Saturday, February 28, 2009

Go to Hell! Go directly to Hell! Do not pass GO! Do not collect $200!

Creative Minority reports that Electronic Arts is unveiling a video game version of Dante's Inferno. Yes, you can now Go to Hell.... For Just $39.99
OK. "Artistic liberties" include some minor changes like - while Dante was a sensitive poet now he's a jacked up warrior from the Crusades with a bad attitude who scythes his way through demonic hordes on a quest to find his murdered love Beatrice, whose soul was kidnapped by Lucifer.
Hey, if they bring out a version for the Wii -- I am SO THERE!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

On usurping the Creator's knowledge of his creatures

I woke up this morning wanting to make a good Lent. I wanted to get my ashes early, hoping this year to eschew wondering what people who saw me smudged would think to themselves (untidy... holier-than-thou...) but rather meditate on the ancient formula:
Remember, man, that thou art dust, and unto dust thou shalt return.
But I scotched my chances of getting to early Mass because I was drawn by my compulsion to get on the Internet and satisfy my urges -- any good e-mail? what are people saying about Obama's speech? what snarkiness have I missed since yesterday?

So I hied myself off to my new "sun room" to clear my mind. I love my sun room! It is the most beautiful room in my new house. Although I've been here since May, I only discovered the sun room last month. It had been masking itself as a foyer. Now that it has taken off its mask, I spend hours there, reading and praying and basking in the sun that comes through the beautiful beviled windows.

Now I'm back online again, but this time to produce, not consume. I found this tidbit in Simon Tugwell's book Prayer: Living With God. He is talking about Adam and Eve in the garden:
[The] knowledge which is, at least for the moment, not conceded to man, is divine knowledge. The tempter entices Eve with this very thing: "God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."

And for once he is telling the truth, as God bears out after they have sinned: "Behold the man has become like one of us."

Now this divine knowledge which man usurps is clearly not just information. It is rather one aspect of God's own very being: as St. Thomas teaches us, God's understanding is his own substance, that is to say, he is his own knowledge. His knowledge is creative knowledge, like that of a creative artist.

God knows his creatures in the same kind of way as Charles Dickens knows Mr. Pickwick. It is precisely because Dickens knows him so intimately that Mr. Pickwick comes alive.

So when man helps himself unbidden to the tree of knowledge, it is creative knowledge he seeks to appropriate, he sets himself up as a king or creator in his own right, trying to be God unto himself.

We can see that this is so in our everyday experience.
To say, "Oh yes, I know HIM!" is usually a way of dismissing someone; he is packed up and labelled and stowed away, denied, so far as I am concerned, any further right to change or to grow. [emphasis mine - Rae]

Such "knowledge" is not the humble recognition of somebody else existing in his own right; it is an arrogant and tyrannical "knowledge," dictating to others what they are to be.

I find this a brilliant insight. I have always been repulsed by my own and other people's attempts to clinically analyze other people. It's always struck me as wrong. But I've had it argued that this is something salutary -- it's a way of making sense out of our own reactions to other people. And as long as we aren't slandering the other person -- as long as we are only telling truths about them -- then "it's all good and proper!"

But to trace this back to the original usurping of divine knowledge -- wow!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A tender ballad from Weird Al Yankovic

I love Weird Al! Owen and I played this one just now. I'd never seen it with Robert Goulet guesting before.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Worlds Apart - Excerpt 8 - Alex and Maverick meet, Freaky Friday cute!

Cut to the chase... well, there IS a chase ... Maverick chases Hydra, Alex speeds along trying to make his date with Carol... the three cars collide... a green glow suffuses Alex and Maverick... and .....


Worlds Apart

by Kyle Crocco

Maverick and Alex stared at each other for what later seemed like ten or more minutes, but in reality was no more than a few brief seconds. Their mouths gaped, their hands pointed, and they shook their heads in concerted disbelief, instantly taking in everything about the sudden change from one body to the other body.

“But that’s—” Maverick started.

“—impossible,” Alex finished.

Maverick clutched his throat. Why did his voice sound higher pitched, less forceful, weak, almost like a girl’s? Had he been shot in the groin?

Alex covered his mouth. Why did he sound like a soul singer? Had he come down with a cold? Contracted allergies? Breathed in too much second-hand smoke?

