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Posts Tagged ‘books’

— 1 —

No, I didn’t give up the internet or blogging for Lent.  I might as well have, though, right? Eh.  It’s not like there’s no one else out there opining or sharing or venting online.

Plus the narrative out there is so very strong, I’m having to think long and hard how to navigate it and carefully say things that really need to be said.  But we’ll see.

— 2 —

We had a snow day last week and another this week.

"amy welborn"

There you go.

I get it.  Last year’s snowcapolypse (sp?) was a nightmare, happened in a matter of hours, and was absolutely unexpected.  It was nothing to laugh at.  But it made everyone exceedingly skittish around here, so this year, at the slightest hint of a system over Texas, we get all proactive and everything shuts down.  We went out late yesterday afternoon to shop for some clothes. The roads were wet but clear..and almost every store in both major shopping centers near here were closed.

Hopefully, next year, the pendulum will swing back.

— 3 —

One of my favorite Loyola Classics titles is Things as They Are by Paul Horgan.  If you don’t know about Horgan – go read this.  He’s probably one of the least-known double Pulitzer Prize winners out there.  He wrote both non-fiction and fiction, much of it centered on the Southwest, although Things as They Are is reflective of Horgan’s childhood in Rochester, New York.  His non-fiction is primarily historical – it’s what he won the Pulitzers for – and get this – the fellow never graduated from college.

(Catholic, too – awarded the Notre Dame Laetare Medal.)

That title was suggested to me by George Weigel, who wrote the introduction.  It’s an episodic, quiet, but ultimately hard-hitting (I think) coming-of-age tale.

— 4 —

A few weeks ago, I picked up a volume that collects three shorter novels of Horgans – it’s called Mountain Standard Time .  I read the first, Main Line West, and it’s very good.  Unusual and evocative, it’s about a Kansas woman, living with relatives, who is courted by a traveling salesman, marries him and is abandoned when she becomes pregnant.  What intrigued me about the plot was the turn in which the woman becomes a traveling evangelist. The story of where that takes her and her son, and the eventual tragedy – based, as Horgan says in his afterword, on an incident he had witnessed as a child during World War I – is startling.  I recommend!

— 5 —

Last weekend, we had 7 basketball games in the course of 72 hours.  I didn’t mind it too much  – basketball games are short – especially when the quarters are 6 minutes long, as they are for the younger son, whose tournament represented the bulk of those games.  One more game tonight – maybe two – and that’s done.

— 6 —

Better Call Saul is enjoyable.  No, it’s no Breaking Bad.  It doesn’t have the intensity or layers of that show (yet), plus, considering we know how Saul turns out, if the show stays in the past (and doesn’t eventually jump back up to post-BB Saul), there are no stakes at the core of it, since we know that Saul doesn’t follow the (faint) nudges of his conscience and find any sort of redemption.  Yes, there’s lots of interest along the way, but that hope that everything will turn out that is the driving interest behind drama is missing.

House of Cards? Eh.  I watched the first season, and then a few episodes of the second last year – but then it just got too ridiculous, I couldn’t follow (aka wasn’t interested in) the policy machinations, and – most importantly – lost interest because when every single character is immoral or amoral, there’s nothing at stake, and no real drama.

I watched the first episode of this season, and was sort of interested in Doug’s rehab and recovery, but am totally bored by the prospect of Claire fightin’ for her right to be UN Ambassador.  There was a bit of an uptick of interest in the show from religious quarters this week because a couple of writers addressed a scene in which Frank Underwood spits at a crucifix.  Can’t watch it anymore, these writers declared – it’s a deal-breaker. (And the threesome with his wife and the Secret Service guy wasn’t? I didn’t see that – just heard it was coming, and at that point, stopped watching. Ew.)  I haven’t watched that episode yet (maybe I’ll dig it up, maybe not), but it seems, from what I have read, that that scene is perfectly consistent with the Underwood’s character.  It’s not a sympathetic person doing it – it’s a murderous (literally), horrible, evil guy. Evil people spit on Christ,  and then walk away – figuratively and even literally.

