Category Archives: Entertainment

Why I Love Young Adult Literature

True_story

I love to read. Anyone who meets me becomes rapidly aware of this. My mother claims that I taught myself how to read, and although I have not verified the legend, I choose to treat it like St. Christopher and accept it as true even if it is not factual.

I also love words and grammar. I have a master’s degree in English education. I used to use that to teach high school students; now I use it to amuse my coworkers in a construction company office. I enjoy words precisely because we use them to communicate stories. We study literature because it teaches us what it means to be human. That’s my motto. That and…

True_story


Read the rest in my guest post over at Super Swell Times! Many thanks to Elizabeth for inviting me to hang out at her place today.

I Saw “Fading West” for Free, and It Was Awesome: A Review

FadingWest-Switchfoot

Sometimes being patient and poor has its perks.

Switchfoot is my favorite band. I fell in love with them in high school, when I saw A Walk to Remember (mostly for Mandy Moore) and discovered the band. They had a prominent role in the soundtrack. I was hooked. It seems fitting to be writing this reflection today, after I’ve now watched a film I was drawn to by my love for the band. It’s a complete circle.

Just a couple of years ago, Switchfoot announced their plan to write a new album and simultaneously film a documentary while on a surfing world tour. It was ambitious, and the results are incredible. I’ve been listening to the album, Fading West, since its release. It has the lighthearted, hopeful surfer vibe that gets to the heart of the band, which is a deep breath in after the intense and piercing scream out of Vice Verses. Don’t get me wrong; I liked Vice Verses a lot. I was just rocking out to it in my car a few weeks ago. It was heavy, though. Fading West may be a reference to the sunset, but it is full of light.

I had the film on my Movies to Watch list since it premiered. I wasn’t able to make it out for the Fading West tour, during which the movie was shown before a live concert. It would be hard to top my previous concert experiences, but I think they could have done it! I don’t have much money these days, though, so I held tight for a nice iTunes giftcard, room in my budget for Netflix, or another lucky break. I got it today!

When I was scrolling away through my Facebook news feed a few days ago, I caught this delightful post:

So I tossed that sucker on my to-do list, and I found myself sitting here this evening, enjoying dinner over 90 minutes of awesomeness.

I had seen the film described as a cross between a tour documentary and Endless Summer, the classic world tour surfing movie. That is exactly what was portrayed. I was pleasantly surprised, though, by how real everything felt. These men are thirty-something surfers from San Diego who are in a rock band. They’re dads and husbands, and they get to share their musical talents and inspiration with us through song. And, as it turns out, they both are and know some great surfers. From the obvious heartbreak as Jon suddenly rushed home to be with his family to the sheer joy of visiting new countries and trying new waves, the events of the film made me feel like I was along for the ride with five guys who know how to have a good time and to never lose hope.

The film itself was beautiful. I like soundtracks in general, but it’s something special to listen to a soundtrack that is not only (a) composed and performed by the film stars and (b) inspired by the events of the film as they happened but also (c) composed specifically for this cinematic experience. “Immersive” barely even begins to cover it.

I could not have picked a better favorite band, they could not have made a better film, and I am so glad to be along for the ride.

You Thought Your Dinner Took Forever? (Review: “Thanksgiving”)

someecards-thanksgiving

Holidays can be tough. At their core, they’re supposed to be a celebration of great joy. They involved people, though, and often families, and relationships among individuals always have the potential to get very, very messy.

Now take that, multiply it by 350 years, add a turkey dinner, and you’ve got Thanksgiving, by Ellen Cooney. I had never read a book about Thanksgiving that wasn’t for small children. It’s not a gift-giving or candy holiday, so it doesn’t get as much fanfare as Christmas or Easter. Thanksgiving is observed mostly to eat a lot of food, see people you don’t usually see, and try to stay positive about doing the same thing in worse weather about four weeks later.

someecards-thanksgiving

Thanksgiving (the holiday) does bring families into the forefront, though, and this novel takes that to the extreme. Thanksgiving (the book) tells the story of the Morley family from the days of the Puritan homestead to the teenager whose iPod has been confiscated. In between, we see characters be born, grow up, start their own families, age, and die, laid to rest in the family graveyard. Stories are revealed bit by bit, names reappear after generations, and a complex tale is woven.

Read the rest at Austin Catholic New Media.

The Best Nightmare Ever (Review: “The Man Who Was Thursday”)

chesterton-manwhowasthursday
chesterton-manwhowasthursday

Cover image via Goodreads.

Sometimes I forget how much I love fiction. History is important because, if we don’t learn from it, we are doomed to repeat it. Theology is critical because we never stop learning about God, even after we die. But fiction can expand our world into real-life versions of what happens in our dreams—or in our nightmares.

We find all three styles in the Bible: the historical tales of the Israelites desperately seeking their savior, the poetic descriptions of the first moments of creation in Genesis and the human heart’s response to God in the Psalms, and the parables of Jesus. Those parables may not have been factual, but they were true. Truth is more than just facts. Truth conveys meaning. Jesus tells us that he is the way, the truth, and the life. Thus, even though fiction is by definition not factual, it is still true.

Conveniently, all three styles are also available in the writings of the great author G.K. Chesterton.

Read the rest of my review of The Man Who Was Thursday at Austin CNM.

7 Quick Takes Friday, Vol. 222

— 1 —

I’m going back to starting my 7QT with a video. This one has the profanity one ought to expect from The Lonely Island, but it’s also about grammar! I am delighted to note that I caught on to the surprise ending well in advance, as you should if you know anything about semicolons.

