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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Angel, Leibniz, Kant

- Angel (the vampire :)

I've never been able to believe, like Leibniz, that this is the "best of all possible worlds", and I instead agree with something once said by Angel to his son ... Nothing in the world is the way it ought to be. It's harsh, and cruel. But that's why there's us - champions. Doesn't matter where we come from, what we've done or suffered, or even if we make a difference. We live as though the world is as it should be, to show it what it can be.

I was reminded of that when I saw a video clip of philosopher Susan Neiman, Director of the Einstein Forum, on Kant and the difference between the way the world is and the way it should be. It began with this quote from Kant - Act as though the principle of your action were to become by your will a universal law of nature.


Six years ago today my cat Spot died. Still miss her. Spot and her mother, brother and sister became my best friends when I'd moved back here to live with my mom, my sister then living in Japan and me more and more shy with my eye problem. When Spot died, my vet sent me a card with this about the rainbow bridge within ....


Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.

When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable. All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor. Those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by. The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.

They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent. His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.

You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.

Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together…

– Author Unknown


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Finding God in all things

Here are three videos on Ignatius' concept of finding God in all things. Interesting how different everyone's views about it are ...

Finding God in All Things, or Allowing God to Find Me? from SLU Mission & Ministry on Vimeo.


I'm teaching the bluejays in the yard the word 'peanut' :)

Monday, August 29, 2011

Give your vocation the underwear test

I saw a post at First Thoughts which opined [I think wrongly] that religious vocations are down because people have lost the will to make commitments, and the writer references Thomas Aquinas on the subject ... St. Thomas implies that the mere experience of feeling called is an indicator that one is indeed called, not merely that one should consider whether they are being called.

I like the alternative method Jonah Lehrer mentions in one of his recent posts at Wired's The Frontal Cortex ....


Love Is The Opposite Of Underwear
- by Jonah Lehrer

On Monday, I had the honor of delivering a convocation speech at Earlham College. I won’t clog up this blog with the full text of my talk, but I thought a few readers might be interested in the brief excerpt ......

[H]ow can we sort the useful long-term goals from the futile ones? How can we make sure that all of our struggle and practice and sacrifice will be worth it? Well, here’s my advice: ask yourself if the goal passes the underwear test.

Let me explain. One of the most deep seated features of the human mind is that it quickly takes things for granted, becoming numb to the predictable perceptions and pleasures of the world. Just think of your underwear. Do you feel it? Are you conscious of it? Of course not. That’s because you’ve adapted to the feel of underwear, habituated to the touch of cotton on your bum.

And this isn’t just about underwear. Psychological adaptation also explains why the first bite of chocolate cake is better than the second, and the second is better than the third. It explains why the first time you use that new iPhone you’re pretty excited, but before long it will just be another thing in your pocket. And then, a few weeks after that, you’ll start complaining that your phone (your phone!) can only hold 10,000 songs or that it downloads streaming videos from Netflix so slowly. The delight has vanished, replaced by the usual dissatisfaction. This is because our brain is designed to be ungrateful, every pleasure a fleeting thing.

What does this have to do with grit and long-term goals? Well, the only dreams worth pursuing are those that pass the underwear test. These are the pursuits that don’t bore us, even after we put in 10,000 hours of practice. They contain the kind of subtle thrills that don’t get old, that we don’t adapt to, that keep us motivated and interested for years and years at a time. Sure, there will be frustrations along the way, but these frustrations don’t feel permanent, which is what allows us to keep on working and learning and improving. Because that’s what it takes to succeed, to accomplish something interesting. Perhaps you want to invent the cure for malaria, or bake a perfect baguette, or create the next Facebook. Whatever – don’t apologize for your obsession. Just be grateful you are obsessed with something, that you’ve found a goal worth getting gritty over. Because if your goals ever feel tedious, if you find them as unnecessary as that last bite of chocolate cake, then you’re never going to put in the necessary work. Grit requires passion. Grit requires love. And love is just another name for what never gets old. Love is the opposite of underwear.


Sunday, August 28, 2011


I learned of a new food today, or new to me I should say - Shakshouka - thanks to Not Eating Out in New York. Here's the beginning of the post, which also contains the recipe and some great photos ....

They say shakshouka, a common Israeli breakfast dish, is difficult or taxing to make, or that canned tomatoes are the best option to create a thick and savory sauce. But it was the first thing I could think of to whip up when I could find little else but ripe tomatoes and fresh eggs in the icebox one morning last week. I don’t mean that in a nostalgic way, using the word, “icebox” — for the past couple weeks, I’ve been living on a single-hull sailboat docked at the San Francisco marina ...

George Harrison movie

I see that Martin Scorsese's documentary for BBC on George Harrison will air in October on HBO. Argh - I've no cable - I hope it will be for rent soon. Here's the trailer ...

22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Here's just the beginning of a homily by Rob Marsh SJ on today's readings. Read the whole homily here at All Things Seen and Unseen ....


Sunday Week 22 Year A
- Rob Marsh SJ

Well as they, “Denial isn’t just a big river in Egypt.”
There are two Peters offered us throughout the gospel: there’s the rock of stability, the pillar of faith, who sees the truth about Jesus and speaks it boldly … and then there’s the stumbling block, the well-meaning, shortsighted buffoon who, again and again, stands in Jesus’ way. And the two Peters are one guy … and there’s something for us all to learn from that. We belong to a church proud to identify with Peter the rock. We are so ready to embrace the solidity of Peter’s office but that very firmness of foundation makes it so easy to become Satan, Accuser of the faithful, an obstacle to the brave and foolish Jesus who walks a way to Jerusalem which only idiots can travel. The rock become the stumbling block. Much easier to remember the confidence Jesus placed in Peter and forget the repeated denials. But Peter was one man, not two. And we are one church. And Peter kept on changing. God always managed to get underneath his most stubborn denial and set his feet back on the path ......


Saturday, August 27, 2011

Hurricane Irene

I hope everyone in the path of Hurricane Irene stays safe, including animals ... NYC Animal Welfare Agencies Deploy Responders in Preparation for Hurricane Irene

Friday, August 26, 2011

Abraham, Isaac, and Kant

- The Sacrifice of Isaac by Juan de Valdés Leal

A few things came together for me today -- a post at the NYT's philosophy blog, a post at Todd's blog, and Keith Ward's Kant lecture.

At The Stone, the NYT's philosophy blog, from Joel Marks - Confessions of an Ex-Moralist. Here's the beginning of it ...

