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Friday, July 31, 2015

Beautiful Souls

I've been listening to a video talk with Eyal Press about his book, Beautiful Souls: The Courage and Conscience of Ordinary People in Extraordinary Times. It's about people who take stands based on conscience and do the right thing even when it means breaking ranks with their families, their employers, their countries (like Fr. Roy Bourgeois and Edward Snowden).

Here's the talk ...

Eyal Press also wrote an earlier book, Absolute Convictions: My Father, a City, and the Conflict That Divided America. There was a book review and except from the book at NPR here. And there was also a very interesting interview with him at NPR on Fresh Air - The Abortion Debate Through a Son's Eyes.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Happy (almost) Ignatius Day

Kittens :)

It's hard to find them in the hot afternoons, but at dusk the kittens come out and play. Mom does not look amused ...


- Trailer debuts for 'Spotlight' film on Boston Globe sex abuse investigation

- From Religion Dispatches: The Martyrdom of Cecil the Lion

- Child abuse royal commission summons George Pell, Ronald Mulkearns

- The Bizarre Celebration of 'Unplanned Parenthood' ... Why a pro-life Twitter hashtag—like the larger campaign to defund Planned Parenthood—is terrible for public health

- I really like all the MI movies (except for the second one). Maybe this article from The Atlantic will help explain why: What Mission: Impossible Understands About Tom Cruise ... The franchise channels its star’s manic energy, resisting character development in favor of insane stunts.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015


- The Views of Catholic Millennials on the Catholic
Church and Social Issues

- One of the films I watched recently was RobCcop (sad and grim). I thought of that when I saw this in the news: Ban Killer Robots Before They Take Over, Stephen Hawking & Elon Musk Say

- From Oxford University, an article about he killing of Cecil the lion, who was part of an Oxford study = Life with the lions: revisited.

- The continuing story ...

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Interview with Kaya Oakes

Interview with Kaya Oakes, a Catholic writer (see ar Religion Dispatches) who teaches at UC Berkeley. I sometimes read her at twitter ...

Here's the interview, in which she opines near the end that the upcoming synod on the family will change nothing - I agree ...

Monday, July 27, 2015

Mr. Robot

I've started watching a tv series - Mr. Robot ...

an American cyberpunk–thriller drama television series created by Sam Esmail .... The series follows Elliot Alderson, a young man living in New York City, who works at Allsafe, a cyber security firm as a programmer. Elliot has social anxiety disorder, but connects to people by hacking them and acts as a cyber vigilante. He is recruited by a mysterious social-anarchist known as "Mr. Robot", and joins his team of hackers, known as "fsociety". One of their missions is to take down one of the largest corporations in the world, E Corp (known as "Evil Corp" by Elliot), a company that Elliot is paid to protect.

I've only just started it but it reminds me of The Speed of Dark meets The Fifth Estate. And it kind of reminds me of me too in that Elliot and I are both lonely people.

Here are a couple of articles about the show ...

- Mr. Robot, Ms. Robot ... USA’s new hacker drama is a surprise hit that deserves attention for its subtle critiques of gender norms and masculinity.

- TV Preview Wealth disparity, hackers and cyber threats in 'Mr. Robot' ... Mr. Robot," a psychological thriller premiering June 24 on USA Network, hacks into some of today's biggest problems and fears: Cyber threats. Rising wealth disparity. Mental health and youthful rebellion.

And a promo ...

You can watch episodes free here


It's the time of year when the tarps on the leaky roof must be taken down because the sun has deteriorated them ....

My sister and I used to put the tarps on and take them off ourselves but I can't now with my bad knee. Last year was the first time I had to hire someone to do it and now I must find someone to take them off too, I guess. Here's a photo I took last time I was up on the roof ...

Mouse wonders why I'm taking photos of the roof instead of petting him :) ...

Sunday, July 26, 2015

"What do you want from your sex life?" and more

Some links ...

- Professor at the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley, Lisa Fullam, asks us "What do you want from your sex life?" ...

- Gay Celibacy is the New Ex-Gay Therapy

- Remember Andrew Sullivan's series on the woman who have had to get late term abortions? ... It’s So Personal. I posted this link in a comment at dotCommonweal on the subject of the Planned Parenthood videos but my comment was quickly deleted. I'm just reading the series now for the first time myself - anyone who thinks people who have late term abortions are bad or selfish should read it.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Oliver Sacks: stars, lemurs, and bismuth

An article by Oliver Sacks on the things he's appreciating as he nears death - Oliver Sacks: My Periodic Table ....

