Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Jesus Rifle

Oh No! It is the end of the world. The war is lost! (be sure to watch Rachel Maddow's video at the end of the post) But for $660,000,000.00 I will stop talking about Jesus.

"If a boy fires off a gun, whether at a fox, a landlord or a reigning sovereign, he will be rebuked according to the relative value of these objects. But if he fires off a gun for the first time it is very likely that he will not expect the recoil, or know what a heavy knock it can give him. He may go blazing away through life at these and similar objects in the landscape; but he will be less and less surprised by the recoil; that is, by the reaction. He may even dissuade his little sister of six from firing off one of the heavy rifles designed for the destruction of elephants; and will thus have the appearance of being himself a reactionary. Very much the same principle applies to firing off the big guns of revolution. It is not a man's ideals that change; it is not his Utopia that is altered; the cynic who says, "You will forget all that moonshine of idealism when you are older," says the exact opposite of the truth. The doubts that come with age are not about the ideal, but about the real. And one of the things that are undoubtedly real is reaction: that is, the practical probability of some reversal of direction, and of our partially succeeding in doing the opposite of what we mean to do. What experience does teach us is this: that there is something in the make-up and mechanism of mankind, whereby the result of action upon it is often unexpected, and almost always more complicated than we expect."

The Superstition of School, by G.K. Chesterton

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The quotable Mr. Chesterton

While trolling my local Catholic bookstore, I spotted several copies of a new - 2009 -book - The Wisdom of Mr. Chesterton: The Very Best Quotes, Quips & Cracks from the Pen of G.K. Chesterton.

It's edited by Dave Armstrong (of Biblical Evidence for Catholicism).

Some 359 pages of Chesterton quotations? Of course I bought it.

I know I can find many of the quotations on line, but it's nice to have a hard copy in hand.

The book is organized by topics, which makes it easy to find apt quotations. I've been diving through, enjoying discovering or rediscovering the Great One's wit and wisdom.

A quibble though. "The Very Best" - yet no sign of two of my favorite quotations:

"You cannot grow a beard in a moment of passion."


"Poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese."

Ah well, I have eclectic tastes.

Maybe there's a second collection in the works. I'll buy that one, too.

But for now, I'll enjoy this wonderful collection - while eating cheese and rubbing my beard.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Ratcheting it up a notch

As long as I can remember I have never heard the Bishops tell their flock to explicitly vote one way or the other or support one bill or the other. They have given us a teaching and told us to vote our conscious. So you can imagine my surprise and delight when, after hearing that the Knights are having a wing fry and the Rosary Alter Society is looking for new members, I heard this:

“Congress continues to debate health care reform. While the House passed a health care bill that prevents the federal government from funding elective abortions, and includes provisions making health care affordable and accessible for all, the Senate rejected this and passed a bill that requires federal funds to help subsidize and promote health plans that cover elective abortions, while forcing purchasers to pay directly for other people’s abortions. These two bills must now be combined into one bill that both the House and Senate will vote on in final form. The U.S. bishops continue to strongly oppose abortion funding, while calling for critical improvements in conscience protection, affordability for the poor and vulnerable, and access to health care for immigrants.
In your pews/bulletins today, you’ll find a flier/bulletin insert from the U.S. Bishops Conference asking you to please contact your congressional representatives immediately and urge them to address these moral issues. The flier/bulletin insert includes a web address that allows you to send an email message to Congress with a click of a button. The bishops have asked for our swift action and our prayers. Thank you for your help. We can help make sure that health care reform will protect the lives, dignity, conscience and health of all. Health care reform should be about saving lives, not destroying them.”

We were then given a link to go to: www.usccborg/action this site allows you to send a prewritten letter to your representatives and through the magic of the internet it sends this letter to your specific rep.

After this announcement we all said the Saint Michael's prayer for the conversion of abortionists. You can get the prayer card here.

Please go to this site and send your message. Like the Bishops said at the end of their letter Act today! Thank you!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

more sci-fi on the way but not so much fi

In H.G. Well's novel The Island of Dr. Moreau He tells the tale of a man making human/animal hybrids. Makes for a good story.

"Dr. Moreau and his assistant perished at the hands of their experiments. Prendick escaped and returned to England. And, as the novel concludes, Prendick, in England, said that, as he looked at the people around him, he could not help feeling that he was still amongst the beast-people of Dr. Moreau's island; and, that they might, at any point, turn on him, the way that the creatures of the island had."

The island is closer than you think. here and here just to name a few

Bukowski clerihew

Charles Bukowski
finished his whiskey.
While waiting for another
he wrote about eyeing his friend's mother.

Friday, January 15, 2010

When I first heard about AVATAR I was not in hurry to see it but after reading all the buzz about it on the blogosphere, especially by Catholics> Again I saw a huge popular media event brought everyone out to defend or condemn the "religious" ramifications on our culture. Most of it you can read on Mark Shea's bolg.

