Monday, May 31, 2010

Super Fast Books and Movies List from the Weekend

We are having such a blast with Hannah and Rose home and Kirsten here too. It is like Christmas in the middle of the year. Consequently there has been tons of movie and book talk.

Books
For some reason, fiction is on my radar right now. Meaning novels, not sf or mystery genre stuff.
  1. Just finished reading The Help by Kathryn Stockett. Honestly, if I’d really known what it was about I’d never have been interested but once I was engrossed in it I was glad to have read this excellent book. Told by two different servants and one young woman who doesn’t fit into the Jackson, Mississippi society because she didn’t immediately get married and begin a family, this is a story of their unexpected collaboration on a secret project that results in all of them crossing lines that are not acknowledged aloud but which must be crossed in order to truly know themselves. I raced through the last fourth of it. Highly recommended. HIGHLY!
  2. Now am reading Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, which I suppose actually is genre fiction (sf maybe?). I have tried it before but either wasn’t in the right mood or was expecting something different. Hannah read it, loved it, shoved it on my nightstand, and has been nagging me about it (with that hopeful, wistful, little puppy look that a mom can’t say no to…). Began it this morning and don’t understand why I didn’t warm to it before … the writing is charmingly understated and amusing. It is about magic, English practitioners of magic, books about magic, and set in England during the Napoleonic war. Only on chapter 3, but jolly good writing so far.
  3. Also began The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society because it looked light and easy AND because everyone else said it was wonderful. A series of letters between various people about reading and food in post-WWII England. That's all I know so far as I have only read about 6 letters and am just getting everyone sorted out. So far, so good. More later, I'm sure.

Movies
Remember I said "super fast!"
  1. Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.): not all that it could have been but great fun nonetheless (grade: B).
  2. Jennifer’s Body: warning, warning … horrible. Do not watch. (Insider info tells me that the script was a comedy but the studio got scared and cut most of the funny scenes to turn it into a horror movie. It shows. aaargh). Grade: F
  3. Zombieland: finally I have found a suitable alternative for Shaun of the Dead. A true delight AND a movie that celebrates family (still chock-full of flesh-eating zombies). Hilarious though. Rule #4: watch this movie. Grade: A+. (The plus may seem extreme but Tom says that is because I had to compare it to Jennifer's Body, besides which practically anything would get a plus.)

The Visitation of the Blessed Virgin

I realized it was this day during morning prayer when looking through my Magnificat. However, the neighborhood Memorial Day parade, making potato salad, and other various things kept me away from posting until now.

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.

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:
Daily Meditations, Vol. Six:
Special Feasts: January - June
* J. Escriva, Christ is Passing By
** John Paul II, Redemptoris Mater
*** cf ibid

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Lost in Three Minutes



Brilliant. Watching the last two seasons of Lost may have a whole lot more meaning ... and it certainly is something I might be more interested in now.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

In which we find They Can Only Hang You Once

Yes, we're breaking from espionage in Europe to come back home for a look at Dashiell Hammett and Sam Spade on Forgotten Classics. Join us for some very American storytelling over this holiday weekend!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

You Know You Need It


The oven mitt you've always wanted but couldn't find ... Star Wars Space Slug Oven Mitt.

Thanks to Rose for putting us all on the path to discontent with her heads up on this..

I just finished reading the latest Harry Dresden novel, Changes. That's several hours I won't get back again.

What the Sam Hill was that supposed to be?

It was like a book version of a bad sequel to an action movie.

SPOILERS ... for those who haven't gotten this far in the series but not for this book.
So much action and yet I didn't care about it. I got the idea that author Jim Butcher didn't care either and was forcing the action to have to avoid actually thinking about character development or plot.

I have occasionally wondered if I was getting tired of the series and then something would happen that would reignite my interest such as Molly becoming Harry's apprentice or the rise of the Gray Council. This was just one damned thing after another (literally) with Harry calling in one favor after another.

And yet I didn't care.

As for the ending ... what the Sam Hill was that supposed to be?

This book wasn't as disappointing as Blackout (it would have to be monumentally horrible to match that), but it was a big mess nonetheless.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A Birthday Like When I Was a Kid

Once you get to a certain age, you lose that frisson of excitement over your birthday. Members of our household know that my birthday is special and I yield to no one in my enjoyment of my special day. However, you can't control feelings, as we all know, so it is a rare occasion indeed when we are transported back to those glorious days of our extreme youth when everything is possible and every gift is magical.

It began when I went home and did only what I wanted. Right there, that was a darned freeing feeling.

Then Tom came home half an hour early, having left work an hour early to drive to the other side of town to Cheesecake Royale where, which despite what you might expect from the bakery's name, he was picking up "the best tiramisu in Dallas."

You might think they would mention this on their website, but no. They are evidently hoping that the fact they even produce tiramisu will also be the best kept secret in Dallas. Anyway, it is truly amazing as is evidenced by the fact that we had it over ten years ago at an acquaintance's home who I no longer even recall by name. Wow. This bakery uses all fresh ingredients and starts from scratch each day. It shows. Delicious, creamy, not too sweet, and dripping a bit of fresh espresso from the lady fingers. So very good. So very much also as they sell it in a large plastic pan that is about 9x13". Hannah and Rose, we have a ton of tiramisu just waiting for you to help us eat it!

Then we grabbed Kirsten (a college friend of Hannah's who is staying with us for a few weeks as she has begun working after graduating but needs to save up some deposit/rent money) and went to Fireside Pies on Henderson. I'd been curious about the quality of their pizza since they mention a wood burning oven and hand stretched dough. Hoochy mama, that's good pizza!

They definitely encourage communal dining as diners are advised that pizzas are good to share between two to three people, as are the salads (which are gigantic). We tried Jimmy's Spicy Italian Sausage Pizza (with Scamorza & Roasted Red Onions) and the Peta Pie (Sonoma Goat Cheese, Balsamic Mustard Portobellas, Arugula, Roasted Red Peppers, Roasted Pinon Nuts & Charred Tomato Vinaigrette). Both were delicious with thin, oven baked crust and perfectly balanced flavor. The sausage pizza was definitely spicy while the Peta Pizza almost seemed as if it came with salad atop it which made it a bit difficult to eat but the balsamic element shone through and made the trouble worth it. We were all full with four pieces total left over. Tom and I indulged in an Italian beer on tap which was a flavorful lager that complemented the pizza perfectly.

