Thursday, June 1, 2023

Juni (June)

Juni (June), Theo Van Hoytema


Ransomware and Rereading — The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley

At the beginning of May the City of Dallas suffered a citywide ransomware attack. All city services had to learn to operate again without the computer. The police and emergency services went back to the time-honored practice of using radio dispatchers and a pen and paper. The courts have been closed because legal materials for each case were online and now are gone ... or buried in whatever there is left of the system. As far as we can tell, they're having to rebuild the whole system from scratch.

As library users, this has been almost the equivalent of when the pandemic hit. There is no computer access, of course. You can go to a local branch and peruse the materials. But you must just see what that particular branch has. There's no citywide access to the catalog or, for that matter, no catalog to check at all. 

You can check out materials. They enter the info into a Word file which will be reintegrated with the whole system when it is back. I have no idea how they're going to know what everyone already had checked out. They aren't accepting materials back in because they have no way to check them back in.

Of course, we figure the library will be the last system to come back to normal once Dallas systems begin coming back online. They're a pretty low priority in the big picture.

Which is a very long introduction to why I've been rereading so many goldie oldies from our own shelves. (Well, that and the flu.) It's been kind of nice being forced to fall back on our own resources and rediscover so many books I love.

This is the story of Corlath, golden-eyed king of the Free Hillfolk, son of the sons of the Lady Aerin.

And this is the story of Harry Crewe, the Homelander orphan girl who became Harimad-sol, King's Rider, and heir to the Blue Sword, Gonturan, that no woman had wielded since the Lady Aerin herself bore it into battle.

And this is the song of the kelar of the Hillfolk, the magic of the blood, the weaver of destinies...

This another one that I loved when it came out and haven't reread for a long time. Consequently, I remembered the big beats but not a few of the twists toward the end. Likewise, I'd forgotten the many elements that made this compelling. I found it grabbed me by the throat and I couldn't put it down — what a great read!

To quote another review, this is "a near-perfect short fantasy novel" and "an original work fantasy lovers shouldn't overlook."

Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Captain Vincenzo Lunardi with his assistant George Biggin, and Mrs. Letitia Anne Sage, in a balloon

Captain Vincenzo Lunardi with his assistant George Biggin,
and Mrs. Letitia Anne Sage, in a balloon,
painted by John Francis Rigaud, 1785

From J.R.'s Art Place, where he has fascinating details:

Captain Lunardi was a pioneering aeronaut, who with his English assistant George Biggin put on several demonstrations of early balloon flight. This painting depicts one of the flights, but was painted in advance--during the actual flight, the weight of passengers proved too heavy and so only Biggin and Mrs. Sage took part. The painting was probably used to publicize the event.

The flight took off from London and lasted 90 minutes, followed by landing in a field, where Biggin and Sage had to be assisted by schoolboys in fending off an irate farmer angry at the damage to his crops.

As the first British woman to fly, Mrs. Sage later wrote an account of her flight titled "A Letter, Addressed to a Female Friend, By Mrs. Sage, the First English Female Aerial Traveller" that was printed and sold as a pamphlet.

The Visitation of the Blessed Virgin

I love this celebration which always makes me meditate on the beauty of one good friend going to help another, carrying Christ with her to someone she loves. I also really love this icon below, which celebrates the unseen reality of this feast.

The Visitation of Virgin Mary to Elizabeth.
The photographer says: "14th century wall-painting in the Timios Stavros Church in Pelendri.
The unborn John the Baptist bows before the unborn Jesus. ..."

Today we learn once more that each encounter with Mary implies a new discovery of Jesus: If you seek Mary, you will find Jesus. And you will learn a bit more about what is in the heart of a God who humbles himself, who makes himself accessible in the midst of the routine of ordinary life. God's great gift to mankind whereby we can get to know and love Christ, had its beginning in Mary's faith, whose perfect fulfillment Elizabeth now openly reveals: The fullness of grace announced by the angel means the gift of God himself. Mary's faith, proclaimed by Elizabeth at the Visitation, indicates how the Virgin of Nazareth responded to this gift. The Virgin Mary, who had already pronounced her complete and unconditional fiat, presents herself at the threshold of Zachary's house as the Mother of the Son of God. This is Elizabeth's joyful discovery, *** and ours too; it is one we can never get used to.
In Conversation with God:
Special Feasts: January - June
* J. Escriva, Christ is Passing By
** John Paul II, Redemptoris Mater
*** cf ibid

Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Julie and Scott answer an ad looking for people to spend three years on the moon. Gerty likes both of them!

