Thoughts of a Catholic convert

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Sunday, April 26, 2015

"I am the good shepherd"

The reading for today, John 10:11-18, leaves out the part of this discourse I like the best: the second line of John 10:10 ... I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. To me this says that Jesus came to make our lives here better, fuller, happier. It's this idea that helps me pray for what I really want instead of what I'm supposed to want.

Here's a clip from the movie The Gospel of John, in which Jesus (Henry Ian Cusick) gives more of the discourse ....

Saturday, April 25, 2015

The Battle of the Five Armies

This week's movie rental was the last in the Hobbit series, The Battle of the Five Armies ...

a 2014 epic fantasy adventure film, directed by Peter Jackson and written by Jackson, Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, and Guillermo del Toro. It is the third and final installment in the three-part film adaptation based on the novel The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien, following An Unexpected Journey (2012) and The Desolation of Smaug (2013), and together they act as a prequel to Jackson's The Lord of the Rings film trilogy ... It stars Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage, Evangeline Lilly, Lee Pace, Luke Evans, Benedict Cumberbatch, Ken Stott and James Nesbitt. It also features Cate Blanchett, Ian Holm, Christopher Lee, Hugo Weaving and Orlando Bloom.

I read the book when I was a teen - the movie is really pretty different, with additions in characters and action, I guess to make it more dramatic and more of a foreshadowing of The Lord of the Rings movies. While it was fun to see some of the guys from LOTR ... Gandalf, Elrond, Legolas, Saruman, Galadriel, and while there were some interesting subplots like the dwarf/elf romance ...

... on the whole, the film was kind of disappointing. This review of the movie from The Guardian gave it 3 out of 5 stars ...The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies review – no more than a middling finale from Middle-earth

One thing I did like, though, was the character of the elf king Thranduil (the father of Legolas). He seems the most fey of all the elves depicted in the films ... the actor who portrays him described him thus - He's a wild thing, and the wild is a dangerous place. His steed is a giant elk :) Here you can see him upon it as he confronts the dwarves ....

He began the series as kind of a bad guy. Here he was introduced in the first movie of The Hobbit series ...

But by the end of this final movie, he'd gained a bit more complexity and empathy. Here he tries to bond with his son and set him on the path to befriend Aragorn ...

So is the movie worth seeing? Sure :)

Blaming the victims

At one of the blogs I visit, a lot of people voiced the opinion that women here and in developing countries who are poor and who have few opportunities decide to have as many children as possible because that's the only way they can feel important. They also believe these women have no interest in trying to make better lives for themselves, so there's no point in trying to help them ... they're right where they want and deserve to be.

I know, really, that the actual facts have little chance of changing these people's minds but for those who are still on the fence, here's a past TED talk by (Catholic) Melinda Gates about how contraception can help poor women and their financial state ...

Friday, April 24, 2015


- From the latest issue of The Way: Thoughts on Hell by Joseph A. Munitz SJ

- Catholic Church launches campaign to reshape Junipero Serra's image

- The Child Victims Act ... In New York, the Catholic Church hierarchy fights against allowing sex abuse victims more time in which to report abuse, but lay Catholic groups instead fight to allow abuse victims more time.

- From David Clohessy in The Guardian: Pope Francis must do more to protect children from Catholic church abuse

- An article on the Shroud of Turin by the British Jesuits. I don't understand how the shroud continues to be the most popular relic of the church, given that it's been shown to be a fraud (even David Gibson described it as "a medieval forgery"). Apparently, many people think the fact that the shroud is a fake doesn't actually matter as far as their belief in it goes ... I find this bizarre.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

The latest on the pope and the French ambassador

Much has been made of Pope Francis' past remark "who am I to judge" but given the continuing lack of acceptance of the gay French ambassador to the Holy See, the pope *does* appear to be judging.

There's been a meeting between the pope and the prospective ambassador. Some have opined this shows the pope hasn't rejected the ambassador as a gay person (they prayed together!) but has instead refused to accept him because of France's 2013 marriage equality law ... but there are 20+ countries that have marriage equality and the pope has not rejected their ambassadors. The Times simply states the obvious ... Pope Francis has rejected France’s newly appointed ambassador to the Vatican because he is gay.

More from an article in The Guardian ...

Pope Francis met France’s nominated ambassador to the Holy See, who is gay, and told him that the Vatican would not accept his appointment, a French newspaper has claimed.

