Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Lagniappe: The gentleman's smile and the shine on his boots

And if the observer chanced to be ill-natured, as well as acute and susceptible, he would probably suspect that the smile on the gentleman's face was a good deal akin to the shine on his boots, and that each must have cost him and his boot-black, respectively, a good deal of hard labor to bring out and preserve them.

Nathaniel Hawthorne,
The House of the Seven Gables
We all know what to think of Judge Pyncheon now ... watch out! That sentence was so perfect I just had to share it.

Worth a Thousand Words: Easter Island Heads ... And Bodies!

Excavated Moai Photo: Easter Island Statue Project
via Your Daily Art
Holy cannoli, Batman!

Who knew the Easter Island heads were just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak? They are just what is visible of gigantic buried statues.

According to the ArtNet story, this isn't a new story although it is the first I've heard of it. There are a lot more photos and information at the link.

The Perfect Confirmation Gift: Happy Catholic

Happy Catholic: Glimpes of God in Everyday Life is beautifully written. The style, which achieves the admirable feat of being both ice-cold and white-hot, is electrifying. Julie Davis is never preachy, condescending, or, worse, sentimental. She states her arguments elegantly and clearly, and she has the wit and grace to remember that there are, after all, other opinions, other worldviews.

This book is a collections of quotes. It's been too long since I've read a non-formulaic, original work, let alone one that openly bares the soul of the author and makes you respect them for honestly portraying life as filled with shades of grey instead of being just black or white. Julie Davis writes like Roseanne Barr does standup. No foolin' and to the barbed point with lotsa chuckles along the way.

Think beach book, think train tome, think plane paperback, think graduation gift, think library literature! Absolutely recommend this book.
I'm indebted to Mary Ann whose Amazon review makes me very happy indeed.

Happy Catholic (the book) still makes a great confirmation gift or even a belated Easter gift to new Catholics.

And even if you've been reading the blog all these years, there isn't any duplicated content. It was all written specifically for the book.

Just thought I'd put that reminder out there!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Dante's 750th Birthday, Pope Francis and Some Good Reading

On the eve of the extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, the Holy Father expresses his hope that during this year the figure of Dante and his work will also accompany us on this personal and community path. “Indeed”, he remarks, “the Comedy may be read as a great itinerary, or rather as a true pilgrimage, both personal and interior, and communal, ecclesial, social and historical. It represents the paradigm of every authentic journey in which humanity is called upon to leave what Dante defines as 'the threshing-floor that makes us so ferocious' to attain a new condition, marked by harmony, peace and happiness. And this is the horizon of every true humanism”.

“Dante is, therefore, a prophet of hope, herald of the possibility of redemption, of liberation, of the profound transformation of every man and woman, of all humanity. He continues to invite us to rediscover the lost or obscured meaning of our human path and to hope to see again the shining horizon on which there shines in all its fullness the dignity of the human person. Honouring Dante Alighieri, as Paul VI has already invited us to do, we are able to enrich ourselves with his experience in order to cross the many dark forests still scattered on our earth and to happily complete our pilgrimage in history, to reach the destination dreamed of and wished for by every man: 'the love that moves the sun in heaven and all the stars'”.
That's not all Pope Francis had to say so just click over to the Vatican Information Service for the whole scoop.

How Dante Can Save Your Life: The Life-Changing Wisdom of History's Greatest PoemHow Dante Can Save Your Life: The Life-Changing Wisdom of History's Greatest Poem by Rod Dreher

I recently got interested in rereading The Divine Comedy because of Rod Dreher's new book.

However, before I get to that book I have a couple of others I'm interested in. Why I feel I need to read them first I don't know. I'm just going with the (internal) flow on this.

Heaven and Hell: Visions of the Afterlife in the Western Poetic TraditionHeaven and Hell: Visions of the Afterlife in the Western Poetic Tradition by Louis Markos

I really enjoyed Louis Markos' On the Shoulders of Hobbits. Having begun this I'm hooked. The way Louis Markos examined the Hebrew and Greek views of the afterlife are insightful and exciting. Dante's Divine Comedy takes up the middle of the book and I'm looking forward to that part quite a bit.

