Monday, August 31, 2015

Well Said: Our tongues sang for joy

When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
then we thought we were dreaming.
Our mouths were filled with laughter;
our tongues sang for joy.

Psalm 126
Isn't this the perfect description of the feeling that sweeps over you when God does something wonderful for you?

I love the way that Hebrew poetry uses the second line of a couplet not for rhyming but for a second way to emphasize what they are saying.

"Mouths filled with laughter, tongues singing for joy." Yes.

Worth a Thousand Words: Carrington Album

Carrington Illuminated Appreciation Album Cover
via BibliOdyssey
What a heckuva fella Lord Carrington must have been! BibliOdyssey tells us:
From 1885 to 1890 Lord Carrington was a popular Governor of NSW. He and his wife were held in such high regard by the people of NSW [Australia] that a grand series of presentation albums was created by various community associations and districts to honour their service and bid them farewell when they returned to England at the end of their tenure.
Go read all about it and see the many gorgeous album pages and covers featured there.

Friday, August 28, 2015

The City by Dean Koontz

The CityThe City by Dean Koontz
That’s life. Always something, more good than bad, but always interesting if you’re paying attention.
Recommended by my daughter, Rose, the voice in this book reminds me of Odd Thomas in its sweetness and innocence. However, this is narrated by a 10 year old instead of a grown man.

The 10-year-old is a skinny, black, musical prodigy named Jonah Kirk. The time is the mid-1960's when chaos reigns in America. The place is a mysterious City which, as far as I can recall, is never named. Unless you want to call it Pearl, after the mysterious woman who appears and disappears mysteriously in Jonah's life and who tells him that she is the soul of the City.

This story, written last year, looks at how we respond when it seems that the world is an unstable, chaotic place where unexpected evil can drop on you at any moment. Sound like any other time period you know? Such as the one we're living in right now? Koontz's story has a subtle supernatural gloss and doesn't focus on horror nearly as much as other books. Instead it focuses on coming of age, the power of community, the power of kindness, and overcoming adversity. As always, there is a strong theme of good versus evil but it is mostly kept in the real world.

A lot of the charm of this book comes from Koontz's ability to remind us what it is like to interpret the world as a supernatural, magical place because of youth's sheer inexperience. The relationship between Jonah and his upstairs neighbor, Mr. Yoshioka was especially interesting to watch flowering. And if you like jazz, big band, and swing, there are enough references to send you to start up your own soundtrack while you read.

It's not what I think of as typical Dean Koontz fiction, but I greatly enjoyed it.

Worth a Thousand Words: Summer

James Tissot, Summer
via Arts Everyday Living

Well Said: the news isn't all the news

[My mother] turned on the TV but muted the sound. People were looting an electronics store, taking TVs and stereos.

"There's something you need to understand, Jonah. For every person who's stealing and setting fires and turning over police cars, there are three or four others in the same neighborhood who want no part of it, who're more afraid of lawbreakers than they are of the law."

"Doesn't look that way."

"Because the TV only shows you the ones who're doing it. The news isn't all the news, Jonah. Not by a long shot. It's just what reporters want to tell you about. Riots come and go, wars come and go, but under the tumult, day after day, century after century, millions of people are doing nice things for one another, making sacrifices, mostly small things, but it's all those little kindnesses that hold civilization together, all those people who live quiet lives and never make the news."

On the silent TV, as the face of the anchorman replaced the riots, I said, "I don't know about that."

"Well I do."

The anchorman was replaced by a wind-whipped rain-lashed town over which towered a giant funnel cloud that tore a house apart in an instant and sucked the ruins off the face of the Earth.

"When weather's big news," my mother said, "it's a hurricane, a tornado, a tidal wave. Ninety-nine-point-nine percent of the time, Mother Nature isn't destroying things, she's nurturing us, but that's not what gets ratings or sells papers."
Dean Koontz, The City
This book is set in the chaotic 1960s and does a good job of showing the uncertainty it brings to Americans' lives, especially if the narrator is a 9 year old black boy. The times we live in are no less chaotic and, if anything, more filled with the bad news people want to tell us about. Dean Koontz's words remind us of the reality beneath the chatter of ceaseless news.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

How to Be a Christian and a Lady Under Trying Circumstances

There was one rather funny moment: I was waiting on the stairs during the Hugo ceremony rehearsal and chatting with the lady behind me. She started in on the speech she was going to give if she won. It became clear early on, it was going to be anti-puppy rant.

I leaned down from the stair above her and said, "Before you say anything you might later wish you had not, I think you should know that I am standing here because I am accepting for Vox Day."

She blurted out in shock, "I am so sorry for you."

I added, "I'm John Wright's wife."

Ken Lui, who was standing behind her, burst out into good natured laughter.

The artist lady and I parted on good terms, but the moment still amused me. It reminded me of the kind of scene you see in movies.
I knew the Hugo Awards were probably going to be unpleasant ever since the progressive vs. conservative culture wars broke out during the nominations. So I haven't read about them but from what I've glimpsed "unpleasant" seems to be the right adjective.

I was therefore impressed at the light, joyful feel of L. Jagi Lamplighter's Post Hugo Post.

She is John C. Wright's wife and, as his nominations were considered controversial, one might expect a tone of bitterness or hurt to come creeping through.

She's smart, she's funny, but most of all, as this post demonstrates, she is a lady and a Christian. Do go read it. It's a great example to all of us in these divisive times.