They looked at each other again and both asked, “Who are you?”

And they would probably have gone on in the same vein, saying a lot more things about the utterly remarkable and completely impossible fact that they had suddenly switched bodies, if Hydra had not decided to take that exact moment to step out from his crumpled car, clutching what looked to be a very large, and very dangerous, pearl-white hand blaster in his unwounded left hand.

Maverick noticed Hydra immediately and, as usual, he reacted instantly. His new body, on the other hand, had other ideas, none of which involved reacting instantly. Instead, this new body moved like a slow motion version of his former body. So Maverick was forced to do something he had never done before. He had to ask for help.

“Shoot,” Maverick croaked with his new, thin, girly voice. “Shoot him.” He jabbed his finger in the general direction of Hydra.

“What?” Alex asked, confused by all these rapid changes in body, location and situation. “Shoot who?” And that’s when he noticed he was clutching some sort of large, long-barreled, black weapon in his new hand.

“Shoot Hydra.” Maverick shouted, pointing towards the man dressed all in white. “Shoot him now.”

Alex looked over to where his old body was pointing and saw that the man dressed in white was aiming a similar looking weapon at him. An immediate sense of danger overcame his new body. Adrenaline coursed through his new veins. He felt alert, alive, on—

“Fire,” he heard his old, former, almost girly voice say.

Exactly, Alex thought and then did something he had never attempted before: he acted without thinking. Without aiming, without even looking, he squeezed off a shot. A blast of energy soared over the man in white’s white, Panama hat, and smacked into a utility pole, snapping it in half. One half stayed upright, thrusting into the sky, while the top half crunched through the pristine roof of the Lexus.

Hydra leapt away from the falling utility pole, while squeezing off his own desperate shot. Or so he thought. But no desperate shot emitted from his hand blaster. He pulled the trigger again. And still, no desperate bolt of energy crashed into his nemesis. That’s when he noticed the little wedge of metal pointing toward the letter ‘S.’

“Damn safety!” Hydra cursed, trying to work the catch with his injured right hand. But instead of moving the catch, he managed to move his mouth into a small scream of pain, as each movement sent a thousand, razor-sharp, alcohol-soaked pins and needles racing up his arm.

“Shoot him again, you idiot,” Maverick shouted, when he saw that Hydra had not been blasted into a blackened, charred husk but instead remained a pristine, white and completely whole… uh … not husk.

Alex squeezed the trigger once more, letting forth a blast of energy that careened out across the intersection like one of his golf shots at the driving range.

Hydra saw the blast, and ducked just in time, as a huge black hole appeared in the side of the car where his head had recently been resting. He rolled and kept on rolling ignoring the pain in his hand, until his body was safely behind a concrete embankment. He then took a moment to undo the safety. But after another round of stinging pins and needles shot up through his fingers and arm he gave up: it was just too painful.

Back in the intersection, Alex turned the blaster this way and that, admiring its awesome power. “Whoa. This is one dangerous piece of…”

He looked over and saw his former body, jumping up and down to see what was going on. “What happened? Did you hit him? Is he dead? Where did he go?”

“Whoa?” Alex said, putting out a hand. “Slow down. Let’s just calm down and think about this. What did you say?”

“Hydra. I said Hydra,” his former body screamed at him. “The man that you were shooting at, you idiot.”

Alex pointed over at the man in white, who was now visibly running across the parking lot of the nearby shopping center. “You mean that guy over there?”

An expression of disgust came over his old face. “Give me that!” His old body snatched the weapon from him. Or tried to, because it wasn’t so easy to prise it from Alex’s muscled grasp.

When Alex saw how determined his old body was to take back the weapon, he let go and his former body suddenly plopped back onto its ass.

“Sorry,” Alex said, instinctively “I didn’t realize …”

His former body growled at him, struggled back up, and then limped away across the intersection toward the shopping center.

Alex stood there for a moment, watching his old body go away, unsure of what to do in such a situation. Finally, he fell back on what he thought was the immediate problem. “Hey, shouldn’t we exchange insurance information or something?”

As Alex watched his former body get further and further away from him, he felt confused, unprepared, and rushed. It was like that dream, the one in which you suddenly found yourself in the final exam hall and you realized that you had never studied the notes, had never read the book, and had never gone to the lectures, but were still expected to take the exam anyway.

