Thursday, April 24, 2014

Suspect by Robert Crais

SuspectSuspect by Robert Crais

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a book any dog lover will enjoy. That is if they also enjoy thriller/mystery books.

A traumatized police officer and a traumatized war dog (German Shepherd Maggie) help each other get back to full life while working on the case that killed the officer's partner.

This sounds sappy but is not. It occasionally shows the dog's point of view and it is as canine as one could wish. This is nothing like the Rita Mae Brown series where the animals sound like little people talking to each other. Having had to learn something about how dogs think in order to manage a boisterous pack at our house, this book felt really "true."

The mystery is, as many reviewers have noted, telegraphed early on and, frankly, for me that was the least interesting part of the book. However, I appreciated the way that Crais added touches of humanity to characters who usually are handled in a stock fashion. A small time criminal's grief over his brother's death especially comes to mind.

The real story though is that of Scott and Maggie, each equally tough and vulnerable and needing a new pack in order to survive.

I was going to give this three stars but it has stuck with me to the point where I was recommending it to a gentleman who brought his Chihuhua to the grocery store today. I can do no less than give it a star for memorability.

Well Said: Realistic Literature Versus Fantasy Literature

Oftentimes fantasy literature is criticized exactly for being escapist; that it tries to create in people a feeling of another world they can go to and that distracts them from the important things they are supposed to be doing in this present world. I think there is a distinct and unpleasant whiff of the most repellent elements of Marxism and Leninism in that criticism of escape. ... It subordinates literature and it makes it a kind of propaganda, rather than a kind of art.
Michael C. Drout; Rings, Swords, and Monsters course
We don't need explanation about why I included this do we? Preaching to the Choir, yep that's what we do here.

Worth a Thousand Words: A Little Twig

Ein kleiner Zweig (A Little Twig)
painted by Edward B. Gordon
I don't know about such things, but this is practically perfect. Right? I just can't stop looking at it.

Easter Thursday: Via Lucis - Stations of the Resurrection for Easter

Via Lucis, The Way of Light substitutes meditations on the Stations of the Resurrection for the Stations of the Cross.
As with the Stations of the Cross, the devotion takes no fixed form, but typically includes for each Station a reading from Scripture, a short meditation, and a prayer. Where a series of pictures is used to aid the devotion, it takes the form of a procession, with movement from one Station to the next sometimes being accompanied by the singing of one or more verses of a hymn. (Source: Wikipedia)
I first came across this practice in Magnificat, which typically features a version in their Easter edition.

For Easter meditation, this devotion parallels the Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary just as the Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) complements the Sorrowful Mysteries. These stations were discovered in the Catacombs of St. Callistus in Rome.

If you check the Wikipedia link there are a couple of different lists of meditative stations. As with the original Stations of the Cross, it is evolving as the practice is taken up by growing numbers of people. I like getting to see that happen, actually.

This link above is to a pdf from the Archdiocese of Detroit which can be printed out. I'm grateful these are provided.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Thai Good Stories ...

... these are the ripples we are here to make in the world.

Via my sis on Facebook.

A Movie You Might Have Missed: 40

Can a dashing pirate defeat the Spanish, serve Queen Elizabeth, and find true love? You know he can!

40. The Sea Hawk

Errol Flynn is a swashbuckling pirate in the service of Good Queen Bess. His mission: to overtake Spanish ships, steal their booty, and sink them.

Until the day he meets a lovely senorita on board ... you think you know the rest and to some extent that is true. Except that this has a more complicated plot and the actress playing Queen Elizabeth invested her with a sense of intelligence and awareness that raised the movie to a new level.

I haven't seen every Errol Flynn movie, to be sure, but this is definitely my favorite of all those I have seen. Robin Hood? Don't make me laugh. The Seahawk's the movie you need to see.

Well Said: Time to pause and reflect

Whenever you find you are on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.
Mark Twain
Note that Twain is not telling us to have a knee-jerk reaction against being part of the majority, but that we should be sure we understand what we are participating in. That sort of self-examination is valuable no matter what the issues, if for no other reason than to make sure we really understand both sides.