[...] A few weeks ago, in the country, far from the lights of the city, I saw the entire sky “powdered with stars” (in Milton’s words); such a sky, I imagined, could be seen only on high, dry plateaus like that of Atacama in Chile (where some of the world’s most powerful telescopes are). It was this celestial splendor that suddenly made me realize how little time, how little life, I had left. My sense of the heavens’ beauty, of eternity, was inseparably mixed for me with a sense of transience — and death.

- New Technology Telescope in the Chilean Atacama Desert


A few weeks ago, in the country, far from the lights of the city, I saw the entire sky “powdered with stars” (in Milton’s words); such a sky, I imagined, could be seen only on high, dry plateaus like that of Atacama in Chile (where some of the world’s most powerful telescopes are). It was this celestial splendor that suddenly made me realize how little time, how little life, I had left. My sense of the heavens’ beauty, of eternity, was inseparably mixed for me with a sense of transience — and death.

- a lemur from the Duke Lemur Center

NEXT to the circle of lead on my table is the land of bismuth: naturally occurring bismuth from Australia; little limousine-shaped ingots of bismuth from a mine in Bolivia; bismuth slowly cooled from a melt to form beautiful iridescent crystals terraced like a Hopi village; and, in a nod to Euclid and the beauty of geometry, a cylinder and a sphere made of bismuth ....

- bismuth crystal

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Liar, liar, pants on fire

It's said that in war, the first casualty is truth. I guess that's true for culture wars too ... at nearly every religious site I visit online there is the untrue assertion that Planned Parenthood is in the business of selling baby body parts for profit. But that isn't true.

1) Planned Parenthood does *not* sell baby body parts. When a patient requests that a donation to research be made, then they facilitate that donation, sometimes charging costs for transportation/processing, sometimes not. The pro-life people who made the videos lied. Read Unspinning the Planned Parenthood Video ... A cynical attack on Planned Parenthood ... The Campaign of Deception Against Planned Parenthood

2) Yes, Planned Parenthood does some abortions, but abortion makes up only 3% of their services. They also do gyn exams for infections, pap smears, breast cancer screening, prenatal care, provide contraception. And they are one of the few places women who are poor can afford to go for these services. Read Nope, Abortion Is Not Planned Parenthood's "Central Purpose"

3) So when pro-life groups like the Center for Medical Progress and Republican politicians attack Planned Parenthood, they are making it ever harder for poor women to get health care. Read  Who’s Behind the Planned Parenthood Sting Video? Troy Newman—and Other Rabid Anti-Choicers ... Suprise: Anti-Vaxxers Are Leading the Charge Against Planned Parenthood ... The Planned Parenthood 'sting' video's first casualty? Women with breast cancer

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Ignatian prayer

It's almost St. Ignatius day (July 31) so let's listen again to this description of Ignatian prayer from Rob Marsh SJ ...

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Mean, cruel, and exclusive: where Jesus drew the line

I've been thinking about the Presbyterian Church lately. Partly it's because my grandmother was a (non-church-going) Presbyterian .... most Scotch-Irish are Presbyterians. But also it's that I've been enjoying the blog of Presbyterian pastor Patrick Vaughn. Here's another 2 minute video from him about where Jesus drew the line :) ....


I just spent the last couple of hours trying to catch a lizard in the kitchen. I did finally accomplish it - there he is above in a plastic container - amid much screaming on my part ;) and was able to release the little guy outside. I wonder what kind of lizard he is ... neat toes :)

Thursday, July 16, 2015


This week's movie rental was Maggie ... a 2015 post-apocalyptic drama film directed by Henry Hobson, written by John Scott III, and starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Abigail Breslin and Joely Richardson.

I thought the movie was pretty good, if sad and grim, and in its quiet way it made the idea of a zombie plague much more believable (PS - you may want to avert your eyes when the little fox appears). Here's the beginning of the review in Forbes: Review - 'Maggie' Deconstructs Zombie Films, Schwarzenegger And Breslin Shine ...

