Saturday, December 13, 2008

Review: Mobile Gabriel

Mobile Gabriel is a website that has the readings for Mass, both Daily and Sunday. It's available for viewing over your computer or you can download it to your PDA or smartphone (iPhone, Treo, Blackberry, Centro, etc.) through an e-book reader called "Mobipocket." Mobipocket is available free of charge and Mobile Gabriel has instructions.

You can also download Mobile Gabriel to your PDA/smartphone through AvantGo, which is how I found Mobile Gabriel originally. (AvantGo has other sites, secular and religious, you can download as well.)

Mobile Gabriel is free. (I like free!) Besides the Daily and Sunday Mass readings there is a reflection written by Don Schwager which focuses on a key phrase from the Gospel.

The readings of Daily Mass either continue the theme of the readings from the previous Sunday or lead into the themes for the coming Sunday. Many of my favorite parables and Psalms appear in these readings. The same stories will often appear, but from a different Evangelist, so the same event will be told with a slightly different emphasis.

Reading the Daily Mass helps put the Sunday Mass into context and is especially useful for those weeks I'm a lector. By the end of three years (Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C), I will have read most of the Bible. And I don't have to flip through the different Books of the Bible to find the correct Chapter and Verse. Because I have my Centro with me, I'm more likely to follow the Daily Mass readings--I usually read them waiting in line for my BART train at the end of my work day. Waiting in line might not be the ideal time to contemplate the Divine; on the other hand, I'm reminded that God and Jesus are with me always. Besides, Jesus didn't just preach in the Temple. :)

On the March Hare scale: 5 out of 5 Golden Bytes.

crossposted at The Mad Tea Party

Sunday, December 7, 2008

“Take it to The Queen; A Tale of Hope”

Here's a great book to give to a family member for Christmas.
"Take it to the Queen; A Tale of Hope"
by Josephine Nobisso
illustrated by Katalin Szegedi
Gingerbread House Books

Imagine a kingdom, whose benevolent King gave His subjects fresh water to drink which poured from golden fountains, fields of hearty grain for baking fragrant bread, fine foals in their stables for transportation, and best of all, a beautiful and gentle Queen from among their own people, whose Son would come to visit them. You can only imagine how grateful the King’s subjects would be, thanking Him each day for His kind providence, and enjoying loving fellowship with the Queen and her Son.
Anyone familiar with human nature darkened by Original Sin knows that this scenario could only exist in a fairy tale. The vices of greed and pride would soon take over, spoiling the perfect gift of the King for all. Man would soon find himself in self-imposed misery, and blame the King, doubting his very existence.
Like her popular book, “The Weight of a Mass”, “Take it to the Queen” is a captivating allegory of the life of faith. But don’t let Katalin Szegedi’s whimsical illustrations fool you into thinking that this book solely for young children. “Take it to the Queen” is a story which has a wealth of meaning which challenges readers of all ages, and the more you read the book, the deeper you are able to mine its riches. Author Josephine Nobisso has included extensive notes under the book flaps to help the reader interpret the deeper meaning of the story and the meticulously crafted, illustrations. She does years of research around the globe for each story she writes. In “Take it to the Queen”, she has incorporated elements of the popular devotion begun by Luisa Piccaretta; the Divine Will. Notes from Mrs. Nobisso at the end of the chapter explain this devotion and how it is incorporated into the story. After careful reading of this thought-provoking story, I found myself not only questioning my response to the generosity of the King, but whether I trusted my meager gifts to the loving hands of the Queen and her Son who would bring them to the King in the most beautiful form possible

Read this story with the entire family, and enjoy the powerful story without looking at the clues. Have the children suggest any allusions to the Gospel or the life of faith on their own. Then, ask the children to uncover the symbols in the story, and watch their excitement as they recognize elements from each. I read this story to students from 5th through 8th grade, and was amazed at how enthusiastic were the reactions from each class, though each enjoyed the book on a slightly different level. The children loved the story, and so did their teacher, though I had to fight the tears at the moving depictions of God’s merciful love. The sign of a masterpiece of children’s literature is that it speaks to all ages and that the book is saved to pass on to the grandchildren. “Take it to the Queen” is on its way to becoming a well-loved Catholic classic like “The Weight of a Mass”.
This book is highly recommended for all children of the Queen!

Catholic Reluctantly a True to Life Reflection on the New Girl at School

by Christian M. Frank
312 pages
A shy new girl in school would not usually have to fight off new friends, unless, like Allie, in Catholic Reluctantly, you go to John Paul 2 High, with only 6 students. Such was the misfortune the pretty blonde teen who was forced by her mother into the fledgling school, after a terrifying incident with a gunman in public school. In her first encounter with her fellow students, she overhears them talking about a “psycho kid” in the hallways, only to be followed by having whipped cream sprayed in her face by an unseen attacker in the girl’s room. Allie assumes that her fellow students think she is a mental case after her incident with the gunman, and have decided to humiliate her. After this dismal beginning, it takes the other students of John Paul 2 High a long time to gain Allie’s confidence. Then there is the strange Catholicity of the school. They pray the rosary before school and something called the “Divine Mercy Chaplet” after the day has ended. Allie can’t wait to escape from this strange place into the familiarity of her boyfriend’s car.
Handsome athlete George Peterson, however, has his eye on Allie, and as he tries to fit in as the new member of the public school wrestling team, George discovers how little respect Allie’s boyfriend Tyler has for her, and struggles with the decision on whether or not to tell her what he is really like. He is afraid that his growing affection for Allie might meet with her scorn.
Author Christian Frank understands the minds of today’s Catholic teens and the six main characters, who run the gamut from on fire members of the JPII generation, from judgmental zealots, and shy former homeschoolers, to worldly young women like Allie. Puzzled by her encounter with these strange young Catholics, and faced with new ideas, about the faith she only practiced at Christmastime, Allie doesn’t know what to think about the strange kids at the tiny school. “Catholicism, Truth. It was hard to talk about things like this—it was using muscles she’d never used before”. At first, she is put off by their straightforward class discussions; they are convinced that the truth can be found, and that it isn’t relative. Soon the truth begins to pursue her, and open her mind to different ways of thinking about what love is, and isn’t. The “Truth Guy” as Allie has learned, from a poem read in her English class, has a way of tripping you up in your former ideas of right and wrong, making life more complicated, and beautiful.

If the theme of “Catholic Reluctantly” is to show Allie’s conversion from typical teen to a teen in pursuit of the Truth, it is done with subtlety and with likeable, believable characters. Nothing happens in this story which couldn’t happen in any high school in America. The overly-zealous, heavy handed Catholic is not the hero of this story; it is the quietly charitable Catholics who only seek confrontation when no other means will do. There was a bit more detail about high school wrestling than I would have liked; perhaps this was aimed at attracting young men.
No inappropriate material, though there is some reference to pornographic magazines, it is dealt with in a Catholic manner. Relationships are examined in the light of Catholic teaching which makes “Catholic Reluctantly” the perfect book for those who enjoy contemporary Catholic fiction with a purpose.
This review was written as part of the Catholic book Reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Catholic, Reluctantly.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Prince Caspian is out on DVD/Blue Ray

A few weeks ago, I attended my first Hollywood press junket to interview the lead actors of "Prince Caspian" which has just been released on DVD in time for Christmas. I highly recommend it.
Until my article on the interviews is complete, here is a review of the DVD from Narnia Web, a complete resource for all Narnia fans.

