Friday, August 29, 2014

Blogging Around

Sabbath as Resistance: Saying No to the Culture of Now by Walter Brueggemann

It’s a weekly retirement from your career. You can find out who you are without your job getting in the way, without your purchasing and competing distracting you from who you are rather than what you’ve won.

It’s a different kind of economy he’s talking about. Six days, we labor and buy and compete, which keeps the market economy moving forward. But then, for a day, we take part in an “economy of neighborliness.” We rediscover who we are.
Orson Scott Card discusses both keeping the Sabbath and Brueggemann's book. As someone who long ago gave in to obeying the 3rd commandment I can tell you that I'd deeply resent going back to treating Sunday like any other day. I'd feel cheated. Card's commentary is part of his Uncle Orson Reviews Everything column so you'll need to scroll down a bit.

SFFaudio's Spin-Offs and Origins

Later episodes take more inspiration from a show called Forgotten Classics.

And, subsequently, The SFFaudio Podcast has spun off, one with Julie Davis of Forgotten Classics, a couple of other podcasts (taking with them’s co-founder Scott D. Danielson):

Reading Envy with Jenny Colvin and Scott D. Danielson
A Good Story Is Hard To Find with Julie Davis and Scott D. Danielson
SFFaudio's got me coming and going. I recall when they were not podcasting but simply blogging about science fiction and fantasy audiobooks. They were one of my "must reads" every day and I was surprised and excited when they noticed Forgotten Classics. I'd never have foreseen at the time that I would become good friends with Jesse and Scott and others who have come on board since then.

So naturally I'm proud that my Forgotten Classics was a bit influential and just as proud to tip my hat to SFFaudio for providing some of the impetus to begin A Good Story is Hard to Find.

The Christus Experiment

Melanie Bettinelli at The Wine Dark Sea has a good review of The Christus Experiment, which I recall liking very well. If time travelers kidnapped Jesus for research what would happen? Not blasphemous at all, which is the first nice surprise. Read Melanie's review.

Eat Man Food and Lose Weight

The Art of Manliness repeats it yet again. Forget the fad diets. More calories in than calories used equals overweight. No matter what those calories came from. Twinkies. Pizza. Kale. Your choice. You've just got to keep track. And they've got guidelines for helping do just that.

Touching Story of a Once-Doomed Girl's New Life

In these 244 words, we have the basic elements of the story: Haleigh, whose life once hung in the balance, is alive today. Her adoptive parents are churchgoing evangelical Protestants who, in their faith-infused life, provide her with "a family and community" that bring her joy.
GetReligion points out all the good things about a story full of Christians who "walk the walk" in this story about a girl whose supporters fought to keep her on life support. It's inspirational.

James Foley and Shifting Thoughts on Martyrdom

As a theologian, I see the discussion of martyrdom advancing out of necessity. There are an increasing number of people dying for or because of their faith, including non Christians. What does their witness tell us about them and the type of people they were? Were they people who clung to the truth, insofar as they knew it, to the point of death? I think the conversation began with St. John Paul II. Pope Francis seems to be continuing it. Time will tell.
Pia de Solenni is someone who I've come to rely on for thoughtful consideration of the intersection of current news and faithful Catholicism. If you haven't come across her before this piece is a good place to begin. As well as providing some good context for the question at hand of martyrdom and James Foley.

Worth a Thousand Words: Arlene Dahl in Desert Legion

Arlene Dahl for Desert Legion
via Not Pulp Covers
I love this. The costuming should have won an award! And how about that sultry look? It is classic not only for what it is portraying but for a picture of 1953 movie making.

Beware if you explore Not Pulp Covers. It has some really great stuff but, keeping in mind how close a lot of it comes to pulp, there are a fair number of scantily clad damsels.

In which Olfan is noble, Otter is clever, and Nam is treacherous. ...

... As usual. While on the lam. Will our adventurers escape? Chapters 36-37 are ready for your listening pleasure at Forgotten Classics podcast.

