Monday, November 30, 2015

Well Said: Comparison

Comparison is the thief of joy.
Teddy Roosevelt
A good thought as we begin Advent, isn't it? Especially when I think about the realities involved in the Incarnation.

I picked this up from Brandywine Books which has a link to a great article about how we rob ourselves needlessly.

Worth a Thousand Words: Tiger Lily Polka Dot

Tiger Lily Polka Dot
by Belinda Del Pesco
I'm not sure why (not being one of those coves who understands art at all) but this sensual piece puts me forcibly in mind of Georgia O'Keefe's work.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Worth a Thousand Words: Splendor

taken by Remo Savisaar
Remo titled this "Gloomy" but to me it is simply glorious and inspiring.

Well Said: The great thing about getting older...

The great thing about getting older is that you don't lose all the other ages you've been.
Madeleine L'Engle

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Well Said: We Tell Ourselves the Best Stories

We tell some of the best stories to ourselves. ... We ask our friend, "What's up?" or "What's new?" and we begin to narrate our lives to one another, trading tales back and forth over cups of coffee or bottles of beer, unconsciously shaping and embellishing to make the tales hum. and every night, we reconvene with our loved ones at the dinner table to share the small comedies and tragedies of our day.
Jonathan Gottschall, The Storytelling Animal
This was one really eye opening and very compelling in bringing home how story-rooted we are.


From my inbox.

Sister Moon Graphics

Since 2004 Sister Moon Graphics has provided inspirational and Christian-themed cards to religious bookstores, monastery gift shops, Catholic online retailers and through our own online store. These original designs are inspired by a beloved chapter in the history of Western art--medieval manuscript illustration.
There are some really lovely cards at Sister Moon Graphics. Do go see!

Our Lady of Fatima Novena

This didn't come with a site to link to, but as a grass roots effort.
The attacks on Paris have been a tragic reminder that we are living in a time of war.

The enemy seems to be so powerful right now. We need to be an even stronger force, hearing our call to be warriors in Christ through our Holy Rosary and overcome this battle.

“For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them” Matthew 18:20. Imagine how powerful it would be if Catholics all around the world were united through the same novena, during the same nine days, praying for the same cause.
It makes you want to jump for joy!

The Quran mentions Mary over thirty times. It even has a quote from Fatima, Mohammed’s own daughter: “I surpass all women, except Mary.” (
Let’s pray that the Muslim’s devotion to Mary leads them to Her Son, Christ Our Lord.
We will win this battle with love.

Pope Francis has called for a Holy Year of Mercy, which will start on December 8th, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. This rosary will end on Dec. 7. What a perfect way to prepare for mercy within our hearts.

Sunday, November 29

Our Lady of Fatima Novena
This is a nine day novena.

Say this prayer at the beginning of the Rosary

Most Holy Virgin, who has deigned to come to Fatima to reveal to the three little shepherds the treasures of graces hidden in the recitation of the Rosary, inspire our hearts with a sincere love of this devotion, so that by meditating on the mysteries of our redemption that are recalled in it, we may gather the fruits and obtain the conversion of sinners, the conversion of Russia, and this favor that I so earnestly seek (the conversion of Muslims) which I ask of you in this novena, for the greater glory of God, for your own honor, and for the good of all people. Amen.

Pray the rosary. By request of Our Lady of Fatima, say the following prayer after each decade.

O my Jesus, forgive us our sins and save us from the fires of hell. Lead all souls into heaven, especially those in most need of thy mercy.

*Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel can be said at the end of the rosary.

The Study Quran: A New Translation and Commentary

From the publisher, this looks interesting. Expensive, but interesting.
... a project 10 years in the making that is not only a much-needed resource for English language Muslims, but also of huge significance for those of other faiths who wish to understand the Quran and Islam more clearly.

In light of the recent horrific attacks by extremist Islamic groups in Paris, Mali, Beirut, Kenya, and elsewhere around the world, it is crucial that we all – no matter what our faith – educate ourselves on what the Quran really has to say about life, faith, war, treatment of women, and more, and do not limit ourselves to only hearing what extremists (who distort meaning to support their own agendas) have to say.