The day I became an atheist was the day I realized I had been a believer.

Up until then I had numbered myself among the “secular ethicists.” Plato’s “Euthyphro” had convinced me, as it had so many other philosophers, that religion is not needed for morality. Socrates puts the point characteristically in the form of a question: “Do the gods love something because it is pious, or is something pious because the gods love it?” To believe the latter would be to allow that any act whatever might turn out to be the “pious” or right thing to do, provided only that one of the gods (of Olympus), or the God of “Genesis” and “Job” in one of His moods, “loved” or willed it. Yet if God commanded that we kill our innocent child in cold blood, would we not resist the rightness of this act?

This would seem to be the modern, sane view of the matter. We have an intuitive sense of right and wrong that trumps even the commands of God. We have the ability to judge that God is good or bad. Therefore, even if God did not exist, we could fend for ourselves in matters of conscience. Ethics, not divine revelation, is the guide to life ....

And this from Todd's post, Heading Into Difficult Territory, at Catholic Sensibility ....

Jephthah’s horrific vow turned up in the daily Lectionary last week. Without even a balance of Jesus in Matthew 5:37:

Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ mean ‘No.’ Anything more is from the evil one.

Our new associate pastor did an amazing dance by not only tackling that passage from Judges, but slathering on innumerable coats of paint* to get us to the Liturgy of the Eucharist as Christians. If I had been the preacher, I think this is one passage that can be read with full condemnation and not a stitch of regret in doing so. Anything else may well be from the evil one ...

* The spiritual interpretation for those outraged by the murder of one’s own child

And then Keith Ward's lecture on Kant. You can find the whole lecture in video here at, or you can listen to it here at Gresham College's site. The transcript is also at the Gresham site but Professor Ward tends to go off the beaten path in person, so his spoken lectures aren't always the same as the written ones :). Here's the bit of his (spoken) lecture that I was reminded of when I saw the post from the NYT's philosophy blog and the one from Todd's blog ....


The Triumph of Idealism
by Keith Ward

"[...] What is the practical consideration about God? Well, Kant thought it was mainly two-fold. One is that God is the ground of moral obligation - when you feel there is an objective moral obligation, you're in fact hearing the voice of God. And in his last work ... he actually identified God with with the sense of objective moral obligation. What he was saying there was, it's not that you first of all believe in God, you theoretically have some arguments that there's a God, and then you say our God commands you to do something so I must do it. Kant was totally opposed to that. So Kant would have been opposed to anybody who said 'I can show there's a God and that God, for example, inspired the writing of the Bible. Because it says in the Bible you should do X, therefore you should do it.' He was opposed to that. So there's no argument from a theoretical belief in God to obeying the commands of God. Rather he felt it's the other way around.

You argue from your deepest and strongest moral obligation to the existence of that which grounds this obligation in objective reality. You call that God. So it can never be the case for Kant that God commands something immoral. That's just not a possibility for him because you decide what God is by finding out what your strongest moral obligation is. So if you think the strongest moral obligation is to love your neighbor as yourself, then you can say, because this is an objective obligation, that is what God is - God is love. And you're not just saying I'm going to use the word God to stand for some human obligation. What you're trying to say is, ultimate reality grounds this objective obligation. But you have to add: theoretically, I don't know what this ultimate reality is. I certainly can't say it's like a person who is telling me to do something - that's ruled out - I just have to say I have to picture my objective moral obligation as God commanding me to do something. That's the way I have to picture it.

You may feel inclined to disbelieve that, but it is what Kant thought: that objective moral obligations have to be grounded in some belief in a reality which could give rise to such obligations, and the term for that, the model for that, is the will of God. So, for Kant, the Will of God - this was a very important point for Kant, and for Protestant thought too, in general - the will of God cannot conflict with your duty, with your moral obligation, because you define the will of God in terms of your moral obligation. So there cannot be a conflict between revealed morality and your own felling of what is right or wrong, because it is your feeling that will actually determine you to accept something as a revelation or not. And if you have a revelation which tells you to do something that you think is immoral - for example if in the Bible it tells you that women should always obey their husbands, which I believe it does, my wife tells me, then you should say, if that conflicts with my moral obligation it's not what God says. I don't care if it's in the Bible or not, because that's not what God is, God doesn't do that sort of thing.

So Kant was clearly not somebody who would let his morality be determined by revelation. He called that heteronomy, taking your moral beliefs on authority from somewhere else, either a book or a person or a group of people. So he did believe in moral autonomy in the sense that you have to start with what you think is right and your religion can never conflict with that. Well what, you may say, about Abraham and Isaac? Kant wouldn't have had much time for them. That is, he wouldn't have agonized, didn't agonize, about whether Abraham really was commanded by God to sacrifice his son. Since such sacrifice is immoral, God clearly didn't do that - that's Kant's view ...."


Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Well at the World's End

- from The Well at the World's End, William Morris, . Kelmscott Press, 1896

Speaking of science fiction/fantasy books, a fantasy book I really loved when I was a teenager was The Well at the World's End by Pre-Raphaelite artist William Morris. It wasn't the best written but it gave me the feeling that something magical was about to happen to me. Here's a bit about it from Wikipedia ...

Although the novel is relatively obscure by today's standards it has had a significant influence on many notable fantasy authors. C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien both seem to have found inspiration in The Well at the World's End: ancient tables of stone, a "King Peter", and a quick, white horse named "Silverfax" are only a few, to say nothing of Ralph's journey home as denouement, anticipating the Hobbits' return and battle for the Shire.

My copy looked like this ...

But the original looked like this ...

The story can be read online here.

Photos from the yard today

- if you click to enlarge this sunflower, you can see the bee right in the center ....

- a couple of naked ladies ...

- a hollyhock ....

- I surprised this squirrel digging in a flowerpot ....

Monday, August 22, 2011

Mosaic angel

I cam across this mosaic angel today by Friedrich Wilhelm Kleukens, He was part of the Darmstadt Artists' Colony which was founded in 1899 by Ernest Ludwig, Grand Duke of Hesse. The mosaic is in the Hochzeitsturm (wedding tower), a gift from the people of Darmstadt to the Grand Duke on his marriage ....

Sunday, August 21, 2011


Courtesy of Dina, here's an aerial video preview of an upcoming movie about Jerusalem (IMAX). Beautiful images. Visit the website for more info ....

Jerusalem | Filmed in Imax 3D from JerusalemGiantScreen on Vimeo.

