Friday, July 24

The Little Way of Ruthie Leming: A Southern Girl, a Small Town, and the Secret of a Good Life (2013)

By Rod Dreher

Rod Dreher is another recent discovery whom I’m somewhat surprised not to have encountered earlier – or if I did, the name didn’t stick.  I do a good bit – far too much, if the truth be told – of what I call “net’surfing,” tending to concentrate in the more conservative political and religious corners of the Internet, but The American Conservative is not a site that I make a point to visit unless I’m taken there by some link that looks interesting. Nonetheless, given the subject matter which Dreher tends to write about, I’d be surprised if one or more of those interesting-looking links would not have taken me to something by him from time to time. Nevertheless, I don’t recall his name impressing itself upon my consciousness until just a couple of months ago. I was visiting with my mother, and we were watching The World Over on EWTN. That night, host Raymond Arroyo was interviewing guest Dreher, specifically about his most recently published book, How Dante Can Save Your Life (which I am currently reading).

Tuesday, July 21

The King’s Deryni: A Novel of the Deryni (2014)

By Katherine Kurtz

And this is the latest-published in the venerable series, the sixteenth novel, the one which a couple of months ago I discovered had been published just before the end of last year, the prospect of reading which launched me onto the deepest re-entry into the quasi-medieval fantasy world created by Katherine Kurtz that I have experienced in thirty years or more. Recently previous posts [LINK and LINK] have detailed my rereading of the now-forty-years-old “opening” trilogy, the “Chronicles of the Deryni,” and my reactions thereto; now it’s time to discuss this most recent offering.

Friday, July 17

On Stratford Caldecott (1953-2014) and All Things Made New (2011)

I give this “review” the unusual title because, although it indeed began as something of a review of the book, All Things Made New: The Mysteries of the World in Christ, on this the first anniversary of his untimely death it ended up becoming far more a belated tribute to an author I regret not discovering long ago, Stratford Caldecott, M.A. (Oxon.), FRSA (Friend of the Royal Society of Arts). Known as “Strat” to his many friends, he was by all accounts greatly beloved by all who knew him, or knew of him – ultimately even by superheroes! Truly, the more I have learned about him in the past few months, the more I have discovered in Stratford Caldecott a kindred spirit whom I would have loved to have had a chance to meet over a brew or few. The conversation would doubtless have been epic!

Saturday, June 27

Deryni Checkmate (1972, Rev. Ed. 2005) and High Deryni (1973, Rev. Ed. 2007)

By Katherine Kurtz

I previously wrote [LINK] of my history with this series and what brought me back, thirty-odd years after the last time I read it, to the opening trilogy which is collectively called The Chronicles of the Deryni (although that title would now, I think, better serve as a title for the series as a whole). I won’t retread that ground here but rather dive straight off into a few thoughts about the second and third books, which will be intermingled with my thoughts both on the trilogy as a whole and the series as a whole.

Monday, June 22

A.D.: The Bible Continues (12 episodes, NBC TV 2015)

Produced by Roma Downey and Mark Burnett

A.D.: The Bible Continues is, of course, billed as the even-longer sequel (of sorts) to the 2013 miniseries, The Bible, which aired as ten episodes on The History Channel. In reality, it is more properly a sequel, albeit with different actors, to the feature film that was adapted out of The Bible as Son of God (2014) [reviewed here: LINK]. That’s because its narrative would have to be inserted within that of The Bible while it follows directly from the conclusion of Son of God. But that’s really a minor distinction, except in the sense that it was an attempt to recapture the high ratings of The Bible on a weekly basis. Judging by the numbers reported in the Wikipedia articles [LINK and LINK], however, that didn’t really work out as hoped.

Our Monday evening Bible study group has watched and discussed every episode of A.D.: The Bible Continues for the past twelve weeks (finishing our discussion up tonight), using it to pace our reading of the first ten chapters of the Acts of the Apostles, which are the scriptures behind what was portrayed. The Biblical narrative is, however, wedded to an attempt at some larger historical context as well as a whoppingly big dose of imagination. Now that the series has concluded its original airing as of last night, I have some comments to make.

Wednesday, June 3

The CTS New Catholic Bible (2013)

Catholic Truth Society UK

I’ve been meaning to post this for quite a while but am just getting around to it, finally spurred to do so when checking to see if it were available on found that while it has a page [LINK], it shows as currently unavailable and there is virtually no information on it, not even a customer review. I remedied that immediately and decided to also post my thoughts here….

