Thursday, April 26, 2018

Lagniappe: "I do not know of a happier way to spend an afternoon..."

When we were not doing up jams and jellies, we were down in the brook, which is deep enough to swim in, and shallow enough, with a good sand bank, for the children to play on, so it was a vacation indeed. I do not know of a happier way to spend an afternoon than sitting in a shallow brook with babies paddling happily around. There were little crawfish on the bottom, little minnows darting between your fingers as you try to catch them, boat flies on the surface, and beautiful blue dragonflies flying just above the water. There were neither mosquitoes nor flies nor gnats. The sun-warmed waters of the brook made up for all the "pail baths" we had been taking through the heat. We washed the children's clothes before we went back to the house, and we picked Indian pipes and pennyroyal as we went back through the field.
Dorothy Day, On Pilgrimage
The lovely thing about this journal is that she writes down life as it happens so between thoughts about faith and deep subjects, worries about retreats and how to feed the poor, comes some beautiful writing about episodes like this "vacation." I feel as if I had gone along.

Worth a Thousand Words: View of the Westerkerk

Jan van der Heyden, View of the Westerkerk, Amsterdam, 1670s
via Wikipedia
It's hard to see in this image but if you look at it larger (say at the Wiki link), you'll see the people going about their daily routines. I know life then was as it is now, messy and confusing sometimes. But these people and the scene look so calm and peaceful.

Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett

Guards! Guards! (Discworld, #8; City Watch #1)Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett

When a disgruntled secret society wants to bring back the monarchy naturally they begin by summoning a dragon. Because, of course, everyone knows that a long lost heir to the throne will emerge to fight it. That should be enough to tell you that you are in Terry Pratchett's Discworld. We also meet the Watch members, charged with maintaining law and order, or at least a fiction of it. Quite enjoyable although indeniably an early Pratchett where he's not at the height of his story telling powers. His humor, though is, as always, right on target.

I just reread this because I wanted something easy for nighttime reading. It was more fun than I expected because after having read the entire City Watch subseries it reminded me of just how far Vimes and all the Watch had come since their humble beginnings in this book.

This is a good place to begin if you want to try Terry Pratchett and jump into Discworld.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Well Said: I believe in Purgatory.

I believe in Purgatory.


I assume that the process of purification will normally involve suffering. Partly from tradition; partly because most real good that has been done me in this life has involved it. But I don't think the suffering is the purpose of the purgation. I can well believe that people neither much worse nor much better than I will suffer less than I or more. . . . The treatment given will be the one required, whether it hurts little or much.
C. S. Lewis, Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer
Nothing gets the day off to a good start, I find, better than a little C.S. Lewis. He's so intensely practical and yet helps you keep your eyes on the path to Heaven.

Worth a Thousand Words: Fishing Boats on the Beach at Saintes-Maries

Vincent van Gogh, Fishing Boats on the Beach at Saintes-Maries, 1888
I love these colors and the summery feel of this work.

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 shared this do we? Preaching to the Choir, yep that's what we do here.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Lagniappe: The Mind's Construction in the Face

There's no art
To find the mind's construction in the face:
He was a gentleman on whom I built an absolute trust.

Enter Macbeth ...
William Shakespeare, Macbeth
I love this because King Duncan is actually talking about someone else, a traitor who he trusted. But to have Macbeth enter right after those words, especially when we know Macbeth will become another such traitor ... well, timing is everything. Shakespeare, you genius you!

Worth a Thousand Words: Vesuvius in Eruption

J. M. W. Turner, Vesuvius in Eruption, between 1817 and 1820
via Wikipedia and Google Art Project
'Unfortunately I met Mr. Turner at the Academy a night or two after I received this letter ; and he asked me if I had heard from Mr. Lennox. I was obliged to say 'yes.'

'Well, and how does he like the picture?'

'He thinks it indistinct.'

'You should tell him,' he replied, 'that indistinctness is my forte.'
Walter Thornbury. The Life of J.M.W. Turner,:
... Founded on Letters and Papers Furnished by
His Friends and Fellow Academicians.
The picture filled me with awe and the quote made me laugh. Turner, you have it all!

