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Sunday, June 30, 2013

Share Ignatius' pilgrimage

A small group of men and women recreate the route taken by Ignatius from his home to Montserrat and Manresa. Check out the website. Here's a video ...

IGNATIAN WAY from Ignatian Way on Vimeo.

And BTW, you can listen to the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyol online - the Christian Classics Ethereal Library has made a three part audio/video of the book ...

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Secret Methods of Magic

- Tesla

My latest book from the library is The Prestige by Christopher Priest. I'd seen the movie, of course, and wrote about it - Tesla and The Prestige - but I'd never read the book, so when I saw this video by Simon Vance (who narrates the audio version), I decided to look for it ...

I'm just a bit into it so far and I like it! It's nicely written - received the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for best fiction and the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel - and as Vance says, it's set in two different times: the present, and the past (the part that was exclusively shown in the film). Here's a clip from the movie which shows one of the magicians (Hugh Jackman) meeting Nikola Tesla (David Bowie) ....

Why did the chicken cross the road?

Perhaps the heat has cooked my brain, but I feel compelled to post this :) ....

Why did the chicken cross the road?

Plato: For the greater good.

Karl Marx: It was a historical inevitability.

Machiavelli: So that its subjects will view it with admiration, as a chicken which has the daring and courage to boldly cross the road, but also with fear, for whom among them has the strength to contend with such a paragon of avian virtue? In such a manner is the princely chicken's dominion maintained.

Hippocrates: Because of an excess of light pink gooey stuff in its pancreas.

Jacques Derrida: Any number of contending discourses may be discovered within the act of the chicken crossing the road, and each interpretation is equally valid as the authorial intent can never be discerned, because structuralism is DEAD, DAMMIT, DEAD!

Thomas de Torquemada: Give me ten minutes with the chicken and I'll find out.

Timothy Leary: Because that's the only kind of trip the Establishment would let it take.

Douglas Adams: Forty-two.

Nietzsche: Because if you gaze too long across the Road, the Road gazes also across you.

B.F. Skinner: Because the external influences which had pervaded its sensorium from birth had caused it to develop in such a fashion that it would tend to cross roads, even while believing these actions to be of its own free will.

Carl Jung: The confluence of events in the cultural gestalt necessitated that individual chickens cross roads at this historical juncture, and therefore synchronicitously brought such occurrences into being.

Jean-Paul Sartre: In order to act in good faith and be true to itself, the chicken found it necessary to cross the road.

Ludwig Wittgenstein: The possibility of "crossing" was encoded into the objects "chicken" and "road", and circumstances came into being which caused the actualization of this potential occurrence.

Albert Einstein: Whether the chicken crossed the road or the road crossed the chicken depends upon your frame of reference.

Aristotle: To actualize its potential.

Buddha: If you ask this question, you deny your own chicken- nature.

Salvador Dali: The Fish.

Darwin: It was the logical next step after coming down from the trees.

Emily Dickinson: Because it could not stop for death.

Epicurus: For fun.

Ralph Waldo Emerson: It didn't cross the road; it transcended it.

Johann von Goethe: The eternal hen-principle made it do it.

Ernest Hemingway: To die. In the rain. Alone.

Werner Heisenberg: We are not sure which side of the road the chicken was on, but it was moving very fast.

David Hume: Out of custom and habit.

Pyrrho the Skeptic: What road?

The Sphinx: You tell me.

Henry David Thoreau: To live deliberately ... and suck all the marrow out of life.

Mark Twain: The news of its crossing has been greatly exaggerated.

Zeno of Elea: To prove it could never reach the other side.

Chaucer: So priketh hem nature in hir corages.

Wordsworth: To wander lonely as a cloud.

Keats: Philosophy will clip a chicken's wings.

Blake: To see heaven in a wild fowl.

Othello: Jealousy.

Oscar Wilde: Why, indeed? One's social engagements whilst in town ought never expose one to such barbarous inconvenience - although, perhaps, if one must cross a road, one may do far worse than to cross it as the chicken in question.

Kafka: Hardly the most urgent enquiry to make of a low-grade insurance clerk who woke up that morning as a hen.

Macbeth: To have turned back were as tedious as to go o'er.

Freud: An die andere Seite zu kommen. (Much laughter)

Hamlet: That is not the question.

Donne: It crosseth for thee.

"Hasta la vista, babies!"

Traditionalists indicate definitive break with Catholic Church. Yep, the SSPX has finally given up trying to "fix" the Catholic Church, perhaps because they find Pope Francis much less sympathetic than his predecessor to their rejection of Vatican II documents like Nostra Aetate. I say yay and good riddance to bad rubbish. If you wonder why I feel that way, see my past post, "They are evil .... "

More music ...

... from Fringe. In tonight's episode, Walter tells a little girl a noir detective story that has one of the characters playing the piano and singing a familiar song ;) ...

Friday, June 28, 2013

St. Ignatius

I came across this video today of "Tomb & Rooms of Saint Ignatius Loyola, Rome" - it almost made me feel like I was there :) .....

Bill & Melinda Gates

Microsoft joins Google in demanding to disclose FISA requests. There was a time when I thought of Microsoft as the evil empire but not anymore ;) Here's a bit from an episode of Frasier in which Bill Gates appeared ...