— 7 —

Speaking of the Cross…

John Paul II’s Biblical Way of the Cross, published by Ave Maria Press.  This, again, is available as an actual book and in a digital version, in this case as an app.  Go here for more information. (The illustrations are by Michael O’Brien)

"amy welborn"A few years ago, I wrote a Stations of the Cross for young people called No Greater Love,  published by Creative Communications for the Parish. They put it out of print for a while…but now it’s back!

amy-welborn4

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

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"black like me" griffin

This was the edition on my parents’ bookshelves when I was growing up…

Fr. Dwight Longenecker has a short post on John Howard Griffin, the author of Black Like Me.  Fr. Longenecker hadn’t known until recently that Griffin was Catholic.  Most people don’t – nor do they know that he was the author of a very Catholic novel.

It’s called The Devil Rides Outside.  I read it several years ago when I was editor of the Loyola Classics series – the series of at-that-moment out of print and obtainable mid-century Catholic-themed fiction.

I have lots of interesting stories to tell about the books we were able to get and those we weren’t.  Perhaps I’ll do a blog post over the weekend about some of them.  It was really a very interesting job.

Anyway, I learned about Griffin’s novel and obtained a well-worn paperback with quite a lurid cover, and started it with high hopes.  This will be great, I thought – bringing back into print the novel by figure so well-known for one part of his life and work and completely unknown in the present for this one.

At the time he wrote it (the late 1940’s) Griffin, not yet Catholic (he was Episcopalian) was suffering from blindness caused by an injury he suffered while in the military in Europe during World War II.  He would be healed of the blindness in 1957.

Griffin was an accomplished and knowledgeable musicologist, and had spent time at Solesmes Abbey exploring both religious vocation and chant.  This novel came out of that experience.

It’s a fascinating piece of work – heated and intense, a confessional novel of a young man’s struggle to find God as he’s pulled between life in the monastery and outside.

In an interesting twist, the novel played a role in overturning censorship laws.  In 1954, Pocket Books decided to use the book to test Michigan’s censorship statutes.  It had been banned there because of Griffin’s (for the time) frank sexual scenes.  The case reached the Supreme Court which decided that censorship laws that were explicitly intended to protect the young were unconstitutional since the consequence of such laws was denying anyone access to these materials, not just the young.

My take?  I probably need to read it again, because that first reading was done with a specific purpose in mind: would this have general appeal to a 21st century audience? So back then, with that in mind I decided…no.  It was certainly interesting – that’s why I say I think I’d like to read it again – but on the whole I found it just a bit overheated, too long, a little hysterical and caricaturish in its portrayal of women.   It’s mainly interesting for the portrait of monastic life – and this is one of the reasons I read even not-“classic” fiction with Catholic themes: you get little glimpses of Catholic history without the academic overlay.

But wouldn’t it be awesome to republish it with this cover?

"the devil rides outside" griffin

You can read it on Kindle now, anyway….so there you go!

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— 1 —

Lent is coming!  Full list of resources here, but take special note today, if you don’t mind, of these Stations of the Cross..and pass it on to your parish!

John Paul II’s Biblical Way of the Cross, published by Ave Maria Press.  This, again, is available as an actual book and in a digital version, in this case as an app.  Go here for more information. (The illustrations are by Michael O’Brien)

"amy welborn"A few years ago, I wrote a Stations of the Cross for young people called No Greater Love,  published by Creative Communications for the Parish. They put it out of print for a while…but now it’s back!

amy-welborn4

— 2 —

Podcast listening?  Not much of great interest this past week, since I’m mostly concentrating on that Couch to 5k thing.  I’m up to Week 8! 28 minutes! (But that’s on an indoor track – we’ll see what happens when I am able to go outdoors again, given the harder surfaces and more, er, varied terrain outside.

So, Melvin lost me this week with Phenomenology. I tried – I really did, but listening to philosophy talk about Husserl, Heidegger and meaning through earphones while running with youth basketball going on below was pretty much a lost cause.  What was interesting was this program on Zola in England.  After the Dreyfus trial, Zola fled to London – by doing so, he enabled keeping the case open.  While in England, he began work on his last series of books, the first of which was called Fecundity or Fruitfulness – and, although Zola is a hard slog (I read Lourdes – barely), the premise is fascinating and timely – in which Zola blames oppressive social and economic systems for discouraging the lower classes from reproducing, decrying contraception, abortion and child abandonment….

— 3 —

I’m currently reading The Colony, which is about the history of the leper colony at Molokai. The origins of the place are so sad, an example of incompetent and deceptive government action in the face of tragedy.