In a mellow mood, we returned home where I attacked a pile of gifts, most of which were books ... my idea of the perfect birthday.
  • The Help (thanks to Mom and I can't wait to read it),
  • complete Flannery O'Connor short story collection,
  • Flannery O'Connor essay collection (noticing a trend here?),
  • an absolutely gorgeous book on the Vatican (from my sis who now is determined that I should visit some day after she and her husband were there about a month ago ... isn't it great when people want something so wonderful for you? It makes me feel very loved ...),
  • A gift certificate for buying books (woohoo, another way around that New Year's resolution of no book buying ... with my own money ... thank you Kirsten!),
  • In Bruges, such a profane, violent movie and yet I love it so
  • Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet, one of the best cookbooks/photography books ever but ever so expensive
  • And, of course, baby Mac. From darling Tom who understands me as no one else does. It also may help explain my feeling of being overcome by the munificence of this gift when I mention that not only are we on a tight budget but I have the hand-me-down that has made it through everyone else in the house. I was fine with that actually. But Tom wanted me to have new. What a sweetheart.
Then there was the fun of powering up the MacBook, setting it up, learning the new and nifty tricks it can do (can you say two-finger-scrolling? how about four-finger-scrolling!).

My cup runneth over.

Truly Amazing Use of Flash ... And Food

And then there was salsa is something that you really need to see at the home site to appreciate. It's short. Enjoy this land of luscious tomato trees, spicy jalapeƱo cacti and canopies of fresh cilantro where anything is possible.

More Precious Than Diamonds Is a Thoughtful Husband

For one thing, as we now know, Tom knew that I wouldn't particularly care about diamonds!

For another, he said that he considered giving me an iPad. However, on thinking it over, he realized that iPads are strictly for consuming.

"You're not just a consumer. You're a creator."

That is a gift I will treasure always.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Quick Birthday Update


Posted from my new MacBook.
Gotta love that man 'o mine. What a sweetie.

Tom is soooo lucky he doesn't have to actually make a cake for me


Because I have now seen the new cake of my dreams. Zebra Cake!

Simply amazing looking isn't it? To be fair, it isn't the stripes that would kill Tom, it is the concept of cake making in general that would do him in. He would appreciate the simplicity and use of kitchen science that makes it work.

I'm going to have to try this one out soon.

Do We Know What Today Is? The Third Most Important Day of the Year!


I say this every year, but that's just because it is always true. First is Easter, then is Christmas, then is ... my birthday!

Some people ignore their birthdays or don't want much fuss made. Not me. Everyone in the household knows it too. (To be fair, they all regard their birthdays to be the third most important day of the year.)

You notice that only Jesus trumps this day for me ... so then imagine the place He holds to overcome a lifetime of "most important day of the year" before I became Christian.

Hannah showed the proper spirit several years ago when she was filling out a job application on Sunday and asked me what the date was. Then she answered her own question with, "Oh, wait. It must be the 22nd because I know Wednesday is the 25th." Yep, just like Christmas. All other dates are figured around this one.

Tom is supplying the celebratory dessert. Not a cake or a Strawberry Tart as I made last year, but Tiramisu which for some reason really struck me a few days ago as just the thing.

Also I love the fact that this is also St. (Padre) Pio's birthday. I couldn't find anything online that communicates the sense of joy and light-heartedness that I received while reading a biography of him. It was a photo of him with his head thrown back laughing that first made me notice him. I thought, "Now there is someone I could talk to..."
While praying before a cross, he received the stigmata on 20 September 1918, the first priest ever to be so blessed. As word spread, especially after American soldiers brought home stories of Padre Pio following WWII, the priest himself became a point of pilgrimage for both the pious and the curious. He would hear confessions by the hour, reportedly able to read the consciences of those who held back. Reportedly able to bilocate, levitate, and heal by touch. Founded the House for the Relief of Suffering in 1956, a hospital that serves 60,000 a year. In the 1920's he started a series of prayer groups that continue today with over 400,000 members worldwide.
And it is the Venerable Bede's saint day which is also very cool. You will never read a better death than that of the Venerable Bede ("Write faster!").
Even on the day of his death (the vigil of the Ascension, 735) the saint was still busy dictating a translation of the Gospel of St. John. In the evening the boy Wilbert, who was writing it, said to him: "There is still one sentence, dear master, which is not written down." And when this had been supplied, and the boy had told him it was finished, "Thou hast spoken truth", Bede answered, "it is finished. Take my head in thy hands for it much delights me to sit opposite any holy place where I used to pray, that so sitting I may call upon my Father." And thus upon the floor of his cell singing, "Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost" and the rest, he peacefully breathed his last breath.

Monday, May 24, 2010

So It Was Purgatory All Along? UPDATED

I quit watching Lost about two seasons ago. It was dragging on so much getting to any real answers that I just didn't care anymore.

However, I said from the beginning that it was Purgatory, even when the show's creators decried that (because, frankly, just about everyone pegged it for Purgatory).

An office mate who stuck with it described the end and I said, triumphantly, "So it was Purgatory all along."

He said, "Well that depends on your definition." (Being a nonreligious person for all I can tell.)

Then he said, it was like a halfway house between life and death where you had to be so you could sort out everything that was true about your life and see it with complete clarity.

Yep. Purgatory.

UPDATE
Here's the a bit of the post that has settled it for me. I'm going to have to rent the DVDs and watch the last two seasons of Lost.

As the story ended, the people sitting with me immediately began discussing: So is the Sideways real? I just smiled to myself, being too exhausted to formulate an answer. I wanted to say with Dumbledore, “It was in their heads, but why on earth should that make it not real?” What LOST did was make the statement: what is in your head is real. Imagination vindicated. Faith vindicated. Spiritual reality vindicated.

In other words, this was logos epistemology, as I had hoped when watching “Across the Sea.” The light of the world is in every person. We recognize it in each other. We recognize the spiritual reality within and behind the physical world, and it’s in our minds – in our imaginations – that we perceive the truth. Just note the way the show opened and closed: Jack’s eye. And then remember your eye symbolism from Harry Potter.

Via Amy H. Sturgis.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Sunday Snippets - a good idea

RAnn wrote to tell me about a new Catholic Carnival she's hosting called Sunday Snippets.
Sunday Snippets is a chance for Catholic bloggers to share their posts with each other. It doesn't matter if you blog exclusively about things Catholic or whether, like me, it pops up periodically. If you are Catholic you are welcome to join us.
For more information, here is last week's post to peruse.

"We get our weirdest when we compete over who is the most pure."

Yes, we’re moving into an era of hyper-accountability. Soon Cain will no longer answer, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” but will take great pride in keeping his brother on the straight and narrow. The Cain of tomorrow will be a pest, a prig and a self-righteous tattle-tale. The Spanish Inquisition and the holocaust of the Nazis were the result of just such a trend getting out of control.
From Roy H. Williams' Monday Morning Memo which I just finished listening to (here's the mp3 link location).

