Friday, July 31, 2015

Worth a Thousand Words: Dusk on Fraser's Hill

Dusk on Fraser's Hill
Source: EatingAsia, published under a Creative Commons 2.0 license

Well Said: "And the flower said to the dirt ..."

This is really long but I love the story so much I wanted you to read it too.
It is hard to believe in this love because it is a tremendous love. "It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God." If we do once catch a glimpse of it. Once we recognize that we are sons of God, that the seed of divine life has been planted in us at baptism, we are overcome by that obligation placed upon us of growing in the love of God. and what we do not do voluntarily, He will do for us. Father Roy, our dear Josephite friend who worked with us at Easton and who has been these past two years in a hospital in Montreal, learning what it is to be loved, used to tell a story of a leper he met at a hospital up on the Gaspé peninsula. The leper complained to him, How could he believe in the love of God?

Father Roy proceeded to tell his favorite story. First of all, the humus from which all things spring, and the flower says to the dirt, "How would you like to grow and wave in the breeze and praise God?" And the dirt says "Yes," and that necessitates its losing its own self as dirt and becoming something else. Then the chicken comes along and says to the flower, "How would you like to be a chicken and walk around like I do and praise God?" And the flower assures the chicken that it would like it indeed. But then it has to cease to be a flower. And the man comes to the chicken and says to it, "How would you like to be a man and praise God?" And of course the chicken would like it too, but it has to undergo a painful death to be assimilated to the man, in order to praise God.

When Father Roy told this story, he said with awe, "And the leper looked at me, and a light dawned in his eyes, and he clasped my hands and gasped, 'Father!' And then we both cried together."

Father Roy is a childlike man, and the Russian leper up in the Canadian peninsula was a simple sufferer, and he saw the point that Father Roy was trying to make, and he began to believe in this love and to see some reason for his sufferings. He began to comprehend the heights and the depths and the strange mystery of this love. But it still takes the eyes of faith to see it.
Dorothy Day, On Pilgrimage

Julie and Scott are dirty enough ...


... but where is the rest of the dozen? The Dirty Dozen (1967) is the subject of Episode 113 of A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast!

Prayer Requests — For the Culture of Life

Beyond Cana Marriage Retreat

As many regular readers know, I've been involved with Beyond Cana for many years. It is our parish's marriage enrichment retreat. I've seen God use it to renew and strengthen marriages in wonderful ways, including my own.

This weekend we begin another retreat, joined by many last minute sign ups. I love that as a sign that God is working in couples' hearts always and everywhere.

Please pray for the couples attending and those presenting the retreat.

For Those Who Suffer from the Culture of Death — A Holy Hour Today

We must pray unceasingly for those who suffer from the unmerciful culture of death, laid bare in recent days and weeks with the Planned Parenthood videos we’ve seen and read about.

If you are in New York Friday (July 31) at 3 pm there will be a special holy hour for mercy, healing, and reparation. Please join us in prayer in person or wherever you are. Details here.

The rest of us can join them in prayer and fasting. That's the beauty of God's internet. (Via Kathryn Jean Lopez.)

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Catholic Bytes - a great new Catholic podcast


Each episode features a different priest who is in Rome right now. They discuss a variety of topics such as the importance of the body, prayer, how Christ makes us free, saints, and much more.

No matter the topic, the explanation is simple and understandable. A host gently inserts questions for further information but the focus is on the presenter. There's also a quick summing up at the end which is a nice touch.

The episodes are short, between 8-10 minutes, which helps make them easy to fit into your schedule and to understand. Or you can do it like me. I'm addicted and have been listening to one after another.

They'd be good for anyone who is interested in learning more about the Catholic faith, from those who are simply curious to Catholics who'd like a quick refresher which might also just prove inspirational at the same time.

Catholic Bytes just began about a month ago but they've already got 13 episodes posted.

Not every episode shows up in the iTunes feed but if you go to Catholic Bytes' website, it's easy to go to the older page and download the older episodes.

Worth a Thousand Words: Keepin' It Cool

Keepin' It Cool
"Anana swims in her 60F chilled water to beat the 95F heat."
taken by Valerie, ucumari photography
Some rights reserved

Well Said: What We Deserve

It is always a terrible thing to come back to Mott Street. To come back in a driving rain, to men crouched on the stairs, huddled in doorways, without overcoats because they sold them perhaps the week before when it was warm, to satisfy hunger or thirst — who knows? Those without love would say, "It serves them right, drinking up their clothes." God help us if we got just what we deserved!
Dorothy Day, On Pilgrimage
"God help us if we got just what we deserved!"