Lagniappe: Washington

From my quote journal.
I love to go to Washington--if only to be near my money.
Bob Hope
It's funny because it's true.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Lagniappe: The minister's bride and lunch

The minister's bride set her luncheon casserole down with a flourish, and waited for grace. "It seems to me," murmured her husband, "that I have blessed a good deal of this material before.
Irma Rombauer, The Joy of Cooking
It made me laugh to think of leftovers as twice blessed, especially with a father who frowned upon leftovers. Perhaps from contrariness, perhaps just because I like the flavor that comes to many dishes from settling for a day, I love leftovers. Luckily my husband does too!

Worth a Thousand Words: Laundresses before the Wasserturm

Samuel Prout, 1783 - 1852, Laundresses before the Wasserturm, Nuremberg
via National Gallery of Art
The inspiration for today's art came from Lines and Colors which features a lovely French street scene by Samuel Prout. I don't recall having heard of this artist before but I was enchanted with his drawings.

I was drawn into the Wikipedia piece on him which begins:
Samuel Prout (/praʊt/; September 17, 1783 – February 10, 1852) was one of the masters of British watercolour architectural painting. Prout secured the position of Painter in Water-Colours in Ordinary to King George IV in 1829 and afterwards to Queen Victoria. John Ruskin, whose work often emulated Prout's, wrote in 1844, "Sometimes I tire of Turner, but never of Prout". Prout is often compared to his contemporaries; Turner, Gainsborough, Constable and Ruskin, whom he taught.
It is all worth reading and the art samples are lovely.

Feast Day for St. Augustine

People look upon [the Church] and say, "She is about to die. Soon her very name will disappear. there will be no more Christians; they have had their day." while they are thus speaking, I see these very people die themselves, day by day, but the Church lives on.
Do you know how we should read Holy Scripture? As when a person reads letters that have come from his native country, to see what news we have of heaven.
The turbulent have to be corrected, the faint-hearted cheered up, the weak supported; the Gospel's opponents need to be refuted, its insidious enemies guarded against; the unlearned need to be taught, the indolent stirred up, the argumentative checked; the proud must be put in their place, the desperate set on their feet, those engaged in quarrels reconciled; the needy have to be helped, the oppressed to be liberated, the good to be encouraged, the bad to be tolerated; all must be loved. (St. Augustine, describing his daily life)
Just a few tidbits of wisdom from my first saint friend and a great Doctor of the Church, St. Augustine. His writing has informed a lot of my practical daily Catholic life.

At times his writing has soared way above my head (he was brilliant, after all) and I have by no means read even a fraction of it (City of God ... someday perhaps). But even the tidbits, the crumbs, that fall at my feet are gratefully received and have made a huge difference in my life.

Thank you St. Augustine! Pray for us!

Julie and Scott have an unnecessary fist fight on the ark ...

... over what Julie thought was a cheeseburger but was actually a previously unknown variety of armadillo. They talk about the guy that built the boat: Noah, directed by Darren Aronofsky.

All at A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Bellwether by Connie Willis

BellwetherBellwether by Connie Willis

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sandra Foster studies fads and their meanings for the HiTek corporation. Bennet O'Reilly works with monkey group behavior and chaos theory for the same company. When the two are thrust together due to a misdelivered package and a run of bad luck, they find a joint project in a flock of sheep. But series of setbacks and disappointments arise before they are able to find answers to their questions.
This is my favorite Connie Willis book, hands down. She blends pop culture, scientific discovery, chaos theory, Robert Browning, fads and an infuriating office assistant to produce a book where thinking for oneself gets you blank looks of incomprehension. Willis's books come in two flavors, either funny or grim (as she herself describes her serious works). This is definitely one of the funny ones.

