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Saturday, April 30, 2016

Victor Frankenstein

This week's movie rental was Victor Frankenstein ...

a 2015 British science fiction fantasy horror film based on contemporary adaptations of Mary Shelley's 1818 novel Frankenstein .... Starring James McAvoy as the title character and Daniel Radcliffe as Igor, the film was released by 20th Century Fox on November 25, 2015.

Told from Igor's perspective, it shows the troubled young assistant's dark origins and his redemptive friendship with the young medical student, Victor Frankenstein. Through Igor's eyes, the audience witnesses the emergence of Frankenstein as the man from the legend we know today. Eventually, their experiments get them into trouble with the authorities, and Dr. Frankenstein and Igor become fugitives as they complete their goals to use science as a way to create life from death. The film received generally negative reviews and became a box office bomb, grossing $34.2 million against a budget of $40 million.

The movie is strange and I guess I can see why it got mostly negative reviews, and yet it was entertaining, if kind of gruesome ... a sort of Dickens meets Fringe. I wanted to see it because I like James McAvoy - he's the young Professor Charles Xavier of the X-Men. One interesting thing is that the scary religious fanatic of a police inspector who haunts Dr. Frankenstein is played by the guy who is Moriarty in the Sherlock series ...

And I wanted to see it because it's hard not to like the many permutations of the Frankenstein story. Here's one from Once Upon a Time ...

So, I don't know if I can recommend the film exactly ... here's a review: Victor Frankenstein review – a cavalcade of steampunk silliness ... but you might like it. Here's a trailer ...

Motherhood and the Church

Mother's Day is next week and I saw a mention by Catholic writer Kaya Oakes about what happens at her church. Here's the start of it ...

I seem to write some version of this every year around Mother's Day, but here we go again by necessity...

Many women don't have children. There are lots of reasons why this happens. Some are biological, some are circumstantial. Those women are not lesser, are not failures. They are generative in many other ways. They give life in many other ways.

Every year, when I go to church on Mother's Day, this happens:

Women who are mothers are asked to stand up and be blessed/applauded. Women who are not mothers are therefore left sitting.

As one of the women who's left sitting, that means everyone looking around is made aware of the fact that I don't have children. Is that anyone's business? Not really.

So I'm asking my clergy friends yet again not to do this ....

This is one of the things I find disturbing about Catholicism - the emphasis on women as mothers. Pope Francis has been an especial advocate of this view ...

Pope Francis: Opting not to have children is a ‘selfish choice’

Pope Francis: ‘Large families are a gift from God’

Pope Francis: A world without mothers would be inhumane, lacking tenderness

The Pope would not be my first choice for advice on how to be a woman or a parent, and is it only me that finds it a bit creepy too that the Pope wants women to breastfeed in church, that he thinks it's fine to slap your kids around?

Here's an excerpt from an article by scripture scholars Candida Moss and Joel Baden on the subject ...

Op-Ed Pope Francis' woman problem

[...] Ten days ago, Pope Francis organized and addressed an interfaith colloquium on the subject of “The Complementarity of Man and Woman in Marriage.” The use of the doctrinal term “complementarity” signals the conservative underpinnings of Francis' views on marriage. The religious teaching of complementarity holds that men and women have very different roles in life and in marriage, with men outranking women in most areas. Although Francis did acknowledge that complementarity could take “many forms,” he nonetheless insisted that it is an “anthropological fact.”

Last week, in chastising the European Parliament on the subject of immigration policy, Francis provided another alarming insight into his attitudes toward women, this time in his choice of metaphor. He described Europe as a “grandmother, no longer fertile and vibrant,” but instead “elderly and haggard.” At 77 years old, presumably Francis still thinks himself relatively vibrant and useful to society. Women of his age, however, have apparently outlived their utility.

Francis has made it clear that he sees childbearing and child rearing as crucial womanly roles.

But his remarks about European immigration marked the first time Francis has used the natural loss of fertility and change in appearance that accompany aging to cast a moral judgment. By selecting the image of an aging woman — someone who is, to use Francis' words, no longer “relevant” to the world — is nothing other than crass chauvinism. Francis has elsewhere condemned our modern “throwaway” culture that discards the elderly, but here — when the subject is exclusively female — he demonstrates the same attitude.

Even when ostensibly elevating women, Francis reveals a highly patriarchal view of where their value lies. In a July statement that many took as a positive sign, he said that women are “more important than bishops and priests.” But it is unclear just how progressive we should understand that statement to be. Repeatedly, Francis has come back to extolling the role of women specifically as mothers, noting that “the presence of women in a domestic setting” is crucial to “the very transmission of the faith.” .....

I imagine it can be great to be a mother and if someone has a good mom, that must be a blessing, but I can't help thinking that the church uses sexist rhetoric about motherhood to define women and keep them in their place.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Kittens on the roof, continued

A couple of weeks ago I posted about how Misty the cat ...

... had kittens and they appeared to be on the roof, where I couldn't see them or get at them, only hear them. Yesterday, as I was mowing the back yard, I heard a kitten again that sounded really upset. I followed the sound to a slopping part of the roof, and then a kitten fell off onto some leaves at my feet. I couldn't see or hear any other kittens, so I took the kitten to the vet with a donation, so they would find him a home. I was afraid if I waited until he was older, I wouldn't be able to catch him and he would become another semi-feral cat living in my yard ... not the greatest life for a kitty. I was so hoping Misty just had the one baby.

But a couple of hours later, there were more kitten sounds and Misty appeared, carrying another kitten. I grabbed him up but then heard even more kitten sounds from that slopping area of the roof. There three more kittens were slowly sliding towards the edge. I got a chair and managed to reach up and grab them before they fell. Then into a cat bed in a big box in the garage.