Movie Review: "Twilight"

A moody, intellectual young woman, Bella is the product of divorced parents who seem to have difficulty handling their own life challenges, much less that of their lonely daughter. Bella leaves her home in sunny Phoenix to begin small town life in her father’s house in gloomy Forks, Washington, since her mother is pursuing a love interest and has no time to wait for her daughter to finish high school. Bella (Kristen Stewart) is instantly surrounded by slavish new friends, but none of them inspire her respect like the one who won’t speak with her, the aloof, eerily handsome Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) who glides into the school cafeteria with his eccentrically beautiful siblings. Legends swirl around the Cullens but Bella’s father, Charlie, the small town sheriff (Billy Burke) dismisses them as unfair. He cites Dr Carlisle’s stellar reputation as a surgeon in the local hospital, who has taken in an odd assortment of foster children, who don’t mix with their peers yet are the talk of the town.
Soon Bella and Edward are thrust into a crisis which forces her to confront Edward about what makes the Cullens so different. Bella discovers that they are vampires, but unlike the murderous types who have been stalking the locals, the Cullens have learned to satisfy their cravings for human blood by hunting and killing wild animals. They are ‘vegetarian vampires’. “It’s like humans living on tofu. You are not hungry but you are never fully satisfied”, Edward explains to Bella. That is why he has been so cold to her, all the while drawing her in with his sultry silence. Soon Bella finds herself recklessly in love with a man who, every moment they are together, has to fight a relentless lust, not as much for her body as for her blood.

Following on the heels of one of the cultishly popular book series, “Twilight” filmmakers had a distinct advantage: millions who have read the series were longing for this film to come out, selling out entire theatres in advance, with many women planning parties to celebrate the film’s premiere, and to go in groups to see this film. This undoubtedly insured the film’s all-important opening box office returns. However, this advantage of a vast built in audience was also fraught with peril. Devotees of a book, particularly a romance can be adamant that certain details ( i.e. the romance) be done right. Director Catherine Hardwicke wisely included author Stephanie Meyers on the movie set to advise her. Most of the big decision makers; casting, production, etc. were women, so one would assume that the magnetic pull of the book would make it to the screen in its purest form. It seems they were wrong. One week after the film’s successful opening, I attended a sparsely populated matinee the day after Thanksgiving. How could the incredible furor this film created have died out so rapidly? Teen fans of the books told me of their bitter disappointment before I saw the film. “They (the romantic characters Edward and Bella) looked like they hated each other.”
Could it be that in their devotion to the perception of the romance, readers of the book overlooked the darker aspects of the story? After all, Edward’s reaction to meeting Bella, the new student in the small town high school did convince Bella that he was sorry she had the seat next to him in science class. His interior struggles to overcome his particularly keen blood lust for her were plainly and chillingly stated in the book. Did fans assume that his unearthly physical attractiveness or the pathos of the tragic vegetarian vampire, trying to overcome his bloodthirsty nature overcome this cold-blooded fact in the reader’s minds? I read many an online discussion of the book when the darkness of the love affair where Edward who is fighting the urge to kill his beloved is defended on both these terms. Did women refuse to face the bald fact that Bella’s abandonment into the hands of Edward and his kind is ultimately going to cause her pain? Or was the danger part of the attraction? I assumed it was. Apparently so did the producers of “Twilight” as they had begun production on the sequel before the release of “Twilight”. Read a review of the book here.
Perhaps the darkness of Edward’s true nature when seen onscreen was too unsettling for even the most loyal fans. Maybe Bella’s blind devotion to Edward pales in the gloomy light of the cinema, and this film dwindles in stature from a modern rendering of the gothic “Wuthering Heights” down to just another unhealthy teenage relationship?

Perhaps a generation of young women who haven’t read such classics are seeking the darkness into light of a true gothic romance, or a strong, strangely chivalrous romantic man (it admit it’s a unique device to make Edward seem noble for saving Bella from himself!) Couldn’t these young women so hungry for masculinity, self-sacrificing love, and romance find a better story than “Twilight”?

The film, with its nightmarish mood, constant undercurrent of sexuality, and jarring score, might just have succeeded too well in conveying the dream of Stephanie Meyers which inspired the series in the first place.
Disturbing violence and overt sexual content.
Not recommended.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Being Dead is the Least of His Problems: Review of Already Dead

I lent this audiobook to a friend. Later, listening to me waxing enthusiastic over the book, he said in a dubious tone, “That’s the book where the zombies and vampires are fighting?”


It is true that vampirism is a key element of detective Joe Pitt’s character as practically everything he does entails watchful details to stay alive and undetected for what he is. Already Dead is, first and foremost, heart and soul, a hard-boiled detective novel. One might be forgiven for thinking that Charlie Huston is merely another author taking advantage of the recent trend featuring vampires as key characters in fiction. However, they would be dead wrong. What becomes very clear is that Huston is taking advantage of this fantastical setting to examine good versus evil, rising to humanity versus sinking to the level of animals, the societal urge to define oneself by the group one joins, and, of course, what constitutes true love. It is no surprise then to find that some of the greatest intentional evil is perpetrated not by vampires but by mere human beings. All of these themes are set forth for us in crackling dialogue that hearkens back to the best of Raymond Chandler and Billy Wilder, who one is irresistibly reminded co-wrote the screenplay for the film-noir classic Double Indemnity. In fact, a scene toward the end of the book between Joe and his girlfriend Evie is a noir-style dialogue masterpiece that sends thrills through the listener and that would not be out of place in that movie.
Already Dead by Charlie Huston is for adults (unlike Twilight) and you can read my complete review at SFFaudio.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Movie Review: Australia

First Disclaimer: I would pay to watch Hugh Jackman read the phone book. So, no, this review is definitely not unbiased.

Australia is told from the point of view of a young boy, Nullah (Brandon Walters). He is a "creamy": half-white, half-aborigine. His grandfather, King George, is a "magic" man who is teaching young Nullah the songs that impart all the wisdom of the Aboriginal people. Nullah has some magic in him, too, but he also realizes that he does not belong to the Aboriginal world. Neither does he belong to the white world. He has to find his own spot.

Complicating matters, the Australian Government is removing mixed-blood children from their Aboriginal mothers, forcing the children to attend boarding schools with the intention of "breeding the black" out of them. So Nullah and his mother are ever watchful for the local law.

The year is 1939. World War II has begun, but is confined to Continental Europe for the moment. A young English woman, Lady Sarah Ashley (Nicole Kidman), flies to Darwin, Australia, to persuade her husband to sell his cattle ranch and come home to England where he belongs. However, her husband's cattle station, Faraway Downs, is the only competition for the local cattle baron, King Carney (Bryan Brown). Carney is trying to drive Lord Ashley out of business so he will be the sole provider of beef cattle to the Australian Army.

Lord Ashley has sent his cattle drover (Hugh Jackman) to meet Lady Ashley at the pier in Darwin and bring her to Faraway Downs. The drover is self-employed, working for whomever he chooses. While waiting for Lady Ashley in the local bar, one of Carney's men insults him, calling him a "Boo lover." Drover slugs the man and the fight is on, moving out into the street, where Lady Ashley's luggage becomes part of the melee. She is horrified to see her lingerie scattered across the dirt street. Drover--for that's the only name he's called during the film--mutters an apology. They begin the two-day journey to Faraway Downs in a beat-up truck, overtopped with what ends up being a couch and arm chair.

Of course, Lady Ashley and Drover despise each other. She thinks he has designs on her. He informs her that he wouldn't sleep with her if she were the last female on Earth.

We know where it's going to lead--right?

Thirty minutes (or less--I wasn't looking at my watch), Drover has his shirt off and is washing up. For those who remember Mr. Jackman in Leopold and Kate, it's obvious Mr. Jackman has been working out. With good results.

When they reach Faraway Downs, Lord Ashley has been killed and King George is the primary suspect. Lady Ashley discovers that the foreman of the station has been working for Carney as well as beating Nullah (whom she suspects is his son) and Nullah's mother on a regular basis.