Well Said: One form of heroism

After you have suffered great losses and known much pain, it is not cowardice to wish to live henceforth with a minimum of suffering. And one form of heroism, about which few if any films will be made, is having the courage to live without bitterness when bitterness is justified, having the strength to persevere even when perseverance seems unlikely to be rewarded, having the resolution to find profound meaning in life when it seems the most meaningless.
Dean Koontz, The City

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Julie goes with Tolkien’s answer, Jesse keeps looking for Entwives

It's the fourth of six episodes discussing The Lord of the Rings at SFFaudio podcast. In this episode we cover The Journey to Mordor (the last book of The Two Towers). Enjoy!

Blogging Around

Frescos in Saint Elian Church, Syria. Bulldozed by ISIS
Source: Wikipedia
Some Desecrations Are More Important Than Others
However, did you hear about the destruction of the irreplaceable frescos and sanctuaries at the Mar Elian monastery? The possible slaughter of its abbot and inhabitants? The desecration of the tomb and the remains of St. Elian?
European press covered it.

UNESCO condemned it.

American press coverage? Nope. Read all about it and get links to the stories at GetReligion.

Stephen Colbert, Tolkien, and Leaning Into Fear
I love the thing that I most wish had not happened.

I asked him if he could help me understand that better, and he described a letter from Tolkien in response to a priest who had questioned whether Tolkien's mythos was sufficiently doctrinaire, since it treated death not as a punishment for the sin of the fall but as a gift. “Tolkien says, in a letter back: ‘What punishments of God are not gifts?’ ” Colbert knocked his knuckles on the table. “ ‘What punishments of God are not gifts?’ ” he said again. His eyes were filled with tears. “So it would be ungrateful not to take everything with gratitude. It doesn't mean you want it. I can hold both of those ideas in my head.”
This is the excerpt you might have seen around the Catholic blogosphere, and it's the one that pulled me in via The Deacon's Bench. There's a lot to chew on in this interview. For me the takeaway moment was about learning to love the bomb. I've been leaning on that in the last few days. Very worthwhile. Go read it all.

Denethor's Ghost and Faramir's Rangers
See how his mind has been turned to despair?

These days, aren’t many of us haunted by the ghost of Denethor? Isn’t most of what we are shown in the media, on our various devices, and on social media discouraging and demoralizing? Aren’t we tempted to retreat, resign ourselves to the toxic culture, or rebel in the sense of thinking that it’s up to us to set things right? Don’t we sometimes use the tactics of the Enemy against our adversaries?
Thomas M. Doran, Denethor's Ghost
Thomas M. Doran has two excellent, thought provoking pieces at Catholic World Report. The response was so great to his thoughts about how we are struggling with Denethor's problem of despair in our age, that he wrote a follow-up piece, Faramir's Rangers. I found both of them enlightening and inspiring. Via Ignatius Insight.

Knock: The Film
On a dark evening in 1879 in the town of Knock, Ireland, fifteen villagers witnessed a vision of the Virgin Mary, an event that shaped the tiny, rural community and declared the town a Marian Shrine. This documentary introduces the world to daily life in Knock as parish priest Father Richard Gibbons transforms the shrine, and the village itself, to adapt to contemporary Ireland and Catholicism.

Also a lawyer, philosopher, and local hero, Father Richard is charged with saving the shrine, and with it the village and his beloved church. His vision is to bring the Marian Shrine into the twenty-first century. In August of 2015, 178 American pilgrims, led by Cardinal Timothy Dolan, depart from New York City and touch down at the Knock airport. The future of this tiny rural town is about to change.
Underground Films in Dublin is currently producing a feature documentary on the miracle town of Knock, Ireland, also a Marian Shrine. This looks interesting. Do go check out the info at their film page. They're doing crowdfunding to cover the costs, though it looks as if that is going pretty well. They could also use publicity. Take a look around and tell a friend.

Predicting Social Future: Political Correctness
One of my science fiction novels was rejected by a publisher, who told me that my book was sexist. Why? Because two of its characters are planning an act of genocide, the extermination of an intelligent species on a distant planet, but the woman is the instigator and the man is just carried away by her. Apparently, women cannot be wicked!
Manuel Alfonseca looks at past science fiction classics to see how they predicted some of our current day ills. Those following the Hugo Awards wars over "social justice" will appreciate Manuel's piece as timely.

Shine Catholic
“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
That's the inspiration for the new blog Shine Catholic. Their goal is to shed light on the Catholic faith and, from what I've read, they do a good job. I especially appreciated "Four Things People Who Oppose Gay Marriage Need to Stop Doing" but there are a variety of pieces ranging from personal testimony to information about Catholic basics like sacramentals. Check it out.

Worth a Thousand Words: The Leak Stops

Clayton Plumbers, Brand Ave., Glendale
taken by Will Duquette
I love a good, old neon sign. This one makes me long to see it at night so I can see the water drops light up with "The. Leak. Stops."

When we were in Glendale, several years ago, a neon museum was underway. It must be open by now. It is on my grand tour list for when we return.

Lagniappe: The face of a good poker player

"I haven't told you everything about this woman."

"Yes, I am aware."

"Surprised, I said, "You are? How?"

"What do they call the face of a good poker player?"

"A poker face," I said.

