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 tend 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?)

Tuesday, February 17

The Scarlet Jaguar (An Original Pat Wildman Adventure, 2013)

By Win Scott Eckert (Kindle ebook ed. 2014)

I grabbed this book last year right after reading The Evil in Pemberley House [LINK], but only just, on a whim, set out to read it.  I don’t have a whole lot to say about it.  With the permission of the Philip Jose Farmer estate (who share the copyright), Eckert takes the baton to continue the adventures of “Doc Savage’s” daughter on her own in the 1970s.  He does so very ably, even more than the first volume managing to reproduce the feel of “Kenneth Robeson’s” (Lester Dent’s) 1930s pulp prose.  A continuing mystery, referred to but undeveloped in this novel, is what exactly became of the Man of Bronze and his wife themselves – doubtless being saved as a subplot running through future adventures. 

The plot is pretty standard Doc Savage fare – a deafening howl accompanies the transmutation of persons and objects into crimson glass which then shatters to pour forth scarlet smoke in the form of a yowling jaguar, striking first individuals to inspire terror which paves the way for an extortionate threat to the global economy.  Pat and a small (but obviously to grow) band of companions are drawn into the crisis, first through her new England-based Empire State Investigations and then on behalf of Her Majesty’s Secret Service.  I’ll say no more than that, other than that since this is part of the Wold Newton universe connections with the wider pulp, Victorian, and pop-culture world of literature abound – it’s well worth reading for yourself.  And I have quite a bit less hesitation in recommending this novel than its predecessor [q.v.] which bore much heavier the stamp of PJF with regard to sexual perversion, which is only really hinted at in these pages.  Personally, I’m thankful for that – it’s one reason I delayed so long in actually reading this novel.  I doubt I’ll let the next installment, whenever it appears, lie unread for so long.  All in all, this was a quick, light read, much like the 1930s pulps themselves.  And sometimes that’s just what the old boy needs.

Cheers!, and Thanks for reading!

Friday, January 2

Sword and Serpent (2014)

By Taylor Marshall

I’ve been familiar with Taylor Marshall for a couple of years, since I stumbled upon his website [LINK] while researching the question of the dating of Christmas late one Christmas night [LINK].  I gradually became a regular reader of his website, and from there about the middle of last year I ended up signing into his New Saint Thomas Institute [LINK] initiative in order to follow his one-year course in Catholic Theology (one of several reasons my blogging in general has decreased and the nature of this blog in particular has shifted somewhat over the past year – there’s quite a bit of “non-bloggable” reading involved).  I also started listening to his podcast, The Taylor Marshall Show [LINK].  I was thus aware some months back that Marshall was making his first foray into writing fiction with this historical novel about St. George and the Dragon.  I eagerly awaited it and downloaded the Kindle edition as soon as it became available.

Saturday, December 20

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (2014)

Directed by Peter Jackson

I don’t have a whole lot to say about this movie that I haven’t said already in my reviews of the first two installments (An Unexpected Journey [LINK] and The Desolation of Smaug [LINK]).  Ultimately, for all its flaws, which are many, I loved this film.  For all its flaws, which are many, I love Peter Jackson’s vision of J. R. R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth and look forward to revisiting it from time to time.  It saddens me that there are no more new installments in the works despite a wealth of treasure that could be mined out of The Silmarillion.

Wednesday, December 10

The Child Martyrs

Today is the feast-day of St. Eulalia of Merida.  A short hagiography reads like this:

St. Eulalia of Merida, Virgin and Martyr (Feast day - December 10) Eulalia of Merida was born in Spain in the last decade of the third century. It is almost universally accepted that she suffered martyrdom for the Faith. What little else is known of her to date is based mostly on legend. It is believed that Eulalia, as a twelve year old girl, tried to remonstrate with Judge Dacian of Merida for forcing Christians to worship false gods in accord with the edict of Diocletian. Even though Dacian was at first amused and tried to flatter her, Eulalia would not deny Christ. Finally, Dacian ordered that her body be torn by iron hooks. Fire was applied to her wounds to increase her sufferings, and in the process her hair caught fire. She was asphyxiated by the smoke and flames, gaining the crown of martyrdom around the year 304.” [SOURCE]