She fires him. He leaves, taking his men with him.

But there are 2000 head of cattle that need to be driven to Darwin if she is to have a chance at the government contract. She needs Drover's help. He's not sure that a well-bred Englishwoman can survive the tough ride.

And this is just the first half of the movie.

If you've ever watched a Western that involves a cattle drive, you know what will happen, more or less. What makes this drive different is Nullah. His grandfather is always watching from a distance. And Nullah is a special boy--he has learned his lessons well and he is brave. Frankly, Brandon Walters steals this movie from Ms. Kidman and Mr. Jackman, much as the director tries to limit his screen time.

There are lots of soulful looks between Lady Sarah and Drover. A lot of close-ups, which will probably play better on the small screen once this movie is released on DVD. There are discussions about the land and the importance of having a story and of song.

The cattle drive ends in Darwin, which sets up the next scene: a charity ball to fund the Mission where the mixed-blood children will live. This provides an opportunity for Ms. Kidman to wear a beautiful gown and for Mr. Jackman to clean up and wear a white dinner jacket. He does clean up well. The scene also gives Ms. Kidman a speech about how horrible it is to tear these children from their mothers and to show how small-minded and prejudiced the average white Australian was in 1939.

There is an interlude of relative calm until 1942. Using newsreel footage, the move jumps forward to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and on the movements of the Japanese through Southeast Asia. Drover accepts an assignment from the Australian Army: a six-month "drove" of cattle. Nullah wants to go walkabout with King George. Lady Ashley doesn't want either of them to go, so Nullah sneaks off and she tells Drover that if he leaves, he shouldn't return. So (of course), he leaves.

However, Nullah hasn't gone walkabout--he's been taken by the sheriff and is going off to Mission Island, which is directly in the path of the Japanese. Lady Ashley can't save him, but she can help with the war effort, monitoring the radio transmissions from the priest at Mission Rock.

Meanwhile, Drover is having his psyche dissected by his best friend, who happens to be an Aborigine. They notice planes flying over--Americans--and Drover figures that this is not a good sign. They ride back to Darwin in time to see the place in flames. Drover assumes Lady Ashley is dead and, when he hears that Mission Island has been attacked, commandeers a boat to find Nullah.

The acting is uniformly good. The writing could have been tighter and more true to the time: would an English lady really leave the manor to travel to the Outback? Would she really go against the conventional thinking about Aborigines? To her credit, Ms. Kidman makes it seem plausible. Mr. Jackman plays the quintessential cowboy, albeit an Australian. His toughness covers his vulnerability. His actions speak instead of his words.

The love scenes are discreet. The language is clean for the most part.

I was happily surprised that this was not another "Convicts come to Australia" movie. I tend to forget how close to Southeast Asia and the Pacific Theater Australia was. I wish I had looked at map beforehand, though, to get oriented as to where Darwin is on the continent. In the opening credits, it looks like the film was signed off by a group representing the Indigenous People (I don't remember the exact name and it's not listed on IMDb). Their characters and their traditions are presented very respectfully. In fact, I wish there had been more about them in the movie.

At the end of the movie, there is a note that the forced removal of children was ended in the 1950's and the Australian Government issued a formal apology to the "Stolen Generation."

Word of warning: do not drink a large soda prior to the movie. There is no intermission. ;)

There wasn't quite enough action to keep Hubs completely engaged. (Nicole Kidman is too thin for his tastes.) DS#2 (18), DD#1 (22), and DD#2 (15) want to see it--and I'd be willing to see it with them.

A good movie if you need a break from the holiday madness.

On the March Hare scale: 4 out 5 Golden Tickets

crossposted at The Mad Tea Party

Saturday, November 29, 2008

What does a slumdog know? The answer. (Reviewing Slumdog Millionaire)

In the case of Jamal Malik, the answer he knows is not necessarily the one that will win him millions of rupees on the Indian version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. The answers he knows are loyalty, love, perseverance, and truth.

In a story largely told in flashbacks, the movie opens with Jamal being tortured by the police as they are sure that no uneducated slumdog would know the answers to win 10 million rupees. As the detective takes him through the background for the answer to each question, we see that Jamal's life has extraordinarily prepared him for this moment. Each answer is the linchpin to a hardwon bit of information in key events of his life which begins as a tyke in the Bombay slums. Jamal and his older brother Salim exemplify brotherly love in this Dickensian tale which shows us modern India in a way that surpasses documentaries. To a point that is. We watch warily as Jamal retains his tenacious grip on truth and loyalty while Salim is only to willing to use brutality to achieve his goals. In the mix is Latika who the brothers encounter as children and who Jamal loves for herself in contrast to Salim who uses her as a playing piece for his own purposes.

As the story begins to catch up to current time, the viewer then finds many other questions such as how Jamal got on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire at all and why he is doing it. This is where the story picks up speed and intensity as the past gives way to the future which the movie characters don't know either.

As with Charles Dickens' way with a story, Slumdog Millionaire shows us a classic tale of adversity and the human spirit told with passion and peril. Yet, despite the bleak slum setting there always are swirling the gleams of hope and humor that keep this story from being depressing. Directory Danny Boyle uses his trademark "canted shots" (Rose has the correct name for everything, being fresh from film classes), swift cuts, close-ups and speed to convey the spirit which carries the film. Anyone who has watched even a few movies set in India knows to expect vivid color and vivacity. Boyle uses this to great effect not only to show us past and modern India, but to express life which is always moving forward despite what has preceded it.

In fact, it just occurred to us that the current tragedy in Mumbai (Bombay) of which Get Religion says, "India, of course, is a culture soaked in religion. It should not be surprising that this massacre is soaked in religious content and imagery..." is reflected to a degree in this movie as well. As modern as the techniques being used by terrorists are, the fact remains that human nature and India are timeless.

Allow me to drop the hint not to miss the credits which express India in a way unique to the movies. Also, the soundtrack deserves credit for keeping us definitely in place. I want it for my repeated enjoyment, but then I'm a sucker for modern Indian music.

The movie is rated R and the rating is earned. However, I will add that Boyle used inference to a large degree for some of the most disturbing scenes and it was these that honestly brought Charles Dickens to mind. There is not much in that movie at which Dickens would not have nodded knowingly. The types of poverty may have changed over the years but the human capacity for both vileness and love have not. I have seen PG-13 movies which have shown greater explicitness than this movie. It is the content of Slumdog Millionaire which is adult, as it rightly should be. This is a story with themes which should be pondered by adults. Those who do so will find themselves enriched on many levels.

Highest recommendation.

Gift Idea: Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine

Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine is known as a "pulp": printed on cheap newsprint, a little bit larger than a standard paperback. The format is a throwback to the pulps of the 1940's and '50's where now recognized Grand Masters--like Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, and Theodore Sturgeon--first refined their craft. And in that tradition, Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine publishes short stories and novellas from current authors like Connie Willis and Alan Steele and new authors as well.

The stories vary in length, style, and subject. Some are hard SF, some are soft, occasionally there is fantasy. Each issue includes poetry, editorial columns, book reviews, web site reviews, and a Convention Calendar.

Subscriptions for one year (10 issues), U.S., is about $33.00. There are "double issues" twice a year. Check the website ( for details. There is also an online version.

I've been a subscriber off-and-on since the mid-1980's. A subscription is now on my permanent Christmas list (Thanks, Mom!). Some issues, some stories, some authors stand out more than others. Other authors have used the stories first published in Asimov's as a basis for their novels.

Content warning! This is not a magazine for children. Some stories contain adult language, adult situations--including sex scenes and drug use--and violence. Some authors are not sympathetic to organized religion--and that bias may show up in some of their stories.

