Tuesday, November 29, 2005


Bill and I spent a busy vacation week in NY. On the upside, we visited with friends and family--it was fun. There was far too much traveling involved though. We traveled for more than 40 hours in between Wednesday and Monday. We dealt with late trains, canceled trains, and more. Boo!

The traveling did provide me with time to have some additional hours of sleep and get some reading done. I finished The Princess Bride and Buttercup's Baby. It was impossible for me to read The Princess Bride without hearing and seeing the movie in my mind as a read. It was enjoyable, but it wasn't absolutely fabulous. Buttercup's Baby was just odd. William Goldman is one weird, brilliant guy. I have to say that without the movie, it would have been really difficult for me to have imagined what the story would look and sound like. The characters are realy one dimensional, and Goldman leaves a lot of room for interpretation. How incredibly odd to invent another author/narrator etc.

This brings to mind one of my fond memories from St. John's. I remember getting together with the majority of my dorm to watch The Princess Bride in a tiny little room in the student union. "Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die!"

We did get to see friends and family. Bill's parents are very kind, and it's always nice to spend time with them. Bill's Dad's family is hospitable and kind as well. We saw Bill's grandma--she's cute. Bill's sister is really blossoming into a lovely woman.

Shopping the day after Thanksgiving was a hoot. I've never seen lines to just get in the stores (midday)! Bill and I visited the Pommes Frites in the East Village. Wonderful--I still feel the fries hardening my arteries. We also visited the Strand again. Joe doesn't like it because of it's being ill-organized, but I do. When I enter a bargain store, part of the pleasure is searching through the shelves and finding treasures. I can always order something over the internet if I know what I want to begin with, but I like coming across jewels by chance. I've found favorites--like The End of the Affair that way. It's all the more delicious.

So, these are my new additions to my growing inventory:

  • Martin Amis, Night Train (Vintage, 1997). This is a psycholical play on the old detective novels. I've read about 121 pages of it, so I'll relate more on it later this week.

  • Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France (Penguin, 1790). Odious commented on how Serenity was largely based in Burkeian philosophy. Having not read up on my Burke in quite sometime I thought this was a good find. Plus, not being a lover of the French (pre-Iraq invasion era), I can't ever resist a philospher exposing the faults of their political system.

  • Kenneth R. Timmerman, The French Betrayal of America (Three Rivers Press, 2004). I can't really count this one as my own. It's gift for my mother. Apparently, it documents how the French provided Sadddam with weapons and tools for nuclear war etc.

  • Marguerite Duras, The Sea Wall (Perennial Library, 1952). I've always liked Duras. Beautiful prose. Deeply absorbing. Incredibly dark, and yet uplifting.

  • Charles R. Morris, American Catholic (Vintage, 1997). Is it true that there are more Catholics in NY than in Dublin? Yup. I don't know if there's an agenda to this one, or whether its more factual than editorial.

  • J. M. Barrie, Peter Pan (Puffin Books, 1911). Yippee. Who doesn't like Peter Pan in their man? Do not make that into a dirty joke, Odious, Peculiar, Larissa, Kate, Joe, Carly, Cube or Proclus.

  • Sue Monk Kidd, The Secret Life of Bees (Penguin, 2002). This one I can't really count either since I have it on loan from Bill's sister, Kate.

  • Dorothy Dunnett, Niccolo Rising (Vintage, 1986). Having already purchased Volumes II and III of this series, I was happy to come across Volume I. Cheers!

  • Alexander McCall Smith, The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency (Anchor Books, 2002). Joe called this one trash...but he calls anything popular trash. I don't happen to agree. Some very popular things are actually very good, like The Bible, candy, and love. :)

  • Haydn Middleton, Grimm's Last Fairytale (Thomas Dunne Books, 1999). Gothic. My latest genre obsession.

  • Adam Nicholson, God's Secretaries (Perennial, 2003). History. Always an obsession. If Christopher Hitchens endorses it, then I'll read it. No guarentee I'll agree with it, but I'll read it.

  • Early Irish Myths and Sagas (Penguin, 1981). Folktales are a wonderful way to discover the sole of any given culture. Like science fiction, folktales allow the authors to say a lot about humans nature, perhaps even more than other types of stories. It's like Shakespearean characters who were most themseves when masked by costumes. Sometimes you have to hide a little to say the most.

  • Wilkie Collins, The Woman in White (Penguin, 1999 ed.). So, I got confused an thought that Joe had recommended Collins, but it was actually Kate. No matter. I trust both sources. I look forward to reading a "Victorian genre that combined Gothic horror with psychological realism."

  • Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone (Penguin, 1993 ed.). Mystery. An English detective novel. Yum.

  • Edited by Nicholas Griffin, The Selected Letters of Bertrand Russell, Volume I, The Private Years (Houghton Mifflin Co, 1992). Biographies. How many volumes could there be? This one is 532 pages.

  • Henry James, Daisy Miller (Penguin Books, 1878 ed.). I haven't liked the James I've read in the past, but this one's short so I thought I'd give it a try.

  • Alan Wall, The School of Night (Thomas Dunne Books, 2001). More gothic. This one is by a contemporary author, but the story is set in the past. I'll have to see how it compares with old Gothic horror/mystery.

  • Martin Amis, Time's Arrow (Harmony Books, 1991). Who knows? Joe recommended it.

      That's it for now folks.

    • Friday, November 18, 2005

      Gothic Novels

      What's a good place to start?

      What are a few of the gothic novels I've read, and why do I think they're Gothic novels? Bram Stoker's Dracula, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, Bronte's Jane Eyre, Lewis' Monk, Bronte's Wuthering Heights, and Lemony Snickett. What do all of these novels share? Extreme emotion and situations. Ruins in the country side. Grit in the cities. Mean, sexual clerics. Obsession with the past. What part of the past? Preindustrialization...which means medieval (like Gothic architecture? Huge heroes and huge villains.

      Moreover, most of them are written by and/or are about unusually-bright young women falling in love with men who are unworthy of them. Most of those are written in the late 1800's or eary 1900's (I think)--that would have been smack dab in the middle of the Victorian era. What was the Victorian era like? Controlled?


      Thursday, November 17, 2005

      Who's Watching You Kid

      Just for kicks I thought I'd check in on who's reading my blog and how long they stay etc. It was nice to find that, at the very least, my friends check in with some frequency, but I was shocked to learn that random people end up here based on some interesting internet searches.

      Most vexing: type "penus" into a search engine, and my site's listed. I wondered, "Why?", and realized that it's those damned spammers who put HTML code in their comments. So, I started checking the other internet searches that lead people here and realized that many arrive here while searching for cliffs notes or free essays.

      I'm tempted to write reviews like, isn't terrible when Jane Eyre dies at boarding school (see, I suspect that people who pillage blogs for plot, theme, and mood info on great books, probaby didn't read much more than the book's jacket)--why name an entire book after a character who dies in the first few chapters?, or Troy's victory was long and hard fought in the Iliad, or it's so wonderful when Dante finally makes love to Beatrice in the final stanzas of the Paradiso.

      I'd like to see the reception those comments would receive from a TA.

      On the other hand, it pleasures me to know that someone might think that what I have to say is interesting enough to plagiarize and pillage for their own use.

      Monday, November 14, 2005

      So Tree-Killers

      ...otherwise known as literature-buffs, what's your definition of a "Gothic Novel?"

      Friday, November 11, 2005


      Well, I did ascend to heaven and fall back to earth. Thank you for all of the nice birthday wishes. My birthday was a wonderful one spent with friends and family.

      I really do like my inlaws, as unusual as that may be. I keep telling my fiance that I don't want to have a big wedding, but part of me wants to. If he and his parents and sister are any indication of what the rest of his family are like, then I'd love to have all of them at the wedding reception. His family is fun-loving, smart, and a joy to be around. I think my parents will enjoy having them all at the reception.

      So anyhow, Bill and drove to Columbia, Maryland and went to Daedulus Warehouse. My parents drove up as well. I had a nice time chatting with them and going out to lunch at Bennigan's. They indulged my love of books, without question, which was nice because even though I tried to limit myself to only those books I REAAAAALLLLY wanted, I REAAAAAAlly wanted a lot of books.

      I had a great time rummaging through well-organized book shelves. I made many aquisitions--namely,

      • Patrick McGrath, Spider (Vintage, 1990). Thank God for new gothic. What would happen if I read all the old gothic novels and ran out of new ones to read? Apparently this one's soon to be a motion picture too.

      • Milton and Rose Friedman, Free to Choose (Harcourt, 1980). Well, I know they're both brilliant economists, and I believe fervently in the connection between personal liberty and free markets, so I couldn't help but pick this one up.

      • Patrick McGrath, Dr. Haggard's Disease (Vintage, 1993). Gothic. Need I say more?

      • Louis Auchincloss, East Side Story (Houghton Mifflin, 2004). This is a fictionalized account of those fated-few who rose to fame on the east side of New York in the mid to late 1800's. Seems like a prolific author. That could spell disaster or something great.