Yes. That would indeed be a terrible fate.

Can I visit it upon another? There is justice, to be sure, and it is much needed in this world. But justice must be served up with mercy. That is the delicate balance with which we all struggle.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Worth a Thousand Words: Life on the Provence Coast

Life on the Provence Coast
taken by French Sampler
None of the alleys near me ever look like this. Darn it.

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.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Well Said: Involuntary versus voluntary penance

St. Angela of Foligno said that penances voluntarily undertaken are not half so meritorious as those imposed on us by the circumstances of our lives and cheerfully borne. ...

Most of us have not the courage to set out on this path wholeheartedly, so God arranges it for us.
Dorothy Day, On Pilgrimage
You know, that never would have occurred to me. Well said, indeed. And food for thought about how I live my life. For one thing I am terrible about taking up voluntary penances for the improvement of my soul. It is a comfort to think that God provides anyway.

Not that I love inconvenience or hardship, but we can't escape it so this is just one more way to orient myself toward the good that can come (and is intended) from it.

Worth a Thousand Words: Vase with Cornflowers and Poppies

Van Gogh, Vase with Cornflowers and Poppies
via Arts Everyday Living
Last year, I painted nothing but flowers to accustom myself to a a color other than grey, that’s to say pink, soft or bright green, light blue, violet, yellow, orange, glorious red.
Vincent van Gogh, letter to sister Willemien,
late October, 1887
Arts Everyday Living is featuring Vincent van Gogh this week, in honor of the 125th anniversary of his death. Do swing by there and take a look around.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Worth a Thousand Words: Los Angeles Theater

Los Angeles Theater
Illustrator: Chris Turnham
I love L.A. This illustration makes me wish I were there right now.

Well Said: What's Your Hurry?

“What's your hurry?"

"Because now is the only time there ever is to do a thing in," said Miss Ophelia.”
Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom's Cabin
I'm rereading this for the fourth time as I prepare for an upcoming episode of A Good Story is Hard to Find. Still loving it all the way.

Miss Ophelia and Topsy's relationship is one of my favorite parts of the book.

I listened to a number of audio versions before taking myself back to the one I did myself at Forgotten Classics. I was gratified to find that the reading wasn't half-bad; in fact, no worse than the best of what I could find on Audible. Plus the commentary was comparable to that of Heather Ordover at CraftLit.

It sounds as if I'm patting myself on the back, I know. The truth is that enough time has gone by (7 years) that I can listen to it objectively. I'm just pleased I did the job well. And can enjoy it myself from the "outside," as it were.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Well Said: Prayer for a Busy Day

What kind of an interior life can a mother of three children have who is doing all her own work on a farm with wood fires to tend and water to pump? Or the grandmother either?

[...]

How to lift the heart to God, our first beginning and last end, except to say with the soldier about to go into battle — "Lord, I'll have no time to think of Thee but do Thou think of me."
Dorothy Day, On Pilgrimage
Within those ellipses (...) Day gave a summary of all her activities on the farm with her daughter. Oy veh!

You don't have to be a mother with little ones to occasionally look at the day ahead and foretell so much activity that just keeping on track is a chore, much less hoping for any spare time to feel the presence of God. I love that prayer for that very reason.

Worth a Thousand Words: Chagall

Chagall
painted by Karin Jurick
I love Karin Jurick's paintings of people looking at art but this one hits me harder than the others which are usually in well-lit museums. This one is in a museum also but it feels like a chapel because of the lighting and ambiance.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Well Said: A Good Prayer for Many Sad Hearts

When my friends are in sorrow and trouble, or even when they are just without spirit, I like to pray, "Jesus, they have no wine," or "Mary, they have no wine." It is a good prayer for many sad hearts today.
Dorothy Day, On Pilgrimage
I'm rereading this book which is Dorothy Day's daily diary from 1948. Into it she pours all the daily activities, which are quite varied considering she begins the year spending 2-1/2 months with her daughter in the country waiting for a new grandchild to be born and then returns to the city for her retreats and charity work.

Interspersed with all this are her spiritual reflections and often tart comments on the state of the country in general.

She's a fascinating person who I relate to in many ways. In others, not so much. But that's how it is with friends ... and saints ... is it not? The point is seeing where we intersect which, hopefully, is where Christ comes in.

This caught my eye because I recently began saying that prayer for my daughter and her fiancé who are searching for a good, inexpensive spot for their wedding reception. I thought what better prayer to say in this instance? After all, we know Jesus cared enough to provide enough wine to make that town very happy for a long time.

