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 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?