2014 Campbellian Anthology - Free

This has been around since February evidently but I'm just catching on. The good news is that this file is free (and DRM-free) until the Hugo voting closes. So get your copy now at StarShipSofa.

Worth a Thousand Words: Brown Bear

Brown Bear
taken by that photography genius we love, Remo Savisaar

Easter Wednesday: Jesus is Risen ... in City Mall, Beirut, Lebanon

Another oldie as I go looking for little reminders of our Easter joy to share all week. Still a goodie!

Now that is giving witness out loud and in public! Plus it is beautiful to hear.

Click on the little "CC" in the red oval to see the English captions. Via Deacon Greg at The Deacon's Bench.

Fred in the comments elucidates further.
FYI, it is a common refrain in Eastern Orthodox Easter services... repeated over a hundred times in various forms. People in the middle east would recognize it like we recognize the "Hallelujah chorus" in the west. Its one of those that reaches across faith traditions, most people have heard it.
This makes sense because you can see people joining in and singing from around the edges, though not so lustily as the main singers.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Cognitive Anchoring

Namely, that doodling helped her research subjects remember up to 29% more than non-doodlers. And while doodling and knitting or crocheting are quite different activities, they share one trait: they can easily be done with some level of automaticity.
Take that, everyone who has been in meetings with me, wondering why I was knitting.

Oh, also, since it isn't just about me, just discovered my pal Heather Hutchinson Ordover is writing a book about this.

Read about it at Newsday.

Sign up for advance notice when the book is ready here. I did.

She's been blogging the book as she goes. Not my style. I'll wait until the whole thing is done.

Easter Reading

So we all chatter about what we're reading for Lent. What about Easter? Is there anything joyful, inspirational, informative that seems as if it would be good for the Easter season?

Naturally I wouldn't bring it up if I didn't have at least a couple of ideas. (Links go to my reviews.)
  • Conversing With God In The Easter Season by Stephen Binz. Binz brings his wonderful lectio divina guidance to the Easter readings for each Sunday of the season.

  • Jesus: A Pilgrimage by James Martin. Martin considers Christ's question to his disciples, "Who do you say that I am?" as we journey with him through the Holy Land.

  • In Conversation With God by Francis Fernandez. I've praised this series of daily devotionals before but the Lenten/Easter one may be the best of the group. I find it good for keeping Easter top of mind in daily life.

  • The Ultimate Self-Help Book: Dante's Divine Comedy by Rod Dreher. This is an article from the Wall Street Journal but it reminded me that I'd been interested in rereading Dante's masterpiece. I recall finding Purgatorio extremely uplifting. I like John Ciardi's translation, but this time through will be using another so I can compare them.
What else? Leave comments with Easter reading ideas. And please include fiction. None occurred to me, but that just means I'm missing something.

Melanie Bettinelli's comment made me recall this book:

Worth a Thousand Words: Couple with guidebook reading map.

Couple with guidebook reading map. Al Lago Maggiore travel poster.
Via Books and Art, where there is more information about their location.

Well Said: I ask forgiveness ...

I ask forgiveness of anyone I have offended, but especially from those I have not influenced for good.
Blessed John XXIII
That's something good for each of us to keep in mind. It's not enough to be inoffensive. Our vocation is to influence for good, simply through our lives if in no other way.

The Hound of the Baskervilles ...

... at SFFaudio ... a simply superb mystery. And I had tons of fun talking about it with that simply superb gang of story lovers.

Easter Tuesday: When Easter Makes You Want to Act Like Scrooge on Christmas Morning

This is from a few years ago, but I think it's worth reading again.
After the last egg is found – what next? While I had come to know a little more about Easter and its connection to Jesus – I was still more interested in the mythology of the Greeks and Romans than what I thought of as the mythology of the Christians. Even secular Christmas has some power to let you hear the Gospel even if only via the Carols and the watered-down version of Christmas in a Christmas movie. Secular Easter is another story where hardly and bits of the Gospel make it through into the culture. On the pantheon of holidays Easter for me was less than President’s Day. At least for President’s Day you don’t feel that loss of something you feel should be there, but don’t know why you are lacking something.
Read The Curt Jester's conversion story and his experience with Easter.