This was written in 1996 so it is interesting to see that certain fads have evolved and that some have floated away. (It's been a long time since I thought about Pet Rocks or mood rings, for example.) Listening to the audiobook, courtesy of SFFaudio, I realized that it gave me a real sense of perspective on a lot of things that drive me crazy by reminding me that these are simply the most current fads (Paleo / gluten-free diets, smart phones, SnapChat, etc.).  These too shall pass although the chaos will probably remain. And I'm actually ok with that.

Kate Reading's narration really brought the book alive. I especially enjoyed her characterizations of Flip, Management, and Shirl, all of which added extra fillips of humor to the story. Having read the book several times before listening, I was impressed how well she captured the main character that I "heard" mentally. I will definitely be listening to this the next time I need a dose of anti-fad sensibility.

This is a light, fun book which nonetheless has a core of common sense and deeper meaning.
Why do only the awful things become fads? I thought. Eye-rolling and Barbie and bread pudding. Why never chocolate cheesecake or thinking for yourself?

Worth a Thousand Words: Jimmy Makes the Varsity

Illustrated by George Avison. New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1928.
via Books and Art
I think I've mentioned before that I'm ready for some football. And if the uniforms all looked like this I'd be even readier. Being as how I'm someone who is equally fond of nostalgia.

Feast of St. Monica, Housewife and Mother

Painting of Augustine of Hippo and his mother Monica of Hippo,
Ary Scheffer, 1846
via Wikipedia
Widow; born of Christian parents at Tagaste, North Africa, in 333; died at Ostia, near Rome, in 387.

She was married early in life to Patritius who, a pagan, though like so many at that period, his religion was no more than a name. His temper was violent and he appears to have been of dissolute habits. Consequently Monica’s married life was far from being a happy one, more especially as Patritius’s mother seems to have been of a like disposition with himself. Monica’s almsgiving and her habits of prayer annoyed her husband, but it is said that he always held her in a sort of reverence and he converted to Christianity before he died.

Monica was not the only matron of Tagaste whose married life was unhappy, but, by her sweetness and patience, she was able to exercise a veritable apostolate amongst the wives and mothers of her native town; they knew that she suffered as they did, and her words and example had a proportionate effect.

Monica had three children but all her anxiety centred in her oldest son. He was wayward and, as he himself tells us, lazy. As he grew up, he kept seeking the truth but getting interested in heresies. It was at this time that she went to see a certain holy bishop, whose name is not given, but who consoled her with the now famous words, “the child of those tears shall never perish.”

There is no more pathetic story in the annals of the Saints than that of Monica pursuing her wayward son to Rome, wither he had gone by stealth; when she arrived he had already gone to Milan, but she followed him. Here she found St. Ambrose and through him she ultimately had the joy of seeing her yield, after seventeen years of resistance.

Mother and son had six months of true peace together after his baptism. Then Monica died and her son went on to become St. Augustine, one of the one of the most important figures in the development of Western Christianity

  • difficult marriages
  • disappointing children
  • victims of adultery or unfaithfulness
  • victims of (verbal) abuse
  • conversion of relatives
I helped out with our parish's RCIA classes for a couple of years and would give a talk about St. Monica which included the above basics as well as my personal experience with her and St. Augustine. It made me realize that, without thinking about it, I'd grown very fond of St. Monica.

Burial of Saint Monica and Saint Augustine
Departing from Africa Master of Osservanza
via Wikipedia

Well Said: Fasting

Fasting is a medicine.
St. John Chrysostom
No wonder I hate it. And no wonder it is ultimately good for me. I can see that. But I do hate it.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Well Said: Roger Ebert on Chocolat

"Chocolat" is about a war between the forces of paganism and Christianity, and because the pagan heroine has chocolate on her side, she wins. Her victory is delayed only because, during Lent, a lot of the locals aren't eating chocolate. [...]

I enjoyed the movie on its own sweet level, while musing idly on the box-office prospects of a film in which the glowing, life-affirming local Christians prevailed over glowering, prejudiced, puritan and bitter Druid worshippers. That'll be--as John Wayne once said--the day.
I miss that man so much. His clear vision, calling it like it is, and the grace with which he expressed himself. Yes, I miss him.

