Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Horrible Histories’ Category

— 1 —

Not from Tokyo…as of this writing…no. Ahem.

Check Instagram for more current updates….

— 2 —

 

 

Random links first:

I’m in Living Faith today. Go here for that. It’s unplanned, but very fitting for what’s I’m doing at the moment. For more like it, check out the Catholic Woman’s Book of Days. 

Related: Scripture Passages that Changed My Life –  a collection of essays by Living Faith authors – is now available. I’m in there. And yes, they are essays – not the 150-word Living Faith entries in the quarterly devotional. Full-length reflective essays. For you!

Also – last week I noted that the robins were trying again. Well…it seems as if someone else was watching. Report here. Sigh. 

 

— 3 —

Here’s some fantastic news: Perhaps you know about Horrible Histories – the great British kids’ show based on some off-kilter British kids’ history books. I’ve written about them a lot, and we love the series around here. The same crew produced another show called Yonderland  – of which we’ve only seen the first season, and enjoyed – and a fun take on young Shakespeare called Bill. 

This is a great post with a list – and video links – to some of the best musical numbers from Horrible Histories. Including, of course…

(Did I ever tell you about the time my daughter ran into Mat Baynton on the very last day of the Edinborough Festival Fringe, where she’d been working for a month? Well – that happened – this young American woman breathlessly saying, “My little brother can sing the whole Pachacuti song!”)

They’re back! With, it seems a fun-sounding variation on The Canterville Ghost. 

Ghosts is a multi-character sitcom created by the lead cast of writer-performers from the award winning Horrible Histories and Yonderland, and the feature film Bill.

The crumbling country pile of Button Hall is home to numerous restless spirits who have died there over the centuries – each ghost very much a product of their time, resigned to squabbling with each other for eternity over the most inane of daily gripes. But their lives – or, rather, afterlives – are thrown into turmoil when a young urban couple – Alison and Mike – surprisingly inherit the peaceful derelict house and make plans to turn it into a bustling family hotel. As the ghosts attempt to oust the newcomers from their home, and Mike and Alison discover the true scale of the project they’ve taken on, fate conspires to trap both sides in an impossible house share, where every day is, literally, a matter of life and death.

— 4 —

More serious random links:

Why is Rome sidelining Ukrainian Catholics?

First, there was the consistory for new cardinals announced on Pentecost Sunday. Leading the list of 11 new cardinal electors was Louis Raphaël I Sako, Patriarch of Babylon and head of the Chaldean Church, Iraq’s principal eastern Catholic Church. Creating the patriarch a cardinal was widely seen as sign of solidarity with the suffering Iraqi Catholics.

In 2016, Pope Francis did a similar thing for Syria, though that time he did not choose an actual Syrian bishop for cardinal, but rather the Italian serving as nuncio in Damascus.

Yet in five consistories for the creation of new cardinals, Pope Francis has passed over Sviatoslav Shevchuk, head of the UGCC and major archbishop of Kiev. Shevchuk’s predecessors have all been cardinals dating back to time when the UGCC – liquidated by Stalin – was the largest underground Church in the world.

Pope Francis is charting a new course in the selection of cardinals, but even given the idiosyncratic nature of his choices, it is evident that suffering Churches and suffering peoples are favoured with cardinals. That Ukraine has been overlooked now five times in five years suggests that Ukrainian suffering resonates less in Rome than the objections of the Russian Orthodox, who regard the very existence of the UGCC as an affront.

Secondly, a good look at Matthew Kelly’s Dynamic Catholic Catholic school teacher formation program. Popular, but evidently lightweight – no surprise there. 

The advice is banal, the language clunky: “The people you surround yourself with, and how you let their positivity or negativity influence you, impacts the kind of teacher you are.”

At times it is saccharine: “There is no national monument for teachers. I have never seen a statue of a teacher. But we all build monuments for teachers in our hearts.”

It can be pedantic: “Education is a wildfire. And a single educator is but a flickering of this timeless flare, hoping to shed some light where there is darkness.”

Or condescending: “Let me throw a little theology at you.”

Some of it reads like motivational business-speak: “We respect forever the leaders in our lives who were tough but fair.”

And every so often it calls on a weird source to make a point: “As Friedrich Nietzsche observed, ‘He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.’”

You get the idea. Matthew Kelly manages to evade the hard questions mostly by ignoring them. How should I include “Jesus in [my] lesson plans?” Keep “an empty chair” for him, to “remind students that Jesus is always at their side.” What is evil and how should I respond to it? Make “holy moments”! How do I deal with the exhaustion, fatigue, frustration, and pain of teaching? “There is no limit to the number of holy moments you can create.” The prose is as limp as the cloying optimism it promotes. It often circles back to his usual refrain: Be the “best-version-of-yourself.” That was more or less what Eve was told in the garden.

 

— 5 —

 

 

All right! So our great Japan 2018 Voyage got off to a rocky start. An aggravating, puzzling and somewhat infuriating start.

The plan was: fly out of BHM to DFW – land in DFW around 10:30, flight to NRT (Narita airport in Tokyo) departs at 1:30. Perfect, right?

Well, you would be wrong. You would not have taken into account the long wait on the Birmingham tarmac brought on by: weight issues, which led to a delay as people were asked to volunteer to disembark, people thought about it for a while, and a couple of people finally decided to accept the $700 offer. (These offers are never made when I’m able to accept them). Secondly, weather between BHM and Dallas, which required a changed flight plan which took about 30 minutes to work out and which would be a longer flight.

So we didn’t land in Dallas until about…1:30. We taxied right by gate D33. I saw our plane pulling away. Waves. 

Oh well – surely there’s another flight to Tokyo today? Surely they can at least maybe get us to Los Angeles or somewhere further west and we can go from there and still get there almost on time? Surely? 

Again – You’re wrong!