You'll be seeing excerpts from this show up soon as daily quotes.

Also it didn't hurt that he gives my favorite John Ciardi his endorsement as best Dante translation and notes. In fact: "Ciardi is really the only guide you need to Dante." (I've been so beaten up for not preferring other translations that Markos' recommendation was balm to my wounds.) Not that he doesn't comment on many other translations also. When the bibliography is as invitingly written as this, then you know the book's got to be good.

Reading Dante: From Here to EternityReading Dante: From Here to Eternity by Prue Shaw

I can't remember where I came across this. Possibly from my pal Garry Wilmore on Goodreads. He began learning Italian in order to read Dante in the original. That's how much he loves his writing.

So when he gave this 5 stars I knew it had to be good.

The Divine ComedyThe Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri

Ultimately, I'd be remiss not to include the actual book itself. We don't want to forget in reading about The Divine Comedy that ultimately it is a book we should read for itself. I'm not going to ever get into a translation battle because I don't know enough to advise others. I do know what worked for me, though, and on that basis I can highly recommend John Ciardi's translation with the excellent notes.

As I mentioned above, Louis Markos has a few words of recommendation also, which I'll include here. Because Markos does know about translations.
Many great translators have turned their sights to Dante, but I still think that the best English version of the Divine Comedy (Inferno, Purgatory, Paradise) is by John Ciardi. In addition to his excellent and powerful translation, Ciardi supplies a wealth of notes that help make the work come alive; he even teaches us how to pronounce all the Italian names properly. Indeed, Ciardi is all you need to understand Dante, for his notes draw together much of the best criticism. The introductions and afterwords to all three editions are particularly good.

Worth a Thousand Words: Ernesta

Cecilia Beaux, Ernesta (also known as "Child with Nurse"), 1894
via Wikipedia
This little lady has a look of our goddaughter so I just couldn't resist.

I came across artist Cecilia Beaux via Lines and Colors where Charley Parker calls her the fourth of the "loaded brushes" along with Sergeant, Zorn, and Sorolla, all of whom are favorites of mine. Go to his place for more information and lots of links to other wonderful paintings.

Monday, May 4, 2015

The House of the Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne

The House of the Seven GablesThe House of the Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne

This was a great book. It was very different from The Scarlet Letter style-wise with lots of description which set mood, tone, and gave layers of additional meaning. Luckily, I've been reading so much Dickens lately that I was able to recognize when to abandon my usual "don't bore us, get to the chorus" reading style and sink into those layers. Hawthorne also does eccentric characters who you learn to love in a way that is Dickens-worthy also, including (but not limited to) a family of chickens.

It has plenty of mysterious, haunted atmosphere but isn't without comedy. I already mentioned the chickens, of course. The urchin who comes daily to Hepzibah's shop to buy gingerbread cookies was a delight. Indeed, Hepzibah's efforts to set up her "cent shop" were both humorous and touching in the way that the best writing can be.

Here's the way the back of the book description began: "The House of the Seven Gables is one of Hawthorne's defining works, a vivid depiction of American life and values replete with brilliantly etched characters." And it goes on through "lives caught in the common fire of history."

Wait, were you trying to get me to NOT read it? Luckily I was lured into reading so that I could listen to SFFaudio's discussion of it a year ago. That may not be enough to lure you so I will try to do a little better.

The Pyncheon family lives in a mansion built on land wrested from Matthew Maule after Colonel Pyncheon accuses him of witchcraft. Maule laid a curse on the Pyncheons before his death, that they would choke on their own blood. Of course. And many of them have in the generations since then. Also of course.

The family has dwindled to aged spinster Hepzibah and her mentally disturbed brother Clifford. When they are helped by sprightly, young cousin Phoebe and then threatened by rich, malicious cousin Judge Pyncheon the house's ghosts begin to descend on the cursed family. And there is a mysterious lodger. Also a family of chickens.

Now THAT'S a story I'm going to read. And you should too.