— 2 —

Feedly has finally gotten rid of Google Reader as its backend. I’m still miffed about Google axing Reader, but Feedly has been okay so far. Some of the images in posts don’t align correctly, but I can usually figure it out (although Tumblr gifsets can be tricky).

The biggest consequence of the new Feedly cloud is that all of my unread counts were set to zero. That didn’t bother me at first. Then I upgraded and realized that it meant all of the posts I still needed to read would be marked as read, which is, of course, the same as going to zero unread posts. Brain fail. For me, that was easily 100 posts. I panicked and tried to get back to the old, non-cloud Feedly. I could/can, so I spent the better part of two days trying to catch up on my feeds. I came across a couple of posts that I want to respond to, so here goes that.

— 3 —

Simcha Fisher seems to capture sarcasm in a way I never could. (A friend of mine tried to write like Mark Shea once. It failed kind of a lot.) She posted recently about modesty, focusing on the skewed use of the term “custody of the eyes” to mean only “don’t look at the extra exposed skin on that man or woman because it will cause you to lust.” Her trademark sarcasm pointed out that there are worse consequences to looking at people the wrong way than lust. I agree that restricting “custody of the eyes” to modesty is too narrow, but I was mostly surprised that other people don’t even think of it as more than modesty.

I use the broader definition of “custody of the eyes” all the time (and by “use,” I mean “think about”). It’s why one of the standout moments from my sister’s Confirmation Mass was when my grandma gave me a good solid clap on the shoulder as she was going to Communion and I was praying after receiving. It jolted me: physically, because it was, as mentioned, very strong; and mentally, because I stopped praying. I love my grandma dearly, but I was definitely upset that her desire to say hello trumped my desire (my right?) to pray at that particular intimate moment with Jesus.

The conclusion of that story is that I try to respect other people’s Communion time in the same way I hope they will respect mine. I purposely avoid making eye contact with anyone, keeping custody of the eyes. I don’t try to talk to people who appear to be praying (kneeling, eyes closed, and/or hands folded), and I hate it when people do that around me, especially in an otherwise silent or quiet church. Church is where you pray. The narthex is where you ask how your grandma’s doing. (Pretty good; the transition to life without her husband will be tough.)

— 4 —

I haven’t yet tried to keep up with all of Pope Francis’s speeches and homilies. I tried that with B16; it was a daunting task. I have a favorite quotation now, though.

Jesus. What is the most important thing? Jesus. If we push ahead with planning and organization—beautiful things indeed—but without Jesus, then we are on the wrong road. Jesus is the most important thing.

I would like to take the opportunity now to make a small, but fraternal, reproach, among ourselves, all right? All of you in the square shouted out: “Francis, Francis, Pope Francis” … but where was Jesus? I want to hear you shot out, “Jesus, Jesus is Lord, and He is in our midst.” From now on, no more “Francis,” only “Jesus.” All right?
(source)

If you’re in it for just this one pope, you’re doing it wrong. It has to be all about Jesus.

— 5 —

Mr. Marc Barnes of Bad Catholic is a great essayist, if perhaps a bit too intellectual for the average Joe. I usually skim his posts, to be honest. I saw many of the Facebook links to his criticism of “Modest is hottest” (which I also hate), but I don’t know that I’ve ever read a post by him I liked more than its second follow-up, “Modesty Sets Fire.” He starts out with a Catechism-related bang (win), continues to a great discussion of why modesty is about subjectivity and action (another win), and finishes with the quotation by Catherine of Siena that I love so much I use it as my email signature (all the win!). It’s also much shorter than some of his other posts, which is nice. I think I have a go-to post to recommend to Bad Catholic newcomers now.

— 6 —

I’ve been working on clearing out my DVR of recorded movies. I watched 50/50, with Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen. My entertainment philosophy is that, if a movie has a good enough story and compelling enough characters, I can handle sex, profanity, and violence. 50/50 fit that marker nicely. I felt connected to Gordon-Levitt’s character, the ordinary twentysomething who is diagnosed with a rare form of cancer (the title refers to his chance of survival), and his best friend, played by Rogen. It was only about 90 minutes long, so the pacing was perfect. It felt real. I don’t get that impression very often.

I also watched Facing the Giants. Very different movie. It’s an early effort by Sherwood Pictures to evangelize through film, this time about a high school football coach who learns to trust in God even for the impossible. It wasn’t as good as Courageous, though. The second act dragged, and the supporting actors felt too caricatured. (When I think ordinary people playing ordinary people are less caricatured than ordinary people pretending to be gang members, that’s not a good sign.) The ending felt just too contrived.

The message I took away from Facing the Giants was not that all things are possible with God, but that good things will come to you if you believe. That’s the prosperity gospel, and that’s not right. Sometimes bad things come even if you do everything right. Courageous had a much better grasp on that, by showing that sometimes all you can do is take steps toward holiness and then wait. Nevertheless, if it took a football movie to point Sherwood in the right direction, then I can get behind it.

— 7 —

No progress on the job front yet. I’m doing my best to remain hopeful and productive. I’ve knocked out a good chunk of the alumni magazines that have been cluttering my coffee table over the last year. I even decided to pick up an uncovered holy hour at the chapel I’ve been part of for two years. I don’t have to work, and it’s a short drive, so it seemed ideal to spend some extra time with Jesus.

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