"Yes, I believe that is correct. You do not have one. ..."
Dean Koontz, The City
I'm really enjoying this book and one of the great pleasures in it is the relationship between the young narrator and his neighbor, Mr. Yoshioka.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Worth a Thousand Words: Le petit chaperon rouge

Le petit chaperon rouge (a.k.a. Little Red Riding Hood)
Albert Anker, 1883

Well Said: Give Something

Give something, however small, to the one in need. For it is not small to one who has nothing. Neither is it small to God, if we have given what we could.
St. Gregory Nazianzen

How Rational Are You Really?

Here's an interesting quiz that Rose came across in a podcast.

It's not one of those simple quizzes that show up on Facebook, but one with more thoughtful, interesting questions.

Of the 16 possible personality types, I'm a .... Skeptic!

No surprises there, right?

I did find the final report interesting. For example, it highlighted a weakness that I recently became aware of and have resolved to work on:
It appears that you may have a sharp tendency to underestimate the time and resources your projects will require.
I blame the internet for distracting me all the time!

Or, we can just say that I'm an optimist!

Either way, I've gotta stop doing it so much!

Julie and Scott spend some time with a guy named Augustine, a very untidy kitchen, and Simon of Legree

Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe is the subject of Episode 114 at A Good Story is Hard to Find!

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Happy Birthday Hannah!

Cake by Cake Couture by Tina
Do you live near Cebu City? That's where Tina is. Get one of her cakes!
This is the same cake as I featured last year because I couldn't improve upon it, no matter how hard I searched.

It either had to be a Pit Bull cake for Kif or a German Shepherd cake for Zapp since those are Hannah's two dogs. (Or Futurama now that I think of it since her dog names are both characters from that show.) This was just so adorable that I kept it.

I wasn't Catholic when she was born but now I feel very lucky that she chose to come on the Feast Day for the Queenship of Mary.

It's Spicy Ginger Cake with Chocolate Frosting again this year, at Hannah's request. Mmmm, a delicious but unexpected combination.

We'll be going out for dinner with Hannah and Mark, our soon to be son-in-law to an Asian-Mexican fusion restaurant. I'm really looking forward to trying it. And then home for cake and gifts!

The best, of course, is the gift of Hannah herself to our family. Our tree loving, animal loving, sweet girl who is smart as a whip, funny, and thoughtful. No wonder we love her so much. We just can't help ourselves!

Friday, August 21, 2015

Well Said: You can't shut out the world

Everything that happens ... shows beyond mistake that you can't shut out the world; that you are in it, to be of it; that you get into a false position the moment you try to sever yourself from it; and that you must mingle with it, and make the best of it, and make the best of yourself into the bargain.
Charles Dickens to Wilkie Collins,
September 6, 1858

Worth a Thousand Words: Church of the Light

Church of the Light, Osaka, Japan
Taken by Bergmann
The simplicity of Ando's church is part of its beauty, and of its message: built on a low budget, the concrete walls were cast on-site, and the wood used to form the moulds for that process were then recycled to make the pews. The church has no decoration, and the only windows are the slits in the shape of a cross, as important for this particular church as it is for the foundation of Christianity itself: the Cross here is the Light.
Richard Stemp, The Secret Language of Churches and Cathedrals

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Well Said: What the Nation Needs

The nation doesn't simply need what we have. It needs what we are.
St. Teresia Benedicta (Edith Stein)

Worth a Thousand Words: Palm Trees Under Glass

Palm Trees Under Glass
photographed by Will Duquette
(All rights reserved)
Stunning, no? I've gotta say ... I miss LA.

Saint Peter: Flawed, Forgiven, and Faithful by Stephen J. Binz


One of this book's subtitles is "Walking with Peter from Galilee to Rome."

It's the perfect description of this book. When I've read about Peter in scripture I usually tend to relate it to myself. Am I acting like Peter or not? What lessons could I learn from his life? I've never stopped to ask myself what Peter himself experienced every step of the way with Jesus. Or to wonder what he learned as he went on "alone" after the Ascension.

Stephen J. Binz turns the spotlight on Peter so that we remember he was a real person, in unimaginable circumstances, traveling and learning from the Son of God, and then carrying on the ministry after Jesus's ascension. I'll certainly never think of Peter the same way now that Stephan Binz's book made him and his journey come alive.
Like Capernaum, Bethsaida was a fishing village, and possibly a center for drying and salting fish to export. But unlike Capernaum, Bethsaida was a town in which Jews lived together with Gentiles.

This interesting detail of Peter's background means that he would have associated freely with Greek-speaking Gentiles throughout his early life. It should also be noted that fishing was a profitable business in first-century Galilee, especially for those who owned boats and could hire help. These details indicate that Peter was not necessarily the poor, illiterate Jewish fisherman he is often made out to be. It is more likely that Peter was a middle-class entrepreneur. He certainly spoke Aramaic, probably read Hebrew, and quite possiblty also spoke and read Greek, the language of trade and commerce at the time.
Binz has us step back from the familiar interpretations of the scripture we often know so well that we have forgotten to think about it. He gives us new ways to understand what it meant to the people who wrote it, read it, and, most importantly, lived it. For example, speaking of Peter witnessing Jesus' transfiguration, Binz points out:
Peter, who was unable to conceive of Jesus' suffering and being put to death, is enlightened and uplifted through this vision of Jesus' transfigured glory. Yet Peter has to learn that the moment of glory was not given to him for its own sake; it is to help him seek the presence and the will of God in all things. The vision on the mountain will helps him realize that his own walking the way of the cross can be filled with radiance. ...
Weaving together pilgrimage experiences, spiritual reflections, and indepth knowledge of the Bible, Binz made me feel that I really have a personal knowledge, a connection, with Peter the man. He skillfully links this material with what Peter means for Catholics as the first pope and first leader of the Church.

