly rejected his commission's recommendations from The Majority Report.

Leaking these documents to the press and the subsequent speculation about The Majority Report contributed greatly to the confusion and disappointment when Humanae Vitae came out.

So let's all settle down and let everyone talk over the issues, shall we? And not get too worked up until something conclusive is produced.

Art, Poetry, and Literature: Two New Books on Prayer You Need to Get

I haven't done more than dip into these books but I already know enough to recommend them. Full reviews will follow but I didn't want to wait until I was finished to tell you about them.



Art and Prayer: The Beauty of Turning to GodArt and Prayer: The Beauty of Turning to God by Timothy Verdon
There is an “art of prayer,” when faith and prayer become creative responses by which creatures made in the image and likeness of the Creator relate to him with help of the imagination. ... Richly illustrated, Monsignor Verdon explains that images work in believers as tools that teach them how to turn to God.
They had me at "richly illustrated." Over the years I have become more and more attracted to paintings as keys to helping me connect more honestly and deeply with God.

The book does indeed have many gorgeous pieces of art which are wonderfully explained and made personal by the text of the book. For example, looking at both the inset and whole painting of Piero della Francesca's Baptism of Christ, the author takes us through what the painter hopes to show us, the importance of the original setting for the piece and it's possible impact on the monks who would have seen it daily, and the importance of interior transformation for every one of us. He then uses the painting's landscape to segue into nature, Scripture, and imagination before moving on to the next piece for inspiration. All this is by page 6, by the way.

Needless to say, I am finding this thought provoking, eye opening, and inspirational. This is a gem.


Light Upon Light: A Literary Guide to Prayer for Advent, Christmas, and EpiphanyLight Upon Light: A Literary Guide to Prayer for Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany by Sarah Arthur

One of my favorite inspirational books is At the Still Point (my review here). It is an unusual devotional for ordinary time with thematically arranged classic and contemporary fiction and poetry which pulls the reader deeper into prayer and worship.

My one wish was that it would be popular enough that author Sarah Arthur would do similar devotionals for the other liturgical times of the year. With Light Upon Light, my wish is  coming true. Appropriate themes take us through the liturgical seasons from expectation and longing to joyful arrival and the cost of such a gift as Christ's incarnation. There is traditional and modern poetry, as well as literary excerpts which are not confined to those we'd expect such as A Christmas Carol (though that is there also).

This is a real treasure, not least because it may introduce you to new sources of inspiration you wouldn't have encountered otherwise.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Well Said: Success and Failure

Success isn't permanent and failure isn't fatal.
Mike Ditka
And if he could say it, then it must be true. At least for football. But I need this reminder too, as the product of a society that preaches perfection is the only acceptable result.

Worth a Thousand Words: Bridge on the Seine

Edward Hopper, Bridge on the Seine
via WikiArt
I love Hopper. I love Paris. I love bridges. Now we know why this painting is here today.

Be Careful What You Wish For ...

We go to the most formal of our parish Masses with a full choir and the most likelihood of having older songs selected. As my husband puts it, "the good ones, written before 1900."

So some time ago when we began singing the "Lamb of God" bit of the liturgy in Latin (Agnus Dei) I though it was charming. Since it was short I was able to go through the mental translation into English while I was singing and still get something out of it.

Then, months ago, the Glory to God in the Highest went partially to Latin (Gloria in excelsis Deo). I likewise mentally translated that. It was getting painful (I ain't that good at it) but I was hanging on.

Recently we had the third Latin encroachment and the "Holy, holy, holy" turned completely into the Sanctus. This was too much for me to mentally translate and I took the tactic of lowering my head and murmuring the English words to the tune. Otherwise I was left in the cold for any meaning on this third section.

Unusually enough, I didn't mention it to anyone, not even my husband. I thought of Augustine asking Ambrose about different customs and receiving the advice, "When you are in Rome, live in the Roman style; When you are elsewhere, live as they live elsewhere." But I really saw the wisdom of the Novus Ordo being in a language we commoners could understand.

This Sunday the Sanctus went back into English. As I listened to the lector teaching the congregation and heard the "solemn modern" tune, I looked at Mary's statue and thought, "What would Mary do? She would do what the elders of the temple said." I inwardly laughed, thinking that I got the English I wished for, but at a cost.