 Scott Danielson and I discuss Moon, starring Sam Rockwell, in  Episode 308 of A Good Story is Hard to Find.

Cistercian Architecture

Cistercian Architecture: Poblet Monastery, Catalonia
via Barcelona Photoblog
Isn't this lovely? I can just imagine slowly pacing along it, looking out at whatever is on the other side of those open arches.

Click through to Barcelona Photoblog for a bigger image and to see details about this architecture.

A Movie You Might Have Missed #82 — A Taxi Driver

It's been 12 years since I began this series highlighting movies I wished more people knew about. I'm rerunning it from the beginning because I still think these are movies you might have missed.

In 1980, a foreign journalist hires a down-on-his-luck taxi driver to take him to Gwangju, South Korea. They soon arrive to find a city under siege by student protesters and the military. A Taxi Driver brings a ground-level perspective and a refreshingly light touch to a fact-based story with sobering implications.

I'd never heard of this 2017 movie which was wildly popular in Korea and was their entry to the Oscar foreign film nominations that year. Knowing only the brief description above and having a vague memory of Korea as having military dictatorship issues in the 1980s we launched into the movie.

As with the Indian movie Airlift, we were introduced to a piece of history we had never heard of. It turns out that the taxi driver, Mr. Kim, is the perfect character through whose eyes we should view the military lockdown of Gwangju. He also had no idea of the violence being perpetrated upon the protesters and innocent civilians. Following the reporter as he follows leads to the heart of the riots, the depth of the violence and oppression gradually unfold. We get to meet other taxi drivers as they help first with repairs and then with more important things. As the story goes on,  the driver begins seeing a bigger picture than just his own interest and that everyone, however seemingly insignificant, plays a part in others' lives. 

Based on a real event, this is a combination of fact about the photographer and fiction about the driver.  Kim's identity was unknown when the film was made so his story is fictional aside from his time with the photographer. Nevertheless, it is very effective and provides both a much needed lighter approach and "everyman" view which takes the audience along.

I came away grateful for good reporters determined to get the truth to the people. I also thought of the war reporters who have been dying in Ukraine. And I was reminded of how desperate the Ukranians' plight is, even as they fight with all they have. Those trends were personified in this movie.

As I mentioned, this reminded me of both Airlift and also of Argo. Fans of those movies will not be disappointed.

Monday, May 29, 2023

Memorial Day

I can only offer my whole-hearted thanks and gratitude to those who gave their lives for their country. All the freedoms we enjoy today would not be ours if it were not for these sacrificial souls.

Sunday, May 28, 2023

Pentecost: Come Holy Spirit

The coming of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost was not an isolated event in the Church's life. The Paraclete sanctifies it continually as He also sanctifies every soul. This He does through all the innumerable inspirations which are all the attractions, motions, rebukes and interior compunctions, lights and intuitions which God works in us. So He strengthens our heart with his blessings, with his care and fatherly love, so as to arouse us, move us, impel us and draw us to holy virtues, to heavenly love, to good resolutions: in short, to all that leads us to our eternal life. (St. Francis de Sales) His action in the soul is gentle and mild ... He comes to save, to cure, to enlighten. (St. Cyril of Jerusalem)
In Conversation With God Vol 2: Lent and Eastertide
Our priest said once in a scripture study class that God loves us so much that He went to the trouble of plugging a translator right into our hearts. If we take the time and trouble to listen for that whisper, we hear the Holy Spirit there within us ... and He is there to help us speak to God in turn. What a fantastic image and it is one that I think of often. Talk about going the extra mile! God has done everything that one could imagine to help us get the point, to communicate, to talk to Him and be in relationship with Him.