He stood there paralyzed, seized with panic, unable to take any action let alone any decisive action. All his thinking and planning in life had not prepared him for such a moment as this. But he wasn’t thinking about the fact that he was unprepared. In fact, for a few Zen-like moments he wasn’t doing anything that resembled thinking at all. And when his thoughts suddenly came flooding back again, the primary one was that he should give the authorities a call. In this case the Washington Highway Patrol, or perhaps the Seattle metro police. And once the authorities arrived, he was sure they would know what to do and how to sort out this whole accident and switching body thing.

But when Alex reached into his pocket … well … not his pocket exactly but, you know, the pocket of the pants that he was now wearing on this new body, and he discovered, much to his surprise, that his mobile phone was not to be found there. Instead, he removed a thick, flexible card made of some strange, unfamiliar material. The card appeared completely transparent at first, so that he could see his new hand straight through the material of the card, but after a second it began to glow and turn opaque. A hologram image of a rugged, square jawed, short haired fellow formed on the plastic and underneath glowed a name: James Maverick.

Alex looked down at the image, and then up at his old body getting farther and father away, and then did two things he had never done particularly well in his life: one, he started to run very fast, and two, he took off on what psychological experts called an ‘impulsive act.’ He had read about that type of act once in a self-help book he had ordered online, but he never thought that such an act would happen to him. At least, not without some planning anyway.

Worlds Apart - Excerpt 7 - Maverick interrupts a baptism

It's been nearly a month since I excerpted from Worlds Apart. In that time, Alex has headed out towards his date with Carol; Hydra did some world-jumping and landed in Alex's world; and Maverick followed him, arriving on Earth via a transport device that landed him in a Catholic church's confessional booth...

I know, I know... it's easier to read digitally on Kindle than straight off the Internet. But relax... chill out with a Coke ... (product placement)... and read how Maverick arrives in our world.

Worlds Apart

By Kyle Crocco


“…what kind of backward savages are these Earth people …”

The priest was going to drown the naked baby. Or at least that’s what it looked like to Maverick when he stepped out of the confessional booth and slipped off his dark glasses. In front of him stood a man wearing black robes, plunging a crying, naked infant deep into what looked to be a cold basin of water. At least thirty people stood by to witness this murder dressed in their best formal wear.

“What kind of backward savages are these Earth people?” Maverick muttered.

Just as he reached for his hand blaster to settle the matter, the baby popped out of the water and gave a short cry. Everyone smiled and laughed. There was even some clapping. And no one seemed to be making any moves to drown the baby again.

As Maverick lowered the hand blaster, his palm navigational device gave off a loud chirp that echoed loudly through the cathedral.

Thirty some heads swiveled to look at him all at once.

“Who’s that?” someone muttered.

“Barbarian,” someone said.

“Hey, I wasn’t the one drowning a little baby,” Maverick shouted, his voice also echoing through the cathedral.

Several of the people gasped.

The device chirped again, and Maverick made a hasty exit to the cathedral doors, while stuffing the hand blaster back into his waistband.

Friday, February 20, 2009

It's a bird... it's a plane... it's an ENTHUSIAST!

Barbara Nicolosi recently announced in Church of the Masses that the project she co-scripted, Mary, Mother of the Christ, is a go. Her news almost immediately got drowned in a maelstrom of discussion over whether the Mother of God experienced the normal pain of childbirth. 98 comments later, the discussion has possibly come to an end with the primary enthusiast of the "Mary had no labor pains" school of dogmatic thought unable to resist putting in the last word.

I picked up Ronald Knox's book Enthusiasm this morning to list it for sale in my Pious Ladies Bookmobile. Instead, I decided to keep and read it. The topic seems relevant to the religious enthusiasm displayed by Ms. Nicolosi's interlocutor Emmanuel in the discussion on Mary's childbirth experience. I also recognize in it my own temptations towards gnosticism and what Knox calls ultrasupernaturalism. I've never gone off the deep end of religious fervor but have definitely surfed its waves. I think I'll read this. (Digression -- so many books, so little time...)