A warning is usually included in the front of the stories the editors think might be the most offensive. However, everyone has different triggers. Over the years, I've noticed the themes of the stories come in waves: a spate of bionic soldier stories, a spate of global cooling stories, a spate of global warming stories, a spate of First Encounter stories.

Overall, the quality of the writing is excellent. The short story and novella format allows for a lot of experimentation with themes and ideas that isn't possible with a novel because a novel is a significant investment of time and money on the part of the author and the publisher.

Asimov's is my favorite "commuter" magazine: it's small and there's a lot of variety, both in story length and content. I usually find one story I really enjoy and there are some, like Connie Willis's annual Christmas story, that I look forward to. A year of enjoyment for the cover price of a single hardback!

On the March Hare scale: 4.5 out of 5 Golden Bookmarks, excellent for the discriminating SF reader.

crossposted at The Mad Tea Party

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Book Review: Hannibal

Hannibal open seven years after the Silence of the Lambs. Clarice Starling, now a full FBI agent, is on a drug bust with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, the D.C. police, and the Drug Enforcement Agency. They're bringing in a woman who is running a meth factory and who Clarice has arrested previously.

The bust goes bad. Clarice, who is a champion pistol shooter, ends up killing the woman. Unfortunately, the woman was carrying her infant in a sling and used the child as a shield. Clarice was able to kill her without harming the child, but the TV news clips don't show the woman firing. Her family files suit and someone's head must roll to appease public opinion.

In the midst of all this turmoil, Clarice receives a letter. She recognizes the handwriting--it's from Hannibal Lecter who has been silent for these seven years. His letter alternately taunts and comforts Clarice and reignites the search for Hannibal.

The FBI, however, isn't the only entity looking for Hannibal. His sixth victim, Mason Verger, has been looking for him and is offering a reward. Because of the attack, Mason is bedridden and a paraplegic and, with nearly unlimited wealth, revenging himself on Hannibal has become his reason for living. Mason has his contacts within the FBI and knows what they know, usually before they do.

Hannibal, in the meantime, is now living in Florence, Italy, and is a curator, the previous one having mysteriously disappeared. His appearance has been altered during his stay in Brazil, including the amputation of the sixth finger on his left hand. He is content until a local police inspector begins to suspect who "Dr. Fell" really is. However, greed gets the better of the good inspector and he tries to capture "Dr. Fell" outside normal police channels, with disastrous consequences.

Thus Hannibal finds himself back in the Eastern United States and his seduction of Clarice Starling begins.

During the course of the story,the author, Thomas Harris, gives us some insight to Hannibal Lecter, clues as to how he became the monster he is. We also see more of what makes Clarice Starling tick and her frustration at being thwarted from rising in the ranks of the FBI. But I never felt any real sympathy for either of them as people. Mason Verger is absolutely evil--there are no redeeming qualities about him at all. His sister is hardly better. In fact, the character I thought was most fleshed out was the Italian police inspector: his motives for his actions were clear and plausible. The rest of them--eh, not so much.

I admit I have not read Silence of the Lambs and there might have been some important information about the characters there. Or Red Dragon, which I believe is the first book about Hannibal Lecter.

The ending was a let down.

Fortunately, I bought this copy at a Used Book Sale at my local library, so I'm not out full price. :)

Content Warning! Hannibal is still a cannibal. Graphic descriptions of what Hannibal does to his victims and of Mason Verger's physical state. Also graphic descriptions of what Mason does to his victims. Lots of morally unsavory characters as well.

On the March Hare scale: 2 out of 5 Golden Bookmarks

crossposted at The Mad Tea Party

Monday, November 24, 2008

Quick Looks at Two Good Books for Advent: The Rosary and Christmas with the Holy Fathers

Can you believe that we are in the final days of the end of the liturgical year?

As much as I love Ordinary Time (and I love Ordinary Time), I actually am really looking forward to Advent. I feel it will be so calm and meditative and ... I have absolutely no reason for thinking so. Work is still nutty, as it should be at this time of year, and there is Christmas shopping and the Beyond Cana retreat prep continues apace and then there's the podcast and guest reading for StarShipSofa and ...well you get the idea.

However, I'm going with the power of positive thinking and going to try hard to make at least my prayer time calm and meditative and connected to God. As it should be always, indeed, but with the special emphasis on looking forward to Jesus, the Light of the World, as well as reflections on Last Things.

Which is all a very long introduction to these two books that I've meant to tell you about for at least a week now. (But craziness at work, etc. ... so ... ) Maybe, just maybe, my sense of calm is due to having been reading these and thinking about them.

Your beloved knocks. The door opens. You meet Mom.

And she turns out to be the nicest person you've ever met.

She welcomes you into the family, and she radiates kindness and beauty. All that worrying, all those moments of self-doubt subside, and in a matter of seconds you feel excited to be in her presence. You look around and don't see the father, but you sense that he is everywhere in this home.

Now let's take a step back. You have never experienced a love like the one you have with your beloved, and, while you feel an openness, you admit to yourself that this person can be a mystery to you. You have questions. It's not that you don't feel close to your beloved, it's just that you begin to hunger and thirst to know everything about this love that has come into your life. And to be perfectly honest, you feel intimidated, because your beloved is such a complete person, and you feel more often than not, less than whole.

What were you like as a child? What were your parents doing before they had you? What were your friends like? Did you ever get lost? What were some of the loneliest times of your life? Why did you come into my life?

You've held off asking some of these questions of your beloved, but here in front of Mom, you feel strangely comfortable to let loose. It's as if she is standing there ready to embrace you and help you understand everything. Who better than your beloved's mother to answer all these questions swirling in your mind? Who better to provide insight than the woman who carried your beloved in her body for nine months and who experienced the pain and joy of bringing her child into the world?

You begin to ask all your questions, and this woman who you've just met seemingly transforms into your own mother. She smiles and takes down a scrapbook and the two of you begin looking at pictures. This is a picture of me when I first found out I was going to have a baby, she says. This is a picture of my cousin and me, we were both pregnant at the same time. Here's one right after the birth. So many people came to visit us. Here are a few pictures of a wedding we attended, and this is a picture of . . .

So you sit in her presence and page through the scrapbook of their lives. These pictures tell stories, and you begin to understand what was once a mystery. You feel this family's happiness, their sorrows, their illuminations, and the glory of their lives. Allof a sudden, the worries, the fears, the doubts, the brokenness, the distractions that you seem to feel on a daily basis fall away snd you are transformed by love.

That is the Rosary.
I have admitted before that I have an on-again, off-again relationship with saying the rosary. However, even during the "off" times I notice that when I have to make a difficult phone call, I am saying a "Hail Mary" under my breath as I dial. It reminds me that I am to be a disciple as she was the most perfect disciple ... it gives me calm ... and, hey, it can't hurt to have Mary saying a prayer for you!

This book made drove away the "off" time even though it is simply a decade or two during my morning prayer walk. Perhaps that is because it is elegant in its simplicity, just as the rosary really is if we do it without complicating matters. Gary Jansen introduces us to the rosary in his own life, gives us the basics, and then provides some lovely art as a meditation aid for each of the mysteries. Even in this basic format he give us much to ponder, as with the excerpt above. That put Mary in a whole new light during my meditations.

Not only is the book lovely but it also reaches out to other than Catholics. I always am curious about how people from outside Catholicism explain devotions that are seen as being strictly "Catholic." Jansen does such a good job that it will help slough off any labels put on this timeless meditation on Christ's life, death, and passion. Highly recommended.