It was when reading this passage that I realized all the different ways "they have no wine" could be interpreted. What a good use of scripture in prayer.

Worth a Thousand Words: Cinderella at the Kitchen Fire

Cinderella at the Kitchen Fire, Thomas Sully, 1843
I need to go see the original of this lovely, gentle painting. It's in the Dallas Museum of Art and was brought to my attention when sweet Hannah gave me a print of it after a visit there. I love the glimpse of the stepsisters primping in the background.

Monday, July 20, 2015

What We've Been Watching

Summertime, with our regular television shows on hiatus, means we can catch up a little on our movie viewing. These are mostly big movies that I was curious about. They surprised me in ways I didn't expect, for the most part.



Birdman (or the unexpected virtue of ignorance) 2014
A fading actor best known for his portrayal of a popular superhero attempts to mount a comeback by appearing in a Broadway play. As opening night approaches, his attempts to become more altruistic, rebuild his career, and reconnect with friends and family prove more difficult than expected.
People either loved or hated this. Tom felt lukewarm approval. I can't say I hated it but it did seem like a big waste of time.

That one shot trick was amazing and the use of the drum score to highlight the character's internal tension was very interesting ... but in the end I felt as if I were watching a one trick pony.

I thought these quotes in Wikipedia said it all ...
[Director and cowriter] González Iñárritu's own experiences influenced many of Birdman's themes, and said "What this film talks about, I have been through. I have seen and experienced all of it; it's what I have been living through the last years of my life."
Duh.

Cowriter Dinelaris described this aspect as "a laughing look at oneself", but said it had to be done in a comedic way otherwise "it would have been the most unbelievably self-absorbed look at the subject".

I've got news for him. Humor didn't take that edge off.

I've seen All That Jazz. I've seen Adaptation.

Brilliant commentaries on art from people in those fields. Birdman was not those movies. Brilliant tricks and fantastic acting can't make up for an abundance of self-absorption and a lack of depth.


Magic in the Moonlight 2014
Set in the 1920s French Riviera, a master magician is commissioned to try and expose a psychic as a fraud.
A sweet little film that is not one of Allen's greatest but which does a good job in the first two acts of keeping us interested in the "is she or isn't she" clairvoyant question.

Colin Firth is good as the Houdini-esque character who debunks mediums. Emma Stone is good as the medium in question. Not something I'll want to watch again but it doesn't pretend to be more than it is. This was just what I expected it to be and that isn't a bad thing.


American Sniper 2014
U.S. Navy SEAL Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper) takes his sole mission—protect his comrades—to heart and becomes one of the most lethal snipers in American history. His pinpoint accuracy not only saves countless lives but also makes him a prime target of insurgents. Despite grave danger and his struggle to be a good husband and father to his family back in the States, Kyle serves four tours of duty in Iraq. However, when he finally returns home, he finds that he cannot leave the war behind.
This true-life tale is a surprisingly "traditional" sort of war movie in that it didn't worry about the politics of the war or about whether it was right or wrong to be in Iraq.

This is the story of a soldier doing the right thing as best he could, the toll it took, and his way back ... with no excuses and no finger pointing.

I found it refreshing.


Her (2013)
In the not so distant future, Theodore, a lonely writer purchases a newly developed operating system designed to meet the user's every needs. To Theordore's surprise, a romantic relationship develops between him and his operating system. This unconventional love story blends science fiction and romance in a sweet tale that explores the nature of love and the ways that technology isolates and connects us all.
This was a fairly astounding movie. It startled, shocked, endeared, and made us think. We're still talking about certain aspects, especially how it looked at men and women (the title is "Her" after all and there is more than one woman in it), while simultaneously thinking about how we interact with technology, AI, and aliens. The more I think about it, the more I admire it.

This is all without even going into the atypical-typical futuristic look, the color themes, and Joaquin Phoenix's brilliant acting.

There was a certain amount of predictability to at least half of it but the unpredictable parts more than made up for that element.

NOTE: There is a surprising amount of sex in this movie, though not a way that is easy to explain. It is there for a reason but still surprised us and sometimes made us uncomfortable (which in itself had a purpose in the movie).


Edge of Tomorrow 2014
Major Bill Cage is an officer who has never seen a day of combat when he is unceremoniously demoted and dropped into combat. Cage is killed within minutes, managing to take an alpha alien down with him. He awakens back at the beginning of the same day and is forced to fight and die again... and again - as physical contact with the alien has thrown him into a time loop.
This was recommended by two people or I probably wouldn't have bothered.