Related, but somewhat contrasting is this fascinating story that provided me with a brief excursion down the rabbit hole this past week:

In 1803, King Charles of Spain ordered an extraordinary expedition: Smallpox was, of course, taking a terrible toll on the Spanish colonies so…..

On September 1, 1803, King Charles IV of Spain, who had lost one of his own children to smallpox, issued a royal order to all royal officers and religious authorities in his American and Asian domains, announcing the arrival of a vaccination expedition and commanding their support to

  • vaccinate the masses free of charge,
  • teach the domains how to prepare the smallpox vaccine, and
  • organize municipal vaccination boards throughout the domains to record the vaccinations performed and to keep live serum for future vaccinations.

The expedition to vaccinate the population in South America against smallpox was a public health undertaking of staggering proportions. A small group set out by ship and horse to traverse present-day Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Panama, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, and Bolivia, carrying the vaccine and administering it in villages and cities along the way. The territory was not only vast but also brutally harsh, with precipitous mountains, dense jungles, and uncharted rivers. The expedition traveled in primitive riverboats and on mules when the terrain was too rugged for horses.

First Destination: Puerto Rico

The María Pita left the Spanish harbor of La Coruña on November 30, 1803, with the smallpox vaccination expedition team consisting of a director, Dr. Francisco Xavier Balmis; an assistant director, Dr. Jóse Salvany Lleopart; and several assistants and paramedics. The ship reached Puerto Rico in February 1804 with its cargo of vaccine serum preserved between sealed glass plates; also onboard were 21 children from the orphanage at La Coruña who carried the vaccine through arm-to-arm vaccinations performed sequentially during the ship’s journey, and thousands of copies of a treatise describing how to vaccinate and preserve the serum, recounts José Rigau-Pérez in an article on the smallpox vaccine in Puerto Rico.

More here and here. 

— 4 —

I’m going to try to do a learning post tonight, but in short, this week was a week of lots of science (properties of matter, heat transfer), art (printmaking) and puzzles (logic chapter of Beast Academy)

"amy welborn"

Also, here’s a fun thing:  Hit the Lego store when the staff is unpacking a shipment and you just might find yourself the recipient of big bags of random pieces they don’t have room to stock in those bins on the back wall….and it might be your lucky day.

— 5 —

Through reading H. Allen’s Smith’s The Pig in the Barber Shop, I discovered a book called Father Juniper and the General, "amy welborn"written in the late 50’s by another American ex-pat in Mexico named James Norman.  It’s in the Don Camillo – Father Malachy genre – priest does battle with and outwits local civil/social authorities, and it’s amusing.  I’m surprised I’d never heard of it, considering I thought I’d read or at least heard of every vaguely Catholic themed middle-brow book published in the US in the mid=century when I was editing the Loyola Classics, but apparently not!

— 6 —

I actually accompanied my kids to the movies the other day (they are old enough to go on their own, together now) – Big Hero 6, which was…good!  As usual with movies today (get off my lawn!) the climactic battle goes on waaaaay too long, but the setting – a mythical more Far Eastern version of San Francisco – was fascinating and the animated characters were surprisingly well individuated.

Speaking of movies: over the holiday weekend, we watched Strangers on a Train, which I enjoyed for some fantastic set-pieces and Robert Walker’s compelling performance, and didn’t enjoy for the mostly-stiff other performances and off-putting amoral tone surrounding the murder of Granger’s wife and the “happy ending” of him and his paramour.  I just thought that was so weird.

Also, The Trouble With Angels, which I hadn’t seen in a while, but is so good. Still. I had remembered the Hayley Mills’ character’s embrace of religious life as more of a surprise, and while it is a bit of a twist, the really observant viewer can see it coming, and her spiritual discomfort and awakening is sketched rather well, as she confronts her own fears about getting old and dying , encounters mercy again and again in the Rosalind Russel’s Mother Superior, and observes the ties of family among the sisters, a kind of family she’s never experienced herself.  It’s based on a memoir called Life With Mother Superior by Jane Trahey, a female pioneer in advertising, and the Hayley Mills character is based on a friend of hers who really did go on to become a Dominican Sinsinawa! 

— 7 —

 

Better Call Saul actually looks like it might be…good.  When it was first floated, I thought, “Oh, no….” and when it was announced as a thing, I thought, “Not a good idea.”  But in reading about the show’s premise, in which there are actually emotional stakes at work and seeing previews, I’m getting excited.  I’ve read a couple of reviewers who opine that it’s better than BB…hard to imagine,but… Love the logo!

