Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Our schizoid society

Look what you can get for just $129.00.

I don't know, these are just... weird. Too realistic maybe. Too fetus-like? That's it. A newborn is basically a fetus outside the womb, and these dolls capture that look.

What would happen, I wonder, if somebody tried to market a realistic aborted fetus doll?


Sunday, August 28, 2005

lovely, hilarious, and true

Sister Margaret Charles sent me this, which originated in Jeff Miller's blog, The Curt Jester and comes via The Happy Catholic. The Happy Catholic uses the same generic blog template that I have lately adopted. Sisters under the skin!

[Which reminds me, I've got to figure out where in my new generic template I put the HTML to bring up links to the blogs I like.]

Anyway, here it is. For Catholic Bloggers, a litany all our own:

The Litany of Blog Humility

From the desire of my blog being read
Deliver me dear Jesus
From the desire of my blog being praised
Deliver me dear Jesus
From the fear of my blog being despised
Deliver me dear Jesus
From the fear of my blog being forgotten
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it
From the fear of no page views
Deliver me dear Jesus
That other blogs may be loved more than mine
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it
That Nihil Obstat may find all my grammatical and spelling errors
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it
That Google may never list my blog
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it
That comments always be negative and abusive
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it
That my commenting system always say "commenting temporarily unavailable"
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it
That Mark Shea may notice every blog but mine
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it
That others may be pithier than I, provided that I may become as pithy as I should
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Too many bugs

Too many bugs.

That sums up my disappointment with Terry Gilliam's latest movie, The Brothers Grimm. Terry Gilliam's work has always contained both gritty realism and fabulous flights of fancy -- as in Brazil where Jonathan Pryce's Sam Lowry struggles to keep body and soul together in a nightmarish Orwellian society while dreaming at night of beautiful winged creatures. But in The Brothers Grimm, there are too few flights of fancy and too much gritty realism.

That brings me to the bugs. CGI bugs, as I am to understand. One of the spookier conceits of the movie is that young virgins are being kidnapped from a German town and taken by horrific means through the Dark Forest of all Dark Forests to be entombed in a circle around a tall tower where a Rapunzel-like evil queen needs their youth to regain her beauty.

Little girls like Gretel of the Hansel and Gretel tale and Little Red Riding Hood make a striking visual image entombed in all their youthful beauty in great stone sarcophagi... except for the animated bugs that swarm around said sarcophagi. I'm sorry, but there's no sense of dark wonder when bugs are swarming around. Bugs kill the sense of wonder for me. I get only the sense of disgust.

That's my complaint in a nutshell. More went wrong with the film, but to me it all comes down to the bugs. Still, a bad Terry Gilliam film is still worth seeing on the big screen on opening night, as Emily and I did yesterday. Far more boring films are not worth seeing outside of one's own home at all.

Wedding Crashers -- now THAT was a hilarious movie. Ish, Em and I went to see it last week after my friend Teri, who hasn't been laughing all that much lately, emailed me that she laughed more than she had all year at that film. Raunchy and funny.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Fr. Alberione Friday

The apostle is one who carries God within and irradiates God to others.

The apostle has a heart glowing with the love of God and the love of humanity, and can neither restrain nor suffocate what he or she feels and thinks.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

school is in the air!

I had a great day at work today. Helped three people with web tasks, two with scanning jobs. No matter what, no matter where.... when a new school year begins, the air buzzes with the promise of New Beginnings.

I want to buy school supplies!

And remember the smell of a new container of paste? No elmer's glue, but that cool white paste that came with a little brush on the underside of the cap. Mmmmmm, paste.

In third grade, our new teacher didn't arrive until the first whole month of school was through. This was on a US Air Base in Germany, and I guess there weren't any substitute teachers. So for a solid month, we had only art and music every day. Oh, plus recitation of the multiplication tables. I made a paper mache (sp) snake that I painted green, gold and brown. It was cool and hard I could use it as a cudgel.