This is my daily reading Bible. A bit of background: I am a convert to Catholicism, back in the 1980s, and my first Catholic Bible was the Jerusalem Bible. Since then I have always loved the high literary quality of the translation (the fact that J. R. R. Tolkien was part of the team producing it back in the 1960s helped in that respect!), except for one thing that I found increasingly irksome – its use of the Divine Name Yahweh against thousands of years of tradition, both Jewish and Christian, rendering it as "The Lord." The Jerusalem Bible may not be the most slavishly literal translation (for that, go to the Douay-Rheims), but I do find it the most readable. Nevertheless, the "Yahweh issue" eventually drove me to other translations, most commonly the Revised Standard Version-Catholic Edition, as a good balance of readability and literal accuracy. Anyway, last year while on the Pilgrimage to Italy [LINK], I went into a little bookstore in St. Peter's Square where I found a red Compact Edition of this Bible (not this edition) as one of the few English editions available. Seeing that it was from the Catholic Truth Society, “Publishers to the Holy See,” I picked it up, and a quick perusal of the introduction revealed that I had finally found my dream reading Bible – a Jerusalem Bible with the Divine Name rendered as "Lord," with an extra attraction as well: The Psalms are printed in the Grail translation, which has become intimately familiar to me from years of reciting the Breviary. The only reason I did not immediately purchase that Bible on the spot was its compact size and tiny print, which I knew was too small for daily reading with my middle-aged eyes. But immediately upon arriving back in the States I was on the Internet seeking out a larger copy, settling on this one, the Standard Edition, basically the next size up, which I purchased directly from the CTS in the UK (The Internet is a Wonderful Thing!). And I have used it daily ever since, because it came with other features I didn't even know about at the time, but which further enhance its utility as a daily reading Bible.

Tuesday, June 2

Deryni Rising (1970; rev. ed. 2004)

By Katherine Kurtz

Katherine Kurtz’s Deryni series is probably the single “open-ended” series of fiction that I have read most consistently across most of my life. A fairly good number of such series have come and gone from my must-read list (see below); there are a few that I have taken up in the last couple of decades that currently enjoy that status (The Dresden Files, Honor Harrington, The Nathan Heller Cases). But there is only one that I can think of now that I have read virtually all my life, certainly from late-adolescence/early-adulthood. And it is perhaps the most profoundly influential series in shaping my character and personality, who I am today. There was, however, a long dearth in publication of new installments, eight years between when the last appeared in 2006 and the recent publication of the latest late last year, which led to it drifting out of my consciousness. Nevertheless, recent conversation with friends brought it to mind and a quick Internet search revealed the recent publication of the most recent book, which I ordered. But the wait for The King’s Deryni to arrive (some things I’m just not going to read in ebook) also inspired me to revisit the very beginning of the series – sort of.

Monday, May 25

The CBS Supergirl Pilot

For a brief time last Friday, a "leaked" copy of the pilot episode for the upcoming Supergirl television show that will premier on CBS this November (as I understand it) was pretty widely available on the Internet, including Youtube. It's since been pulled, so that the links simply take you to a statement that the content has been removed at the request of Warner Brothers, but I happened to find it at a time when I had an hour or so to kill, so in a rare lapse I went ahead and viewed it.

Now, exactly why this pilot episode appeared is itself a subject of debate out on the blogosphere, with a substantial body of opinion holding that the "leak" was engineered by the network or the producers themselves in reaction to considerably mixed reactions to the official release of a six-minute preview a week or so earlier, which is still available:

Thursday, May 21

The Flashpoint That Wasn't

The Flash season finale – which if you’ve not seen it yet, STOP:  BE WARNED – SPOILERS AHEAD  … Should have been called “Flashpoint.”  Because that’s what it was, except that it bypassed the view of the warped universe that was the subject of the miniseries.
What was FlashpointFlashpoint was the 2011 DC miniseries where Barry Allen wakes up in a totally messed up world, one in which he had saved his mother but as a consequence had never become the Flash.  In one changed instant everything about the old Post-Crisis on Infinite Earths DC Universe that had prevailed from 1985 to 2011 (with a couple of tweaks along the way – 1994’s Zero Hour, 2006’s Infinite Crisis) was altered – for the worse.  Sure, Barry Allen’s mother had lived, but he did not become the Flash, and the world was now on the brink of catastrophe, torn by warring factions between unstable super-beings because, to name a few other differences (DC milked it for all it was worth, of course – in addition to the seven-issue main story, there were something like fifteen ancillary three-issue miniseries telling side-stories; I read only the main story and a couple of the side-stories):  Instead of Thomas and Martha Wayne being killed and inspiring Bruce Wayne to eventually become the Batman, Bruce was killed, leading to Thomas becoming a darker, murderous vigilante Batman – and Martha becoming his archenemy, the Joker; the spaceship carrying young Kal-El was discovered by the U.S. military who had raised him secluded away from yellow solar energy; a diplomatic marriage between King Arthur of Atlantis and Princess Diana of Themyscira had been scuttled by an Atlantean assassination of Queen Hippolyta, leading to a global conflagration between the two superpower nations that by now threatened to destroy the world; and so forth.  To make a long story short, Barry eventually does find a way to regain his speed just as an Atlantean-Amazon Armageddon is destroying the Flashpoint Earth, he runs back through time and prevents himself from saving his mother … and the DC Universe is restored – except it isn’t.  It is now different than it had been before.  It was the “New 52” Universe that has prevailed since 2011. (The fact that I have grown to dislike the direction DC is going is beside the (flash)point (sorry, couldn’t help it!) – there were developments that I found increasingly repugnant even before; the New 52 just hastened things along, in my opinion.)