And here's his wife discussing the importance of contraception ...

Thursday, June 27, 2013


Given current events, I thought I'd look up Ecuador, since I know so little about it. Here's a bit about the country through photos from Wikipedia ....

As you'd guess, most of the population is Catholic ...

- Church of the Society of Jesus, Quito

Ecuador ... has the most biodiversity per square kilometer of any nation .... has 1,600 bird species (15% of the world's known bird species) in the continental area, and 38 more endemic in the Galápagos. In addition to over 16,000 species of plants, the country has 106 endemic reptiles, 138 endemic amphibians, and 6,000 species of butterfly. The Galápagos Islands are well known as a region of distinct fauna, famous as the place of birth of Darwin's Theory of Evolution, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Ecuador has the first constitution to recognize the rights of nature.[27] The protection of the nation's biodiversity is an explicit national priority as stated in the National Plan of "Buen Vivir", or good living, objective 4, Guarantee the rights of nature, policy 1: "Sustainably conserve and manage the natural heritage including its land and marine biodiversity which is considered a strategic sector".

- sloth at Sumaco Napo-Galeras National Park

It was part of the Inca Empire ...

- Ingapirca, the temple of the sun

And a traditional dish of Ecuador is guagua de pan served with colada morad: day of the dead food ...

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Last Policeman: A Novel

My latest book from the library is The Last Policeman: A Novel ...

a 2012 American soft science fiction mystery novel by Ben H. Winters. It follows a police detective in New Hampshire as he investigates a suicide he believes was really a murder. His efforts are complicated by the social, political and economic effects of preparations for, and anticipation of, an asteroid impact six months in the future. Winters describes the work as an "existential detective novel", turning on the question of why people do things in spite of their long-term unimportance. He consulted with experts not only in astronomy and police techniques but psychology and economics. The book was well received by critics, and won the 2012 Edgar Award in the category Best Paperback Original. - Wikipedia

From Wired - Solving Murders at the End of the World: An Interview with Ben H. Winters.

You can read an excerpt from the book here.

I'm just a bit into it but so far I like it!

Three links

- Forlani and Spader

- America magazine's editorial: The Surveillance State ...

[...] The public may today shrug off N.S.A. data gathering as a necessary evil, but it is a mistake not to be concerned about the slow encroachment of a surveillance society. While the threat from terrorism is real, the spectacle of a secretive federal agency, operating under limited legislative and judicial oversight while maintaining a vast capability to intrude on the privacy of U.S. citizens, is also a threat to a healthy democracy. This is an agency that, with the turn of an administration and the issue of an executive order, could begin scanning the habits, connections, opinions and more of all Americans. In 2003 Congress rejected the notion of a governmental Total Information Awareness Program; now the nation is drifting into casual acceptance of its de facto implementation ...

- At the NYT's philosophy blog: Privacy and the Threat to the Self ...

In the wake of continuing revelations of government spying programs and the recent Supreme Court ruling on DNA collection – both of which push the generally accepted boundaries against state intrusion on the person — the issue of privacy is foremost on the public mind. The frequent mantra, heard from both media commentators and government officials, is that we face a “trade-off” between safety and convenience on one hand and privacy on the other. We just need, we are told, to find the right balance.

This way of framing the issue makes sense if you understand privacy solely as a political or legal concept. And its political importance is certainly part of what makes privacy so important: what is private is what is yours alone to control, without interference from others or the state. But the concept of privacy also matters for another, deeper reason. It is intimately connected to what it is to be an autonomous person ....

- Thinking about Daniel Ellsberg .... As a response to the leaks, the Nixon administration began a campaign against further leaks and against Ellsberg personally .... He and Russo faced charges under the Espionage Act of 1917 and other charges including theft and conspiracy, carrying a total maximum sentence of 115 years. Their trial commenced in Los Angeles on January 3, 1973, presided over by U.S. District Judge William Matthew Byrne, Jr. ... Due to the gross governmental misconduct and illegal evidence gathering, and the defense by Leonard Boudin and Harvard Law School professor Charles Nesson, Judge Byrne dismissed all charges against Ellsberg and Russo on May 11, 1973 after the government claimed it had lost records of wiretapping against Ellsberg.". For those interested, there was a 2003 movie made about Ellsberg starring James Spader.

Is this ...

... a rat (not a baby baby possum)? When I went to refill the birdbath, I saw a small gray fuzzy thing moving and went back to get the camera so I could take a picture and actually see it. I didn't think it would still be there when I came back but it was ....

He didn't appear to be scared of me, which is weird, but maybe that's because something's wrong with his R eye? ...

Maybe he's the little creature I tried to save from Scruffy a few weeks ago - he seemed dead at first but when I chased the cat away, he ran off towards the house and I lost sight of him. He doesn't seem very survival-proficient :(

Monday, June 24, 2013

Rose drops

It rained here today - atypical for this time of year ...

“I am not a Renaissance prince…”

Fr. Anthony Ruff writes of Pope Francis ...

[...] There is a key difference between Benedict and Francis, however. For Benedict, the secular danger was located in the contemporary world with all its egalitarianism and informality and bad taste, and a large part of his response was to strengthen Catholicism by retrieving the beautiful, elegant trappings of yesterday’s European Catholicism.