But there’s another aspect to this story that takes it to another level, to the level beyond, eh, things happen – it’s air travel. You expect it. 

It was hard not to miss the dozen or so Japanese young adults on our small plane from Birmingham. We wondered if they were also headed to Tokyo on the same flight.

As we disembarked and lined up in front of the rebooking agent in Dallas, they gathered behind me. I turned and asked if they were on flight 61 – they didn’t speak much English, didn’t understand me at first, so I showed my ticket, pointed to the number, they got theirs out – and yes, that was their flight too. They were…surprised that they missed it.

So here’s my question. There were, at my count, between 12-15 of us on a single flight ticketed for another specific flight.

Why did they not hold the plane? 

We’re not talking hours here. The planes passed each other in the gate area. There was no mystery about where a large percentage of the missing passengers were – Hmm….15 people haven’t showed up for this flight? Where could they be? Such a mystery! Shrug. No – they know exactly where everyone is and exactly when they’ll be coming in.

I’ve been on planes that have been held for one or two passengers before. This was crazy, and although I got scolded a bit on Twitter for this, told that I just “didn’t undertand” how these things work – I stand firm. As I said, I’ve witnessed planes being held. The AA supervisor who eventually helped us was aghast, as was her co-worker.

So – a bit about customer service. For some reason, I’m fascinated by stories of good and bad customer service – I slavishly read the Elliot site all the time. So it’s also instructive to be in the middle of something like this, observe the dynamic and see what works – and what doesn’t.

The first guy I went to for help was doing his job, but doing it without any energy or compassion. I wasn’t panicked or angry – I was amazed that the plane hadn’t been held, but was ready to move on. Fine. But the options he was giving me were terrible and he was using the same tone with me as if he were asking paper or plastic – and who cares.

So, you could fly out of Chicago tomorrow morning, I guess. 

When would we go to Chicago?

Tonight. 

Where would we stay – in the airport?

I guess. Yeah. 

I wasn’t biting on any of these options, convinced that there had to be a better way, so he offered to call a supervisor – obviously eyeing the 12 Japanese students behind me, as well. So he radioed for a supervisor, I stepped aside and waited.

And waited. And waited. Minutes went by, no one showed up. I stepped closer to the original guy and caught his eye. He waved to an open door across the hall and mouthed – go there. 

Okay.

So I went to this open door, where a man in a tie stood – he listened to me very politely,if clearly a little puzzled about why I was telling him about this. He poked his head back in the door, said something to a woman inside. She came out, they had a puzzled conversation, she agreed that she’d help me, but first, we had business with Guy #1.

Well, she had business. She was pretty ticked at him. Why didn’t you call a supervisor? I did. They didn’t come. They’re right over there – why couldn’t you just wave someone down? I’m busy – I tried. 

I sensed that her anger at this other guy just might work to my advantage, so I was just super nice. Not pathetic – because you know, this is a First World Problem in the extreme, and no pathos allowed, in my view.

As it turned out – there were no great options. Nothing was leaving from DFW later, and anything else she was able to work out would involve many stops and wouldn’t get us into Tokyo much earlier.

So – we got booked on the same flight, 24 hours later.

But she did give us a hotel voucher. I don’t think she was supposed to, since the reason for the mess was “weather”  – one of the many, many reasons airlines use to excuse them leaving you on your own (and I get it – they’d go broke if they compensated everyone for everything we feel we should be compensated for).

But she did anyway, saying, “It’s going to be a long day for you all.”

Quick version of the rest of the saga: I had hoped to get our luggage (just two suitcases – we travel light)  which I had CHECKED EVEN THOUGH I NEVER CHECK LUGGAGE…..GRRR – but was told by two different people that while it might take 30 minutes to retrieve the bags, it might also take three hours and there was no way to predict. We had most of our toiletries with us (aka the most important for me – my contacct lens stuff) and J had a pair of gym shorts in his backpack, so we just decided to grin and bear it.

I did rent a car instead of doing a shuttle to the hotel. I managed to get one through Hotwire at about half the cost they were quoting me at the rental counter. I wanted a car because it was still fairly early, and this would enable to us run and get a couple of t-shirts and anything else we needed and – if we had time – to see a bit of Dallas.

Which we did…

(And please know –  In my communications to AA about this – both via Twitter DM and through their system – I praised the helpful AA employee by name, several times. Do try to do that – when someone gives you good service, note their name and communicate their good work to the powers that be. It helps them. I did the same with the woman at the rental car counter – we had no problems, but she was just very nice and engaged, striking the perfect balance – helpful but not annoying – I noted her name and commended her to her company, too. It matters.)

(I do have travel insurance – both through the credit card I used to book the tickets, and a separate policy which I always get for these trips. I’ve never, ever filed a claim – and even though it’s not much, I think I’ll give it a shot, just to see what happens.)’

And may I reiterate? First World Problems. I’m annoyed that we lost a day of our time in Tokyo, but for heaven’s sake – we’re going to be in Japan.  I have nothing to complain about.

 

— 6 —

So…Dallas. 

When we started out, I thought we’ll get barbecue – but then they noted that In n’ Out is in Texas now, and they opted for that. It’s okay – I wasn’t hungry. We then made our way downtown – I’d probably been in the Dallas environs (outside the airport) once as a child, and probably only to a mall (that’s my vague recollection, anyway).

So we just shot downtown, parked, and walked around for about thirty minutes. It was hot, there weren’t a ton of people in the area – done and done.

 

 

 

— 7 —

 Coming in July:amy_welborn9

amy-welborn3

Signs and symbols…Bible stories…saints, heroes and history. 

More book reminders (for those who only come here on Fridays) – I’ve made How to Get the Most Out of the Eucharist available as a free pdf here. 

(One of several free ebooks I have available)

And don’t forget Son #2’s Amazon author page and personal author page.  

He’s released his second set of stories, which are science fiction-y in nature. 

For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain’t the Lyceum!

