Monthly Archives: May, 2012

Succinctly Yours: Week 61

Well, it’s Wednesday, and I’m two weeks behind, so I’ll have a go at two weeks’ worth of drabbles tonight. Maybe it’s a good idea I didn’t decide to call this meme Microfiction Monday.

Looking back through previous weeks, I think “Grandma” gets her photos from people who offer them or from the public domain. This works out well for me because here’s a kitty!

This week’s story is called “Zack Attack.” I dedicate this one my friend Sabrina and the real Zack Attack.

“Sports fans, welcome to another installment of Zack Attack! Our faithful feline explorer extraordinaire journeys each week through the Miller House.”

“Today, Zack’s sojourns take him to James’s room. He’s grown from a tiny tot to a maverick man of soccer. Tim, tell us what you’re seeing here.”

“Well, Scott, check out that leap from floor to bedspread! Great form! You can tell Zack’s aerodynamic control has improved.”

“About as much as James’s ball control over the years. Ha, ha! Oh, for the days of peewee league.”

“What’s this? He’s going for the soccer ball. A little pawing, a little more, he’s hesitant, but—oh! Up and over! Zack Attack is on the ball, sports fans, in more ways than one.”

“And now he’s off. What a thrill. What will he get up to next, in another great Zack Attack?”
(140 words)

That was fun. I wrote a little more and edited it down to fit the word requirement. Check out Grandma’s Goulash for more succinct stories.

Top Ten Tuesday: Recent Books That Will Last For 30 Years

This seems like an intriguing topic. I don’t really believe in “modern classics” (classics just have to be old), but sometimes you just get a good feeling about a book.

Top Ten Books Written In The Past 10 Years That I Hope People Are Still Reading In 30 Years

  1. the Harry Potter series: Technically, the first four books were published more than ten years ago (hard to believe, isn’t it), but since the last three fit the criteria, I’m counting them here. Since Harry Potter is part of such a grand tradition of coming-of-age stories in extraordinary settings, I’m hoping that it will last as long as The Lord of the Rings and Star Wars have. And I have to include HP in basically every TTT.
  2. Benedictus: This one’s a little iffy, because it’s a collection of excerpts from writing and speeches by Pope Benedict XVI compiled by Magnificat. It was published in 2006, though, and I do hope people continue to read his writing, so I think that counts.
  3. Persepolis: This was a book that made me admit that I don’t know everything. I knew very little about the Islamic revolution in Iran, especially not that it took place so recently. I read this graphic novel for a class in college, and I liked it so much that it’s one of the books I both kept and brought to Texas with me. The U.S. translation was published in 2003, the original in 2000.
  4. Man and Woman He Created Them: A Theology of the Body: Okay, it’s a hefty book in both size and theological depth, and I haven’t actually read it, but I’ve heard enough people speak about it to know that it is gold. Learning about the Theology of the Body and applying it to my life has profoundly changed who I am and the way I live.

That’s all I’ve got for today. It’s been a long day, and it’s too soon to tell on a lot of the books I’ve read. I’m going to count #1 as three books and declare that seven is enough. Ten has never been such a big number!

A New Media Guide for the New Evangelization (Review: “The Church and New Media”)

Perhaps this is a little too close a bond between the Church and new technology! (photo by Piotr Drabik)

At Austin Catholic New Media, we strive to harness the most popular social technologies of the day to aid in the New Evangelization. In other words, since everyone and his grandma is on Facebook, can we share our Catholic lives in photos and status updates? Can we use YouTube to teach people about Catholicism? And what is all that stuff, if you don’t already know? Brandon Vogt, blogger at The Thin Veil, brings together various authors writing on this very topic in his book The Church and New Media: Blogging Converts, Online Activists, and Bishop who Tweet.

Read the rest at Austin Catholic New Media.

This review was written as part of the Tiber River Reviewer Program. I received a free copy of the book in exchange for this honest review of it. For more reviews of Catholic books, visit Tiber River. To purchase Catholic products of all kinds (not just books), visit Aquinas and More Catholic Goods.

7 Quick Takes Friday, Vol. 173

— 1 —

While viewing a blog post on a serious topic, I was invited to watch this cover of “Somebody That I Used to Know,” a song that grew on me once I started listening to the the lyrics. (I originally just liked the main singer’s vocal range and use of xylophone.) I think this is one of the best covers I’ve ever heard, period. It’s got five people playing a single guitar. This might be better than OK Go.

Although I must say that it is a strange world we live in when, because of this, I am no longer impressed by the video I saw a while ago of two people playing one guitar. The bar has been raised.

— 2 —

I watched the House series finale on my DVR this week. I loved the retrospective they aired before it, even if only to hear Hugh Laurie’s native accent. We’ve had a couple of Australian exchange students at work this year, and I wonder if they’d sound like him if they tried to fake an American accent.

I thought the finale was fantastic. I’m a little embarrassed that I didn’t see it coming. The only thing that would have made it perfect was if Cuddy had shown up again. I know she left because of contract negotiations, but I hate when storytellers can’t recover from real-world circumstances. Perhaps it was the House version of “Once More with Feeling”: the bright spot after Buffy had been struggling in its post-cancellation/new network/Buffy’s not dead anymore life. If you’ve never seen House, it is syndicated on multiple channels. And if you have, a great way to look back is to relive eight awesome seasons of Patients of the Week.