It is not often that a film comes along which not only subverts genre expectations, but in fact uses that subversion of expectations to create a disconnect between how we traditionally perceive the themes and moral imperatives inherent in the genre and what we are experiencing in the film itself. As our expectation of fulfillment of tropes takes root during viewing of a film, teasing us into aligning ourselves with certain traditional attitudes in order to grant our approval for a certain outcome, our embrace of those assumptions makes us vulnerable should anyone decide to yank the rug out from under us.

That’s precisely what writer John Scott 3 and director Henry Hobson conspire to do in their film Maggie, a zombie apocalypse horror film starring action star Arnold Schwarzenegger that’s actually not an apocalypse after all; that has more drama than horror; and in which Schwarzenegger is not only not the main character, but is instead an ordinary father left helpless in the face of his daughter’s horrible illness. It’s really a film about how families and society deal with terminal illness and the terrible pain it inflicts — in quite different ways — on the sick individuals, their families, and on the community around them ....

And here's a trailer ...

Tuesday, July 14, 2015


- The Case Against Encouraging Polygamy

- Remember when Cardinal Dolan hid church assets ($57 million) in a cemetery trust fund from sex abuse victims owed compensation? Well, now the Milwaukee archdiocese asks Supreme Court to consider ruling on cemetery fund

- The Sickening Realities of the ‘Sexual Abuse to Prison Pipeline

- Planned Parenthood’s biggest problem is not “selling baby parts”: What the latest anti-choice sting reveals about the abortion debate

Wednesday, July 08, 2015


- Cardinal Pell says Same-sex marriage votes show society is abandoning Christian foundation, thus promoting the lie that there is only one Christian view of same-sex relationships, a negative one. He ignores that the Episcopal Church, the Presbyterian Church, the UCC, the Quakers, etc., support marriage for same-sex couples. Meanwhile, Pell's Church in Australia tries to get taxpayers to pay the bill for its sex abuse crimes.

- The Unbearable Darkness of Prestige Television ... Critically acclaimed genre series such as Game of Thrones and True Detective are using bleak self-seriousness to distance themselves from their lowbrow roots.

- The Work We Do While We Sleep

- Giving teens effective contraception like IUDs cut the unwanted baby birthrate by 40%. So why did Republicans cut funding? ... The real issue here is that opponents of accessible birth control want to keep sex dangerous, in the hope that danger will discourage girls and women from having sex.

- The Illusion of Time: What's Real?

- Knowing How Doctors Die Can Change End-Of-Life Discussions

- Controversial Chilean bishop's appointment continues to divide diocese

- ;) ...

Tuesday, July 07, 2015


I've finished reading Interstellar: The Official Movie Novelization. One of the things I liked best about the book and movie was the way the robots were portrayed. There were two of them, TARS and CASE, both large and modularly rectangular, both veterans of a defunct marine corps, with computer displays, and honesty, discretion, and humor settings. Here are a couple of movie clips that showcase Tars and Case ...

And an article from Wired - How FX Wizards Brought Interstellar’s Strange Bots to Life

Walking and fiddles

The doc said walking was good for my knee so I've been walking around, listening to music to keep me going ... dueling fiddles :) ...

Monday, July 06, 2015


- Not a link, but here above is a pic of stray cat Misty and her baby. A neighbor said she was considering getting a kitten I hope I can convince her to take this one. If not, there will be 13 stray cats living in my yard and I will almost certainly go insane.

- After gay marriage, expect conservative amnesia

- Jesus Christ Wasn’t Down With Marriage

- Happy 80th birthday to the Dalai Lama ...

Sunday, July 05, 2015

Paul Martin

I was very sad to hear that a friend I had come to know through blogging had passed away today - Paul Martin. Some of you may have visited his blog, Original Faith, which is no longer up. I often mentioned his blog in past posts here, like David Hart and Nature, but he had been ill for a long time and eventually stopped blogging as his illness progressed. Paul did write a book, though - Original Faith - and you can read more about him and the book ...

Original Faith: A Spiritual Journey by Paul Martin

Interview Original Faith Author Paul Maurice Martin

Paul Martin, author of “Original Faith”: Book Blog Tour & Giveaway

Paul will be missed.

Saturday, July 04, 2015


Friday, July 03, 2015

Thomas Reese SJ: the Bishops and marriage equality

A great article by Thomas Reese SJ on How the bishops should respond to the same-sex marriage decision. Here are some bits ...

