Friday, August 28

The Seven Sacraments: Entering the Mysteries of God (2006)

By Stratford Caldecott

Not every pattern of seven in Scripture or tradition can be forced into a scheme that relates it to the seven sacraments.” So Stratford Caldecott admits on page 100 of this short but fascinating book. But if there are any patterns that can be so “forced” that he does not find and integrate into a magnificent and interlocking web of sevens that yields a wealth of insightful connections between the seven Sacraments of the Church and a host of other lists … well, I would have no idea what those might be.

This is the second book by Caldecott that I have read – less than ideally, I am reading what I would consider (in my somewhat ill-formed opinion, having discovered him only fairly recently) his “Catholic Trilogy” out of order, having started with the middle book, All Things Made New. And having proceeded directly from The Seven Sacraments into The Radiance of Being, which deals with the mysteries of existence itself, I’ve come to the conclusion that Stratford Caldecott is right up there with G. K. Chesterton in another way, beyond those noted in my blog review of All Things Made New [LINK]. He makes Christianity weird in a fascinating and beautiful way [see here with regard to GKC: LINK]. Sure, as I told my wife the other night, “I’m going to read some more Stratford Caldecott and get a headache,” trying to get my head around the concepts he throws around makes my head hurt, but I think that is just my mind being forcibly expanded – to the better.

Tuesday, August 25

How Dante Can Save Your Life: The Life-Changing Wisdom of History’s Greatest Poem (2015)

By Rod Dreher

I’m not a big fan of self-help books. To be fair, of course, there’s nothing wrong with them, and I’m sure they help a lot of people. But none of them, however valuable they look like they might be, ever hold my attention long enough for me to get anything of worth out of them. This book is not, strictly speaking, a “self-help book,” but the extended title rightly hints that it does share a lot in common with that genre, taking the novel approach of describing how a 700-year-old medieval Italian poem helped modern conservative commentator Rod Dreher to put his life back on track after what I would term (he does not) a nervous breakdown, a total emotional meltdown that was wrecking even his physical health, which readers of the quasi-prequel memoir, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, would not have expected as imminent.

Saturday, August 22

Space Odyssey: Voyage to the Planets and Beyond (BBC 2004)

Space Ship Pegasus at Europa
Directed by Joseph Ahearne

Even though it never made it into my "currently-reading" sidebar, and I haven't blogged about it yet, I just got finished reading Andy Weir's The Martian, soon to be a major motion-picture starring Matt Damon. In case I don't get around to blogging it soon or ever, it is amazing! Really good, essentially contemporary hard-science fiction is so rare; I enjoyed the hell out of it, and the trailers for the movie look like they are going to follow the story almost slavishly. (There's one thing I spotted in the trailer that leads me to think they're going to change something about the main character's background to up the emotional ante, so to speak.) Anyway, when I finished it, I was wanting more, and I thought about an old faux-documentary I saw about a decade ago about a "Grand Tour" of the Solar System, and a few minutes' research found it, the subject two-part faux-documentary from BBC. I downloaded it from Youtube, put it on my portable hard drive, and USB'd it to the BluRay player, and voila!, it plays just like a DVD!

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.)