I have been noticing that for a while and the heat has been turned up in the last year, or so it seems to me. It smacked me upside the head when we were hosting a party and a guest innocently asked if I recycled, while waving an aluminum can. I had a surprising moment of inward cringing before saying, "No." Another friend nearby jokingly said, "Julie, Jesus would be green, you know."

Yes, he really was joking. And we laughed. But he was making a point. And it was not him making the point that mattered. I didn't care, honestly because that's nothing. I have been getting lectures from a particular grocery store check out girl for some time. In fact, I wickedly delight in asking for plastic bags when I am in her line even though my preference is paper.

The point was that I was conditioned to know somewhere, somehow judgment was going to be rendered. It made me reflect upon how many people these days think nothing of butting into other people's business at the drop of a hat.

I've been paying more attention ever since.

Perhaps that is why the Monday Morning Memo had me nodding and saying, "Preach it!"

It is also undoubtedly why I noticed the C.S. Lewis quote at Brandywine Books today. It starts like this ...
Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies.
Be sure to read or listen to that Monday Morning Memo and take special note of his prescribed antidotes. Another way to say that would be "live and let live."

Play PacMan on the Google Homepage Today!

It's the 30th anniversary and Google's special home page logo doesn't just emulate the game ... it is the game. (Use up and down arrows to move the PacMan.)

Thus allowing us to squander time in yet one more place, but with nostalgia so that's ok, right?

Lagniappe: How's Your Drink?

A short and delightful mixture of history and cocktails is now up at Forgotten Classics.

Freedom from Porn. Freedom from The Old Boss?

"Yep, freedom from programs that steal your private data. Freedom from programs that trash your battery," the Apple honcho [Steve Jobs] wrote. And then came the kicker in his litany: "Freedom from porn. Yep, freedom. The times they are a changin'."

Mr. Tate gasped. "I don't want 'freedom from porn,'" he shot back, "Porn is just fine!"

"[Y]ou might care more about porn when you have kids..." was Mr. Jobs' response.

After some sparring with Mr. Jobs on another topic, Mr. Tate came back to what is now bothering him most: "I may sound bitter," he wrote, explaining why: "It's you imposing your morality, about porn."

My, how the definition of imposing one's morality has changed over the years. Once it meant enforcing criminal sanctions on smut-peddlers. Now, a businessman who prefers to opt out of the trade is accused of impinging on everyone else's free speech.
This email exchange is the subject of Eric Felten's WSJ column today. Felton nails it.

Also, as Tom and I discussed, if the masses are crying out for porn then Apple will find out the old fashioned way. They'll go out of business.

I will take a moment here to point out that this led to a continuation of a long-running and enlightening conversation we have been having about Flash and Apple.

Simply, Steve Jobs may be against porn. But he is more against allowing open development. He is about control.

Here's how that works in this case.*

Flash is a program that is used to make and show moving things on websites, including YouTube embedded videos. (This is an extremely simplified explanation.)

Apple can't run Flash on the iPhone.

This is because they don't care to develop the iPhone to run Flash, for whatever reason.

Therefore, Steve Jobs denigrates Flash whenever he gets a chance by mentioning things like buggy programming. I will spare you the details and slurs.

This led to an exchange of attacks between Adobe (developers of Flash) and Apple.

Until finally, Apple has shown their true colors in this fight. They make tons of money from the Apps that are sold to go on the iPhone.

A way to produce an App for the iPhone has been developed that uses Flash and then exports it (with no moving elements) as an App. Therefore, it is perfectly usable with no buggy programming.

Apple has made it a policy to refuse Apps developed using Flash, even though it does not affect the end product or the iPhone's ability to use it.

Simply put, this is about total control. Period.

Goodbye Old Boss Microsoft.

Hello New Boss Apple.

Same as the old boss.

*This has deliberately been made extremely simple since it is a very complicated topic. However, keep in mind that complex arguments can be used to obscure real objectives, which when stripped down are fairly simple. Control. Ownership. Money. Steve Job's reality distortion field. Etc. (We love Apple in general, but we have NOT drunk the Kool-Aid.)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Stacked ... Everywhere

I am once again in the position of having many books, partially read, stacked all over the house. However, the great thing about these books is that all of them can be picked up and enjoyed no matter what.

Trouble is My Business by Raymond Chandler
Having suffered through City of Dragons, I realized I'd never really read any of the prototypical genre she was attempting to emulate. My random selections of Raymond Chandler from the library yielded a book of short stories and a novel. Beginning with this book of short stories, I discovered that Chandler is an author I am enjoying. These pithy stories are exactly what you would expect from the creator of Philip Marlowe, except that they show the quintessential hard-boiled detective from a developmental stage through many different stories. The last four stories, so I'm told from the book blurb, have Philip Marlowe in them, though I am not sure how he differs from the 'tecs I've read about thus far (except in name). Great fun.

Nightmare Town by Dashiell Hammett
Yep. I couldn't just try Chandler without also sampling the other great master of hard-boiled mystery fiction, Dashiell Hammett. Again, my random library selections yielded a novel and this short story selection. It also has an interesting overview of Hammett's life in the introduction. These stories contain hard boiled detectives but also, surprisingly, twist ending stories from different points of view as well. Hammett is a more varied writer than Chandler and I am always amused whenever the main detective describes himself as short and stout (which seems to happen frequently). About halfway through and thoroughly enjoying this intro to Hammett.

Assam and Darjeeling by T.M. Camp
If there is any justice in this world, then this book will become a classic. I was enchanted by it when listening to T.M. Camp's audio version on iTunes (want a sample? go listen.)

Taking up the published version (it is on Kindle also but the actual book is high quality ... Tom was very impressed) I was afraid that the story wouldn't hold up to what I remembered. I need not have feared. The printed version is superior, in fact, because the eye can linger over the beautifully written phrases, which add a depth that the ear doesn't convey in quite the same way. I am uncharacteristically reading this slowly for the pure pleasure of it. (Also, I must say that I am reading a copy bearing the author's inscription, though that in no way is influencing my commentary. I have always been a fangirl of this book.)

A masterful and nuanced book, Assam & Darjeeling is the story of a quest straight into legendary, mythological landscape. Two children’s efforts to save their mother serves as a lens through which we see pure love, redemption, and sacrifice. (For my complete review, go to SFFaudio. Highest recommendation.

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas
Rose has been after me to read this for some time. But it took SFFaudio mentioning a read-along of The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester ... then they said it was based on The Count of Monte Cristo and I knew, with a sense of doom, that my time had come.

I am listening to the LibriVox free audio book. I have gotten to about chapter 35 (out of 117 ... oy!) but so far I am enjoying it. Though that villain Villefort! Oh, I want to give him such a slap! And I could have done without that exceedingly long history of the shepherd/bandit, although Dumas certainly threw his heart into the telling of it. Sadly, there is one reader who did quite a few chapters which are agony for me to try to follow as her foreign accent mushes everything together to the point where listening is a chore. So I am alternately listening and filling in by reading, which has been quite a few chapters thus far.