That was a sweet September. Math, art, music and recess. And still the promise of New Beginnings in the air.

bestsellers in children's fiction

I'm doing analyses of market trends in the publishing industry. Trying to see what is selling, see if I can stay on top on trends. I've been reading Publisher's Weekly. If I am going to get serious about Pious Ladies Literary Agency then I'm not going to query into the blue on behalf of my authors. Fascinating stuff when you look at children's fiction. Here are this week's bestsellers:

1 Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Rowling, J. K.
No surprise there, although oddly enough none of the larger retail franchises made a killing with HP and the smaller retail bookstores either broke even or got stuck with a lot of excess copies that they cannot return for three months, causing cash shortages. While the book was an outstanding media event for bookselling, and sold phenomenally, it was so heavily discounted as well as being sold directly via Scholastic and amazon.com that booksellers across the country overstocked on it.

2 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Dahl, Roald
What a boost to sales of a backlisted book a hit movie can make.

3 Eragon. Christopher Paolini
Christopher Paolini began Eragon when he was just 15, and the book shows the influence of Tolkien, Terry Brooks, Anne McCaffrey, and perhaps even Wagner in its traditional quest structure and the generally agreed-upon nature of dwarves, elves, dragons, and heroic warfare with magic swords. That's from the Publisher's description. Paolini is a hot author at the moment, one of many very young hot authors. That's a definite trend I can see in sales - authors in their teens are being snapped up and publicized.

4 Ready or Not. Cabot, Meg
By the author of the Princess Diaries books. Not a fantasy or genre book except maybe junior chick lit.

5 Artemis Fowl: The Opal Deception. Colfer, Eoin

6 Inkheart. Cornelia Funke
FANTASY. Meggie’s father, Mo, has an wonderful and sometimes terrible ability. When he reads aloud from books, he brings the characters to life--literally.

7 Hoot. Hiaasen, Carl
First children's book from popular adult author. MYSTERY.

8 Because of Winn-Dixie. Dicamillo, Kate

9 Chasing Vermeer. Blue Balliett
MYSTERY. Being heralded as The DaVinci Code for kids. About a missing Vermeer painting.

10 ttyl. Lauren Myracle
Had to happen sooner or later. Internet instant messaging shorthand for "talk to you later" forms the title of an epistolary novel entirely out of IM transcripts between three high-school girls. I wrote a story myself 13 years ago that was epistolary in nature but via PLATO p-notes.

11 Speak. Anderson, Laurie Halse
" A stunning and sympathetic tribute to the teenage outcast" . Shiver, but not because it's a mystery or horror.

12 Dragon Rider. Cornelia Funke

13 A Great and Terrible Beauty. Libba Bray

14 The People of Sparks. DuPrau, Jeanne.
Cautionary SF Tale set in an apocalyptic future. Sequel to #15, The City of Ember.

15 The City of Ember. DuPrau, Jeanne.
Cautionary SF Tale set in an apocalyptic future.

See the pattern? Out of the 15 best-sellers, 10 are genre fiction (primarily fantasy).

I've GOT to pitch Kyle's comic fantasy Heroes Elected as a young adult book, not adult.

collateral damage

I was talking to Diane the other night about setting up a September Pious Ladies meeting. Just a light-hearted conversation.

Until she said, "What happened to your Pious Ladies web page? Carlotta and I were in North Carolina and tried to show it to our mother. But we couldn't find it. Did you take it down?"

Ooof, ouch, bang, bing, stab to the heart! While other UD employees may publish personal web pages on UD space, I have been required to take mine down.

I spent 15+ years creating Rae's Potpourri on the UD web space. Gone in an instant. I have had folks from all over the world email me about cool stuff they found on my site. The guy who asked permission to read one of my poems at his wedding. The other guy who asked if he could set one of my poems to music and record it on his CD. My cousin Antoinette, writing from out of the blue from NYC because she was googling her last name "D'Orazio" and found my tribute page to my dad. The many friends of Father Goldstein who were so happy to come across my Fr. Goldstein Files which is still the only source of online information about the charismatic, quirky OMI priest who impacted the lives of so many people with whom he came in contact. The parents who saw my Delaware Medical Journal article about Eric and wrote to tell me of their own child with thanatophoric dwarfism.

My work was good. It was useful. I cannot tell you how many people in my own department initiated wonderful conversations with me on a wide range of subjects of general human interest because my writing touched them. They found me approachable in a way they had not known until they read my writings.