Worth a Thousand Words: Breakfast Time

Hanna Pauli, Breakfast-Time, 1887
via Lines and Colors
Isn't this a lovely, sun-dappled scene? I can hear the birds, feel a cool breeze, small the coffee.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Worth a Thousand Words: The Blues

The Blues
painted by Karin Jurick
From the Art Institute of Chicago, a woman in blue views Claude Monet's 'Irises'. I love Jurick's series of people watching while they view art.

Well Said: I feel His pleasure

I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure.
Eric Liddell, Chariots of Fire movie dialogue
Saw this over the weekend in prep for my movie discussion group. The look on Liddell's face as he ran was almost ecstatic at times.

It made me think of my own life. What is a God-given ability that makes me come alive? That makes me "feel His pleasure?"

And what is it for you? It doesn't have to be something we use to make a living. Liddell was a missionary, after all. I have a friend who loves gardening. Hannah loves animals and nature, especially trees. Rose loves story, however it is told.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Worth a Thousand Words: Wood Sandpiper

Wood Sandpiper
taken by Remo Savisaar
We don't often get the chance to see an inquisitive little fellow like this eye-to-eye as we do in this photograph. I feel incomparably fortunate to have discovered Remo Savisaar's photography and that he allows me to share it. He takes me into nature in a special way.

Well Said: Authors' personal opinions and their writing

Readers, never tell yourselves you can determine an author’s personal opinions from his writing, unless he is, like C.S. Lewis or his warped antimatter image Phillip Pullman, someone who declares his partisan loyalty from the outset.

I wrote stories with nakedly religious endings of pure hope when I was an atheist because the story logic required such an ending. Likewise, I wrote stories with a nakedly atheist ending of pure despair when I was a Christian because the story logic required such an ending.
This makes me think of our priest who once said, "I never judge a book by an author's personal life."

I've got to honor an author who is able to serve the story honestly instead of letting it become their bully pulpit while pretending to be completely neutral. A favorite author of mine who does this is Ted Chiang who is an atheist but whose stories often look at faith and humanity in extremely thought provoking and original ways which are always true to the needs the story dictates. Sometimes religion wins, sometimes it doesn't but both believers and atheists are given excellent food for thought.

If you go and read John C. Wright's original article, his example of reactions to what he wrote when an atheist versus what he wrote as a Christian, both in the same book, is both amusing and instructive.

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!
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 it won.

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. So when Hannah's birthday is on a Friday, as it is today, we can feast with meat!

Hannah's chosen, not surprisingly, a favorite Chinese restaurant where she can get duck. As well as delicious juicy steamed dumplings and many other treats. She's requested Spicy Ginger Cake with Chocolate Frosting. Mmmmm, mmmmm ... this is going to be one scrumptious feast!

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!

Mary, Queen of Heaven

Coronation of Virgin, Giacomo di Mino, 1340-1350
From the earliest ages of the Catholic Church a Christian people, whether in time of triumph or more especially in time of crisis, has addressed prayers of petition and hymns of praise and veneration to the Queen of Heaven. And never has that hope wavered which they placed in the Mother of the Divine King, Jesus Christ; nor has that faith ever failed by which we are taught that Mary, the Virgin Mother of God, reigns with a mother's solicitude over the entire world, just as she is crowned in heavenly blessedness with the glory of a Queen.

His Holiness Pope Pius XII
Encyclical on Proclaiming the Queenship of Mary
Promulgated October 11, 1954
I remember the thing that made this feast day come into focus for me was learning about King Solomon's Queen Mother who brought cases before him for special attention. I tell you, typology really helps you get a mental grip on things.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Well Said: A little cloud all around your head

I've never listened to an audiobook before, and I have to say it's a totally different experience. When you read a book, the story definitely takes place in your head. When you listen, it seems to happen in a little cloud all around it, like a fuzzy knit cap pulled a down over your eyes.
This was such an entertaining, light read with all sorts of observations that resonated. Just like this one about audiobooks.