      • Jonathan Kirsch, God Against the Gods (Penguin Books, 2004). Looks like an interesting history of one particular aspect of religion--namely, the battle between monotheists and polytheists. It seems to imply that religious intolerance stems from that one difference, even now. We'll see.

      • Edited by B.A. Botkin, A Civil War Treasury. I love moral allegories like those in folklore, so I couldn't pass this one up. This has newspaper clippings, folkstories, and so on that came out before, during, and after the civil war. It'll be interesting to see how the war affected literature.

      • Mary Beth Norton, In the Devil's Snare (Knopf, 2002). Carly read this and said it was good, but that it offers a very different account of the Salem witch trials from prior books concerning the same topic. She says she'll bring me one of the prior accounts to read first. Yipee!

      • Dorothy Dunnett, Race of Scorpions (Vintage, 1989). This is third in the House of Niccolo historical fiction series. Problem: I don't believe I own the first in the series. To the library we go! Don't you just love 15th century Italy.

      • Peggy Noonan, A Politcal Life in the Raegan Era (Encore, 2003). She has always written columns and speeches that were barbed with wit and yielded many delights, so this seemed worth a couple bucks.

      • John McWhorter, Doing Our Own Thing: The Degradation of Language and Music and Why We Should, Like, Care (Gotham Books, 2003). Written by a linguist--at least it wont be poorly written--it looks like it confronts the possible derailment of democracy based on our lack of a large, vibrant educated populus...blah, blah, blah, and the consequences on our future intellectual life.

      • Nino Ricci, Testament (Mariner Books, 2003). Another historical novel cast as a "fictional biography." There's a beautiful reproduction of Ecce Homo by Vivente Juan Macip on the cover. It's, suprise suprise, an account of Jesus' life from four perspectives--namely, that of a Jewish political revolutionist, a female discipile, Jesus' mother, Mary, and a shepherd.

      • Paul Davies, God and the New Physics (Touchstone, 1983). Strangely enough, I was one of the few nut jobs who enjoyed natural philosophy in college. Kudos to Mr. Hans Von Breisen for his convincing me that it has a place in contemporary physics as well. I can't pass up religion and philosophy in the same book.

      • James A. Connor, Kepler's Witch (Harper Books, 2004). Ok, so Kepler, a witch, and the Pope walk into a bar. And Kepler says,...

      • Mike Dash, Batavia's Graveyard (Crown Publisher's, 2002). I read a book called The Company: Portrait of a Murder by Arabella Edge, which made Robinson Crusoe look lucky for being marooned on an island alone. That book made my skin crawl. I didn't enjoy it, but it did make me wonder how much of the book was historically accurate.

      • Craig Boreth, How To Iron You Own Damn Shirt: The Perfect Husband Shirt (Three Rivers Press 2005). Bill's sister tried to buy this book for him as a joke, and I recommended against her giving it to him for Christmas. Then, he ended up buying it for himself.

      • Deborah Coates, Cat Haiku (Arrow Books 2003). Bill bought be this quaint little book. How could it fail to appeal to my love for bad poetry with
        I think that the new
        Kitten makes a fine punching
        Bag and trampoline.
        I'm waiting for you to contribute Billy.

      • Craig Harline, The Burdens of Sister Margaret: Inside a 17th Century Convent(Abridged edition) (Yale Nota Bene, 2000). I've read a couple of novels and plays that take place in convents that involve the theme of of madness versus divine inspiration, e.g., Anges of God.

      • Frederick Buechener, Speak What We Feel: Four Who Wrote in Blood (Harper 2001). This is about what G.K. Chesterton, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Mark Twain, and William Shakespeare say about religion and spirituality. Hm.

      • David McCullough, Brave Companions (Simon and Schuster, 1992). I like McCullough's other books in spite of the fact that he attended Yale.

      • Henri Pirenne, Economic and Social History of Medieval Europe (Harvest Book, 1936). Girls not only like bagels, but Medieval History.

      • Anton Chekhov, The Duel (Modern Library, 2003). I hope the translation is good.

      • Terence M. Green, Shadow of Ashland (Forge, 1996). Sometimes I'll take a chance on a book just because of who endorses it. For insteance, the Atlanta Constitution endorsed this one, so I'm gonna give it a go.

      • Dorothy Dunnett, The Spring of the Ram (Vintage, 1987). Second book in the House of Niccolo series.

      • Paul Auster, City of Glass (Picador, 2004). This is another one of Bill's. He likes the artwork and thinks it sounds like an interesting adaption of a graphic novel.

      • E. M. Forester, Aspects of the Novel (Harcourt, 1927). A dear friend of mine was recommended A Room With A View. Given my experience with that book, I'm willing to read his literary criticism.

      • Peter Nichols, Evolution's Captain (Perenial, 2003). This is a biography that graces over Charles Darwin and favors the less well-known Captain Robert FitzRoy, the captain of the first voyage of the HMS Beagle.

      • Chris Van Allsburg, Ben's Dream (Houghton Mifflin Co., 1982). I adore Van Allsburg's books, such as The Garden of Abdul Gasazi, Jumanji, The Mysteries of Harris Burdick, and The Polar Express.

        It's a wonderful feeling not knowing which one to start first.

      Bonkers for Britten

      Doesn't everyong love Benjamin Britten?

      Tuesday, November 08, 2005

      Catching Up

      I am Charlotte Simmons was great, but I want a complete explanation from Joe, who said I reminded him of the main character. She did indeed do something foolish--lots.

      The book indicts American higher education as being shallow, booze-filled, purposeless, and filled with immorality, detailing the corruption of an intelligent, naive girl.

      I certainly experienced some of the things that he shares as "the gospel truth of what occurs in America's colleges;" however, my own college experience was actually filled with reading and learning, as well as boys and drinking. There were no cliff notes in my dorm room!

      The story is well-considered and mature. I felt like the characters were well-developed, and they behaved in internally consistent ways. It's a little like a tragedy. Wolfe stretches all that is normally small into bigger and bigger proportions. She experiences a spiritual crisis and is both victim and perpetrator of cultural snobbery, i.e., morality is simply for the little people who fail to understand the complexities that are innate to human nature.

      To Joe: I did see myself in the main character, in her naivete and her inability to make good decisions. She likes the guy she shouldn't. She can't like her intellectual equal. She gets hurt, so on and so forth, but the story isn't as clichéd as I make it sound. It's fleshy and new, interesting.

      In the end, the novel is multi-layered. It's about higher education, but it's also simply about one girl (I don't say woman, because she isn't one) being startled by the absence of morality at her ivy league school. It's about the brilliance of a star growing dim. She cannot achieve without being constantly admired, so she settles for being liked instead of being good. She lacks moral judgement and courage.

      Thumbs up from me. If you can stomach the copious amounts of sex, drinking, poor English, disrespect for all things beautiful, and general debauchery, then give it a go.

      By the way, right now I don't feel like being all political and editorializing about the current lack of educating that goes on in schools but--I shall just say--it's not a baseless indictment.

      Monday, October 31, 2005


      My birthday is quickly approaching. My fiance's parents, sister, fiance, and my parents are taking me to a huge book and music warehouse in Columbia, Maryland for my birthday. Yipee! I MUST get well. The store is a few hours away, and this cold could make for a rather long car ride.

      More on the trip later.


      I don't know how to put a stop to this sort of invective blogging. You can read all about it at Forbes.com in an article titled "Attack of the Blogs" by Daniel Lyons.

      I am concerned about how blogs may have a dire effect on the outcome of the next presidential election, but I don't think it can be helped. The only laws that I would consider tightening are slander/libel ones. I don't think that blogs or speech should be censored. People who lie should pay the price.


      So, I am home sick, and am on the verge of ripping my throat out because it's so sore. In order to stave off the madness, I've decided to take the opportunity to catch up on some reading and posting.

      So, a few weeks ago (or posts I guess), Odious at Odious and Peculiar posted a list of the 100 Best Novels, bolding the ones he had read. Well, he was appalled at how few of them he has read, something his Kate is relishing as the beginning to a good-old-fashioned-reading contest. I happen to know for a fact that both Kate and Odious are incredibly well-read, so I think I need to take a look at this purported list and see how frightfully short I fall of measuring up to it. Plus, I'm going to the bookstore this weekend (a trip for my Birthday) and it would be great to generate a list of things to keep an eye out for while there, but I really relish just digging in and not looking for anything...more on that later. The bolded, I've read.