Read Full Post »

— 1 —

Piano and fossils, oh my.

IMG_20171014_135321.jpg

Let’s report. Because there’s just too damn much else going on demanding reaction and commentary. Who the heck can keep up? It’s probably good in the long run. Keeps some of us off our high horses, minimizes the temptation to virtue-signal,  and refocuses us back where we can actually have an impact – on our own daily lives.

 — 2 —

Last Saturday, the older one had to work early and for most of the day. In the morning, the younger one and I headed over to Samford for a “Masquerade” recital where he played the Rach 3 in C# minor. The famous one, you know. His costume? We bought a pack of “hello my name is” stickers and he plastered his shirt with them – everyone from Spiro Agnew to Taylor Swift. Not sure what that was all about.

Anyway, he played well – you can see some video of it here. We’re done with the Rach for a while and he’s hitting the Beethoven Sonata 1, 4th movement hard right now. I think I mentioned before that he and I are having fun with Satie’s 3 Pieces in the Shape of a Pear. I’m playing around with Scarlatti K. 69. I find it almost heartrendingly beautiful. For example, listen to the part (if you won’t listen to the whole thing…) that begins around 0:40 in this recording. So simple, so profound.

— 3 —

Anyway, here are some photos from the fossil hunt – I posted one a few days ago. It was sponsored by a local group geared at getting kids and families outside – Michael’s been to a couple of their camps in the past. They have two fossil hunts a year at this site – the fossils are mostly plant based, and are quite fascinating to find – once you figure out how to look. The first step is to look for black blotches on rocks – it’s a sign of carbon detritus, and carbon = life.

Grasshopper: not a fossil. He was a hitchiker.

— 4

Here’s a find from the late-night homeschool “planning” sessions: History Bombs, which seems to be British. It’s mostly a pay site, but there are a few free videos, which are fun and, it seems, mostly accurate.

Speaking of accuracy, or the lack of it – if you are familiar with the world of educational videos, you’ve probably heard of Crash Course videos. I find them irritating and smug so I don’t use them, but a lot of people do – but just fyi, here’s a useful and brief critique of the Crash Course video on the “first Thanksgiving” – it’s a good reminder to be wary of most popular history…everything gets diluted down and mythology is uncritically passed on….

— 5 —

Speaking of history, this week’s In Our Time was on the Congress of Vienna. Quite absorbing and clarifying. I was particularly taken with the presence, energy and wit of one scholar, Tim Blanning, whom I subsequently looked up and found to be the author of several interesting books, including this one, which I think I’ll check out of the library tomorrow and probably never finish, but you know…I’ll have tried.

— 6 —

Good stuff from Andrew Ferguson. God, I hate everyone. Well, most people. Not you, though!

— 7 —

Currently reading:

Several short stories that my older son had to read for school – 19th century American realism. Crane, Chopin, London – you know the drill. I hadn’t read any of them, I’m ashamed to say, except for “Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge.” I think my favorite was Crane’s “A Mystery of Heroism.”  Irony upon irony: the fellow who didn’t think for a moment he could be a hero actually did something heroic, but his motivations were anything but heroic anyway – rooted more in pride and fear of his fellows’ contempt than anything else. It says much about the muck and ambiguity of human conflict of all kinds.

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer with the 12-year old. He read The Old Man and the Sea last week. (This is “school” reading – he has bunches of books and graphic novels he reads for pleasure on his own).

Officers and Gentlemen by Waugh – the second in the Men at Arms trilogy. As I mentioned previously, I had, for some reason, thought it would be battle or strategy focused, so I’d not been interested, but as I’ve discovered, it’s just Waugh – centered on eviscerating human folly and yearning, in just another setting. Favorite sentence:

Her features were regular as marble and her eyes wide and splendid and mad.

It’s part of a brilliant and insane chapter of a bizarre dinner at the home of a faded Scottish aristocrat on an pile of rock called the Isle of Mugg….you had to be there…

Other than that, life is writing – I’m on track to finish writing the book due on 12/15 by 11/1. Yup. Super proud of myself, although perhaps I won’t be once the editors read what I’ve produced and said, Er…um…. But it’s good that I obeyed my instinct to be uncharacteristically efficient, because another project has come my way that’s going to take a lot of time between now and the spring. Which is good!

Writing, watching Lost and homeschooling. That’s it right now….I do tend to post updates more frequently on Instagram, so do check me out there.

IMG_20171018_210159.jpg

Growing crystals in the homeschool.

And start doing your Christmas shopping, for pete’s sake! I don’t mind being bested by Jesus – that’s as it should be – but Martin Luther? Nope, nope, nope.

"amy welborn"
For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain’t the Lyceum!

Read Full Post »

— 1 —

Get your travel bug on: The family of Bearing Blog is in Europe at the moment, and the mom is doing a fabulous job blogging it, and just as fabulous a job of feeding her large family while on vacation. I always have such big plans and high hopes for cooking interesting things with new, fascinating ingredients when I’m in a new place, but somehow…takeout always beckons. (Although in my own defense…the takeout can be pretty good….) 

 — 2 —

Most entertaining part of my Thursday was, as I was waiting for piano to be over, standing in a hallway of a college classroom building and watching as successive groups of students approach a door and learn that their scheduled exam had been moved to next week.

Much leaping, skipping, and, since this is a Baptist school, praising of Jesus!

 

— 3 —

I remember a time when the notion of applying to Duke Divinity School would have been akin to applying to Harvard.

Here’s the subject header of an advertising email I received yesterday:

Duke Divinity School: Apply Using Discount Code DukeCT

???

 

 

— 4

Worth a read: “The Borromeo Option”

Despite his importance, Charles Borromeo is little known and appreciated within the English-speaking world, primarily because few of his works have been translated. This lacuna has now been filled with the publication of Charles Borromeo: Selected Orations, Homilies and Writings. J.R. Cihak and A. Santogrossi have furnished us with a superb edition and translation of some of Charles’s most significant texts.