Under the direction of Dr Seyyed Hossein Nasr (the Iranian-born, Harvard-educated, world-renowned authority on Islamic thought), four distinguished scholars (Caner Dagli, Maria Massi Dakake, Joseph Lumbard and Mohammed Rustom – all raised in the West with English as their first language, and trained in Western universities with a mastery of Quranic Arabic) have worked to create a translation of the Quran in English that is accurate, accessible, and a reliable rendering of the sacred text.
This article gave additional interesting information about the book.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Worth a Thousand Words: Madonna of the Lilies

Madonna of the Lilies, Alphonse Mucha, 1905
I never realized that Mucha did any religious art. Via Wikipedia comes this fascinating background:
In 1902, Mucha was commissioned to decorate a church in Jerusalem dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Shown here is the final version of 'Madonna of the Lilies', one of the murals for the church. The project was cancelled later for unknown reasons, so all that remains of this commission is this painting and earlier versions of it (Sakai City collection, Japan), as well as a design for a stained-glass window,' Harmony', which is also in the Mucha Trust collection.

According to Mucha's letter to his wife Maruška, he conceived the subject as 'Virgo purissima', thus depicting the heavenly vision of Madonna, surrounded with a mass of lilies, symbol of purity. The seated young girl in Slavic folk costume carries a wreath of ivy leaves, symbol of remembrance. Her serious expression and strong physical presence contrast with the ethereal figure of the Virgin.

Well Said: The reader's creative effort

Reading is often seen as a passive act: we lie back and let writers pipe joy into our brains. But this is wrong. ... When we read stories, this massive creative effort is going on all the time, chugging away beneath our awareness.
Jonathan Gottschall, The Storytelling Animal
Gottschall is referring to the fact that we fill in so many details ourselves when reading. We know how a character's face should look, the details of their clothing, the surroundings of the action in a way that the writers haven't described.

It is certainly one of the reasons I tend to avoid movies made from books I love. They never get those things right. How could they? They weren't in my head when I learned to love the book.

Julie and Scott chased James Bond who was after Silva ...

... who was after M. Q was no help whatsoever. They all sit down over a brace of shaken martinis and talk about Skyfall in Episode 121 of A Good Story is Hard to Find.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Well Said: Our great drama — no confidence in God

Our great drama is this: Man does not have confidence in God. Hence he looks in every possible place to extricate himself by his own resources and renders himself terribly unhappy in the process rather than abandon himself into the tender and saving hands of his Father in heaven.


It is, however, marked with this distrust that we come into this world. This is the original sin. and all our spiritual life consists precisely in a long process of reeducation, with a view to regaining that lost confidence, by the grace of the Holy Spirit who makes us say anew to God: Abba, Father!
Fr. Jacques Phillipe
I love the point that our spiritual life consists of the long process of reeducation. Restoration.

Worth a Thousand Words: Origami Chicken

Modular Origami
by Jacek Halicki

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Seasonal Books Just In: Joy to the Worlds, Time to Get Ready

Joy to the WorldsJoy to the Worlds
by M. Chance, J. Southard, R. Oak, G. Clemans

What do you get when you mix mystery and speculative fiction, then toss in the holidays for good measure? A mobster Santa, genetic hanky-panky, Victorian villages, time-travelling detectives, Krampus, eerie bell spirits, and more–this collection of short cross-genre fiction is the perfect counterpoint to traditional holiday reading!
This is a review book for SFFaudio, which is unusual considering it is a print version.

I'm a sucker for Christmas mysteries and when you add scifi and fantasy to the mix, then I'm on board. I haven't heard of any of the four authors who contribute two stories each to this book. I've only read the first two stories but really enjoyed them. One featured a detective in the Wild Hunt and the other teen-age workers in a Victorian tourist village in the dystopian future. Both were imaginative and entertaining.

Time to Get Ready: An Advent, Christmas Reader to Wake Your SoulTime to Get Ready: An Advent, Christmas Reader to Wake Your Soul
by Mark Villano

For many Christians, Advent and Christmas have simply become just another time of year, albeit more frenetic. It is for them that Mark Villano has written Time to Get Ready. He opens up the scriptures, themes, and liturgical traditions of these holy seasons to better appreciate their meaning. He reveals the life-changing mystery of Christ, the invitations of grace all around us. Consider this book a daily retreat, a time to let go of the activity and noise of life and simply listen. It will become a cherished companion for many as they prepare spiritually for Christmas and beyond.
It's been a long time since Advent and Christmas have been just another time of year for me. I cherish Advent's reminder to slow down, be present in the moment and remember the wonder and mystery of the Incarnation of Christ.

This book may be directed at Advent newbies, but it doesn't feel that way to me. It's simple enough to provide my annual reminder about the point of Advent. It's also deep enough that I don't feel as if it is a primer. I especially appreciate the scripture flowing around and through each entry. There's a grounding in daily life but always with the context of Scripture, liturgy and tradition.

I've really enjoyed sampling this book and will be reading it this year for Advent.