Bonaventure on angels

- Gabriel, 12th-century mosaic, La Martorana

Here's more about what Bonaventure thought about the nature of angels, from a paper I came across online - The Individuation of Angels from Bonaventure to Duns Scotus by Giorgio Pini.

I think I especially like Bonaventure's way of looking at the issue because, as Wikipedia comments ... In philosophy Bonaventure presents a marked contrast to his contemporaries, Roger Bacon and Thomas Aquinas. While these may be taken as representing, respectively, physical science yet in its infancy, and Aristotelian scholasticism in its most perfect form, he presents the mystical and Platonizing mode of speculation ... I do like Plato - the college Plato seminar I took made a serious impression on me. I still remember the small room with its one table, about 10 of us sitting around it. I remember our kind teacher with his shaggy beard and those sweaters that button up the front. I even remember the green cloth cover of the book and its tissue-papery pages. Wish I remembered as well the stuff about Forms ;)

Here's just the part of the paper about Bonaventure, who thought angels were made up of both form and (non-corporeal) matter, while Thomas Aquinas believed they were instead pure form ....


The Individuation of Angels from Bonaventure to Duns Scotus
by Giorgio Pini

The individuation of angels constitutes a good example of how an apparently obscure question concerning a specific aspect of Christian theology provided later medieval thinkers with the opportunity to explore some fundamental issues in metaphysics. ...... What accounts for an angel’s individuality? Before Aquinas, the individuation of angels was not singled out as posing a specific difficulty, since angels were not considered to have a deep metaphysical structure different from that of the substances of our everyday experience.

Bonaventure may be regarded as an example of this attitude.8 According to him, every created thing is composed of two constituents, matter and form. For Bonaventure, matter is roughly equivalent to potentiality, while form is roughly equivalent to actuality. At a very general level, that every creature is composed of matter and form is due to the fact that every creature, both with respect to what it is (e.g., a cat or a human being) and with respect to what it does (e.g., purring or thinking), is the result of the actualization of some potentialities that could have remained non-actualized. Things could have been otherwise. For example, it is a contingent fact that this very cat was generated. Also, it is a contingent fact that this cat is actually purring or that this human being is actually thinking; by actually purring and actually thinking, the cat and the human being actualize some powers present in their natures that did not have to be actualized. Bonaventure made this point by saying that every creature is limited and changeable and that these two features can be explained only by positing in any creature two metaphysical constituents that account for its having some potentialities that are not necessarily actualized. These two constituents are matter and form. In this way, Bonaventure contrasted creatures to God, who is the only being that lacks composition.9

Since all creatures have potentialities that are not necessarily actualized (i.e. no creature is a necessary being, since all are limited and subject to change), Bonaventure concluded that all creatures are composed of matter and form.10 This does not entail, however, that any thing composed of matter and form is also composed of quantitative parts (i.e., parts with a certain extension), for Bonaventure carefully distinguished between matter, on the one hand, and extension, on the other hand. Quantity, not matter, makes something extended, i.e., corporeal. Accordingly, some things may be composed of matter and not be extended. This is the case with angels. Thus angels are both material and spiritual, i.e., not corporeal.11

Bonaventure’s position concerning the composition of matter and form in any created thing, angels included, allowed him to give a unitary solution to the problem of individuation for all created things. Even though angels are different in kind from corporeal creatures, they are individuated in the same way, i.e. as a result of their being composed of matter and form. Neither matter nor form, taken by themselves, accounts for the individuality of a certain thing. It is because of their union that a certain individual exists.12

Accordingly, Bonaventure could easily account for the numerical multiplication of angels within the same species. Since it is not an angel’s form that accounts of that angel’s individuation, there is nothing in a certain form that prevents it from giving rise to different individuals by being united with matter several times. But individuals that have the same form are in the same species. Therefore, there can be several angels in the same species. It also follows that in angels, just like in any other creature, there is a difference between, on the one hand, the kind of thing an individual is and, on the other hand, that very individual. As Bonaventure put it, in any individual there is a difference between essence and the supposit that instantiates it. Since the same essence can be instantiated many times, there can be many supposits sharing the same essence.13 ......


Saturday, August 20, 2011

Russell Crowe and Bernard of Clairvaux

Last night I watched a movie, State of Play, that starred Russell Crowe as an investigative reporter who ferrets out the bad acts of a Congressman who's working to uncover an evil conspiracy by private defense contractors. The scriptwriter said that at the core of the story was the question of whether a person would be justified in doing "a pretty awful thing" if they were performing great deeds in other areas of their life.

Today, when I saw some posts online about Bernard of Clairvaux, that question came to mind. The posts I saw were positive, relating all of Bernard's good works, but when I think of Bernard, I think instead of his connection with militancy -- he was a fan of the Templars, preached the Second Crusade, and was death on heretics.

People often say that the great goodness men like Bernard achieved obviates any possible badness in which they may also have participated. This is one answer to the question asked by the scriptwriter of State of Play, but it wouldn't be mine. The writer of the film seems to agree with me because Russel Crowe's character turns the Congressman in to the police, even knowing that this will derail the Congressman's expose of the bad guys.

For those interested, you can read Bernard's letter to the Templars - Bernard of Clairvaux: DE LAUDE NOVAE MILITIAE (1128-1131). Here's a bit from it ...

[...] Christ's knights can fight their Lord's fight in safety, fearless of sin in slaughter of their adversaries and fearless of danger at their own deaths, since death suffered or dealt out on Christ's behalf holds no crime and merits great glory. Hence one gains for Christ, and then gains Christ Himself, who most willingly accepts the death of an adversary for the ends of vengeance and then even more willingly offers Himself to a knight for the end of consolation. Christ's knight deals out death in safety, as I said, and suffers death in even greater safety. He benefits himself when he suffers death, and benefits Christ when he deals out death. 'He does not wear a sword without cause; he is God's agent for punishment of evil-doers and for glorification of the good.' Clearly, when he kills an evil-doer, he is not a homicide, but, if you will allow me the term, a malicide, and is plainly Christ's vengeance on those who work evil and the defense Christ provides for Christians. When such a knight is himself killed, we know that he has not simply perished but has won through to the end of this life. The death he inflicts accrues to Christ's profit; the death he receives accrues to his own. The Christian glories in a pagan's death, because Christ is glorified; in the death of a Christian, the King's generosity is confirmed, by revelation of the knight's reward. Moreover, in the first case, the just will be gladdened when they see vengeance done; in the second, 'men will say, if there is indeed a reward for the just, it is God Judging men on earth.' Pagans would not even have to be slaughtered, if there were some other way to prevent them from besetting and oppressing the faithful. But now it is better that they be killed than that the rod of these sinners continue to imperil the lot of the just, preventing the just from reaching out their hands against iniquity.