The reason I highlight this is that as our priest was relating this story during his short homily this morning during Mass, my mind immediately leapt to the reality that although we typically think of the age of martyrs as being a feature of the early Church, almost two thousand years gone, the fact is that it is a living reality being played out in the stark horror that is engulfing the Middle East today.  Over the past several months – besides the well-publicized Youtube propaganda that has been put out by the barbaric Islamic State itself – reports have been pouring forth of the atrocities being perpetrated on the rapidly diminishing Christian minority population of that region.  Over the past several weeks, reports have emerged of Christian children being martyred for not renouncing their faith and proclaiming the false doctrine of Mohammad.  For whatever reason – a resurgence of “interest” or new reports I do not know – my Facebook feed yesterday contained a number of “shares” of news stories related to this, e.g.:

ISIS turned up and said to the children, ‘You say the words that you will follow Mohammed’. The children, all under 15, four of them, said no, we love Yeshua, we have always loved we have always followed Yeshua, Yeshua has always been with us.  They said: ‘Say the words.’ They said ‘No, we can’t.’ They chopped all their heads off. How do you respond to that? You just cry.” [Canon Andrew White, SOURCE]

… And you ask yourself:  How long are we going to tolerate this monstrosity?  And, lacking any action against them now:  When they come for you (as they will), will you have the faith and the strength to affirm that you are a follower of Jesus, that Jesus is always with you, and that you will not forsake Him?

Seriously, do you – do we, do I – have the faith of one of these children? – St. Eulalia, or the Modern Child Martyrs of Iraq?

Saturday, December 6

St. Nicholas, Smiter of Heretics

St. Nicholas of Myra striking Arius of Alexandria at the Council of Nicaea, 325
Just because today is, of course, his feast day.

I wrote more about Jolly Old St. Nick last Christmas [LINK].

Saturday, November 1

Italy 2014

I just realized that I neglected to post something important, at least to me.  Of course, part of the reason for that is that that something and preparations for it have occupied most of my attention for the past several weeks so that I haven’t really given this blog much thought.  In any case, from 20-29 October my wife and I participated in a pilgrimage to Italy sponsored by our church, the Minor Basilica of the Immaculate Conception.  If you’re interested in following along, seeing what we did, albeit a little behind the times, an account can be found at my “Yeah, It’s Another” blog (more formally called The Absent-Minded Professor’s Travels) listed at right, or accessible via the link below my banner above, or directly here [LINK].

“Albeit a little behind the times” … well, so is my posting the account.  My intention was to “live-blog” the trip for the benefit of my students back home – this is, after all, the middle of a semester – but as you’ll see that did not work out.  So I’m furiously “back-filling” the travelogue, trying to get it completed this weekend.  My goal yesterday morning was to finish it off yesterday so that at least all the postings would be dated in October, but that didn’t work out either.  I’m still feeling the effects of jet-lag, and by early evening last night I conked out.  I’m hoping to finish it off today, though.

In any case, we had a wonderful time, and as a historian you can bet I incorporate some historical commentary into my narrative.  I invite you to join us – without suffering the inconvenience of jet-lag!


Monday, October 6

Third Orders and Oblates

Oblates Day of Recollection, 12 July 2014
St. Joseph Abbey, St. Benedict, Louisiana
This is lightly edited from a presentation I gave on Wednesday, 1 October:

I.                  Introduction

A while back, Fr. Ryan Humphries of the Minor Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, Natchitoches, Louisiana, asked if I might be interested in taking one of the Wednesday night Adult Catechesis sessions at St. Mary’s School.  After a bit of thought and prayer – in part during a day-long “Oblates’ Day” retreat at St. Joseph’s Abbey down by Covington – I proposed that I talk about the ways in which Catholic laymen can associate themselves with a religious order, as I do as a “Benedictine Oblate.”  Father said that sounded good to him, so here I am.