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson
A lovely surprise given by my friend Meg. Major Pettigrew is living a quiet life in the village of Edgecombe St. Mary when the news that his brother has suddenly died comes and sends him into a (very quiet) tailspin. It sparks a sudden friendship with Mrs. Ali who has also lost her husband. Both are struggling quietly with relatives who selfishly want to force them to behave differently.

I'm only on chapter 4 but am struck with the simultaneous feelings of wanting to gulp it down at once and also savor it slowly. So far it is truly a gem.

Walk This [Roman] Way

I did make one hypothesis while I was there. Just one. I wish I could share with you more than that. It was something I noticed. As I stood close to the location to the Temple of the Vestal Virgins I could see the collossium. In fact it is in walking distance. It was not that far from the Senate building where the laws were made, and the emperors sat, and I could imagine that when the wind was good, and the conditions right, 50, 000 voices shouting in their blood lust could be heard through the windows.

I wonder what laws were passed based on that sound.
I've been thoroughly enjoying the Ancient Rome Refocused podcast. It has the informality and "outside the envelope" thinking that puts one in mind of Hardcore History (I have a feeling that Rob Cain is going to get very tired of that comparison). Now I see that his blog is just as entertaining, informative, and thought provoking. Check it out.

It's All Downhill from Here: Nature's Mathematician

A little mid-week humor (more or less midweek) from the brilliant Dr. Boli whose latest allegorical bestiary topic is timely since I just installed bird feeders outside my kitchen window about a month ago. Though I, of course, must adapt it to the fox squirrel.

DR. BOLI’S ALLEGORICAL BESTIARY.

No. 22.—The Grey Squirrel.

THE GREY SQUIRREL is a cunning mathematician whose skill in calculating trajectories is unmatched in the animal kingdom. It has, in fact, been estimated by behavioral scientists that the Grey Squirrel would have reached the moon at least two million years before man did, had not the squirrel’s calculations revealed that the probability of finding peanuts on the moon was practically nil.

Ornithologically inclined observers who keep bird feeders in the back yard may frequently see Grey Squirrels sitting in low branches near the bird feeders, manipulating their tiny slide rules with astonishing speed and consummate skill to arrive at exactly the correct parabola that will take a squirrel from branch to feeder in one leap.

No amount of ingenuity in the design of bird feeders will ultimately defeat a determined Grey Squirrel, and the best strategy for bird lovers who wish to preserve something for their feathered friends is to feed the squirrels themselves so often that they become more or less spherical, which throws off their parabolic calculations.

Although human intelligence is no match for the squirrel’s, there is one enemy for whose formidable brain the Grey Squirrel is no match. This is the Blue Jay, a member of the hyperintelligent Corvid family of birds. Alas, the Blue Jay uses his brain for evil instead of good, his favorite recreation being the theft of nuts from (relatively) innocent squirrels. Squirrel lovers should not attempt to thwart the Blue Jay, no matter how much sympathy they feel for their furry grey friends. The Blue Jay is a bird you would not wish to have for an enemy.

Allegorically, the Grey Squirrel represents Engineers’ and Technicians’ Local No. 348, which has kindly agreed to sponsor this allegory through March 28, 2014.

Vive La Difference!

... women and men strive for the same virtues, but often attain them and express them in different ways. The virtues will be lived and manifested differently in the lives of sisters, mothers, and wives than in brothers, husbands, and fathers. Two different musical instruments, playing the exact same notes, will produce two different sounds. The difference in the sounds is one of those ineffable things that’s hard to describe with words, but easy to discern. Neither instrument is better than the other; in the hands of the diligent and dedicated, each instrument plays music which fills the spirit and adds beauty to the world.
I have never seen that truth stated more beautifully. Be sure to read What is Manliness in its entirety. It is a splendid article.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Anyone remember the name of this book?

I have been wracking my brains trying to recall the title of a book where a modern woman who complained night and day about everything in her life was sent back to Roman times (not to Rome though) by some ancient gods. She may have had their statues around as decorations?

In the process, she learns many lessons about just what life was like back then, beginning with why you didn't drink the water but went for the wine. In those long ago times she experiences the boredom of a life without constant entertainment, the terrors of being overrun by enemies, as well as the dubious joys of being saved by the soldiers on your own side. In a rather more unlikely fashion she also has brief dealings with the head of the army in order to negotiate a settlement for damages (perhaps she was a lawyer in modern times?).

Anyway, it was a very good look at what life may have been like back then if seen through modern eyes. My search engine forays haven't turned up anything so I'm tossing the question out there to y'all.

My Prescription for 26 Years of Wedded Bliss?

We began with me getting married in a nightgown, though that is not, of course, a prerequisite.

Perhaps being married to the most patient and wonderful man in the world? That's certainly a help.

(Did I mention that he's very patient?)

Whatever it is, we're going strong and happier than ever.

We celebrated last weekend as a friend of Hannah's is going to be arriving today to stay for a few weeks while she saves up enough money to establish herself in an apartment. We went to MoMo's, which is such a well kept secret that we had forgotten all about it. It still features the same excellent Italian food that we recalled from when it opened not too long after we married.

As it turns out, it is a good thing that we celebrated early because Tom has a meeting scheduled for 5:00 tomorrow which may run rather long. It would have played havoc with celebration plans. That's all par for the course on our little web-farm.

Also, Happy Birthday to my sweet sis, Lisa, who generously agreed to share her birthday with us each year. If we lived closer I'd bake you this cake (or at least give it my best shot).

Another Batch o' Books

More of the books that have been flowing through our house and my consciousness ...

The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey *****
A classic mystery except that it is conducted by a Scotland Yard inspector who is in the hospital for several weeks bored out of his mind (this is before television). He is known for his ability to "read faces" and is intrigued by a portrait of Richard III. Could such a sensitive face actually belong to a king who murdered his nephews to secure his crown? With the help of an American scholar, he investigates using historical sources, and then must investigate their sources. This is a brilliant work that remains deservedly one of the best known mystery stories ever. (#43)

Blackout by Connie Willis *
I never thought I'd give Connie Willis a one-star review. Honestly? If they had no stars, that is what I'd give. What a waste of time. If it were any other author I'd have stopped long ago but I kept giving her more chances.

This is the first of a two-part series about traveling back to WWII London. Problems with the book: Soooo many different characters. Thrown in seemingly randomly in fairly similar settings so it takes me a bit to catch the switch. That is quite annoying. Worse yet, no forward motion ever takes place. The various characters move throughout their little stories, all wondering why no one from home base has come through to save them and take them back to their own time (they do this over and over and over ... aaargh .. what a bunch of wusses). You may or may not care about the characters and their stories, but eventually you tire even of those because they, too, go nowhere. What a lot of wasted ink and paper.