- Saint-Bernard prêchant la 2e croisade, à Vézelay, en 1146 by Émile Signol

Thursday, August 18, 2011


- vegan blueberry muffins at Whole Foods

Saw this today ... From omnivore to vegan: The dietary education of Bill Clinton. I'm a vegetarian but can't help feeling guilty I'm not a vegan. Maybe someday soon. Meanwhile, though his reasons for becoming a vegan were not based on ethical concerns but health issues, Bill Clinton's decision still helps animals and the environment :)

The Bus

I used to ride the bus to work - it took two buses to get me to the hospital where I was a surgery aid. I thought of this when I saw a post by Ruth Margalit at The New Yorker's News Desk blog ....

The Bus to Eilat

[...] The target of the deadly attack—bus No. 392, riddled with bullet holes and smashed windows—was the same bus I used to take every week for almost two years as a soldier in the Israeli Air Force.

Even on a normal day, the 392 bus encapsulates many of the contradictions of life in Israel. Making its way south from the central bus station in Be’er Sheva to the city of Eilat by way of the remote desert town of Mitzpe Ramon, this bus is typically boarded by partying Israeli teens heading to Eilat’s seaside, along with grouchy soldiers—only slightly older versions of those very same teens—returning to their posts in or near Mitzpe Ramon after a brief respite home. Other passengers on this southbound bus would typically include kippa-wearing Orthodox Jews, as well as Arab-Israeli residents of Be’er Sheva, Russian and Ethiopian immigrants from the nearby Negev towns, and, occasionally, Bedouin shepherds from the surrounding villages. I can picture the too-loud iPods and the dozing sergeants, the landscape of white dunes and winding road, and how an uneventful ride suddenly turned into a nightmare ......

Read more about what happened at TIME magazine - Attack in the Israeli Desert: 'It Wasn't Supposed to End This Way'

The statement

Here's the text of the statement made by some 100+ priests of Madrid in an open letter protesting World Youth Day. The original statement can be found at the website, Foro "Curas de Madrid". I don't have Spanish, so I used the Google auto-translator. Sorry for the awkwardness of the translation and for any mistakes made. Though it is a bit hard to read, I found what the writers of the statement wrote very moving. Here it is ....


On the World Youth Day

1. Benedict XVI puts it this way in order to WYD Madrid -2011: "I want all young people, both those who share our faith as those who hesitate, doubt or believe, can live this experience can be decisive for life: the experience of the risen and living Lord Jesus and your love for each one of us" (the Papal Message for World Youth Day in Madrid). We believe that the circumstances surrounding the next WYD properly lead to the objective.

2. We see young people in general are discouraged and turned off in a society in crisis (economic, ethical, social, values ​​...), which see no future. In the Church, we find their minimal participation and did not find appropriate venues for youth ministry. Many young people see us out of date, attached to the privileges of money and power, with no valid answer for their lives.

3. As members of the society in which we live and priests in the Church to which we belong we ask ourselves: what we ourselves are doing wrong in society and the Church to the perception of young people is this? What is hurting the hierarchy? What kind of Church we are building, maintaining? Why do not we are able to motivate today's youth to participate in the Jesus Movement?

4. In this context, some initiatives have emerged, usually from the hierarchy, which are specified in major events like World Youth Day sporadic see that, indeed, are events that leave little trace. Where are the youth who participated in other similar shows, such as the Four Winds or Mission Young?

So, against those who are excited about the next WYD will be held in Madrid, because they consider it an opportunity to evangelize young people, others maintain a more critical attitude. Our position is due to the general characteristics of the celebrations as the specific mass of WYD-2011 in Madrid.

5. We believe that the WYD in Madrid has important ambiguous or negative aspects:

- The Economic Cost of event is very high, more in times of crisis, and we believe does not tally with the style of Jesus in the Gospel.

- To make this possible, has taken a covenant with economic and political forces that reinforces the image of the Church as a privileged institution and close to power, social scandal that entails, particularly in the current circumstances.

- Scandal led to compare the ease with which the government fund this event with so many cuts in economic resources and social rights as being required for most citizens.

- Presents a model of Church triumphalism, which uses spectacular ways, relying too much on the strength of numbers and masses, showing a dazzling figure of the Pope and the Church to consider some evangelical.

- 'The accents of the Day is marked by an overly conservative faith. It seems designed for certain church groups rather than more diverse set of young Catholics.

- Despite some efforts to prepare to avoid it, is presented as an act timely, massive and difficult to continue.

- Consequently, we fear that WYD will be a bluff for those who can find fame, success, numbers, triumphalism, business or church validate its position.

6. We recognize, however, that for some young people and educators WYD can be the occasion of a religious experience, sincere and honest. But we believe that as a general approach, this framework will be developed that is best suited to "live the experience of the risen Lord Jesus" spoken of the Pope.

7. For our part, on the way to experience the God of Jesus, the primary purpose of Christian education, we seem to be waived some criteria such as:

- The social and theological place of the poor as a permanent source of evangelism.

- Humility and simplicity of means, as the gospel is at odds with ostentation, arrogance, wealth and power.

- The role of the subjects in their education that makes possible a horizontal and participatory process at the grassroots.

- He tries to walk with them to discover the values ​​that the Spirit is waking up today in these companies and these younger generations, incorporate our educational work, and daily patient to that action and make it fruitful for the life of the world.

8. In short, as Benedict XVI offers us want to live and spread "the experience of living and risen Lord Jesus and your love for each of us." . But we estimate that WYD-Madrid-2011 is not a suitable means or by the conditions that surround it and the pedagogy used.

Foro “Curas de Madrid”, Forum "Cures Madrid"

Marzo 2011 March 2011


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Some links

- JD Crossan at the Huffington Post - The Search for the Historical Paul: What Paul Thought About Women.

- A couple of posts on the UK riots from Vaughan Bell ... Riot psychology and When explaining becomes a sin.

- Interesting past article in The Thomist - The semiosis of Angels.

- Rowan Williams on homosexuality, from the introduction to a Jubilee Group pamphlet published in 1988.

- A post at US Catholic on WYD and Vatican II - The spirit of Vatican II still speaks to the youth of today. I have to admit that I'm a little disturbed by WYD. It's not just that that I sympathize with the priests protesting the expense, but I feel uncomfortable about the carrots offered for participating: plenary indulgences (time off purgatory) and the de-excommunicating of those having had an abortion (why is abortion an excommunicable offense, but not murder?).