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

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"amy welborn"

Yes, this still exists and is in use.

It was sighted yesterday at an open house for a school we’re considering for next year’s high schooler.

And honestly, even though the librarian said they’re in the process of switching over to a computer based system, the fact that in 2014, they still used a card catalog was almost enough to tip my vote.  Almost.  

Isn’t that strange? Because aren’t we supposed to be attracted by the New Shiny Tech that will assure us that our kids are Ready for the Global Challenges of the 21st Century?

For me, not really.  As much as I appreciate Computer Things, I’m a Luddite when it comes to classroom tech.  I am not impressed by boasts that “we have an Ipad for every kid!” and fundraisers for yet more classroom tech that will be obsolete in two years.

There was a woman at this open house who had come from another state with her child looking for an alternative school because her daughter’s school had gone to all Ipad for textbooks.  No actual books.  Just swiping on screens.

I have always suspected that our retention of material read on screens is poorer than that read in print on pages we turn while holding a book.  How many times have you recalled a quote or passage and were helped in that memory by the fact that you could remember where the passage lay on the page or how the book felt or smelled?

As an person who has been observing education from various perspectives for about 30 years now, I can say that one of the things that has puzzled me is this:

Over the past decades, we have been constantly reminded that people have different learning styles.  Teachers have been exhausted by workshops outlining all the different ways in which they are expected to meet the needs of different learning styles while teaching what a noun is or how to add fractions:  visual, auditory, tactile, kinetic..etc…..

So isn’t it strange and counterproductive that as awareness of these different learning styles has grown, we have slowly but surely stripped education of all but the visual?  Actually, physically writing things down helps retention – but let’s just type instead.   Sitting with a book leads to better retention than swiping screens..but..let’s pulp the books and hand every kid an Ipad instead.

So sure, computer-based cataloging system is far more flexible and less time-consuming and efficient.  But isn’t it funny how when an institution isn’t in such a rush to keep up with this ever-changing world, it’s set apart..and inspires a closer look and the intrigued question of why? …instead simply swiping to the next screen?

Huh.

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As part of his General Audience series on the Greek and Latin Church Fathers, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI spoke twice about St. Jerome, whose feast is today:

First:

What can we learn from St Jerome? It seems to me, this above all; to love the Word of God in Sacred Scripture. St Jerome said: “Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ”. It is therefore important that every Christian live in contact and in personal dialogue with the Word of God given to us in Sacred Scripture. This dialogue with Scripture must always have two dimensions: on the one hand, it must be a truly personal dialogue because God speaks with each one of us through Sacred Scripture and it has a message for each one. We must not read Sacred Scripture as a word of the past but as the Word of God that is also addressed to us, and we must try to understand what it is that the Lord wants to tell us. However, to avoid falling into individuali"amy welborn"sm, we must bear in mind that the Word of God has been given to us precisely in order to build communion and to join forces in the truth on our journey towards God. Thus, although it is always a personal Word, it is also a Word that builds community, that builds the Church. We must therefore read it in communion with the living Church. The privileged place for reading and listening to the Word of God is the liturgy, in which, celebrating the Word and making Christ’s Body present in the Sacrament, we actualize the Word in our lives and make it present among us. We must never forget that the Word of God transcends time. Human opinions come and go. What is very modern today will be very antiquated tomorrow. On the other hand, the Word of God is the Word of eternal life, it bears within it eternity and is valid for ever. By carrying the Word of God within us, we therefore carry within us eternity, eternal life.

The next week:

For Jerome, a fundamental criterion of the method for interpreting the Scriptures was harmony with the Church’s Magisterium. We should never read Scripture alone because we meet too many closed doors and could easily slip into error. The Bible has been written by the People of God and for the People of God under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Only in this communion with the People of God do we truly enter into the “we”, into the nucleus of the truth that God himself wants to tell us. For him, an authentic interpretation of the Bible must always be in harmonious accord with the faith of the Catholic Church. It is not a question of an exegesis imposed on this Book from without; the Book is really the voice of the pilgrim People of God and only in the faith of this People are we “correctly attuned” to understand Sacred Scripture. Therefore, Jerome admonishes: “Remain firmly attached to the traditional doctrine that you have been taught, so that you can preach according to right doctrine and refute those who contradict it” (Ep. 52, 7). In particular, given that Jesus Christ founded his Church on Peter, every Christian, he concludes, must be in communion “with St Peter’s See. I know that on this rock the Church is built” (Ep. 15, 2). Consequently, without equivocation, he declared: “I am with whoever is united to the teaching of St Peter” (Ep. 16).