Not bad but not great. Tom Cruise is a pleasure to watch in action movies, which are what he does best. However, there was some sort of problem with the pacing so that both Tom and I at different times said, "How long is this anyway?" It fell short of 2 hours but felt more like 3. That could be because so much time was spent in the beginning making sure we understood the concept. Note to director/editor: we've seen Groundhog Day. Just get on with it.


The World’s Fastest Indian 2005
The life story of New Zealander Burt Munro, who spent years building a 1920 Indian motorcycle -- a bike which helped him set the land-speed world record at Utah's Bonneville Salt Flats in 1967.
The name and poster say it all. Anthony Hopkins gives a nice, underplayed performance as the old codger who no one takes seriously except the little boy next door. His goal is to get to Bonneville Flats with his 1920 Indian motorcycle in an attempt to beat the world land speed record. This sagged a bit in the middle on the road trip from L.A. to Utah, especially with so much of the story left to tell once he got to the trials. However, that's really neither here nor there in the big picture.

Not a big movie but it especially entertained my husband who loves cars and racing and engines and speed trials. Definitely recommended for Hopkins or car fans.

Lagniappe and Worth a Thousand Words: Chandler and Rembrandt

Rembrandt van Rijn, Self Portrait with Two Circles
They had Rembrandt on the calendar that year, a rather smeary self-portrait due to imperfectly registered color plate. It showed him holding a smeared palette with a dirty thumb and wearing a tam-o’-shanter which wasn’t any too clean either. His other hand held a brush poised in the air, as if he might be going to do a little work after a while, if somebody made a down payment. His face was aging, saggy, full of the disgust of life and the thickening effects of liquor. But it had a hard cheerfulness that I liked, and the eyes were as bright as drops of dew.
Raymond Chandler, Farewell My Lovely
I don't know if this is the portrait Philip Marlowe was looking at because I discovered that Rembrandt did over a hundred self-portraits in his lifetime. But this expression is the one that came to mind when I read that paragraph. "Hard cheerfulness" is the perfect description.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Blogging Around

In Praise of Sadness: The Healing Insight of "Inside Out"

“Inside Out” stands in opposition to an entire culture that tells people that happiness is the highest, best and sometimes only permissible emotion, and that sadness is an obstacle to being happy, and that we should concentrate all of our emotional and cultural energy on trying to eradicate sadness so that everyone can be happy. 
A good piece for those who have seen Inside Out. It's by Matt Zoller Seitz, my favorite reviewer at RogerEbert.com.

When the Pope is Viewed Only Through a Political Lens

Standing on a stage beneath a yellow metal roof, Francis used the wedding feast of Cana – in which by the biblical account Jesus ultimately turned water from ablution jars into wine – as a metaphor in which the wine symbolizes happiness, love and abundance.

“This lack of ‘wine’ can also be due to unemployment, illness and difficult situations which our families may experience,” he said.
That's part of the New York Times' summary of Pope Francis's homily about the wedding at Cana and families in Ecuador. Reading the homily itself, one has a hard time seeing the summary above as accurate. Do take the time to read it. It made me remember what a treasure our families are and, of course, the marriages from which they spring.

GetReligion discusses the way journalists tend to report on Pope Francis versus what he's really doing, which is ... well ... poping.
Pope Francis is preaching. The faith elements are part of the content, not words that create an irrelevant frame for the real news, which by definition has to be about politics.

This conflicts, as I said the other day, with the"mainstream journalism Grand Unified Theory" stating that "no matter what the pope cites as his reasons for visiting a land or region, he is actually there for political reasons. He is there in an attempt to impact the lives of real people through political ideas or actions (as opposed to through sacraments, biblical truth, etc.)."

SIL missionaries, jungle Indians unexpectedly steer a Jewish reporter toward home

Ira Rifkin advises journalists who want to write about religion in a pluralistic society to get comfortable with people who believe very differently from them. His illustration is a personal story that is touching and inspirational. I'd quote some here but I don't want to ruin it. Just dart over to GetReligion and read it for yourself.

Well Said: Making Mistakes

Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.
Albert Einstein

Worth a Thousand Words: Brousov Calendar

Brousov Calendar, Viktor Vasnetsov

Seriously. Who ate those strawberries?

Julie and Scott have a lot of very important things to do, but instead they are going to find out who ate the strawberries.

They are absolutely sure that one of you people has a key to the refrigerator.