- Btian Greene on the multiverse (you can also read what Keith Ward wrote of the multiverse in my past post here) ...

Fermat and Star Trek

Today's Google page picture is about Pierre de Fermat, a French mathematician most famous for Fermat's Last Theorem which he described in a note in the margin of a copy of Diophantus' Arithmetica. I first heard of Fermat's Last Theorem on Star Trek :) ....

Monday, August 15, 2011

A list and some additions

NPR's Top 100 Science-Fiction, Fantasy Books list is mentioned at A Thinking Reed. Like Lee, I've put the books on the list that I've read myself in bold. First, though, here are a few books I've read that I think could have been added to the list ...

- The City & the City by China Miéville
- Relic by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child
- The Inkheart trilogy by Cornelia Funke
- The Lost World by Michael Crichton
- The Dead Zone by Stephen King
- Passage by Connie Willis
- Off Armageddon Reef by David Weber
- Dreamsnake by Vonda McIntyre

And here's the NPR list ...

1. The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy, by J.R.R. Tolkien
2. The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, by Douglas Adams
3. Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card
4. The Dune Chronicles, by Frank Herbert [first book only--L.M.]

5. A Song Of Ice And Fire Series, by George R. R. Martin
6. 1984, by George Orwell
7. Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury

8. The Foundation Trilogy, by Isaac Asimov
9. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
10. American Gods, by Neil Gaiman
11. The Princess Bride, by William Goldman
12. The Wheel Of Time Series, by Robert Jordan
13. Animal Farm, by George Orwell
14. Neuromancer, by William Gibson

15. Watchmen, by Alan Moore
16. I, Robot, by Isaac Asimov
17. Stranger In A Strange Land, by Robert Heinlein

18. The Kingkiller Chronicles, by Patrick Rothfuss
19. Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut
20. Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley
21. Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?, by Philip K. Dick

22. The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood
23. The Dark Tower Series, by Stephen King
24. 2001: A Space Odyssey, by Arthur C. Clarke
25. The Stand, by Stephen King

26. Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson
27. The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury
28. Cat’s Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut
29. The Sandman Series, by Neil Gaiman
30. A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess
31. Starship Troopers, by Robert Heinlein
32. Watership Down, by Richard Adams
33. Dragonflight, by Anne McCaffrey
34. The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, by Robert Heinlein
35. A Canticle For Leibowitz, by Walter M. Miller
36. The Time Machine, by H.G. Wells

37. 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, by Jules Verne
38. Flowers For Algernon, by Daniel Keys
39. The War Of The Worlds, by H.G. Wells
40. The Chronicles Of Amber, by Roger Zelazny
41. The Belgariad, by David Eddings
42. The Mists Of Avalon, by Marion Zimmer Bradley
43. The Mistborn Series, by Brandon Sanderson
44. Ringworld, by Larry Niven
45. The Left Hand Of Darkness, by Ursula K. LeGuin

46. The Silmarillion, by J.R.R. Tolkien
47. The Once And Future King, by T.H. White
48. Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman
49. Childhood’s End, by Arthur C. Clarke
50. Contact, by Carl Sagan
51. The Hyperion Cantos, by Dan Simmons
52. Stardust, by Neil Gaiman
53. Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson
54. World War Z, by Max Brooks
55. The Last Unicorn, by Peter S. Beagle
56. The Forever War, by Joe Haldeman

57. Small Gods, by Terry Pratchett
58. The Chronicles Of Thomas Covenant, The Unbeliever, by Stephen R. Donaldson
59. The Vorkosigan Saga, by Lois McMaster Bujold
60. Going Postal, by Terry Pratchett
61. The Mote In God’s Eye, by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle
62. The Sword Of Truth, by Terry Goodkind
63. The Road, by Cormac McCarthy
64. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, by Susanna Clarke
65. I Am Legend, by Richard Matheson

66. The Riftwar Saga, by Raymond E. Feist
67. The Shannara Trilogy, by Terry Brooks
68. The Conan The Barbarian Series, by R.E. Howard
69. The Farseer Trilogy, by Robin Hobb
70. The Time Traveler’s Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger
71. The Way Of Kings, by Brandon Sanderson
72. A Journey To The Center Of The Earth, by Jules Verne
73. The Legend Of Drizzt Series, by R.A. Salvatore
74. Old Man’s War, by John Scalzi
75. The Diamond Age, by Neil Stephenson
76. Rendezvous With Rama, by Arthur C. Clarke
77. The Kushiel’s Legacy Series, by Jacqueline Carey
78. The Dispossessed, by Ursula K. LeGuin
79. Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury
80. Wicked, by Gregory Maguire
81. The Malazan Book Of The Fallen Series, by Steven Erikson
82. The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde
83. The Culture Series, by Iain M. Banks
84. The Crystal Cave, by Mary Stewart
85. Anathem, by Neal Stephenson
86. The Codex Alera Series, by Jim Butcher
87. The Book Of The New Sun, by Gene Wolfe
88. The Thrawn Trilogy, by Timothy Zahn
89. The Outlander Series, by Diana Gabaldan
90. The Elric Saga, by Michael Moorcock
91. The Illustrated Man, by Ray Bradbury

92. Sunshine, by Robin McKinley
93. A Fire Upon The Deep, by Vernor Vinge
94. The Caves Of Steel, by Isaac Asimov
95. The Mars Trilogy, by Kim Stanley Robinson [first book only--L.M.]
96. Lucifer’s Hammer, by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle
97. Doomsday Book, by Connie Willis

98. Perdido Street Station, by China Mieville
99. The Xanth Series, by Piers Anthony
100. The Space Trilogy, by C.S. Lewis

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Karl Rahner on Mary

Tomorrow's the feast of Mary's assumption, and I've just read a past paper by Philip Endean SJ on Mary -How to Think about Mary's Privileges - which can be downloaded at his website, under the heading 'Publications'. The article begins with excerpts from a poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins, 37. The Blessed Virgin compared to the Air we Breathe, mentions the changes in Marian devotion after Vatican II, and discusses Karl Rahner's view of the immaculate conception. One of the things that's never made sense to me about the immaculate conception is that it seems to say that Mary's choice of whether to be Jesus' mother or not was predestined, that her choice wasn't really free since God had been planning since at least her conception for her to say yes. Here's a bit of what Fr. Endean writes of Rahner's take on this ....