So I resigned myself and forgot it until that moment broke upon us during the Mass. I sang and looked at the crucifix. I thought of the real suffering of Christ and my whining about a simple tune. In the middle of these thoughts I was startled at what shot abruptly and sharply into my mind, "Hey, I have to listen to it. Just sing."

So I sang. And laughed.

I love a mutual sense of humor.

Dallas - 30. Seattle - 23.

With 14 of the Seahawk's points were given to them by the Cowboys special teams.

In Seattle, one of the toughest locations for teams to visit.

I was honestly dreading this game, fearing a meltdown under pressure. But they turned in a solid performance such as I hardly dared hope for.

HOW 'BOUT THEM COWBOYS!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Friday, October 10, 2014

Blogging Around: Heavenly Spy, Casablanca, Big Weddings, Singing Nun, Gone Girl, and the Catholic No-Go

Heavenly Spy

A new blog ... Lebanese Catholic ... with some interesting things to say. Check it out and say hi!

Gone Girl and Christian Engagement With Art

Jeffrey Overstreet on a subject dear to his (and my) heart. Be sure to read it all because this is just the tip of the iceberg.
... there is a distressing delusion at the heart of so much Christian engagement with art: It's the delusion that says "The style and the substance are two different things. We should care much, much more about substance than we do about style.

Here's the thing: Style is substance.

Casablanca and the Four Main Types of Love

Ferdy on Films is not the place where I'd expect to find a discussion of how we see the four types of love as the Greeks defined it. What's more, Casablanca doesn't automatically spring to mind in this mix either. Definitely read this piece.
Casablanca is much more than just a boy-meets-girl kind of romance, and to show that, I’m going to have to go all schoolmarm on you. The birthplace of most of the philosophies that guide Western societies is Greece, and the Greeks had four terms for the main types of love human beings experience: agape, eros, philia, and storge. Agape means love in a spiritual or humanitarian sense, wanting the good of another. Eros, the most common love in Hollywood romances, is the passionate love of longing and desire. Philia is more general and can extend to family, friends, or activities. Finally, storge is natural love, as by a parent for a child; importantly, Greek texts also use this term for situations people must tolerate, as in “loving” a dictator. Casablanca activates each of these forms of love, giving audiences a quadruple whammy of loves so powerful that the film has become the stuff of legend, with well-remembered quotes that distill the essence of these forms of love.

Singing Nun Sister Christina Releasing an Album for Christmas

I've seen just enough Sister Christina clips from Italy's "The Voice" tv show to know one thing. I want this album. Old news maybe but I thought you'd like to know ... read more at The Deacon's Bench.

Mega-Weddings: Why You Should Say I Don't

Although this showed up in the WSJ's financial section it could easily have been an advice column. Financial strain isn't the only thing wrong with extravagant weddings. It may be an early indicator to underlying problems. It seems to me that if more couples were paying for their own weddings instead of relying on fond parents to cough up the cash, this might be less of a problem.
"The evidence suggests that the types of weddings associated with the lower likelihood of divorce are those that are relatively inexpensive but high in attendance," write Messrs. Francis and Mialon.
(This is a subscriber only feature on the internet. But if you look it up on Google and click through there you should be able to read the whole thing.)

Why is Gay Marriage the Catholic No-Go?

This question comes up more and more, especially as the Synod on the Family is going on in Rome. Jen Fitz sets it out for us clearly and understandably.
I’d like therefore to review some of the myths concerning Catholic teaching on same-sex attraction and Church participation, because the reality is both more extreme and not nearly as extreme as people guess, and that paradox is what bites.

Well Said: The Real Force

He felt helpless in the grip of this alien ritual, out of joint with his time. The confessional might have been a direct pipeline to the days when werewolves and incubi and witches were an accepted part of the outer darkness and the church the only beacon of light. For the first time in his life he felt the slow, terrible beat and swell of the ages and saw his life as a dim and glimmering spark in an edifice which, if seen clearly, might drive all men mad. Matt had not told them of Father Callahan’s conception of his church as a Force, but Ben would have understood that now. He could feel the Force in this fetid little box, beating in on him, leaving him naked and contemptible. He felt it as no Catholic, raised to confession since earliest childhood, could have.
Stephen King, 'Salem’s Lot
Ok, I don't know about "naked and contemptible." But I do know that I was struck by these words: "an edifice which, if seen clearly, might drive all men mad."

