Monday, October 24, 2005


Just finished reading The Mystery of Things which I've mentioned previously. Wow. Amazon has it paired with The Theology of the Body For Beginners by Christopher West. Is it the first Catholic novel that draws from this seminal work of Pope John Paul II of blessed memory?

It's a danged good page-turning literate mystery, also. Talk about bang for your buck.

Wow. But I repeat myself. This should be the book Catholic story lovers give each other for Christmas. Go out and buy it. You won't be sorry.

Friday, October 21, 2005

The Mystery of Things

Debra Murphy's novel "The Mystery of Things" is a book that reminds me of Graham Greene and Evelyn Waugh. The characters are deeply steeped in the world of Catholicism, and working out their salvations in fear and trembling. And sin. This may be the most compelling fictional exploration of sin written so far in our post-modern world. Where Tolkien and Lewis projected the inner battle of the spirit out on to worlds where good and evil are writ large on a fantasy background of black and white extremes, Murphy has her characters wrestle with themselves from within an enclave of Catholicism that itself is struggling to carve out an identity within a post-modern US society steeped in the culture wars. In other words, she writes about us. With great insight. I was initially put off by the presence of so many adjectives and adverbs in her prose, but now I wonder if that is deliberate, a conscious decision to buck the minimalist strain in modern fiction that strips sentences of everything but subject, predicate and object.

I have not become so involved in the struggle of characters since... well, I can't remember when. She is writing my life, and she is definitely not preaching. Graham Greene and Evelyn Waugh. Debra Murphy.

" A profound sense of inner shrug"

Here's an excerpt from an interview with Barbara Nicolosi in Godspy; this part talks about her leaving the Daughters of St. Paul. The last line is a killer, and made me want to laugh and cry at the same time. It provides a balm to my ongoing trauma at the University:
I left the Daughters after a kind of Sound of Music scene with my Provincial Superior. She crying and saying "Barbara, you are a hard person to send away, but we think God is calling you somewhere else." And me crying saying, "I'll change. I'll change. Don't make me go!" But inside, I was actually relieved. Really.

It's served me well to have gone through that whole trauma-and it was traumatic. It's given me a profound sense of inner shrug that gets me through otherwise daunting challenges. When you've been thrown out of the convent during the worst vocation crisis in the history of the Church, what else can the world do to you?
Read the whole interview here.

Another October

Wearing two covers to bed instead of one, becoming chilly when you throw those covers off in the morning, the leaves golden and then brown, rustling under foot as you walk in to work. It must be autumn.

I am grouchy this fall. Some vibrancy has leaked out of my disposition and I miss it.

Or do I?

Thursday, October 20, 2005

The "Just Third Way" -- A just & humane reform of capitalism?

"On the one hand there is capitalism, an economic system governed by market forces but where economic power is concentrated in the hands of a few who own or control productive capital. On the other hand, socialism, in its many forms, is an economic system governed centrally by a political elite, with even more highly concentrated ownership and economic power. Logically, a 'third way' would be a free-market system that economically empowers all individuals and families through direct and effective ownership of the means of production--the best check against the potential for corruption and abuse." - Norman Kurland. Director, Center for Economic and Social Justice in a letter to the editor published by The Washington Post that challenged the Post's assertion that "there is no third way to prosperity."
I have been exchanging emails with Michael D. Greaney, Director of Research at the Center for Economic & Social Justice. I must say, after spending about an hour looking at his material, I am impressed. Check out their main web site:

Center for Economic & Social Justice

And here is a proposal to finance the rebuilding of the areas affected by Katrina and Rita in a manner consistent with Catholic social teaching. According to Greaney,
"The proposal is based on principles detailed in our book, Capital Homesteading for Every Citizen, available as a free download from the web site. Capital homesteading is derived from the social doctrine of Pius XI, particularly as found in Quadragesimo Anno and Divini Redemptoris, and the economic justice ideas of Louis Kelso and Mortimer Adler in their books, The Capitalist Manifesto (1958) and The New Capitalists (1961). Despite the latter titles, what Kelso and Adler discuss is the antithesis of both capitalism and socialism."
God knows we need a better economic system for our country than we have now. And God knows that the social doctrines of the Church have not been tried & found wanting in the US., they have not been tried.