Cihak’s introduction provides a short, but splendid, biography of Charles, and a guide to the historical, ecclesial, and pastoral setting for his writings. There follow four sections, which highlight various aspects of Charles’s work.

The first presents orations that Charles gave at his provincial councils. Here he articulates the need for reform and the nature of the reform. Charles notes that the true bishop “is frequently at prayer and in contemplation of heavenly things.” He is “regularly present in the episcopal residence, and likewise totally dedicated and given over to his episcopal duties.” He is “a true father and pastor of the poor, widows and orphans, a patron of the holy places and assiduous in promoting holy observances.”

There is, however, “another bishop.” He “is remiss or negligent in all of these things, or what is worse, does the opposite.” For Charles, his fellow bishops and priests are to be men of the Gospel who love the Church and the people they serve. Above all, they are to be holy shepherds after the manner their supreme Shepherd – Jesus Himself.

Thus, Charles displays both his love for his fellow bishops and priests as well as the need to challenge them if the Church and people of God are to grow in holiness.

 

— 5 —

From the UK Catholic Herald, “Stop Teaching Our Children Lazy Anti-Catholic Myths:”

Saying that medieval peasants were “extremely superstitious” is one thing; it’s easy to sneer at abstractions. But if you read medieval records of sick people visiting holy shrines, those involved emerge not as stereotypes but as real human beings: men and women from all classes of society, seeking aid in the extremes of pain and suffering, with stories of self-sacrifice and deep personal faith. From a modern viewpoint, some of their beliefs might seem alien, but their fears and hopes are not. These people and their beliefs deserve respect, and at least an attempt at understanding. All this was a sanctification of the everyday, a vision of a world charged with power and meaning – and for medieval scholars, none of it was incompatible with science or learning.

No one would pretend that the medieval period was perfect or that the medieval Church did not have some serious flaws. What’s needed today is a more balanced view, appreciating that the Middle Ages was as complex as any other period in history, and avoiding judgmental, emotive language like “stagnation” and “superstition”. There’s no excuse for it any more.

It has never been easier to access information about the medieval past, especially when a few minutes on Google will lead you to accessible websites written by experts on medieval science and religion, not only debunking myths but also providing more accurate information.

It’s past time for educators and journalists to move beyond the lazy stereotypes about the Middle Ages. The truth is far more interesting.

 

— 6 —

Homeschooling? Going well, with a couple of interruptions this week. Schools were cancelled here on Monday, and my older son had a delayed opening on Tuesday. The public schools were also closed on Tuesday (it had been a proactive decision handed down Sunday night when no one knew if Irma would impact us – it didn’t much), so the science center homeschool class was cancelled, and then the homeschooler had two teeth extracted on Wednesday….so…scattered.

But we did discover this set of fun videos – they are pitched a little younger, but the fact that they’re British evens that out so that they’re quite entertaining to watch for any age:

The Magic of Making:

 

 

— 7 —

Book talk!

As I noted earlier in the week, my old booklet on St. Nicholas has been brought back into print. Get ready for Christmas – especially if you’re a parish or school coordinator of such things!

Celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows with a (still) free download of my book, Mary and the Christian Life.

Get a cheap e-book on Mary Magdalene here – Mary Magdalene: Truth, Legends and Lies.

As I mentioned last week, The Loyola Kids Book of Bible Stories is available.It looks like it’s finally shipping from Amazon in a timely manner…

 But you can also certainly order it from Loyola, request it from your local bookstore, or, if you like, from me – I have limited quantities available. Go here for that.

For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain’t the Lyceum!

Read Full Post »

In not too long, we’ll be in London, and as per usual, I’m engaging in intense trip prep. I have been for a while, actually, but am kicking it up into high, undoubtedly tedious gear right now.