A writer has to have a readership. I have been content to be only occasionally published in print because I have enjoyed a wide and satisfying readership from what I have published electronically. Yes, I could have used non-UD space from the very beginning but see... stupid me, I thought what I was publishing was of benefit to the University, I thought it was my work just as the PhD's I work with count their publications as important to the University's mission. I thought I was part of a university family, part of an institution of higher learning whose coin of the realm was the imagination, the mind, and the wondrous confections that pour from an open heart, a vivid imagination and a quick mind.

Collateral damage. Rae's Potpourri can be reconstructed elsewhere, of course. And some of the more important stuff, like the Father Goldstein Files, really ought to be because that historical record can't be gotten elsewhere.

But I haven't the heart to dig in and do the work to change the links and put it all up elsewhere. I look at the work of my heart, on which I labored with such love for so many years at night, on weekends, in the wee hours of the night, the work that was so casually dumped by the institution that I thought was my community.

I don't have the heart to reconstruct in another community the work that was created for a place I once thought of as my home away from home.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Of red lights, green lights, thumbs and big toes

One of the greatest obstacles to rational discourse on the subject of religion is that the word itself acts like a traffic light, signaling GREEN to folks who are attracted to the subject, RED to folks who are turned off by it, and YELLOW to the folks who are tolerant but not intrigued. The trouble is, there exist no natural intersections at which to direct oppositional traffic. All the traffic is moving in the same direction. We are all moving toward the only conclusion to life that we can all agree on, that is, death. And so the RED LIGHT folks and the GREEN LIGHT folks keep banging into each other as some stop and some go, while the YELLOW LIGHT folks mosey at a steady clip but eventually tip over into the RED or the GREEN.

People who love their community of faith cannot imagine those who despise the thought of "organized religion". People whose communities of faith are centered around non-religious commonality (eg., those who believe in The Academy, or those who believe in A Political Party) can't imagine those whose church is an extension of their family.

My daughter Emily agreed to study a passage from the Bible with me today even though she hates the Bible or so she says. I had a need to discuss some random passage with someone who doesn't believe it is revelation. We chose the opening text of the Book of Judges because Mike mentioned that it wasted some good opportunity for character development. I've probably not looked at the Book of Judges in 20 years or more.

In the passage, Judah and his men win a victory in battle against some Caananite king with a name like Albibezer. Albibezer gets his thumbs and big toes chopped off by Judah & Co. The now-thumbless king turns around and states that God has given him what he deserved, since prior to this he had entertained himself with a dozen conquered kings whose thumbs and big toes HE had lopped off who spent their time crawling around under his table looking for scraps of food.

I wonder if Jesus was thinking of this when he talked about plucking out your eye or cutting off your hand if either lead you into sin. And chopping off the body parts of enemies is still a custom among some denizens of the Near East.

Fr. Alberione Wednesday

The lowest degree of grace is worth more than all the material, moral, and intellectual goods of the world, since grace is of a higher order.

- from Donec Formetur Christus in Vobis (UNTIL CHRIST BE FORMED IN YOU).

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

back to work

After 11 days of vacation I return to work. I went in last night to pack some food in Kyle's legacy refrigerator so I could start having healthier lunches, but also to see how it felt to be back. It felt okay. Today I enjoyed helping various folks out with back-to-school computer tasks. Tom asked if I was "relaxed and recovered"; I admitted to the first but protested my inability to ever achieve the second. "I hate this place," I said cheerfully.

The erstwhile bitterness in my heart has mutated into a kind of brittle good humor. I was on my guard at all times at work. Clipped in speech. Briskly efficient.

Day one down. (365*2)-(52*2)-holidays & vacations to go. For the moment I've decided to look at it as a prison sentence. And what a great prison! They pay me, let me out for hours and hours each day. No lock-down. No guards. A sweet sentence, easy to serve.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

another world

After trying but failing to make it to Philcon two years ago and ConSecration this year, I finally attended my first fan convention in 20+ years last weekend in the Poconos. I am still processing the experience of Moonlight Rising , a small Buffy/Angel fan-run convention I discovered when looking for things to do on my road trip.