The problem with this viewpoint is that it fails to see how much those trappings of traditional Catholicism are themselves a product of secularization, of the Church aping the power structures and court ceremonial of secular worldly powers. We generally call this “Christendom,” the culture that developed ever since Constantine, as the Church increasingly looked outside herself and her own traditions and Scriptures and toward secular models of leadership and authority.


In naming the problem of monarchy, in decrying bishops acting like “princes,” Francis diagnoses “secularism” more radically than did Benedict. He goes to the heart of the issue, to problems endemic to the system which have long compromised the Church’s ability to witness to the Gospel ....

Sunday, June 23, 2013

John August Swanson

- Alejandro Garcia-Rivera, The Color of Truth, from Theological Aesthetics and the Art of John August Swanson

- Biblical Art by John August Swanson - compiled by Felix Just SJ

- A conversation with JA Swanson ...

Conversation with John August Swanson from Fuller Seminary on Vimeo.

Friday, June 21, 2013


- 2013 Westminster Faith Debate - "Do Christians Oppose Gay Marriage" - with talks by John Milbank, Tina Beattie, Steve Chalke, and others. Follow the link to see videos and podcasts. Here's a "summery" video (I think Steve Chalke did the best job :) ...

- A recent (I think?) talk by Keith Ward, "Idealism as a Metaphysical Worldview" ....

Happy ...

... Solstice :)

Thursday, June 20, 2013


A post by Lee at A Thinking Reed - Slavery, divine judgment, and atonement - has made me think about the idea of atonement again. I've posted about it before ... He Who Made the Sea (NT Wright) ... James Alison / Atonement ... John Milbank / Sacrifice ... David Hart / Atonement ... Gustav Aulen, David Hart, and Atonement ... Jeffrey John ... Duns Scotus and atonement ... St. Tommy, Keith Ward, and atonement ... More about Steve Chalke .

Today I saw a past article by Jesuit Richard Leonard that touches on atonement and it sums up what I think about it ...

God did not need the blood of Jesus. Jesus did not just come ‘to die’ but God used his death to announce the end to death. This is the domain of ‘offer it up’ theology: it was good enough for Jesus to suffer; it is good enough for you. While I am aware of St Paul in Romans, St Clement of Alexandria, St Anselm of Canterbury and later John Calvin’s work on atonement theory and satisfaction theology, I cannot baldly accept that the perfect God of love set [us] up for a fall in the Fall, then got so angry with us that only the grisly death of his perfect son was going to repair the breach between us. This is not the only way into the mystery of Holy Week. For most of Christian history the question that has vexed many believers seems to be, ‘Why did Jesus die?’ I think it is the wrong question. The right one is ‘Why was Jesus killed?’ And that puts the last days of Jesus’ suffering and death in an entirely new perspective. Jesus did not simply and only come to die. Rather, Jesus came to live. As a result of the courageous and radical way he lived his life, and the saving love he embodied for all humanity, he threatened the political, social and religious authorities of his day so much that they executed him. But God had the last word on Good Friday: Easter Sunday.

A more extended article on the idea that Jesus didn't come here primarily to die is this by Ken Overberg SJ - The Incarnation: God's Gift of Love

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Some poems

Picnic's Over - Erica Wagner

After Elaine Fasula

Here is the lesson these travellers took:
a river, a lover, a broken book.
Dressed for the weather, naked as rain,
roped one to the other they set out again.

That one has packed up his tricks for the night:
the jack-knife, the skein, the mariner’s light.
The wren is the gift at the heart of the wood;
her song is washed clean in the travellers’ blood.

This one lays bait for the stars to devour:
a feather, a saltbox, his enemy’s power.
He thought that the sandwiches tasted of shame,
his hunger a dog off the edge of the frame.

I will go with you, the fifth one remarked,
past the bridge over silence and into the dark;
the blade and the seed to temper disaster,
the clatter of horns will carry our laughter.

Here is the lesson these travellers took:
a ladder, a letter, a scarlet book.
Stripped by the rain, worn in the weather,
the lover, the enemy, vanish together.

Torcello - Catherine Sasanov

Offshore, the Apocalypse
stays contained
to one island and its church.

Venice's ruler's out wedding
himself to the ocean

while I'm ankle deep
in the Adriatic,
eyes raised to a book

unencumbered by words: A Bible
that reads from East to West. Guidebooks
want only

to see it as ceiling—the Basilica
San Marco,

where Christ's hands open on wounds
embedded with rubies, and priests

hold back the sea with brooms.
I'm taking on incense,

bowing at altars dragged out
of Constantinople,
sloshing across marble
sacked from Jerusalem.

Offshore, the sea's a bride bought
with a fist full of diamonds
the Doge throws into the deep—

a sign of his true and perpetual dominion.

Then why does walking into this church
mean stepping into the ocean?
The sea is a dog—
Priests throw in bones just to placate it.

The year's nearly 2000,
but the millennium already hit once

on the island Torcello,
a kind of plague the Venetians contained.
999 years,

and the dead still crawl from dirt
towards their radiant bodies,
they still gather up

missing limbs: arms, legs, hands
sharks and beasts keep regurgitating.

We do what we know—
But Christ never wanted to manage
resurrections in Venice.