      1. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
      2. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

      3. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
      4. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
      5. The Color Purple by Alice Walker

      6. Ulysses by James Joyce
      7. Beloved by Toni Morrison
      8. The Lord of the Flies by William Golding

      9. 1984 by George Orwell
      10. The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
      11. Lolita by Vladmir Nabokov

      12. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
      13. Charlotte's Web by E. B. White
      14. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce

      15. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
      16. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
      17. Animal Farm by George Orwell

      18. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
      19. As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner

      20. A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
      21. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
      22. Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne

      23. Their Eyes are Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
      24. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
      25. Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison

      26. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
      27. Native Son by Richard Wright
      28. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey
      29. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
      30. For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
      31. On the Road by Jack Kerouac
      32. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
      33. The Call of the Wild by Jack London
      34. To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

      35. Portrait of a Lady by Henry James
      36. Go Tell it on the Mountain by James Baldwin
      37. The World According to Garp by John Irving
      38. All the King's Men by Robert Penn Warren
      39. A Room with a View by E. M. Forster

      40. The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien
      41. Schindler's List by Thomas Keneally
      42. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
      43. The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand

      44. Finnegans Wake by James Joyce
      45. The Jungle by Upton Sinclair

      46. Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
      47. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
      48. Lady Chatterley's Lover by D. H. Lawrence

      49. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
      50. The Awakening by Kate Chopin
      51. My Antonia by Willa Cather

      52. Howards End by E. M. Forster
      53. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
      54. Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger

      55. The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie
      56. Jazz by Toni Morrison
      57. Sophie's Choice by William Styron
      58. Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner
      59. A Passage to India by E. M. Forster
      60. Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton
      61. A Good Man Is Hard to Find by Flannery O'Connor

      62. Tender Is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald
      63. Orlando by Virginia Woolf
      64. Sons and Lovers by D. H. Lawrence
      65. Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe
      66. Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
      67. A Separate Peace by John Knowles

      68. Light in August by William Faulkner
      69. The Wings of the Dove by Henry James
      70. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

      71. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
      72. A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
      73. Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs
      74. Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
      75. Women in Love by D. H. Lawrence
      76. Look Homeward, Angel by Thomas Wolfe
      77. In Our Time by Ernest Hemingway
      78. The Autobiography of Alice B. Tokias by Gertrude Stein
      79. The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett
      80. The Naked and the Dead by Norman Mailer

      81. Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys
      82. White Noise by Don DeLillo
      83. O Pioneers! by Willa Cather
      84. Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller
      85. The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells
      86. Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad
      87. The Bostonians by Henry James
      88. An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser

      89. Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather
      90. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

      91. This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald
      92. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
      93. The French Lieutenant's Woman by John Fowles
      94. Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis
      95. Kim by Rudyard Kipling
      96. The Beautiful and the Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald
      97. Rabbit, Run by John Updike
      98. Where Angels Fear to Tread by E. M. Forster
      99. Main Street by Sinclair Lewis
      100. Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie

      So, I am appalled by how much Faulkner I've read when, forgive me, I find him boring, and how little E.M. Forester, Woolf, and Fitzgerald I've read when I find all them incredibly engaging.

      Also, there are a few that I think I may have read, but my sickness haze is clouding my memory. I think I may have read Lord Jim, Tropic of Cancer, and a couple of others, but, since I can't say for sure, it wouldn't be right to bold them.

      Oh, and I am dismayed at how few I've read.


      My blog is worth $5,080.86.
      How much is your blog worth?

      Friday, October 28, 2005

      100 Greatest What?

      Time has published another best of list...(Do all nations produce so many lists, e.g., 100 best metal songs, 50 hottest celebrity moms, 100 one-hit-wonders), but here's a list that actually catches my attention: 100 best English-language novels from 1923 to the present. It's an interesting list. I can't say that I agree with all of the list's author's selections, frankly, there are some on the list of which I haven't even heard Shame on me.

      For a fabulous play on the list check out The Morning News. He has consolidated a number of reviews (from Amazon.com I believe) of the books on the list. It's pretty terrific. E.g., one person writes of Joseph Heller's Catch-22 (1961) "Obviously, a lot of people were smoking a lot of weed in the '60's to think this thing is worth reading" or of John Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath "While the story did have a great moral to go along with it, it was about dirt! Dirt and migrating. Dirt and migrating and more dirt." HEEHEEHEE.

      Distilling someone's life work down to a sentence: it's an art form.

      Monday, October 24, 2005

      Playing with One's Self

      Well, as per usual, I haven't posted for a significant period of time, and I can't make good on my promises to post more regularly. So, no promises this time. Don't bother leaving nasty notes. I know I'm bad.

      Anyhow, I think the purpose of prayer, in answer to Joe's question, is to bring one closer to God. You have to think of Him in order to bring yourself closer to his will, and you have to invite him into your life in order to know him.

      There appear to be different types/forms of prayer. Some people live and work in silence, engaging in active prayer through work. For some people prayer can be verbal, and it can take a specific chant-like form, i.e., Nicene or Apostles Creed and/or nonstructured form. Structured prayers often tell a story of the christian faith. For example, consider the Nicene Creed:

      We believe in one God,
      the father, the Almighty,
      maker of Heaven and Earth,
      of all that is, seen and unseen.

      We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
      the only Son of God,
      eternally begotten of the Father,
      God from God, Light from Light,
      True God from True God,
      begotten, not made,
      of one Being with the Father.
      Through him all things were made.
      For us and for our salvation
      he came down from heaven:
      by the power of the Holy Spirit
      he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary,
      and was made man.
      For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
      he suffered death and was buried.
      On the third day he rose again
      in accordance with the Scriptures;
      he ascended into heaven
      and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
      He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
      and his kingdom will have no end.
      We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
      who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
      With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified.
      He has spoken through the Prophets.
      We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
      We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
      We look for the resurrection of the dead,
      and the life of the world to come. Amen.

      The Creed attempts to summarize the tenants of Christian beliefs, and in essense rejects/excludes other ideas as unwholesome and philosophically unsupportable. For example, Jesus is True God as much as God is true God because they are one--hence, a mystery is born.

      I pray because I want to know Him.

      Tuesday, October 18, 2005

      Swimmin' Dinosaur

      As an aside, scientists may have discovered a new species of dinosaur. It swam. You can read about the discovery at this Yahoo link. What a neat find for a student (if it turns out to be true).

      Friday, October 14, 2005



      I am Charlotte Simmons is a wonderful, but scary read. Joe, you said I reminded you of Charlotte Simmons. She doesn't do something too terribly foolish does she? Will I still be flattered by your assertion when I've finished the book? Even if I'm not, thank you for recommending it. It's terrific thus far.

      I'll post a complete review when I've finished it, but, in the meantime, let me say that, if American higher education is really as Wolfe describes it to be, then the United States is destined for ruin. Perhaps our liberal democracy is destined to crumble as Rome's did. In Locke's Second Treatise, he describes the law of nature as reason. If American Constitutionalism is predicated on a Lockeian view of human nature, and if Wolfe has captured the common experience of college life, then we're in deep doodee. Or, as one of my client's said (in what Wolfe refers to as Fuck Patois): "Fuck, fucking fuckers fucked. Oh, shit, Ms. Sorry."

      I'm not nearly as pessimistic as this post makes me sound.

      Tuesday, October 11, 2005

      Advertisers Welcome; Penus Enlargements NOT NEEDED

      Why have I suddenly become so popular with spam advertisers?

      I very much doubt that those persons who are in need of/desire penus enlargements are interested in reading about my opinions of Tom Wolfe's book: I am Charlotte Simmons, but then again....

      I picked the book up in an airport on my way back from a wedding.

      Congratulations Nikki and Jackson. Your wedding was beautiful, as were both of you. It was a treat and a delight to be able to see two of the smartest, nicest people that I know both find and enjoy each other so thoroughly, as you two obviously do. Congratulations and Bless you and your marriage.

      It was also just wonderful to see my old friends. Thank you for making Bill feel so welcome. We had a marvelous time. Virtually every moment spent in Santa Fe, I was filled with wonder and gratitude. I was incredibly fortunate to become friends with a group of amazing, gifted, and kind people as an undergraduate at St. John's. I miss you all and will treasure the time we spent together over the last week along with all of my fond memories of undergrad.

      Friday, July 22, 2005

      Ergh! I Hate Tattling!

      I have to admit that there are very few books on this good green earth that I can't compel myself to finish once I've picked them up, but Terry C. Barber's Unlock the Prison Doors (Advantage Inspirational, 2005) is one of them.

      The author's sentiment, while laudable, doesn't make up for the fact that the book is in DIRE need of an editor. It's chalk full of pacing issues, misorganization, and tons of grammatical and mechanical issues. I couldn't get past page 30.

      The sad thing is, that I suspect the author is probably a good orator--that doesn't, however, make him a good writer. It would be worth his while to invest in some editing and copyediting, as the books disorganization, choppiness, and other style issues distract from what might be noteworthy content. I just wasn't willing to take the time to find out because I had to work too hard to sludge through the first 30 pages.

      Maybe I'll try again, but this one's for the birds if you ask me.

      If you are interested in being a reviewer, please contact Mind & Media and/or Blogcritics. Mind and Media and Advantage publishers were kind enough to provide me with a free copy of this book in order to write a review about it.