It almost sounds Lovecraftian but if one considers how unprepared humans seem to be to see an angel (they always have to say "do not fear") and the angels are simply messengers ... well, then there is something to needing to go through Earthly boot camp and then the purification of Purgatory in order to even to be able to take in the Heavenly reality.

Not what you expect from a horror novel but this is one of King's best.

Well Said: One does not set a Force in motion lightly.

“... But if I go with the Host ... then I go as an agent of the Holy Catholic Church, prepared to execute what I would consider the most spiritual rites of my office. Then I go as Christ’s representative on earth.” He was now looking at Matt seriously, solemnly. “I may be a poor excuse for a priest—at times I’ve thought so—a bit jaded, a bit cynical, and just lately suffering a crisis of ... what? faith? identity? ... but I still believe enough in the awesome, mystical, and apotheotic power of the church which stands behind me to tremble a bit at the thought of accepting your request lightly. The church is more than a bunch of ideals, as these younger fellows seem to believe. It’s more than a spiritual Boy Scout troop. The church is a Force ... and one does not set a Force in motion lightly.”
Stephen King, Salem’s Lot
It's funny how you can read a book so many times that you feel you have memorized it and then something new grabs you by the throat. Of course, when one is reading a book in order to discuss it then one is particularly alert and I was reading this for our A Good Story is Hard to Find conversation. But it was interesting to see that Stephen King represented the Church in a way I hadn't noticed at all before.

Worth a Thousand Words: Agua Dulce Wine

Agua Dulce Wine
by Belinda Del Pesco
This is so evocative of place. I almost feel as if I'm standing in the vineyard.

Julie and Scott read a vampire novel by a horror writer they feel will be popular one day.

Keep writing Steve! Success is just around the corner! Yes, we've arrived at 'Salem's Lot ... launching our celebration of October at A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Worth a Thousand Words: Francisco Goya

Vicente López y Portaña, Portrait of Francisco de Goya, 1826
via Wikipedia
Lines and Colors has a nice feature on Francisco Goya's paintings so I went looking for other pieces of his art. Funnily enough, the painting I liked best was by someone else of Goya. He's unexpectedly stern looking considering the surreal feeling of some of his paintings. Apropos of nothing, I love his neckcloth.

Well Said: Obsessed With Purpose

Would it not be strange if a universe without purpose accidentally created humans who are so obsessed with purpose?
Sir John Templeton

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Pasta Sauce and a Little English Village

A couple of things I've got located elsewhere:

- Spicy Sausage Ragu, perfect for Fall weather, at Meanwhile, Back in the Kitchen

- Another Place, a little English village just like the kind you might find in The Twilight Zone, at Forgotten Classics.

Well Said: Conversion and the Looking Glass

Conversion is like stepping across the chimney piece out of a Looking Glass world, where everything is an absurd caricature, into the real world God made; and then begins the delicious process of exploring it limitlessly.
Evelyn Waugh
I really can't add anything to the perfection of that observation. It does explain my life though.

Worth a Thousand Words: Badger

Badger
taken by Remo Savisaar
I hear "Badger" and think of The Wind in the Willows. Somehow those illustrations and my mental pictures don't match the badger in this image. I love the nose. Just imagine how helpful it is in tunneling and finding one's way underground. Or perhaps the idea that they live in underground comes from The Wind in the Willows. I'm not sure about that...

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

What We're Watching: Person of Interest

After last season's ending I really wasn't sure where this series would be able to go.

Having watched the first two episodes I can say that it was a fascinating job of reorientation to "the same old thing" of working the numbers to save people and simultaneously adjusting to the fact that our heroes are the hunted.

Most interesting of all was the strong moral statement in the first episode from the most psychopathic character. Just as I've mentioned before, it is a pleasure to watch a show that affirms so many of the values I hold.

Finch: In the face of such a struggle what do one or two lives matter?

Root: Every life matters. You taught me that.