Editors, you should have reined Willis in and forced the story into one book. I no longer care what happens to any of them so the second book is completely wasted. What a shame and a waste of writing talent. (#44)

How's Your Drink? Cocktails, Culture, and the Art of Drinking Well by Eric Felten ****
I always enjoyed reading Eric Felten's weekly cocktail column in the Wall Street Journal and was very sorry when it recently ended. Luckily, this book conveys the interesting combination of history and drink that Felten is so good at writing. With delicious and carefully selected recipes, naturally! I have tried the Raspberry Shrub and found it delicious. (#45)

The Beer Trials by Fearless Media Critic ****
As with The Wine Trials, the authors give many different kinds of beer the paper-bag review treatment. This allows them to find the best tasting beer without prejudicing results by seeing labels or brands.

I can say this is probably the only book that Tom has ever hijacked from me. He spent quite some time perusing the results and reading aloud various selections that had been reviewed. Yes, we're more beer drinkers than wine drinkers in our household.

The book also has a very interesting front section that describes the difference between all the different kinds of beer. Who knew? Not me!

We have several sorts of beer on our list to try now and luckily we can probably find many of them at our nearby Central Market.

Highly recommended. (This was a review copy.) (#46)

The "R" Father by Mark Hart ***
Written in a straight forward fashion but providing surprising insights to the Our Father (The Lord's Prayer) from the perspective of reflecting on it in 14 phrases. I plan on reviewing this properly but don't wait for that. Get it. Recommended. (#47)

City of Dragons by Kelli Stanley *
I believe that many have read my comments from when I was about halfway through this book. Just when I thought I was reconciled to all the above, was jogging along, in a story that has been told in the detective's POV (including thoughts) ... the author suddenly throws in one sentence that tells us what someone else is thinking. Then back to usual. I figured it was an editorial miss from rewriting. But no, a couple of pages later, there is a whole paragraph that way again. No warning, just tossed in there and then gone again. So disruptive to the reader. Or at least this reader. It tosses me out of the story completely. And guess what? It tells us nothing new. Nothing. We already knew those things about the reporter. Was it that the editor missed this? Lost a fight? Or, worse, thought it was a good idea? Oy veh ...

In summary: this noir wannabe is actually chick lit. It should have been cut in half by the editors. This could have been easily achieved by not indulging the author in her desire to "take us back in time" by describing every single item, person, and place encountered. I know her afterward discusses the authenticity. I'd prefer an authentically well told tale to meandering about in old San Francisco.

These Just In
From St. Benedict Press I received this interesting grab bag of books:
  • Bleeding Hands, Weeping Stone by Elizabeth Ficocelli: when Ficocelli discovered that she wasn't the only one who'd never heard of many of the Church's approved miracles, she wrote this book.
  • The Essential Belloc edited by McCloskey, Bloch, and Robertson: quotes and fairly lengthy excerpts make up this compilation, sorted by subject. I was initially uninterested, however, as I have always meant to read Belloc, this actually looks like a good beginning point what with those lengthy excerpts and all. Tom picked this up, flipped through, and instantly began laughing and reading me a bit. Which is a good beginning I think we would all agree.
  • The Judas Syndrome: Seven Ancient Heresies Return to Betray Christ Anew by Thomas Colyandro: I believe that this is the book I wrote to request. I am fascinated by all the ways that old heresies pop up in new clothing to mislead us anew. This looks very interesting.
  • The Three Marks of Manhood: How to be Priest, Prophet and King of Your Family by G.C. Dilsaver: Tom saw this and instantly quipped, "As long as I'm king then I don't need to be priest or prophet." Joking and title aside, this actually looks like a pretty good book for those who want to regain a sense of proportion about their marriages and homes. Rather akin to the goals that I see and agree with in The Art of Manliness, which is a regular read for me.
I just wanna say one more time to small publishers ... giant type makes baby Jesus cry. Puhleez people!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

What Does Happiness Look Like?

Here's one take on it.

The Pioneer Woman has run a variety of photo assignment themes in the past but the current one of "happiness" is inspired. There's not a bad photo in the lot.

Go take a look and get ready to smile. A lot.

In which I am completely surprised

The Amazon box came and I looked at it as if I had x-ray vision. Trying to remember which of Rose's birthday gifts from that source hadn't come yet.

Hmmm ... only one way to find out.

But I didn't order this ... though I do dearly wish to read it.


Did I order it by mistake? Knowingly fool myself?

No.

Checking the receipt, I see that a friend I have made through this blog very kindly sent it to me.

Such a thing has never happened.

Was I thrilled?

Of course.

Humbled?

Natch.

But here's the thing. More than anything I am grateful for this kind person's friendship. You would never think that both of us began more as sparring partners over our faith. In that big tent of Catholicism she was on one side and I on the other.

What kept drawing us back to emailing each other? To reading each other's blogs? To continually trying, despite our opinionated differences, to find ways to understand each other, to explain ourselves better?

I can't really put my finger on it except to say that when we weren't sparring, we were having the most delightful conversations. Gradually the sparring has lessened and turned into occasional thoughtful conversations about issues. Gradually we have built a friendship. What a blessing.

What a delightful surprise. And I'm not talking about the book. Though, of course, the book is not only a delightful surprise but a wonderful reminder that made me think over this slow blooming friendship.

Thank you, Meg.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

In which the scouting begins in earnest and skullduggery is afoot!

Better late than never, here is the latest episode of The Riddle in the Sands from Forgotten Classics.

Certain listeners will be happy to note that this is a cliffhanger-free episode. Ok, probably all listeners will be happy about that. (Whew!)

Friday, May 14, 2010

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand

In one word--magnificent. But you will need more than one word. So--it is beyond comprehension that this is a first book. The elements of story, character, setting are so tightly bound, so perfectly intertwined, and so absolutely in-tune with one another. It is as if one had taken the fine-tuned sensibility of a Jane Austen or Georgette Heyer and wedded it to the intricate series of incident and entanglement (but NOT coincidence) that makes up a Dickens plot.
Steven Riddle's review at A Momentary Taste of Being is practically a work of art in itself. I already had requested it from the library before he began posting excerpts. This culminating summary makes my mouth water even more. No wonder I am #304 out of #350 requests at the library. I'd like to quote the entire review, but won't. I will let you enjoy it all at his blog. Here's just a touch more to lure you over there.
This is NOT a romance, even though it is a classic love story. It is a story centered around love and learning to love and understanding what love is and what love means, and by that understanding coming to forgive oneself one's shortcomings and to forgive the shortcomings so obvious in others. It would not be an exaggeration to say that properly read, this novel can be life-changing in the best possible way.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Something I'm Reading ...