The full title of the book is Enthusiasm: A Chapter in the History of Religion with Special Reference to the XVII and XVIII Centuries. The Ronald Knox Society of North America calls it his life's work:
Msgr. Knox traces a tendency to enthusiasm from the first days of the Church into the XX Century. It contains not only a characteristically charitable analysis of this tendency but valuable lessons for those of us who remain confused by the strange enthusiasms of so many of our neighbors in the XXI Century.
Here is what caught me and stopped me from listing the book for sale. This is from Chapter One: "The Nature of Enthusiasm":
If I could have been certain of the reader's goodwill, I would have called my tendency 'ultrasupernaturalism'. For that is the real character of the enthusiast; he expects more evident results from the grace of God than we others. He sees what effects religion can have, does sometimes have, in transforming a man's whole life and outlook; these exceptional cases (so we are content to think them) are for him the average standard of religious achievement. He will have no "almost-Christians", no weaker brethren who plod and stumble, who (if the truth must be told) would like to have a foot in either world, whose ambition is to qualify, not to excel. ...

Quoting a hundred texts -- we also use them, but with more of embarrassment -- he insists that the members of his society, saved members of a perishing world, should live a life of angelic purity, of apostolic simplicity; worldly amusements, the artifices of a polite society, are not for them. Poor human nature! Every lapse that follows is marked by pitiless watchers outside the fold, creates a harvest of scandal within. Worse still, if the devout circle has cultivated a legend of its own impeccability; we shall be told, in that case, that actions which bring damnation to the worldling may be inculpable in the children of light. We must be prepared for strange alternations of rigorism and antinomianism as our history unfolds itself.

Knox's phrase in that last paragraph -- "a legend of its own impeccability" -- brings to mind the recent scandal that finally broke through to the surface of the hidden life of the founder of the Legionaries of Christ. Debra Murphy has a ten-part series on the Fr. Maciel case which I confess I have not yet read. I need to brace myself before I look more keeply into that particularly unpleasant can of worms. But my cursory glance shows me that Debra has done a comprehensive summary and analysis of the Maciel scandal, so I don't hesitate to recommend it to those with stronger stomachs.

So why is Superman heading up this blog entry? Why, because he is the Man of Steel -- he is emblematic of the way that the enthusiast is tempted to see herself or himself. He is mightier than thou! Pure as a pre-pollution snowfall! A good man to look up to, as long as we don't find ourselves standing there with our own capes waving behind us, looking down at the rest of the impure world.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Monsterizing the Classics

Image by Joseph Eagle, check out his other stuff .

The New York Times reports that a blend of Jane Austen and horror films is being made in a new movie titled Pride and Predator.

In honor of this auspicious undertaking, Television Without Pity compiled a list of 10 Literary Classics That Could Use Monsters, Robots and Gore.

They then asked, What other literary/genre mash-ups would you like to see?

Here are mine:

Joe vs the Vulcan


The Late Gatsby

The Slashed King of Scotland

The Maltese Ripper

The Apes of Wrath

Confessions of a Chopaholic

Breakfast with Leatherface

A Confederacy of Monsters

The Ghoul of San Luis Rey

To Kill a Chupacabra

The Decapitation of Miss Jean Brodie

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Colonising the undiscovered country of self

I am reading Prayer: Living With God by Simon Tugwell. It is for a book group that meets after Monday Mass at the Oratory. This is my first attempt at a book group since the Bush-Kerry election when my then-book-group buddies got into a whole "Bush is Hitler"paranoia and I had to leave. Hopefully this will go better.

I'm sort of a junkie for books on prayer. Prayer is, after all, a primary activity of my vocation. This one has what I have come to think of as the modern advantage -- it is written in full consciousness of the successes of modern psychology in mapping out and understanding the human psyche.

For most of the two millenia of Christianity, saints working as spiritual directors were the primary discoverers of the ins and outs of human emotions and personality order/disorder. But their knowledge was largely intuitive and experiential -- few of them tried to lay out a comprehensive theory of human psychology, and those attempts that were made focused on the supernatural rather than the natural. I am thinking now of St. Teresa of Avila's Interior Castle.