Worth a Thousand Words: The Red Horses

Franz Marc, The Red Horses, 1911
I came across this painting and loved it immediately. Then I thought maybe I'd featured it before. It certainly seemed familiar.

Of course it did. I hadn't featured it but a kissin' cousin by the same artist back in January. Obviously this is a look that grabs me!

Blogging Around: More Randomness

Vegetable Literacy by Deborah Madison

My review is at Meanwhile, Back in the Kitchen.


"When the Game Stands Tall" is Not About the Game

Pia de Solenni agrees with me that When the Game Stands Tall is an unusual football movie and one that you need to see in the theater. Unlike me, she isn't a football fan so now you know it's got something special going on.


All the Mass Readings for 2015 in One Book

Jennifer Fitz at Sticking the Corners has a great group of resources ranging from free to pricey, and takes you through them so you know what you're getting.


We Are Living in Historical Times

I've been reading Catholic history books lately. We're going to discuss one at A Good Story is Hard to Find in November as our book selection. I wanted a one-volume history so we're reading The Catholic Church Through The Ages: A History by John Vidmar, OP. I've just begun but thus far it is an excellent overview.

As I go, I've been dipping into other Catholic histories I happen to have at hand. Reading through the tempestuous time of the Church Fathers, the Council of Nicea, the attack of the barbarians on civilization, and the many heresies reminds me that the Church was born into a world of chaos from which She has never escaped. She has always needed defending, explaining, and God's grace given to those who take Her into the world.

There never really were any of those "good old days" in the way our memory likes to paint with a golden glow, blue sky, and sweet background music. It was always like it is now: chaotic, confusing, tempestuous, and unsure. Some were luckier and more secure than others, to be sure. Just as we are now as we watch with agonized impotence while the innocent are herded and slaughtered like sheep because they are different. Because they are Christian.

I've already talked about what we can do in these terrible times. Here are some good pieces by others who are pondering the same question:
  • What are we willing to die for? Pope Francis asked that question at the beatification of Paul Yun Ji--Chung and 123 martyr companions in Korea. It's a question I've been asking myself, to be honest. His homily is here and it's a good one to ponder.

  • The use of force can be justified to stop "unjust aggressors" such as Islamic State militants in northeastern Iraq. Pope Francis again on his way back from Seoul as he answered reporters' questions. Again, as I read that St. Augustine developed his just war theory when the barbarians were literally at the gates, leaving no one living in their wake, I understood it better than ever as I saw photos of people slaughtered by ISIS for being the wrong religion. By the way some publication jumped on the chance for a catchy headline about the Pope calling for a new Crusade. Aaargh. Just go read the story and see what he actually said.

  • "Prayer is the glue that enabled my freedom, my inner freedom first ..." These are the words of James Foley, the American journalist who was beheaded by barbarians. He'd been captured in the line of duty before and his testimony to the power of prayer is one that The Anchoress has been pondering. Like me, she is being turned back to the essentials. I like her comment about praying The Apostle's Creed line by line. I have written about praying St. Patrick's Breastplate and St. John XXIII's Daily Decalogue daily. It is the same effect that she describes. I am taken into the prayer and come out the other side changed somehow.

  • Who will stand up for Christians? The head of the World Jewish Congress asked this in an op-ed piece at The New York Times. And I appreciate it. It didn't escape our household that Christians were being slaughtered with very few comments from our government or media but when Yazidis came under attack then the bombs started falling. There's a subtle attitude toward Christians from a lot of public quarters that this exemplifies. So it comes as a welcome relief to have someone from the "outside" pointing it out. I picked this story up via The Deacon's Bench.

Just to Remind Us That the Media are People Too

Check out this 1 minute video at The Deacon's Bench. Shocking? Maybe. Heart warming? Definitely.