I am reading City of Dragons by Kelli Stanley for the SFFaudio readalong in June.

About halfway through.

Comments so far.

*lighting a Chesterfield, taking a drag*

Problems?

Book has 'em in spades.

Too long.

Sentence fragments abound. For emphasis.

*lighting a Chesterfield, taking a drag*

Atmosphere conveyed: movie-noir voice-over style. (Eventually the author had to resort to full length sentences to tell the story ... but only after thoroughly confusing the reader.)

Did they use "f***" back then as frequently as lighting a cigarette?

Angsty. Too damned angsty.

Chick lit? Tough noir? Make up your mind.

Did I say too damned long? Should've.

*lighting a Chesterfield, taking a drag*

More details later. After I've finished.

*lighting a Chesterfield, taking a drag*

(Yes, that's my fourth cigarette in as many minutes. For dramatic emphasis, dammit. And to show how tough I am. Without that and my pumps tapping on the sidewalk, how would we know the era?)

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Keeping a Sense of Proportion

Ok, in life this is important.

As illustrated by this Triple Threat ... three very different cocktails produced by simply altering the proportions of the three ingredients used. Check it out at Meanwhile, Back in the Kitchen.

Aren't we all glad that I had a lot of time Monday night to devote to sharing the goodness? Of course we are!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Frank Frazetta, R.I.P. - UPDATED

Along with the news that Lena Horne died, came the news that Frank Frazetta died also. It may be that you, like me, have no idea who that is.

There is a very easy way to illuminate you ... how could any of the Conan books gained their heights without his illustrations? Certainly my formative years would have been poorer without vans and posters featuring Frazetta's work.

Will Duquette provided what is my favorite of all the illustrations I have seen today. Brandywine Books has a good tribute.

UPDATE
Here's another tribute from lines and colors where artist tributes are what they do best and where they found some stunning sf art without naked babes or warriors. Who knew that existed in his portfolio?

Lemon Cake Recipe

At long last, as promised, I found some time last night to prepare this post over at Meanwhile, Back in the Kitchen. Yellow cake layers, tart lemon filling, lemon butter frosting ... mmmm, mmmm. What are you waiting for? Go try a piece!

Happy Birthday, Dearest Rose

Once again, Rose will be celebrating her birthday away from home, with our celebration postponed until she arrives home at the end of the month.

That didn't mean I wasn't looking for cake ideas, though I will never be able to mold a shoe out of chocolate.

We miss Rose so much and can't wait to get her home again, even though it will be for just a short time. Have a wonderful day, dear Rose, and find a delicious piece of cake to eat somewhere. I'm sure Chicago offers many a delightful choice of bakeries.

Google Doodle for Rose's Birthday


Just because I thought she'd find it amusing.

Happy Birthday, sweetie!

Monday, May 10, 2010

You may have noticed I've been somewhat absent lately ...

... punctuated with spurts of returning and posting items of interest.

I have a big project that I've been working on for a while. I can foresee it going through August or September.

I'm sorry to have not been around as much as I'd like (believe me, the stacks of things I want to share are pretty tall). Just thought I'd drop in for long enough to make a vague excuse!

Now, don't we all feel better?

I will continue to post as much as I can whenever I get time. Thank you for your patience!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Best article on Mothers' Day you will read today ...

... or any other day. The Curt Jester's usually right and he's definitely right about this one. Go read.
My mother continued: “Two hours later, your father came home all frostbitten. As I helped him off with his coat, I told him that the social worker had stopped by.—‘What did she want?’—I told her that I was expecting. She became very upset. She said that she’d be back on Thursday to take me to this doctor, who would make my period come. If I refuse to go, they might take our benefit cards away.

“Your father stood there for the longest while without saying a word. Finally, he spoke: ‘Very well, let them! Let them have their cards back! The Lord will provide.’ ”

At that point, my mother got to her feet and knelt down beside me. “Mom,” I insisted, “would you please stop this!”—“No! Let me finish!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Oh, My Gravy!

Who are we pulling for to win The Amazing Race?

Do you even have to ask?

Only the most lovable team since the hippies back in season ... well, a while back. Jet and Cord McCoy from Tupelo, Ok.

They are the real thing. Oh, my gravy!

May the best blogs truly prevail and the losers skulk off in shame!

Yes, voting has begun in the Cannonball Awards, celebrating excellence in the little blogs in the Catholic blogosphere. I am not nominated but did manage to nominate a blog for practically every category ... although I may not have always matched up those blogs properly with the categories. C'est la vie.

Go vote. More importantly, go explore (links to all the nominated blogs are here). There's something good waiting for you to find it over there.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Time and Again, Get Religion Shows Us How to Really Read a News Story

Seriously. They remind me to think when I read. Papal Politics or Piety is a sterling example as you can see from this bit.
Jason Berry of the National Catholic Reporter has done some great reporting on how Father Maciel was able to cultivate allies in the Vatican — by buying them off, basically. His work is mentioned in this article, too.

As much as the story attempts to link the delays in dealing with the case to Ratzinger, Cardinal Angelo Sodano is the one who comes off as the culprit. But it’s this part of the story that I want to highlight:
In 2001, all clerical sex abuse cases had been ordered sent to Cardinal Ratzinger’s Congregation. [Italian journalist Sandro] Magister said he believed that as the cardinal became increasingly aware of the problem’s magnitude, he ordered that old cases — including the Maciel matter — be re-examined.

And in late 2004, it was clear that Cardinal Ratzinger would be playing an important role in a future conclave to elect the next pope. And with the pope’s health and power waning, Cardinal Ratzinger may have felt a freer hand in acting against a figure protected by others in the Vatican — possibly to clear the decks for the next pope, possibly to remove a stain on John Paul’s record or his own, should he be considered for the papacy.
One of the worst things a reporter can do is make claims about the motivation of actors in the story. Unless you’re a reporter with a special talent for mindreading, I guess. So these motivation claims really shouldn’t have been made. Particularly since they are sourced to precisely no one.

But isn’t it interesting that when the reporters were pulling motivations out of the air, they didn’t suggest that Ratzinger might have actually moved against Maciel because he wanted to do the right thing and he finally had the opportunity? There are people who would suggest just that. Including Magister, who has made such statements on the record. And in this interview, he speaks very favorably of the Pope’s work in eradicating “the filth” in the priesthood — also suggesting he’s motivated not by politics but by a desire to purify the church.
Yes, their stories are all that interesting, that good at pinpointing where a reporter turned a blind eye or didn't think far enough.

Go read it all and then take a further look around. We should be reading all news stories this way, but more than anything we should be dissecting how the news covers faith.