      Monday, July 11, 2005

      Hi Carly and Joe

      So, it would appear, according to my blog, that I've read nothing of interest and done nothing notable for over a month now; that is, however, absolutely not the case. I've been so consumed with work and moving offices and so on, that my blog has had to go on hiatus. Apologies. So, I hope to post a bunch later this week on books from Mind & Media and a response to some of Joe's questions. Ta Ta for now.

      Thursday, June 09, 2005

      Too Little Time, Too Many Ideas

      I have to write a habeas petition this week. In other words, noooooooo time for much of anything but work; however, I will try to post a couple times this weekend, as I have finished A Thread of Grace, Unlock the Prison Doors, and want to post my response to Joe's earlier questions. Right now Bill is reading The Sparrow to me. I've read it before, but he hasn't (so it's working out well for both of us). Plus, I am listening to the Order of the Phoenix on my way to and from work in order to prepare for the release of the Half-Blood Prince in July; given that my commute is so short, it will probably take me until then to finish the cd of it anyway.

      Nevertheless, three books, chosen by Bill and me, arrived from the History Book Club, namely

      • Gerald Harriss, Shaping the Nation: England 1360-1461 (Oxford Press, 2005). This one examines late medieval English history. It looks like it's full of interesting narratives about things like the Black Death, the Peasants' Revolt, War of the Roses, and so on.
      • Rosamond McKitterick, Atlas of the Medieval World (Oxford Press, 2004). It looks like it may have some good tidbits in it, but, at first glance, it doesn't look as interesting as I thought it would. Maybe I'll actually have time to read it within the next year.
      • Thomas Bokenkotter, A Concise History of the Catholic Church, Revised and Expanded Edition (Doubleday, 2004). This history is divided into five parts accompanied by some basic illustrations, and it's a tome. I think I may digest this one in pieces--definitely, not something to be read all at once.
      Happy reading...

      Wednesday, June 01, 2005

      Books, Books, and More Books

      I'm still working on my response to Joe's questions. With everything going on here, it's difficult to focus, and so my response is slow going. On an exciting note, I just got news, yesterday, that two of my dearest friends are getting married in October. Congratulations!

      Anyhow, I've decided to pilfer and adapt to my own site something that The Little Professor does on her website: by the week, she lists any new book acquisitions. During the past month or so I've received a number of books, and here's a little tasting of what I've received...

      • Terry C. Barber, Unlock the Prison Doors (Advantage Inspirational, 2005) from Mind & Media. I'm not sure that it's quite my kind of book, but am looking forward to giving it a try. If you are interested in being a reviewer, please contact Mind & Media and/or Blogcritics.
      • Jasper Fforde, The Eyre Affair (Penguin Books, 2002). It was recommended by my Maid of Honor (you know who you are), and, as she well knows, I can't pass any book that's even remotely related to Jane Austen or any of Brontes up. It's apparently a mix of genres and involves a literary sleuth of some sort.
      • Karen Joy Fowler, Jane Austen Book Club (Putnam Berkley Pub. Group, 2004). Are you detecting a pattern? I've been looking for a used copy of this book for a few months, and I've finally given in and purshased a new copy. The title seems pretty self-explanatory. I discovered the author via snippets on the dust-jackets of Mary Doria Russell's books.
      • Claudio Rendina, The Popes: Histories and Secrets (Seven Locks Press, 2002). Summaries like this one don't usually appeal to me; they end up covering so much ground that they say almost nothing. This one looks more complete. We'll see.
      • Jane Dunn, Elizabeth and Mary, Cousins, Rival Queens (Knopf, 2005). Elizabeth Tudor and Mary Stuart...need I say more.
      • Walter Issacson, Ben Franklin: An American Life (Simon and Schuster, 2003) and The Old Farmer's Almanac, Ben Franklin's Alamanac of Wit, Wisdom, & Pratical Advice (Yankee Books, 2003). They came in a double set. One is a biography and the other is a compilation of some of Franklin's actual writings.
      • Jacqueline Winspear, Jacqueline Winspear: 2 in 1 (Bookspan, 2005). I love historical novels and mysteries, so why not combine both and get a historical mystery? This version contains two novels Massie Dobbs and Birds of Feather both of which involve a female sleuth in post-Great War London.
      • Plus, I visited the library and picked up a number of books. As I finish them, I'll post a little about each book.
      I'm going to finish reading A Thread of Grace by Mary Doria Russell (I highly recommend Sparrow and Children of God) today, then I'll read Unlock the Prison Doors, and after that I'll return to The Trial of Henry Kissinger (a gift from Joe). I've enjoyed The Trial so far and hope to be able to comment on it next week.

      Monday, May 30, 2005

      Clay Pigeons

      So, my fiance and I went shooting today with some P.O's, a prosecutor, defense attorneys, and a military intelligence guy. We had a blast. My fiance did quite well with the clay pigeons. We had a wonderful time and enjoyed a beautiful Memorial Day.

      Anyhow, I haven't finished The Trial of Henry Kissinger or A Thread of Grace, but I hope to finish both within this week. I'll also post my response to Joe tomorrow.

      Saturday, May 28, 2005

      Movie Mania

      Here's my filler-post in lieu of my post responding to Joe's comments from, I'm embarrassed to say, at least a month ago. I will put up a reponse to Joe's questions and some of his assertions within the next couple days. My apologies for not responding sooner Joe, but we've been really busy here.

      Anyhow, I wanted to let you all know that for the first time in a while I am actually looking forward to the release of a number of movies. Feel free to visit the links I've included for information and sneak peaks.

      1. Serenity is due out September 30th. It just had a preview screening this week, and it has gotten, as far as I can tell, stellar reviews across the board. Yipee! I hope it's worth the wait.
      2. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is due out November 18th, 2005. I'm also looking forward to the next book due out in the series, namely Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. It's being released July 16th, 2005.
      3. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is due out December 9th, 2005. I loved this series as a child, and I continue to love it (and other C.S. Lewis works) today. May the movie live up to the books! Please keep your fingers crossed.

      Wednesday, May 25, 2005

      "O Lord, oure Lord, thy name how merveillous"

      My fiancé and I are reading Ways of the Christian Mystics. Because he doesn't like to read together—and I love to—we compromise by not reading together very often; though, we often choose to read the same books. As a result, it doesn't come as a great surprise that he sometimes falls asleep when we read together; it's tempting to finish the book without him, but that would defeat the ends of romance and sweetness that our reading together serves (it’s not so romantic when set against the sounds of his snoring). Anyhow, Ways of the Christian Mystics begins with a discussion concerning the history of pilgrimages. It explains that pilgrimages encourage "the spiritual dialogue between man and creation," as the journey to a sacred shrine or place brings them closer to God. Redemption comes from being close to God. Marching quickly through hundreds of years of pilgrimage history, Ways entertains secular and religious folk alike. It shares how Celtic monks traveled to shrines and/or the Holy Land to bring themselves closer to God, and that is when I thought of the Canterbury Tales, specifically the Prioress's Tale. I recalled that the Prioress and many other pilgrims had less transparent motives for their pilgrimages—and, yes, I know the difference between history and fiction.

      The Tales begin with the General Prologue where Chaucer introduces all of the pilgrims. The Prioress is described as a gentlewoman, possessing all the etiquette/manners and sympathetic trappings of nobility. She keeps pets, including little dogs, which she feeds scraps from the dinner table. She wears a bangle on her wrist and a brooch/necklace (rather than a rosary, I assume, if rosaries existed yet) that reads "Amor vincit omnia" (the phrase "Love Conquers All" could be evidence of her hypocrisy, and/or symbolize an interest in physical love—sex and motherhood are probably not a terrific obsession for a Prioress). Notably, she doesn't act like a pious nun. In the prologue, she's a coquettish social climber who’s more reminiscent of a woman attempting to maneuver her way through a royal court than a House of God.

      The Prologue introduces the idea of an entertaining storytelling contest, and so each character tells a tale. The Prioress tells a violent, sentimental, religious tale that makes listeners weep and turn away in horror. We empathize with the story’s main character, a young child (or, at least, I think we’re supposed to); thus, when she draws parallels between herself and her Tale’s main character, she wants the reader to feel sorry for her as well. The problem: She isn’t an innocent child. So why does she want us to see her as innocent and pitiable?

      She sees herself as being childlike and innocent, but she comes across as childish, envious, and unforgiving and merciless. She hasn’t given up worldly possessions and pride; she sports jewelry and wears her habit so that her prominent forehead is exposed. My version of the Tales, in a footnote, indicates that in Chaucer’s time, the prominent forehead indicated status and noble or aristocratic bloodlines. As a Prioress, her pride and materialistic nature would probably have verged on being sinful, but must have been, at the very least, uncharacteristic of a Prioress.