Now let’s see if How I Met Your Mother will end as gracefully next spring. (It’s not official, but I don’t think it can last through a ninth season, and I want the ending to be legendary.)

— 3 —

Speaking of House‘s Patients of the Week, I was intrigued earlier this season when Chase had an encounter with a novice. As a Catholic, my ears are always tuned for representations of Catholicism in the media, which are usually inaccurate. In brief, the episode presents the POTW as a woman about to take her first profession in a brown-habited religious order. (I noted that no one on House’s team seems to realize that you can still “get out of it,” so to speak, even after first vows. That’s why they’re first.) Chase, the Australian doctor who went to Catholic school (that magic bullet that gives everyone instant theological expertise!) notices that she is very pretty and is clearly attracted to her. But she’s taken. By God. The episode is titled “Chase,” though, so that’s not the end of it.

The wrinkle is that the woman is also attracted to Chase and shows up at his apartment one night claiming to have given up on religious life. She eventually returns to her order, leaving Chase hurt and confused. I wasn’t quite sure what to think. Now that I’ve viewed that POTW slideshow, I’m guessing the writers needed a nun this season to parallel the one from the first season and to continue to explore House’s (false) science-vs-faith dichotomy. Since the woman is just the POTW, though, we don’t get to see how she moves on from her fling with Chase. I think it was useful to portray that doubting one’s beliefs and choices can confirm them, and that God always forgives. We don’t see a lot of that on TV; we mostly get the leaving and the relief at having given up on past beliefs.

— 4 —

I have been so popular this week. It was my bonus week off from work, so that would usually have spelled disaster in the form of sitting around and not doing much. Instead, I had an outing every single day:

  • a graduation/birthday party on Sunday between Masses,
  • a visit to a philosophy-based apologetics series on Monday, featuring a UT professor and 7QT host Mrs. Fulwiler herself),
  • jury duty on Tuesday morning, during which I didn’t have to actually serve,
  • my morality discussion group on Tuesday night, which I led for a change,
  • a friend’s community orchestra concert on Wednesday,
  • To Kill a Mockingbird at the Paramount with a friend on Thursday, which was still a fantastic movie despite the loud and oddly-timed laughter of many of the other patrons (TKAM is not a funny movie),
  • a prayer service for the communal effects of abortion last night, which was co-organized by a friend and diocesan colleague of mine and a friend-of-a-friend I met last Saturday,
  • and trivia night tonight.

Next week looks so sad in comparison.

— 5 —

I miss Harry Potter. I know it hasn’t gone anywhere, per se, and I just started tiptoeing back into Pottermore, so that’s been delightful. But I miss being part of the fandom at FictionAlley and reading fanfiction and getting to know other fans online and all that jazz. I have currently just rejoined a LiveJournal community centered around Potter-related activities, and I hope that will help. And there’s still a good dozen chapters of Pottermore.

I also plan to actually set up a summer-long slow marathon of all eight movies with a friend of mine. I refuse to watch either part of Deathly Hallows on its own anymore now that they’re both out, though, so that one might require an actual marathon.

— 6 —

I have a video this week, so I’m not as much in need of a picture as usual. I will note, though, that I found a way to brighten up my Booking Through Thursday posts. I turned to Google Images to find a nice big header, and then I asked the creator for permission via email. It felt so old-school to be using an email address instead of a contact form, but it worked out very nicely, and now I can use this:

Many thanks to Jamie!

— 7 —

In her Quick Takes, Jen lamented that other participants have themes for theirs and she doesn’t. I like not having a theme. I see 7QT as my weekly opportunity to dump seven bits of information that aren’t big enough for individual posts. This is the way I used to blog in college. I look at my calendar and think “what happened this week?” And then I write about it. Done and done.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Friday Five: Miscellany

I’m not always a fan of the random question grouping (that’s an oxymoron), but these look intriguing.