Friday Retreat: Now That's Good Catechism


B-Movie Catechism, how I love you for both making me laugh and reminding us all of the bigger picture.

Now go and read, smile and remember and then ....

Hey, what did you expect?

Oh, right.

Well, head right on over to The Anchoress for a contemplative retreat day.

She does it her way. I do it mine. (Or rather B-Movie Catechism does.)

I'm Part Neanderthal? How Exciting!

In a significant advance, the researchers mapped most of the Neanderthal genome—the first time that the heredity of such an ancient human species has been reliably reconstructed. The researchers, able for the first time to compare the relatively complete genetic coding of modern and prehistoric human species, found the Neanderthal legacy accounts for up to 4% of the human genome among people in much of the world today.
What a fascinating story. I love these sorts of discoveries. It's exciting. So does this mean we all have to reread The Clan of the Cave Bear? Pleeeeeease don't make me!

In which we set out, a certain someone makes inquiries, and we discover the best time for lunch.

Yes, it's time once again for another installment of that rapidly-becoming-more-intrepid duo, Davies and Carruthers as they get set for espionage in 1903 Germany. The Riddle of the Sands, chapters 10-11, are up at Forgotten Classics.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

I wonder if something is wrong with me ...



I watched this video.

Tom sent it for work.

It is beautifully done. You should watch it too.

But the whole time I was watching the video say, "Maybe it means saying NO when everyone else is saying yes." or "Maybe it means saying YES when everyone else is saying no."

All I could think of is that I already have the book.


The one that is the start of a conversation ... that makes everything different.

It's not a manual.

It's not a how to.

Though I have one that helps me with that if I have questions.



But they both tell me how to be different.

By being fully alive. By being who I was created to be.

I'm still doing what I was before (mostly), but I have come alive.
Don't ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.
Howard Thurman
So I watch a business book trailer and all I can think of is my faith.

Maybe something is wrong with me.

Or maybe I just already have been shown how to be ... different.

Hello Baby!

Hello Baby from StrawberryFrog on Vimeo.



The app that lets you ... experience baby development like never before—at simulated life-size, right on your iPad ... from week 4 to week 40.

I've gotta love an app that talks about a 4-week-old as if it is a real baby. In other words, says what everyone knows.

Via Eric Sammons.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Ah yes, Cinco de Mayo

The truth is that Cinco de Mayo has been promoted by alcohol advertising into a major holiday like Mexican Independence Day but in Mexico Cinco de Mayo it is not a major holiday at all. It's mainly celebrated in the City of Puebla, where it commemorates the Mexican army's defeat of French invaders on May 5, 1862. ...
Mexico Bob has the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth on this misunderstood holiday.

There would be no pagans, if we were true Christians." -Saint John Chrysostom.

“The problem with faith ... is it kind of screws up your priorities. Your priorities shouldn’t be about saving your own (butt), which is the focus of Christianity.” So says Bill (Religulous) Maher in a recent edition of Newsweek magazine. Is he right?
Tony Rossi has a good article which looks at some examples of Christians living their faith and providing a good example for those around them.

However, I felt a certain sympathy for Bill Maher who obviously has not been privileged to run into a Christian truly living to the best of their abilities in a Christ-like fashion. It made me think of the quote with which I titled this post.

That in turn made me remember an encounter by Sandra Bullock when meeting the family who lived the original story told in her movie The Blind Side.
Sandra's perceptions of Christians changed with meeting Leigh Anne Tuohy, the woman she portrays in The Blind Side. Leigh Anne showed Sandra the reality of Jesus Christ by simply being herself and being real. Until meeting Leah Anne, Sandra was comfortable in her definition of Christians.

Bullock says she now has "faith in those who say they represent a faith." Through getting to know Leigh Anne, Sandra saw the authenticity of religious faith. "She was so open and honest and forthright," Bullock shares. "And I said, wow, I finally met someone who practices but doesn't preach."
We don't know who is watching when we are going about everyday life. It doesn't need to be something big, although many of the most inspiring examples are big steps of faith that have a big effect.

In each case, however, we notice that it is because the Christians in question were trying their best to follow Jesus' example, not trying to impress someone else. The benefits they appreciated most were those that they themselves felt from their sacrifices. It was that faithfulness that God used to do wonderful works that stood out to others. Which gives us food for thought ... how faithful are we, no matter who is watching. After all, God sees it all. What am I giving Him to work with?

UPDATE
I see that The Anchoress also was meditating on Rossi's piece, in a similar but different way ... as fits right in with her theme of the paradoxes of Christianity.

Simple Pleasures: Outside the Office Window

Chris came over and told me to come look in the window outside his office.

There was a baby Scissor-tailed Fly Catcher. Fully fledged, on a branch, looking much of a muchness with mama who was on a nearby branch. Without the full length of tail though, and without the subtle red feathers around the wing.

This baby showed his recent emergence from the nest as well in the extreme width of opening beak to ... chirp? ... yelp when hopping off a branch into the air. You could imagine that wide maw opening insistently for a worm (or fly?) to be dropped in.

As well, it was adorably laughable when mama suddenly soared skyward and he took off, chirping madly, and flying jerkily too far to the left and overcorrecting too far to the right. It's tough to adapt flight to a really windy day if you haven't done it much.

Later, they both were on branches outside my office window. Mama sat calmly, her steely eye regarding baby as he would launch himself into the air, hover jerkily with much mad chirping and then somehow wind up back on another branch.

Chris said he thought perhaps baby was practicing that famous move which helped name them. You've got to hover to catch flies after all.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

St. Paul: He's back, he's manga, and this time ... it's personal



We all know that with St. Paul it was always personal. Right?

This is not specifically Japanese manga, but a graphic novel that should entertain young readers (12+).
Paul's a young Jewish firebrand who kills or captures anyone who follows the new sect of Christianity. His closest friend, Septus, is a renegade Roman officer who helps Paul dominate the countryside. Paul gains a mentor but loses his friends when he finally embraces truth. He faces death at the hands of his closest companion, betrayal, constant danger, and destroyed love. Lose yourself in this epic reimagining of first-century Palestine.
I really enjoyed Paul: Tarsus to Redemption. One thing you've got to admit, scriptural stories are bigger than life (even though they usually were life) and lend themselves very well to dramatic depictions graphically.

The only point that somewhat confused me was the beginning ... who was Paul's blond buddy, why were they going to see the rabbi, and so forth. However, I believe that I was bogged down by my adult knowledge of St. Paul and trying too hard to connect it with the book. Once I "let go" then I was able to fully sink in and enjoy the story telling.