Help a prolife couple struggling under difficult circumstances

Baby Olive was diagnosed with Trisomy 18. A debilitating and lethal genetic syndrome that has a .027% chance of existing in a healthy 27 year old woman. This coupled with the fact that Olive’s heart is only half developed, and due to a hernia, her stomach is in her chest cavity; stopping her lungs from developing, is sealing our daughter’s fate.

We will only have mere minutes to spend with Olive when she enters this world.
This expectant mother is a high school friend of my daughter's. She and her fiance are facing what it means to be prolife under difficult circumstances.

They were already struggling greatly with the expenses of an unexpected pregnancy, as they found out that their baby has trisomy 18: Edward's Syndrome. She will not survive to term, and will die in their arms a few minutes after her early birth. They are persevering, but it is pushing them to the edge of bankruptcy.

Read the whole story and donate at the link. Bonus: you'd be supporting an Iraq war veteran!

Worth a Thousand Words: The Proposal

William-Adolphe Bouguereau, The Proposal, 1872
Today's art is in honor of a real life event in our family — our oldest daughter Hannah became engaged yesterday.

We are thrilled. Hannah's fiance, Mark, is a wonderful young man who is a great fit with our family (always a nice bonus!). Most importantly they seem perfect for each other. We look forward to much future happiness as they begin planning their life together.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Worth a Thousand Words: Im Schlossgarten

Im Schlossgarten
(on the estate of the Schloss Charlottenburg, in the gardens…)
painted by Edward B. Gordon

Well Said: Talents

Use what talents you possess; the woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best.
Henry Van Dyke

This is often less elegantly said as "Perfect is the enemy of good." I like this version better.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Happy Birthday, Dear Tom!

This is from Wikipedia because
I forgot to take a photo of mine, which looked just like this,
except it had sliced strawberries.
As we know, I take birthdays very seriously, especially when it is that of the love of my life.

We'll have been married thirty-one years next month and, as has become a habit for me more and more,  I have been realizing the happiness that comes from spending so much time with one person. I should say, with that one person who is practically perfect for me in every way.

We'll be feasting on Chinese food at a favorite restaurant in Richardson's Chinatown. I am making our new favorite, Pavlova with Strawberries, which is just like eating a cloud. A delicious, delicious cloud.

No gifts I get him can ever express my love adequately ... of course! But I have a few offerings which will attempt to fill the gap.

Happy Birthday, dear Tom!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Well Said: The live current and the flow of love

The love Christ means is a live current that comes from God, is transmitted from person to person, and returns to God. It runs a second cycle reaching from God to an individual, from the individual to his neighbor, and back through faith to God. He who breaks the circuit at any point breaks the flow of love. He who transmits purely, however small a part of that love, helps establish the circuit for the whole.
Romano Guardini, The Lord

Audible's Daily Deal Today is a Ray Bradbury Classic

Something Wicked This Way Comes is only $3.95 on Audible today. It's one of my favorite Ray Bradbury novels.

Worth a Thousand Words: Autumn Through Kitchen Window

Raleigh, NC, Home
taken by the blue hour
Perhaps I should explain that I was looking at the photos taken in the home pictured below and a gentle, contemplative piece by Andre Previn came into my earbuds. It seemed fated that this picture with the contrast between stark, modern architecture and the autumn woods should capture my imagination.

Check out the blue hour's post for all the photos from this spread of a Raleigh, NC, home.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Worth a Thousand Words: The Big Trail

John Wayne, The Big Trail, 1930
I was listening to You Must Remember This, a wonderful podcast in which Karina Longworth explores the secret and/or forgotten histories of 20th Century Hollywood.

Her series on Hollywood stars during World War II, cleverly called Star Wars, has gotten to an episode on John Wayne. She's examining why he didn't sign up for the war but I was more captured by her recommendation to look at stills from his first movie. Oooo la la! This ain't the Duke of popular memory!

Lagniappe: The Mention of Ourselves

Middlemarch is just so darned funny.
"But you can't take your own time to die in, Brother," began Mrs. Waule, with her usual woolly tone. "And when you lie speechless you may be tired of having strangers about you, and you may think of me and my children --" but here her voice broke under the touching thought which she was attributing to her speechless brother; the mention of ourselves being naturally affecting.
George Eliot, Middlemarch