Today I called the vet and asked if I could bring in the others for an additional donation. They said ok. Poor kittens, in a scary new environment without their mom - I hope they find homes where people love them. Poor Misty, her babies taken away from her all of a sudden, not knowing what's become of them. I cried on the way home from the vet in the taxi. I'm really not cut out for this stuff.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

A letter to Bernie

I saw a pretty good open letter to Bernie in the Boston Globe about the future of his campaign. Here's an excerpt ...

[H]ere’s the thing – and I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but maybe a little tough love is in order — you’re not going to win the Democratic nomination. This isn’t one of these “yeah, it’s a long shot, but maybe if I get lucky and everything goes my way” things. You’re not going to overcome Hillary Clinton’s lead in pledged delegates and you’re certainly not going to convince super delegates to vote for you over her. I mean, think about it: You’re trying to convince them to vote against the person who is almost certainly going to win in pledged delegates.

And even if you could win that way, would you really want to? In fact, if we’re really being honest here, the way your campaign has gone the past six weeks isn’t the way you want to win — or even the way you want to lose. Remember back in May 2015 when you said you didn’t want this campaign to be about Jeb Bush, Hillary Clinton, or Bernie Sanders? Remember when you said you weren’t going to engage in character assassination and personal attacks?

Well, that hasn’t worked out so well over the past few weeks. I don’t want to rehash all the things you’ve said about Clinton that you once suggested you wouldn’t, but you are now running a real risk of undercutting the one person who you’ve said would be a better president on her worst day than all the Republicans currently running for the office. Even worse, you’re in real danger of sullying your otherwise inspiring campaign for president ...

But I don't think that message is one the Sanders campaign wants to hear, at least not yet. I received an email from them today (one of three). Here's a bit of it ...

Over the past few days, Hillary Clinton’s campaign and some of its top supporters have launched an odd new line of attack against people like you who stand with Bernie. They are saying that by continuing to campaign and fight for every vote, for every delegate, that we are helping Donald Trump.

They’ve used language reserved for traitors to our country, saying we are "giving aid and comfort" to Trump. They are emailing supporters with the subject line "What Trump loves about Bernie." Let me be clear, there is one candidate in this Democratic primary who Donald Trump said would make a "great president," and it’s not Bernie Sanders ...

Wonder what the results of today's primaries will be and how they will affect this.

The Case Against Reality

Wishing I was smarter ;) I've been reading a really interesting article from The Atlantic - The Case Against Reality (see video above) - and it's hard to understand, and yet I have the feeling that it has connections to a few other interesting things, like (1) the gooey interface, (2) the wrongness of natural law theory, (3) Peirce's Theory of Signs, and (4) Keith Ward's lecture on quantum physics and idealism ...

Monday, April 25, 2016


- source

- Might Hillary pick Elizabeth Warren as a running mate? ... Why Would Hillary Clinton Pick a Female Running Mate?

- See, it's not only me: Most U.S. Catholics rely heavily on their own conscience for moral guidance ... Despite Pope Francis’ overwhelming popularity, only about one-in-ten American Catholics say they turn to the pope “a great deal” for guidance on difficult moral questions, according to a Pew Research Center survey on religion in everyday life.

- How Can the U.S. End Homelessness?

- Looking forward to this :) ... For 'X-Men: Apocalypse,' think Old Testament, wrath-of-God-like stuff ...

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Hillary: the emails, bank bailout, and Goldman Sachs speeches

I've been thinking a lot about the election, about Hillary and Bernie and for whom to vote when my state's primary takes place in a couple of months. So far I like Hillary very much more than Bernie.

Today I saw in the news that Bernie believes the reason Hillary has won more delegates and more of the popular vote is because 'poor people don't vote', the assumption being that if a poor person did vote, they would want to vote for him. But poor people *do* vote, it's just that they're voting for Hillary ....

Bernie Sanders Says He’s Lost States Because ‘Poor People Don’t Vote’

Bernie Sanders said many of his primary losses to Hillary Clinton in states with the highest levels of income inequality can be chalked up to the fact that “poor people don’t vote.”

“I mean, that’s just a fact,” the Vermont senator said in an interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press” that aired Sunday .... Host Chuck Todd pointed out that 17 of the 25 states with the highest levels of income inequality have held primaries, and Clinton won 16 of those — even though Sanders has made fighting income inequality the central message of his campaign. Sanders said the outcome would have been different if more low-income and working class people turned out to vote.

The Washington Post fact-checked Sanders’ claim, and it appears he might be mistaken about his popularity among low-income voters. Exit polls show that Clinton has actually won Democratic voters with household incomes below $50,000 by 55 percent to Sanders’ 44 percent in the states that have held primaries so far.

Another disturbing thing about Bernie is his recent bid to flip superdelegates ...

Bernie Sanders' attempt to flip superdelegates greeted with doubt

Vermont U.S. Sen. Bernie 
Sanders’ latest strategy — trying to flip Hillary Clinton’s pledged superdelegates — to win the Democratic nomination after Tuesday night’s ugly loss in New York is a “delusional” tactic by a campaign that’s quickly running out of moves, observers said.

“The belief that he’s going to somehow convince superdelegates to vote for him … is delusional, to be honest with you,” said Garrison Nelson, a longtime University of Vermont political science professor who has known Sanders for 40 years. “Superdelegates are born and bred lifetime Democrats and they are wedded to the party. It’s the party of their lives. And Bernie Sanders is not a Democrat.” ...

And ... Bernie Sanders supporter arrested in Seattle protest over superdelegates

A Bernie Sanders supporter was arrested Thursday during a protest against U.S. Rep. Jim McDermott’s refusal to shift his vote as a Democratic superdelegate from Hillary Clinton to Sanders .... The action was part of an ongoing campaign by ardent Sanders supporters, who are demanding the state’s 17 superdelegates abandon support for Clinton, who took just 27 percent of delegates in the April 26 precinct caucuses.