Underdressed in the flesh
from dead civilizations,
he moves among us in Byzantine skin.

I'm getting close to this God
worshiped only by tourists.

He picks at the wounds
on his crucified body, the injury
scabbed over with jewels.

Priestly Duties: a Poem - Stewart Henderson

What should a priest be?
All things to all
male, female and genderless

What should a priest be?
Reverent and relaxed
vibrant in youth
assured through the middle years
divine sage when ageing

What should a priest be?
Accessible and incorruptible
abstemious, yet full of celebration
informed but not threateningly so
and far above the passing soufflé of fashion

What should a priest be?
An authority on singleness
Solomon-like on the labyrinth of human sexuality
excellent with young marrieds, old marrieds,
were marrieds, never marrieds, shouldn’t have marrieds,
those who live together, those who live apart,
and those who don’t live anywhere
respectfully mindful of senior citizens and war veterans
familiar with the ravages of arthritis,
osteoporrosis, post natal depression, anorexia,
whooping cough and nits.

What should a priest be?
All round family person,
Counsellor, but not officially because of recent changes in legislation,
teacher, expositor, confessor, entertainer, juggler,
good with children, and possibly sea lions,
empathetic towards pressure groups.

What should a priest be?
On nodding terms with Freud, Jung, St John of The Cross,
The Scott Report, The Rave Culture, The Internet,
The Lottery, BSE and Anthea Turner,
pre modern, fairly modern, post modern,
and ideally secondary modern
if called to the inner city.

What should a priest be?
Charismatic, if needs must, but quietly so,
evangelical, and thoroughly
meditative, mystical but not New Age
liberal and so open to other voices
traditionalist, reformer and revolutionary
and hopefully not on medication
unless for an old sporting injury.

Note to congregations: If your priest actually fulfils
all of the above, and then enters the pulpit one Sunday
morning wearing nothing but a shower cap, a fez, and declares
“I’m the King and Queen of Venus, and we shall now sing
the next hymn in Latvian, take your partners, please”. -
let it pass – like you and I they too sew
the thin thread of humanity.
Remember Jesus in the Garden
- beside himself.

What does a priest do?
Mostly stays awake at Deanery synods
tries not to annoy the Bishop too much
visits hospices, administers comfort
conducts weddings, christenings,
not necessarily in that order,
takes funerals
consecrates the elderly to the grave
buries children, and babies
feels completely helpless beside
the swaying family of a suicide,
sometimes is murdered at night, alone.

What does a priest do?
Tries to colour in God
uses words to explain miracles
which is like teaching a centipede to sing
but even more difficult.

What does a priest do?
Answers the phone
when sometimes they’d rather not,
occasionally errs and strays into tabloid titillation
prays for Her Majesty’s Government

What does a priest do?
Tends the flock through time, oil and incense
would secretly like each PCC
to commence with a mud pie making contest
sometimes falls asleep when praying
yearns like us for heart rushing deliverance

What does a priest do?
Has rows with their family
wants to inhale Heaven
stares at bluebells
attempts to convey the mad love of God
would like to ice skate with crocodiles,
and hear the roses when they pray

How should a priest live?
How should we live?
As priests, transformed by the Priest
that death prised open
so that he could be our priest
martyred, diaphanous and matchless priest
What should a priest be?
What should a priest do?
How should a priest live?

Angels Grieving over the Dead Christ - Gjertrud Schnackenberg

From those few famous silkworms smuggled
Into Constantinople in the head of a walking stick
Silk waterfalls
Poured from the ancient bolts

Into now-destitute reservoirs
Of church treasuries in Aachen,
In Liège, in Maastricht, in Sens,
In the Sancta Sanctorum of the Vatican,

Bright rivers seeping past
The age when a teaspoonful of
Silkworm eggs the size of one grain
Could endow a church,

The age when the letters in the words
Of sacred testaments were
Unreeled in the coastal cities of Asia Minor,
When a bookworm conspired

To wrest a maze of empty roads
Through the words My Lord—
That ancient, flickering text
Once permanently affixed

By blind but face-picturing, speechless
But law-breaking wooden shuttles,
Now a heap of gold wires displayed
With a crumbling silk vestment someone

Plucked from a shovelful of dust
During one of those treasure hunts conducted
In the burying grounds, in other eras,
A shovelful of dust

Now blowing into your eyes,
As if a storm wind from Paradise
Blew the rumors of this death
So hard you must cover your eyes

Before the museum case.
The late afternoon tugs
At a gold thread you can hear fraying
When you close your eyes,

A thread you feel your way along,
A thread at which the invisible globe pulls,
Leading you to the end of the world
Where there is a pile of

Clothes stolen from the grave,
Where your fear is relegated
To a masterwork of silk slaves—
That He is dead.

Here death is only a flash of worlds
Unfurled from a rifled
Church treasury, and you are invited
To walk this alluvial wave of gold,

To walk in the labyrinths
Of the angels’ howls,
To run your hands along the walls
Of the silk thread’s passageways,

To feel with your fingers
The angels’ barbaric, stifled,
Glittering vowels
Tightly woven with gold wires.