We often see the greater good for the greatest number being held up as an ideal but this show repeatedly points out that we can't ignore each person, no matter how easy it would make our lives.

The second episode ended by strongly affirming free will.

Finch is struggling with how to convince someone to make the right choice, wondering if The Machine would give him a plan for manipulation. Root points out that "she" (The Machine) would tell him just what he taught it ... that each person must make their own decisions. As happened in the last season, we were left longing for someone to make the right choice, knowing that force would not have served in the long run.

All that with Michael Emerson and Jim Caviezel too. What a pleasure!

Worth a Thousand Words: Rip Van Winkle

Rip Van Winkle. N. C. Wyeth, 1921
via Books and Art
We've entered October and my thoughts naturally turn to Washington Irving's masterpieces The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Rip Van Winkle. And I don't think anyone ever illustrated them better than N.C. Wyeth. Or maybe that comes of having books with covers like these scattered around my grandparents' house.

Well Said: The Humble Man

The humble man receives praise the way a clean window takes the light of the sun. The truer and more intense the light is, the less you see of the glass.
Thomas Merton
Yes. Am I letting Christ shine through me? Only if my best self is there to let Him do so. Looking at myself, looking at Christ, it makes me so grateful for His grace and the gift of confession.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Well Said: If a man dethrones God in his heart ...

If a man dethrones God in his heart, Satan must ascend to His position.
Stephen King, 'Salem's Lot
Foreshadowing of The Stand! I've seen several things as I read which King later picked up on and developed in The Shining and The Stand. It is interesting to read this earlier work with those so firmly in mind.

Scott chose Salem's Lot to launch October's Halloween emphasis at A Good Story is Hard to Find and I've got to say I rarely have enjoyed disliking a story more. King really conveys with conviction the utter contempt that evil carries for anything good.

Worth a Thousand Words: Flower Store and Dairy Store

Childe Hassam, La Bouquetiere et La Laitiere, c. 1888
via Arts Everyday Living
I like the contrast of the obvious boredom (or is it complacency?) of the dairy clerk versus the earnest concentration of the kneeling florist. I also really enjoyed looking through the many street scenes of Paris and flowers that you can see at the Arts Everyday Living post if you click through. There is something about the way Childe Hassam portrays it all that takes me to feel the cobblestones beneath my feet and the slightly chilly, humid air.

The American Catholic Almanac: A Daily Reader of Patriots, Saints, Rogues, and Ordinary People Who Changed the United States

The American Catholic Almanac: A Daily Reader of Patriots, Saints, Rogues, and Ordinary People Who Changed the United StatesThe American Catholic Almanac: A Daily Reader of Patriots, Saints, Rogues, and Ordinary People Who Changed the United States by Brian Burch

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I'm a sucker for daily readers whether they are devotionals, writings of the saints, or historical almanacs. So if you combine American History with Catholicism naturally I'm going to be interested. I grew even more interested when a cursory glance revealed that General Longstreet, Buffalo Bill, and General Sherman were all Catholics. I did know that John Wayne became Catholic but not that famed director, and Wayne's longtime friend, John Ford was Catholic. Some of these famous men were more devout than others, some were late comers to the faith, but Catholicism helped define who each of them were.

The American Catholic Almanac by Brian Burch and Emily Stimpson looks not only at famous Catholics but at famous people who flirted with the faith in one way or another (Ronald Reagan and Mark Twain among them) although they never went all the way. It also tells us about people and events who are much less known but should be remembered by all of us today.

I was really interested to see how many "modern" hot button topics were a struggle for Catholics much earlier in our history. Separation of church and state became a Catholic issue in 1828 when schismatic priests appealed to President Andrew Jackson complaining the pope was acting like a "sovereign ruler." Nuns of today who shed their habits as a sign of "freedom" might be surprised to learn that in 1843 the Sisters of Mercy longed for the freedom to wear their habits but had to wear secular clothing because of the prevalent anti-Catholicism. The eugenics enthusiasts of 1927 would be openly approving of today's ability to test for such things as Down's Syndrome and would approve even more of the modern trend to abort any baby who the test shows might have it. We haven't really progressed as far as we'd like to think in that area. And those who lambast today's courts for not holding the high ideals of old times, might be surprised to learn that the Supreme Court supported Virginia's eugenics law with only one justice, a Catholic, dissenting. The authors don't make those comparisons for us, by the way. They leave us to draw our own conclusions and simply present the facts for our perusal.