I concur in most of the feelings he mentions. In reading through this I noticed that Jeff and I also share that experience of having to wait for a year to be confirmed in the Catholic Church. In my case, unlike his, I needed the RCIA instruction as well receiving the unexpected spiritual growth from the classes.

No matter what your case, read his story. It will remind you of the joy of Easter.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Worth a Thousand Words: The Resurrection

Matthias Grünewald, detail from Isenheim Altarpiece, c. 1515
I borrowed this from Lines and Colors where various images of the altarpiece and this resurrection image are featured. I agree that it is one of the most striking resurrection depictions ever. Simply fantastic.

Well Said: I have noticed something that is really, really cool.

You may also have noticed a lack of critical detachment. I am talking about books because I love books. I'm not standing on a mountain peak holding them at arm's length and issuing Olympian pronouncements about them. I'm reading them in the bath and shouting with excitement because I have noticed something really, really cool.
Jo Walton, What Makes This Book So Great
I can relate.

As you may have noticed.

Remember Goliad! Remember the Alamo!

Thank goodness that my friend Don reminded me it is San Jacinto Day Which he does faithfully every year. He has told me many a time:
I try to remember all of these good Texas holidays. They really bring home how unique the state –and future Republic?—truly is. This one is a real holiday, not like Cinco de Mayo. I mean, if you have a holiday to celebrate beating the French, then every day would be a holiday!
Ha! No kidding!

Let's all go get a few margaritas and lift them high to the Texian heroes of the decisive battle of the Texas revolution!

Easter Monday: Living Under Enemy Occupation in the Light of Victory

I've been posting this one since waaaay back in 2007. It is still as valid now and I, personally, need the  reminder.
Now think of the cross and resurrection of Jesus as breaking the power of sin. But if the power of sin, death and evil has been broken, how can we make sense of the fact that it still continues to plague us? Human history and Christian experience tell us of a constant struggle against sin and evil in our own lives, even as Christians. There is a real danger, it would seem, that talking about "the victory of faith" will become nothing more than empty words, masking a contradiction between faith and experience. How can we handle this problem?

A helpful way of understanding this difficulty was developed by a group of distinguished writers, such as C.S. Lewis in England and Anders Nygren in Sweden. They noticed important parallels between the new Testament and the situation during the Second World War. The victory won over sin through the death of Christ was like the liberation of an occupied country from Nazi rule. We need to allow our imaginations to take in the sinister and menacing idea of an occupying power. Life has to be lived under the shadow of this foreign presence. And part of the poignancy of the situation is its utter hopelessness. Nothing can be done about it. No one can defeat it.

Then comes the electrifying news. There has been a far-off battle. And somehow, it has turned the tide of the war. A new phase has developed, and the occupying power is in disarray. Its backbone has been broken. In the course of time, the Nazis will be driven out of every corner of Europe. But they are still present in the occupied country.

In one sense, the situation has not changed, but in another, more important sense, the situation has changed totally. The scent of victory and liberation is in the air. A total change in the psychological climate results. I remember once meeting a man who had been held prisoner in a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp in Singapore. He told me of the astonishing change in the camp atmosphere which came about when one of the prisoners (who owned a shortwave radio) learned of the collapse of the Japanese war effort in the middle of 1945. Although all in the camp still remained prisoners, they knew that their enemy had been beaten. It would only be a matter of time before they were released. And those prisoners, I was told, began to laugh and cry, as if they were free already.

... And so with us now. In one sense, victory has not come; in another, it has. The resurrection declares in advance of the event God's total victory over all evil and oppressive forces -- such as death, evil and sin. Their backbone has been broken, and we may begin to live now in the light of that victory, knowing that the long night of their oppression will end.
Alister E. McGrath, quoted in Bread and Wine: Readings For Lent And Easter
This is a point of view that hadn't occurred to me. I especially like it for those times when the world is too much with us and the cynicism of modern times begins to get us down. The deciding battle is over, the victory won, but there remain all the small skirmishes (which are not at all small to those caught up in them ... like us) that go on afterwards in any war. By virtue of simply being human and alive we are caught up in the skirmishes of resistance to the enemy occupation. Even when fighting, though, we know ...
The strife is o'er the battle done;
Now is the Victor's triumph won:
Now be the song of praise begun: Alleluia!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Easter Sunday: Joyful, Joyful

Maurice Denis. Holy Women Near the Tomb/Saintes Femmes au tombeau. 1894
This is the great truth which fills our faith with meaning. Jesus, who died on the cross, has risen. He has triumphed over death; he has overcome sorrow, anguish and the power of darkness ... In him we find everything. Outside of him our life is empty (J. Escriva, Christ is passing by).
After the somber tone and reflection of Holy Thursday and Good Friday I can hardly wait to get to Mass to hear the joy and triumph of our Easter celebration.