Rahner, good Thomist that he is, can simply assume that divine grace and human freedom are compatible: to say that God wills Algernon to perform an action is not to deny that Algernon freely performs that action. Thus Mary's free response to God's call, expressed in Luke's Annunciation story, is nevertheless -- for Rahner -- something which is predestined in the designs of God, just as is Jesus' free acceptance of his mission even unto death. It is in this context, of freedom and predestination, that Rahner makes what he sees as the necessary distinction. God's predetermining will to become incarnate in Christ entails that 'an earthly Mother of the Son was likewise predestined' -- an earthly Mother who gives free consent; and for her, 'the divine purpose of salvation' is 'the predestination of Christ himself' .... Had Mary said 'no' to the invitation represented by Luke's angelic message to her, had God's saving will not included Mary's consent, Jesus Christ quite literally would not have existed .... What makes Jesus distinctive is not that God is somehow more 'present' in him than in the rest of creation, but rather that he alone reveals that presence definitively. He assures us that sin will be overcome. Rahner's rather abstract argument about Mary's predestination in connection with Christ's then amounts to the claim that Mary is not simply a recipient of this message: her saying 'yes' is, rather, a constitutive -- if duly subordinate -- element within the message.

Best to read the whole article, of course, which ends as it begins, with lines from this Hopkins poem ....

37. The Blessed Virgin compared to the Air we Breathe

WILD air, world-mothering air,
Nestling me everywhere,
That each eyelash or hair
Girdles; goes home betwixt
The fleeciest, frailest-flixed
Snowflake; that ’s fairly mixed
With, riddles, and is rife
In every least thing’s life;
This needful, never spent,
And nursing element;
My more than meat and drink,
My meal at every wink;
This air, which, by life’s law,
My lung must draw and draw
Now but to breathe its praise,
Minds me in many ways
Of her who not only
Gave God’s infinity
Dwindled to infancy
Welcome in womb and breast,
Birth, milk, and all the rest
But mothers each new grace
That does now reach our race—
Mary Immaculate,
Merely a woman, yet
Whose presence, power is
Great as no goddess’s
Was deemèd, dreamèd; who
This one work has to do—
Let all God’s glory through,
God’s glory which would go
Through her and from her flow
Off, and no way but so.

I say that we are wound
With mercy round and round
As if with air: the same
Is Mary, more by name.
She, wild web, wondrous robe,
Mantles the guilty globe,
Since God has let dispense
Her prayers his providence:
Nay, more than almoner,
The sweet alms’ self is her
And men are meant to share
Her life as life does air.
If I have understood,
She holds high motherhood
Towards all our ghostly good
And plays in grace her part
About man’s beating heart,
Laying, like air’s fine flood,
The deathdance in his blood;
Yet no part but what will
Be Christ our Saviour still.
Of her flesh he took flesh:
He does take fresh and fresh,
Though much the mystery how,
Not flesh but spirit now
And makes, O marvellous!
New Nazareths in us,
Where she shall yet conceive
Him, morning, noon, and eve;
New Bethlems, and he born
There, evening, noon, and morn—
Bethlem or Nazareth,
Men here may draw like breath
More Christ and baffle death;
Who, born so, comes to be
New self and nobler me
In each one and each one
More makes, when all is done,
Both God’s and Mary’s Son.
Again, look overhead
How air is azurèd;
O how! nay do but stand
Where you can lift your hand
Skywards: rich, rich it laps
Round the four fingergaps.
Yet such a sapphire-shot,
Charged, steepèd sky will not
Stain light. Yea, mark you this:
It does no prejudice.
The glass-blue days are those
When every colour glows,
Each shape and shadow shows.
Blue be it: this blue heaven
The seven or seven times seven
Hued sunbeam will transmit
Perfect, not alter it.
Or if there does some soft,
On things aloof, aloft,
Bloom breathe, that one breath more
Earth is the fairer for.
Whereas did air not make
This bath of blue and slake
His fire, the sun would shake,
A blear and blinding ball
With blackness bound, and all
The thick stars round him roll
Flashing like flecks of coal,
Quartz-fret, or sparks of salt,
In grimy vasty vault.
So God was god of old:
A mother came to mould
Those limbs like ours which are
What must make our daystar
Much dearer to mankind;
Whose glory bare would blind
Or less would win man’s mind.
Through her we may see him
Made sweeter, not made dim,
And her hand leaves his light
Sifted to suit our sight.
Be thou then, O thou dear
Mother, my atmosphere;
My happier world, wherein
To wend and meet no sin;
Above me, round me lie
Fronting my froward eye
With sweet and scarless sky;
Stir in my ears, speak there
Of God’s love, O live air,
Of patience, penance, prayer:
World-mothering air, air wild,
Wound with thee, in thee isled,
Fold home, fast fold thy child.

John Milbank on the riots

There's a post by John Milbank at ABC Religion & Ethics on the UK riots. I thought it was pretty good but there was one element that especially caught my attention because it reminded me of the clerical sex abuse problem. Here's that part of the article ....

Riot and response: England's violent August
- by John Milbank

[...] most on the left have not dissented from the general chorus of approval for parents who turn their rioting offspring over to the courts. Yet the notion that such action is unquestionably right is a reversion to pagan norms for which the political order was the only sacred one. By comparison, Thomas Aquinas, for example, denies that that we have any duty to shop our family members to the power of the law ....... while religious people tend to see that malefactors and sinners are most of all to be pitied, secular political positions are bifurcated between a rightist and neo-pagan pure condemnation, and a leftist scientistic patronising of the wrong-doer as a sub-personal ineffective cog in a wonky machine.

I don't have any insights about the riots - about why people rioted or what should be done about it - but I wonder if this attitude perhaps contributed to the church not turning in priests who were suspected or known to be child abusers, and to covering up of such abuse.

Hee :)

From A Hard Day's Night, the Beatles go out dancing while Paul's grandfather goes to a casino ....

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Somalia at the movies

There's a post at America magazine's blog about sending aid to Somalia, so when I saw the movie Black Hawk Down at the library, I picked it up to watch. The 2001 film, based on the book of the same name by Mark Bowden, was directed by Ridley Scott, starred, among others, Ewan McGregor, Eric Bana, Josh Hartnett , Tom Sizemore, Ron Eldard and Sam Shepard. BTW, I mentioned Mark Bowden in an earlier post about Elaine Scarry ... they both participated in a panel discussion held at The New York Public Library, 06/01/05, about torture.