In a meeting over the weekend, the pontiff allegedly cited his displeasure with a controversial 2013 gay marriage law in France as part of his reason for the decision, according to the report in satirical title Le Canard Enchâiné.

Pope Francis also allegedly said he did not appreciate the manner in which France had tried to put pressure on the Vatican by nominating a man – 55-year-old Laurent Stéfanini – who French officials knew would be controversial given the church’s views on homosexuality. The Vatican declined to comment to the Guardian about the veracity of the report or whether a meeting took place.

The church’s apparent objection to Stéfanini, a practising Catholic, has been known for weeks, ever since press reports first indicated that the Vatican was dragging its feet on the nomination because of his sexual orientation ....

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Earth Day

A couple of articles ... from The Guardian: 10 ways vegetarianism can help save the planet ... and from the Los Angeles Times: Editorial Why we need to address population growth's effects on global warming

Now for some videos ...

The President on climate change and Earth Day ...

And finally, this clip from the science fiction film Soylent Green about a future over-populated Earth. Laugh if you will at the dated-ness of the movie, I have always been touched by this scene in which one of the characters who's committing state sanctioned suicide is allowed to see scenes showing what the Earth was like once, before things went so terribly wrong ...

More music

And from another tv commercial (for Coke). ....

Bishop Finn

US Bishop Finn, symbol of church's failure on sexual abuse, resigns.

I'm glad to see this, of course, but cynical me (Pope Francis is failing on sex abuse ) recalls that it has taken 2+ years for Pope Francis to "accept the resignation" of a criminally convicted Finn, that this comes after nagging from the civilian members of his sex abuse commission, that this (and the ending of the investigation of the US nuns) conveniently comes prior to the pope's planned visit to the US, and that numerous bishops and cardinals who have been thought to have covered up abuse (including Chilean Bishop Juan Barros) remain in place.

Does this mean the pope will only remove bishops who are convicted of covering up abuse but not those like Roger Mahony (Los Angeles Cardinal Hid Abuse, Files Show) and Bernard Law (Pope Francis: Controversy Arises with Disgraced US Cardinal Bernard Law) who have not been charged because of statutes of limitation? Why? Will he then remove Australian Archbishop Philip Wilson who's been charged with covering up sex abuse if he is convicted?

Time will tell.

Monday, April 20, 2015

A song

Heard this today in a hotel commercial ;) ....

Another Sunny Day

Another sunny day, I met you up in the garden
You were digging plants, I dug you, beg your pardon
I took a photograph of you in the herbaceous border
It broke the heart of men and flowers and girls and trees

Another rainy day, we're trapped inside with a train set
Chocolate on the boil, steamy windows when we met
You've got the attic window looking out on the cathedral
And on a Sunday evening bells ring out in the dusk

Another day in June, we'll pick eleven for football
We're playing for our lives the referee gives us f**k all
I saw you in the corner of my eye on the sidelines
Your dark mascara bids me to historical deeds

Everybody's gone you picked me up for a long drive
We take the tourist route the nights are light until midnight
We took the evening ferry over to the peninsula
We found the avenue of trees went up to the hill
That crazy avenue of trees, I'm living there still

There's something in my eye a little midge so beguiling
Sacrificed his life to bring us both eye to eye
I heard the Eskimos remove obstructions with tongues, dear
You missed my eye, I wonder why, I didn't complain
You missed my eye, I wonder why, please do it again

'The lovin is a mess what happened to all of the feeling'
I thought it was for real; babies, rings and fools kneeling
And words of pledging trust and lifetimes stretching forever
So what went wrong? It was a lie, it crumbled apart
Ghost figures of past, present, future haunting the heart

Jurassic World

I am so looking forward to this! The movie stars Chris Pratt of Guardians of the Galaxy and a Tylosaurus ... eeek! ;) I can remember when I first read Jurassic Park and contemplated the wondrous news that it would someday be made into a movie. We've come so far ...

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Ignatian prayer

I'm listening again to this explanation of Ignatian spirituality from Rob Marsh SJ ... he briefly outlines three practices from the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola. It's this kind of prayer and what seems to be the belief behind it .... that God can be interacted with, that he can be found in all things, that what we want matters to him .... which keeps me from giving up on religion.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Ooooh - very dark the upcoming movie Batman v Superman ...

You can read more about the movie at Wikipedia and here's a bit about the trailer and movie from Forbes ...

[...] We get the notion that Superman is being viewed as something of a god, and we get the idea that he’s being viewed with conflicting emotions the world over (much of the narration comes from Holly Hunter). The insertion of Ben Affleck’s Batman almost feels shoehorned in (which I’d argue he is), since in the so-called real world a rich guy who dresses up like a bat and fights bad guys is significantly less interesting than a would-be demi-god who flies around and has unimaginable strength and abilities. Having said that, the teaser comes awfully close to following the “dark sequel” template with Batman presented as the new villain, and I am reminded of the first theatrical trailer for Star Trek Into Darkness in terms of a first half reintroducing the new status quo and the second offering cryptic threats from the new villain ...

I read a lot of comics as a kid - perhaps I learned more about morality and ethics from them than I did from my family or school. I mostly read Marvel comics but I did make an exception for the DC's Superman .... I especially liked his mild-mannered reporter Clark Kent alter ego :) ...

Never liked Batman, though, and I didn't read the comics ... it was too hard to identify with or take seriously his billionaire playboy persona. I couldn't help laughing at this commentary on Batman from an episode of Fringe ...

Hope Superman wins :)

Friday, April 17, 2015

"Why Women Aren't Having Children"

From The Atlantic, a long article but worth a read. Here's the beginning ...

Pope Francis is widely believed to be a cool Pope .... But there’s one issue that can make even Cool Pope Francis himself sound a little, well, judgy. “A society with a greedy generation, that doesn’t want to surround itself with children, that considers them above all worrisome, a weight, a risk, is a depressed society,” the pontiff told an audience in St. Peter’s Square earlier this year. “The choice not to have children is selfish. Life rejuvenates and acquires energy when it multiplies: It is enriched, not impoverished.”

Ignore the irony of a man who’s celibate by choice delivering a lecture on the sacred duty of procreating, and focus instead on his use of the word “selfish.” This particular descriptor is both the word most commonly associated with people who decide not to have children, and part of the title of a new collection of essays, Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed, by 16 different writers (both female and male) who fall into exactly that category. While the association appears to be so deeply embedded in the collective psyche that it’d take dynamite to shift it, if the book reveals anything, it’s that there’s an awful lot more to not wanting children than the impulse to put oneself first. “People who want children are all alike,” writes editor Meghan Daum in the book’s introduction, with apologies to Tolstoy. “People who don’t want children don’t want them in their own way.” ......

Thursday, April 16, 2015

More links

- In San Francisco more than 100 Prominent Catholics Sign Full-Page Ad Asking Pope to Remove SF Archbishop ...

- The latest version of the new Star Wars movie, this one showing Han Solo :) ...

- Check out the SoundCloud poscasts from the British Jesuits. Here's one from the Pray-As-You-Go past of the examen prayer, the music is by Tom McGuinness SJ ...


- from A Hard Day's Night

Paul McCartney is writing to me ;) ....

April 16, 2015

Dear Crystal,

Right now, baby seals are being brutally clubbed and shot for their fur off Canada’s east coast.

What happens to these defenseless pups is horrible. Many are wounded and left to suffer in agony, impaled on metal hooks and dragged across the ice. Still more are clubbed or shot and allowed to escape into the ocean, where they die slowly.

My friends at The Humane Society of the United States are now the only organization on location to film this atrocity -- to expose this horror to the world -- and they need your help to keep their cameras rolling. Please make an urgent donation today.

The footage they gather will be critical. The European Union ban on seal product trade has saved more than one million seals from a horrible fate in recent years. But the EU is revising the regulation and special interest groups are pushing hard to weaken it.

We must show decision makers that the cruelty continues and a strong ban remains crucial. Just as importantly, we need to convince countries in Asia to prohibit their trade in seal products.

This year, a group of generous donors has given The HSUS $125,000 as a matching gift challenge. Please give generously so we can meet this challenge.

Ever since I personally visited the harp seal nursery with The HSUS, I have been in awe of this amazing and unique wildlife spectacle.

We simply cannot allow it to be turned into an open air slaughterhouse each year.

Please give what you can, and help end the commercial seal hunt for good.

Paul McCartney

I get many animal welfare action alerts and requests for donations via email and I try to help when I can. Here's a video of Paul and the baby seals ...

You can read more about all this from the Humane Society here - About the Canadian Seal Hunt

Long long ago in a galaxy far far away

Looking at old college-era photos from my pile of ancient photographs ;) Here's one of my sister, my mother, and me. I can tell It's from sometime in college because I'm wearing a college T shirt ...

Wednesday, April 15, 2015


- The Pope rejects the French Ambassador to the Vatican because he's gay

- Garry Wills: The Myth About Marriage

- Leave Madonna’s age out of it: Nobody gets a free pass to grope at will

- When a pharmacist turns a woman away

- Candida Moss: Does Christianity have a Future?

- The Pope talks about the man/woman thing, praising complementarity (yuck) and denouncing gender theory (sigh). Strangest of all, he exhorts society and the church to give women more of a voice, while at the same time completely ignoring that he and the church discriminate against women. I guess he'll never get it :( Here's a bit of what he said ...

[...] This catechesis and the next are concerned with the difference and complementarity between man and woman ... I wonder, for example, if the so-called gender theory is not also an expression of a frustration and of a resignation, which aims to cancel the sexual difference because it no longer knows how to address it ....

It is without doubt that we must do much more in favor of woman if we want to give back more strength to the reciprocity between men and women. In fact, it is necessary that women not only be more listened to, but that her voice has real weight, a recognized authoritativeness in the society and in the Church. The way itself with which Jesus considered women –we read it in the Gospel, it is so! -- in a context less favorable than ours, because in those times women were in fact in second place ... and Jesus considered her in a way which gives a powerful light, which enlightens a path that leads far, of which we have only followed a small piece. We have not yet understood in depth what things the feminine genius can give us, which woman can give to society and also to us. Perhaps to see things with other eyes that complements the thoughts of men. It is a path to follow with more creativity and more audacity ...

Monday, April 13, 2015

Grilled cheese lovers

I don't know how I missed this (thanks Dina), but yesterday was National Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day (or is it grilled cheese month?). I have loved grilled/toasted cheese sandwiches ever since my grandmother used to make them for my sister and me everyday after high school. Being a vegetarian, they're probably what I eat the most at home for dinner. And, in the LA Times: Survey suggests grilled cheese lovers have more sex, are more generous

I'm not alone in my love for the grilled cheese sandwich - from Once Upon a Time, Emma receives her favorite sandwich from Captain Hook :) ...

Saturday, April 11, 2015

The week of movies: day 6

Tonight's movie was Anna Karenina ...

a 2012 British epic romantic drama film directed by Joe Wright. Adapted by Tom Stoppard from Leo Tolstoy's 1877 novel of the same name, the film depicts the tragedy of Russian aristocrat and socialite Anna Karenina, wife of senior statesman Alexei Karenin, and her affair with the affluent officer Count Vronsky which leads to her ultimate demise. Keira Knightley stars in the lead role as Karenina, marking her third collaboration with Wright following both Pride & Prejudice (2005) and Atonement (2007), while Jude Law and Aaron Taylor-Johnson appear as Karenin and Vronsky, respectively. Matthew Macfadyen, Kelly Macdonald, Domhnall Gleeson and Alicia Vikander appear in key supporting roles.

The basic plot - in a loveless marriage, Anna Karenina has an affair with a young officer, Count Vronsky. Though their clique accepts men catting around, not so much women, and she's separated from her son by her husband and socially ostracized. Eventually she throws herself under a train. Writing that last sentence just made me want to giggle, not cry - I might have been touched by the scenario if the movie had been straightforwardly sincere, but it was so mannered and emotionally distanced and form-over-substance with the way it was staged that I just couldn't take it seriously.

Roger Ebert gave the movie only 2.5 stars out of 4 and I think he was right - as he wrote in his review ...

[...] In Joe Wright's daringly stylized new version of "Anna Karenina," he returns for the third time to use Keira Knightley as his heroine. She is almost distractingly beautiful here and elegantly gowned to an improbable degree. One practical reason for that: As much as half of Wright's film is staged within an actual theater and uses not only the stage but the boxes and even the main floor — with seats removed — to present the action. We see the actors in the wings, the stage machinery, the trickery with backdrops, horses galloping across in a steeplechase ....

This is a sumptuous film — extravagantly staged and photographed, perhaps too much so for its own good. There are times when it is not quite clear if we are looking at characters in a story or players on a stage. Productions can sometimes upstage a story, but when the story is as considerable as "Anna Karenina," that can be a miscalculation.

Here's the trailer ...


- Holy Door at St. Peter's Basilica

- Pope to formally proclaim holy year in front of basilica's Holy Door. So what is a holy door? One by which people gain indulgences when they pass through. I never get this ... how can walking through a certain door get you time off purgatory? I don't think indulgences or purgatory are very believable.

- 5 Facts About Hillary Clinton's Faith

- A General Feeling of Disorder - Oliver Sacks

- Oooooh ... *not* a chameleon but two painted women :) ....

The week of movies: day 5

I'm a bit late with this one but the movie just went on and on. Tonight's film was Exodus: Gods and Kings ...

a 2014 biblically-inspired epic fantasy film directed by Ridley Scott .... The film stars Christian Bale, Joel Edgerton, John Turturro, Aaron Paul, Ben Mendelsohn, María Valverde, Sigourney Weaver, and Ben Kingsley. It is a loose interpretation of the exodus of the Hebrews from Egypt as led by Moses and related in the Book of Exodus.

In my opinion, this was a really bad movie. A sibling rivalry taken to the extreme, there was no one for me to like .... both Moses and Ramses were arrogant, humorless, dolts. The only epic thing about it was the level of suffering everyone in the story had to endure, including the animals. The God who was portrayed in the movie was monstrous ... you'll have to take my word for it as I can't find any clips of him (and he's cast as a little boy - shades of Village of the Damned). Even the parting of the Red Sea was an anti-climax: it was apparently just really low tide ;) I think I actually prefer the old version of the movie with Charlton Heston ...

But for a completely different viewpoint, here's Richard Roeper's review ...

Thursday, April 09, 2015

The week of movies: day 4

Today's movie was Legend ...

a 1985 British-American fantasy adventure film directed by Ridley Scott and starring Tom Cruise, Mia Sara, Tim Curry, David Bennent, Alice Playten, Billy Barty, Cork Hubbert, and Annabelle Lanyon. It is a darker fairy tale and has been described as a return to more original, sometimes disturbing, fables, from the oral tradition of ancient times before reading and writing were widespread. Although not a commercial success when first released, it won the British Society of Cinematographers Award for Best Cinematography in 1985 for cinematographer Alex Thomson, as well as being nominated for multiple awards ...

I saw this on tv long ago and thought to try it again. I remembered it being beautiful looking, and it still was ...

But the story was very simple and had a philosophy I don't agree with (there must be a balance between extremes ... I like the idea of all good stuff instead :). Roger Ebert gave it 2 out of 4 stars in his review, which begins like this ...

Recent movies have created sort of a generic fantasy universe of Muppets and swamps, strange beasts and evil tyrants, damsels and heroic lads, and ancient prophecies and mythical legends. It's a world inspired by ingredients from "Lord of the Rings," the "Star Wars" movies, Dungeons and Dragons gamesmanship, tales of King Arthur and the latest gimmicks from the special-effects people. In a movie that works, these ingredients can be exciting and delightful. "Legend" does not work ...

But having said that, there were faeries! :) ....

Three gray cats

Thor, Mouse, and Dina snooze in the driveway ...

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

The week of movies: day 3

The movie for today was Interstellar ...

a British-American 2014 science fiction epic film directed by Christopher Nolan, starring Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain and Michael Caine. The film features a crew of astronauts who travel through a wormhole in search of a new home for humanity.

I thought the movie was really good - great acting, a character-driven story, very nice effects, pretty good science. I loved the robots! You can see one of them in action in this scene - he's the one who looks a bit like a stainless steel refrigerator :) ...

I don't want to give away all that happens, but here's the beginning of a review by Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times ...

What a beautiful and epic film is “Interstellar,” filled with great performances, tingling our senses with masterful special effects, daring to be openly sentimental, asking gigantic questions about the meaning of life and leaving us drained and grateful for the experience.

Christopher Nolan’s most ambitious work yet — and we’re talking about the architect of the “Dark Knight” trilogy — is clearly influenced by “2001: A Space Odyssey,” and it contains some of the most memorable, most breathtaking outer space scenes since Kubrick’s masterpiece, but there’s as much spirituality as science at play here.

Here is a Hollywood blockbuster about wormholes and the theory of relativity and black holes and extra dimensions, but its theme song could well be “All You Need Is Love.” ...

As I watched it, I couldn't help comparing it to another similar movie in which Matthew McConaughey starred ... Contact. I think the film is well worth a watch. Here's a trailer ...

The roses ...

liked the rain yesterday ...