img_20170315_160447.jpg

  • When I first bought these tickets back in November (there was a sale and we’re flying from ATL to LHR for an average of under $400/ticket – they have a slightly lower fare than I do), I went crazy with the guidebooks, but got over that soon enough. The guidebooks satisfy that initial thrill of knowing we’re going to London! but soon enough, I get lost in them – I know from experience that actually arriving some place and getting the lay of the land changes your sense of what you can and even want to do.  And with London in March, there will be weather considerations – although at this point, it doesn’t look like there’s much rain in the forecast.  And you never know how everyone is going to feel upon arrival, especially since our arrival time is 6.55 am as in IN THE MORNING, and..what? 
  • (Update: I’ve been looking at arrival times for those flights and they are consistently arriving around 6:30 AM.  Thank goodness, the owner of our apartment is amazingly generous and has agreed to a mid-morning check-in. If we were in a hotel, it would be no problem, since we could just leave luggage with the front desk until check-in time, but not with an apartment)
  • Anyway, I quickly got bored and despairing with the guide books. I knew that there were must-sees – the British Museum, the British Library, the National Gallery, the Tower of London, various outdoor sites, the Imperial War Museum, the Churchill Rooms, the Globe, churches, Tyburn Convent, and (I decided amongst the palaces) Hampton Court. I toyed with a day trip – Canterbury? York? Then decided that a week in London had plenty to occupy us.
  • So what should I read next? I have loved Morton’s books on Rome and Italy, and for some reason had a copy of In Search of London, which I happily read until I read a review of a biography of Morton which maintained that he fabricated a great deal of what he wrote about. And I just couldn’t read any more. (Update: Since I wrote that 2 weeks ago, I relented, and finished it – I’m glad I did.)
  • I had a couple of other old England-centric travel books that I had inherited along the way.
  • About three weeks ago, with the trip closer, I restocked from the library, and began studying in earnest. I still have no intention of having anything but the barest sort of plan, but I do need to sort out things like public transportation  (I think I finally understand the Oyster Card) and get opening and closing hours straight in my head (as in…several museums are open in the evenings during the week, but none, as far as I can tell, on Wednesdays, so that would be a good theater night.)
  • I have been mostly immersing myself in discussion boards: TripAdvisor, Fodors, Rick Steves & Chowhound, for the most part. All have different uses.
  • In terms of the boys, we have been focusing on general British history, of which they have only the barest understanding, and most of that from Horrible Histories. 
  • With them, I have been taking mostly the video route. We started with Schama’s History of Britain – the first episode which dealt with “pre-history,” the Romans and the beginnings of Anglo-Saxon Britain. We then watched the episodes on the Conquest and the English Reformation. I had wanted to see something on the Tudors, the Fire and Britain in World War II, but we are running out of time….Then I thought…why didn’t we watch A Man for All Seasons???  Well, maybe after….
  • I have books scattered about, and they pick them up and glance through them. We’ve looked at maps, so we have a good sense of where the apartment is in relationship to Tube stops and the major sites.
  • In terms of tickets: I have not purchased any theater tickets – I have a short list of shows I want to see, but I’m going to wait until we get there, see how everyone copes and recovers (including me) and just get a sense of what it feels like to be in London and get around before I commit.
  • I did purchase a Historic Royal Palaces family membership, which gets us entry into several places, including Hampton Court and the Tower of London. It saves a bit of money and gets us out of the regular line, and makes me feel posh whilst slipping into my wallet.
  • I also went ahead and got tickets for the Warner Brothers/Harry Potter thing. It seemed advisable to get those ahead of time.
  • An advantage of not getting to London until this point in our family’s development is that there is absolutely no noise about going to LegoLand. Thank. Goodness.
  • Bought travel insurance, most importantly with health and medical evacuation portions.
  • Went overboard, as I always do, about informing my adult children about the exact when and where of everything, including where my estate documents are, where the car will be parked and so on. Honestly, after you have been through a sudden death for which no one was prepared (how could you be), you see the wisdom of trying to account for the unexpected. It’s an act of mercy and love to leave as little of a mess behind as possible, if it comes to that. It’s not morbid, it’s just realistic.
  • I also rented a camera. I have a pretty old DLSR of some sort, but about three years ago, someone dropped it and just a couple of the teeth that hold the lens in were broken, but that was enough to render it almost useless – you can take photos with it, but you have to hold the lens in place. (The photo in the header, taken in Death Valley, was taken with that camera…me holding the lens…) I have a point and shoot, but it’s also older, and phone photos are okay, but not as good as actual camera shots, especially for display (maybe, if you have an IPhone? I don’t know. I don’t have one).  My son who just moved to NYC left me with some monstrous pro-level Nikon that he had purchased last summer, but when I got it home last week after helping him clean out his Atlanta place….it refused to power on. Even after charging the battery. It’s fine – it was a lot larger than I had expected, and not great for travel.
  • So I rented a Panasonic Lumix LX100, got it yesterday, found it a bit more complicated than I was ready for, but spent a couple of hours last night studying, so I think I’m good.
  • My hope is to blog here daily, and I’ll be posting regularly on Instagram – both in Stories and via regular posts, especially since they added this great feature of being able to put ten photos or videos in a single post. So check me out there. I don’t think you can see Stories unless you view it on a phone or tablet.
  • And yes, we are in an apartment. I did look at several bed-and-breakfasts fairly seriously – I sort of wanted that experience for us – but eventually admitted that I know full well  that I will crave space and privacy at the end of the day. I did look into, say, renting two rooms at a B & B, and came close on a couple, but then found a good apartment and again, my instincts told me we would all be much more content at the end of the day in that situation.
  • I forgot to mention that I find Pinterest valuable for things like this…I have the app downloaded to my phone, and it’s like having my own …er…curated …guidebook.

 

Read Full Post »

— 1 —

Finished.

And having done so, I’m going to give you a heads-up that Lent 2017 is apparently going to be a surprising 1,367 days long.

Because that’s how long it felt in the writing of the devotional.

(Background: I have now written the Advent 2016 and Lent 2017 Daybreaks for Liguori. Look for them to be advertised in the fall, I suppose.)

I wrote the Advent 2016 edition last fall, getting in several months ahead of schedule, but was a couple of weeks late with this. That was intentional – not the lateness, but the timing of the work. I wanted to write a seasonal devotional during the actual season. That’s an unusual experience for a writer. We are usually working completely out of synch – writing Christmas pieces during Holy Week and Ash Wednesday items during Advent.

 

 

— 2 —

The other night Fathom Events, which produces those one-off film presentations like productions of the Metropolitan Opera and rereleases of classic movies (they’re showing On The Waterfront in a couple of weeks – we’ll be there) presented Bill, the Shakespeare-ish movie from the fantastic Horrible Histories troupe. It was released in England last year, and is getting a US DVD release on May 3, but I wanted to give it some support, so we headed out to Trussville for the showing…

 

…and we were the only people there. Not surprising. I don’t think there’s a hardcore group of Horrible Histories fans here in the US, much less Alabama. But anyway – the movie was really enjoyable. More polished and a little less crazy than Horrible Histories episodes, with, of course, no relation at all to actual history. Doing a bit of research afterwards, though, I found that they had actually rather cleverly inserted historical references in a sort-of correct way throughout the film. It was great fun to see the super-talented HH crew each play about five different roles. It was quickly paced, and was actually a bit moving at the end as It All Came Together for Bill. Check out when it comes out on video!

 

– 3—

This week has also been occupied with driving. Yes, we have a new driver in our house – turned fifteen last week, permit attained on Tuesday, and big empty parking lot of big empty mall circled about 257 times over the past couple of days. This weekend, we’ll attempt an actual road. I think it will be fine. He has a determination to do it, to do it right and correct his mistakes. It’s not my favorite thing parental activity, but here it is…one more to go after this…

The process of getting the permit was not horribly painful – less than two hours in and out, and it would probably have been less if the state’s servers weren’t going down all afternoon. Another mom waiting with her son remarked that they should get the people who operate the gaming systems to run these things – they would never go down. And she’s probably right.