The movie is a fictionalized account of a real event, the 1993 Battle of Mogadishu that was ...

part of Operation Gothic Serpent and was fought on October 3 and 4, 1993, in Mogadishu, Somalia, between forces of the United States supported by UNOSOM II and Somali militia fighters loyal to the self-proclaimed president-to-be Mohamed Farrah Aidid who had support from armed civilian fighters.

- CW3 Michael Durant's helicopter Super Six-Four above Mogadishu on October 3, 1993 - Wikipedia

The background of the film's story is the civil war that began in Somalia in 1991 that led to a large number of casualties and to the destruction of agriculture, and then to starvation. The international community sent food to Somalia, but the food was often hijacked by warlords to sell for weapons (Wikipedia states that up to 80% of the food was stolen) and this led to even more starvation. The UN sent military observers to oversee the distribution of the food sent, and in 1992 President Bush backed Operation Provide Relief with U.S. military transports. When this didn't seem sufficient, the US assumed command and landed troops in in Mogadishu as Operation Restore Hope to facilitate airlifted humanitarian supplies. In 1993, the UN established UNOSOM II to force reconciliation among the rival groups in Somalia. It didn't work, violence escalated, and it was at this time that the events in the movie took place ... the US sent troops into Mogadishu to kidnap Somali General Mohammed Farrah Aidid's foreign minister and his top political advisor. Things went very wrong. You can read about the 2009–present phase of the Somali Civil War here at Wikipedia.

I should mention that Wikipedia has a section in its page on the movie on controversies about historical inaccuracies in the storyline and in the way the Somalis in the film were portrayed.

I thought the movie was well made and the acting very good (Roger Ebert gave it four stars), but it was really disturbing on a whole number of levels. War is bad (said me, the peacenik). I know sometimes it's necessary for humanitarian reasons, but it still does something weird to many of those who participate in it, and I distrust the glorification of it (yes, there's a Delta Force: Black Hawk Down game). I guess we do this in part to remember and honor the courage and commitment of those who fight, and that's a good thing, but I fear we also do it to drum up cannon fodder and to pander to the love of doing violence.

Friday, August 12, 2011


The end of Hedgehogs

Some photos

I saw this little guy when I was watering the plants today. He's only about an inch long. Don't know what kind of butterfly he is ...

The naked ladies are blooming ...

Little fuzzy flowers ...

The sunflowers (Mammoths) are taller than the roof now ...

Thursday, August 11, 2011

From Aquinas and Bonaventure to Richard Dawkins

- St. Bonaventure holding the tree of the redemption, Vittorio Crivelli

By coincidence today I was reading about hylomorphism in two places - Edward Feser's blog post, Vallicella on hylemorphic dualism, and in a book from the library - Angels and Angelology in the Middle Ages - that mentions how Thomas Aquinas and Bonaventure disagreed about the nature of angels .....

Aquinas, argued that angels are pure form without matter .... Others, such as Bonaventure, argued that angels, like everything else, must consist of both matter and form. Bonaventure knew of Aquinas's idea "that each angel constitutes a single species", but he thought that one should accept "so strange a theory" only if it Scripture explicitly supported it or if logic absolutely demanded it. Unlike Aquinas, Bonaventure concluded that angels share a common angelic form. According to Aristotle, different individuals can have the same form only if they're different pieces of matter. Thus, according to Bonaventure, angels must contain "spiritual matter" as well as form. - hylomorphism

When looking this up I came across a poem by Keats - Lamia - that mentions angels (lines 229–238) ...

Do not all charms fly

At the mere touch of cold philosophy?
There was an awful rainbow once in heaven:
We know her woof, her texture; she is given
In the dull catalogue of common things.
Philosophy will clip an Angel's wings,
Conquer all mysteries by rule and line,
Empty the haunted air, and gnomed mine
Unweave a rainbow, as it erewhile made
The tender-person'd Lamia melt into a shade.

And this then strangely lead me to a video of Richard Dawkins reading some lines from his book Unweaving the Rainbow. I know I'm supposed to dislike Dawkins, but he doesn't seem so bad ....

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

More from Keith Ward

Keith Ward: "How Did the Universe Begin?" from Metanexus Institute on Vimeo.

A post on the UK riots ...

...from the (British) Feminist Philosophers blog -- English riots

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

"Reverie is contemplation from within"

Suddenly, the world before concepts.

Daughter of consciousness and sleep, reverie blends their realms. Like intoxication, reverie is lucidity without an object, an activity but one that’s passive, a search that begins by giving up and lets itself be dazzled rather than looking. It remains, happily, somewhere between imagination and the ability to put it to use. The dreamer, unlike the sleepwalker whose consciousness lies fallow, has his head on his shoulders as he meanders on; he’s a daywalker who sleeps with only one eye like a dolphin, drowsy enough to see the unseeable but awake enough to mumble what he has glimpsed. The more absent he becomes, the more the dreamer opens to the merging of types and images. Reverie is the one way in which, without contradiction, one can want to not want. ‘When,” said Proust, ”we reflect upon the past in our daydreams and seek, in order to recapture it, to slacken, to suspend the perpetual motion by which we are borne along, gradually we see once more appear, side by side but entirely distinct from one another, the tints which in the course of our existence have been successively presented to us by a single name.” Reverie is contemplation from within, letting the person who gives way to it feel change ....

This is just a bit from On Reverie by French philosophy professor Raphaël Enthoven at the NYT's philosophy blog

Riots in the UK

Here's a bit from a story in The New Yorker (with accompanying video below) about the London riots ....

London: Night Four

The United Kingdom will be arguing for a long time about the causes of this week’s riots. Was it the dismal economic situation, elucidated by Ed Conway at Sky News? Was it “criminality, pure and simple,” as David Cameron, back from Tuscany, put it on the steps of No. 10? Was it, as I suggested yesterday, some combination of the two? .........

The front pages of most of today’s newspapers featured this picture, of a woman jumping out of a burning apartment into firefighters’ arms, but the image that will haunt me is this one, of a slight, disoriented boy. He seems to have wandered into the fray, perhaps on his way home from school. He is bleeding from the face. He is wearing flip-flops and a backpack. A bigger boy, part of the roaming crowd, approaches. He helps the boy up from the sidewalk. Then he and another man unzip the boy’s backpack, and look through it. The second man pulls out a couple of things and steals them. He chucks the boy’s Tupperware lunch container on the sidewalk. There’s little to say about why this happened, except that it did, and that the end of the riots will come late for that boy. It’s also too late for another man, a twenty-six-year old, who died of gunshot wounds last night in Croydon.