I had so many adventures at Moonlight Rising that after the four days of the con I no longer wanted to continue on my long-awaited road trip. I just wanted to be home with my family, surrounded by folks who loved me and treated each other decently at all levels.

I signed a confidentiality agreement as a paying volunteer at the con, so I can't reveal the most interesting parts of the weekend. However, let's just say that if I had paid my money without volunteering, the con would not have been worth it to me for the planned events themselves. The emphasis was not on the shows and their content but on the celebrity of the actors who performed in the shows. They only had three fan panels, and one of them had exactly eight participants. Photo shoots and autograph lines took up a big chunk of time, neither of which activities interests me as a fan although I did enjoy them as a volunteer doing crowd control and guest greeting. I also enjoyed being part of the demographic, as the con was heavily attended and run by "femmes d'une certain age" like myself. There was probably one guy for every 15 females in attendance. Besides the middle-aged folks like myself there were plenty of 20-something and 30-something ladies also.

I liked the intimacy of the atmosphere, there was a cap of 800 attendees on the con and it was deliberately set away from a big-city venue where it would attract a lot of day-trippers. I spent four days immersed in what felt like a combination of a Robert Altman film (think Nashville), the TV show Entourage, and the Cameron Crowe movie Almost Famous. It was an intense, fascinating experience, a hothouse of diverse personalities laboring with little or no sleep or food to create an alcohol-infused four-day party that kept threatening to go off the skids altogether. I met some very cool people there whose acquaintance I hope to continue, and I have a great respect for the folks who organized and pulled off this labor of love. If I ever returned to this particular con, it would be as a dealer selling my used horror/SF/mystery books.

The best buy in the dealer's room: wooden handmade stakes for $5.00 made by two talented young women who also had some fantastic handmade costumes for sale. There were no books except a few Buffy and Angel books (and the mass market paperbacks are the lamest part of the franchise). I met a woman who helps plan Malice Domestic mystery conventions and she confirmed my own thought - that a non-Buffy, genre-focused book table would do just fine because book lovers, no matter where they are, seek out books to browse and buy when on vacation.

I won a book of Buffy shooting scripts at the silent auction, which I'm using as a model to learn the craft of screenwriting. Working now on my first screenplay. I call it Fan Fiction. It's about a crazy weekend at a fan convention for a tv show called Moonlight Madness, a supernatural dramedy set in a 19th-century insane asylum where one patient thinks she is a thousand year old vampire and the kindly psychiatrist overseeing the institution turns into a werewolf once a month... :-) I have no idea if I'll finish it, right now it's an exercise in learning a new mode of writing and a way to exorcise experience that I can't talk about directly.

Friday, August 19, 2005

A new look; a new start; a new blog

As much as I loved the customized "blog togs" Cat & Co. did for me, the colors and image have come to represent a Bad Time in my life. I cringe when I see them. Sigh.

So I'm back to an off-the-rack look to my blog, to see if I can get it started again, leave the bitterness behind, forgive but not forget the personal attacks.

A new academic year. A job I no longer enjoy. A cross-roads of my life. A new blog.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Complain to somebody about the Planned Parenthood cartoon

How to Make Planned Parenthood's Cartoon Blow Up in Its Face (Nonviolently, of Course)
Announcing Project Max

I ask myself, does it really matter if the mainstream media does not cover this story? Yes, I think it does. The cartoon is the most egregiously vicious attack on pro-lifers I have ever seen. And yes, it's witty. But it is directed at teenagers. It is directed against your children and mine. Can you imagine a cartoon like this directed against pro-choicers? Or any targeted minority group?

Reasonable-minded folks who support Planned Parenthood ought to sit up and take notice. If anything shows that PP has gone off the rails, this is it.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Superhero for Choice has disappeared from PPGG web site

The Superhero for Choice animated video that featured pro-lifers being blown up and decapitated by a pro-abortion superhero with a condom gun has been taken off the Planned Parenthood Golden Gate web site. It's not on the front page, and doesn't turn up in a site search.

I'd love to see more fallout than just its removal. I hope somebody accuses them of a hate crime. Yes, what's good for the goose is good for the gander.

Meanwhile, click here to see the still images.