  1. What’s your favorite sandwich? I don’t know if anyone has ever asked me that before. I really enjoy the turkey guacamole sandwich at Schlotzsky’s, especially because it comes on wheat bread and with just a touch of sliced red onions. So tasty. I also like to make peanut butter sandwiches with tortillas. (Think quesadilla, but wit peanut butter.) I made it up when we were out of bread once, and it was so tasty that I started making them all the time.
  2. You have unlimited funds and unlimited space to make your dream abode. What and where is it, and what does it look like? Do you share it with anyone/anything? At the moment, I’d like to stay in Austin because I enjoy my job, and I’d stay in this part of town. It might be nice to move a bit farther to the west in my neighborhood, though. I live alone, so I don’t really need more space, but it would be sweet if I could have unlimited space to store my books. I wouldn’t necessarily have unlimited funds to buy them, but I’d be able to at least keep them somewhere.
  3. If you made a movie, what would it be about and who would be in it? Well, as I mentioned in my review of October Baby yesterday, I would like to make another compelling story (I love stories) with values like mine that isn’t cheesy, preachy, or badly produced, but is still honest. I like the idea of using minor celebrities to add legitimacy, but I don’t know who I’d pick.
  4. If you were to start a charity, what would it be for? I work for charity. Can it just be us? No? There are so many great and underrepresented causes. The first thing I’d want to contribute to is one of the organizations that helps potential entrants to seminary or the novitiate pay off their education loans so they can enter. If I had to start my own charity, it would be raising money for (moral) research about cancers that aren’t breast cancer or leukemia. People are aware of and focused on those to the exclusion of so many others. (I have a pet peeve about claims of “raising awareness” for breast cancer. People are aware!) I would be more inclined to contribute to an existing charity than to start my own.
  5. What’s your favorite music video? (Bonus points if you embed/link it.) I’ve embedded or linked back to “Captain Jack Sparrow” so many times already.OK Go makes great videos, too. To answer this question, I popped over to YouTube to see what I might have missed and discovered this apparently most recent one. I prefer the ones that have the actual band members because they’re musicians, not dancers, so it’s awesome to see them dance anyway. These featured players are dancers, however, and they’re almost mesmerizing. I also love some of the woman’s dresses. So many colors, and at knee length!

That was the best random question set in a very long time. Coming next week: a better image to accompany the F5!

The Friday Five

Life Can Be Beautiful (Review: “October Baby”)

Last month, I went to see October Baby when its distribution expanded to Austin. Although I am a Christian, I do not feel automatically compelled to like Christian films. Holy people still sin; Christian films can still be terrible. I’ve never actually seen any of Sherwood Pictures’s movies (Facing the Giants, Fireproof, or Courageous), but I haven’t intentionally avoided them. I hear the acting is bad. An over-reliance on volunteers has plagued many a church endeavor.

I will admit, though, that I saw October Baby in a theater (on a Friday!) partly so that films of its nature will continue being made. It’s not that I want more material for critics to pan: I want the industry to improve. It’s hard to start making better Christian movies if you stop making them altogether. Think about how popular superhero films are right now, or how many dozens of paranormal teen romance novels you can find. When one works, more get made.

A few years ago, I went with the youth group I helped chaperone to see To Save a Life. I’m admittedly a sucker for stories about teenagers with problems, but I thought it was a good movie overall. The acting seemed okay, although it wasn’t phenomenal. The story did not end perfectly, and it was compelling and realistic without being too preachy (though not without being preachy at all, of course). I enjoyed it so much that I bought it on DVD. I knew it would be worth re-watching and contemplating. (It deserves its own review one of these days. Stay posted.)

photo by Martina Thompson, licensed CC BY-NC-SA

I’m not sure that I can say quite the same about October Baby, but I definitely enjoyed it. The movie tells the story of college freshman Rachel, who collapses on stage at her first major theatrical performance. Her suddenly worsened illness is linked to her lifelong health problems, which began with her difficult birth. Eventually, Rachel’s parents reveal that they adopted her after she was born during an attempted abortion. (Many pro-lifers will recognize this as the story of Gianna Jessen.) Torn over this new facet of her identity, Rachel sets out with her best friend Jason to find her roots and figure out who she’s going to become.

Without giving away too much of the story, I found it reasonably realistic. Some of the secondary characters were either too heavy-handed with the comic relief or entirely useless, though, which annoyed me. There’s a line between a background character and a flat secondary character, and it must be respected. Having lived in the areas where the film takes place, I can attest to the general behavior of those locals, as strange as it may seem. Sometimes people really are too nice to believe. Despite those odd characterizations, the acting left me with no complaints. When I learned that Jasmine Guy and John Schneider were featured, I knew this movie would be different. Hiring recognized actors brings so much credibility to a film such as this!

One of my favorite aspects of the movie was that Rachel and Jason demonstrated a beautiful and healthy relationship. He treated her with respect and protected her without being controlling at all, and she accepted his affection without losing herself in him. She was still independent, but he helped lift her up. They had a long history that contributed toward their future, and I believed that they had a genuine and Christlike love for each other. I can’t say that about every movie pair.

October Baby is clearly a message film. Its tagline, “Every life is beautiful,” suggests a kind of hope that many people have lost these days. Whether you find hope in God or in the balancing power of “the universe,” October Baby will help remind you that there is goodness inherent within people. The future may not be dazzling, but it can still be bright.

Booking Through Thursday: Pet Names

Lu asks:

Do you have any pet that has a name inspired by your readings?

If not, what would you pick if you DID?

Do any of your friends have book-based names for their pets? (Or their children?)

I neither have nor like pets. I’ve flirted briefly with getting a turtle, but that’s really just sentimentality about Maryland. I would name him Sheldon St. Francis, though: “Sheldon” because turtles have shells, and St. Francis because of his association with animals.

I don’t think any of my friends have pets named after book characters. Not a lot of my friends have pets, come to think of it.

This has been a particularly lame BTT for me, so I promise to post something more exciting later. I didn’t do very well on posting my memes on time at the beginning of the week, though, and there was no Friday Five, so I was determined to get this one posted on the correct day. Oh, well. Better something than nothing.

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