Superdelegates include Democratic Party leaders and the state’s top elected Democratic officials. Under party rules, they’re considered “unpledged” and can support whichever presidential candidate they choose — and while some of Washington’s say they’re neutral, most have backed Clinton.

The campaign by Sanders backers has not convinced any of the local superdelegates to change their position, and some have complained of being harassed ...

But, you say, Hillary is so corrupt .... those emails, bailing out Wall Street, the Goldman Sachs speeches. I have to admit, I've never looked into these allegations against her before, so today I tried to figure out what it was all about.

Here's an article about the emails - ANALYSIS: No, Hillary Clinton Did Not Commit a Crime ... at Least Based on What We Know Today

[B]ased on what we do know from what has been made public, there doesn’t seem to be a legitimate basis for any sort of criminal charge against her. I fear many commentators are allowing their analysis to become clouded by a long standing distrust, or even hatred of Hillary Clinton.

In fact, I recently expressed my view of this investigation to a friend who retorted “I didn’t know you are a Hillary guy?” I guess there is almost no way to analyze this case without being accused of partisanship but then please also mischaracterize me in this context as a Dennis Hastert guy, a George Zimmerman guy, a Brendan Dassey guy, a gun control guy and an anti-Obama guy (just to name a few).

Hillary bashing is good clean political sport but a federal criminal indictment is serious business, saved for serious crimes and hopefully based on serious evidence, which as of yet, has not materialized.

The paid speeches: I'm not sure why these are considered so awful. First, many politicians give paid speeches - guys from Donald Trump to Jimmy Carter to Al Gore to Colin Powell - it's an honest way to make a buck. But, but, but, she's given speeches to banks, Wall Street banks, Goldman Sachs! Yes. banks, not international arms dealers, banks ;) They are not my favorite kind of businesses but we all use them, and sometimes even banks like Goldman Sachs can do the ocassional good thing. Even Mother Jones is underwhelmed by the 'badness' of Hillary's paid speeches ....

Everyone Knows Why Hillary Clinton Won't Release Her Goldman Sachs Speeches

[...] My own guess is that it's vanishingly unlikely Hillary said anything in these speeches that's truly a bombshell. Her entire life suggests the kind of caution and experience with leaks that almost certainly made these speeches dull and predictable. But the Goldman folks knew all that up front. They just wanted the cachet of having a Clinton address their dinner.

Still, when you give speeches to any industry group, you offer up some praise for the vital work they do. It's just part of the spiel. And Hillary knows perfectly well without even looking that some of that stuff is in these speeches—and it can be taken out of context and made into yet another endless and idiotic Republican meme. Remember "You didn't build that"? Sure you do .... As for the odds of a genuine bombshell, I'd put it at about 1 percent. I guess you never know about these things, but literally everything in Hillary's 40-year political career suggests a woman who simply doesn't traffic in bombshells. It's not in her personality, and in any case, long experience has taught her better. It's only barely conceivable that something genuinely damning is anywhere in any of those speeches.

And Politico has more - What Clinton said in her paid speeches

When Hillary Clinton spoke to Goldman Sachs executives and technology titans at a summit in Arizona in October of 2013, she spoke glowingly of the work the bank was doing raising capital and helping create jobs, according to people who saw her remarks.

Clinton, who received $225,000 for her appearance, praised the diversity of Goldman’s workforce and the prominent roles played by women at the blue-chip investment bank and the tech firms present at the event. She spent no time criticizing Goldman or Wall Street more broadly for its role in the 2008 financial crisis .... At another speech to Goldman and its big asset management clients in New York in 2013, Clinton spoke about how it wasn’t just the banks that caused the financial crisis and that it was worth looking at the landmark 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law to see what was working and what wasn’t. “It was mostly basic stuff, small talk, chit-chat,” one person who attended that speech said. “But in this environment, it could be made to look really bad.” ...

So, does the fact that she was hired to give speeches at Goldman Sachs and she gave friendly speeches mean she has been bought by them? I'm not sure why we should believe the banks own her anymore than do the many other entities that have hired her to give speeches ....

According to public records, Clinton gave 92 speeches between 2013 and 2015. Her standard fee is $225,000, and she collected $21.6 million dollars in just under two years. Clinton made 8 speeches to big banks, netting $1.8 million, according to a CNN analysis. There is nothing illegal or unethical about former Secretaries of State earning money on the speaking circuit. And according to sources in the industry, there is nothing unusual about someone with the name value of Hillary Clinton being able to charge so much. The standard fee and her demands are outlined in a memo from the Harry Walker Agency in New York.

There's a Wikipedia page on the bank bailout - Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 - and while there were squirrelly things about it, they didn't have anything to do with Hillary. She was not alone in voting for the bailout ... almost all the Democrats did, including my representatives, Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein. President Obama not only voted for it, he gave a speech in favor of it. Those who didn't vote for it were mostly conservatives like Mike Huckabee, Ron Paul, Libertarian presidential candidate Bob Barr, and yes, Independent (not Democrat) Bernie Sanders, perhaps because they didn't like the idea of Big Government coming to the rescue (see how the Senate voted).

And at that time, Hillary spoke up for people, not banks .....

In a Wall Street Journal opinion piece [Let's Keep People In Their Homes], Senator Hillary Clinton advocated addressing the rate of mortgage defaults and foreclosures that ignited this crisis, not just bailing out Wall Street firms: "If we do not take action to address the crisis facing borrowers, we'll never solve the crisis facing lenders." She has proposed a new Home Owners' Loan Corporation (HOLC), similar to that used after the Depression, which was launched in 1933. The new HOLC would administer a national program to help homeowners refinance their mortgages. She is also calling for a moratorium on foreclosures and freezing of rate hikes in adjustable rate mortgages.