I also especially enjoyed the way Binz would feature actual Holy Land descriptions in his explanations. It made me "feel" the place where these events took place and sometimes that too was important in understanding Peter and his journey.

I've been a long time fan of Stephen Binz's books about lectio divina and bible study, but this one is different. It is far and away my favorite.  "Take up and read," as a mysterious voice told St. Augustine. This is a book that will enrich your life.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Well Said: Humility and the Devil

The most powerful weapon to conquer the devil is humility. For, as he does not know at all how to employ it, neither does he know how to defend himself from it.
St. Vincent de Paul

Worth a Thousand Words: The Fortune Teller


Caravaggio (1571–1610), The Fortune Teller, between 1596 and 1597
At first glance she seems sweet but after a second look at those calculating eyes, I don't trust her at all.

Worst Feeling Ever

Being included in a tweet about The Lord of the Rings, idly reading it.

Realizing that tweet is because that I'm supposed to be discussing the first part of The Return of the King on Sunday. 

SUNDAY..

And it's Tuesday. Noon on Tuesday. 

I haven't even begun.

Oh the horror!

What have I been doing wasting my time laughing in a leisurely fashion at The Pickwick Papers?

Monday, August 17, 2015

Well Said: A cup of cold water

Nothing seems tiresome or painful when you are working for a Master who pays well; who rewards even a cup of cold water given for love of Him.
St. Dominic Savio
You know, I always thought about what those verses (Matthew 25:31-46) meant in terms of what I needed to do, to keep in mind in dealing with others. I never thought about what it said about our Master.

Worth a Thousand Words: Taking a Nap

Taking a Nap
taken by the incomparable Remo Savisaar

What We've Been Watching: The Invisible Man, Red Army, John Adams

Red Army (2014)

Riveting account of the Soviet hockey team before the collapse of the Soviet Union. As someone who watched their Olympic defeat at the hands of the U.S. with relish, I was fascinated to see the other side of the story. This documentary begins far before that and ends in modern times.

What we really are seeing is an interesting insight into life in the Soviet regime as part of their propaganda machine. That didn't make their accomplishments any less and seeing what happened to the players later in life was an interesting look at how people get buffeted around after their foundation has been knocked out from under them ... and at how they get back up again.

The Invisible Man (1933)

This 1933 film was a blockbuster for the special effects, humor, and thrills. I'd been really interested to see how it held up and have to say I was really impressed with the special effects. No wonder it wowed 'em!

Claude Rains, hired for his first Hollywood movie because of his expressive voice, was masterful in acting without his face showing since it was swathed in bandages to give it visual form. I wish I could say the same for the acting of his supporting cast. Gloria Stuart, William Harrigan, and Henry Travers were either placeholders or wooden at best. I did like James Whales' trademark humor which was strewn throughout, especially the contributions made by police officers.

Overall recommended for an entertaining evening at the movies and a view of Hollywood film history.

John Adams (HBO miniseries) 2008


This had been recommended by so many people and won so many Emmys that we weren't surprised to find ourselves really liking it.

However, my husband read the book some years before and after a while he began saying, "I don't remember so much emphasis on this thing." Or "They make the Jefferson-Adams hostilities look like a minor tiff."

Once I began looking there were a lot of places where the series diverged from the book, we assumed for dramatic purposes. We understand things have to be dumbed down for translation from an indepth book to television, but still the points began adding up.

Then one wonders if the need to dramatize led to a whole lot of adding-on for modern sensibilities. For example, there is, of course, an inherent irony now because slave labor worked on the White House. However, in actuality there were also free African-Americans, migrant laborers, and regular tradesmen. I understand the need to make a point. Slavery was a touchy topic from the word go. And, as I said, the irony. But to be shown only a slave workforce and then get hit over the head with it every time the Adams popped their heads out of doors got a bit old, considering the actual fact of the matter.

This was just one of a variety of areas where we felt modern interpretations were too much with us (Adams weeping in the alley after casting off his scoundrel son was another such moment, though I haven't read the book and perhaps he dutifully recorded deep sorrow in his diary entry that day).

Watching a historical movie is one thing when inaccuracies are used for presentation purposes or to make a point more clearly. However, seven episodes of someone's life story, even one as full as that of John Adams, one would hope the details could be correct. I'm not here for the acting or set designs after all, splendid though they were.

Friday, August 14, 2015

In which it's the White Moll's turn to rescue The Adventurer and we learn something shocking!

Chapters 9-10 of The White Moll are ready for your listening pleasure at Forgotten Classics!

Lagniappe: London and G.K. Chesterton

"London," said a recently arrived American, "is the most marvelously fulfilling experience. I went to see Fleet Street this morning, and met G. K. Chesterton face to face. Wrapped in a cloak and standing in the doorway of a pie-shop, he was composing a poem, reciting it aloud as he wrote. The most striking thing about the incident was that no one took the slightest notice.
Gilbert Keith Chesterton by Maisie Ward

Worth a Thousand Words: The Boats are Still Sleeping

The Boats are Still Sleeping
painted by Edward B. Gordon
The boats are still sleeping. Early morning by the river. The morning light finds its way through the clouded skies, the temperature still pleasant, refreshed by the coolness of the night, time to go for a swim…

Genesis Bible Study - Index

GENESIS

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Worth a Thousand Words: Claret Cup Cactus

Jason Merlo, photographer
Claret cup cactus in bloom, Enchanted Rock State Natural Area - Llano County, Texas
A claret cup cactus in bloom growing in the crack of a boulder on Little Rock at sunset at Enchanted Rock State Natural Area in Llano County, Texas.
I didn't know cacti could have beautiful names like Claret Cup. Looking at the flowers, though, you can immediately see the logic and poetry behind it.