Worth a Thousand Words: Painted Sky

Painted Sky
taken by the estimable Remo Savisaar

Lagniappe: Weird Tales and Annual Reports

Sometimes I try to care [about money], I really do. But show me an old copy of Weird Tales and the latest Bank of America Annual Report, and you'll see where my eyes turn. Of course, both publications deal in fiction ...
Michael Dirda, Browsings

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Worth a Thousand Words: Three White Mice and a Feather

Ohara Koson, Three White Mice and a Feather, early 20th century
Via Arts and Everyday Living

Well Said: The Riddle of Fiction

The riddle of fiction comes to this: Evolution is ruthlessly utilitarian. How has the seeming luxury of fiction not been eliminated from human life?
Jonathan Gottschal, The Storytelling Animal
Jonathan Gottschall measures everything against evolution, which is the only measure he really trusts for giving scientific answers about people and story. Therefore, he isn't able to answer some of the questions he poses in his book because some things just can't be measured by science. (It's still an interesting book. You don't have to answer every question all the time.)

That was what made it entertaining when, some time later in his books, he inadvertently answered the above question with the conclusion that I, as a Catholic, already knew.
Why do stories cluster around a few big themes, and why do they hew so closely to problem structure? Why are stories this way instead of all the other ways they could be? I think that problem structure reveals a major function of storytelling. It suggests that the human mind was shaped for story, so that it could be shaped by story.
Jonathan Gottschal, The Storytelling Animal

Monday, November 16, 2015

Saturday, November 14, 2015

For the People of Paris: O Liberty, can man resign thee once having felt thy generous flame?

Lately Tom has been playing Edith Piaf songs from It is also where he put together a terrific playlist of Xavier Cugat tunes for us.

It came in handy last night as we watched with horror the terrible news of the attacks on the free people of Paris.

Last night we played Piaf's rousing rendition of La Marseillaise while we raised a glass of brotherhood. As Tom says, this is the version to be blasted into the streets before you march.

Edith Piaf - La Marseillaise from behlulcandanga on Vimeo.

You can read the lyrics in English here. (That's where the headline came from.)

Right now, other than fellow feeling, we can offer nothing more powerful than prayer. And I do pray for the victims and the French people and those brave souls who wage the fight against terror.

The Champs-Elysées, from Concorde to Grande Arche of La Défense
From The Anchoress comes a beautiful prayer of succor for the people of Paris. Here is part of it...
Notre Dame de Paris, pray for the people of your city! Our Lady of Grace, you who showed yourself to Saint Catherine Laboure and brought miracles, who smiled upon Saint Therese of Lisieux and created a missionary, in your holy Motherhood, please intercede for your fearful and endangered people; bring your consolations to the people of Paris and all of France. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, hear us.

Saint Therese of Lisieux, Patron of France, pray for them
Saint Joan of Arc, Patron of France, pray for them.
Saint Martin of Tours, Patron of France, pray for them
Saint Remigius, Patron of France (pray for them)
Saint John Vianney …
Saint Jeanne Jugan …
Saint St Genevieve…
Saint Denis…
Saint Bernard of Clairvaux …
Saint Germain Cousin …
Saint Peter Julian Eymard …
Saint Louis …
Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque …
Saint Peter Fourier …
Saint Madeleine Sophie Barat …
Saints Louis and Zelie Martin …
Saint Jane Frances de Chantal …
Saint Catherine Laboure …
Saint Rose Philippine Duchesne …
Saint John Eudes …
Saint Vincent de Paul …
Saint Hilary of Poitiers …
Saint Isaac Jogues …
Saint Jane de Chantal …
Saint Jean-Baptiste de La Salle …
Saint Benedict Joseph Labre …

Coptic Martyrs, victims of ISIS, pray for them

All you holy men and women, pray for France, and pray for us.

St. Michael the Archangel,
defend us in battle.
Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the Devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray,
and do thou,
O Prince of the heavenly hosts,
by the power of God,
thrust into hell Satan,
and all the evil spirits,
who prowl about the world
seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Worth a Thousand Words: Odysseus and Polyphemus

Arnold Böcklin, Odysseus and Polyphemus, 1896
This caught my attention because I'd just been listening to The History of Literature's episode about Homer. I love this podcast and will tell you more about it later, but you can't think about Homer without having Odysseus on the brain.

Via Lines and Colors where you'll find some interesting commentary and call out of details.