Episode 112, The Caine Mutiny by Herman Wouk, at A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Worth a Thousand Words: Fern Forest

Fern Forest
taken by http://blog.moment.ee/2015/07/sonajalamets-fern-forest.html
There are so many wonderful photos at Remo Savisaar's blog right now that I had a hard time choosing. This just looks so peaceful and cool, doesn't it? And it is not at all what I'd expect to find in Estonia which I somehow imagine to be too chilly for ferns.

Well Said: Wasted Hours

Remember this, if you can--there is nothing, nothing more precious than time. You probably feel you have a measureless supply of it, but you haven't. Wasted hours destroy your life just as surely at the beginning as at the end--only in the end it becomes more obvious.
Herman Wouk, The Caine Mutiny
Scott and I recorded our upcoming episode about The Caine Mutiny last night. Our conversation brought me an even greater appreciation for the book.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Worth a Thousand Words: The Mirror

Robert Reid, The Mirror, c. 1910
Via Arts Everyday Living

Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus by Nabeel Qureshi

Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters ChristianitySeeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity by Nabeel Qureshi


This is the book I'd recommend to any Christian who wants to understand how Muslims view Christianity (and Christians) and how they embrace and love their own faith. At least you'll better understand Westernized Muslims, which is the author's background.

Growing up between Great Britain and America, Nabeel Qureshi never fit in with Western culture because of his Islamic heritage. When Qureshi meets David, a devout Christian, he finally has a friend who is more like him than anyone else because their faith is such a core element of their lives.

Qureshi soon begins trying to convert David to Islam because he is sharing the greatest gift he knows, true knowledge of God. However, he gets a surprise when the arguments that previously planted doubt in Christians all fall apart when raised with a Christian who knows his faith well. In the process Qureshi carefully explains "what every Muslim knows" about Islam so that we understand his reasoning. This provided insights into the Muslim understanding of faith and God. What became really interesting was watching when Christian friends began asking about Muhammad and the Quran.

We know from the title where this book will end so as it progressed I became increasingly apprehensive, just as Qureshi was, for what a decision to become Christian would do to his loving parents. I really loved the window this book provided into a loving Muslim family and this was one of the most gripping parts of the book.

There is an emphasis in this book on history, source materials, and reliability of testimony which I am used to seeing applied to Christianity but which becomes riveting when seeing it applied to Islam. I also appreciated the way that Qureshi was careful to explain the differences between what Westernized Muslims teach versus Eastern Muslims. That in itself was an education and helped me see why some explanations of Islamic behavior (peaceful versus ISIS, for example) are so contradictory.

Eye opening, inspirational, and definitely recommended.

In which the White Moll carries out her promise to Gypsy Nan and encounters The Adventurer.

Chapters 3-4 of The White Moll are ready for your listening enjoyment at Forgotten Classics podcast.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Worth a Thousand Words: Dama en la Exposición Universal de Paris

Luis Jiménez Aranda, Dama en la Exposición Universal de Paris (1889)
This is another of the fine paintings we enjoyed last week on our date at the Meadows Museum. I found myself continually admiring Luis Aranda's paintings, as it turned out when I kept checking the plates next to various paintings.

Well Said: Giving and Following Advice

She generally gave herself very good advice (though she very seldom followed it).
Lewis Carroll
Isn't that the way?

I myself have the same problem. It's the source of many moments that lead me to the confessional.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Well Said: There are traps everywhere

In reading Chesterton, as in reading MacDonald, I did not know what I was letting myself in for. A young man who wishes to remain a sound Atheist cannot be too careful of his reading. There are traps everywhere — "Bibles laid open, millions of surprises," as Herbert says, "fine nets and stratagems." God is, if I may say it, very unscrupulous.”
C.S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy
I see that attitude a lot, beginning with St. Augustine. It's one of the reasons why I'm surprised that God snared me without any reading at all.

Of course, it didn't take long before he was peppering me with reading that carried me further and further under his influence. It began before my confirmation with a gift from my sweet godmother, Aunt C.B. who sent me Rome, Sweet Home by Scott Hahn. Thank you, Aunt C.B.!

Worth a Thousand Words: Portrait of a Knight of Santiago

Jusepe de Ribera, Portrait of a Knight of Santiago
The Meadows Museum
This is another of my favorite pieces from Dallas's best kept secret, The Meadows Museum.

Guess why?

Ok, it's true that I really like Ribera's work. Of course, it is the glasses. This knight had the latest tech and was going to show it off.

As Tom said, "Can you get my smartphone in this one? I want people to know I had the newest thing."

Friday, July 10, 2015

Well Said: The acceptance of grace

The acceptance of grace is not a passive thing; it demands a surrender of something, even if it is only our pride.
Fulton Sheen, Peace of Soul
Ain't that the truth!