Obviously, Jerome does not neglect the ethical aspect. Indeed, he often recalls the duty to harmonize one’s life with the divine Word, and only by living it does one also find the capacity to understand it. This consistency is indispensable for every Christian, and particularly for the preacher, so that his actions may never contradict his discourses nor be an embarrassment to him. Thus, he exhorts the priest Nepotian: “May your actions never be unworthy of your words, may it not happen that, when you preach in church, someone might say to himself: “Why does he therefore not act like this?’. How could a teacher, on a full stomach, discuss fasting; even a thief can blame avarice; but in the priest of Christ the mind and words must harmonize” (Ep. 52, 7). In another Epistle Jerome repeats: “Even if we possess a splendid doctrine, the person who feels condemned by his own conscience remains disgraced” (Ep. 127, 4). Also on the theme of consistency he observes: the Gospel must translate into truly charitable behaviour, because in each human being the Person of Christ himself is present. For example, addressing the presbyter Paulinus (who then became Bishop of Nola and a Saint), Jerome counsels: “The true temple of Christ is the soul of the faithful: adorn it and beautify this shrine, place your offerings in it and receive Christ. What is the use of decorating the walls with precious stones if Christ dies of hunger in the person of the poor?” (Ep. 58, 7). Jerome concretizes the need “to clothe Christ in the poor, to visit him in the suffering, to nourish him in the hungry, to house him in the homeless” (Ep. 130, 14). The love of Christ, nourished with study and meditation, makes us rise above every difficulty: “Let us also love Jesus Christ, always seeking union with him: then even what is difficult will seem easy to us” (Ep. 22, 40).

Prosper of Aquitaine, who defined Jerome as a “model of conduct and teacher of the human race” (Carmen de ingratis, 57), also left us a rich and varied teaching on Christian asceticism. He reminds us that a courageous commitment towards perfection requires constant vigilance, frequent mortifications, even if with moderation and prudence, and assiduous intellectual and manual labour to avoid idleness (cf. Epp. 125, 11; 130, 15), and above all obedience to God: “Nothing… pleases God as much as obedience…, which is the most excellent and sole virtue” (Hom. de Oboedientia: CCL 78, 552). The practice of pilgrimage can also be part of the ascetical journey. In particular, Jerome promoted pilgrimages to the Holy Land, where pilgrims were welcomed and housed in the lodgings that were built next to the monastery of Bethlehem, thanks to the generosity of the noblewoman Paula, a spiritual daughter of Jerome (cf. Ep. 108, 14).

Lastly, one cannot remain silent about the importance that Jerome gave to the matter of Christian pedagogy (cf. Epp. 107; 128). He proposed to form “one soul that must become the temple of the Lord” (Ep. 107, 4), a “very precious gem” in the eyes of God (Ep. 107, 13). With profound intuition he advises to preserve oneself from evil and from the occasions of sin, and to exclude equivocal or dissipating friendships (cf. Ep. 107, 4, 8-9; also Ep. 128, 3-4). Above all, he exhorts parents to create a serene and joyful environment around their children, to stimulate them to study and work also through praise and emulation (cf. Epp.107, 4; 128, 1), encouraging them to overcome difficulties, foster good habits and avoid picking up bad habits, so that, and here he cites a phrase of Publius Siro which he heard at school: “it will be difficult for you to correct those things to which you are quietly habituating yourself” (Ep. 107, 8). Parents are the principal educators of their children, the first teachers of life. With great clarity Jerome, addressing a young girl’s mother and then mentioning her father, admonishes, almost expressing a fundamental duty of every human creature who comes into existence: “May she find in you her teacher, and may she look to you with the inexperienced wonder of childhood. Neither in you, nor in her father should she ever see behaviour that could lead to sin, as it could be copied. Remember that… you can educate her more by example than with words” (Ep. 107, 9). Among Jerome’s principal intuitions as a pedagogue, one must emphasize the importance he attributed to a healthy and integral education beginning from early childhood, the particular responsibility belonging to parents, the urgency of a serious moral and religious formation and the duty to study for a more complete human formation. Moreover, an aspect rather disregarded in ancient times but held vital by our author is the promotion of the woman, to whom he recognizes the right to a complete formation: human, scholastic, religious, professional. We see precisely today how the education of the personality in its totality, the education to responsibility before God and man, is the true condition of all progress, all peace, all reconciliation and the exclusion of violence. Education before God and man: it is Sacred Scripture that offers us the guide for education and thus of true humanism.