Well Said: I was not yet in love, yet I loved to love

All men were by nature foolish who were in ignorance of God,
and who from the good things seen did not succeed in knowing him who is,
and from studying the works did not discern the artisan;
But either fire, or wind, or the swift air,
or the circuit of the stars, or the mighty water,
or the luminaries of heaven, the governors of the world, they considered gods.
Now if out of joy in their beauty they thought them gods,
let them know how far more excellent is the Lord than these;
for the original source of beauty fashioned them.
Or if they were struck by their might and energy,
let them from these things realize how much more powerful is he who made them.
For from the greatness and the beauty of created things
their original author, by analogy, is seen.
But yet, for these the blame is less;
For they indeed have gone astray perhaps,
though they seek God and wish to find him.
For they search busily among his works,
but are distracted by what they see, because the things seen are fair.
But again, not even these are pardonable.
For if they so far succeeded in knowledge
that they could speculate about the world,
how did they not more quickly find its Lord?
Wisdom 13:1-9
I read this in this morning's readings and immediately picked up my study Bible to mark the passage. Too late! I'd already marked it.

It is fittingly paired today with Psalm 19, my favorite.
The heavens declare the glory of God;
the firmament proclaims the works of his hands.

Day unto day pours forth speech;
night unto night whispers knowledge.

*There is no speech, no words;
their voice is not heard;

A report goes forth through all the earth,
their messages, to the ends of the world.
All these voices echo and reinforce each other. We are being called, sought, spoken to in every way possible. It is because of our own distractions, preoccupations, noise that we don't hear.

So it seemed predestined when I saw that today's GoodRead's quote was a fitting summary of how we get it wrong, from another favorite of mine, St. Augustine.
I was not yet in love, yet I loved to love...I sought what I might love, in love with loving.
Augustine of Hippo

Julie (or Julianne, but never Jules) and Scott (or Scotty, but never Scooter) ...

... discuss The City, an excellent Dean Koontz novel. Catch the conversation in Episode 120 of A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Prayer Request

Tom's aunt asks our prayers for her son, Tom's cousin:
He has been in the hospital for 8 days. He is not expected to recover. Ask God for a miracle.
This news comes as a shock to us. Please pray.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

What We've Been Watching: Justified and Phil Rosenthal

I'll Have What Phil's Having

Phil Rosenthal, creator of Everyone Loves Raymond, takes a culinary of 6 cities around the world. This isn't a new idea. The Food Network thrives on it and Anthony Bourdain met mainstream America with such culinary sightseeing.

The difference here is Phil. He is a total nerd, but in the best, most lovable way. His enthusiasm is genuine and you can see why he has so many friends. When he looks at the camera with that intense, delighted gaze you wind up laughing in sympathy. And wanting to try all those restaurants he just visited.

We only saw the last of the 6-episode series, set in L.A., because I already was recording Castle in this show's time slot. (Off topic, Castle has finally hit their "we're done but don't know it yet" season. We'd kind of realized that but were still watching out of inertia.) Anyway, we kept forgetting to watch this show real time.

But what we saw made us eager to watch the rest of the series which is streaming on PBS.


Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens is reassigned to Eastern Kentucky after dispensing old style justice too publicly in Miami. The problem is that Raylan winds up in the childhood town he fled, hoping never to return. So in addition to the culture of poor, rural coal-mining towns, you've got some very interesting ghosts in Raylan's life.

We've slowly been sampling recommended shows and finding them lacking (Longmire - too predictable, like a 1970s cop show. Deadwood - so determined to be edgy that edge is all they've got; there's no one to genuinely care about.)

So I came to Justified with a certain amount of cynicism which just increased my delight at the excellent pilot. Smart dialogue, layered stories, multidimensional characters, and prodding the audience to make connections themselves. When I saw it was based on an Elmore Leonard story and that he was Executive Producer I understood why it was so good. That has held up through the first season. Every time we're surprised by the smart/stupid, bad/good characters who seem both cartoonish and realistic, I remind myself, "This is just like watching an Elmore Leonard short story."

It streams free on Amazon Prime.

Worth a Thousand Words: The Red Tree

Avond (Evening): The Red Tree, Piet Mondrian, 1910

Well Said: The Whole World Listened

But when the fairy sang the whole world listened to him. Stephen felt clouds pause in their passing; he felt sleeping hills shift and murmur; he felt cold mists dance. He understood for the first time that the world is not dumb at all, but merely waiting for someone to speak to it in a language it understands. In the fairy’s song the earth recognized the names by which it called itself.
Susanna Clarke, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
This is so beautifully written and says so much to readers about the nature of fairy magic (as opposed to English magic). But mostly I love it for how it took hold of my imagination.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Worth a Thousand Words: Captain, Hussar Armor

Captain, Andrzej Wiktor
The characteristic half plate armour of the hussars
is shown on a regimental officer here.
He wears a delia coat and carries a horsemen’s hammer as a mark of office.
This is via Dappled Things, which you should definitely check out. Art, poetry, interesting articles — all Catholic.