 — 4 —

 

Speaking of lovely bureaucracy, this happened last night. Our downtown post office is open until 8 pm during the week, so I was down there mailing a box of books. There was one person working, and the line was growing – this was about 7:30. I thought…. I sure hope they have more than one person working the counter over the weekend and Monday. But that wasn’t the issue.

There was a woman there when I arrived, parked at the end of the line preparing packages for shipping, waving new customers past her. It was, as it happens, Michael’s first piano teacher. By the time I got served, it was after 8, they had the door to the customer service area halfway closed and an employee standing there making sure new customers didn’t enter. As I was finished up, Ms. P said to an employee, “Oh, I forgot one more set for one more package. Can I just go out to my car and get it?” Employee shook her head. “No. Once you leave, you can’t come back in.” I said, “May I go out and get it for her?” Nope. We looked at each other. She slipped me her keys and told me which car it was. I rushed out, and as it happened, couldn’t find her package where she told me it was. I stepped back in the door – one step, handed her keys back, told her I couldn’t find it, she said she must have left it at home, and I was trying to telling her about Michael winning first place in his age group at the local sonata competition, and immediately starting getting my marching orders barked at me from both employees. “You’re breaking the rules, ma’am.”

— 5 

And..books. I have books for sale here – all of the picture books, plus the Mass books, plus Prove It! God. Get your orders in..so I can return to the PO and BREAK THE RULES.

I don’t have any of the saints books in stock here, but you should be able to find them at your local Catholic bookstore (which should always be your first stop for Catholic books), and if they don’t have it, ask them to order it – and of course, any online retailer should have them.

For months, I’ve been battling for the top spots in the highly contested category of “Children’s Religious Biography” at Amazon – for a long time, Ben Carson was my nemesis, but then Penguin published a Joan of Arc volume in their excellent “Who is?” series – and, well, I don’t mind St. Joan besting me. But when, for a few days, John Calvin jumped ahead – well, I’m not having that.

(Currently holding at #1 & #2)

Tomorrow is the feastday of St. Bernadette – my entry on her from the Book o’ Saints is here, at the Loyola site. 

— 6-

Over the next week I hope to finish reading the family exhortation and reread Familiaris Consortio and write something about it. For now, I’ll just say that if you read R.R. Reno in First Things and the most of what is in the articles linked here at Catholic World Report – that’s where I’m at. I have a slightly different take with a different emphasis, but yes. Once I machete through the thick jungle of ahistorical  false dichotomies and straw men, I’ll have something.

— 7 —

I have a couple of articles to write over the next few weeks, but other than that and homeschooling, I’m focusing my brain on…you guessed it…a trip!

It’s back to Italy in a few weeks.

I usually don’t talk about a forthcoming trip until we have already left, but this time, I’ve decided to share my planning and musing beforehand in a more public way. I’ll begin by talking about why we’re going where we (think) we are going.

For now – because the school day must begin – I’ll say that it will be into Bologna and then out of Pisa three weeks later. 2/3 of the trip is sort-of planned,  but there’s one chunk of the trip I can’t pin down – Tuscany. (Week 1+ – Emilia-Romagna. Most of Week 2  – Rome. Week 3- Tuscany) There is just so much to see and do, we’ve never been to any of it, so it’s hard to decide. I threw out the possibility of leaving Rome, renting the car and just taking it day by day without making any reservations or plans. It would be a week between that point and coming back home from Pisa. One kid was all for it, the other was doubtful. We’ll see. My argument against taking the day-by-day approach is financial more than anything else. I would probably end up spending more on accommodations that way..so we’ll see. It’s tempting.

Extra random read of the week – From Farm to Fable – it’s about Tampa Bay area restaurants, but I’m sure the situation is just the same elsewhere. 

For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain’t the Lyceum!

Read Full Post »

— 1 —

We finally got out of the Birmingham area this week – one day – one day  – without basketball, scouts or music…so I grabbed it, and we traveled….to ANNISTON. ALABAMA.

It’s about an hour from here, a little less than halfway to Atlanta, so we pass it regularly, but had never stopped.  In reading all of my “Alabama Day Trips” blogs and such, I had often run across mentions of the Anniston Natural History Museum, and all of those mentions had been positive – and without reservation.  As in, no well, at least they’re trying. Two points for that  None of that.

And “they” were right!

I mean, it’s not worth flying down from Bismark for, but really, for an off-the-beaten-path museum, it’s rather impressive.

"amy welborn"

As the name indicates, it’s all about the nature.  So yes, dinosaurs, minerals and volcanoes, as well as a condensed journey through Alabama’s various ecoystems (biomes? habitats? I get so confused. So much lingo.). But what impressed me were two particular exhibits.  One was on predators and prey – a big draw for young people, naturally. But it stood out because of the pedagogy behind it, which results in a substantive and clear exhibit.  Attacker and defender behavior was identified by one of three colored stripes, each representing a particular tactic: behavioral, physical or chemical. The subject matter was interesting to the boys anyway, but the whole stripe thing gave it a puzzle aspect that cemented the learning.

"amy welborn"

What was really lovely was the Birds of America exhibit.  I’m quite interested in the history of museums and collecting, being so appreciative of the efforts of  single-minded and sometimes eccentric collectors and “amateur” scientists whose passions form the nuclei of so many museums worldwide.  The Anniston bird exhibit is one of those. There is unfortunately, not much about the history of the collection on the museum’s website, but the Atlas Obscura tells us:

The Anninston Natural History Museum holds one of the oldest taxidermy collections in the United States, created by H. Severn Regan in 1930 with a donation of over 1000 birds, nests and eggs arranged in dioramas.