So, in my admittedly limited assessment, Hillary is not perfect but she's certainly not the corrupt evil one portrayed by Sanders supporters, and I still plan to vote for her, not Bernie.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

It's a beautiful day :)

Vicky napping in the sun ...

Friday, April 22, 2016

Earth Day and more

- Happy Earth Day! If you want to save our present environment, for us and for all the other creatures here, become a vegetarian, like me .... It May Take a Global Vegetarian Movement to Combat Climate Change ... It may be impossible to reach the U.N.'s goals without significant changes in global diet, a new study finds.

- On one of the blogs I visit, someone questioned whether Hillary Clinton was really a Democrat. I think a better question is whether Bernie is one ... Bernie Sanders isn’t a Democrat: And that’s a real problem when he needs Democrats for his “revolution” ... Is Bernie Sanders a Democrat? It’s a question that has mostly been ignored during this primary season, even though Sanders continues to identify as an “independent” in his senate work while trying to get the Democratic nomination for president.

- Prominent theologians ask Polish bishops to reconsider support for proposed abortion ban

- In a couple of days it will be World Day for Laboratory Animals. A related story: Medical Charities Are Funding Animal Experiments But They Don't Want You to Know

- Sex Abuse and the Catholic Church: Why Is It Still a Story?

- The latest tv series I'm renting is Grantchester ...

an ITV detective drama set in a 1950s Cambridgeshire village of Grantchester near Cambridge first broadcast in 2014. It features a local Anglican vicar Sidney Chambers (James Norton) who develops a sideline in sleuthing with the initially reluctant help of Detective Inspector Geordie Keating (Robson Green). The series is based on The Grantchester Mysteries collections of short stories, written by James Runcie.

The show is pretty good, and there's a little dog in it too :) Here's a trailer ...

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Queen Elizabeth and Christ the King

Much in the news about the British monarch turning 90 - Flood of Tributes for Queen Elizabeth on Her 90th Birthday.

I don't understand, though, why anyone would want a monarchy. It's often said that Americans are more charmed by the British monarchy than the British, but that's not exactly true - for us it's now another country's quaint curiosity, one that we can enjoy from a safe distance, one we went through a lot to get rid of ourselves. And there are those in the UK who feel the same. Here's the beginning of an article from a few years ago ...

Why UK should abolish its 'failed' monarchy

With all the fuss in the media at the moment about Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee anyone could be forgiven for thinking that the British are united in their adoration of their monarch. The reality is that while a large swathe of public opinion is largely indifferent to the royals -- but happy to have an extra public holiday to mark the jubilee -- many millions want the whole institution of monarchy consigned to the history books.

The British republican movement has been growing rapidly over the past 18 months -- thanks in large part to the heightened royal coverage prompted by last year's wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton and this year's jubilee. Our cause is simple: it's about democratic reform and a rejection of inherited power and privilege. The case for Britain becoming a republic is threefold: the monarchy is wrong in principle, in practice and it is wrong politically.

We're supposed to be a democratic society, which means we should cherish and value democratic values, such as equality of citizenship, freedom to participate in government, accountability and transparency. In a democratic society there is no room for a head of state who is put there for life and by birth. A hereditary monarch has no place in a society that believes "we the people" should be in charge. The principled objection is unanswerable.

In practice the monarchy is an institution that is not fit for purpose. It is secretive, having recently lobbied successfully to have itself removed entirely from the reaches of our Freedom of Information laws; it lobbies government ministers for improvements to its financial benefits and for its own private agenda; it is hugely costly -- an estimated £202 million a year, enough to pay for thousands of teachers, nurses or police officers at a time of sweeping public spending cuts ....

And this reminds me too of a 2011 post by British Jesuit, Philip Endean, on Christ the King ...

[...] If we celebrate this feast of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Universal King here in the US, we need to recognise that so much of what is valuable and precious in this country arises from a rejection of the idea of kingship, a recognition that the political power of this world can often be dysfunctional and abusive, that human freedom and dignity need to be safeguarded. These United States are founded on a belief that all are created equal. Most US citizens are descended from immigrants who came to this country because the monarchies of Europe could not provide them with a decent living. The Pilgrim Fathers stand as a symbol for millions who came to this land, found here the blessings of prosperity and liberty .....

When the gospels speak of Christ as King—which they don’t very often—they are always concerned to bring out that his kingship is not like that of the great ones of this world who lord it over others. He is not a King before whom we bow and scrape and curtsey. This king is hidden from us; we don’t recognise him. He is in the poor, those in need, the naked, the sick, those in prison ....

The Gospel is anything but an endorsement of the established political order, anything but a simple affirmation of power as we experience it. The Gospel is about liberation. The title of Christ the King only makes sense if we see it in the context of this world’s powers and authorities being transformed, of a promise that all of us will be given a royal dignity, all of us will be given the exclusive privileges of a first-born son and heir ..... the language of kingship is being used in a quite distinctive, strange, quirky way. This kingship takes the form of Christ’s identifying himself with the poorest among us. The world of the court is evoked, certainly, but only so that it can be subverted ...

So, happy Birthday Elizabeth, but glad you aren't our queen :)

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Yay :)

Hillary won in New York! I was a bit worried, with all of the news stories about the large number of Bernie supporters there, but perhaps this article explains in part why Hillary won when it seemed like Bernie would ...

A Lot of Hillary Clinton’s New York Supporters Kept Quiet About Their Allegiances

[...] I think there might be something else at work as well: an optical illusion that the candidate with the most white male support had the most support, period. I had let myself mistake the loudest people for The People.