Christmas with the Holy Fathers
Compiled by Peter Celano
Light in Darkness
Pope Pius XII
Christmas Message, 1942

His light can overcome the darkness, the rays of His love can conquer the icy egoism which holds so many back from beoming great and conspicuous in their higher life. To you, crusader-volunteers of a distinguished new society, live up to the new call for moral and Christian rebirth, declare war on the darkness which comes from deserting god, of the coolness that comes from strife between brothers. It is a fight for the human race, which is gravely ill and must be healed in the name of conscience ennobled by Christianity.


The Lesson of Silence--A Prayer
Pope Paul VI
Reflections at Nazareth
January 5, 1964

The lesson of silence: may there return to us an appreciation of this stupendous and indispensable spiritual condition, deafened as we are by so much tumult, so much noise, so many voices of our chaotic and frenzied modern life. O silence of Nazareth, teach us recollection, reflection, and eagerness to heed the good inspirations and words of true teachers; teach us the need and value of preparation, of study, of meditation, of interior life, of secret prayer seen by God alone.
It is easy to see from the two samples above, the messages of past Holy Fathers during Advent and Christmas are timeless. Both those excerpts give us so much food for thought, good reminders of how to recenter our lives, how to reorder our priorities rightly. As our modern lives are even more chaotic and busy than of times past, this is the perfect time to pick up this little book for regular contemplation during Advent and the Christmas season. These meditation-sized pieces come from as far back as Pope Saint Gregory I the Great (590-604) right into current time with our own Pope Benedict XVI. They are divided into sections covering: Advent (Including the Feast of the Immaculate Conception); Christmas Eve, The Feast of the Nativity of Our Lord (a.k.a. Christmas); Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God; and The Feast of the Epiphany. It is surprising how many topics can be covered under those categories. All of them looked like things that I needed to be reminded of and many of them I have taken to prayer since reading them. You may find the same for yourself. Highly recommended.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Twilight hit the theatres this weekend; is it good for our daughters?

I have just read the book and I say definintely not. Catholic Mom who writes here, agrees.
Here is another post on the "Twilight" phenomenon from a man who graduated from St Thomas More College and works as a DRE in Illinois.
Here is a review from Julie at a Connecticut Catholic Corner. She works in publishing and seems to be an ardent Catholic. She also has a movie review on the blog.
I'll be posting reviews of both shortly.
Just let me add my own warning; I have been a teacher for 20 years, and I never saw such mass intoxication with a book, yes, even compared with the Harry Potter series. This near hysteria came to a head in my seventh grade study hall Friday afternoon, when I could not keep the girls quiet enough to study; they were all a flutter about their plans to see "Twilight" that evening. This is a phenomenon which Catholics must examine before embracing; anything that the Culture of Death embraces with such ferocity can't be healthy.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Book Review: The Vatican

The Vatican: Secrets and Treasures of the Holy City

A few weeks ago I received an elaborate mailing piece for this book. I looked through it longingly and then resolutely threw the pieces in the trash. I had no business purchasing a book right now, even if it was a DK Publishing book ... those grown-up picture books that I love so much.

You can easily imagine my delight then when I received an email offering a review copy the next week.

What you may not be able to so easily imagine is just how beautiful this book is. In fact, I took it to my Scripture Study class the night I received it and was afraid I wouldn't get it back. Person after person paged through, lingering over the beautiful photography of the gardens, treasures, and buildings. Each of them asked the price ($35) and then would say, "That's all? But it's such a big book with so much in it..."

Actually, upon checking, I found that DK offers it for a nice discount and Amazon for an even steeper one.

So now that all those preliminaries are out of the way, just what is in this book?

The author is a historian and former Vatican employee who clearly knows his way around the ins and outs of Vatican City. He also knows the Vatican officials well enough to have gotten full cooperation and to be able to display some things that the regular visitor would never see.

Divided into six sections that cover the Church year, history, architecture, daily life, people and treasures, the book goes into much more depth than one would expect. True, many of the 320 pages feature the stunning photography that is DK's trademark. However, the history section has a succinct yet thorough overview of popes and their accomplishments than I expected. In fact, it is nice to see one that handles the basics so well without getting bogged down in the details. Admittedly I tend to read some very indepth books.

I think that my favorite section features people and their jobs. We see at work those famous Swiss Guards (and their training), the ceremonies assistant, the mosaic restorer, the papal photographer, and even what extensive practice that one must have to sing in the choir. All these have multiple photos and captions that put us in place with them.

However, I also enjoyed the architecture section more than I thought I would. Let's face it. It is unlikely that I will ever go to Rome, much less the Vatican. This book puts me there where so much that is integral to the Catholic faith takes place and has taken place for hundreds and hundreds of years.

This is well worth the price and would make a wonderful special Christmas gift for someone. Highly recommended.

To see more inside spreads, visit

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Genesis Initiative

A new company in Hollywood, dedicated to providing authentic Catholic films is always good news. The Genesis Initiative states in its mission statement:
The Genesis Initiative’s purpose is to ensure that great movies, reflecting great Catholic stories and themes, are properly produced as magnificent works of art so we can re-establish a Catholic presence in the culture for future generations.

The Genesis Initiative has some ambitious projects in mind; feature length films on Our Lady of Fatima, Blessed Father Junipero Serra, and 16 Carmelite Nuns who died trying to quell the violence of the reign of terror in 16th Century Spain. These are stories of courage and miracles which should be told, and if they are done well, may be quite successful.

Take a look at their website and see if you can support their work.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

22 Weeks; shocking true story of abortion

This movie may be one which changes history.
Too often we have to be shocked into action by a terrifying confrontation with the truth we have been ignoring. It worked with "Uncle Tom's Cabin" it worked with the nightmarish Holocaust footage. This may be the film which is their equal. Read about the true story in World Net Daily.


MATTERS OF LIFE AND DEATHMom's true-life abortion horror story hits big screenWND article about born-alive baby made into motion-picture
Posted: August 19, 200811:25 pm Eastern
By Drew Zahn© 2008 WorldNetDaily
A movie has just been finished based on the true story reported by WND of a woman trapped in the bathroom of an abortion clinic who watched helplessly as her baby, who was born alive, died.
The film, "22weeks," made by a young, Puerto Rican filmmaker, Ángel Manuel Soto Vázquez, will soon be released in private screenings in select cities as it ramps up for hopeful showings at the Toronto and Cannes Film Festivals.
The film, with promotional pages on
MySpace and Facebook, describes the movie on its homepage as follows:
A young woman is locked in the bathroom of an abortion clinic after her aborted baby was born alive. A film about decisions, their effects and the echos [sic] they leave behind. Based on the shocking WorldNetDaily article by Ron Strom, on victim's testimonies, and real 911 calls about one of the most controversial subjects of our time, "22weeks" achieves to confront both sides of the spectrum and their perspective to the on going [sic] question: "what would you do?"

A horrific story, 22 Weeks (trailer) describes what happened to a young woman whose aborted baby was accidently born alive at 22 weeks, and when she tried to save him, she was locked in a bathroom. Profoundly isturbing and revealing of what exactly is behind the phrase "Culture of Death", this true life story details what the Born Alive Infant Protection Act which was signed into law by President Bush now prevents.
Do you remember who voted to block this legislation three times in the Illinois Legislature?

Senator Barack Obama.

Vote Pro Life.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Blogger's Choice Awards

Thanks to Elizabeth Miller for nominating us for Best Entertainment Blog at the Blogger's Choice Awards. It's an honor to be appreciated by a great writer and wonderful Catholic. Please go vote for her as the Hottest Mommy blogger. for her blog The Divine Gift of Motherhood.