If you were to tug at one,
Unraveling the angels
Into a vivid labyrinth of thread
From the fourteenth century

Backwards to the scissors blade
A seraph takes to a fragile
Filament of gilt
According to a law still unrevealed,

The shroud would disappear
In the gust of a little breeze
From this door left ajar
Into the next life,

The threshold we cross with closed eyes—
Where angels hide behind their backs
The saws with which they mean
To saw the present from the past,

Oblivious to the scarlet threads
That prove to be hidden among
The filaments, those red rivers
Running through the theme of time

So shockingly—so before you set foot there,
Take heed. This is the work
Of Byzantine silk slaves confined
To the palace grounds at Constantinople,

And you must beware.
There was a way station
On the Silk Road
Where the authorities executed

Traitors in a wooden box
In innumerable, unspeakable ways.
When you touch this shroud from the east
You take that hundred feet of road.

You must walk softly past.
You must try not to look.
The torrent of words—later, later.
Here tongues are cut out,

And that is why the howling
Is mute,
Gilded, herringboned.
Because although this is death,

It is the work of slaves
Whose task was only
To expose the maximum amount of gold thread
To the ceiling price of so many nomismata

Per square inch, in a swift mischief
Of curious knots, of mazes
Flashing past, of straight paths
Made inextricable,

So look again.
The angels wring their hands
Over a statue. They are deranged,
But not by grief. They mourn

Not a body, but a work in bronze.
They do not bring a mortal to the grave.
But we onlookers who grieve and grieve—
We cannot relegate this thought

To a glory woven cryptically
In heavy silks;
We cannot consign it, sweep it off,
For we cannot weigh

In our palms the empty cocoons,
We cannot study
Within the secret workshops
Of the silkworm,

We cannot touch the boiling
Water where the spools whirl,
We cannot learn firsthand
The bleakness of the craft

With which God made the world,
We cannot recount the legend that,
When they met face-to-face, both
God and the worm laughed.

NOTES: The title is from a description of the Thessalonikian epitaphios in Byzantium, by Paul Hetherington and Werner Forman (London: Orbis, 1983). Hetherington proposes that the epitaphios, an Orthodox liturgical length of cloth, was worn, perhaps, over the heads of priests as they approached the altar to celebrate the Eucharist. The epitaphios of Thessaloniki was discovered in 1900.

both/God and the worm laughed: I have not been able to locate the source of this legend.

Gjertrud Schnackenberg, “Angels Grieving Over the Dead Christ” from “Crux of Radiance” from Supernatural Love: Poems

Monday, June 17, 2013

Blue jay ...

gets a drink, then takes off. Click on the photos to enlarge and see his dinosaur-like toenails :) -

Sunday, June 16, 2013

From LIFE to the wine country

- Father’s Day Special: LIFE With Famous Dads and Their Daughters

- Photos of people in different countries, reading. I like the CS Lewis quote posted - We read to know we are not alone.

- If you care about bees, you might want to see More Than Honey ...

- Al Gore: NSA's secret surveillance program 'not really the American way'

- Damian Thompson writes about depression ...

[...] Depression is like addiction: it magnifies natural character traits and demonstrates that our bodies weren’t designed for the 21st century. Celebrities are notoriously prone to both, because they’re ahead of us in the queue for the rollercoaster of limitless choice. And that raises a tricky question: where do we start, and stop, in the prescription of drugs to control moods whose instability is made worse by our environment?

I don’t know. But I can tell you that crawling out of bed today was made easier by 60mg of duloxetine, an anti-depressant that, so far as I can tell, suppresses the feelings of despair and meaninglessness that start in the pit of my stomach and colonise my whole body. That’s what depression means to me. I don’t have it badly, I could probably ditch the pills, but, to put it bluntly, life would suck. So, like many people I know – and, I suspect, a frighteningly large percentage of future generations – I’ll keep taking the tablets ...

- Pope Francis wants a "poor church for the poor" but I don't think all the church guys have read that memo: Bishops and Catholic Leaders to Gather in Napa to Discuss the Church and 'Next America', and here's the resort/spa where they're staying ....

Saturday, June 15, 2013


My latest book is Wool by Hugh Howey. It's the first book in a science fiction series and the kindle version is free.

The story of Wool takes place on a post-apocalyptic Earth. Humanity clings to survival in the Silos, subterranean cities extending over one hundred stories beneath the surface .... Wool initially follows the story of Holston, Silo-18's sheriff. Holston spends the novel processing and investigating the circumstances surrounding his wife's death. - Wikipedia

The book became very popular and is apparently slated to be a Ridley Scott movie sometime soon. Here's a bit from a WSJ story on the book ...

Sci-Fi's Underground Hit

Hugh Howey's postapocalyptic thriller "Wool" has sold more than half a million copies and generated more than 5,260 Amazon reviews. Mr. Howey has raked in more than a million dollars in royalties and sold the film rights to "Alien" producer Ridley Scott.

And Simon & Schuster hasn't even released the book yet.