I’m not trying to deny that the Sanders coalition is diverse or to erase the many passionate women and men of color who supported him. But the fact remains that according to exit polls, Clinton won every racial and gender demographic except white men. And somehow, I’d become convinced that, in my own backyard, their preferences were far more widespread than they really are.

I’ve heard anecdotally from other women who’ve kept their support for Clinton somewhat quiet, because they assumed they were in a minority. On Tuesday I spoke to Bushwick resident Savannah Cox, a 26-year-old writer and researcher at the New School, a famously progressive Greenwich Village university. “As a Clinton fan, I have had to be diplomatic even though I am patronized,” she says. “I am honestly sick of it.” She describes one male friend who offered to speak more slowly so she could fully grasp his point about Clinton’s complicity with the fossil fuel lobby. Cox says she has stopped talking about politics with her friends: “I can’t do it. I don’t want to engage.” (Bushwick’s neighborhoods were divided between Sanders and Clinton.) Again, this is a single anecdote, but it makes me think I’m not alone in being reluctant to advertise my support for Clinton.

I’m a little abashed that I missed what was going on in my own community .... Brooklyn is full of a certain kind of archetypal Sanders voter—young, hip, highly educated, and ideological. But in Brooklyn as a whole, Hillary Clinton beat native son Bernie Sanders by 20 percent. The borough was with her, even if it didn’t always feel like it.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

“Financial impotence”

An article in The Atlantic caught my attention today ...
The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans: Nearly half of Americans would have trouble finding $400 to pay for an emergency. I’m one of them.

I guess it's considered bad manners to talk about money problems. Sometimes one doesn't want to bring up the subject because of a fear that people will think you are asking them for financial help (NOT!) or maybe there's also some shame involved .... financial failure is a kind of moral failure. But I was relieved to see the article because I have been having money problems for some time, and it's weirdly nice to know that I am not the only one. Here's the start of the article ....

Since 2013, the Federal Reserve Board has conducted a survey to “monitor the financial and economic status of American consumers.” Most of the data in the latest survey, frankly, are less than earth-shattering: 49 percent of part-time workers would prefer to work more hours at their current wage; 29 percent of Americans expect to earn a higher income in the coming year; 43 percent of homeowners who have owned their home for at least a year believe its value has increased. But the answer to one question was astonishing. The Fed asked respondents how they would pay for a $400 emergency. The answer: 47 percent of respondents said that either they would cover the expense by borrowing or selling something, or they would not be able to come up with the $400 at all. Four hundred dollars! Who knew?

Well, I knew. I knew because I am in that 47 percent.

I know what it is like to have to juggle creditors to make it through a week. I know what it is like to have to swallow my pride and constantly dun people to pay me so that I can pay others. I know what it is like to have liens slapped on me and to have my bank account levied by creditors. I know what it is like to be down to my last $5—literally—while I wait for a paycheck to arrive, and I know what it is like to subsist for days on a diet of eggs. I know what it is like to dread going to the mailbox, because there will always be new bills to pay but seldom a check with which to pay them. I know what it is like to have to tell my daughter that I didn’t know if I would be able to pay for her wedding; it all depended on whether something good happened. And I know what it is like to have to borrow money from my adult daughters because my wife and I ran out of heating oil.

You wouldn’t know any of that to look at me. I like to think I appear reasonably prosperous. Nor would you know it to look at my résumé. I have had a passably good career as a writer—five books, hundreds of articles published, a number of awards and fellowships, and a small (very small) but respectable reputation. You wouldn’t even know it to look at my tax return. I am nowhere near rich, but I have typically made a solid middle- or even, at times, upper-middle-class income, which is about all a writer can expect, even a writer who also teaches and lectures and writes television scripts, as I do. And you certainly wouldn’t know it to talk to me, because the last thing I would ever do—until now—is admit to financial insecurity or, as I think of it, “financial impotence,” because it has many of the characteristics of sexual impotence, not least of which is the desperate need to mask it and pretend everything is going swimmingly. In truth, it may be more embarrassing than sexual impotence. “You are more likely to hear from your buddy that he is on Viagra than that he has credit-card problems,” says Brad Klontz, a financial psychologist who teaches at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska, and ministers to individuals with financial issues. “Much more likely.” America is a country, as Donald Trump has reminded us, of winners and losers, alphas and weaklings. To struggle financially is a source of shame, a daily humiliation—even a form of social suicide. Silence is the only protection ....

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Three movies

I've been watching a lot of movies lately. Here's a bit about a few of the most recent ....

- Bridge of Spies ... a 2015 German-American historical drama-thriller film directed by Steven Spielberg from a screenplay written by Matt Charman, Ethan Coen, and Joel Coen. The film stars Tom Hanks, Mark Rylance, Amy Ryan, and Alan Alda. Based on the 1960 U-2 incident during the Cold War, the film tells the story of lawyer James B. Donovan, who is entrusted with negotiating the release of Francis Gary Powers—a pilot whose U-2 spy plane was shot down over the Soviet Union—in exchange for Rudolf Abel, a captive and convicted Soviet KGB spy held under the custody of the United States, whom he represented at trial. The name of the film refers to the Glienicke Bridge, which connects Potsdam with Berlin, where the spy exchange took place.

I liked this one - Tom Hanks was good, as always, and the historical stuff was pretty interesting. Richard Roeper gave the film 4 out of 4 stars in his review - 'Bridge of Spies’: Spielberg finds the thrills, action in Cold War crisis. And here's a trailer ...