It's not all serious, of course. In addition to tales of the famous people I mentioned above, there are stories of explorers, tales of churches, celebrations of faithful Catholics, and reminders of those who were not a credit to the faith. There is no telling when something will pop up to remind you how you are connected to the faith throughout our history and across our country. I was surprised to learn there is a cathedral in Dodge City, Kansas, where I lived for a year and a minor basilica in Victoria, Kansas. My husband and I were interested to read about the founding of St. Mary's in Galveston, Texas, because that is the church his grandmother fled to as a child during the devastating 1900 hurricane. It stood and she survived.

Speaking of my husband, I must praise the cover for this book which caught his attention and made him begin perusing it. He's not given to reading about Catholicism but this grounding of it in American history is right down his alley. Chalk one up for the value of having a printed book around to pique interest and keep him asking, "Who is it about today?" when he sees me pick it up for breakfast reading.

The one flaw is that it needs an index. There are a few appendices but if you want to find Sherman or Longstreet or Edgar Allen Poe then you've got to page through the book hoping they aren't too buried in the pages. Hopefully there will be a reprinting and this lack can be rectified.

Regardless of the lack of an index, this is a really great book and I highly recommend it.

NOTE
I received a review e-book and print copy of this work. My comments, as readers here know, are solely my own opinion.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Notice to my Catholic Women's Book Club - movie night is cancelled tonight


The windstorm left us without power. Movie night tonight is cancelled.

I'm piggybacking on Tom's iPad hotspot but will sign off after this post because power is dwindling.

I've gotta say these are the best circumstances ever for being without power that I've ever experienced. Good weather, water and gas hot water heater are working, and the outage is spotty enough that Tom could drive a few blocks to Starbucks for coffee and breakfast sandwiches this morning.

After having experienced many ice storm related power outages, in the countryside where you need electricity for a water pump, this is luxurious. It's like comfortable camping.

LIVE IN DALLAS? INTERESTED IN THE BOOK CLUB?
I've meant to issue this invitation again and this seems as good a time as any.

If you live in Dallas and are interested in the idea of a Catholic Women's Book Club, please check the link here. You can see past selections of nonfiction, fiction, and movies by checking the sidebar. Movies are a recent but popular addition.

One of my very best friends now was once a Happy Catholic reader who plucked up courage enough to begin attending even though she knew no one in the group. I'm so glad she did!

If you are interested and have questions please email me at julie [at] glyphnet [dot] com.

The Joyful Beggar by Louis de Wohl

The Joyful BeggarThe Joyful Beggar by Louis de Wohl

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


What is it with Louis de Wohl's books? They're like peanuts or popcorn. You just keep tossing back handfuls because they're so good and go down so tastily.

I received The Joyful Beggar on a Saturday at noon in the mail. Sunday at noon I was 75% done. It really grabbed me, obviously. I should've expected that since I've had that reaction to de Wohl's books before. They are consistently entertaining, historical fiction of saints and the times in which they lived.

I'm aware of the details of St. Francis's life but have never felt much connection with this saint. I wondered if sinking deeper into his life could help my life as a Christian. That's another of Louis de Wohl's talents, by the way. Whether or not you feel a personal affinity for someone, he brings to light aspects of their lives that illuminate your own.
Sharp as a blade, the Pope's mind put it all together. This beggar was a troubadour, a Minnesanger, as they called them in Germany, a "singer of love," but for once here was one who was singing in praise of the Love of God.

"I am the poor woman in the desert," Francis explained merrily. "And I trust my Lord, the King. he will look after my sons."

A jester and a dancer; a beggar and a troubadour; a preacher, a monk, a teller of parables, and perhaps a saint: there was no end to the man. If Satan could distort the minds of many to preach against the Church in the name of purity, here was one who could preach for the Church in the same name; here was, perhaps, the antidote against the poison in the veins of Europe, the man to give fresh life to a world grown cold. And therefore this man could be, nay, was the one who held up the falling walls of the Church. And that was all Innocent wanted to know.
What I felt after reading this book was Francis's joy in serving, his release from fear, his complete trust in God. I especially appreciated the way Francis connected Brother Sun and Sister Moon and all the other elements of his famous Canticle of the Sun with Jesus. It was that connection which made nature holy, the connection with our Lord in his Incarnation. Beautiful.