"Only our pride." That's the hardest surrender of all usually, at least for me.

Worth a Thousand Words: Saints Justa and Rufina

Saint Justa, Bartolomé Esteban Murillo
The Meadows Museum

Once again, I'm going to remind anyone living in Dallas that The Meadows Museum at SMU is the city's best kept secret.

Thursday nights are free and so last night Tom and I had a date night perusing The Abelló Collection. It is one of top of private Spanish art collections, including works by some of the greatest artists from the 1500s through modern times. Some of the paintings were truly stunning and I was reminded that the computer is a flat way to see art.

We also went into the other half of the upstairs exhibit space where we encountered some paintings from the regular collection that we either didn't remember or were part of the concurrent exhibit: The Meadows Collects: 50 Years of Spanish Art in Texas.

At any rate, these two beauties by Batrolome Murillo (a favorite of mine) entranced me. I was drawn to them again and again.

I'll be sharing other favorites next week.


Saint Rufina, Bartolomé Esteban Murillo
The Meadows Museum

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Worth a Thousand Words: Common Blue Dameslfly

Common Blue Damselfly
taken by that master nature photographer Remo Savisaar

Reading Slump Solution: Hard-Boiled Detectives

It took Sherry at Semicolon to put a name to my recent reading problem. She talked about nothing appealing to her and said she was in a reading slump.

Yes! It's funny how having a label often brings focus to life.

I'd been drifting lately, with plenty of good books to read for upcoming podcasts but with nothing that really grabbed me, nothing that made it hard to turn out the light because I had to read just one more paragraph. I must have had this happen before but well into the third week I felt life had lost its savor. I never realized just how much I depend on books to invigorate me.

It was so bad that I went through several days without really reading for more than a few minutes at a time.

I know, right? I can't express how startled I was when I realized this.

The Long Goodbye - Raymond Chandler


The solution came from an unlikely combination. It went down like this:

They laid it out right up front. "Two days to do the layout for a 400 page book. Over 4th of July weekend," they said.

I drained the coffee cup. There were grounds in the bottom. The staff was getting sloppy. Maybe there was too much overtime all around. Or maybe they were just sloppy.

I crushed my cigarette in the ashtray.

"I can handle it."

"And revisions," they said, eyes glinting in the car light reflected from the big front window. "That'll be another couple of tough days."

"I said I can handle it!"
When basically tied to the computer for two to four days, what do you do? Load up an audiobook that packs maximum enjoyment and lets your brain glide over the action without having to pay too much attention. Luckily Audible recently put The Long Goodbye on sale and I'd bitten.

Ray Porter is a bit too straight-forward and forceful as Philip Marlowe. I always felt there was more of a laid-back sophistication underlying the dialogue. And I'm used to Porter laying it on thick when he reads Jonathan Maberry's Joe Ledger novels. But you can't beat him for doing the secondary characters. And, who knows? Maybe Marlowe was more of a straight-forward simple guy than I'm giving him credit for.

I'm about a third of the way into it and surprised at how modern the action, attitudes, and dialogue seem. This must have been like dynamite back in the days when it was brand-spanking new.

This began to wake me up but it wasn't something for the eyes, something to pick up and dive into when you couldn't devote time to listening. I needed more.

It was when looking over the Philip Marlowe books that I remembered Raymond Chandler's unfinished novel Poodle Springs was completed by Robert B. Parker. (Did you know there were seven? I had no idea.)

And I remembered it had been a heckuva long time since I'd read a Spenser novel. Even better, the library had the ebook available to download directly to my Kindle. (Sometimes I love living in the future with instant books.) I began instantly and found myself reading every spare moment right up to the time I was falling asleep with the book in my hand.

The Godwulf Manuscript - Robert B. Parker

"A pig is a pig," she said. "Whether he's public or private, he works for the same people."

"Next time you're in trouble," I said, "call a hippie."
Oh yeah, that's the stuff.

I encountered the Spenser novels in the early 1980s and became enamored. I'd never read anything like them.

Of course, I'd never read Dashiell Hammett or Raymond Chandler. I knew of them from movies but hard-boiled didn't appeal as reading material or even, at the time, as viewing material. It took a smart mouth like Robert B. Parker's detective, Spenser, to delight me and pull me into that world.

Now, decades later, I realize the legacy Parker was carrying on. Rereading this book while listening to The Long Goodbye, I really appreciate just how well Parker pulled it off.