The bishops' fight against gay marriage has been a waste of time and money. The bishops should get a new set of priorities and a new set of lawyers.


If bishops in the past could eventually accept civil divorce as the law of the land, why can't the current flock of bishops do the same for gay marriage?


Those who compare Obergefell v. Hodges to Roe v. Wade have not looked at the poll numbers. The U.S. population has stayed polarized over abortion for decades, but the support for gay marriage has continued to rise. There is absolutely no possibility of a constitutional amendment overturning the decision. Gay marriage is not a matter of life and death. While it may be an issue in this year's Republican primaries, it is not in the population as a whole.


Let's be perfectly clear. In Catholic morality, there is nothing to prohibit a Catholic judge or clerk from performing a same-sex marriage. Nor is there any moral obligation for a Catholic businessperson to refuse to provide flowers, food, space and other services to a same-sex wedding. Because of all the controversy over these issues in the media, the bishops need to be clear that these are not moral problems for Catholic government officials or Catholic businesspeople.


Catholic colleges and universities that provide housing for married couples are undoubtedly going to be approached for housing by same-sex couples. Unless the schools can get states to carve out an exception for them in anti-discrimination legislation, they could be forced to provide such housing.

But since they already provide housing to couples married illicitly according to the church, no one should see such housing as an endorsement of someone's lifestyle. And granted all the sex going on at Catholic colleges and universities, giving housing to a few gay people who have permanently committed themselves to each other in marriage would hardly be considered a great scandal.

A second issue will be the provision of spousal benefits to gay employees in Catholic institutions, especially universities and hospitals. Again, these institutions already give such benefits to divorced and remarried employees. No one considers this scandalous. The fact that the church considers health care a right should be the deciding factor, not the gender of the spouse.


Church officials, including the pope, have argued that every child deserves to have a mother and a father, with the inference that without a mother and a father, the child will somehow suffer. There are a number of problems with this position.

First, it casts doubt on the millions of single parents who are heroically raising their children without spousal support.

Second, it has a narrow vision of the family. The church has traditionally recognized the importance of uncles, aunts and grandparents in the raising of children. There will be other sexes in the extended families of these children.

Third, often, same-sex couples adopt children whom no one else wants. Would these children be better off in foster homes or orphanages?

Finally, there is no evidence that children of same-sex couples suffer as a result of their upbringing. The original study that argued that children raised by same-sex couples did not do as well as those raised by heterosexual couples has been proven faulty.

In a 2013 amicus brief opposing the Defense of Marriage Act, the American Sociological Association said, "The claim that same-sex parents produce less positive child outcomes than opposite-sex parents -- either because such families lack both a male and female parent or because both parents are not the biological parents of their children -- contradicts abundant social science research."

Rather, "positive child wellbeing is the product of stability in the relationship between the two parents, stability in the relationship between the parents and child, and greater parental socioeconomic resources."

The American Academy of Pediatrics agreed and supported same-sex marriage because marriage provides needed stability in children's lives:

Many studies have demonstrated that children's well-being is affected much more by their relationships with their parents, their parents' sense of competence and security, and the presence of social and economic support for the family than by the gender or the sexual orientation of their parents. Lack of opportunity for same-gender couples to marry adds to families' stress, which affects the health and welfare of all household members. Because marriage strengthens families and, in so doing, benefits children's development, children should not be deprived of the opportunity for their parents to be married.


It is time for the U.S. bishops to pivot to the public policy priorities articulated by Pope Francis: care for the poor and the environment and the promotion of peace and interreligious harmony. Their fanatical opposition to the legalization of gay marriage has made young people look on the church as a bigoted institution with which they do not want to be associated. As pastors, they should be talking more about God's compassion and love rather than trying to regulate people's sexual conduct through laws.

Amen! :)

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Interstellar: The Official Movie Novelization

The latest book I've been reading is Interstellar: The Official Movie Novelization. Though I've seen the movie, the book is still interesting - it gives subtext to the action and explains a lot of the science stuff. I always feel a bit guilty when I do this - read a book about a movie or tv series - as if I'm not being adventurous enough to try something unknown, but oh well ;) For those who haven't seen the movie still, here's a trailer ...