I needed to judge it for my self. My feelings on not wanting to see this film were based on the fact that James Cameron does not make great movies. And my $10.00 could be used elsewhere. Yes, he makes visually stunning cinematic experiences but really is a second rate story teller. Seeing AVATAR did not change my opinion on that.

Anyone over sixteen years old could see the borrowed plot line (Pocahotas, Dances with Wolves, and even Ewoks vs. Strom troopers) and stereotypical characters. Cameron not only tells a shallow story sans sub text he telegraphs each upcoming event. There are never any surprises or plot twists in his films. A second or third viewing will add nothing to your understanding to the film or of the human condition. But. BUT it was absolutely, with out a doubt, the best visual candy I have eaten in a long time.

In this way he is not unlike Thomas Kinkade who creates an pretty imaginary world where the viewer would like to live and everyone is happy and at peace. It also seems that Cameron borrowed Kinkade's color palette. (the picture on this post is Kinkade's and not from the film). It is a pastel world without hard edges. Even when there is sudden and bruttal death in a Cameron movie it does not make your cheeks pouch together because it is all about the visual which is only 1% of reality.

You might wish you were one of his characters, (who wouldn't want to fly a giant lizard!) but you never get emotionally attached to his characters. Which I guess that is what escapism is all about. I have heard some say that the Na'vi are blue skinned to represent democrats no no it is that they needed to be pastel and green skin was to much of a cliché even for Cameron.

However casting Sigourney Weaver was a great joke. Even when we first she her she is coming out of the "box" and asks for a cigarette. Watch the first 10 minutes of ALIEN if you need a reminder. (OK, I was the only one in the theatre to laugh).

And really who believes the corporation is just going to give up and leave all that potential money. Can you say sequel? And yes I will go see the sequel and be dazzled for a few hours. I love circus side shows too.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Speaking of Genomes part 2

In the, for lack of a better word, battle between science and religion some voices of reconciliation are being heard. Not because of their volume but from where they speak. Francis Collins is one such voice. He is one with impressive credentials being the director of the Human Genome Project and all; that little hobby of his that mapped the vast vocabulary of life's indwelling "grammar". Collins calls this grammar the language of God.

In his book, The Language of God, Collins systematically lays out a philosophy that science and religion are not only complementary but are both essential for a complete understanding of the world.

Yea, yea I know the premise of the compatibility of God and reason has been expressed elsewhere and with better poetry as with Thomas Aquinas, " For Faith is not opposed to reason but is of that which reason cannot reach." Or as JP2 said, "Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth..."

The cool thing about this book is how he came to write it. Collins was homeschooled in an non-religious home - "freethinkers". Religion to him was something quaint and unrealistic so atheism was his logical choice for a world view. That was until he became a doctor and noticed the difference between the religious and non religious patients in how they faced grave and mortal illnesses. The religious ones faced it bravely and peacefully the later spent their time in a panic. When one of his patients asked him about his belief system he knew, as a scientist he could only answer this question with research and careful consideration.

His study led him to Christianity. True, that's an old story but I never grow weary of hearing it. Collins openly credits our friend C. S. Lewis' book Mere Christianity for his spiritual Big Bang moment.

True not all of his writing and many of his other views do not square-up to orthodox Christianity but he is still young in this strange new land and he is courageous.
As he is willing to debate all comers on what Collins calls BioLogos, including Richard Dawkins.

For you Homeschoolers Collins' book would be a good addition to your science library and its a good read for us science groupies.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Speaking of Genomes part 1

In 2004 Svante Paabo, a paleogeneticist at the Max Planck Institute in Germany, announced he was going to reconstruct the Neanderthal genome. He has yet to succeed in that but is getting close and has a rough draft of the sequence complete. This sequence came from several cells from different samples. But he has yet to find a complete fully intact DNA specimen. But that has not stopped some of the groupies of the scientific community to speculate, "Will we ever clone a caveman?"

Since my son and I are Sci-fi nuts this prompted a lively discussion. Since Neanderthals are not considered human is there an ethical question? If the non-human speculation is correct they would not have souls? But what if the assumption is wrong - who decides? (These questions got batted around but they were beyond our pay grade and won't help with our screen play anyway. Where is Michael Crichton when you need him?)

How do you find a woman to carry this cave man to birth? The reality show fame alone would attract hundreds. "We could easily get those girls who want to sleep with Flava Flav." my son said.

What about the the new modern life of this cave man? Can you see him in public schools? A boy scout making his first fire? What about when he enters Junior High and the peer pressure to look good makes him ask his Mom for a piercing? Can you say sitcom?

As an adult he would have a career as commercial actor for insurance or a great career as a NFL linebacker.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Lear Clerihew

Thanks to Edward Lear
I no longer fear
any beard-nesting fowl
(except, perhaps, an owl).