Isn't this a stunning photo? I discovered Jason Merlo when one of his photos of the painted churches of Texas was featured on Traces of Texas on Facebook. Check Jason's galleries to see more gorgous photos of the beautiful state of Texas. He offers prints for sale too.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

I finally felt an earthquake.

We've been having little tremors for months but I've never felt one until this morning. It was reported as 2.7 (about 6:15am) in the usual location across town in Irving but, as my husband said who was in another room at the time, it shook the house like a tree fell on it.

It was crazy. I was sitting on the couch reading the paper and suddenly the front door shook as if a gigantic gust of wind had hit it. Our big Boxer woofed and went to look out the front window. No one was there. He looked over his shoulder at me inquiringly. We decided it must have been an earthquake.

It was our Doan and Carstairs moment. (Because, yes, everything always seems to come back to books.)

Worth a Thousand Words: Still Life with Lemons

Paul Coventry-Brown, Still Life with Lemons

Around Here: Dickens and the Sandwich

Sandwiches and Dickens

I was reading Barnaby Rudge and was startled by seeing a sandwich mentioned:
He was not without some refreshment during the long lonely hours; generally carrying in his pocket a sandwich of bread and meat, and a small flask of wine.
Now I know sandwiches were invented some time ago but I hadn't come across them in fiction this old, especially as a reflection of casual everyday life. And this book was set around the time of our Revolutionary War so I had 1776 firmly in mind.

Did they eat sandwiches then?

Finishing up Barnaby (not bad, not bad at all), I picked up The Pickwick Papers for a bit of light bedtime humor.

I was stunned to find ... another sandwich in Mr. Jingle's shocking but funny story:
Heads, heads — take care of your heads!... Five children — mother — tall lady, eating sandwiches — forgot the arch — crash — knock — children look round — mother's head off — sandwich in her hand—no mouth to put it in — head of a family off—shocking, shocking!
This made Tom look up the origin date of the sandwich which, of course, no one knows. The famous story about the Earl of Sandwich, all honor to this lazy but tidy card player (bread kept the meat grease off his hands and cards) who invented one of my favorite foods, is placed in the late 1700s.

Of course, sandwiches were around before then but they weren't called sandwiches. They were known as "meat and bread" or "bread and cheese." It is when the name "sandwich" became commonly used that is interesting. And then we have this bit of evidence:
That respectable body, of which I have the honour of being a member, affords every evening a sight truly English. Twenty or thirty, perhaps, of the first men in the kingdom, in point of fashion and fortune, supping at little tables covered with a napkin, in the middle of a coffee-room, upon a bit of cold meat, or a sandwich, and drinking a glass of punch.
Edward Gibbon, journal entry, November 24, 1762
So that's all right then, for Dickens use in Barnaby Rudge. And it turns out that Dickens had his own sandwich memories, though this one doesn't seem happy at all:
A longer time afterwards he recollected the stage-coach journey, and said in one of his published papers that never had he forgotten, through all the intervening years, the smell of the damp straw in which he was packed and forwarded like game, carriage-paid. “There was no other inside passenger, and I consumed my sandwiches in solitude and dreariness, and it rained hard all the way, and I thought life sloppier than I expected to find it.”
Dickens writing of his journey when he was 10
to join his family in their new home,
Life of Charles Dickens by John Foster
I found a few more of Dickens' sandwiches when I was looking around.
Great Expectations: My guardian then took me into his own room, and while he lunched, standing, from a sandwich-box and a pocket flask of sherry (he seemed to bully his very sandwich as he ate it), informed me what arrangements he had made for me.

Bleak House: "My dear son," said Mr. Turveydrop, "you have four schools this afternoon. I would recommend a hasty sandwich."

Mugby Junction: "Well!" said Our Missis, with dilated nostrils. "Take a fresh, crisp, long, crusty penny loaf made of the whitest and best flour. Cut it longwise through the middle. Insert a fair and nicely fitting slice of ham. Tie a smart piece of ribbon round the middle of the whole to bind it together. Add at one end a neat wrapper of clean white paper by which to hold it. And the universal French Refreshment sangwich busts on your disgusted vision."