For those of you who missed "Expelled" get it on DVD

You who believe in scientific inquiry, freedom of speech and just plain straight talkin' owe it to yourselves to watch Ben Stein make monkees of some of the world's leading evolution believers.
Expelled. Get it today in stores, and be enlightened on just how dogmatic scientists can be.
Read my review here.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Do You Believe? Reviewing "My Cousin the Saint"

"Tell me about the miracles," Danny asked, bursting into an eager smile. "What miracles did your cousin perform?"

All right, I can do that. It's just another couple of stories. I started in on them as matter-of-factly as recounting the details of a ball game. Danny was looking at me funny again, like I was missing the point of what I was actually saying.

He leaned in over the table. "Do you believe, Justin?"

Believe in miracles? Me? Am I supposed to? I honestly had never thought of that and told him so.

"Well, I believe," Danny said with an urgency that struck me as entirely genuine. "Goodness, Justin. He's your cousin. You've got to believe!"
Justin Catanoso's discovery that he is actually related to an honest-to-goodness, canonized Catholic saint begins a journey that takes him not only to a discovery of family and heritage, but also on the exploration of a faith that had long fallen by the wayside.

In some ways, Catanoso's story is the dream of every American whose family lost their roots when they came to this country. He receives an email one day from a woman who wonders if they might be related. It turns out that the American branch of the family has long been missing a deep heritage rooted in the Italian countryside. As well, Catanoso discovers that his grandfather's cousin, Padre Gaetano Catanoso, is being considered for canonization. This unbelievable news, prompts a family visit to Italy where they are lovingly embraced by their newly found relatives and where they begin hearing stories about "the saint."
... Don Guiseppe Agostino, a young priest who was supposed to accompany the archbishop that day, received that startling news [that the archbishop had been killed]. Not knowing what else to do, he woke Padre Gaetano, who also lived at the seminary. Noticing Don Agostino's agitation, the older priest responded, "Remain calm. Everything is a mystery. In domino."

Together, they went out on foot to inform Monsignor Montalbetti's mother.

"It is late and you have not retired for the night," said the mother, Carolina Portman, answering her door. "Has something happened?"

Rather than explain, Padre Gaetano bowed his head and said barely above a whisper, "In domino." Clutching her hands to her heart, the woman understood at once. "God is passing through my life," she moaned and invited the priests inside her home. There, in a small chapel, she fell to her knees and, with anguished cries, prayed for nearly an hour. To the young priest with him, Padre Gaetano urged, "Remain still. Don't move. Adore God in this moment and take example from this great mother."

"At times he seemed naive," Don Agostino recalled later, "but instead he had a shrewd depth. So it could be understood that his was a suffered peace, a word matured in silence, a smile born of real passion."

Returning to the seminary in the middle of the night, the two priests roused the others to meet in the chapel, where Padre Gaetano led them in prayer. "He had such a presence," Don Agostino recalled. "That evening remained with me as a vital lesson on the meaning of faith."
Catanoso tells the parallel stories of his immigrant grandfather and his saintly cousin vividly and honestly. In so doing, he skillfully pulls us into the uniquely American immigrant experience of his grandfather finding his vocation as an Italian grocer in New Jersey. We see Padre Gaetano tirelessly work to improve Italian peasant life at a time when it often meant a brutish existence of ignorance and want simply because there were no other options. As Catanoso's Uncle Tony fought in World War II he wound up in Italy and that portion of the American experience is also conveyed skillfully while weaving in Tony's AWOL search for family roots.

This would be enough for most memoirs but it is merely a portion of Catanoso's story. The discovery of extended family and his saintly relative comes at a crucial time for his family as his brother, Alan, begins waging a grim fight against cancer. The many devout Catanosos begin praying to "Uncle Gaetano" for a miracle. We become just as engrossed in the fight for Alan's health. Will a miracle save him?

It is at this point that Justin Catanoso begins grappling with his faith. Raised Catholic, he had fallen away from his faith and did not know what to believe any more. Again, in many ways this parallels many Americans' struggles with faith and with the Catholic Church in particular. What are miracles? What does it mean to be a saint? What does it mean to be related to a saint, if anything? A typically pragmatic and independently minded American, Catanoso honestly recounts his struggles, questions, and doubts. In the process, he interviews Vatican officials, recipients of Padre Gaetano's miracles, believers, and skeptics. As Catanoso uncovers facts and explanations, will he be able to find for himself a real and lasting faith?
"For many people, there comes a time when you just start asking fewer questions because you accept that there are now answers to be had; you have to trust," Father Louie explained. "You search and you search until ultimately, you have to say: 'I believe.' I don't know if that's going to happen to you. You're a pragmatist. You're a rationalist. You're very American. That doesn't mean you're doomed. You have to be true to yourself. You have to be honest. But basically, it all comes down to one thing: Faith is a gift. Are you accepting the gift?"
We become equally engrossed in the search to discover just what a saint shows us as believers. Catanoso's quest becomes ours and, if we are honest, we must contemplate our own faith, belief, and the reality that we are all called to be saints.

On a side note, I found it quite interesting that he got a certain measure of reassurance about the Church from reading "Why I am Catholic" by Garry Wills, since that is a book that many faithful Catholics including myself would avoid due to Wills' criticism of certain tenents of the faith. It is a good lesson that an honest and tenacious seeker can ferret out the information they need in many more places than we could predict.

This is an absolutely fantastic book by a talented, honest, and compelling writer. It is going to be on my list of top books of 2008. Highly recommended.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Audiobook Review: The Standards of Creation

My review can be found at SFFaudio. This is right up there with T.M. Camp's "Assam and Darjeeling" as one of my favorite books of the year. I don't want to give anything away but I believe that Christian sci-fi fans are going to be especially delighted at some of the twists of this story. I know that I was!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Teach Your Children Well ... Reviewing "The Fathers" by Pope Benedict XVI

Finally, [St.] Basil was of course also concerned with that chosen portion of the People of God, the youth, society's future. He addressed a Discourse to them on how to benefit from the pagan culture of that time.

He recognized with great balance and openness that examples of virtue can be found in classical Greek and Latin literature. Such examples of upright living can be helpful to young Christians in search of the truth and the correct way of living.

Therefore, one must take from the texts by classical authors what is suitable and conforms with the truth: thus, with a critical and open approach--it is a question of true and proper "discernment"--young people grow in freedom.

With the famous image of bees that gather from flowers only what they need to make honey, Basil recommends: "Just as bees can take nectar from flowers, unlike other animals which limit themselves to enjoying their scent and color, so also from these writings...once can draw some benefit for the spirit. We must use these books, following in all things the examples of bees. They do not visit every flower without distinction, nor seek to remove all the nectar from the flowers on which they alight, but only draw from them what they need to make honey, and leave the rest. And if we are wise, we will take from those writings what is appropriate for us, and conform to the truth, ignoring the rest."

... Dear brothers and sisters, I think one can say that this Father from long ago also speaks to us and tells us important things.

In the first place, attentive, critical, and creative participation in today's culture.

Then, social responsibility: this is an age in which, in a globalized world, even people who are physically distant are really our neighbors; therefore, friendship with Christ, the God with the human face. ...
One of the things that may surprise the reader of this series of homilies given by Pope Benedict XVI is just how much pertinent information can be packed into a short piece. As one flows into the next we are treated to a history of the growing understanding of the revelation of Jesus Christ. We also watch the struggles taken on for the truth, not simply against pagans, but with those who have developed heretical doctrines.

Each homily, nicely edited to read as an essay, encapsulates the Father's life history, influences, and career. Pope Benedict then focuses on a key area of influence which that particular Father has had on the faith. Most importantly, he shows just how significant this influence can be to modern society and to each of us personally if we reflect upon it. I was reminded of just how little human nature has changed over time as I repeatedly felt the applicability of these teachings to our lives today.