- Insomnia ... a 2002 American psychological thriller film directed by Christopher Nolan, and starring Al Pacino, Robin Williams and Hilary Swank. It tells the story of two Los Angeles homicide detectives investigating a murder in an Alaskan town. A remake of the 1997 Norwegian film of the same name, Insomnia was released on May 24, 2002, to critical acclaim and commercial success, grossing $113 million worldwide

This film was really good, if grim and depressing. Al Pacino was great in his role, and made me think of a couple of other very different cops he played in Serpico and Heat. Also worth a look - the setting of a remote town in Alaska. complete with a glacier. Roger Ebert gave the movie 3.5 out of 4 stars in his review. Here's a bit of what he wrote ...

"Insomnia," the first film directed by Christopher Nolan since his famous "Memento" (2001), is a remake of a Norwegian film of the same name, made in 1998 by Erik Skjoldbjaerg. That was a strong, atmospheric, dread-heavy film, and so is this one. Unlike most remakes, the Nolan "Insomnia" is not a pale retread, but a re-examination of the material, like a new production of a good play. Stellan Skarsgard, who starred in the earlier film, took an existential approach to the character; he seemed weighed down by the moral morass he was trapped in. Pacino takes a more physical approach: How much longer can he carry this burden? The story involves an unexpected development a third of the way through, and then the introduction of a character we do not really expect to meet, not like this. The development is the same in both movies; the character is much more important in this new version, adding a dimension I found fascinating.

And here's a trailer ...

- Star Wars, the first one ... I refuse to call it # 4 ;) .... a 1977 American epic space opera[9][10] film written and directed by George Lucas. The first installment in the original Star Wars trilogy, it stars Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Peter Cushing, and Alec Guinness .... The plot focuses on the Rebel Alliance, led by Princess Leia (Fisher), and its attempt to destroy the Galactic Empire's space station, the Death Star. This conflict disrupts the isolated life of farmhand Luke Skywalker (Hamill) who inadvertently acquires a pair of droids that possess stolen architectural plans for the Death Star. When the Empire begins a destructive search for the missing droids, Skywalker accompanies Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi (Guinness) on a mission to return the plans to the Rebel Alliance.

Of course I'd seen it before, but not for a long long time. I've been reading Star Wars novels lately, like The Thrawn Trilogy so I thought I'd revisit the original movies. It was at once both more old fashioned than I remembered but also more fun than I had expected, given how familiar it is. Next up, the second in the series :) You can read Roger Ebert's review from 1977 in which he gave the movie 4 out of 4 stars.

Here's a trailer ...

Bernie and the Pope

So, although the Vatican said the Pope didn't invite Bernie to the Vatican, and although the Pope said he couldn't meet Bernie because of his trip to Greece, yet still Bernie and the Pope had a meeting.

Sigh :( This is a weird thing, the Catholic/Bernie love fest. There are two reasons why ... (1) it's weird for Bernie liberals because the Pope is anything *but* a social liberal on equality and rights for women and for LGBT people ... (2) it's weird for moderate Catholics too because while they may be interested in helping the poor, like Bernie, they are usually very anti-abortion and hesitant about LGBT and women's rights, while Bernie is a strong supporter of all those things. Is it a hatred of Hillary that binds these two groups together or is it a failure to face facts?

Here's a bit from a couple of articles on this ...

- Is Pope Francis a Bernie Bro?: The Vatican’s invitation to Sanders isn’t the first time a papal confidante undermined a woman candidate in a U.S. presidential race.

No sooner had Bernie Sanders, the United States senator from Vermont, announced his invitation to address a Vatican conference just days ahead of the increasingly important New York primary, than a controversy broke out.

Margaret Archer, president of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, the entity hosting the conference, told Bloomberg Politics that Sanders had wrangled the invitation behind her back; Monsignor Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, the academy’s chancellor and a member of the Curia, said it wasn’t so—that Archer had signed off on the invitation. Essentially, he called her a liar. The Vatican, it seems, is a dangerous place to be a woman who would deign to wield the power implied by her title.

Just days before, Sanders, who is challenging former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, had called Clinton “unqualified” for the presidency. To the ears of many women of a certain age, accustomed to being deemed unqualified for roles long reserved to men, the charge had a gendered tinge. To some of us, it may even seem fitting, in light of Sanders’s remarks (which he has since walked back), that he should be so warmly received by an institution that bars women from the upper reaches of leadership. But I digress.

The real question here is: Just what is the Vatican up to? Whether or not Sanders asked for the invitation, the Pontifical Academy did not have to grant it. The two other politicians addressing the conference—which will mark the 25th anniversary of Centesimus Annus, the encyclical by Pope John Paul II written to commemorate Pope Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum, which addressed the rights of labor and capital—are both heads of state. And if there’s any institution steeped in the particulars of symbolism and protocol, it’s the Vatican .....

- Bernie Sanders must accept that Pope Francis isn’t a friend to the left: The pontiff can’t be a true humanitarian with his anti-woman and anti-LGBT views

In an already weird election season, things have gotten even stranger as Bernie Sanders vies heavily and openly for Pope Francis to meet with him. Sanders admires the pope so much that he is leaving the campaign trail for a couple of days, something even some allies question the wisdom of, to speak at the Vatican and, he hopes, get a chance to meet Francis and (of course), get a picture with him.

“I believe that the pope has been an inspirational figure in raising public consciousness about the kind of income and wealth inequality we are seeing all over this world,” Sanders told The Washington Post, explaining his decision.

This decision has raised controversy, with Clinton supporters noting that the history of the Catholic church getting involved in elections where there was what you might call concern that women might secure powerful leadership positions, something expressly forbidden within the church. But both critics and supporters of Sanders openly courting the Vatican seem to believe that it’s a good move for him politically, that Pope will cast a glow on Sanders and charm more voters to his side.

If so, that’s a real shame, because it shows yet again that liberals and progressives really need to get it into their heads: The Pope is not your friend. And he’s not really a friend to the poor, because half of them (probably more) are women ...