Uncommercial Traveller: Between the pieces, we almost all of us went out and refreshed. Many of us went the length of drinking beer at the bar of the neighbouring public-house, some of us drank spirits, crowds of us had sandwiches and ginger-beer at the refreshment-bars established for us in the Theatre. The sandwich--as substantial as was consistent with portability, and as cheap as possible--we hailed as one of our greatest institutions. It forced its way among us at all stages of the entertainment, and we were always delighted to see it; its adaptability to the varying moods of our nature was surprising; we could never weep so comfortably as when our tears fell on our sandwich; we could never laugh so heartily as when we choked with sandwich; Virtue never looked so beautiful or Vice so deformed as when we paused, sandwich in hand, to consider what would come of that resolution of Wickedness in boots, to sever Innocence in flowered chintz from Honest Industry in striped stockings. When the curtain fell for the night, we still fell back upon sandwich, to help us through the rain and mire, and home to bed.
Dickens must have enjoyed a good sandwich as much as I do. I'll have one of those universal French Refreshment sangwiches for lunch, please!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Worth a Thousand Words: How the Whale Got His Throat

How the Whale Got His Throat, illustrated by Himmapaan
Illustration for How the Whale got his Throat, in Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories,
published in a limited edition of 1,000 copies by The Folio Society, 2012

There's a Lot More to Podcasting Than "Serial"

(Links for all the podcasts mentioned below can be found in the sidebar at Forgotten Classics.)


Serial — we're told it is the "break through" podcast in the "sleepy world of podcasts."

Decoder Ring Theatre
Hmmm.

Podcasts are popular again. They went through a period of popularity when they began and then faded into obscurity as far as the media was concerned. But like bees or ants, podcasters just kept busily producing their audio shows, ignoring the "podcasts are dead" media talk, buoyed by their enthusiasm for their creations. Their audiences kept listening and sometimes growing large, as in the case of shows like 99% Invisible or The Tobolowsky Files or Welcome to Nightvale.

Not that you'll hear about those shows in the regular media. Every journalist is looking for the thing that podcasting's not: the mass audience, mass interest, "must hear" shows for everyone. "Serial," that phenomenally popular podcast, was just close enough to that criteria that the media woke up and "discovered" podcasts. Again.

Those of us who've been there all along would thank them, except for the fact that every time I've read a piece on podcasts it has clearly been written by someone who doesn't have a clue. Certainly they haven't taken the time to do more than interview a few sources who aren't really helpful to those of us who'd like to see some sort of breadth represented.

Stories compare podcasts to radio shows, they focus on the "pro-casts" (professional radio shows broadcast through podcast feeds), and they tell you how hard it is to find them. Then they introduce their definitive listening guide. Which is generally anything but definitive.

In so doing, they miss the delightful, quirky world of passionate amateurs who have taken this broadcast medium to heart and produced a wild variety of shows. These podcasts may serve a mind-boggingly specific or small audience. And yet, they are some of the best entertainment available today.

What surprises me is that I'm not the only one who finds this annoying. I can be excused for being opinionated. I have two podcasts and regularly am a guest on a third. I am a voracious podcast listener and know there's a big world out there. But when my mild-mannered husband tosses the paper aside in disgust after reading one of these pieces, then we know there's a huge problem. He listens to fewer podcasts than I do. But he's a passionately loyal listener. Because when you listen to a podcaster regularly, you become part of their community.

Reporters also miss the true beauty of the podcast. They rarely mention that they are completely mobile.  Download or stream one whenever and wherever you want. If you've got wireless, you've got access.

I myself am an old-school, download-through-iTunes gal. But if you want streaming and apps just Google (or Bing or DuckDuckGo) it.

You'll also hear that podcasts are hard to find. I'm not sure what world these journalists live in. Have they never browsed in a bookstore (granted, those are increasingly rare these days) or cruised TV channels? All you've got to do is push the iTunes "Podcast" tab which reveals a marvelous world of possibilities waiting for you. Organized just like their music, the front page features hot picks, collections, "favorites," and interesting oddballs.

Each category (just click the drop down "All Categories" menu) has its own front page and will lead you down fascinating rabbit holes of listening. I check iTunes every couple of weeks and always seem to find at least one undiscovered show to try. And I've been listening since ... forever.

My personal favorites tend to be what I call "true" podcasts — done for the love of the thing. CraftLit, SFFaudio, the H.P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast, Spilled Milk, King Falls AM, and Music From 100 Years Ago are just a few of them. (Drop by my Forgotten Classics sidebar and you'll find the links for these and many more.)

Popularity can produce greater success and push podcasts into becoming "pro-casts." Freakonomics and The Dinner Party Download are just a couple that I listened to before they were discovered and put in the big show on regular broadcast radio.

My favorite success story is 99% Invisible which is about the design elements we see all around us but which ideally should be almost invisible if they work the way they should.

Roman Mars always sounds like the happiest guy on the planet and it might be because he can now make a living form his deservedly popular show, while forming a podcast network to provide support for other "hey, that's interesting" podcasts.

Podcast networks. Yes, they exist. They're also not that hard to find.

And plenty of other fascinating podcast "extension" stories exist. The Tobolowsky Files, featuring character actor Stephen Tobolowsky, tells hilarious or astounding stories of his life with a subtext that taps a deeper, sensitive side. His success almost led to being picked up by a broadcast network but when that didn't come to fruition they made a movie. A story telling movie. I love it.

Welcome to Nightvale began as a way to promote a book publisher. When the podcast took off, they began doing live shows. They now do international tours which quickly sell out.

This isn't to say that I have anything against "pro-casts" but let's be clear about what they are. They're often simply convenient ways to hear your favorite radio shows on your own schedule. (I'd languish without my daily dose of Bird Note.) They also open a world that you can't get to otherwise, such as with foreign radio broadcasts. I get to hear shows from the BBC, Australia, Canada, and beyond that I love.

Sometimes, though, they are time capsules. Such is the case with my husband's favorite, Desert Island Discs. This hugely popular BBC radio show has been on air since the 1940s and they've made all their past episodes available via iTunes.