      She has abandoned some nonmaterial aspirations by giving up the ability to have her own children and marriage. The difference, though, between The Prioress and her Tale’s main character is that she, unlike he, chooses to give something up for her faith, whereas he has faith without knowledge. (He willingly sings Latin hymns without knowing their meaning, and sings them as he wanders through a Jewry. Notably, he sings the Alma Redemptoris Mater, yet the Prioress always leaves the word Mater out until the young boy has already died and is sprinkled with holy water.) Or, did she? Did the Prioress knowingly give up motherhood for her faith? In other words, does she have faith coupled with knowledge, or, is she like the character in her story, which would mean that she doesn't understand the demands of her own devotion and calling? While she sees herself as being like the boy in her Tale, Chaucer certainly intends parallels between the Prioress and the boy’s mother, the widow, and that may tell us something about how Chaucer sees her to understand her faith.
      The Prioress mourns the loss of her own motherhood via the pathos of the widow’s character. The widow cannot locate her son, so she becomes whiny and plaintiff, inadequate, and ultimately has to seek the help of others in order to find (or care for) her child. Ultimately, the Prioress’s behaves the same way when it comes to articulating that for which she has abandoned ordinary motherhood, namely her faith. She even draws attention to the fact that she has faith without knowledge by making fun of the Monk (Shipman’s Tale) for having the exact opposite--knowledge without faith. She apologizes for that weakness, and we are left to draw our own conclusions and compare her weaknesses to the strengths of one of the only other female taletellers, the Wife of Bath. The Prioress is like the widow, namely incapable of caring for her own son (faith), protecting him from the evils of the world, and helpless, because she lacks the knowledge and rationality to do so.

      Because she lacks a rational understanding of faith, and is at the same time attempting to explain what faith is, she tells a violent, gruesome, anti-Semitic Tale. At the end of that tale, she asks for mercy for herself, sinners, and her listeners, but she doesn't appreciate the paradox between asking for mercy, wearing the Amor vincit omnia, and being so blatantly vindictive. The choice is either (1) the prioress understands the paradox of mercy and the violence in her tale, or (2) that she doesn’t realize her own vindictiveness. It's hard to imagine what she believes that phrase means in light of the story she tells, but it seems she’s genuinely clueless as to her hypocrisy.

      Aside from not living the phrase “Love Conquers All,” her faith without knowledge keeps her from grasping the fullness of the Virgin Mary (that she is the mother of a man in the flesh and of the divine). In other words, she doesn't reconcile the earthly nature of motherhood with the heavenly nature of being God's mother. Although laudable to empathize with Mary’s motherhood, faith loses meaning without an understanding of being “The Mother” as well. Instead of seeing herself as a strong protector of the innocent and of the faithful, she sees herself as an infant, drawing parallels between herself and a young boy. Yet, she isn’t an infant, she’s a woman.

      As a Prioress, she would have had authority over young women and some responsibility for teaching “the faith.” Would a story about a young boy having his throat slit to the bone by Jews bring young women closer to God, would it entertain a party of pilgrims? Hm. Maybe she did join the pilgrimage to have a “spiritual dialogue between man and creation,” but the Prioress will always be a pilgrim, perpetually struggling to reconcile her calling with her loss of motherhood. She has faith in the redeemer but uttering the complete phrase Oh Loving Mother of the Redeemer will never come easily. Faith without knowledge still seems to leave the Prioress in a dark place where mercy falls on only those with her sort of faith, and Love does not conquer fear and longing.

      So, in the end is faith enough? I hope so, but the Tale isn’t very encouraging.

      I really put too many different things into this, but it'll have to do.

      Saturday, May 21, 2005

      If I Could Wish Upon A Star

      I found a wonderful bit of news at Susiepie's site. On December 9th, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe opens in movie theaters. Check out the trailer. I'm so excited. C.S. Lewis' books amaze me. The trailer looks great. I know where I'll be on December 9th.

      By the way, the Chaucer post will be up tomorrow. Sorry for the delay. I've been reviewing investigation information and techniques for child abuse cases and trying to refamiliarize myself with Spanish. Both have proven more time consuming than I had anticipated.

      Have a wonderful Sunday!

      Tuesday, May 17, 2005

      Was There Ever Any Doubt?

      I'm not suprised with the outcome of this quiz, but it's results are somewhat misleading. Tests like this have to be limited and predictable to give "the right" outcome, but that means that they attempt to make grey areas black and white. Maybe it's just because this one was about politics?

      I'll be posting on Chaucer and the Ways of the Christian Mystics later today.

      Your Political Profile

      Overall: 80% Conservative, 20% Liberal

      Social Issues: 100% Conservative, 0% Liberal

      Personal Responsibility: 75% Conservative, 25% Liberal

      Fiscal Issues: 75% Conservative, 25% Liberal

      Ethics: 50% Conservative, 50% Liberal

      Defense and Crime: 100% Conservative, 0% Liberal

      Monday, May 16, 2005

      Got Books?

      While browsing blogs, I found an old book meme post at The Little Professor.

      Some have called this a Great Books list. That statement is misleading to the extent that "Great Book" generally indicates being in the Western/Eastern Canon; since it takes a good 100 years to be considered old enough for the canon, and some books on the list were published as recently as 20 years ago, this isn't a Great Books list in the strictest sense.

      The point is to take every book on the list below and italicize, CAPS, or bold those titles that you've read.

      Achebe, Chinua - Things Fall Apart
      Agee, James - A Death in the Family
      Austen, Jane - Pride and Prejudice
      Baldwin, James - Go Tell It on the Mountain
      Beckett, Samuel - Waiting for Godot
      Bellow, Saul - The Adventures of Augie March
      Brontë, Charlotte - Jane Eyre
      Brontë, Emily - Wuthering Heights
      Camus, Albert - The Stranger
      Cather, Willa - Death Comes for the Archbishop
      Chaucer, Geoffrey - The Canterbury Tales
      Chekhov, Anton - The Cherry Orchard
      Chopin, Kate - The Awakening
      Conrad, Joseph - Heart of Darkness
      Cooper, James Fenimore - The Last of the Mohicans
      Crane, Stephen - The Red Badge of Courage
      Dante - Inferno
      de Cervantes, Miguel - Don Quixote
      Defoe, Daniel - Robinson Crusoe
      Dickens, Charles - A Tale of Two Cities
      Dostoyevsky, Fyodor - Crime and Punishment
      Douglass, Frederick - Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
      Dreiser, Theodore - An American Tragedy
      Dumas, Alexandre - The Three Musketeers
      Eliot, George - The Mill on the Floss
      Ellison, Ralph - Invisible Man
      Emerson, Ralph Waldo - Selected Essays
      Faulkner, William - As I Lay Dying
      Faulkner, William - The Sound and the Fury
      Fielding, Henry - Tom Jones
      Fitzgerald, F. Scott - The Great Gatsby
      Flaubert, Gustave - Madame Bovary
      Ford, Ford Madox - The Good Soldier
      Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von - Faust
      Golding, William - Lord of the Flies
      Hardy, Thomas - Tess of the d'Urbervilles
      Hawthorne, Nathaniel - The Scarlet Letter
      Heller, Joseph - Catch 22
      Hemingway, Ernest - A Farewell to Arms
      Homer - The Iliad
      Homer - The Odyssey
      Hugo, Victor - The Hunchback of Notre Dame
      Hurston, Zora Neale - Their Eyes Were Watching God
      Huxley, Aldous - Brave New World
      Ibsen, Henrik - A Doll's House
      James, Henry - The Portrait of a Lady
      James, Henry - The Turn of the Screw
      Joyce, James - A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
      Kafka, Franz - The Metamorphosis
      Kingston, Maxine Hong - The Woman Warrior
      Lee, Harper - To Kill a Mockingbird
      Lewis, Sinclair - Babbitt
      London, Jack - The Call of the Wild
      Mann, Thomas - The Magic Mountain
      Marquez, Gabriel García - One Hundred Years of Solitude
      Melville, Herman - Bartleby the Scrivener
      Melville, Herman - Moby Dick
      Miller, Arthur - The Crucible
      Morrison, Toni - Beloved
      O'Connor, Flannery - A Good Man is Hard to Find
      O'Neill, Eugene - Long Day's Journey into Night
      Orwell, George - Animal Farm
      Pasternak, Boris - Doctor Zhivago
      Plath, Sylvia - The Bell Jar
      Poe, Edgar Allan - Selected Tales
      Proust, Marcel - Swann's Way
      Pynchon, Thomas - The Crying of Lot 49
      Remarque, Erich Maria - All Quiet on the Western Front
      Rostand, Edmond - Cyrano de Bergerac
      Roth, Henry - Call It Sleep
      Salinger, J.D. - The Catcher in the Rye
      Shakespeare, William - Hamlet
      Shakespeare, William - Macbeth
      Shakespeare, William - A Midsummer Night's Dream
      Shakespeare, William - Romeo and Juliet
      Shaw, George Bernard - Pygmalion
      Shelley, Mary - Frankenstein
      Silko, Leslie Marmon - Ceremony
      Solzhenitsyn, Alexander - One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich
      Sophocles - Antigone
      Sophocles - Oedipus Rex
      Steinbeck, John - The Grapes of Wrath
      Stevenson, Robert Louis - Treasure Island
      Stowe, Harriet Beecher - Uncle Tom's Cabin
      Swift, Jonathan - Gulliver's Travels
      Thackeray, William - Vanity Fair
      Thoreau, Henry David - Walden
      Tolstoy, Leo - War and Peace
      Turgenev, Ivan - Fathers and Sons
      Twain, Mark - The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
      Voltaire - Candide
      Vonnegut, Kurt Jr. - Slaughterhouse-Five
      Walker, Alice - The Color Purple
      Wharton, Edith - The House of Mirth
      Welty, Eudora - Collected Stories
      Whitman, Walt - Leaves of Grass
      Wilde, Oscar - The Picture of Dorian Gray
      Williams, Tennessee - The Glass Menagerie
      Woolf, Virginia - To the Lighthouse
      Wright, Richard - Native Son

      Thursday, May 12, 2005

      I'm an Addict

      I guess there are worse things to be addicted to than internet quizzes.