This sounds as promising as anything I have seen in a long time. Anybody want to chime in with anything they know or experiences they have had with this or similar efforts?

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Life is a serial killer

I am reading Karen Hall's Dark Debts , an excellent mystery/horror novel that I decided I just HAD to get after reading a particularly good entry in her Some Have Hats blog.

I love this bit of dialog:
"Life's not juvie court. It doesn't cut you a deal everyone can live with and then lose your address if you never fuck up again. Life is a serial killer. It just keeps comin' back for more."

Friday, October 07, 2005

Evil in film: to what end?

Debra Murphy's got a link to an excellent essay by Roger Ebert on Evil in film: to what end?

1950: A Grace Odyssey

Oh my gosh, this is a HILARIOUS parody of 2001: Space Odyssey, for Catholics! Thanks to Debra Murphy at The Idyllist for pointing it out.

As Debra says, "I haven’t read the book yet, but trust me, the home page animation alone is worth the price of admission!"

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

abortion, like infanticide, made meaningful

You know how birthing centers started out as an alternative to the sterile atmosphere of hospital births? Debi Jackson would like to awaken us to the beauty of abortion centers that are alternatives to the sterile atmosphere of "abortion mills." Thanks to Jill Stanek for giving us a glimpse into the world of ritual killing of offspring:
From choosing the kind of lighting (softer or brighter) to arranging for specific music that she would like to hear, the woman creates the space in which she will experience her abortion. …

She may have a circle of women friends take part in the procedure itself – an ancient ritual of fertility, life, death and rebirth. Whatever her beliefs, she is respected and honored for the thoughtful choice she has made for herself and her child who is not to be. …

Group or individual ceremonies may be performed to celebrate the women's journey on her chosen path. This is a period of reverence for the timeless and sacred ritual that is abortion.

Read the full text here on the Moondance site.

"Best science fiction movie ever": Orson Scott Card

Orson Scott Card
weighs in on Serenity. Although I'd say nothing knocks Blade Runner off its pedestal as Numero Uno, the rest of what Card says is gold:
I've been hearing buzz about how great the movie is for months.

But here's how much the fans love this movie and want it to succeed. Some massively important things happen in this movie, things that are emotionally devastating, things that it would be almost unbearable to know about without telling.

Yet as far as I know, nobody has told. I walked into this movie reasonably aware of the advance word-of-mouth (though not obsessively so) and only as the film actually began this afternoon, the day of its premier, did it occur to me that I had not heard a whisper of a breath of the actual plot of the movie. All I heard was, "It's great, you'll love it."

Well, guess what.

It's great.

I'm not going to say it's the best science fiction movie, ever.

Oh, wait. Yes I am.

Let me put this another way. Those of you who know my work at all know about Ender's Game. I jealously protected the movie rights to Ender's Game so that it would not be filmed until it could be done right. I knew what kind of movie it had to be, and I tried to keep it away from directors, writers, and studios who would try to turn it into the kind of movie they think of as "sci-fi."

Because I know that science fiction doesn't have to be all mindless action. Or even mindful action. I can praise a movie like I, Robot and mean it, without for a second thinking that what I'm seeing is great sci-fi.

I can enjoy the first Matrix and see it as a kind of magic sci-fi, but recognize that in the end, it's all about the mystical quasi-religious ideas and the special effects, and not about human beings at all.

Because for me, a great film -- sci-fi or otherwise -- comes down to relationships and moral decisions. How people are with each other, how they build communities, what they sacrifice for the sake of others, what they mean when they think of a decision as right vs. wrong.

Yeah, even comedies. Even romantic comedies -- it's those moral decisions.

Wow, that sounds so heavy. But great film is heavy -- out of sight, underneath everything, where you don't have to be slapped in the face by it. On the surface, it can be exciting, funny, cool, scary, horrifying -- all those things that mean "entertainment" to us.

Underneath it all, though, it has to mean something. And the meaning that matters is invariably about moral decisions people make. Motives. Relationships. Community. If those don't work, then you can gloss up the surface all you want, we'll know we've just been fed smoke. Might smell great but we're still hungry.

So here's what I have to say about Serenity:

This is the kind of movie that I have always intended Ender's Game to be (though the plots are not at all similar).

And this is as good a movie as I always hoped Ender's Game would be.