And another story at NPR that explains why ... Why London Exploded Last Night

Monday, August 08, 2011

Medieval road trip

- a priest and a Teutonic knight sketch the route to a mysterious monastery

This week's movie rental was Season of the Witch, a 2011 fantasy film shot in Europe, directed by Dominic Sena (Kalifornia), and starring Nicolas Cage, Ron Perlman, and Ulrich Thomsen (Adam's Apples)

Set in the 14th century, Teutonic knights (the bad guys of Eisenstein's Alexander Nevsky), Behmen of Bleibruck (Cage) and Felson (Perlman), desert from the Smyrniote crusades after being ordered to kill unarmed women and children. They return to their own country, Germany, which they find ravaged by the Black Death, and they're captured as deserters. They are asked by a plague-infected Cardinal to escort an alleged witch, who he believes caused the plague, to a remote monastery where the monks will nullify her powers with the spell from a book called the Clavis Salomonis (this one?). They agree on condition that the girl gets a fair trial and that they are pardoned. The two Crusaders, a young priest, a knight (Thomsen), a criminal who knows the route, and an altar boy who wants to be a knight set off with the caged witch. Adventures follow.

I wish I could say the film was good, but it was a sword and sorcery version of a poor man's The Seventh Seal. I like Nicolas Cage so I found it sort of watch-able, but Roger Ebert gave it just 2 out of 4 stars in his review. Here's the trailer ...

Some flowers

Here's one of the Sunflowers which is as high as the top of the front door now ....

My sister gave me this Gerbera daisytoday ...

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Keith Ward: the Reformation

Below is a video of a Gresham College lecture on by Keith Ward on the Reformation and what it means to be Protestant. I respect Keith Ward and the way he thinks very much -- here's a quote from the lecture that exemplifies what I so like about him ... If you're a Protestant, you have to be a liberal ... while truth is important, it's your responsibility to seek out the truth in the best way that you can ... you've got to be a little bit humble about the way you put your beliefs ... my own view would be that I'm almost certain that many of my own deepest beliefs are false, but I don't know which they are. So, obviously I think they're true [but] there's a difference between saying 'I don't think there's any such thing as truth' and saying, 'well, this is what I think is true, but I have no privileges access to the mind of God, I have no privileged access to what the meaning of the New Testament is, so this is my opinion' ... that's what Protestantism is committed to. My question is, why doesn't the Protestant world look like that? ... people are afraid to be uncertain.

The Reformation - Professor Keith Ward DD FBA - Gresham College Lectures from Gresham College on Vimeo.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Some stuff ...

Still reading (and liking) Ben Witherington's book, Making a Meal of It: Rethinking the Theology of the Lord's Supper. It's interesting to see the evolution of the ideas about what communion means, from the agape feasts, mentions of it by the early church fathers, the Scholastics, the Council of Trent, and the guys of the Reformation, to what we have now.

Think I may have mentioned this before - the book my sister's reading, The Third Wave: A Volunteer Story by Alison Thompson, and the documentary film made about the same subject, Thompson's volunteering in Sri Lanka. Here's the trailer of the film ...

And some music, this song, Soul Of My Saviour sung by the Truro Cathedral Choir, said to have been written by John XXII, who I came across when looking up the Spiritual Franciscans mentioned in The Name of the Rose ....

Friday, August 05, 2011


My sunflowers are finally starting to make flowers. They're so tall that I had to climb a ladder to get this photo. This is the first time sunflowers have ever grown from seeds for me - usually they don't even sprout :)

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Ewald Mataré

- Angel, by Ewald Mataré, at the bishops house, Essen, Germany

Reading today about German painter and sculptor, Ewald Mataré ...

In 1932 he received a professorship at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf. After the Machtergreifung of 1933 however, all cultural and artistic life in Germany was brought into ideological alignment by the Nazis; Mataré was denounced as "degenerate" and expelled from his position. One of his sculptures "Die Katze" (The cat) was placed into the exhibition of shame and derision "Entartete Kunst" (Degenerate Art) staged by the Nazis in Munich, 1937. Church commissions became his sole source of income ...

Here's some more of his work ...

- detail from one of the bronze doors of the southern transept of Cologne Cathedral

- the Door of Hope at Salzburg Cathedral

And one of his animals :) ...

- Large Reclining Cow

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Groundhog Day meets Murder on the Orient Express

That's how one reviewer described my movie rental for this week - Source Code. The 2011 film is directed by Duncan Jones (Moon) and stars Jake Gyllenhaal.

It's about an army helicopter pilot, Colter Stevens (Gyllenhaal), who's shot down while on a mission in Afghanistan, and whose mortally wounded and comatose self is being used in an experiment which somehow sends his consciousness into the body of another person over and over again in eight minute intervals, a man on a train who's already died in its explosion, all for the purposes of discovering the identity of the terrorist who planted the bomb. Colter is sent just hours back in time, or to a parallel universe (it's hard to say which), to get information that will prevent a future bombing, but he uses the opportunity to change things -- he must stop the train from blowing up so that a woman on the train that he's come to know and love will not die.

I thought the movie was pretty good. It's really moving on an emotional level -- the earnestness with which Colter tries to fulfill his mission, the sad urgency with which he tries to communicate with his father, the pathos of his realization that he's a ruined non-person with no more rights than a computer program, and his determination to change everything against all odds.

The science was a little confusing: I'm not sure if this was a case of an alternate timeline/ history scenario like that used in movies from the Terminator series to the new Star Trek to allow characters to go back to the past to change the future, or if it's an alternate/parallel universe scenario like that used in Timeline to allow characters to basically do the same thing (but which shouldn't actually do the same thing - ouch, my head hurts :) ).

Roger Ebert gave the movie three and a half stars. Here's just the beginning of his review ...

"Source Code" is an ingenious thriller that comes billed as science fiction, although its science is preposterous. Does that matter, as long as everyone treats it with the greatest urgency? After all, space travel beyond the solar system is preposterous, and yet we couldn't do without "Star Trek." The "science" in this case is used to prop up an appealing story of a man who tries to change the past.

His name is Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal). That he is sure of. That's why it's strange when he finds himself on a Chicago commuter train talking to Christina Warren (Michelle Monaghan), a woman he's never met. It's even stranger when he goes into the toilet and sees a face in the mirror that doesn't belong to him. How can this be? ........

Here's the trailer ...