I find contemporary efforts to bring the insights of psychology into the study of the spiritual life exciting. Chester Michael is one author that comes to mind. I always grab his book Arise: A Christian Psychology of Love when I see it. It's a book I give away regularly and folks who read usually report back positively. (Msgr. Michael is now retired, but keeps his hand in with spiritual direction and maintains a web site and a non-profit organization, The Open Door. I hope to get to one of his retreats this year. )

But I digress. As always. I am loving Fr. Tugwell's book so far. His opening paragraph quite won my heart with its wry description of me... and you... and anyone who tries to love God "with all my mind, all my heart, and all my soul." :

Forgetfulness is the root of all evil. - An unknown Egyptian monk. In our relationship with God, one of the main problems is that half the time we just forget about it. We may have the most beautiful and edifying thoughts during our morning prayers, and whole new vistas of Christian life may from time to time open out before us, but yet when it actually comes to the practical crunch, it just seems to slip right out of our minds. And at the end of the day we kick ourselves for having been just as unforgiving, uninspiring, unregenerate, as ever.
Then he talks about habits of virtue, and ways the medieval theologians devised for building these up.

In fact, it is interesting that in the past Christians used the Bible in a way not unlike one of the procedures used by modern psychiatrists. One way of finding out what a person is really like, is to shoot words at him, and tell him to reply with the first word that comes into his head; such random associations of words, uncontrolled by deliberate thought or reflection, can tell an expert a lot about what a person really is, because it undercuts or bypasses all the normal ways in which we present ourselves, and does not allow us to don a pleasing mask to show ourselves as we would like to be, as we would want to be thought to be, maybe even think we are.
He talks about doing word associations when reading the Bible, which is a method that group lectio divina employs in my parish, and maybe yours. It's a popular way of doing the old divine reading these days.

And what's the benefit to reading the Bible for its associations, reading it as we read poetry, for its ability to slice into our deeper selves?

After all, God's word is addressed to us as we really are, not as we like to present ourselves; he speaks to our heart, not to our mask. It is not only that little bit of us which we have, as it were, colonised and made subject to our control, that is involved in the Christian enterprise: it is the whole man.
I had to stop when I came to this part and run off and get my Bible and do some lectio divina.

It is not only that little bit of us which we have, as it were, colonised and made subject to our control, that is involved in the Christian enterprise: it is the whole man.

I like that! Thank you, Fr. Tugwell! I think I'll keep reading your book.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


Thanks to Jeff Matthews of Love of St. Paul for letting us know that today is the 150th anniversary of the first apparition of Our Lady of Lourdes to Bernadette.

Father Alberione would love this YouTube video. It is an excellent mixing of iconic film imagery with contemporary music and text.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Jenny D'Orazio causing mayhem

This beautiful young lady is my niece Jenny, who left the East Coast for the sunny climes of first California, then Arizona when she was just a kid. Gotta follow Mom and Pop! She's the same age as my daughter Em, and wasn't I sad for Em's sake that all the girl cousins moved so far away when they were all little?

Anyway. Jenny is cool, as are all the Arizona cousins. I found this on her Facebook page and it made me so bubbly happy that I just had to post it. Jenny does full-time ministry with Campus Crusade for Christ, and while I wish she'd come back to her Catholic roots eventually I am happy to see the Christ-fervor passed on to a new generation. Her granddad Nick D'Orazio, for whom her dad is named, was quite a devout man. That's often forgotten in family lore, but Marguerite and I were remembering it the other day. When he wasn't debilitated by mental illness, he was a quietly humorous, Bible-reading Catholic (in the 40's and 50's this was far more a rarity than it is now) with a reputation for goodness.

Jenny's sister Mary is getting married next month. The beat goes on!

Thursday, February 05, 2009

I mourn the passing of Michael Dubruiel

I did not know Michael Dubruiel, except as the husband of Amy Welborn.

I do not know Amy Welborn, except as one of the most popular and prolific Catholic bloggers and writers. Her blog, Charlotte Was Both, is on my blog roll. Her book, Here. Now. A Catholic Guide to the Good Life, was a favorite of mine before I gave it away to a young woman who wandered into Outreach one night saying she was interested in becoming Catholic and did we know any good books that would help?