As always, de Wohl shows us the saint's story through other imagined characters who have their own journeys to God. This is very useful for explaining the history and customs of the times. Quite often there is a contrast which layers meaning and context for the overall power of that particular saint. In this book there were both Clare of Assisi on her own journey to holiness and Roger of Vandria, continually striving to simply regain his ancestral lands. As they grow so do we.
"In that case, why not make a test?" Francis suggested. "Let a great fire be lighted before your tent, and these learned priests of yours and I will enter it. Then God may show which is the true faith."

Roger gasped. If that was supposed to be a bluff, it was a very dangerous one. There were fanatics enough among Moslem priests, and at least some of them might accept the challenge.

The sultan glanced at his imams and mullahs. they looked a little vague, as if they had not understood the little dervish's words, and one of them, standing at the back, began to move with great dignity toward the exit of the tent.

"I don't think my priests are very likely to consent to this test of yours, little dervish," Al Kamil said, smiling.

He's got out of it, Roger thought, half relieved, half angry.

"Then I will enter the fire alone," Francis said quietly, "If you promise for yourself and for your people that you will worship Christ if I come out of the fire unhurt." After a little pause he added, "If I should be burned to death, it will be due only to my sins. But if God protects me, it is a clear sign of his holy will, and you must all accept Christ.

Now he has killed himself, Roger thought. This is too good a spectacle for the sultan to miss. The man is mad. He is a fanatic. He is magnificent. By all the angels and devils, he is the only crusader in the army. What a pity he is done for. Those priests will take him at his word, even if the sultan doesn't.
Did I wind up best friends with Francis of Assisi? No. But we can't be best friends with everyone. I did, however, wind up as more than a casual acquaintance with my own life enriched thanks to the story of the joyful beggar.

NOTE:
This is a review book from Ignatius Press. This opinion is my own, uninfluenced by anything as paltry as a free book. As anyone is well aware who reads this blog regularly.

For a good overview of the novels, take a look at Rose Trabbic's piece Discovering the Novels of Louis de Wohl. Also well worth reading is Will Duquette's review of The Citadel of God where he gives a concise commentary on de Wohl as an author, with which I completely agree.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Well Said: Library books and the power of good stories

It had that comfortably sprung, lived-in look that library books with a lively circulation always get; bent page corners, a dab of mustard on page 331, a whiff of some reader's spilled after-dinner whiskey on page 468. Only library books speak with such wordless eloquence of the power good stories hold over us, how good stories abide, unchanged and mutely wise, while we poor humans grow older and slower.
Stephen King, 'Salem's Lot
You'd think this was written by Ray Bradbury instead of Stephen King. Or at least I would've. I'm rereading Salem's Lot in preparation for next week's A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast. King tells his vampire story with a prose style that is direct and to the point, for the most part. However, every so often he veers off into a bit of poetic prose like this. Those are gems of captured image.

Worth a Thousand Words: Pavonia

Pavonia (1859). Lord Frederic Leighton (English, 1830-1896).
via Books and Art
Isn't she stunning? Evidently Leighton wasn't the only artist who thought so, if you click through and read a little about the painting. I could look at this all day.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Well Said: I have been bent and broken ...

Suffering has been stronger than all other teaching, and has taught me to understand what your heart used to be. I have been bent and broken, but - I hope - into a better shape.”
Charles Dickens, Great Expectations
No wonder I love him. He tells the truth. This isn't one we want to think about in our own lives, but when we've gotten done hearing Dickens tell it ... we understand that truth a little better.

Worth a Thousand Words: Pepsi 12 Oz.

Pepsi 12 Oz.
painted by James Neil Hollingsworth
I'm continually in awe of James Neil Hollingsworth's realistic paintings. Just look at the way the empty bottle refracts the box. This one is best viewed large to really appreciate it. If you click through the link and then on the painting you'll see what I mean.