And why is a lion one of Jerome’s attributes in art?

St. Jerome was quite a popular subject for artists – the inherent drama of his situation – out there in the wilderness, surrounded by his texts, translating and writing  – was quite attractive to artists.

And what of that lion? The imagery is rooted in early medieval hagiography which told a story  – inspired most assume by Aesop, but others draw connections to nother saint, >Gerasimus, whose legend includes a similar tale. The story is of a lion, rescued from a wound by Jerome, who is brought into the monastery to watch and protect the monks’ donkey. One day, the donkey is lost, and the monks (not Jerome) assume the lion has killed him, and punish him with menial tasks as a consequence.

The donkey, however, had been stolen by traders, and one evening the lion sees the donkey, returning with the traders, and he alerts the monastery. The monks, so quick to rush to judgment, are chastised by Jerome, and the lion lives out his days, faithful to his friend.

Goddenstjerome_1There are at least two versions of this story retold for children. The more contemporary version was written by Margaret Hodges, who has quite a few saints’ books under her belt, and illustrated by Barry Moser.

Then there’s the Rumer Godden version which is a little longer than the modern telling, and is of course, by Rumer Godden.

 

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— 1 —

Last weekend was mostly lived without the boys around – they were camping – so in their absence I did things like extended my exercise time (fun!), watched a Fellini film, went to Mass on a Saturday during college football season and ate at a restaurant that doesn’t have chicken fingers or pizza on the menu.

— 2 —

I also hit an estate sale. Now, the boys don’t mind going to estate sales.  Most of the time, in fact, when I offer, they choose to come along.  Joseph is always on the lookout for sports cards and Michael for…anything, Mexican themes preferred.

But this one – one of the few this weekend (estate sales really slow down around here during college football season – see #1) was kind of far out of town, and not one that I’d have dragged them to.

About 2/3 of the estate sales I go to are in homes that have been fairly well kept up, some spectacularly so.  The other 1/3 are thought-provoking, sad and sometimes horrible.  This was one of those.

It was in a fairly large Tudor in what was one of the “better” neighborhoods of this outlying community. The area was probably fairly sharp in the 80’s, but, well, it’s not the 80’s.  And this home was a wreck.  No serious cleaning in probably 30 years, threadbare, filthy carpet, piles of stuff everywhere, general decrepitude and worse, really. The house was for sale, but honestly, you’d have to gut it to even begin to make it livable.

It only took a quick look to see that there wasn’t anything I’d be interested in (often even in those situations I can find a small bookshelf or table that’s great for a quick, cheap, colorful redo – not here), and then lingered at the top of the stairs to the basement,listening to the fellow running the sale relate the late owner’s story – a 95-year old woman who’d fallen outside while taking down her flag. Broke her hip, complications ensued, and she died.

I always wonder..she was living in this?  Was she so stubborn that she wouldn’t allow anyone to help her?  Did she have children, grandchildren or other relations? Were they all awful people, had she alienated them, had they just drifted apart?

And just as the estate sales are reminders to me about where my real treasure lies, they’re also reminders to…try very hard not to be that 95-year old woman living in squalor.  Five kids…my chances are decent that one of them will still like me enough in forty years, right?

Anyway, after I finished eavesdropping looking upstairs, I headed to the basement and was stopped short by what greeted me on the stairway.  Papering the walls of the stairway, one side even backlit somehow, were pinups from no later than the 60’s – torn and cut out from magazines and calendars, I suppose, most very demure – and at the bottom of the stairs a basement full of what you would find in a basement workshop, much of piled up, some surprisingly organized.

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Hard to take this shot without looking creepy.

What a sight, from top to bottom.

— 3 —

After that, I went church-hunting.  I wanted to find the original St. Mark’s Catholic Church - one of the first Catholic churches built in Birmingham after the (now) Cathedral of St. Paul.  It was constructed for the Italian immigrants who peopled the area, immigrants who have long since moved to other sections of the city.  There is a new St. Mark’s now, built twenty miles south of this, in a well-off section of the county.

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It’s now a Protestant church of some type.