Update: click HERE to download the video itself. It's available as a download from its composer's web site.

Monday, August 08, 2005

tracking the blogosphere

Okay, tracking the blogosphere here. How fast does controvery spread?

10 minutes ago the phrase "superhero for choice" had 17 hits in Google. Now it has 23.

Superhero for Choice: Kill them Bad Pro-life folks!

This is absolutely unbelievable. Planned Parenthood in San Francisco has a cartoon up on its website called Superhero for Choice. Go to the link below, it's halfway down on the left, under the Did You Know button.

Meet PPGG's Superhero for CHOICE. See the bad pro-life folks get blowed up real good!

Watch now. The furor from pro-life folks will be spun to say "See, these anti-choice people just have no sense of humor whatsoever."

Can I light out for the Territories now?

Friday, August 05, 2005

A flock of seagulls

We have a television at work that powers on by itself every now and then. It powered on just now in time for me to catch footage of a March horse race in Australia where a flock of seagulls unhorsed some jockeys and stopped the race.

Seagulls put jockeys in hospital

It's a strange world.

he's got such a supple wrist...

At last, some happy news.

Read about a modern day "pinball wizard".

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Not an oracle, just another suffering soul like the rest of us

Here is something Benedict XVI said to Italian clergy in the diocese of Aosta recently. I like this man. The emphasis in bold is my own. I think it speaks volumes about the man who must fill the shoes of JPII.
"The history of the Church has always been marked, in various different forms, by questions that have truly tormented us. What must be done? ... I would like to respond briefly, but I would also like to point out that the Pope is not an oracle, he is infallible only in very rare situations, as we know. Therefore I share these questions with you. I too suffer. But all of us together wish ... to transform problems through suffering, because suffering is the way to transformation, and without it nothing is transformed. This is also the meaning of to the parable of the grain of wheat that falls to the earth."

non-snarky Catholic DaVinci Code web page

When I was still in my book group, I got snarky every time somebody suggested we read The DaVinci Code. It irritated me, as it irritated so many Catholics who'd done a bit of historical study, that Dan Brown took all this gnostic stuff that's been open and available for centuries and turned it into a conspiracy against truth by the Catholic Church.

Well, there's a nice Catholic inquiry site in England that put up a special section for DaVinci Code fans who become intrigued by Mary Magdalene through the book and want to look further.


The DaVinci Code section is on the left as you look at the home page. The rest of the site is not too shabby either.

I'm so tired of the culture wars. Have I mentioned that lately? Can't we have a truce?

Oscar Wilde

"One's real life is often the life that one does not lead."

That was a quote from Oscar Wilde that came up in addall.com when I was looking for comparison prices on a used book.

When it came up, the quote really grabbed me. Today, not so much. It does make me think maybe I should take Oscar Wilde with me on my road trip. It's been years and years since I read anything by him, and I've been long curious about his Catholicism towards the end of his life.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Fetuses v the pregnant women who carry them: a debate

On September 15, the Philosophy Dept at UD, along with Catholic Scholars of Delaware, the Political Science Dept and some other groups, is sponsoring a debate between Kate Rogers & Eileen McDonagh on "Maternal Rights v Fetal Rights: Should Abortion be Re-criminalized"? Eileen McDonagh is a Associate Professor of Political Science at Northeastern University and a Visiting Scholar at the Murray Research Center, Radcliffe College. She has written
the book Breaking the Abortion Deadlock: From Choice to Consent in which she "breaks the impasse [of abortion] by using pro-life premises to reach pro-choice conclusions. "

Kate Rogers is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at UD where she teaches Contemporary moral problems, medieval philosophy, and philosophy and film. She is the author of The Anselmian Approach to God and Creation .

I think Kate will be able to more than hold her own against this woman whose argument does not rely on Roe's right to privacy but on the fetus being an agent in its own right. With
Sandra Day O'Connor leaving her position in the Supreme Court, I think this debate will draw both students and faculty at UD, and folks from the community, and be an opportunity to
showcase the strength of the pro-life arguments to students who may never have been exposed to it at an academic level.

Come to Newark the evening of September 15. Should be a good debate, with a reception to follow.