In a highly unusual deal, Simon & Schuster acquired print publication rights to "Wool" while allowing Mr. Howey to keep the e-book rights himself. Mr. Howey self-published "Wool" as a serial novel in 2011, and took a rare stand by refusing to sell the digital rights. Last year, he turned down multiple seven-figure offers from publishers before reaching a mid-six-figure, print-only deal with Simon & Schuster


The novel takes place in a postapocalyptic future where a few thousand remaining humans live in a giant, 144-story underground silo. Couples who want to have a child have to enter a lottery; tickets are distributed only when someone dies. Citizens who break the law are sent outside to choke to death on the toxic air. Those who are sent to their deaths are forced to clean the grime off the digital sensors that transmit grainy images of the ruined landscape to a screen inside the silo. The images are meant to remind residents that the world beyond the silo is deadly, but some begin to suspect their leaders are lying to them about what's outside and how the world came to ruin ......

I've only just started the book, but it seems good so far. Here's a book trailer ...

Thursday, June 13, 2013


- Edward Snowden and Catholic Social Teaching, Catholic Moral Theology blog

- Secret snakes biting their own tails: secrecy and surveillance, Oxford University's Practical Ethics blog ...

[...] The problem with the view that national security overrides all other considerations is that it makes itself impossible to criticise: evidence and procedure must be secret, why they must be secret is secret, and so on. We cannot know whether the tradeoff is right because we are not allowed to see the effectiveness.

Even in a perfect world this would block the openness of society: open societies work because citizens can criticise any part of the system, demanding accountability, and the system itself can be changed to accommodate this if there is enough support for it. This is how mistakes and corruption get exposed and corrected, this is how the society is reshaped to fit the citizens rather than to fit some minority plan. It might not be quick, neat or easy, but it is a self-repairing and self-modifying system. But if there are aspects of the society that cannot be criticised or changed, then those are excluded from these mechanisms. Since mistakes happens even when people are dedicated and competent, even in the ideal world closed parts of society run the risk of becoming faulty. Add the realistic components of people covering up embarrassment, the possibility of corruption, regulatory capture and the existence of individuals with problematic agendas, and the existence of closed parts of societies become much more problematic. If they are also strongly empowered – legally and technologically – they become potentially very dangerous, no matter how noble the initial intentions were ....

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Iceland and Hong Kong

Reading in the news about these two places.

I don't know much about Hong Kong ...

... I did once read a couple of novels that were set there, Tai-Pan and Noble House, but both are historical fiction.

I know only a bit more about Iceland, like that it was featured in Ridley Scott's movie, Prometheus ...

... that it has some neat church architecture ...

... that one of it's volcanoes, Snæfellsjökull, supposedly contains a passage to the Center of the Earth ;) ...

... and then there's the yogurt ... yum ...

Must learn more about these places.


I've been following two stories in the news: the pope's comments on a Vatican "gay lobby", and the government's surveillance. What these two stories have in common is secrecy - the desire of organizations to keep secrets, the blasting of those who reveal them, and the scandal that results.

The Church keeps a lot of secrets ... one of the biggest examples has been the world-wide cover-up of sex abuse ... and the fact that there are gay men among the Church's hierarchy or that vows of celibacy are often ignored in the priesthood ... well, the ship has sailed on keeping those things secret. The problem comes not from those facts but from wanting to conceal them. As with the scandal of the government surveilling‎ millions of its own citizens without probable cause, there can be no respect for those in charge if they're dishonest, there can be no accountability or change for the better without public awareness and discussion.

I think Pope Francis' remark about the "gay lobby" is a start towards that needed transparency - unlike B16, he isn't locking away secrets in a vault. Now if only the government will follow suit.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Another flower


My latest book from the library is Sphere by Michael Crichton ...

In the middle of the South Pacific, a thousand feet below the surface, a huge vessel is unearthed. Rushed to the scene is a team of American scientists who descend together into the depths to investigate the astonishing discovery. What they find defies their imaginations and mocks their attempts at logical explanation. It is a spaceship, but apparently it is undamaged by its fall from the sky. And, most startling, it appears to be at least three hundred years old, containing a terrifying and destructive force that must be controlled at all costs.

There was a not very good movie adapted from the story, but I've never read the book, so when my sister recently told me one can check out kindle library books at Amazon, I decided to try it with Sphere. So far, it's interesting enough. Here's the beginning of a past review of it in the NYT ...


MICHAEL CRICHTON'S new novel, ''Sphere,'' kept me happy for two hours sitting in a grounded plane while the mechanics or whatever they were tried to decide whether the plane would ever fly again. The answer came up no, whereupon ''Sphere'' continued to keep me happy for another half an hour, standing in line to have my ticket rerouted. No one can ask more of a thriller, except maybe that it be a little longer; this one ran out sometime before my involuntary tour of the major airports of the United States.

Norman Johnson is a psychologist who is occasionally called in by the Federal Aviation Administration to help survivors of plane crashes cope with shock and trauma. He receives a mysterious call from the military and is whisked away to a bit of Pacific Ocean very far from anything, where a number of United States Navy and oceanographic ships are collected. It's not a plane crash this time - or not exactly ....

Monday, June 10, 2013

What I saw today

- Jesuit Thomas Reese, former editor of America magazine, will join the staff at National Catholic Reporter.

- Came across this Fordham University video of a talk last April by Irish Archbishop Diarmuid Martin ... Catholic Ireland—Past, Present, Future

- While papers like the NYT get rid of environmental coverage, The Guardian has added some new envrinmental blogs .... Meet the world's best new environment bloggers

- Here's a bit from a speech by Lord Jenkin of Roding given in the House of Lords on the same-sex marriage bill ...