Well Said: What Works in Marriages

We can tell what doesn't work in marriages. So often today people ask, "Who will make me happy?" But what we should ask is, "Who will I love so much that I will sacrifice myself to make them happy?"
Father Roch Kereszty
Paraphrased from the incredible homily that Father Roch gave at Hannah and Mark's wedding. It was too good to keep private. This is the sort of revolutionary truth that is easy to forget.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Worth a Thousand Words: Love's Messenger

Love's Messenger, 1885, Marie Spartali Stillman
Via Lines and Colors where you will find a lot of information about the artist, more images, and lots of links to explore.

What I've Been Reading: Nonfiction!

I do read nonfiction, of course, but it tends to be very categorized: religion and cookbooks.

I just finished two books in a different category, however.

Browsings: A Year of Reading, Collecting, and Living with BooksBrowsings: A Year of Reading, Collecting, and Living with Books by Michael Dirda

I have long enjoyed Michael Dirda's book reviews in various collections, The Washington Post (online) or even The Wall Street Journal. He's usually got enthusiastic recommendations for everything from Greek classics to the newest bestseller to weird fiction. And a guy who counts Georgette Heyer among classics everyone should read is my kind of guy.

These essays are from a series Michael Dirda wrote for "The American Scholar" website in 2012-2013. Whether propelled by a power outage or memories of bike riding, Dirda always winds up jumping from one book to another in a way that makes me want to go spend a small fortune at a bookstore. As usual I came away with a long list of authors and books to search for.

I also really enjoy the fact that Dirda's all about the books. In the past I have always appreciated the fact that if he had a political preference or sociological judgment I didn't know it. Halfway into this book he did begin including some of his political views but it was in such a way that it didn't come off as judgmental or harsh. That's because he generally was pondering how he can agree so much with someone whose beliefs are so opposite from his own. (Been there, pondered that.) And, yes, it was book and author selections that provided the bridge upon which he pondered. Nicely done.

The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us HumanThe Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human by Jonathan Gottschall

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was such an engaging and informative book ... up to a point. The first few chapters were real eye-openers. I never thought about toddlers' play as a sign of how embedded story is in our basic make up. Or about sports reporting as story telling. Or about the fact that our dreams are stories in themselves. Somewhat incoherent stories much of the time, but stories nonetheless.

However, a lot of the book was an expansion on points made in the beginning. I didn't need it to enhance my understanding of the points already made. Those who enjoy reading through scientific study summaries (engagingly told, to be sure) might enjoy those chapters more than I did. It almost felt as if the topic should have been covered in a long article instead of a book.

Also, the author was unable to be even-handed about topics with which he had a problem, such as religion. "The Moral of the Story" chapter was fascinating (do not skip it) but I could have done without the little swipes at the "three major monotheisms" ... to be fair he's judgmental about a lot of things but usually while presenting justification. For religion, it was delivered as hand slaps.

None of this is to say that the book isn't good or worthwhile. On the contrary, it is both and I definitely recommend it. It's just one I'm not going to buy for my own shelves.

Well Said: A Sure Foundation for a Beautiful Friendship

There is no surer foundation for a beautiful friendship than a mutual taste in literature.
P.G. Wodehouse

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Wish your son or daughter would return to the Church?

Brandon Vogt has a BIG new project called RETURN: How to Draw Your Child Back to the Church. It's full of tips and strategies for parents to solve one of the most pervasive and heartfelt problems today: young people leaving the Church.

Here are the basics.
What is RETURN ?
The Catholic Church is hemorrhaging young people. Half of young Americans (50% exactly) who were raised Catholic no longer identify as Catholic today. Four out of five Catholics who left the Church left before age 23.

Today, millions of parents grieve their fallen-away children and describe their situation as "helpless" and "hopeless." They feel helpless because their children tune them out or ignore them whenever they bring up religious topics, and they feel hopeless because they think it's impossible their children would ever come back. These parents are desperate to do something—they just don’t know what to do.

That's why Catholic evangelist Brandon Vogt spent several months researching the problem, talking with experts and those who have left and returned, all to determine what really works to draw young people back. The result is a collection of resources which pull together the best tips, tools, and strategies.
Brandon's got a free video series running from 11/3 - 11/12. Check it out and sign up.