      My mind may be like a computer, but I fear it may be an Apple IIC.

      You Are Incredibly Logical

      (You got 100% of the questions right)

      Move over Spock - you're the new master of logic

      You think rationally, clearly, and quickly.

      A seasoned problem solver, your mind is like a computer!

      Monday, May 09, 2005

      "...handsome, clever, and rich..."

      Once again I haven't read as much as I've wanted nor as quickly as I've wanted to read it. Bill and I have been consumed with house-related chores, and we spent Mother's Day catching up on HBO's Deadwood episodes.

      But, I did come across a very entertaining website via another blog earlier today. At EnglishSpace, I found this. One of our cats is named Jane Austen and I have a bumper sticker that reads "I'd rather be reading Jane Austen," so you can imagine how fond I am of her. I delighted in finding that the site also makes reference to a Gothic novelist, Matthew Lewis (Monk) who's credited with being the last of the rationalist Gothic novelists. Monk was suprisingly hypersexual--I was taken aback by many of its scenes--and graphically violent; it was a tasty little morsel (definitely not for children), but who doesn't enjoy the occasional guilty pleasure? Anyway, the site is fun and has great links to other Jane Austen and Gothic novel sites.

      P.S. The quotation that forms the title for this post must be one of the finest first sentences ever, and it happens to be Austen's beginning to Emma.

      Friday, May 06, 2005

      I'm not ready to post a review/summary of The Trial of Henry Kissinger, so instead I offer you something that made me grin.

      Which "Saved By The Bell" Character Are You?

      Am I dating myself with this one? I still don't know how I ended up being Zack. I was the epitomy, the embodiment of nerd in school. Plus, I'm not a guy!

      Thursday, May 05, 2005

      Rape or Patricide

      Years ago, my highschool ethics teacher, who also happened to be my school's vice principal, once complained about how awful John Grisham was for starting A Time to Kill with a violent rape scene of a prepubescent black girl. The gist being, that he was startled and disgusted. At the time, I thought "Whatever, I liked that movie." What a brat, right?

      Now, after having read Jordan Tracks, I understand why he felt as he did. Jordan Tracks by Stephen Wise, which is actually a decent book, starts with a patricide. And, that beginning almost kept me from reading the book. Gore does not scare me (couldn't be a criminal defense attorney, or own half the books I do if it did), and violence in books or movies doesn't necessarily offend me. I felt cheated. It cheapened the book, but I continued reading and am glad I did. Though the book's cover is amateurish, and it has some typos, a few mechanical and grammatical errors, and some pacing problems, the story is entertaining and thoughtful.

      Wise skillfully constructs a cast of small-town characters, capturing their common--as in everday--experiences, their shared joys and griefs, and their quiet moments. He describes such mundane and grimy details about where and how the characters earn their livings (at a turkey factory), that you feel dirty and tired on their behalves. The descriptions of their meals...in a word: YUM! "Christa's chocolate pie" YUM! His characters' world is tangible, you share in their experiences, and, therefore, you share in their journeys.

      His characters contemplate God's existence, love, and the nature of guilt. Some wallow amidst a sea of grief and are rescued by God. They hear and see their lives in the context of a larger mystery while others seemingly drown and not because God isn't there for them, but because they aren't listening to his ever-present voice. Eventually, even the hopeless or doubting hear his whisper.

      At times, the dialogue couldn't keep up with the strengths of the story. Soliloquies intended to convey religious fervor verged on awkward pedagogy. The author softens the effect a little by commenting on a character's ability to preach, but that doesn't alleviate the discomfiting situation that is oft repeated. I hope that it is the book, and not me. Maybe I'm uncomfortable with speaking loudly about God.

      Wise sure isn't. I think that may be part of why I liked the story, and am touched that the last sentence in the book is about happiness, and the last word in the book is "sound."

      Wise certainly reminded me of how important it is to listen and bear witness to the Lord.

      ***DISCLAIMER: Mind and Media provided Jordan Tracks to me and its other Exclusive Reviewers. We received the books free of charge as a gift from the Publisher who donated the books. If you are interested in being a reviewer, please contact Mind and Media with your inquiries. Feel free to let them know that you heard about them from me! I LOVE free books.***

      Monday, May 02, 2005

      No habla ingles? I do!

      A few days ago, in an effort to brush up on my spanish and learn some legaleese I bought a course used by the government to train diplomatic personnel. I give it a thumbs up! It's entertaining and fast-paced. Soon I'll be able to communicate something useful to nonenglish-speaking clients (I start at the firm in about a month--yipee!). I'll be able to say, "You have a 5th Amendment right to remain silent, or that's a violation of your Constitutional...." in no time. I wouldn't recommend the course for anyone who has a difficult time picking up other languages, because it would likely be too challenging and quick-paced.

      I hope to post on, at least, Chaucer's Cantebury Tales, The Jordan Tracks, and Ways of the Christian Mystics later this week.

      Hi Joe. I promise to respond to your comments soon. Do you want me to do it in a post or by email? I'd prefer to post, but I'll let you decide. By the way, I want to make you a jazz cd. Do you know whether you might like vocal or instrumental jazz better?

      Wednesday, April 27, 2005

      Blog Wars

      Well, now that a battle has been waged.

      The other day a free book arrived from Mind & Media. YIPEE! I decided to delay posting a review until I had more readers. That's finally happened. As a result, I haven't been reading as much or posting regularly. Instead, I've been spending time registering at traffic sites and adding codes to my blog page. There's so much out there in the blog world that it can actually be quite a struggle to build an audience quickly.

      Well, now that I've momentarily won a battle for readers, back to my beloved books...

      Thursday, April 21, 2005

      Why Benedict? and I Don't Mean Eggs

      After a Theology class I decided to browse blogs, and, while I was browsing, I came across one that discusses the appointment of Cardinal Ratzinger as Pope. The Gun-Toting Liberal lists snippets from other blogs concerning the Pope's appointment and accompanying comments of his own. In my class, I had the pleasure of speaking with someone who worked for Pope Benedict XVI during the early '90's, and, during our discussion, we speculated as to why he had taken the name Benedict--as opposed to, say, John Paul III.

      But first let me dispel some incredible misinformation about the Pope's personal history and character. I got a lot of my information from Jewish publications. Pope Benedict XVI was the son of an anti-Nazi police officer. He deserted the German military. The Pope's membership in Hitler Youth was compulsory and short-lived. He actively saught not having to be part of the HY and got a dispensation from involvment based on his pursuit of religious studies. He personally attempted to strengthen the bond between Jews and Catholics/christians alongside Pope John Paul II by helping to prepare Memory and Reconcilation, and he has stated that it saddens him when any person uses portions of the Bible to justify anti-semitism.

      The current Pope is conservative. That's not suprising seeing as he was Pope John Paul II's closest confidant, or, as Anne of Green Gables would say, they were kindred spirits, and Pope John Paul was conservative. They worked as a team, and therefore shared at least some similar prayers for the church. For instance, they both wanted to heal the schism between the Catholic and Orthodox churches.

      Anyway, back to why he might have taken the name Benedict. Apparently, Pope Benedict XVI is quite the scholar. Until present, Pope Benedict XIV had been acknowledged as the greatest scholar among the popes. Our current Pope is fluent in ten languages and proficient in even more. When asked, years ago, whether he wanted to be Pope, he said no because he didn't want to do administrative work anymore. He craved time to write the "many books" he had in his head. His idea of fun was to gather his current and previous doctoral students, take a trip to a cabin in the mountains, and stay there discussing subject-matter like salvation or grace around food and a fire.