Monday, April 23, 2018

What happened when a gay man found Courage

Via the Deacon's Bench comes this "refreshing and even inspiring reflection in America magazine by Karl Miller, who describes his journey to the apostolate Courage, and what it has given him."
But sobriety added a new twist to my struggles. The numbness brought on by drink or drug was replaced with the reality of the loneliness I was experiencing. It was the loneliness that I imagine St. Augustine felt when he said to the Lord, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in you”—the loneliness that led me to strangers’ arms and beds in my 20s and 30s. I was now enlightened or maybe just sensible enough to know that my heart and head longed for something vastly more authentic than a one-night stand.

I visited a local chapter of Dignity, a support group for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons who are Catholic. ... For me, it seemed there was a wink-and-nod bonhomie that celebrated the gay Catholic’s outsider status. ...

I tried a Unitarian Universalist congregation and found that I desired a faith-directed home with more clearly defined principles and direction. ...

And then, about a decade ago, I was introduced to Courage.
Read the whole article here. I have long heard Courage praised by members. For more about Courage, go here.

Lagniappe: Only Child

I was an only child. You see, they achieved perfection first time round.
Roger Moore, My Word is My Bond

Worth a Thousand Words: Neptune Full Disk View

Neptune Full Disk View, NASA
The picture shows the Great Dark Spot and its companion bright smudge; on the west limb the fast moving bright feature called Scooter and the little dark spot are visible. These clouds were seen to persist for as long as Voyager's cameras could resolve them. North of these, a bright cloud band similar to the south polar streak may be seen. Years later, when the Hubble telescope was focused on the planet, these atmospheric features had changed, indicating that Neptune's atmosphere is dynamic.
There's more info at the link.

The Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury

A group of eight boys go trick-or-treating on Halloween, only to discover that a ninth friend, Pipkin, has been whisked away on a journey that could determine whether he lives or dies. Through the help of a mysterious character named Carapace Clavicle Moundshroud, they pursue their friend across time and space through Ancient Egyptian, Ancient Greek, and Ancient Roman cultures, Celtic Druidism, the Notre Dame Cathedral in Medieval Paris, and The Day of the Dead in Mexico. — Wikipedia summary
It's funny that in discussing the Pixar movie Coco with friends after having watched it recently, many of them had never heard of Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead). Even those who are proud of their Hispanic heritage came across it first in this movie. Of course, this is because first and foremost they are Americans and Day of the Dead is not really celebrated in most of this country. And also I think that the holiday is mostly celebrated in Mexico so it would depend on country of origin.

Anyway, what made it oddest to me was that even with my purely Anglo and Kansas background, I felt as if I'd known about this holiday forever. Finally I figured out it was because of my love Ray Bradbury's writing and his love of Day of the Dead.

He wrote about it in his love letter to Halloween, The Halloween Tree. This is a great boys' adventure, a spooky tale, a story of sacrificial friendship, and a history lesson about the origins of Halloween. Bradbury leans a bit hard on Christians in this history, but to be fair I think that is how it was being told when he wrote it in 1972. It is definitely written for children but I enjoy rereading it every year so you can read along (or ahead) to enjoy it with the kids.

My own little tribute to the Day of the Dead is here from last year.

Scott Danielson loves this book even more than I do and we discussed it for Halloween 2016 at A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast.

Here's a bit from The Halloween Tree.
For now they knew why the town was empty.

Because the graveyard was full.

By every grave was a woman kneeling to place gardenias or azaleas or marigolds in a frame upon the stone.

By every grave knelt a daughter who was lighting a new candle or lighting a candle that had just blown out.

By every grave was a quiet boy with bright brown eyes, and in one hand a small papier-mâché funeral parade glued to a shingle and in the other a papier-mâché skeleton head which rattled with rice or nuts inside. ...

“Mexican Halloweens are better than ours!”

For on every grave were plates of cookies shaped like funeral priests or skeletons or ghosts, waiting to be nibbled by—living people? or by ghosts that might come along toward dawn, hungry and forlorn? No one knew. No one said. ...

And each boy beside the graveyard, next to his sister and mother, put down the miniature funeral on the grave. And they could see the tiny candy person inside the tiny wooden coffin placed before a tiny altar with tiny candles. ... And on the altar was a photograph of the person in the coffin, a real person once; remembered now.