Each is an interview with a celebrity who has chosen the eight songs they'd take with them if they were stranded on a desert island. These songs often tell the story of their lives and the interviews are fascinating. They'll interview just about anyone. Many are the sort you'd expect like actors, singers, and well-known British celebrities like various Beatles and the Monty Pythons. But you'll also find prime ministers, scientists, bankers, and more who are a lot more interesting than you'd have thought.

I know this is long and passionate. But I'm not the only one who's steamed about the way the media misunderstands podcasting. Heather Ordover at CraftLit (another favorite of mine) did a special episode on this topic. The episode and transcript are here.

She's not only got clarifications about podcasting but a lot of the history and context that I left out. (Because I knew Heather had my back.)

As for Serial, I've got nothing against it. I'm not a fan of true crime stories but I do really like Trial Lawyer Confidential which is excellent real world advice and The Black Tapes podcast which riffs on the Serial format in an otherworldly way.

Yes, there is a lot more out there waiting for you. All you have to do is take a look.

============

Speaking of Desert Island Discs, here are my top 8 desert island podcasts. I have tons of favorites, but these are the ones I'd have to have on a desert island to keep me sane. In no particular order:

  1. The Tobolowsky Files
  2. Bird Note
  3. The H.P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast
  4. Food News
  5. The Classic Tales Podcast
  6. Spilled Milk
  7. 99% Invisible
  8. A Good Story is Hard to Find (Yes, this is the one I do with Scott Danielson. What can I say? I like listening to old episodes. It's good to be proud of your work, right?)
Do you have a Desert Island podcast list? Let me know.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Well Said: The opposite of addiction is connection

Human beings have a natural and innate need to bond, and when we're happy and healthy, we'll bond and connect with each other, but if you can't do that, because you're traumatized or isolated or beaten down by life, you will bond with something that will give you some sense of relief. Now, that might be gambling, that might be pornography, that might be cocaine, that might be cannabis, but you will bond and connect with something because that's our nature. That's what we want as human beings.

[...]

And what I've tried to do now, and I can't tell you I do it consistently and I can't tell you it's easy, is to say to the addicts in my life that I want to deepen the connection with them, to say to them, I love you whether you're using or you're not. I love you, whatever state you're in, and if you need me, I'll come and sit with you because I love you and I don't want you to be alone or to feel alone.

And I think the core of that message -- you're not alone, we love you -- has to be at every level of how we respond to addicts... The opposite of addiction is connection.
Do go listen to this talk or read the transcript. This just reinforces the core message I learned from Brené Brown in The Power of Vulnerability talk. Which I also recommend.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Worth a Thousand Words: Horizons

Horizons
photographed by Will Duquette
I've enjoyed Will Duquette's writing for a long time but now he's gotten back into photography and is graciously allowing me to share some favorites. (His Flickr stream is here.)

This one somehow captures those huge, fluffy clouds that we all love to watch majestically soaring through the sky. It is somehow so rare to see a good photo of them that this one took my fancy at once.

Well Said: The Search of Reason and The Sense of the Ineffable

The search of reason ends at the shore of the known; on the immense expanse beyond it only the sense of the ineffable can glide. It alone knows the route to that which is remote from experience and understanding. Neither of them is amphibious: reason cannot go beyond the shore, and the sense of the ineffable is out of place where we measure, where we weigh.

We do not leave the shore of the known in search of adventure or suspense or because of the failure of reason to answer our questions. We sail because our mind is like a fantastic sea shell, and when applying our ears to its lips we hear a perpetual murmur from the waves beyond the shore.
Abraham Heschel, Man Is Not Alone
I was talking to my spiritual advisor about the first paragraph. He pointed out that we can't live purely on reason or the ineffable. We live at their intersection.

This raised a lovely image for me of walking in the damp sand by the sea, with occasional wavelets lapping around my ankles. We can walk more in the land of reason, struggling through the dry, hot sand. We can wade in the sea of the ineffable, with the waves pulling and pushing our legs, impeding progress. It is on that damp sand that the walk is the easiest, the most satisfying, and lets us sample both land and sea.

I like it.

Blogging Around

Tom Cruise is the Best

I'm going to call him Tom Cruise during the rest of this review of "Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation" because even though his character has a name, Ethan Hunt, it is really Tom Cruise who makes his entrance clambering over a hill and exhorting his lovable tech guy Benji (Simon Pegg) to use his hacking skill to open the door of a cargo transport plane that's about to take off with a belly full of nukes stolen by Chechen separatists or something, I don't know who they are, it doesn't matter, Tom Cruise is running, arms and legs pumping, hair flying, and holy mother of moley he's climbing onto the top of the plane and hanging to its underbelly as it takes off, with his bare hands!
Matt Zoller Seitz's review of the new Mission Impossible movie is just about as fun as the movie (probably - I mean, I haven't seen it). It typifies the way Tom Cruise can make you feel when he's been properly cast. It's the way I felt watching him in Edge of Tomorrow, which I did not love. But I loved Cruise in it. Just go read the review.

Rhetorical Context

An excellent piece from The Curt Jester about the revelations from the Planned Parenthood videos. What I especially like is his reminder that we must not fall into the same error of dehumanizing those doing the evil. Read it all, but here's a bit to get you started.
I once wondered how the evil of Nazi Germany could have come about? Unfortunately I now understand this much better. The first step is historically always dehumanization. Using language that moves from a defined reality to a more abstract concept. Once that is done you can intellectualize your reaction. To develop a purposeful blindspot as a callus hardening against conscience.