      Pope Benedict XIV was conservative when it came to liturgical matters. Given that the emphasis of Pope Benedict XVI's homily at Pope John Paul's funeral Mass was the importance of the Eucharist (or liturgy), he's quite conservative about liturgical matters. Furthermore, Bendict XIV exerted tremendous efforts to strengthen relations with the Eastern Church, and he was succcesful with a number of Eastern Churches. Also, Pope Bendict XV worked to bridge the enormous gap between the Russian Orthodox and Catholic Churches. Given that the current Pope has spent a lot of time attempting to strengthen/repair the Catholic Church's relationship with Jews and the Eastern Orthodox (especially the Russian Eastern Orthodox Church), that's another common bond the Benedicts appear to share.

      As concerns Pope Benedict XV, he was Pope during World War I. He was a consummate diplomate and advocated for peace. He indicated that he was concerned with "the death of Europe" due to, one would assume, it's disrespect for life as evidenced by the War. Now, the parallels between that Pope and the current one could be read in a couple of different ways: first, the Vatican has stated that it doesn't agree with the war in Iraq because it doesn't believe that the criteria for a Just War have been met and second, the Vatican has acknowledged that the spirtual life of the church has been dying in Europe--largely because a pervasive culture of death there. In fact, as far as a I know, the current Pope has already made it his mission to revive the spirtual life of Europeans. Thus, I would say that the second parallel is pretty definite, and the first parallel may or may not be there. Time will tell.

      It's unfair to say that he wont have time to do great things, or that he is somehow an interim Pope. Vatican II was convened by Pope John XXII, who was only Pope for 5 years. His legacy speaks for itself. There is no limit to what Pope Benedict XVI may acheive.

      Pray for us!

      Wednesday, April 20, 2005


      Your Linguistic Profile:

      40% General American English

      40% Yankee

      15% Dixie

      5% Upper Midwestern

      0% Midwestern

      This isn't strictly book-related, but I do find it interesting an somewhat related to writing in general. If an author were writing a piece that included characters who spoke specific regional dialects, including American ones, then it would be important to have a good ear for lingual variations. In films, one can vary a given character's accent, but in order to write the variation, one would have to know vocab differences between regions. I'm guessing I got 5% upper midwestern for having said that Toilet Papering was TP'ing.

      Tuesday, April 19, 2005

      I'm waiting for the rest of The Inheirtance

      I always feel arrogant dissecting a book, but here we go again anyway.

      Christopher Paolini's Eragon was pleasant but a little cliched, and, while it is an amazing piece from such a young writer, an underlying immaturity bled through the story. Let me be specific: it was written by a teenager, it seems like it was written by a young (in terms of experience, not age) writer, but it doesn't necessarily seem like it was written by someone as young as Paolini actually was. If you got that, then you can get Kant.

      Paolini possesses a wonderful understanding of language, and that enables him to construct full and beautiful descriptions of Eragon's world; however, a fabulous description, poorly timed, loses efficiacy. At times, it was like watching a film where the director went a little nutty with slow-motion movement and made all his action sequences slow-motion scenes.

      Secondly, there was one area in which Paolini's understanding of language failed him: the tags for dialogue verged on the ridiculous. He obviously used a thesaurus in order to find a g-zillion variations for the word "said." I know you're not supposed to use the "said" after every character's statement, but that's because it can be distracting. On the other hand, avoiding "said" by using every known variation of the word "said" is distracting too. The dialogue just wasn't rich in the same way that the narrative portions of the book were.

      Further, the dialogue was stitled at times because the scenes were too staged and predictable. The plot and charcters were almost too familiar. I'm actually a really big proponent of predictability in stories. Familiarity is comforting, and archetypal characters are easier to understand because we know them so well. For instance, I love Oedipus in Oedipus Rex. He's about as preditable as you can get, but his story is so engaging. Everytime I read it, I read it hoping the ending is going to be different (No. I am not insane), but, of course, the moment you read it's first paragraph you know it wont end well. It starts:

      My children, latest-born wards of old Cadmus,
      why do you sit before me like this with wreathed branches of suppliants, while
      the city reeks with incense, [5] rings with prayers for health and cries of
      woe? I thought it unbefitting, my children, to hear these things from the mouths
      of others, and have come here myself, I, Oedipus
      renowned by all. Tell me, then, venerable old man--since it is proper that you
      [10] speak for these--in what mood you sit here, one of fear or of desire?
      Be sure that I will gladly give you all my help. I would be hard-hearted indeed
      if I did not pity such suppliants as these.

      Why, then, did Eragon's predictability bother me? The dramatic irony in Eragon is false. I wont betray any of the stories "secrets". If you start the book, you'll be able to guess them soon enough. (Please forgive me if I'm really off my rocker. I read the book a while ago.) Because of the way that the story is written, the "hero" seems to know what his fate is, and anytime that the author asserts that he doesn't, the assertion seems disingenuous. Whereas in Oedipus, the "hero" genuinely doesn't know his fate, and even though you want him to, even though you feel like he should know, you fully understand and believe that he just doesn't see it (that's an "in joke" for people who know the Oedipus story) . There just doesn't seem to be a real inner turmoil for Eragon. Yes, he's trying to discover his fate, but he seems like he already knows what it is and isn't struggling against it. He's just along for the ride all over the Alagaesia country-side.

      Yes, I know that comparing a Greek tragedy to a fantasy novel is like comparing apples and oranges. Oh well.

      It was fun and easy to read, and I'm definitely interested in seeing where Paolini is headed. It was a solid start to what may be a great trilogy. Maybe I'm in a bad mood or just didn't read the book with the right frame of mind. I did enjoy the book, I just have an intuition that Paolini is capable of a lot more.

      Monday, March 28, 2005

      Book Lists of Many Shapes and Sizes

      A few days ago, my mom asked me to order some books for her via the Internet. I decided to check out what deals my Book Club was running and discovered that they had one that would enable me to order a few books for myself as well; however, I'm so accustomed to purusing bookshelves, thumbing through thousands of titles, for finds that I didn't have any ideas about what I might like. Plus, I've recently taken trips to used-book bookstores and had my most immediate book needs met, so I decided to take a look at my favorite links and blogs to see what other people were reading.

      That's when I discovered an interesting confluence of themes in my life, namely lists. Not only did I need to create a list for my book club, but friends have been asking me what my favorite books are, and I've also been intending to post a wish list for quite some time. For some reason, memes concerning book lists seem to have become a popular subject among blogs and especially book-related blogs (go figure). You can see an example of how quickly a list can become a meme at The Little Bookroom.

      The meme featured at The Little Bookroom asks which authors one has read ten or more books by. Here's my list:

      L.M. Montgomery
      Louisa May Alcott's (pretty close to ten if not ten)
      C.S. Lewis
      Jane Austen (it will be ten once I read her letters
      Patricia Cornwell
      Roald Dahl
      William Shakespeare
      Robert Graves (sometimes I feel like he's a drug--I feel like I have to read him and them I'm angry that I have afterwards)
      Can I count the Bronte sisters all together?
      Robert Browning
      Edgar Allen Poe
      Marguerite Duras

      Well on the way to ten?
      A.S. Byatt
      The Bronte sisters (if combined--It's not fair, I know.)
      Nathaniel Hawthorne
      Muriel Spark
      Theodore Dreiser

      The list simply made me realize that I wished many of these authors had written more!

      On my search to find things I'd like to read, I found an interesting meme, called The One Book List. Apparently, over twenty years ago, an individual put out a call for forming a list of the most beloved books, and The One Book List resulted. The list began with about a hundred selections and has grown to well over six hundred books. Now, that's a list to occupy even the most of avid of book readers. In my search for book recommendations, I also found The List of Bests and Great Book Lists.

      It was interesting to see what makes the cut and what doesn't. It also gave me more direction in selecting future reads because I realize which books I have appreciated the most, and, seeing other peoples book lists, reminds me of books that I've intended to read but have put aside in favor of others. Perhaps, as I have with old friends, it's time for me to return to those I've neglected in favor of the more novel (yes, I know that's a terrible pun).

      On another note, the combination of other people's lists and my own encouraged me to buy more books! Here's my bookshelf, that is, a list of my book wants/wishes (to name a few). Now, though I have the list at Powells, that's not my only wish list or where I'll necessarily buy my books. The expense of my book buying practices could rival the cost of a mild drug habit, so I search out the best prices I can find. I'm looking into Amazon, Daedulus, used bookstores, local bookfairs, and so on. The Powells list is just a way for me to organize my own wish list. (It's much more efficient than my trying to remember titles or writing them down on little scraps of paper that find there way into another dimension--probably the same one where half of my socks end up when I wash them.)

      Sunday, March 27, 2005

      I was baptized!

      On a personal note: I was baptized at my church's Easter Vigil, and I believe that I have finally experienced the profound joy of Easter. Though I wish I hadn't had a heinous headcold when I stepped into that chilly holy water, I'm glad that I stopped equivocating or prevaricating and finally "took the plunge" so to speak. It has most certainly changed me and strengthened my belief in the sanctity of innocent life.