I’m really looking forward to a new exhibit at our Vulcan museum, one that starts this weekend, focusing on the Italian community.

vulcan italian exhibit

Unfortunately, we’re missing the St. George Melkite Catholic Middle Eastern Food Festival this weekend – maybe we’ll catch the Greek Festival the following weekend...and the Jewish Food Festival later in October or the Russian/Slavic Festival in November….

— 4 —

The week has proceeded as normal – school(s), music classes, science center class (no boxing this week), and an outing to Moss Rock Preserve, just about 20 minutes from our house when the traffic cooperates.

"amy welborn"

— 5 —

It seems as if “Book Week” is turning into “Book Month” as I post about my books at this surprisingly glacial rate.  This week, I got to my books for teens and young adults – here. 

(Also earlier this week, in case you missed it, I wrote about my first solo trip to New York City, when I was 18.)

— 6 —

BBC podcasts?

Since In Our Time is still on its summer hiatus, I’ve had to fill the gap mostly with science documentaries and what other history I can find over there.  One series that has caught my interest has been Great Lives, in which the host is joined by one enthusiast who has chosen the “great life” to discuss, and then an academic expert on said great life.

I particularly enjoyed this episode – punk poet John Cooper Clarke on Salvador Dali, whom, he says, “entered my life as a Catholic mystic.”

There’s an audio excerpt of that section here  – less than 2 minutes.  And an interview with Clarke here. Amidst all the drug and punk culture talk, there’s this:

Clarke grew up a Catholic and still has faith. “People who believe in God are happier than those who don’t. I’ve never met a happy atheist.”

I was intrigued in a different way by this episode with the almost always irritating and pretentious Naomi Wolf on her pick, Edith Wharton.  What was interesting to me about the program, the picture of Wharton that had evolved was of a not-very likable person whose “revolutionary” sensibilities had nothing to do with women – she opposed suffrage and refused to fund scholarships for women particularly since doing so might risk funding an education for a Jewish woman)  in general but were really only about Edith Wharton.  The host raised the spectre of selfishness at the very end of the program, but Wolf did her best to wave it away…

— 7 —

All right.  Next week – my books with Ann Englehart, with special attention paid to Adventures in Assisi, of course!

"amy welborn"

Some photos from one of the inspirations for the book – my own trip to Assisi with the boys two years ago…..sigh.

"amy welborn"

"amy welborn" "amy welborn" "amy welborn"

Oh, and I did cook this week, but instead of talking about that, I”ll point you to this. It’s the most true thing I read on the Internet today.  Just don’t read it in a hotel room with children who are trying to go to sleep. 

“I don’t have any of these ingredients at home. Could you rewrite this based on the food I do have in my house? I’m not going to tell you what food I have. You have to guess.”

“I don’t eat white flour, so I tried making it with raw almonds that I’d activated by chewing them with my mouth open to receive direct sunlight, and it turned out terrible. This recipe is terrible.”

“Could you please give the metric weight measurements, and sometime in the next twenty minutes; I’m making this for a dinner party and my guests are already here.”

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— 1 —

Add this to scenes I never expected to happen in my life:

Me saying to my HOMESCHOOLED son: “Hurry up and finish your work so we can go buy the MOUSE for your SNAKE to EAT.”

Just in case you’re around 30 years old and think that you know where life is going….

Speaking of learning and link-ups, Melanie Bettinelli is beginning one entitled “Guilt-Free Learning Notes” which I’ll be participating in – starting this Saturday. Should be fun.

— 2 —

So Sunday we went to Whole Foods after Mass.  We were just getting milk and my lime sparkling water so Joseph stayed in the car and Michael and I ran in.

At one point, an older man walked down our aisle with his cart. I looked at him, he glanced at me, I nodded because in that instant I recognized him, without knowing why or how and the nod just happened. He nodded back.  Courteous-like, the way we do down here.  We moved on.

But it bugged me.  I don’t latch on to random people, imagining that I know them.  If my subconscious is joggled, it’s for real.  I I just couldn’t identify him, though.  I definitely felt that I *knew* him in some sense.  I went through the checklist of my rather limited local circles. Church(es)? No. School(s)? No.  Neighborhood(s)?  I don’t think so…but maybe….

And then it hit me.

He looked exactly like the actor who plays the Senator in that fantastic show Rectify. 

I mean – didn’t look like him.  Looked to be him.