“Better, and still better,” whispered Ralph. ...

“Oh, strange funny strange,” whispered Tom

“What?” said Ralph at his elbow.

“Up in Illinois, we’ve forgotten what it’s all about. I mean the dead, up in our town, tonight, heck, they’re forgotten. Nobody remembers. Nobody cares. Nobody goes to sit and talk to them. Boy, that’s lonely. That’s really sad. But here—why, shucks. It’s both happy and sad. It’s all firecrackers and skeleton toys down here in the plaza and up in that graveyard now are all the Mexican dead folks with the families visiting and flowers and candles and singing and candy. I mean it’s almost like Thanksgiving, huh? And everyone set down to dinner, but only half the people able to eat, but that’s no mind, they’re there. It’s like holding hands at a séance with your friends, but some of the friends gone. ...”

In which we meet Nan, the Policeman, the Masker ...

... and the family in the little brown house. And we hear about the Wind Boy.

Forgotten Classics returns from hiatus with Episode 357, The Wind Boy, chapters 1-2.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Weekend Joke: Art and the Thief

A thief in Paris planned to steal some paintings from the Louvre.

After careful planning, he got past security, stole the paintings, and made it safely to his van.

However, he was captured only two blocks away when his van ran out of gas.

When asked how he could mastermind such a crime and then make such an obvious error, he replied: "Monsieur, that is the reason I stole the paintings. I had no Monet ... to buy Degas ... to make the Van Gogh."

San Jacinto Day! Remember Goliad! Remember the Alamo!

Thank goodness that my friend Don never forgets ... he's the one always reminding me it is San Jacinto Day 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!

Friday, April 20, 2018

Worth a Thousand Words: The Snake Charmer

Jean-Léon Gérôme, The Snake Charmer

Well Said: Tolkien's Concern

It may be true that the story of the Ring is less morally ambiguous than the average realistic novel, but that’s primarily because Tolkien wasn’t especially interested in the problem of knowing right from wrong. His concern was to explore the psychology of the moment when you know right from wrong but aren’t sure whether you have the courage and fortitude to do the right thing.
Alan Jacobs
via C.K. Kubasik, via Joseph Susanka
From about 5 years ago, but I love it so much that we will enjoy it together again now.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Worth a Thousand Words: Last Shot Boots and Dr. Pepper

Taken by my brother as he wended his way between Dallas and San Angelo. His visit over two consecutive weekends was truly a delight, all the more so since I hadn't seen him for about five years.

Lagniappe: The courageous heat of the stars

The waxing moon tossed a dull glow on the surface of the clouds, but it was the scattered layers of stars that held my attention. I looked at them and tried to feel the courageous heat of their battle as they fought against the natural state of all things in the universe: dead cold.
Craig Johnson, Hell is Empty
I just loved how this is put. It makes me think of Hell in Dante's Divine Comedy ... where it is very cold.

What We've Been Watching: Jumanji, Coco

Both of these movies were tons of  fun. They have solid moral themes, as we would expect considering their intended family/youngster audience, and make nice light viewing.

Despite his family's generations-old ban on music, Miguel dreams of becoming an accomplished musician like his idol, Ernesto de la Cruz. Desperate to prove his talent, Miguel finds himself in the stunning and colorful Land of the Dead trying to get back to his family while not relinquishing his dreams.
Coco is very enjoyable, albeit with somewhat simpler theme development than could be hoped for (a la Cars). Satisfying messages of love, family, memory, and loss are anchored in a love letter to Mexican culture, especially the Day of the Dead (Ray Bradbury would approve). It is a feast for the eyes as well as the heart. Don't miss it.

Four high school kids discover an old video game console and are sucked into the game, literally becoming the adult avatars they chose. To beat the game and return to the real world, they'll have to go on the most dangerous adventure of their lives and change the way they think about themselves - or be stuck in the game forever.
Welcome to the best possible version of The Breakfast Club. The performances from Dwayne Johnson (a.k.a. The Rock) and Jack Black elevate this beyond story gimmick to a level of real entertainment. Neither ever lets you forget the inner nerd or beauty queen who inhabit their unlikely avatars. If you've ever played a video game then you're going to enjoy this one.