Today, the museum has over 400 species of birds on display. Of special interest is the museum’s collection of passenger pigeons (Ectopistes migratorius). Formerly one of the most common birds in North America, passenger pigeons could once be seen in migratory flocks a mile wide and 300 miles long, containing upwards of a billion birds. There are tales of pigeon swarms darkening the skies for days at a time. Due to wide-scale commercial hunting and deforestation, the passenger pigeon is today extinct, but it and several other extinct species are still preserved in this small natural history museum.

"amy welborn"

 

"amy welborn"

"amy welborn"

"amy welborn"

The exhibit is very well done, with attractive retro signage and an easy educational aspect, highlighting the various aspects of avian physiology.  As the entry above indicates, the dioramas were painted by Regan himself, and they are beautifully and faithfully preserved.   A really pleasant surprise.

— 2 —

Right next door is the Berman Museum, which features the collection of a local couple (not originally from the area – she was French).  It held a large collection of weaponry, and some interesting pieces – the boys were most interested in a number of weapons hidden in smaller objects like belt buckles.  But there was oddness like a toiletry set and camp plate of Napoleon’s, a crown from Czech royalty, some Mussolini gear and such. If you are interested in military history, it would be a good stop.  We ended up not having to pay because of our McWane membership, so go us.

"amy welborn"

"amy welborn"

— 3 —

Started the Taming of the Shrew.  We started fairly lowbrow, with a read through of this kids’ version, and then, this evening, watching the “Atomic Shakespeare” episode of Moonlighting.  I mean…it’s not faithful or anything (especially the ending), but it’s fun.   We’ll watch the BBC animated version tomorrow and then start our more serious read-through, probably along with the Taylor-Burton version.  And then at some point watch Kiss Me, Kate.  And I will get out the photos of Padua and sigh.

"amy welborn"

The street where our apartment was located.

"amy welborn"

Right around the corner from the apartment…

"amy welborn"
"amy welborn"

(My goal? To enjoy Shakespeare. We talk about some themes  – but I don’t go hard core.  I basically want them to not be intimidated by Shakespeare, to offer them this really profound and rich window through which to view the human experience, and just….enjoy. I could do more “analytical” stuff, but you know what? I don’t want to. Our conversations and bit of memorization here and there are good enough.)

Both the Atlanta Shakespeare Tavern and the Alabama Shakespeare Festival are performing this play over the next few months, and I’m not sure if we’ll go to one or both. I love the Tavern, but we’ve never been to the ASF, so I’m leaning that way.

— 4 —

Tomorrow (Friday): a school performance of the Koresh Dance Company from Philadelphia. 

They are thrilled. 

/sarcasm.

— 5 —

A quick word in favor of formal prayer.

I wrote a whole book about this, I know, but our experiences with Morning and Night prayer have just deepened my appreciation and convictions on this score.

It can be done, you know.  Even with children, we can frame our prayer in terms of our own intentions and needs. We can offer up our relatives, friends and enemies, we can pray for the suffering throughout the world, we can offer God our own personal gratitude, hopes and sorrows, and then, stepping into the liturgy, join them to the prayers of the whole Body of Christ.  When we do this, we who “do not know how to pray as we ought” learn how to pray and are shaped by the Spirit in that prayer.

When we reflect on how the Holy Spirit acts in our lives, I think we should be wary of an overly individualistic take.  The way I have come to understand it is that the Spirit was poured out on the Church – the Church as a whole  – and that the primary way that I, as an individual, encounter the Holy Spirit is through the prayer, works of mercy and big T Tradition of that Church.

So in that light, it just seems to me that praying the amazing and rich liturgical prayers of the Church – from the Mass to the Liturgy of the Hours and other forms – is an encounter with the Holy Spirit that shapes me, if I am open, at my deepest level.

So, for example, Compline or Night Prayer.  We don’t have the patience to pray all of it, focusing on one Psalm, the short reading, and the prayers at the end.  Believe me, praying those prayers every night, puts everything in context much more than our own meanderings would:

Reading
1 Thessalonians 5:23 ©
May the God of peace make you perfect and holy; and may you all be kept safe and blameless, spirit, soul and body, for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Short Responsory
Into your hands, Lord, I commend my spirit.
– Into your hands, Lord, I commend my spirit.
You have redeemed us, Lord God of truth.
– Into your hands, Lord, I commend my spirit.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.
– Into your hands, Lord, I commend my spirit.

Canticle Nunc Dimittis
Save us, Lord, while we are awake; protect us while we sleep; that we may keep watch with Christ and rest with him in peace.
Now, Master, you let your servant go in peace.
  You have fulfilled your promise.
My own eyes have seen your salvation,
  which you have prepared in the sight of all peoples.
A light to bring the Gentiles from darkness;
  the glory of your people Israel.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit,
  as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be,
  world without end.
Amen.
Save us, Lord, while we are awake; protect us while we sleep; that we may keep watch with Christ and rest with him in peace.

Let us pray.
Lord our God,
  restore us again by the repose of sleep
  after the fatigue of our daily work,
so that, continually renewed by your help,
  we may serve you in body and soul.
Through Christ our Lord,
Amen.

The Lord grant us a quiet night and a perfect end.

AMEN

Lex orandi, Lex credendi. That’s what it means.

— 6 —

I think our next major day trip will be down to Montgomery, even aside from the ASF.  Joseph did the state capitol on a school field trip,I’ve been to Hank Williams’ grave,  but I’d like to go to the art museum, the zoo, and some of the other civil rights sites down there – the King parsonage and the Rosa Parks Museum.  Maybe the Fitzgerald house.


Leave it to the Brits….isn’t it good?

— 7 —

Lent is late this year, but it’s still coming….if you’re looking for resources for your parish, I have a few:

Reconciled to God daily devotional (reviewed here)

This Bible study on the Passion narrative in Matthew from Loyola Press. (For some reason I’m not listed as the author on the Loyola website but…I am.)