Thursday, April 14, 2016


- As I've mentioned before, I plan to vote for Hillary, not Bernie. Why? Because ... The Bernie Bro Code and “Corporate Democratic Whores” is a Sexist Slur that Demeans Women

- The US Bishops force the resignation of the editor of CNS because he was "promoting the gay agenda" :(

- Insect Panama Papers? Corruption Exists Among Animals, Too

- Norway’s dominant Lutheran Church approves gay marriage

- Is porn immoral? That doesn’t matter: It’s a public health crisis.The science is now beyond dispute

- Listen to a short interview with Damian Thompson on the Pope's exhortation (Or read about it) ...

The dying of the light

I saw this today from Kyle Cupp and it's similar to some of what I've been feeling lately, so I thought I'd put the beginning of his post here ...

How My Faith Became Mostly Dead

The past few years have seen a slow deterioration of my faith—to the point where I fear it’s mostly dead.

But, to quote Miracle Max, there’s a big difference between mostly dead and all dead. Mostly dead is slightly alive. I suppose “Christ-haunted” describes me well enough. Or poorly enough. Take your pick.

While there are some squares I can’t circle, I wouldn’t describe my fall as intellectually-driven. I haven’t arrived at this place through argument. I’m here mostly because I no longer apprehend God. Not the God of theologians or bishops or lawyers, anyway.

I’ve mostly lost hope—hope that some power or person of goodness is ultimately guiding the world or me to some kind of salvation. To me, the universe seems ordered more towards oblivion than towards restoration. Prayer seems pointless. Grace seems fleeting. The light is real, but I expect the darkness to win. Don’t know where that leaves me, but it’s where I am.

Maybe this is despair ....

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The roses are blooming

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Kittens on the roof

I've been trying to catch all of the cats that are here in my yard - nine of them so far - spayed and neutered, to stop the influx of felines. I only had one female left to catch, Misty, but she is the most feral and unfortunately the most fertile. I've been trying to catch her before she had kittens again but just a few minutes ago as I was watching a movie on the computer I heard the high pitched meowing of a kitten. My heart sank.

I went outside in the dark with a flashlight, trying to follow the sound, but it seemed to be coming from the roof. Then I saw Misty running past me with a kitten in her mouth, and as I watched, she climbed up a tree to the roof with the kitten. Then there were more kitten cries from up above. I feel sick. I can't get up on the roof anymore with my bad knee and I can't see very well either, so the kittens are pretty much on their own. I can still hear them. I really really really hate this endless cat situation :(

Mary E. Hunt on the Pope's exhortation

As I mentioned in my last post about the Pope's recent exhortation on marriage and family, Amoris Laetitia (the Joy of Love), while both the secular and the Catholic press seem to see it as a wonderful reform for divorced/remarrieds, the truth is that there is no actual new reform to be found in Amoris Laetitia, and additionally, the exhortation is also quite negative for both women and LGBT Catholics. Here's the beginning of an article to that effect from Mary E. Hunt at Religion Dispatches ...

Pope Francis’ Love Letter is an Opportunity Lost

Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation on Love in the Family, leaves much to be desired—pun intended.

If you are heterosexual, married, divorced, and remarried with an understanding parish priest, you have reason to be hopeful that your “irregular situation” can be fixed. If you use most forms of effective birth control, have an abortion, or are a sexually active LGBTIQ Catholic, you might as well read Dante and/or seek another denomination if you expect to be treated with equality, dignity, and respect.

The “Joy Love Club” is members-only.

The document reflects the papal conundrum of pastoring realistically in the contemporary world without changing any church doctrine or major teaching. The result is unequal opportunity ambiguity. Some things can be parsed—as in the communion debate—while other things are off the table, such as same-sex marriage. Rationales for such decisions are lacking other than wan references to previous church teachings. It reminds this reader of Francis’ openness to gay priests (“Who am I to judge?”) and his claim that the ordination of women is a settled matter. Settled by and for whom? Once again the patriarchal power paradigm is shored up by a pope who likes to have it both ways. Certain pastoral decision-making is kicked downstairs to priests and bishops, but that is effectively how things work now. Theology follows practice ...

I get that Pope Francis is popular, both with Catholics and non-Catholics. How could he not be when you compare him to the little tin gods who were the popes before him. But that comparison doesn't make him a liberal or a feminist. Try to keep in mind, this is the man who believes the marriages of LGBT people is the work of the devil, this is the man who will not allow women to be priests in his church.

Saturday, April 09, 2016

Amoris Laetitia

Amoris Laetitia can be read here.

Sadly, as I predicted would occur back during the synod, the Pope has not made any actual change with his exhortation, not in doctrine nor in pastoral practice either .... see conservative Damian Thompson's article, Pope Francis’s revolution has been cancelled, and in an article in The Tablet Mary Hunt, writes ...

Amoris Laetitia is a study in ambiguity that gives new evidence for the use of the term “jesuitical”. Published under the name of the current Jesuit pope, the document is really several somewhat disjointed pieces — a biblical study, some reflections on families that border on New Age, restatement of institutional Church teachings on the topic, and some toying with change that does not amount to much of anything new.

Effective contraception is still banned; same-sex marriage is still seen as completely different from heterosexual marriage. Those who are divorced and remarried are told in pastoral practice to do what they think is best in conversation with their local priest.

Alas, the hetero monogamous ideal remains in place while lip service is paid to the remote possibility of other options. Clearly the input of lay people at the two Synods amounted to little or nothing. All in all, this is a missed opportunity for Pope Francis to demonstrate that there is anything new under the Vatican sun.

In an article in The New Yorker on Amoris Laetitia, James Carroll tells of the already common use of the "pastoral solution" by himself and other priests in the 60s to help Catholics use their consciences to work around church teachings, and the best he can say of the Pope's exhortation is that it publicly mentions the already extant pastoral solution.