      Friday, March 18, 2005

      Please Stop Terri Schiavo's Suffering

      I know this has nothing to do with books, that are normal fare on my blog, but, I feel so strongly, that I have to digress from my usual book diatribes. Please excuse my typos.

      Terri Schiavo's case troubles me on many levels. Firstly, I think that the fate that a Florida judge has mandated for Terri amounts to state-sanctioned murder. Secondly, what the Congress has done, though compassionate (and I would have a difficult time not doing the same thing) amounts to what may become federal interference with state law. So, I want Terri to be saved, but I'd also like to preserve state's rights over the long term. The latter concern must be dealt with at another time because the first concerns a matter of life and death.

      I'm not going to list all the reasons that Terri's life should be preserved, I'll leave that up to the sites run on Terri's behalf, such as Terrisfight or Blogs for Terri. I'm just going to post a letter that I sent to much of the Florida Senate, some of its House members, and some of the representatives from my own state. I do so in order to encourage people to send letters of their own to their representatives, and for those that disagree, to open up a dialogue about it. If a dialogue opens up, then maybe representatives can create a law that would protect indivduals from suffering the same fate in the future. If state's pass their own laws with regard to elder and disabled care that address this sort of situation, like a law that requires written evidence of a desire to die by starvation, then that might keep us from suffering the same fate and from future arguements over state's rights.

      The letter I sent is as follows:

      I implore you to thoughtfully consider any legislation that would help
      Terri Schiavo and others with similar health conditions, namely the
      severely retarded, disabled, and/or elderly. Terri and many others
      have not given informed consent to death by starvation.

      Terri, as a devout Catholic, may or may not have wanted
      extraordinary measures to be used in order to prolong her life, but it's
      doubtful that she would willingly consent to death by starvation. Her
      family, those who know her best, have assured the justice system and public
      of as much. Yet, a Florida state judge is taking the word of an adulter,
      who has physically and emotionally harmed his wife, who has lied to the
      court in order to receive money (i.e., he did not live up to his assurances
      that he would provide his "wife" with the best physical therapy and tests
      available), and who has not demonstrated a devotion to Terri and any of her
      needs. Terri fights to live, or she would have died either as a result of
      the first "incident" that incapacitated her, or her having consequently
      being denied physical therapy, advanced treatments, and antibiotics
      for sicknesses.

      If Terri is permitted to
      die by starvation, her murder will set an awful trend. Her
      murder would set a precedent for permitting United States citizens to rid
      themselves of the disabled in the name of "carrying out their
      wishes." But, this would be nothing more than a ruse for getting rid of
      those who demand a great deal from the rest of us in terms of physical
      and emotional care.

      If Terri were a
      family pet, she would be treated more kindly, and her husband could be
      prosecuted for the sort of neglect and deprivation that he and a judge have
      advocated and finally ordered for Terri. Please help and care for Terri
      where her husband and the justice system has not. Terri IS
      still human.

      Please honor her life and her desire to live by
      giving a voice to her wishes and a right that is constitutionally
      protected, the right to live.

      That's the best I could muster. The subpoenas sent by Congress were the best that they could muster. And, I fear that nothing short of the Florida state judge reversing himself, that is, a miracle, will be enough to save Terri from a painful, cruel death.

      Monday, March 14, 2005

      The End of the Affair

      A few years ago I saw a movie called The End of the Affair, and I remember that at that time I liked it. And, a couple weeks ago, my wonderful fiance indulged my love of books, some would call it an obsession, and took me to an enormous used book store in Manhattan, namely The Strand. The Strand boasts 18 miles of books, and, even after having been there for an hour and a half (I say we were only there for under an hour and he says we were there for two, so I'm compromising), I probably didn't even rummage through 1% of their books. Though I didn't really make my way through that many of their stacks--I'm giddy even remembering what it was like to be there--I still returned from Manhattan with scores of books, including Graham Greene's End of the Affair. As soon as I read the synopsis on the book's back cover I realized the movie had been adapted from Graham Greene's novel.

      Every once in a while I come across a book that speaks to what it means to be human, a story that glimpses into the soul. Greene's novel is one of those pieces. The novel is almost autobiographical. It's like Greene wrestled with the darkest and brightest portions of his own nature, and this book resulted. If you like to mix your daily dose of philosophy and religion with fiction, then this book's it. The story captures one man's relationship with the God he wants to deny. It's just brilliant! It's way to fresh on the brain for me to write anything useful about it right now.

      While I found certain stylistic aspects of it to be troubling, e.g., inconsistent transitions from chapter to chapter and portions of the ending too convenient, I loved this book. It' such a fine piece of fiction that it makes me wonder whether the author intended bumpy transitions in certain places, i.e., whether they have some sort of hidden meaning that I'm not getting.

      It really was a wonderful read. I don't want to say too much about the ending, but I'll say this: certain aspects of the ending weren't ambiguous enough. The book captured how futile it is to deny God's existence, because he wont deny your's. I think that the reader, the "believer," would have felt this at a personal level even more than he already does if certain aspects of the ending had been more ambiguous. The reader would have felt a push/pull between rational explanations and religious explanations if specific portions of the ending a more open explanation. Geez this is hard to explain without giving away the book. I'll stop here.

      By the way, I've realized that I should have written about the Da Vinci Code as well as Angels and Demons. I still haven't read the Code, but I find everyone's buying into it's being historical silly. Angels and Demons wasn't a great book--it was a fun beach book--but society's response to it and/or other pieces of literature that incorporate some historical facts startles me. The reason it startles me: people think fiction is fact. Why? Why is there such a complete lack of common sense or basic knowledge of history that makes it possible for people to read something like the Code or see something like the Gangs of New York and think that they're seeing something that really happened? Don't be a duncical reader (that's what I tell myself when I read something that calls itself a documentary or says it's adapted from or based on history).

      Firstly, one of the first few pages in Dan Brown's book is entilted "Facts." It states that essentially all the rituals, pieces of artwork, and so on have been meticulously researched and are true. In response, many have published responses to the novel, such as Breaking the Da Vinci Code and the myriad of other books listed by Faithfulreader.com. Though Faithfulreader.com takes issue with Brown's book because of it's open hostility to Catholicism and Christianity, I take issue with it's readers, not it's author. People? What's next? Why are you so willing to believe tripe? Why are people so willing to believe the worst about western civilization and religion? And, more importantly, why are people so ill informed? (On the upside, at least people are reading (they're just not thinking). Is that too mean?)

      Now, some people have probably been spoonfed nonsense by iconoclastic teaching professionals that belong to an especially ill-informed school of idealogues; however, regardless of the malebolge that certain schools offer up as a "approved" education, don't we owe it to ourselves to seek out the truth? I'm sure there are a lot of good history books out there, but I would recommend Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong as a great place to start. If anyone can think of any others, please let me know. I'm always looking for a good read.

      Anyway, back to my wonderful pile of books. Eragon is just around the corner. I promise not to rant again for quite a while.

      Saturday, February 26, 2005

      Project Runway Finale

      I know I haven't written about the tv show Project Runway--I haven't written about any tv show for that matter--on my blog before, but my fiance and I have been avid fans of series. So, I have to permit myself a little comment on its finale. We both thought that Kara would win. Then, after seeing the first half of the finale, my fiance thought that Kara would win whereas I thought it would be Jay. Jay did end up winning, but the judges seemed to have agonized over choosing between them.

      I was trying to come up with a way of explaining why I thought they chose Jay. I think I have a good explanation: Jay's designs seemed much more trend setting whereas Kara Saun's seemed a lot more in the now. I think if they went with someone who's doing what people want today, she might have won. Instead, I think they must have really focused on what people will want tomorrow. Her show was very sort of couture for couture. Jay's looked really couture, but it was hip at the same time. Jay's line will set trends whereas Kara's is part of trend which has already been set.

      Thursday, February 24, 2005


      Ok, you can't even imagine the number of emails that I've gotten from my friends about my Neil Gaimon related post. I wrote a brief paragraph about his Coraline. I give up.

      I know literature lovers always take themselves and their opinions quite seriously and I should have known that you Gaimon lovers wouldn't appreciate my opinion. So, I'll say this: I was probably too harsh in my rejection/critique of Coraline. I'll admitt that I didn't actively dislike it, but that it simply failed to engage me at the time that I read it, and I'll give it another try. Plus, I think I wrote about liking the Sandman series. P.S. If you would like more information concerning graphic novels especially Ray Bradbury sci-fi etc., you might like to read The Best of Ray Bradbury: The Graphic Novel

      For God's sake you all are taking my blog quite seriously. I appreciate the attention and am slightly wigged out by it. At least that means you're reading it at all, which I can't seem to get my own parents to do. Anyway, for more info concerning Gaimon, visit http://www.neilgaiman.com/ for info about this author.

      By the way, I just read Graham Greene's End of the Affair, and I was blown away by it. More to come on that note!