The conversations in these videos shows the “banality of evil”. No maniacal laughs like movie villains. Calmly discussing the parsing of unborn children for parts as if it is the most mundane task. Like they were playing the battery-operated game “Operation” with a comic likeness of an unborn child.

Hunting Is Normal. Enjoy Your Tasty Animals.

Time for another cultural update from the backwards southerners, and to get us started let’s hear from the guy so southern and backward nobody can stand him:
129. In order to continue providing employment, it is imperative to promote an economy which favours productive diversity and business creativity. For example, there is a great variety of small-scale food production systems which feed the greater part of the world’s peoples, using a modest amount of land and producing less waste, be it in small agricultural parcels, in orchards and gardens, hunting and wild harvesting or local fishing.
Laudato Si’ 129.
Jennifer Fitz cracks me up. Oh, she's very serious on this topic and I urge you to go read it all. But she's got a way with a hook and a way with words ... and a way with logic. All of which I enjoy greatly.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Worth a Thousand Words: Daisy Trio

Daisy Trio
by Belinda Del Pesco

Well Said: God never wrote that book with ink.

Some people, in order to discover God, read books. But there is a great book: the very appearance of created things. Look above you! Look below you! Read it. God, whom you want to discover, never wrote that book with ink. Instead, He set before your eyes the things that He had made. Can you ask for a louder voice than that?
Augustine of Hippo

Feast of the Transfiguration

Theophanes the Greek. The Transfiguration. Early 15th century.
Christ's Tabor radiance is a kind of mirror in which we glimpse the glory that God wills to give his friends. The resplendence of the Transfiguration reveals the fullness of life destined to be ours. The Transfiguration invites us to configuration. We peer into the glory that pours from every pore of the transfigured Christ, we cast off everything unworthy of our personal relationship with the Infinite, and we take on the luster of the Son of God. Jesus gazes back at us with a luminous look of love that make us desire to live his transparent beauty -- to be luminaries. Silently from Tabor's splendor, the Savior begs: "Become what you behold!"
Meditation from Magnificat

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Worth a Thousand Words: Bashi-Bazouk

Jean-Leon Gerome, Bashi-Bazouk, 1868-1869
via Arts Everyday Living

Lagniappe: Your Manuscript is Both Good and Original

My congratulations to you, sir. Your manuscript is both good and original; but the part that is good is not original, and the part that is original is not good
Dr. Samuel Johnson

Friends of the Susanka Family - Help Lighten Their Load

On July 3, 2015, seven-year-old James Susanka was kicked in the stomach by a calf at a Fourth of July event. In a freak occurrence, the kick fractured Jamie's pancreas. The small town of Lander, Wyoming had insufficient medical facilities for this level of injury, and Jamie and his mother Sarah had to be life-flighted to Salt Lake City. The doctors in Salt Lake City were hopeful that surgery might be avoided and the pancreas would heal on its own. However, this means that Jamie will be on a feeding tube for at least a month. He is unable to take any food or drink by mouth, including water.

During Sarah and Jamie's ten-day stay at the SLC children's hospital, Jamie's older brother Mark, age 11, broke both bones in his fore-arm. The break required a trip to Salt Lake City for Mark as well, and will require several return visits.

The medical costs for the Susanka family in the coming weeks will probably be in excess of $50,000. A life flight from Wyoming usually runs between $40,000 and $60,000, and it is not covered by their insurance. Also, while some of Jamie's equipment is covered, the formula in the feeding tube is not. Thank you for your generosity and prayers on behalf of this wonderful family!

Donate at YouCaring.

In which the White Moll sinks deeper into underworld New York to save a man's life by pulling off a diamond heist.

Chapters 7-8 of The White Moll by Frank L. Packard are ready at Forgotten Classics podcast.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Well Said: The most thoroughly converted man I ever met

[C.S.] Lewis struck me as the most thoroughly converted man I ever met. Christianity was never for him a separate department of life. Not what he did with his solitude; not even, as he says in one essay, what God does with his solitude. His whole vision of life was such that the natural and the supernatural seemed inseparably combined.

Walter Hooper,
Introduction to God in the Dock
by C.S. Lewis
I get it.

Worth a Thousand Words: Setting Sun

Setting Sun
taken by Remo Savisaar
Once again, Remo has so many wonderful photos on display that I had a hard time choosing. You owe it to yourself to go look at all of them. This one speaks to me of summer and vacation and what could be better for the beginning of August?

If, like me, you can't get to the seashore, just enlarge this photo and let your imagination fill in the sound of seagulls, the sight of brown pelicans coasting just above the water, the continual splash of waves, the salty spray on your lips, the humid breeze waving your hair in your eyes, and the scrunch of sand beneath your bare feet.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Well Said: God's Fool

Ah, well, I am a great and sublime fool. But then I am God's fool, and all His work must be contemplated with respect.
Mark Twain, A Biography

Worth a Thousand Words: Baseball Players Practicing

"Baseball Players Practicing, 1875, Thomas Eakins.
Courtesy of the Rhode Island School of Design Museum of Art.
Via Wikipedia
There are some modern teams who have old-fashioned uniforms. I always wondered why they didn't look more "authentic" until I saw this and realized the new ones are tighter, don't have big belts, and ... most important of all ... the players don't have handlebar mustaches!