While there are some nice bits in the exhortation, there are also some unwelcome things, the most obvious being the utter rejection of marriage equality for LGBT people. Lest you think that's to be expected from a Christian church, remember that many Christian churches have accepted marriage equality and that a majority of Catholics are in favor of it. Here's an article on this aspect of the exhortation ... If the pope loves gay people, he has a strange way of showing it ...

[The exhortation] contains some good news for divorced and remarried Catholics, who Francis hinted should be allowed to take communion again. But on the fraught issue of the LGBT community, he remains disappointingly rigid: “There are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family” ....

On the surface, preaching compassion for all—including those attracted to members of the same sex—might seem like a step in the right direction for an institution that has a long history of anti-gay rhetoric. But there’s something a little unsettling, condescending even, about what he’s suggesting now: that you can respect the dignity of an individual while also denying that person his or her fundamental rights ...

Another part of the Pope's exhortation that bothered me was what he said about women ... he criticizes gender theory and supports JPII's ideas of complementarianism and feminine genius, and though its subtle, we're left with the idea that women exist for one purpose: making babies. Near the beginning of the exhortation, the Pope criticizes the secular world for discrimination against women in a statement that could win an irony award ... I would like to stress the fact that, even though significant advances have been made in the recognition of women’s rights and their participation in public life in some countries much remains to be done to promote these rights. ... I think of ... their lack of equal access to dignified work and roles of decision-making.

Here's a bit from an article that touches on the way women and their reproductive rights are spoken of in the exhortation ....

[...] In line with previous comments, Francis appears to maintain his annoying blind spot when it comes to women. Denial of differences between the sexes is described as “ideological.” But who claims that there are no differences? Rather, women are struggling to do away with unequal opportunities that exploit difference as an excuse to, for instance, pay women less than men, or for that matter, to exclude them from the priesthood.

Starting with a section called “You and Your Wife,” which is not followed by one called “You and Your Husband,” Francis struggles with the complicated role of women in the modern family, and in fact his document leaves no room for what most of us understand by equality of the sexes. Nor does it quote any women on the matter.

“With great affection I urge all future moth­ers: keep happy and let nothing rob you of the interior joy of motherhood,” he writes. “Your child deserves your happiness. Don’t let fears, worries, other people’s comments or problems lessen your joy at being God’s means of bringing a new life to the world. Prepare yourself for the birth of your child, but without obsessing,” he writes.

“The weak­ening of this maternal presence with its femi­nine qualities poses a grave risk to our world,” writes Francis. “I certainly value feminism, but one that does not demand uniformity or negate motherhood.”

Along the same lines, and what will surely come as a relief for American Catholic bishops who strongly oppose Obamacare’s contraception mandate, Francis reiterates that birth control is still a no-go zone.

In one rather bizarre passage, he writes that “safe sex” conveys “a negative attitude towards the natural procreative finality of sexuality, as if an eventual child were an enemy to be protected against.” What about “safe sex” to prevent STDs? Indeed, what about AIDS? That meaning seems to have eluded him.

“The upright consciences of spouses who have been generous in transmitting life may lead them, for sufficiently serious reasons, to limit the number of their children, yet precisely for the sake of this dignity of conscience, the church strongly rejects the forced State intervention in favor of contraception, sterilization and even abortion,” he writes, in language that would appear to lump the pill together with China’s one-child policy and its abuses. “Such measures are unacceptable even in places with high birth rates, yet also in countries with disturbingly low birth rates we see politicians en­couraging them.”

So, after a couple of years of hoping, from pre-synod surveys to the synod, to this exhortation, we are left with the end result that maybe, in some circumstances, some divorced/remarried people might be able to garner some mercy from the church for their failure and go to communion .... something which has already been the case in many parishes for years. I'm kind of underwhelmed.

Thursday, April 07, 2016

In the yard

Monday, April 04, 2016


Today I managed to catch Gretel and she's at the vet getting spayed. This means I only have two cats left to spay/neuter ... yay! :) I hope I can catch the remaining female before she has kittens!

Sunday, April 03, 2016

Mouse and Olive

Mouse and Olive, catching the last rays of the sun this evening ....

White Night

The latest library book (audio file, actually) that I'm listening to as I walk is Jim Butcher's White Night. This is the part I was just listening to ...

[G]rowing up is all about getting hurt. And then getting over it. You hurt. You recover. You move on. Odds are pretty good you're just going to get hurt again. But each time, you learn something.

Each time, you come out of it a little stronger, and at some point you realize that there are more flavors of pain than coffee. There's the little empty pain of leaving something behind - gradutaing, taking the next step forward, walking out of something familiar and safe into the unknown. There's the big, whirling pain of life upending all of your plans and expecations. There's the sharp little pains of failure, and the more obscure aches of successes that didn't give you what you thought they would. There are the vicious, stabbing pains of hopes being torn up. The sweet little pains of finding others, giving them your love, and taking joy in their life they grow and learn. There's the steady pain of empathy that you shrug off so you can stand beside a wounded friend and help them bear their burdens.

And if you're very, very lucky, there are a very few blazing hot little pains you feel when you realized that you are standing in a moment of utter perfection, an instant of triumph, or happiness, or mirth which at the same time cannot possibly last - and yet will remain with you for life.

Everyone is down on pain, because they forget something important about it: Pain is for the living. Only the dead don't feel it.

Pain is a part of life. Sometimes it's a big part, and sometimes it isn't, but either way, it's a part of the big puzzle, the deep music, the great game. Pain does two things: It teaches you, tells you that you're alive. Then it passes away and leaves you changed. It leaves you wiser, sometimes. Sometimes it leaves you stronger. Either way, pain leaves its mark, and everything important that will ever happen to you in life is going to involve it in one degree or another.