Could it be?  I mean, I knew that one of the Rectify actors lives in the area – Clayne Crawford, who plays Teddy, Jr, but..this guy? I didn’t even know his name. As the seconds past, the less sure I was.

So we checked out, we went to the car, and I sat behind the wheel. I got the Ipad from Joseph and looked up the Senator.

And this article came up: “Vegas, Gray’s Anatomy star Michael O’Neill moves back to Alabama.”

In fact, the man whose character went on a murderous rampage in a memorable “Grey’s Anatomy” season finale is a family man, an actor and an Alabama native who recently moved back to the area.

Originally from Montgomery, the Auburn grad moved back to Alabama in November of last year to be closer to his father, who has since died. He also wanted to give his three teenage children a taste of his home.

More recently, some of you might recognize him from this summer’s CBS show, Extant. 

Yup. That was him. Amazing. So..what to do now? Go be a fangirl, not only of him, but mostly of Rectify?

Damn straight!

The boys were, of course, mortified and declined to go back in.  I casually strolled up and down the aisles of Whole Foods, not at all in a stalkerish fashion, no not me,  and there he was – chatting with  couple of other women.  I waited until they were finished, and approached.  He was so very nice, asking my name, expressing both surprise and gratitude that I watched Rectify. We talked about the pleasures of a well-done program committed to be realistic about the contemporary South, I mentioned the appeal of the spiritual themes, and just thanked him for his work. Very gracious fellow!

(And no…I didn’t ask for a photo…)

— 3 —

My 9-year old is taking a boxing class with other homeschooled boys. He loves it.  I don’t know what it is about the coach/teacher who runs the class and the gym, but he has a gift for motivating.  The kid is wiped out by the end of the hour (a 9-year old? Taking shower in the middle of the day? Get out....) but also totally pumped and positive. It’s like magic.

— 4 —

I reread Waugh’s Handful of Dust this week, just because I was not in the mood for Collins’ intricacies. I’ll get back in that groove this weekend.  Boy I had forgotten how dark that book is.  You know, people always rag on Miss O’Connor for being “dark” and grotesque, but honestly – read Wise Blood next to the early Waugh, and you can see what real darkness – that is without even a glimmer of grace – is.  Precise, knowing and hilarious, yes…but ever so depressing.

— 5 —

Speaking of British things, do you know what I’ve never watched?  You guessed. Downton Abbey.  I don’t know why I’ve never been interested.  I think my deep loyalty to Upstairs, Downstairs has closed my mind to what I perceive as an uppity usurper.

And speaking of those old Masterpiece Theater series, what were your favorites? As a teen I gobbled them up, especially – in addition to U/D:

I, Claudius

The Pallisers 

Shoulder to Shoulder.

My parents were devotees, as I recall, of The Forsythe Saga and The First Churchills, but I was too young to care when they were into them and I only remember thinking that they looked beyond boring..  But I adored Derek Jacobi (Claudius), was captivated by the unwilling,but ultimately loving marriage of the Pallisers and probably a little in love with Donal McCann who played Phineas Finn.

Shoulder to Shoulder was a 6-part dramatization of the woman’s suffrage movement in Britain, and was a huge influence on me.  I think it helped situate my thinking about feminism in a historical context, giving my young self a sort of freedom from the secular feminist cant of the 70’s.  It’s a very powerful series and, oddly enough, is one of the few such series never released in recorded format.  Can’t find it anywhere.

— 6 —

My daughter, who lives and works in Bavaria, has taken a short trip to Verona and environs this week.  You can see some of her pics from Verona here, and catch what she saw yesterday – 9/11 - in Venice yesterday here.  

Us? Well, we went to Oak Mountain! Go, us!

"amy welborn"

That was actually a nice day – after the first half of the week full of lessons and classes (Because no socialization!) , we could finally get out after the hated cursive and not-quite-hated math was done.  A good hike, then a turn around Aldridge Gardens and then the library.  All the time with the steady soundtrack of detailed descriptions of Lord of the Rings Lego sets….

— 7 —

I’ve continued my slow march through my books…..for adults (including RCIA)  here...for kids here…devotional and parish materials here.  Still to come, materials for teens and the four books Ann Engelhart and I have done together.

(And remember…today’s the feast of the Most Holy Name of Mary...so how about that free Mary book?)

St. Francis’ feastday is coming soon!  Time to talk about Adventures in Assisi!

"amy welborn"

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