Two days ago her husband, Michael Dubruiel, also a blogger but better known for his books and his work as an editor and assistant to a bishop, collapsed suddenly at his gym and died shortly thereafter. The shock of this sudden death of this dedicated layman who was also a husband and father of two young sons has been reverberating through the Catholic blogosphere.

I've been feeling a little shell-shocked myself, even though I did not know Michael and don't know Amy. "Any man's death diminishes me," John Donne wrote in "Devotions upon Emergent Occasions" (1623), XVII" "because I am involved in Mankind; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee."

For some reason this passage from George Maloney's book The Cosmic Christ -- published in 1968 which accounts for the hip title although it's a wonderfully solid book -- struck a chord as I thought about and prayed for both Michael and Amy. I think it's because Irenaeus, who died in 202 AD, had such a great idea of the meaning of our life on earth. It's a remedy to the later medieval ideas, which still have currency, of our life on earth as merely a vale of tears (not that it isn't full of tears) and a testing for eternal life.

Irenaeus' idea of life one earth puts into context the work of Amy Welborn, Michael Dubruiel, and all of us who are lilies in the field as well as toilers in the vineyard:

Time is seen by Irenaeus, not as a measurement of a period of degradation through which man must pass in order, finally, to return to a lost perfection, but as the measurement of the unfolding of God's gifts in a constant act of creation. The fullness of God's creative action is tied intimately with the fulfillment of his purpose in creating man "according to God's image and likeness." Man's true growth and that also of the entire cosmos are dependent completely upon the power of God who bestows upon man inexhaustible gifts. Man is the "receptacle of God's goodness" and, through the reception and proper use of these gifts, man becomes the instrument whereby God's plan, his "glory", is achieved.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Belated remembrance of The Day the Music Died

It has been 50 years plus one day since Buddy Holly, the "Big Bopper" and Richie Valens took their star-crossed final plane flight and wound up immortalized in Don McLean's song American Pie.

Don McLean was once asked, "What do the lyrics of American Pie mean?"

He replied, "They mean I never have to work again!"

Sunday, February 01, 2009

The Super Bowl Commercial You Won't See - NBC cuts Obama Pro Life Ad

From the ad's creators:

"This pro-life commercial, featuring President Barack Obama, was supposed to run during the Super Bowl on Sunday. After first accepting it, NBC apparently changed its collective mind, saying it wasn't going to run advocacy ads during the big game."

Introducing Samuel Mann. Or, God & probability, part two

This is Samuel Mann, who like my son Eric was born with a fatal condition, thanatophoric (ie. "death-bearing") dysplasia. Samuel is a dwarf, like Eric. Thanatophoric dwarfism is always fatal. The chest cavity is too narrow to support normal lung development. Such babies cannot breathe on their own. They require constant support from a respirator.

But Samuel has amazed his doctors. In the second photo, he is breathing on his own. He can breathe on his own for up to an hour.

Samuel's mom Evelyn supports Samuel in his life, like I supported Eric. Sun Hudson's mother, in Houston in 2005, wanted to support her son too. But Sun, who was a thanatophoric dwarf, lived in Texas, where chapter 166 of the Texas Health and Safety Code allows life-sustaining treatment to be withdrawn from a pediatric patient over the objections of the child's parent. The doctors did not deem Sun's quality of life good enough to continue treatment. Sun's mother had to suffer the heartbreak of watching her son die from lack of a treatment that she, as guardian, wanted to continue.

The docs faced the same questions I did when Eric was diagnosed with a condition that carries the concept of death within its very name. How do we respond, what can we hope for, when a person's struggle to live is going to inevitably end in death?

I realized in 1983, trying to figure out how to respond to Eric as a mother, that his condition, ontologically, was no different from my own. I too am struggling to live against the inevitability of death. So are you. So are we all.

It is a joy for me to be on Evelyn Mann's mailing list, and to receive periodic updates on Samuel's progress. It is so obvious that the exchange of love in that household transcends the bounds of fear and pain over Samuel's condition. It is obvious that faith, prayer and hope have given a far different outcome than that predicted in the medical literature for thanatophoric dwarfs.

"God may perform miracles by manipulating the probability allowed by physical laws."
- The String Theory and Miracles by Frank Lee.

I thought that was true when I reflected on my grandson Owen's recovery from brain injury, and the possibility of miracle there. I think it true about Samuel Mann.