As wall, we are reminded that none of us is perfect and these Church Fathers are noting if not human. Pope Benedict is not shy about pointing out a person's failings, though he always does so with charity and in order to emphasize a topic for our personal reflection.

An interesting item to note is that every single Father strongly emphasizes prayer. Each has his own particular focus or style, but the constant refrain from person to person serves as a strong reminder to us that this is a vital area where we must persevere in order to come into a good and loving relationship with God.
Notwithstanding all the theological richness of his [Origen's] thought, his is never a purely academic approach; it is always founded on the experience of prayer, of contact with God. Indeed, to his mind, knowledge of the Scriptures requires prayer and intimacy with Christ even more than study.

He was convinced that the best way to become acquainted with God is through love, and that there is no authentic scientia Christi without falling in love with him.

In his Letter to Gregory, Origen recommends: "Study first of all the lectio of the divine Scriptures. Study them, I say. for we need to study the divine writings deeply... and while you study these divine works with a believing and God-pleasing intention, knock at that which is closed in them and it shall be opened to you by the porter of whom Jesus says, 'To him the gatekeeper opens.'

"While you attend to this lectio divina, seek aright and with unwavering faith in God the hidden sense which is present in most passages of the divine Scriptures. And do not be content with knocking and seeking, for what is absolutely necessary for understanding divine things is oratio, and in urging us to this the Savior says not only 'knock and it will be opened to you,' and 'seek and you will find,' but also 'ask and it will be given you.'"

The "primordial role" played by Origen in the history of lectio divina instantly flashes before one's eyes. Bishop Ambrose of Milan, who learned from Origen's works to interpret the Scriptures, later introduced them into the West to hand them on to Augustine and to the monastic tradition that followed.
It is a pleasure to see that Pope Benedict doesn't just include the better known Fathers, although he does go into extra depth for some of them such as St. Basil, St. John Chrysostom, and St. Augustine. He is at paints to highlight the richness of the Eastern Church by including such lesser known Fathers as Aphraates "The Sage" and St. Ephrem, the Syrian.

It says much for Pope Benedict's abilities that he was able to synthesize such a vast amount of information about the Fathers the history of the Church, and the application of their teachings to modern life in general and our own lives in particular. What a gift this collection is for those who read it thoughtfully. Each of the essays is fairly short so that they could easily be made part of a daily devotional reading if desired. As well, this book is a nice companion volume to The Apostles, a previous collection of Pope Benedict's homilies.

Highly recommended.

This review was written as part of The Catholic Company product reviewer program. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on The Fathers by Pope Benedict XVI.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

"Fireproof" is hot!

The film "Fireproof" scored number 4 at opening weekend box offices.
According to "Faith and Family Live" blogger Lisa Hendey.
Nice films do finish first, sometimes!
Here is a report from "Focus on the Family"
Even the mainstream media have been forced to add their accolades.
Fireproof — the new pro-marriage movie from the folks who made Facing the Giants — wowed Hollywood by opening at No. 4 over the weekend. The movie, which cost less than $1 million to make, brought in $6.5 million.
Fireproof also boasted the year’s second-best opening weekend of any film released on 1,000 screens or fewer.
"I was hoping and praying for at least a Top 10 opening," said Bob Waliszewski, director of Focus on the Family's Plugged In magazine and Web site. "I'm very excited to see it's No. 4.
"It does send a message that there's still pent-up demand for good, wholesome family entertainment."
Even the mainstream media have been forced to add their accolades. The New York Times called Fireproof "a decent attempt to combine faith and storytelling that will certainly register with its target audience."
The Los Angeles Times went so far as to call it "a mainstream relationship flick."

Fireproof - PG

Warning: potential spoilers.

I was very anxious to see 'Fireproof', and it didn't disappoint.

From the previews, it is obvious that it it is about a marriage that is in trouble. However, I was unprepared for the level of anger and hatred that Caleb (Kirk Cameron) and Catherine (Erin Bethea) displayed toward eachother early in the movie. Caleb is a fireman, a Captain. It is clear that there are 2 major reasons for their marriage being in trouble; Caleb is addicted to internet porn, and neither of them really includes God in their life. Caleb seems to have a problem with women. He doesn't get along well with his mother either. At one point, he says to his father "Why did you have to bring her?".

Caleb's father gives him a book that saved his own marriage. It is a 40-day plan to save his marriage. Caleb tries it, but Catherine is not very receptive. Most of the movie is watching him try to win her back. His co-workers are giving him advice and sugggestions, but her co-workers convince her that he is trying to take everything from her.

Two notes about the ending: 1. It brought me to tears. 2. Everyone in the theatre was applauding.

two words: See it!

cross-posted on A Catholic View

Friday, September 26, 2008

Democratic analyst: The Party has been hijacked by secularist elites

cross-posted from A Catholic View

The Democratic Party has been hijacked by elites hostile to religion, said Mark Stricherz, author of the book "Why Democrats are Blue" and a Democrat himself, during the Casey Lecture delivered on Tuesday at the Archdiocese of Denver.

The Casey Series of Lectures was started by the Archdiocese of Denver in 2006 to promote Catholic thinking in political life, inspired by the life and political activism of the late Pennsylvania Governor Robert Casey, a devout Catholic and a Democrat.

Stricherz, who has focused his investigation on the historical transition that turned the Democrats from a Catholic-friendly organization to the pro-abortion rights party it is today, explained the decisive role played in American politics by staunch Catholic Democrats like Gov. Casey, Robert Kennedy and David Lawrence.

"These politicians provided a political leadership and a push for human rights based on religious convictions and personal prayer life, thus becoming promoters of Christian Humanist values," he said.

Full Review here

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Behind the Scenes with Kirk Cameron of "Fireproof" which opens this weekend

Anita Crane, former editor of "Celebrate Life" magazine interviewed Cameron for Spero News. "In Fireproof, Cameron stars as Captain Caleb Holt, a brave firefighter who saves strangers from peril. Nevertheless, after Caleb nearly dies while rescuing a child, he says, “The newspaper called me twice wanting an interview. Seems I’m a hero with everybody in the world, except my wife.”

Fireproof is the third feature film written by brothers Alex and Stephen Kendrick of Sherwood Pictures in Albany, Georgia – a project of Sherwood Baptist Church where they are pastors, producers and directors. Their last film, Facing the Giants, was panned by some critics, but popular among Christians.
Stephen Kendrick said, “We’re not going to Hollywood trying to win an Academy award. We are in the trenches, working with couples on a day-to-day basis.” So, instead of the usual fiction where boy-meets-girl, they sleep together, quarrel and somehow end up together, Kendrick said, “We decided that we wanted to take the audience on a journey of what’s really going on in marriages right now.”
Don't leave your partner behind. Bring him to this p0werful film.
Read the entire article here.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

No one is beyond the grace of God

This powerful conversion story of the writer who wrote the script for "Basic Instinct"(known for pushing the envelope with it's sexual content) and "Showgirls" proves that it's not too late to convert anyone in Hollywood.
In his book, Crossbearer: A Memoir of Faith, the former senior editor of the Rolling Stone, Joe Eszterhas, explains his conversion.
Eszterhas grew up in refugee camps in Hungary during World War II before living in the back alleys of Cleveland. It was there that he worked as a police reporter racing to cover “countless shootings” and “urban riots,” he told the Toledo Blade.
At the time, his life was very dark—one filled with death, murder, crime and chaos. He describes his writing as equally dark and also “sexually graphic.”