Likewise, I appreciated the ending of the book (is that a potential sweetheart we see on the scene?) completing the story full circle, even though it is clear that Paul will be traveling on. In fact I went back and read the beginning again. Whereupon it all made perfect sense. This graphic novel tweaks St. Paul's story only in the sorts of details that the best storytellers use to make their tales come alive. It is true to Biblical roots.

As I mentioned when I excitedly posted because this book was on the way ... if only Paul had shed some of those streaming manga tears, my joy would have been complete. He comes thiiiiiis close. So near and yet so far. Well there is always volume two to hope for.

I never met a girl yet who didn't enjoy stuff written for the guys, but in case you've got more feminine readers around than I did you might want to check out the upcoming Judith: Captive to Conqueror.
The Israelites have returned to their homeland after the Babylonian captivity, but now a new threat looms on the horizon. Holofernes, the wicked and conniving general of the Assyrian army, is sent to conquer all the world's temples, and now heads toward the Promise Land. But in Bethulia, the one city that stands between the Assyrians and Jerusalem, is Judith, the only woman with enough faith and courage to defend the Temple with her life.
Oh yeah. She's got it going on.

Discounted Subscription to First Things for Their Blog Readers

Hoochee mama, this is what I have been waiting for!

How good a discount is it?

First Things is great at writing but not so canny that they point out you are getting a half-price subscription, so as the advertising person I will do so. Dispensing with the niceties of never using whole numbers as a retailer, essentially you are spending $20 for a $40 subscription.

Via that First Things blogger par excellence, The Anchoress where you will find the all-important discount code!

This Tremendous Lover: Pride and Pride's Offspring

More of This Tremendous Lover. I have never heard this put quite this way or made quite so clear.
All such colored and touching accounts as are given of Eve's weakness owing to the charm of the fruit, to her thirst on a sultry day, to her lack of consideration--are quite incorrect. Since Eve had the gift of integrity, there could be no question of any weakness caused by a rebellion of sense-appetite. On the contrary, she knew clearly--far more clearly than we can imagine--what such a transgression of God's law would mean for herself, for her husband, and for the whole human race of whom she was to be the mother. And yet, "She took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave to her husband who did eat" (Gen 3:6).

... To find the real malice of their sin, we have to look into their minds and try to realize the enormity of their pride and disobedience.

For that was the sin of our first parents--pride and pride's offspring, disobedience. We must remember the perfection of Adam's nature. His mind was endowed with powers and with knowledge that have never been surpassed by any of his fallen children. Unclouded by passion, he saw life clearly; he knew quite well that God had raised him quite gratuitously to a special share in His own divine nature and had made him His friend. He knew further that he was to be the father of the human race, and he was endowed with the wisdom and knowledge necessary for the instruction of his offspring. He knew, too, that his sharing in God's life by grace was dependent on his obedience to God, and he clearly understood that if he lost that grace by the forbidden sin, it was lost not merely for himself, but for his children.

Knowing all that, he calmly and deliberately decided to rebel against God's express command; and by his pride and rebellion he rejected God's plan for the happiness of the whole human race. ...
You would have to read the beginning of the chapter to see how the author leads us to the understanding of Adam's and Eve's natures that he sums up here. Suffice it to say, it is compelling and logical. I don't know why I always thought of Adam and Eve as being just more innocent versions of humans as we are now. It puts a different perspective on what I thought of as them simply being tricked by the serpent. The serpent tricked them into even considering the thought of disobeying but precious little pressure was put to bear when you think about it. It was a deliberate choice. Which is just what we do, whether it is a little or great transgression we undertake. We know deep down if we are headed down a dangerous road. In that we are like our most famous ancestors.

Simple Pleasures: From the Crossword Puzzle

Word from the Algonquian for "white dog."

Answer: opossum
Well, I'll be darned. How perfect, right? I love that ...

Monday, May 3, 2010

Coming Soon to a Blog Near You ...

There are so many things I want to share and, as always, so little time. Unless I blog continually and, as lovely as that would be, there are many, many other things I must do. My personal pledge to myself is to try to share one of these thing a day. You may expect to see, among other things:
  • The lemon cake recipe, which was a huge hit
  • A review of the movie Moon
  • A highlight of Bullenbeisser (yes, you'll just have to wait for that to see what it is)
  • Comments about the only review book that Tom has grabbed from my hands (almost) and plunged into with excitement.
  • Review of a manga about St. Paul's conversion ... the short version: get it for a kid you know.
  • My life and times concocting a "mess of greens" ... thank you CSA for forcing me to get down with that project (seriously ... they are goooood)
  • Books I am reading
  • Our upcoming house guest and why we don't mind an open-ended visit ...
  • Many more excerpts from This Tremendous Lover and a few thoughts thereon
  • Ummm ... some other stuff which I can't recall right now ... I have a note card somewhere with scribbled notes, I swear
So, yes, I love you and I'm thinking all the time of great stuff to tell you ... and I just don't have time. But it will come ...

This Tremendous Lover: Adapting to Reality

I have been reading This Tremendous Lover by M. Eugene Boylan, O.C.R. This book was provided to me by Tiber River, which is a great book review site run by Aquinas and More online Catholic store.

I am sunk in shame that I received this book so long ago and yet am only now truly reading it. Yet better late than never because this is a highly inspirational and grounding read. So much so that I am going to be sharing excerpts. Truth to tell, I never read this without a pen nearby. It is that good.

A bestseller over 60 years ago, written to act as an introduction to the spiritual life for every day Catholics, this book still speaks to us over the years on a highly practical level. Although sometimes the points Boylan is making have an emphasis that does not strictly apply to our modern lives, it is never a point wasted. As my husband has pointed out when I've read examples to him, quite often those points are still true for people today but they are just not spoken of as much.

With all that background, I bring to you the first excerpt.
There is, however, one conclusion that follows from our principles which seems to be in full agreement with the prescriptions of modern psychology. This science finds, as we do, that the source of much mental trouble and anguish lies in one's incomplete adaptation to reality. Our discussion, starting from the principle of our incorporation in Christ and our vocation to everlasting union with Him in heaven, leads to a practical program of humility, charity, and abandonment to the will of God. By humility, one accepts oneself with all ones' deficiencies; by charity, one "adjusts" oneself to other members of society and lives for them as well as for oneself; by abandonment, one strives to fulfill one's allotted task, and to accept willingly all that Providence allows to happen in one's life. This is in full agreement with modern scientific conclusions; our view has the further advantage of giving a sanction to, and a perfect reason for, such a loving acceptance of reality, and of explaining it in its true context and purpose.
From the preface, This Tremendous Lover
by M. Eugene Boylan, O.C.R.
This struck me, when I read it, with the full force of truth. Why else would we strive as we do in a religion with seemingly impossible goals? Because it is true. Because when we adhere to such a way of life we are finally in line with reality.