21 January 2015

+JMJ+

Knitting Diary: Improvised Slouch

When I first started knitting, I couldn't help comparing it to my guitar playing. The reason I gave up the latter was that even after two years, I felt that I was completely blind--or perhaps I should say, deaf--when it came to the theory behind the music. I got as far as noticing that different songs can have very similar chord structures (and appreciated what a music writer meant when he said that going from G to Em is a "musical cliche") and was able to strum along to a bunch of the simpler ones on the radio . . . and I learned all about scales, which helped me to pick songs apart note by note . . . but that was it. What I wanted more than anything was to understand how to write a bass line for a song, but I never figured out how to read the chords and notes of a melody and to fit them into a new arrangement with some bass--and none of the articles or video tutorials I found really helped me out. It was frustrating and sad, and it sapped me. 

Knitting is a whole other world. Within a couple of months, I had figured out how to use knits and purls (both regular ones through the front loop and "twisted" ones through the back loop) to create all sorts of patterns; and today, I can look at most knitted projects and know exactly what to do to reproduce them. (I'll be off here and there, of course, but my approximations will be close!) I can even design my own stuff. And last week, I took my first baby steps in that direction by attempting an "original" hat.

16 January 2015

+JMJ+

Twelve Things about Frozen

12. You have no idea how much I wanted to like Frozen. I miss the Disney "princess movies" of my childhood, which took the studio's tradition of "princess movies" to an amazing new level. The first generation's Snow White, Cinderella, and Aurora were nice and all, but they were a lot like porcelain dolls behind a glass wall--and it was obvious that the writers and animators had a lot more fun with the other characters in their movies. Then along came Ariel, Belle, and Jasmine, whose unique personalities and voices leaped off the screens. They had an equally memorable supporting cast, but nobody ever stole their scenes from them. The latter three still set the bar for leading ladies in animated films, and I'm afraid that Elsa and Anna of Frozen don't come close.

11. Indeed, we're kind of back where we were in 1950s. Everyone's favourite Frozen character is Olaf the snowman. (Admit it!!!)

10. Many times while watching this, I wondered what the heck the filmmakers were thinking. And I came up with a few guesses. For instance, maybe they thought that having two princess figures instead of one would double the impact. Well, maybe it would have if the sisters had shared more screen time and been working as a team. But giving each one her own sub-plot and making one yin to the other's yang only halved the power of each . . .

11 January 2015

+JMJ+

Punk Catholic Update

Two years ago, at around the same liturgical time, I explained why the flat-screen monitors that my parish church has hung up around the sanctuary are an evil rather than a good. Well, I guess the priest who offered the Mass I heard today isn't a big reader of my blog. =P For he likes to use the screens not just to make sure everyone sees what he is doing at the altar, but also to give a fully illustrated slide show presentation during his homilies. (I close my eyes to keep from weeping.)

Another temporary addition that we've had these days is a special prayer for the visit of Pope Francis, who is scheduled to arrive this week. (Yes, the prayer is flashed on the screens after Communion. How did you ever guess?) Well, after we had said that and had stood up for the final blessing, Father said, "I know that a lot of people are planning to go to the Quirino Grandstand for the concluding Mass with Pope Francis, but I suggest just staying home and watching the Mass on TV. It will be safer and more convenient, and you'll see him better--whereas you could join the crowds and not see him at all. So just stay home and get a good view from your TV. That's so much better, don't you agree?"

That is probably the closest I've ever come to starting a shouting match at Mass.

02 January 2015

+JMJ+

Twelve Things about All I Want for Christmas

12. You can't tell from the poster, but all that the two children on it want for Christmas is for their divorced parents to get back together. A worthy wish. But if you know your Hollywood history, you may be able to tell that Home Alone had broken the box office just one year earlier, and the producers of All I Want for Christmas might have thought that having some sort of booby trap on their poster would bring in the same audiences.

And well, it wasn't totally false advertising. The O'Fallon children may not have Kevin McAllister's Rube-Goldberg creativity, but they do set up another sort of elaborate trap.

11. Within the first ten minutes, we know the family dynamics. Ethan and Hallie O'Fallon live with their mother in their grandmother's gorgeous New York townhouse, but still see their father quite often--at least often enough that they're not put out when he's over two hours late for a visit. And when he does arrive, they want him to go back to work . . . and to take them with him. Their mother is still a bit bitter about the diner that she never wanted her ex-husband to start, but the two kids absolutely love it. And there's really nothing they'd rather do then spend an evening playing short-order cook and waitress in the family business--and not just because they get to pocket the tips!

10. I was surprised to see such a strong sense of family tradition in this movie. How many other children's movies can you name in which the older generations understand that their personal dreams are ultimately just stepping stones for their children, while the younger generations are keen to live up to the legacy of those who came before?

28 December 2014

+JMJ+

Happy Holy Innocents' Day!

Some of you may remember that the Holy Innocents are the patron saints of Shredded Cheddar. I try to post something relevant each year on their feast day. This December has been a slow month for blogging, however, and the only idea that I could come up with was to share a certain short story with you. Since it's not in the public domain, and I'm kind of feeling shady right now, I'm not going to type the title (though you'll see it soon enough) and I'm only going to identify the author through this link.

Note that it's not theologically perfect. The most glaring error is the two dead people who reappear as angels. (I know, right?) But I like the way it puts the sorrows and sacrifice of a few in the greater context of the joy and salvation of the world, so I think it's still worth sharing. Enjoy!

25 December 2014

+JMJ+

Early Edition: Bomb Scare

What the cat said!

If you had started wondering a couple of months ago where the Early Edition episode guides/reviews were, well, now you know why I waited so long to publish this one. The timing had to be right, you see. =)

And happily, the writers do more than just deck the halls of this episode with Christmas stuff. The holiday setting is tied up nicely with the two mysteries of the story: the mystery with the serial bomber and the mystery with the changing headlines.

23 December 2014

+JMJ+

"Two or Three" Book Club, Meeting 112

The events in the novel started speeding up even as my blog started slowing down. Or at least it felt that way a whole month ago. =P If anyone is still with me, I'm finally ready for our last meeting on Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. As before, let's begin with some of Victor Frankenstein's feelings . . .

The deep grief which this scene had at first excited quickly gave way to rage and despair. They were dead, and I lived; their murderer also lived, and to destroy him I must drag out my weary existence. I knelt on the grass and kissed the earth and with quivering lips exclaimed, "By the sacred earth on which I kneel, by the shades that wander near me, by the deep and eternal grief that I feel, I swear; and by thee, O Night, and the spirits that preside over thee, to pursue the daemon who caused this misery, until he or I shall perish in mortal conflict. For this purpose I will preserve my life; to execute this dear revenge will I again behold the sun and tread the green herbage of earth, which otherwise should vanish from my eyes forever. And I call on you, spirits of the dead, and on you, wandering ministers of vengeance, to aid and conduct me in my work. Let the cursed and hellish monster drink deep of agony; let him feel the despair that now torments me."

Sigh. Projecting much, Victor? The Creature probably swore a similar oath on the night when he had to watch his creator destroy the body of what he had hoped would be a companion to him. Frankenstein might as well swear to rend apart his own shadow. An apt metaphor, when you consider that the only way to destroy your shadow is to destroy yourself first.