Contributions in the Living Faith Lenten devotional.

John Paul II’s Biblical Way of the Cross , with paintings by Michael O’Brien (there’s also an app for that – linked on that page)

And then The Power of the Cross, which is available for a free download.  There are a few used copies available on Amazon.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Read Full Post »

— 1 —

I was “At Home with Jim and Joy Pinto” this week – the audio is here.   We talked about Be Saints!  and I’ll be back (in studio this time) to talk about Bambinelli Sunday on December 12.

— 2 —

On December 5, I’ll be some sort of complicated hi-tech “webcast” over the “internet” with Franciscan Media.  Check it out here – you have to register, but you can probably manage that. 

— 3 —

On December 7, I’ll be in Charleston at the Daughters of St. Paul bookstore, signing Bambinelli Sunday for, most appropriately, their “Baby Jesus Party.”   Come see me!!!

And you can order copies of Bambinelli Sunday from me here.   You can enter a giveaway for the book here!

And remember…Bambinelli Sunday is a real thing.   Maybe your parish or religious ed program could have your own “Bambinelli Sunday?”  Invite the children to bring in the Baby Jesus figure from their own nativity sets for a blessing after Mass?   Think about it! There’s still time……

— 4 —

Ages and ages and ages ago, when I was teaching theology in a Catholic high school, they made us, as all schools, even Catholic schools, do – dress up for some idiotic “spirit week” thing.  You know how it is.  Monday!  Krazy Hat Day!  Tuesday! Striped Socks Day!  Wednesday! Pajama Day! Hate.  White-hot hate for that crap. Anyway, one of the days was ..what?  Blast from the Past?  I think so.  So I studied my (limited) wardrobe and donned:  Black turtleneck, black skirt, black tights, black shoes and a beret. My seniors gazed at me without comprehension.  Are you French?  they wondered. Except for Rashida.  Rashida perked up.  “You’re a beatnik!” she said. A+! Well, twenty years later, here’s the latest from Rashida:  She’s part of a new fabric company – I know nothing about these fabric and craft things, but despite that, I was still completely taken with this short video describing the beginnings of Cotton + Steel.  Anything that’s about vision, creativity, initiative and courage is inspiring, isn’t it?

— 5 —

Math stuff.   Continuing to love Beast Academy and everything else from Art of Problem Solving.  Seriously – if you have a child who’s struggling a bit with some aspect of Pre-Algebra on up – check out the videos at least.  Very good.

— 6 —

This week’s travels, not too far from home:

"amy welborn"

"amy welborn"

"amy welborn"

Moss Rock Preserve in Hoover.

Special Leonardo da Vinci exhibit at the Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville.  It’s good – we’ve seen some of these models before, in similar exhibits, but this one was quite comprehensive and gave a good sense of the depth and breadth of Leonardo’s interests.

"amy welborn"

— 7 —

I spent the last two nights staying up way too late binge-watching The Wrong Mans on Hulu Plus (all episodes are up on Plus …they’re being release one a week on regular Hulu.)

“Danger called.  They happened to answer.”

"Mat Baynton"

At least binge-watching this one was a far less demanding commitment than doing the same with any number of American programs.  It’s a 6-episode comedic adventure caper starring James Cordon and our hero from Horrible Histories, Mat Baynton. (My daughter worked at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival last summer,  ran into Baynton on the street on her last day, and probably thoroughly confused him as this excitable American girl told him how her little brothers can sing all the lyrics to “Pachacuti” ) (Next task is find a way to watch Yonderlandthe new show from the HH crew.)

I was almost immediately confused by the plot and it certainly had some weak points, but all in all I quite enjoyed it, thanks very much. Laughed out loud a lot at 12:30 AM.  Lots of great actors, the usual painful humor of the mild-mannered finding themselves in insane situations and even a bit of not-to-sappy heartwarmth as everyone finds their inner strength, etc.   I don’t ‘recommend” it because I don’t “recommend” cultural stuff to other people because inevitably someone gets offended and taps out an outraged/disappointed missive at my poor taste or low standards.  Whatevs.  liked it a bunch and will probably rewatch it, so there you have it.

From the Grantland review, which says it better than I:

The Wrong Mans, which debuted on BBC2 in September and is now airing on Hulu, is limited in all of the best ways. It consists of only six episodes, each roughly 29 minutes in length. The tone is consistent, the scope is clear, the stakes are big but the landing is pillow-soft. It’s an outrageously stylish comedy of errors in which two small-town nobodies — played by series creators Mathew Baynton (as Sam, the quasi-competent ectomorph) and James Corden (as Phil, the excitable doof) — become embroiled in an increasingly intricate web of kidnapping, violence, and deceit. In the pilot, Sam — after a long night spent emptying bottles and drunk-dialing an ex who also happens to be his boss — witnesses a dramatic car crash. After the smoke is cleared, a cell phone remains. It rings. The voice on the other end demands money and a meeting or someone’s wife will be killed. Sam is horrified. Phil — who lives with his mom, talks like a gangsta, and rolls his own sushi — is exhilarated. Soon, against all better judgment — and against all audience expectation; shows that feature Belle & Sebastian songs in the first act rarely have coke-snorting, chest-licking, pistol-packing Russian gangsters in the third — the two are in it up to their necks and over their heads. Sam gets blood on his wool Paddington jacket. Phil gets body-slammed by a Chinese hostage. Limbs are threatened. Lives are lost. A Jamie Oliver lasagna recipe is irreparably tweaked.

In lesser hands — or after being pawed over by literal-minded, profit-hungry development execs — this sort of cross-genre mash-up would never work. But The Wrong Mans has such a steady focus and particular point of view that it succeeds wildly on two fronts: It’s both my favorite new comedy of the fall and the best action-thriller I’ve seen in ages. 

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: