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Thoughts of a Catholic convert

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Sunday, September 25, 2016

Music :)


Saturday, September 24, 2016

Arrival: linguistic relativity at the movies



I was at the public library today with my sister. They have a display that features books at the library that have been made into movies and I noticed today that one of the movies in the display was Arrival ...

a 2016 American science fiction drama film directed by Denis Villeneuve and written by Eric Heisserer, based on the short story "Story of Your Life" by author Ted Chiang. The film stars Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, and Forest Whitaker .... When multiple mysterious spacecraft touch down across the globe, an elite team is put together to investigate, including linguist Louise Banks (Amy Adams), mathematician Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner), and US Army Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker). Mankind teeters on the verge of global war as everyone scrambles for answers—and to find them, Banks, Donnelly, and Weber will take a chance that could threaten their lives, and, quite possibly, humanity.

I took note because had recently watched a trailer for the film at the Apple movie trailer place and thought it looked really interesting. Here's the trailer ...



The book the movie is based on is Story of Your Life ...

a science fiction short story by Ted Chiang. It was the winner of the 2000 Nebula Award for Best Novella as well as the 1999 Sturgeon award. The major themes explored by this tale are determinism, language, and an interesting take on the Sapir–Whorf hypothesis.

Here's the beginning of an article from Tor ...

Your First Look at Arrival, the Adaptation of Ted Chiang’s Novella Story of Your Life

USA Today has released the first images from Arrival, Denis Villeneuve’s forthcoming adaptation of Ted Chiang’s 1998 novella Story of Your Life and one of Paramount’s most anticipated films this year. We get our first look at Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner as a linguist and a physicist whose specialties are utilized when aliens land all over Earth and humans scramble to find a way to communicate with their extraterrestrial visitors, who possess a bizarre verbal and visual language.

This film has been in the works since 2012 but recently gained traction after Eric Heisserer (The Thing remake, Lights Out) revised the script and Adams and Renner signed on. Renner, who plays physicist Ian Donnelly, told USA Today that the movie’s tone is “if you blended a [Stanley] Kubrick and a [Steven] Spielberg movie,” and that the end result comes out closer to Contact or Close Encounters of the Third Kind than “a big Michael Bay alien movie”—which makes sense, since the entire story is about first contact. Summoned by the military, linguist Louise Banks (Adams) must learn the aliens’ two languages: the verbal Heptapod A, with its free word order, and the much more complex and visual Heptapod B.

Reeling from personal turmoil, Louise struggles to relate to these otherworldly creatures. Adams praised the fact that “[t]his isn’t a graphic-novel universe or creating a new universe. This happens in our world today, as it exists. Not having to transport myself to a universe where superheroes exist, which is also fun, really helped me ground the character and the experience.” Speaking of worldbuilding, she said, “Denis and the team have done a great job with the visuals and getting to something that looks familiar and not completely abstract.” ......


Sp what's the Sapir–Whorf hypothesis (linguistic relativity)? ...

[A]lso known as the Sapir–Whorf hypothesis or Whorfianism, [it] is a concept-paradigm in linguistics and cognitive science that holds that the structure of a language affects its speakers' cognition or world view. It used to have a strong version that claims that language determines thought and that linguistic categories limit and determine cognitive categories. The more accepted weak version claims that linguistic categories and usage only influence thoughts and decisions.

I vaguely remember this stuff from philosophy classes in college ... Quine, Searle, Wittgenstein. I found it hard to understand but this short video is pretty good at explaining it ....



Applying this stuff to an encounter with aliens should be interesting :)

The Huntsman: Winter's War

I haven't posted much this week because I've been mostly obsessed with worries about what to do about the leaky roof as rainy season approaches. And then there's the little possum :) ...



But of course there was still time for a movie. This week's DVD rental was The Huntsman: Winter's War ...

a 2016 American dark fantasy action adventure film based on characters from the German fairy tale "Snow White" compiled by the Brothers Grimm, as well as "The Snow Queen" by Hans Christian Andersen. Both a prequel and sequel to Snow White and the Huntsman, the film takes place before and after the events of the first film .... Reprising their roles from the first film, the cast includes Chris Hemsworth, Charlize Theron, Nick Frost and Sam Claflin. The film also introduces new characters including Emily Blunt, Rob Brydon and Jessica Chastain

I had seen the first Huntsman movie ... Snow White and the Huntsman ... and thought it was so-so, but I liked this one a bit better, though the critics seem to have liked it less. The main problem with this Huntsman movie, from my pov anyway, is that it's mostly about form over function .... we have to spend what seems like hours marveling at the make-up and costumes and sets and flawless faces of Charlize Theron and Emily Blunt ... but the story-line is just kind of dopey. Sadly, even Chris Hemsworth can't really fix it.

Here's the beginning ofa review - The Huntsman: Winter's War ...

If you liked “Frozen” but wish it had been angrier, “The Huntsman: Winter’s War” is for you.

It’s a tale of two royal sisters, one of whom discovers in a fit of rage that she has the ability to shoot ice from her fingertips—so she exiles herself to a faraway land in the mountains, where she creates her own kingdom and builds her own army. She even wears decadent gowns in various shades of pale blue and pulls her hair back in elaborate braids.

Seriously. This is what “Winter’s War” is about ...


Here's a trailer ...


Monday, September 19, 2016

Baby possum







The last few days I've been hearing a crunching sound coming from the porch but when I would go and look I couldn't see anything. Today when I heard the sound I crept up to the front window with the binoculars I use to see far away (to me) things better, and there was a baby possum on the front porch eating the cat food. I stealthily got the camera :)

The cats are nonplussed by him ... he's as small as a medium sized rat but they don't seem to think he's edible and didn't bother him. When I came up to the door he saw me and ran away under the house. Usually the possums around here only come out at night and I've never seen a baby before. A few weeks ago my sister and I found a dead possum by the side of the road - I wonder if that was his parent? Groan - please tell me he's not going to cat # 11.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Cold Days



Now I'm listening to Cold Days (The Dresden Files, Book 14). The series is about a wizard who's a private investigator. It's an electronic audio file from the public library that I listen to in my browser, so very convenient. I've been listening to all the Dresden Files books over again while I walk ... they're interesting enough to distract me from the drudgery of exercise :). Here's what's happening where I am now ...

I’m never really comfortable at parties. Maybe I’m just not the partying type.

Even when they aren’t full of lunatic elves, hulking monsters, and psychotic faerie queens, parties are kind of tough for me. I think it’s because I’m never sure of what to do with myself.

I mean, there’re drinks, but I don’t like being drunk, and I’m pretty sure I don’t get any more charming when I do get that way. More amusing, tops, and that isn’t always in a good way. There’s music, but I never really learned to dance to anything that involved an electric guitar. There are people to talk to and maybe girls to flirt with, but once you put all the stupid things I do aside, I’m really not all that interesting. I like reading, staying home, going on walks with my dog — it’s like I’m already a retiree. Who wants to hear about that? Especially when I would have to scream it over the music to which no one dances.
So I’m there but not drinking, listening to music but not dancing, and trying to have conversations with near-strangers about anything other than my own stupid life, and they generally seem to have the same goals I do. Leads to a lot of awkward pauses. And then I start wondering why I showed up in the first place.

Hell’s bells, the kind of party with monsters is actually easier for me. I mean, at least I have a pretty good idea of what to do when I’m at one of those.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Coming to a theater near us

I saw an article in the news today about the movie trailers you should be watching, but most of the movies mentioned there were ones I'd never sign up to see, so I thought I'd post a few trailers of the movies *I'm* looking forward to seeing soon :) ...

- Doctor Strange ...



- Snowden ...



- A Street Cat Named Bob ...



Friday, September 16, 2016

Pecan-eating squirrel

It's the time of year when the squirrels are eating the pecans - you can hear them gnawing even from inside the house :)

Hansel helped me investigate ...



The squirrels are pretty messy and butter-fingered and drop a lot of nuts and particles of nuts ...



Finally I spotted him ...



He takes a break :) ...



Thursday, September 15, 2016

Throwback Thursday: college pic

Found this old and rather tatty photo of me. I remember this moment - I was sitting on an outdoor bench at school ...


Captain America: Civil War


- what's wrong with this picture? ;)

This week's movie rental was Captain America: Civil War ,,,

a 2016 American superhero film featuring the Marvel Comics character Captain America .... and features an ensemble cast, including Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Don Cheadle, Jeremy Renner, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Rudd, Emily VanCamp, Tom Holland, Frank Grillo, William Hurt, and Daniel Brühl. In Captain America: Civil War, disagreement over international oversight of the Avengers fractures them into opposing factions—one led by Steve Rogers and the other by Tony Stark.

The basic plot has some similarities with the recent Batman v Superman movie in that they both touch on accountability for super-beings ... what about all the collateral damage to innocent bystanders and to property inevitably caused when the Avengers are saving the world from bad guys? The solution proposed by the US Secretary of State (William Hurt) is the Sokovia Accords, which will have the UN decide if and when the Avengers are deployed to meet threats. Tony Stark/Iron Man wants the Avengers to sign the Accords, but Steve Rogers/Captain America is against it, and the other Avengers take sides. Things get much worse when a conference in Vienna where the Accords are to be signed is attacked, apparently by Captain America's missing and brain-washed friend, the Winter Soldier (see Captain America: The Winter Soldier).

What ensues is complicated, but basically, the Avengers split up and fight against each other. Several new characters get added to the team on both sides. One of them is the Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) ...



And Steve Rogers/Captain America recruits Ant-Man/Scott Lang. Now I guess I finally have to watch the Ant-Man movies after all :). But anyway, here's a clip of him in Civil War ...



And then there's Spider-Man. Tony Stark/Iron Man recruits him in a pretty funny scene which they won't let me embed, and it was hard to find a good clip showing him in the film - I guess they wanted to keep the Spidey suspense alive until after the movie debuted, but you can catch glimpses of him (and Ant-Man too) in this featurette ...



The movie got good reviews. Here are a few of them ... Captain America: Civil War is Marvel's best film so far ... ‘Captain America: Civil War’ review: Choose your own avenger ... Review: In ‘Captain America: Civil War,’ Super-Bro Against Super-Bro

I really liked the film myself - I'm completely addicted now and have been since I was a little kid to all things Marvel - so I do recommend it. And while there's humor and lots of action in the movie, it also raises some serious questions too, questions I wonder how I would answer ... will you let grief at the loss of loved ones change you for better or worse ... will you honor friendship even at a cost to yourself ... will you give your moral agency over to an organization or will you be personally responsible for your ethical choices.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

At the zoo

I often visit the San Diego Zoo's twitter place to see pics of the animals. Here's what I saw today :) ...

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Pardon Snowden



ACLU and Amnesty International ask Obama to pardon Snowden

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Roses




Saturday, September 10, 2016

More from Changes



I'm still listening to Changes and have come to a part where Harry and his friends are about to go off to rescue a little girl from evil vampires. While they were getting ready, they were deciding who each of them resembled most of the characters of The Lord of the Rings. Harry, being a wizard, was sure he would have been Gandalf, but instead he was chosen as Sam ...

"Sanya," I said. "Who did I get cast as?"

"Sam," Sanya said.

I blinked at him. "Not . . . Oh, for crying out loud, it was perfectly obvious who I should have been."

Sanya shrugged. "It was no contest. They gave Gandalf to your godmother. You got Sam." He started to leave and then paused. "Harry. You have read the books as well, yes?"

"Sure," I said.

"Then you know that Sam was the true hero of the tale," Sanya said. "That he faced far greater and more terrible foes than he ever should have had to face, and did so with courage. That he went alone into a black and terrible land, stormed a dark fortress, and resisted the most terrible temptation of his world for the sake of the friend he loved. That in the end, it was his actions and his actions alone that made it possible for light to overcome darkness."

I thought about that for a second. Then I said, "Oh."

He clapped me on the shoulder and left.

He didn't mention the other part of the book. That following the heroes when they set out was the tenth member of their party. A broken creature who went through all the same dangers and trials, who had made a single bad choice and taken up a power he didn't understand - and who had become a demented, miserable, living nightmare because of it. In the end, he had been just as necessary to the overthrow of the darkness.

But he sure as hell didn't enjoy his part.

I shook my head and berated myself sharply. Here I was wasting time talking about a damned book. About a world of blacks and whites with precious little in the way of grey, where you could tell the good guys from the bad guys with about two seconds of effort.

And right now, I didn't give a damn about good and bad. I just wanted a little girl home safe.

It didn't matter which of them I was. As long as I got Maggie home.


Friday, September 09, 2016

Throwback Thursday: concerts

OK, my sister has informed me that it's Friday, not Thursday, but I don't care :) When I was in high school/college my sister and I went to a lot of concerts. My parents were pretty good about giving us rides when we were younger and living so near San Francisco meant we had the opportunity to see many bands. Here are a few performers that I saw in concert back in the day ....

- Jethro Tull ...



- Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers ...



- The Moody Blues ...



Kathryn Brand: The Jesuits’ Slaves

There's been much in the Catholic news lately about Jesuit Georgetown University making amends for its slave-owning, and I guess the Maryland Jesuits deserve credit for finally dealing with this, but it's been a long time coming. I mentioned the subject a year ago ... Links ... after reading an article in The Georgetown Voice by Kathryn Brand, published back in 2007. Here's the beginning of the article ...

The Jesuits’ Slaves

“Can a man serve God faithfully and posess slaves?” Brother Joseph Mobberly, S.J. asked in his diary in 1818. “Yes,” he answered. “Is it then lawful to keep men in servitude? Yes.”

The Jesuits of the Maryland province had always relied on plantations to support their ministries. The estates were extensive, totaling 12,000 acres on four large properties in Southern Prince Georges, Charles and St. Mary’s counties, and two smaller estates on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. In 1634, when the Jesuits arrived in Maryland, Lord Baltimore awarded them quasi-estates in which they were permitted to live off the rent of tenant farmers. However, as University Dean Hubert Cloke explains, “The system was totally antiquated and romantic, not related to reality, and they realized they were not going to make any money.” So, the Jesuits turned to indentured servants, English men and women who worked the land for set terms in return for the passage from England to Maryland. But as working conditions improved in England, the supply of indentured servants dropped and the Jesuits once again found a new way to work the land. By the 1680s they relied upon a fully developed slave system.

Compared to other plantation owners in the area, when it came to slavery, “The Jesuits were no better or worse,” according to Cloke. Many of the slaves had been gifts from wealthy Catholic families to sustain the Church. The abolition of slavery was not an issue in the area until the early nineteenth century, when Georgetown’s Jesuits became deeply divided over the issue of slavery.

“But they were not conflicted in the way you would want,” Cloke said. “They were conflicted over what to do about the threat of abolitionists.”

In a generational divide, an older group of Jesuits, mostly European born, felt a patriarchal connection to their slaves and were unwilling to sell them. A younger, American-born group, a minority, felt that the money invested in plantations should be spent on institutions in cities like Philadelphia and New York with their rapidly growing Catholic populations. It seems neither faction had any particular moral quandaries with the six plantations and the nearly 300 slaves owned by Georgetown’s and Maryland’s Jesuits.

This rift is just one of the things American Studies students learned when history professors like Cloke and Emmett Curran introduced the Jesuit Plantation Project into the American Studies curriculum in the spring of 1996. The project involved students transcribing and digitizing hundreds of documents from the Jesuit’s Maryland Province Index recording the Georgetown’s Jesuits’ complicated relationship with slavery.

With only two exceptions, all the higher-ranking Jesuits in the province during the time were foreign-born and of the older faction. Since only U.S. citizens had temporal jurisdiction, foreign Jesuits had no authority over the Mission’s estates.

This meant that a younger group of American Jesuits, a minority, controlled the destiny of the estates, and this group wanted to end slave operations.

“They considered the plantations and slaves as a losing business enterprise and thought the Society should rid itself of both plantations and slaves,” Curran said.

Abolitionists presented an economic rather than moral problem for these Jesuits. With a growing abolitionist presence in Maryland, some of them feared a devaluation of their property, their slaves. Maryland was a state in which slavery had a tenuous hold, the economy was no longer driven by slave labor. According to reports, the general debt of the mission was close to $32,000 by the 1830s, a large sum for the time.

“It was not a market for growing crops, but for growing slaves,” said Cloke. The real money was to be made not from the work a slave could do in Maryland, but from the hugely profitable business of selling the slaves downriver ....



Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Changes

[T]here were some things I believed in. Some things I had faith in. And faith isn't about perfect attendance to services, or how much money you put on the little plate. It isn't about going skyclad to the Holy Rites, or meditating each day upon the divine. Faith is about what you do. It's about aspiring to be better and nobler and kinder than you are. It's about making sacrifices for the good of others - even when there's not going to be anyone telling you what a hero you are.

From Changes (The Dresden Files, Book 12) by Jim Butcher

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

First Things defends the burqa and burkini

If one needed any further evidence that it is the *conservative* view that supports burqa and burkini wearing, and not the liberal view, there's a post at First Things that criticizes the burqa and burkini bans in France: Burkinis, Anabaptists, and Living One’s Faith. It doesn't have an auspicious beginning ...

The image has been making its rounds on news sites and social media: a French Muslim woman sitting on the beach, being forced, in the name of “good morals and secularism,” to remove her clothes. Last week, Nice was the last city to lift the Burkini Ban, in accordance with an order from France’s Council of State, which ruled that the ban “illegally breached fundamental freedoms.” But the veiling debate—which has been going on for years in France—is clearly not over.

As a woman who dresses modestly and wears a head covering on the basis of my Christian faith, I have been thinking about the issues involved here for a while. In a class last year, we were informally discussing the brutal attacks at the Charlie Hebdo offices. I come from a tradition of Christian pacifism. I find all acts of violence to be indefensible and unjustifiable. But I found myself saying: “But if I saw blasphemous cartoons of Jesus . . . if I wasn’t allowed to dress according to my convictions publicly . . .” I got a table-full of blank stares. I sounded like an apologist. My argument trailed off into a lame “I don’t know—.” ...


One can't help but wonder how she would have finished her statement, “But if I saw blasphemous cartoons of Jesus . . ." What, she would have gunned down the artist?

The post goes on to assert things that are not true ... France is forcing its Muslim citizens to make this choice: To be French, or to be Muslim. Wrong - wearing those garments is not required by Islam and in fact most Muslim women choose not to wear them.

The way I dress seems to invite people to think in these terms, and to assert the principle that the spiritual life should not be lived in public ... if faith has any strength it must move beyond this misguided Manichean distinction between spirit and matter, to shape my actual life.

Conservatives often worry about liberals and secularists forcing religion into a private practice and out of the public square, but there's no sign that's happening ... we live in a country where most of the Supreme Court is made up of conservative Catholics, where the president is a Protestant and the VP a Catholic, where the Little Sisters of the Poor can sue the government over birth control. Come on.

I know that ultimately my faith takes precedence over my citizenship. I pray that the day will never come when I will be forced to choose between them. If I were to be faced with this choice—if the expression of my faith were not allowed in public—my response would be to continue to live according to my convictions, taking a cue from Martin Luther King Jr., “openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty.”

Yes, protesting the right to wear a scarf, a right that will never be questioned in the US, ranks right up there with civil rights protests .... not. But anyway, in a pluralistic society in which citizens believe in many different religions and some in none, it's necessary to preserve freedom of belief and worship while also regulating how people act .... complete religious freedom of action can only exist in a vacuum or in a ghetto.

But anyway, I'm just saying, again, that the support of garments like the burqa and burkini is a conservative position, despite the recent liberal embrace of such. Thank you, First Things, for making my point. Here are a few of my past posts touching on this ...

The SSPX, Kirill's Orthodoxy, and the burqa/burkini

Germany considers banning the burqa

Burkinis, again

Telling women what they can't wear

Everyone's been so mad at the French for telling women they can't wear burkinis at the beach, but of course the Catholic church does the same sort of thing all the time ...



Monday, September 05, 2016

Colony



My latest DVD rental is the tv series Colony ...

an American science-fiction drama television series created by Carlton Cuse and Ryan J. Condal, starring Josh Holloway and Sarah Wayne Callies .... In a dystopian, near-future Los Angeles, a couple, Katie (Callies) and Will (Holloway) Bowman, live with two of their three children, under a regime of military occupation by an organization known as the Colony Transitional Authority. They are part of a larger invading force, of extraterrestrial origin, who are referred to as the "Hosts" ...

I signed up for the show because I like Josh Holloway, who was also in Lost . In Colony he plays a former U.S. Army Ranger, and FBI Special Agent who is living under an assumed name/identity to protect himself and his family after the aliens take over. He's found out when trying to find his missing son and forced to work for the collaborators, helping to expose the leaders of the human resistance to the alien occupation. Little does he know, however, that his wife is part of that resistance. I've only seen one episode so far but I like it.

Here's a promo ...


Mother Teresa and The Lancet

There's an article at America magazine's blog by Fr. James Martin SJ which criticizes Mother Teresa's critics and compares her to Jesus. I don't agree with his view, and that led me look up a past article in the medical journal, The Lancet, by the editor, Dr. Robin Fox. He had visited Mother Teresa's Home for the Dying and wrote about what he saw there ... "Mother Theresa's care for the dying", Robin Fox, Lancet, 9/17/1994, Vol. 344 Issue 8925, p807. 2p. Here below is a bit from the article (which was free online from my public library).

Many of the patients there were not actually dying but simply ill. The medical care they received was "haphazard", with doctors dropping in only once in a while and most care being given by volunteers or nuns, only some of whom had any medical knowledge. Illnesses were misdiagnosed, wrong medications prescribed, and routine diagnostic tests were not given to patients ... "Could not someone have looked at a blood film? Investigations, I was told, are seldom permissible. How about simple algorithms that might help the sisters and volunteers distinguish the curable from the incurable? Again no. Such systematic approaches are alien to the ethos of the home. Mother Theresa prefers providence to planning;" And then there was the subject of pain management ... "I was disturbed to learn that the formulary includes no strong analgesics. Along with the neglect of diagnosis, the lack of good analgesia marks Mother Theresa's approach as clearly separate from the hospice movement."

Mother Teresa has said that "suffering is gift from God". I don't believe the creepy notion that suffering is a good thing, that God sends it to us, that we should not try to alleviate it but embrace it. That a person who believes this should be in control of the treatment of dying and ill patients is just wrong. When Mother Teresa herself was sick and suffering, she went to high tech medical centers like the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla. The words "double standard" come to mind.

She is not like Jesus.