May you all have the same delight and joy in your Easter celebrations both in church and at home.

To all the new Catholics around the world who are joining the Church this year, welcome home! This is my 14th birthday as a Catholic and well I remember how wonderful it was sitting with my sweet and wise sponsor, the smell of the chrism (I wanted to never wash it off), and that glorious Mass where it all happened. I will leave you with some funny but wise words from another convert. If you remember these, it will make the good times better and any disillusionment with the Church less.
First, the good news about the Catholic Church is: it's like a big family.

Second, the bad news about the Catholic Church is: it's like a big family.

I Wanted to Tell You I Love You: The Story of Easter Joy (from the very beginning)

Reposted because I just love it!

It's the story of salvation history, a love story from God's point of view. This made me think, made me laugh, made me joyful and thankful. About 6 minutes long, but worth it. Joyful Easter everyone!

Holy Week: Holy Saturday - The Sepulchre of Jesus' Body

Hans Holbein. The Body of the Dead Christ in the Tomb. 1521.
Click through on this to see it properly large.
The Body of Christ lay in the tomb. The world was in darkness. Mary was the only light still burning on earth. The Mother of Our Lord -- my Mother -- and the women who have followed the Master from Galilee, after taking careful note of everything, also take their leave. Night falls.

Now it is all over. The work of our Redemption has been accomplished. We are now children of God, because Jesus has died for us and his death has ransomed us. "Empti enim estis pretio magno (1 Cor 6:20), you and I have been bought at a great price.

We must bring into our own life, to make them our own, the life and death of Christ. We must die through mortification and penance, so that Christ may live in us through love. And then follow in the footsteps of Christ, with a zeal to co-redeem all mankind. We must give our life for others. That is the only way to live the life of Jesus Christ, and to become one and the same with him (J. Escriva, The Way of the Cross, Fourteenth Station).

Nicolas Poussin. The Lamentation over Christ. 1655-1657.

This is the loneliest day of the year. Our Lord is gone ...

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Beginning of the Celebration of Our Lord's Paschal Mystery

This post will remain at the top of the blog for Holy Week. Scroll down to see each day's offering. This post is from last year and so some of the liturgical links are not exact but the reflections remain with me this year ... and I have updated it at the bottom to reflect my thoughts yesterday.
... we gather together to herald with the whole Church
the beginning of the celebration
of our Lord's Paschal Mystery,
that is to say, of his Passion and Resurrection.
Palm Sunday, Commemoration of the Lord's Entrance Into Jerusalem
In his commentary on this portion of the Mass last year, our priest pointed out that the Triduum is one extended liturgy.

For the first time I understood why we read the entire passion and crucifixion during Palm Sunday's liturgy. It is to give us a preview of what we are to be meditating on during this week. It is to give us a chance to enter fully into that journey Jesus is taking which culminates with his Passion, Crucifixion, and Resurrection. It is to give us the chance to accompany him not just as a spectator, but as a friend.

Let us put aside our differences. It changes nothing. It is fruitless self preoccupation. It distracts and divides us at a time when we should be focusing on Jesus. I thought of those squabbles when I heard this part of the gospel:
His disciples realized what was about to happen, and they asked,
“Lord, shall we strike with a sword?”
And one of them struck the high priest’s servant
and cut off his right ear.
But Jesus said in reply,
“Stop, no more of this!”
Then he touched the servant’s ear and healed him.
Let us "Stop, no more of this" as we concentrate on what matters most now.
Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
something to be grasped.
Rather, he emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
coming in human likeness;
and found human in appearance,
he humbled himself,
becoming obedient to the point of death,
even death on a cross.
Because of this, God greatly exalted him
and bestowed on him the name
which is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that
Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
This year, our priest had a three sentence homily and it hit the nail on the head. When talking to his spiritual advisor about troubles and trials, he was told, "You are having these problems because you are avoiding the Cross."