I also like the way that same point was said by Father Raniero Cantalamessa, preacher to the papal household, "the only person allowed to preach to the Pope." He's served John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis in that capacity.
When the Holy Spirit takes possession of a heart, a change comes about. If before there was a "secret rancor against God" in the depths of a man's heart now the Spirit comes to him from God and attests that God is truly favorable and benign, that he is his ally and not his enemy. He opens his eyes to all that God has been capable of doing for him and to the fact that he did not spare his only Son for him. The Spirit puts "God's love" into man's heart (see Rom 5:5). In this way he makes him a new man who loves God and who willingly does what God asks of him. God, in fact, no longer limits himself to telling man what he should do or not do, but he himself does it with him and in him. The new law, the Spirit, is much more than an indication of a will; it is an action, a living and active principle. The new law is new life. That is why it is more often called grace than law: "You are not under law but under grace" (Rom 6:14).
Life in Christ: A Spiritual Commentary on the Letter to the Romans
Amen ... I can testify to that!

 Pentecost -- The Cry of Release from Meditations on the Passion
Under copyright by Iain McKillip and used by permission

Saturday, May 27, 2023

Novena to the Holy Spirit: Day 9

Oldest of all novenas, this is still the only one officially prescribed by the Church.
This is the last day of the novena and tomorrow is Pentecost!

Netherlandish Master, The Spirit, c. 1500.

(Saturday, Vigil of Pentecost)
When the soul is docile to the inspirations of the Holy Spirit, it becomes that good tree which is known by its fruits. These fruits enrich the Christian's life and are manifestations of the glory of God: By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit, Jesus says at the Last Supper (John 15:8).
In Conversation With God Vol 2: Lent and Eastertide
Prayer: The Fruits of the Holy Spirit

Thou, on those who evermore
Thee confess and thee adore,
In thy sevenfold gifts, descend:
Give them comfort when they die;
Give them life with thee on high;
Give them joy which never ends. Amen.

The Fruits of the Holy Spirit
The gifts of the Holy Spirit perfect the supernatural virtues by enabling us to practice them with greater docility to divine inspiration. As we grow in the knowledge and love of God under the direction of the Holy Spirit, our service becomes more sincere and generous, the practice of virtue more perfect. Such acts of virtue leave the heart filled with joy and consolation and are known as Fruits of the Holy Spirit. These Fruits in turn render the practice of virtue more attractive and become a powerful incentive for still greater efforts in the service of God, to serve Whom is to reign.

Come, O Divine Spirit, fill my heart with Your heavenly fruits, Your charity, joy, peace, patience, benignity, goodness, faith, mildness, and temperance, that I may never weary in the service of God, but by continued faithful submission to Your inspiration may merit to be united eternally with You in the love of the Father and the Son. Amen.

Our Father and Hail Mary ONCE.

Glory be to the Father SEVEN TIMES.

Act of Consecration to the Holy Spirit

Prayer for the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit

Friday, May 26, 2023

Couldn't Put It Down — Aunt Dimity's Death by Nancy Atherton

When you're recovering from the flu and rediscover Aunt Dimity's Death jammed behind other books - that's a lovely moment. It's perfect recovery reading. 

Lori Shepherd thought Aunt Dimity was just a character in a bedtime story...

...Until the law firm of Willis & Willis summons her to a reading of the woman's will. Down-on-her-luck Lori learns she's about to inherit a siazable estate--if she can discover the secret hidden in a treasure trove of letters in Dimity's English country cottage. What begins as a fairy tale becomes a mystery--and a ghost story--as Aunt Dimity's indomitable spirit leads Lori on a quest to discover how true love can conquer all.
I'm not a lover of "cozy" mysteries as they are churned out today. However, this 1992 book is a charming mystery from before "cozy" was a category and it is far better than most. What sets it apart is the emphasis on what Lori discovers about herself in the investigation. This review hit the nail on the head:
This book, cleverly disguised as a cosy mystery, takes us into a world of adults looking at childhood memories through grown-up eyes. There are memories sweet and difficult, dark secrets, and finally, a love story or two. There's really not so much of a mystery here, but more a righting of past wrongs.
Certainly, when I was unable to continue reading and my thoughts whirled in flu-ish chaos, musing about this story kept me from focusing on how bad I felt.

St. Philip Neri's Feast Day or "Did Laughing At Yourself Help At All?"