I have come to the firm conclusion that there is nothing to fear in gay marriage and that, indeed, it will be a positive good not just for same-gender unions but for the institution of marriage generally. The effect will be to put right at the centre of marriage the concept of a stable, loving relationship. As a practising Christian, perhaps I may make the point to the Bishops’ Benches, including to the most reverend Primate, that there is every reason why, in time, the Anglican Church should come to accept that, although I recognise that it may take some time. The character of love which marriage reflects—that it is faithful, stable, tough, unselfish and unconditional—is the same character that most Christians see in the love of God. Marriage is therefore holy, not because it is ordained by God, but because it reflects that most important central truth of our religion: the love of God for all of us.

- Were Christians really persecuted in the early centuries of the faith? Candida Moss, Theology professor at Notre Dame, says no. There are a number of reviews of her book, including one at Fist Things and one by James McGrath

- Daniel Ellsberg: NSA Leaker Showed Battlefield Courage - NPR ...

Saturday, June 08, 2013

"You cannot protect a nation by attacking the right of every man to speak freely without fear."

- Jefferson

My latest movie from the library was John Adams ...

a 2008 American television miniseries chronicling most of U.S. President John Adams' political life and his role in the founding of the United States. Paul Giamatti portrays John Adams ...

Actually, the character of Jefferson was the one I found most intriguing in the parts of the miniseries I've seen so far. This is odd because I don't really like him: a guy against slavery who owned slaves, a guy who deleted all the supernatural stuff from the NT and called it his own - yikes! Maybe it's just that the actor who played him, Stephen Dillane (Game of Thrones), imbued him with an emotional aspect the actual Jefferson didn't possess, but at one point in the clip below he says to Adams, "You cannot protect a nation by attacking the right of every man to speak freely without fear." I agree. ...

Friday, June 07, 2013

David Foster Wallace, Dresden, and the state fair

Still reading Side Jobs and in one story, Harry Dresden, private investigator and wizard, searches the Illinois State Fair for a bad guy ...

The smells are what I enjoy the most about places like the State Fair. You get combinations of smells at such events like none found anywhere else. Popcorn, roast nuts, and fast food predominate, and you can get anything you want to clog your arteries or burn out your stomach lining. Chili dogs, funnel cakes, fried bread, majorly greasy pizza, candy apples, ye gods. Evil food smells amazing -- which is either proof that there is a Satan or some equivalent out there, or that the Almighty doesn’t actually want everyone to eat organic tofu all the time. I can’t decide.

Other smells are a cross section, depending on where you're standing. Disinfectant and filth walking by the Porta-Potties, exhaust and burned oil and sun-baked asphalt and gravel in the parking lots, sunlight on warm bodies, suntan lotion, cigarette smoke and beer near some of the attendees, the pungent, honest smell of livestock near the animal shows, stock contests, or pony rides -- all of it charging right ip your nose. I like indulging my sense of smell. Smell is the hardest sense to lie to.

This reminded me of an essay by David Foster Wallace on the Illinois State Fair - "Getting Away from Already Being Pretty Much Away from It All" (Harper's, 1994, under the title "Ticket to the Fair") Here's a video of him reading a bit from that essay ...

Thursday, June 06, 2013

What I saw today

- What You Should Know About The Government’s Massive Domestic Surveillance Program and What You Need To Know About The Government’s Massive Online Spying Program .... yikes! :(

- I like that Pope Francis is not going to spend the summer months at Castel Gandolfo - it's seems like a sign that he does care about the poor. I wish I could say that of the church in general. As a past article in The Economist notes ... annual spending by the [US] church and entities owned by the church was around $170 billion in 2010 .... national charitable activities [account for] just 2.7% .... of which 62% came from local, state and federal government agencies.

- The Tablet mentions that A female American theologian has been appointed the Bede Professor of Catholic theology at Durham University's Centre for Catholic Studies. Professor Karen Kilby ... Here are her University of Nottingham videos on Hans Urs von Balthasar and Karl Rahner ... ...

Wednesday, June 05, 2013


I took these at dusk and the colors seem strange, but ...

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Almost any woman knows ...

I'm still reading Side Jobs by Jim Butcher, the collection of short stories set at different times throughout the other Dresden Files books. One of the reasons I like the series, aside from the theme of magic, is that Butcher writes pretty good female characters - Karen his cop friend, Molly his wizard apprentice, Susan his girlfriend - they're written as people (not "women"). Anyway, in the story I'm reading now, Karen ponders a difference between men and women ....

Almost any woman knows that almost any man is stronger than she is. Oh, men know they’re stronger, but they seldom actually stop to think through the implications of that simple reality - implications that are both unnerving and virtually omnipresent, if you aren’t a Martian [a man - as in women are from Venus and men are from Mars]. You think about life differently when you know that half the people you see have the physical power to do things to you, regardless of whether you intend to allow it - and even implied threats of physical violence have to be taken seriously.

Two Churches

The amendment meant to block the government's same-sex marriage bill in the House of Lords was defeated and now the bill is one step closer to being made law. You can read about it here and there's a video also of the speech given by Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury ... Gay marriage bill: Peers back government plans

An interesting thing about Welby's speech is that while he says sorry for the Church of England not always being for equality for LGBT people, he asserts that the C of E did support civil partnerships. The reason this is interesting is that actually, the C of E did *not* really support civil partnerships and there was some changeability in Welby's speech. Here's a bit about this from Thinking Anglicans .......