The actual title for tonight is, “Third Orders and Oblates.”  Those are the two most common “popular” terms for what I’m talking about.  But in reading up on them, I quickly found something that surprised me:  There is remarkably little information handy on the subject as a cohesive whole, probably because the subject is not a cohesive whole.  It’s a bit more complex than I suspected.  I’ve made up some information sheets [appended below], and the first thing I would direct you to on them is an online article that is the nearest thing I have found to an overview and is what I used as a starting point in my research:  An essay by Elizabeth Scalia entitled “Oblates, Tertiaries, Professed Laypeople” [LINK].  It’s a very good short introduction to the subject.

Friday, September 26

The Evil in Pemberley House (An Original Pat Wildman Adventure, 2009/2014)

By Philip José Farmer and Win Scott Eckert

This is a book I knew going in I would have mixed feelings about coming out.  They are pretty much the same mixed feelings I have about Philip José Farmer as an author.  And this review is mostly going to be about that, as well as the larger context in which this novel resides.

On the one hand, Farmer is indisputably one of the grand masters of 20th-century science fiction, with a special place in my heart for his creation of the “Wold Newton Universe” in which this novel resides – the context I mentioned.  In case you don’t know, the Wold Newton Universe is a literary construct by Farmer which ties together most of the big names in literature, especially those in the genre of fantastic and heroic adventure fiction, via intricate webs of relationship that ultimately go back to a documented historical event, the fall of a meteor near the northern English village of Wold Newton in the 1790s [LINK] – according to Farmer, in close proximity to a number of members of the English upper class who happened to be riding by in a carriage at just that moment and who were affected by ionizing radiation from the meteor which caused a series of beneficial mutations among their descendants, literally creating an extended family of geniuses and supermen.  These include the “historical prototypes” of such literary characters as Sherlock Holmes, Tarzan, and Doc Savage – as well as Professor Moriarty and Captain Nemo (who may or may not be the same person) – and many, many more, both heroes and villains.  Farmer’s thesis first found expression, I believe, in two extended essays and genealogical charts appended to his faux biographies Tarzan Alive: A Definitive Biography of Lord Greystoke (1972) and Doc Savage:  His Apocalyptic Life (1973).  At least that’s where I first encountered it.  Those two essays are truly tours des forces of literary-historical synthetic rationalization and are well worth reading on their own.  Both have been reprinted in newly edited, by Win Scott Eckert, expanded editions within the past few years (2006 and 2013).  I devoured the paperback volume on Tarzan when I couldn’t have been more than ten or eleven (and for a brief time, bought the thesis – hook, line, and sinker!), and the Doc Savage book within just a few years afterward (age thirteen?), and would not hesitate to hand either of them over to any young reader interested in those specific characters and a fantastic introduction to a world of great literature and a lifetime of great reading.

Tuesday, September 23

Random thoughts inspired by the “Satanic Black Mass”….

Well, the “Satanic Black Mass” went on as anticipated a couple of days ago in the Oklahoma City Civic Center.  It was attended by a few dozen – reportedly about half the number that were expected [LINK].  About the same time, near and far, various forms of reparations were being offered for the blasphemous sacrilege that was being perpetrated on the Body of Our Lord – from protests outside the Civic Center greatly outnumbering the “Black Mass” attendees within, to Masses and Holy Hours all across the land.  Our weekly Traditional Latin Mass was lengthened somewhat by the addition of prayers of reparation; when we arrived back home afterward, EWTN was in the middle of a Holy Hour.  Which means that, however demonic was the intent of “self-proclaimed Satanist” Adam Daniels (allegedly above) and his ilk, the event became the occasion for a great many much more powerful acts of public witness to Catholics’ belief in the Real Presence of Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament – the center of our Faith.