Friday, March 20

Names for the Islamic State

From Wikipedia
If you’ve paid attention to my occasional references, both here and on Facebook,  to the monstrosity that has appeared of late in the Middle East as the latest manifestation of the madness of Islamic terrorism, you may have noticed that I most often simply call it “The Islamic State.”  I briefly explained the reason in the past:

I refuse to call it “ISIS” or “ISIL” (“Islamic State of Iraq and Syria/the Levant”) because the geographical limitation implied by either is not in accord with Islamic ambitions, and anyone who thinks that Islam will be content with either and not total world submission is a fool; better to recognize it for what it is, Dar al’Islam, the “House of Islam,” that conceives itself in a neverending war with Dar al’Harb, the “House of War,” i.e., anything outside Dar al’Islam …. [LINK]

I would like here to expand somewhat on why I think “ISIS” and “ISIL” are less appropriate terms.

Saturday, March 7

“A Day with G. K. Chesterton,” 2015 Louisiana Chesterton Conference, Chesterton Square and Banquet Hall, Ponchatoula, Louisiana, Saturday 07 March

The Chesterton Society of Baton Rouge

I heard about this several months ago, I believe through the American Chesterton Society Facebook feed.  I signed up for it immediately and have been looking forward to it ever since.  I was not disappointed – well, not by anything that could be controlled by the sponsors, mainly Mrs. Karen Hornsby and the Chesterton Society of Baton Rouge which she organized a few years ago.  They did a fantastic job – everything else was wonderful.  And the venue was outstanding.  Who would have ever thought that a “Chesterton Square and Banquet Hall” would be near the center of little Ponchatoula, Louisiana, right across the street from the old railroad station, complete with the world’s only life-size statue of G. K. Chesterton?  That is, apparently, thanks to the efforts of a devout fan of the man, Dr. Robert Benson.  Ponchatoula – Louisiana! – has thus become something of a pilgrimage destination for fans of G. K. Chesterton. Wow! 

Wednesday, February 25

Justice League: Throne of Atlantis (Warner-DC 2015)

Directed by Ethan Spaulding, "Inspired by the Graphic Novel, 'Justice League: Throne of Atlantis'"

A few evenings ago, I watched the newest DC Animated Movie, the second “New 52” offering, Justice League:  Throne of Atlantis.  I enjoyed this one much more on the initial viewing than I did the first [LINK].  Even though I’m still irked they replaced Aquaman with Captain Marvel “Shazam” in Justice League:  War, it allowed them to give the King of the Seven Seas a really good story in this one, being introduced and discovering his heritage right along with his teammates-to-be (because he’s been admitted to the still-new Justice League” by the end).  It also gave his mother a larger, and heartbreaking, role in the story (but still better than how they’re currently treating her in the comics, although that story is still playing out).  Of course, it simplified and streamlined the story as it appeared in the comics, even beyond the necessary changes to the storyline.  Mostly it worked, even though Orm comes off as nothing more than a villain here, with no redeeming qualities as he’s been given in the comics.  Mera's comics origin seems to be completely negated here.  And there was ‘way too much continuous fighting toward the end – inevitable especially when you’ve got such a large cast to juggle.  I was reminded of Man of Steel.  Overall, however, I really liked this movie.  This was the Aquaman I would like to see on the big screen.  Although I try to give Zack Snyder the benefit of the doubt in what’s coming for Superman V. Batman:  Dawn of Justice, Jason Momoa is just nothing like the Aquaman I would like to see – he may do a fine job (he does seem to have enthusiasm for the role), but the image they released last week ... 
...was the first thing connected to the upcoming movie that I’ve just had a visceral “No!” ripped from me over – literally, sitting with my wife, waiting for an appointment, paging down my Facebook feed, I blurted out a strangled “No!”  … She did not understand even once I tried to explain.  But I think I could show her this movie and maybe she would get it….  I definitely will be watching and enjoying this movie again.

Cheers! ... and Thanks for reading!

(N.B.:  I have no idea what is up with the duplication of the title "Throne of Atlantis" for two different graphic novels.  I have the original comics, in which the story arc crossed over between the two ongoing titles.  Did DC publish all of the chapters in each series' collections?  Or, horrific as it might sound, did they only the chapters proper to each series in that title's collections?)