House of Lords debate Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill

[...] The Archbishop of Canterbury’s own record of his own speech can be found on his own website.

In his speech Hansard says he said that:

*…Although the majority of Bishops who voted during the passage of the Civil Partnership Act through your Lordships’ House were in favour of civil partnerships a few years ago, it is also absolutely true that the church has often not served the LGBT communities in the way it should…*

Whereas in his own transcript he says that he said:

*Although the majority of Bishops who voted during the whole passage of the Civil Partnerships Act through your Lordships’ House were in favour of civil partnerships a few years ago, it is also absolutely true that the church has often not served the LGBT communities in the way it should. [emphasis added]*

Update Hansard has been modified, and the word “whole” has been [re-]inserted in the sentence in the official record. Those who have studied the analysis linked below will see why the inclusion of this word is so significant.

TA readers will recall that back in June 2012 we published this detailed analysis of how the bishops spoke and voted on this matter, prepared by Richard Chapman: The Lords Spiritual and Civil Partnerships Legislation.

The Catholic Church too has been rewriting its stance on civil partnerships. In this 2010 BBC discussion on civil partnerships, Archbishop Nichols says "We [the Church] did not oppose gay civil partnerships." .....

... but this is clearly untrue: you can read in detail what the Catholic Church had to say about civil partnerships in the UK in 2003 here - Bishops' response to government proposals for civil partnerships - a quote from the Church's document: We believe the government’s proposals to create civil partnerships for same sex couples would not promote the common good, and we therefore strongly oppose them.

Why are the Churches re-framing their stance on civil partnerships now? Perhaps to deflect hostility over their arguments against the marriage equality bill. I don't think that will work.

Monday, June 03, 2013

Three Jesuits

- Astronomer Brother Guy Consolmagno SJ discusses the roundabout way he became a Jesuit. I kind of knew this about him, having read his book, but still it was interesting ('cept he's wrong about cats ;) ...

- Here's a video with Larry Gillicj SJ. It's interesting because I've read a lot of his homilies and listened to some of his audio retreats at Creighton University's Daily Reflection page. I'd never realized that he's blind ...

- And a TED talk from Fr. Greg Boyle SJ. He has such a good sense of humor ...

In the UK

- The Lords on trial: Westminster hit by attempt to wreck gay marriage bill - and by fast-track plans for register of lobbyists

- Bishop Alan Wilson has a post about the C of E bishops, the "lords spiritual", who will (or won't) vote in the House of Lords on the marriage equality issue - Perils of the Aristocracy: A Political Scientist Writes...

- In the Telegraph - Bishops under pressure to abstain in gay marriage vote

- Andrew Brown has a post on the issue too - The rump church opposition to gay marriage is naked patriarchy

- I don't know how the House of Lords will vote, but I've seen reference to the Parliament Act, which I think means that in some cases, the vote of the House of Lords can be set aside in favor of the vote of the House of Commons - 'Constitutional crisis' if Lords reject gay marriage, senior peer warns

- Meanwhile, as you'd expect, the Catholic Church in the UK warns that the Government's gay marriage legislation will have "serious and harmful consequences" for the health of society, family life, and for freedom of religion and of speech.

Among the bulrushes

Or a plant that looks like bulrushes, anyway, is my neighbor's cat. I worry about him and his female counterpart - they cross a pretty busy street multiple times a day to visit here and cars aren't the only danger to outdoor cats. The average lifespan of an outdoor cat is less than 5 years, but indoor cats can live up to 20 years (Kermit was 18).

People often say their cats need to be outside because it's natural - I think this is anthropomorphized‎ projecting - and some people think their cats accept the inherent dangers of being ourdoors, but cats just don't have the knowledge necessary to make an informed decision about what they will face .... pesticides and fertilizers from lawns, anti-freeze on driveways, poisonous plants ... fights with dogs, raccoons, possums, and other cats who could be carriers of the feline AIDS virus and feline leukemia virus ... they're more likely to get skin cancer (my outdoor cat in college, Shrimpus, suffered and died from this) ... to get heart worm disease ... to get lost ... and then there are the mean people out there ... yikes! It is possible to turn an outdoor cat into an indoor cat - I did it with Grendel and part of the transition was taking her for walks around the yard with a little harness and leash :) - and it's possible to make safe outdoor areas for your cat too (Home, Sweet Home: Bringing an Outside Cat In ).

OK, end of rant - I'm just worried about them.

Here's happy indoor Data :) ...

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Some videos

- Buffy creator Joss Whedon gives commencement speech at wesley ....

- St. Patrick explains the Trinity :) ...

- Song playing at Whole Foods' muzak today ...

- Dan Savage in Conversation with Andrew Sullivan at The New York Public Library ...

The Eucharistic Adoration

- I am the bread of life.

You can watch the Eucharistic Adoration with Pope Francis here. It was interesting but I prefer a walking/talking Jesus as the bread of life (click at 48 minutes into the movie) ....

Saturday, June 01, 2013

Trumpet vine