For this particular book, the first of the series, it's interesting to me that I recall the solution to the big problem but I have absolutely no memory at all of most of the book. Terry Orchard and her string of problems are completely new to me.

So I am in the unique position of reconnecting with a well-loved literary friend and of reading a "new" book by him. What slump wouldn't that cure?

Next Rediscovery - Lieutenant Luis Mendoza mysteries by Dell Shannon

All these trips down memory lane made me remember a series that my parents loved. It was long running string of police procedurals set in Los Angeles featuring Lieutenant Luis Mendoza.

It has to have been unusual for a Hispanic homicide lieutenant to be the main character of these books but it never struck me at the time. I also never realized that Dell Shannon as a nom de plum.

Amazon says:
Debonair LAPD Lieutenant Luis Mendoza, broke new ground in being one of the first Latino police officers in the procedural genre, and Linington herself was a pioneer in a male-dominated industry, earning the moniker "Queen of the Procedurals."
The Kindle sample made me go right to the library to request the first in the series. No one really remembers them any more but they were really good.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Julie and Scott had this great idea for a TV show ...


... where they argue about movies every week. And then realize that Roger Ebert already had that idea. They spend an hour talking about him instead. Join us for Episode 111 of A Good Story is Hard to Find —  Life Itself: a documentary about Roger Ebert.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Soooo Much Work ...

... which is a good thing.

I was happy to get the opportunity for an emergency book layout job. Yes, such things exist, believe it or not. These jobs don't come along often. So spending most of my 4th of July weekend and yesterday glued to the computer was not as distressing as it might have been.

As the final stages of proofing wear on, I myself am wearing down to the point where blogging is going to have to wait.

I hope to be back tomorrow, refreshed, and with something interesting to look at or read. Until then ...

Monday, July 6, 2015

A Movie You Might Have Missed #49: The Extraordinary Voyage

The cinematic journey of the iconic film A Trip to the Moon

#49. The Extraordinary Voyage


The Extraordinary Voyage (2011)

We came across this on the Docurama channel when surfing Roku.

What a find! This tells the story of Georges Melies, whose 1902 film Le Voyage Dans la Lune left us with the indelible image of gentlemen in top hats exploring the moon. However, in order to tell Melies' story, the filmmakers wove the story of early cinema itself around the narrative. It winds up following restoration efforts to the only hand-colored print of the film in existence.

In particular I loved seeing how experimenting with a new medium allowed vivid story telling and imaginative special effects in those early days. Clocking in at 78 minutes, The Extraordinary Journey is packed with entertainment and elegant fantasy as well as being a fascinating tale.

Show and Tell: Clock at Church of the Holy Spirit

Finely carved clock of the Church of the Holy Ghost in Tallinn, Estonia,
work by Christian Ackermann (late 17th century)
Via Wikipedia
This is the oldest public clock in Tallinn, and reminds us how important the Church was for daily life: religious services, announced by a peal of bells, would have structured the day and the week. The central sunburst on the clock refers not only to the passage of the sun across the sky, but also to the light of God, which was often depicted like this in the 17th century. The Holy Spirit frequently appears at the centre of this light and His presence can be assumed here, from the name of the church itself.
Today we combine the art and inspirational quote. That is often the case in Richard Stemp's wonderful book The Secret Language of Churches & Cathedrals. Not only does it, as the subhead says, decode the sacred symbolism of Christianity's holy buildings, but the author's commentary often lifts my spirit higher as he connects the realms of art, faith, and place.

I'll be sharing more of these whenever I get the chance.

Friday, July 3, 2015

A Movie You Should See ASAP — Inside Out


Growing up can be a bumpy road, and it's no exception for Riley, who is uprooted from her Midwest life when her father starts a new job in San Francisco. Like all of us, Riley is guided by her emotions - Joy, Fear, Anger, Disgust and Sadness. The emotions live in Headquarters, the control center inside Riley's mind, where they help advise her through everyday life.
There are not enough stars to say how much I loved this movie.

The movie description, while accurate, cannot possibly do this film justice. Ignore it and go anyway because this is one of Pixar's masterpieces.

It works because we all recognize everything going on in this girl's life and in her head. If Pixar had taken a false step we would have felt it, because we all know the source material so well. They hit every note perfectly to tell a nuanced, complex story that made me laugh and cry (just a little), touched my heart and made me appreciate my emotions just a little more.

I didn't read more than the beginnings of all the positive reviews because I didn't want the plot revealed. And I am going to follow that guideline here.

This movie ranks with The Incredibles and Wall-E, which is to say it is Pixar gold standard. This is already a top movie of my year and it may just push its way onto my all-time favorites list.