Aren't we all? For my own part, I faced a severe internal struggle last week. Then God in his goodness made me understand that I was causing my own turmoil because I was trying to squirm out of the Cross.

Ah yes.

At that point I gave up wanting my way. And I was able, with St. Josemaria Escriva, to say, "Is that what you want? Then I want it too." that I regained peace and calm. I still had to face the Cross, but it was not so big a cross as the one I was creating for myself.

This is why I need Lent every year. I forget this lesson so easily. And life is so much simpler when I live without avoiding the Cross. Let's face it ... I'd face that Cross anyway. But when I do it squirming and turning away it is so much more difficult than when I slip my hand in God's and follow my Savior's example.

Let us walk with him this week.

Les Très Riches Heures du duc de Berry, Folio 173v - The Entry into Jerusalem the Musée Condé, Chantilly.

Holy Week: Good Friday - Jesus Dies on the Cross

The Lord is firmly nailed to the cross. He has waited for this for many years, and this day He is to fulfill his desire to redeem all men ... What until now has been an instrument of infamy and dishonor, has been converted into the tree of life and the stairway of glory. A deep joy fills him as he extends his arms on the cross, for all those sinners who will approach him will now know that he will welcome them with open arms...

He saw -- and this filled him with joy -- how the cross was to be loved and to be adored, because he was going to die on it. He saw the witnessing saints who for love and in defence of the truth were to suffer a similar martyrdom. He saw the love ofhis friends; he saw their tears at the foot of the cross. He saw the triumph and the victories Christians would achieve under the standard of the cross. He saw the great miracles which, with the sign of the cross, would be performed throughout the world. He saw so very many men who, with their lives, were going to be saints, because they would know how to die like him, overcoming sin (L. de la Palma, the Passion of the Lord) ...

It was not necessary for him to undergo so much torment. He could have avoided those trials, those humiliations, that ill-usage, that iniquitous judgment, and the shame of the gallows, and the nails and the lance ... But he wanted to suffer all this for you and for me. And we, are we not going to respond?

Very likely there will be times when, alone in front of a crucifix, you find tears coming to your eyes. Don't try to hold them back ... But try to ensure that those tears give rise to a resolution. (J. Escriva, The Way of the Cross, Eleventh Station).

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Scott has this great idea for an automated shower, if only Julie would front him a few dollars...

The guys at the bathhouse are not taking sides. We discuss the Chinese movie Shower at A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast.

Holy Week: Holy Thursday - The Lord's Last Supper

Singular events took place in that period, which the evangelists have recorded for us; take, for instance, the rivalry between the apostles, who began to discuss who was the greatest; think of Jesus' surprising example of humility and of service when he carried out the menial task of the lowest of the servants -- he began to wash their feet; consider, too, how Jesus went out of his way to show his disciples his love and affection. My little ones, he actually calls them. Christ himself wished to give that gathering such a fullness of significance, so rich in memories, scene of such moving words and sentiments, such new actions and precepts, that we will never come to an end of meditating on them and exploring them. It was, you might say, a testimonial dinner: it was an affectionate and yet a somber occasion, a time mysteriously revealing divine promises and far-reaching visions. On top of that was the sad presentiment of death, with unprecedented omens of treason, of abandonment, of immolation; the conversation dies away, while Jesus' words flow continuously in his gentle and winning voice, though there is an unwonted tension in his grave allusion to profound revelations, the matter of which hovers between life and death (Paul VI, Homily, Holy Thursday).

What Christ did for his own may be summarized in a few words from St. John: he loved them to the end (John 13:1). Today is a particularly appropriate day for mediating on the love Jesus has for each one of us, and how we respond to it; in regular dealings with him, in love for the Church, in acts of atonement and reparation, in charity towards others, in preparation and in thanksgiving for Holy Communion, in our desire to co-redeem with him, in our hunger and thirst for justice ...