And then he had a 'road to Damascus' conversion. Someone was praying for him. Now he is in love with the Holy Eucharist. It's such a powerful story, and one that can be repeated.
We all need to pray for Hollywood.
Read the entire article at CNA

Powerful Pro-Marriage Film "Fireproof" Opens in Theatres This Friday

At a time when the majority of marriages end in divorce, the makers of the popular "Facing the Giants" movie are bringing to select theatres a film that has already inspired numerous couples to strengthen, and, in many cases, to rescue, their marriages.

Opening this Friday in 850 theatres across America, "Fireproof" is the inspiring story of a devoted and heroic firefighter whose marriage is on the brink of eruption, and who, in response to a challenge from his father, begrudingly sets out on a 40 day quest to salvage his relationship with his wife.

The film stars Kirk Cameron, the one time teen-star of the popular TV show "Growing Pains," who has for many years devoted himself to using his talents for wholesome projects.

The film has already been met with widespread acclaim, particularly amongst the evangelical base that forms the film's target audience. However, "Fireproof" has also been embraced many of no faith, who have responded to the movie's message about the power of selfless love and its practical, realistic portrayal of how to go about rescuing a marriage that seems beyond the point of no return.

story here

cross-posted on A Catholic View

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Leading Catholic entrepreneur pens book on how people should relate to money

Many in our society view money as a “necessary evil.” Instead, entrepreneur and author, Frank Hanna explains, “money is a gift from God that is frequently abused because of our lack of understanding of its proper use.” Based on ancient teachings and his own personal experiences, Hanna clearly lays out the meaning of money in his new book, “What Your Money Means and How to Use It Well.”

Hanna, CEO of Hanna Capital and co-founder of the Solidarity Foundation, explained to CNA that he wrote his latest book because though many great thinkers had discussed money in their teachings, he found that there was not “a systematic treatment of the topic for those of us living in the 21st century.” As he explains, his task is to unfold “this historical philosophical thinking” about money, but to make it “current for today’s reader.”

The book focuses on questions we ask ourselves about money: are we spending it as we should? What does our money mean to us? How much money is enough? In his book, Hanna resolves “to figure out – once and for all – just what it means for us to have money, and what we should be doing with it.”

Full Review here

cross-posted on A Catholic View

Monday, September 22, 2008

Ground-Breaking New Series for Catholic ‘Tweens

Catholic women everywhere have been encouraged to embrace their worth in celebration of the 20th anniversary of John Paul II’s Mulieris Dignitatem, his Apostolic Letter on the Dignity and Vocation of Women. Some have participated in the Catholic Exchange woman’s study, others have attended retreats and workshops, while still others have made personal commitments to spend more time studying Church teachings and various documents such as Mulieris Dignitatem.

It is such a beautiful time to be a Catholic woman and embrace our relationship with Christ. We are being encouraged to seek out writings that clarify what we mean to Jesus and how He treated women quite differently than the “norm” of His time. Many of us are finally learning to “own” that knowledge. But before we became women of God we were young girls seeking to know ourselves and often succumbing to secular messages. Indeed, it can sadly be said that as grown women we often, still, mistakenly buy into the same messages that inundate our young girls today.

cross-posted on A Catholic View

story here

Quick Looks at Some Movies and a Book

One Door Away From Heaven by Dean Koontz
“Geneva, even if the girl isn’t making up all this stuff, even if she’s in real danger, you can’t take the law into your hands.”

“There’s lots of law these days,” she interrupted, “but not much justice. Celebrities murder their wives and go free. A mother kills her children, and the news people on TV say she’s the victim and want you to send money to her lawyers. When everything’s upside down like this, what fool just sits back and thinks justice will prevail?”

This was a different woman from the one with whom he had been speaking a moment ago. Her green eyes were flinty now. Her sweet face hardened as he wouldn’t have thought possible.

“If Micky doesn’t do this,” she continued, “that sick b*****d will kill Leilani, and it’ll be as if she never existed, and no one but me and Micky will care what the world lost. You better believe it’ll be a loss, too, because this girl is the right stuff, she’s a shining soul. These days people make heroes out of actors, singers, power-mad politicians. How screwed up are things when that’s what hero has come to mean? I’d trade the whole self-important lot of ‘em for this girl. She’s got more steel in her spine and more true heart than a thousand of those so-called heroes. Have another cookie?
UFOs, aliens, an empathetic dog, a crippled girl, and a host of supporting characters overcoming past traumas to reach out to others are all are combined by Dean Koontz in a book that is the most compelling statement I have ever seen made about the right to life, no matter what one's condition. As always with his novels, few things are what they seem.Two basic plots run parallel before their heroes find themselves coming together to fight off a very evil villain. "What is one door away from heaven," is a question that one character has asked another since her childhood. The answer, along with the overall theme of the book, is enough to make us all examine our lives more carefully ... and be thankful that Koontz's writing reflects his beliefs so honestly. Grade: ****

On the Waterfront
"Some people think the Crucifixion only took place on Calvary. Well, they better wise up!"
No one in Hollywood today has the guts to write a priestly role like the one Karl Malden played. Also Marlon Brando give us a fantastic look at someone who was raised without very little moral guidance and now has to find his own way amid much conflicting advice. I got this from the library and then was cooling off on it until Tom and I read the description on the back which definitely put us in the mood to see it. I share it with you here:
Marlon Brando gives one of the screen's most electrifying performances as Best Actor in this 1954 Academy Award® winner for Best Film. Ex-fighter Terry Malloy (Brando) could have been a contender but now toils for boss Johnny Friendly on the gang-ridden waterfront. Terry is guilt-stricken however when he lures a rebellious worker to his death. But it takes the love of Edie Doyle, the dead man's sister, to show Terry how low he has fallen. When his crooked brother, Charley the Gent, is brutally murdered for refusing to kill him Terry battles to crush Friendly's underworld empire.
I was glad that I had recently read Good News Film Reviews' tip about spotting crosses and crucifixes right before watching this. You wouldn't think so unless you keep an eye out but there is symbolism all over the place. Truly an excellent drama about redemption. Personally speaking, I'm not sure I'll want to watch it again but am glad I watched it overall. Grade - ***

Sunset Blvd.
"The poor dope. He always wanted a pool."
This movie starts off watching a dead man floating in a pool, with a voice over from the man himself. You then hear this quote and you remember that Billy Wilder's dialogue crackles with verve and multiple layers of meaning. We then flash back to see the story of Joe who is an aspiring screenwriter but on the run from repo men when he dodges into a driveway to throw them off the track. He finds a dilapidated house from the 1920's and Gloria Swanson as the equally dilapidated former silent screen star who lives in the past and is planning her comeback. Joe finds himself lured into becoming her rewrite man and gigolo.

This is an unforgettable film that is a blistering expose of Hollywood which still holds true today. Interestingly many stars of the silent screen had parts in this to add authenticity and Cecil B. DeMille actually played a much more significant role than we would have thought ... and did so with surprising gentleness and charm. Grade: ****


cross-posted from A Catholic View

Just wanted to give you all a "heads up" on some new garbage coming Oct 3 from the rabidly anti-Catholic Bill Maher. For those of you who are not familiar with Maher, here is a good rundown from the Catholic League:

"I have hated the Church way before anyone else."
-Bill Maher, May 8, 2002 on "Politically Incorrect"

Bill Maher is America's Biggest Bigot.

How do we know? Consider the following:

Bill Maher, comedian and famed atheist, has long been the biggest bigot in Hollywood. While Maher professes to loathe all religions, his favorite target is the Catholic Church. Indeed, he rarely aims his venom at Islam or Judaism. And while he does enjoy taking shots at Evangelicals, it is clear that he is monomaniacal in his contempt for Catholicism. Below is a sampling of what he has said about the Church throughout his years in showbiz.

full rundown here