Get out there and see it in a crowded theater where you can enjoy it best.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

In which we meet The White Moll and Gypsy Nan.


Who could resist a crime novel with someone named Gypsy Nan? I can't!

We're beginning it at A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast.

Well Said: Show me your hands...

Show me your hands. Do they have scars from giving? Show me your feet. Are they wounded in service? Show me your heart. Have you left a place for divine love?
Fulton Sheen
Words worth considering as part of my self examination.

Worth a Thousand Words: Adolphe Cossard

Adolphe Cossard
via French Painters

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The 10 Books That Have Influenced Me Most

The Christian Century magazine asked a lot of famous people "What books did most to shape your vocational attitude and your philosophy of life?"

Here is C.S. Lewis's list, which he didn't explain.

Of course, being a list-loving gal, I wrote down my own, which I will explain. (In order of how they occurred to me.)
  1. The Hobbit (J.R.R. Tolkien)
    The story of Bilbo trying to pick the troll's pocket directly influenced me going to read aloud to my mother-in-law. (It's a long story, but that example made me realize that bravery is learned and you have to begin with small efforts.)
  2. The Lord of the Rings (J.R.R. Tolkien)
    The fact that it is a rattling good yarn is, of course, the first attraction. I've never read such a work on the power of mercy, love, and justice. Ever. I never used to be able to pick a favorite book. Now I can and this is it.
  3. Uncle Tom's Cabin (Harriet Beecher Stowe)
    A fantastic soap opera, full of cliff hangers, and with a wonderful Christ figure. I reluctantly read this at my daughter Rose's urging. I'd thought of classics as being boring (with the notable exception of Jane Eyre). Afterward, I thought that if this classic was so good perhaps I should try another. So I picked A Tale of Two Cities up and found ... a love of Charles Dickens and the classics awaiting me. I haven't looked back. All thanks to Uncle Tom's Cabin.
  4. A Father Who Keeps His Promises (Scott Hahn)
    The first serious theology book I read after my conversion. It taught me how to see below the surface of Scripture to the different levels of meaning. This changed not only how I read Scripture but how I watched movies and read books. It opened my mind to greater possibilities in each story.
  5. Catholic Christianity (Peter Kreeft)
    When I'd joined the Church I had serious reservations about Catholic teachings on many social issues, among them abortion, gay marriage, and the death penalty. When I figured I'd better learn why the Church taught what she did, this book was just being published. Divine Providence? Possibly. Kreeft's inescapable logic is what reconciled me to those teachings, which I eventually was able to embrace.
  6. The Hiding Place (Corrie Ten Boom)
    This may be the most inspirational book I've ever read. Every time I read it I come away resolving to be a better Christian, a better person.
  7. The Great Divorce (C.S. Lewis)
    The newest addition to my list. I just read this a few weeks ago. I've never read anything that so vividly made me understand how necessary it is to make daily sacrifices to toughen myself up in order to make it to Heaven. Also, it gives a wonderful interpretation of Purgatory which has greatly inspired me.
  8. Jurassic Park (Michael Crichton)
    The book that taught me to look critically at the "truths" business and science tell us. And a rattling good yarn. If you've only seen the movie, you're missing the whole story. The book is much better. I reread this often just for the fun of it.
  9. The Stand (Stephen King)
    Good and evil are real and here is how they manifest themselves in the world. As with so many others, a rattling good yarn that I've reread many times for the sheer pleasure of it.
  10. In Conversation with God (Francis Fernandez)
    This is more properly a series of seven devotionals, with entries for every day of the liturgical year as well as two volumes devoted to special feast days. I discovered these soon after I converted and reading them daily for at least four years was deeply formational. I cannot recommend these books too highly. The one most people have tried is the Lent/Easter book but the one I began with was for this time of year. I soon bought all the others.
Note that this is different than top 10 favorite books. That list will be coming soon!

I don't need an excuse to make a list, but that's a good 'un!

Worth a Thousand Words: The Klostersee

The Klostersee
by Edward B. Gordon
It's been too long since we've feasted our eyes on Edward B. Gordon's art at this blog. This is a lovely, pastoral scene.

And it's in Pomerania! I couldn't resist. Though I don't see a single Pomeranian (human or canine) in this painting.

Well Said: The Church's Execution

The notice of [the Church's] execution has been posted, but the execution has never taken place. Science killed her, and still she was there; History interred her, but still she was alive. Modernism slew her, but still she lived.
Fulton Sheen, The Divine Romance