I have always been attracted to this saint without too much of a specific reason other than I knew that he loved to laugh. Then I read a bit more about him and saw that was reason enough. Joy and gaiety were so much a part of his normal disposition that Goethe, who esteemed him highly, called him the "humorous saint." It was his gay, blithe spirit that opened for him the hearts of children. "Philip Neri, learned and wise, by sharing the pranks of children himself became a child again" (epitaph). (from Catholic Culture.)

So it is no wonder that he appeals to me.

One of the stories that attracted me to him is this one from Beginning to Pray by Anthony Bloom. This is one of those classic saint tales that remind us no one is perfect ... so there is hope for each of us.

It is absolutely pointless to ask God for something which we ourselves are not prepared to do. If we say "O God, make me free from this or that temptation" while at the same time seeking every possible way of falling to just such a temptation, hoping now that God is in control, that He will get us out of it, then we do not stand much chance. God gives us strength but we must use it. When, in our prayers, we ask God to give us strength to do something in His Name, we are not asking Him to do it instead of us because we are too feeble to be willing to do it for ourselves.

The lives of the saints are enlightening in this respect, and in the life of St. Philip Neri just such an occasion is described. He was an irascible man who quarreled easily and had violent outbursts of anger and of course endured violent outbursts from his brothers. One day he felt that it could not go on. Whether it was virtue or whether he could no longer endure his brothers his Vita does not tell us. The fact is that he ran to the chapel, fell down before a statue of Christ and begged Him to free him of his anger. He then walked out full of hope. The first person he met was one of the brothers who had never aroused the slightest anger in him, but for the first time in his life this brother was offensive and unpleasant to him. So Philip burst out with anger and went on, full of rage, to meet another of his brothers, who had always been a source of consolation and happiness to him. Yet even this man answered him gruffly. So Philip ran back to the chapel, cast himself before the statue of Christ and said "O Lord have I not asked you to free me from this anger?" And the Lord answered "Yes, Philip, and for this reason I am multiplying the occasions for you to learn."
We need to remember to laugh. And then to ask ourselves, "did laughing at yourself help at all?"

It almost always does. A sense of the ridiculous, especially one's own ridiculousness, is extremely helpful in regaining perspective.

Novena to the Holy Spirit: Day 8

Oldest of all novenas, this is still the only one officially prescribed by the Church.

Ottonian Master Pentecost, C. 1030-40

(Friday, 7th Week of Easter)
The gift of wisdom gives us a loving, penetrating faith, and a clarity and understanding of the unfathomable mystery of God which we never thought possible. It can have to do with the presence and nearness of God, or the Real Presence of Christ in the tabernacle, which produce an extraordinary happiness. ...

The more usual thing, however, will be to find God in everyday life, with no special effects but the the intimate certainty that God watches over us, sees what we are doing, cares for us as for his children, at work or at home. The Holy Spirit teaches us that if we are faithful to his grace, our everyday affairs are the normal way to God, there we serve him in this life and prepare ourselves to contemplate him in Heaven for all eternity.
In Conversation With God Vol 2: Lent and Eastertide

Prayer: The Gift of Wisdom

Bend the stubborn heart and will;
Melt the frozen, warm the chill;
Guide the steps that go astray!

The Gift of Wisdom
Embodying all the other gifts, as charity embraces all the other virtues, Wisdom is the most perfect of the gifts. Of wisdom it is written "all good things came to me with her, and innumerable riches through her hands." It is the gift of Wisdom that strengthens our faith, fortifies hope, perfects charity, and promotes the practice of virtue in the highest degree. Wisdom enlightens the mind to discern and relish things divine, in the appreciation of which earthly joys lose their savor, whilst the Cross of Christ yields a divine sweetness according to the words of the Saviour: "Take up thy cross and follow me, for my yoke is sweet and my burden light.

Come, O Spirit of Wisdom, and reveal to my soul the mysteries of heavenly things, their exceeding greatness, power and beauty. Teach me to love them above and beyond all the passing joys and satisfactions of earth. Help me to attain them and possess them for ever. Amen.

Our Father and Hail Mary ONCE.

Glory be to the Father SEVEN TIMES.

Act of Consecration to the Holy Spirit

Prayer for the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit