25 April 2014

+JMJ+

Life in the Pit

This week I had another opportunity to put my word for 2014 into action . . . and of course I failed. =P


It happened on the metro. I was filing into the car reserved for women, children, senior citizens, and the disabled, when two people hurriedly squeezed in at my elbow. One of them was a youngish man, and the other was his woman companion, who was squealing, "Hurry before the security guard sees us!" The guard had already spotted them, though, and was blowing his whistle . . . and I was doing my part by saying, "Excuse me! Excuse me! I think the guard has something to say." (Sigh.) Unfortunately, the doors closed before the guard could tell them they were breaking the rules . . . and I spent the rest of the ride stewing at both their bad manners and my own reluctance to confront them.

"What would you have done?" I asked the older woman from work who occasionally advises me. You remember: she of the supplicating "I beg your patience" strategy.

She replied, "I would have said"--and here she raised her voice to an obnoxious volume--"'There are really some people who DON'T understand simple instructions! I HATE it when people who know better pretend they don't and then try to get away with it! Some people have no CLASS, and they're also the ones with no SHAME!'" She lowered her voice again. "And I know the rest of the people in the car would be on my side, even if they never speak up."

Ah, shame: nothing is more effective at getting your average Filipino to toe the line than the possibility that someone will comment loudly on his bad behaviour in public. (This is a sad LOL.)

But "getting people to overhear" (my translation of an actual Filipino word!) just isn't my style--which is fortunate or unfortunate, depending on how you look at it.

To all the non-Filipinos reading this: how would you have handled that situation?


22 April 2014

+JMJ+

Twelve Things about Captain America: The Winter Soldier

12. It's great that the new Marvel-still-owns-the-rights-to-these-characters movies can be taken as chapters in one long, interconnected epic, but as someone who isn't very committed to this vision, I risk missing the good stand-alone stories after a few duds. Indeed, I almost didn't watch Captain America: The Winter Soldier sequel because of issues I had with The Avengers and Iron Man 3.

You read that right: I almost stayed away from Steve Rogers because I was so turned off by Tony Stark. So sorry for the non sequitur.

11. Totally mea culpa, of course--but do you know who didn't help? Joss Whedon, who turned Captain America into a complete goody-two-shoes Ken doll (only more two-dimensional) in The Avengers. Anthony Russo and Joe Russo do better by Rogers here, seeming to understand that being from the 1940s is neither a handicap nor a punchline.

10. Which is not to rule out humour: we still get a few jokes here, many of them courtesy of the Black Widow, who seems tickled (in a stoic way) to find herself friends with the world's fittest nonagenarian. But a lot of people's favourite seems to be the notebook.

20 April 2014

+JMJ+

Happy Easter, B****!

I didn't start watching the TV series Breaking Bad until early this year, after it was over. What persuaded me was Bryan Cranston's acceptance speech for the whole cast's award for Ensemble in a Drama Series.


No, not the "white supremacist Nazis" part. The "I would kill you all over again" part.

Now that I've watched the whole series, do you know what would really make my Easter? A video showing all the death scenes on the show, each followed by a clip of the actor who played the dead character talking about that role, and if possible, that particular scene. Because that's exactly how insignificant sin and death became on that first Easter morning: they're nothing but a laughing matter for those who have the hope of rising again with Christ. And the award for the whole cast at the end? Well, that's the heavenly crown. 

I did find a pretty good video of the "death count"--but it misses a couple of characters and is more of a Holy Week meditation than an Easter celebration. Spoilers after the jump, of course . . .

13 April 2014

+JMJ+

"Two or Three" Book Club, Meeting 97
(NOTE: This post has been "updated" with some additional thoughts and a new question.)

By this point in the readalong, you're either sold on the rosary or not. And if you're in the former group, then this is the post you've been waiting for. Heretofore, we've been discussing what the rosary is and why we should care; from this point on, we'll get to talk about how we should say it.

. . . One single Hail Mary that is said properly is worth more than one hundred and fifty that are badly said. Most Catholics say the Rosary, the whole fifteen mysteries, or five of them anyway, or at least a few decades. So why is it then that so few of them give up their sins and go forward in the spiritual life? Surely it must be because they are not saying them as they should. It is a good thing to think over how we should pray if we really want to please God and become more holy.

Now, I'm firmly in the Chestertonian "It's worth doing badly" camp, in the sense that I don't think we should let the perfect be the enemy of the good. But the Montofortian "It's worth doing well" camp are now reminding us that we shouldn't let anything be the enemy of the good. In one of the roses we're looking at here, St. Louis de Montfort quotes what seems to be an older proverb: "A corruption of what is best is worst."

12 April 2014

+JMJ+

Reading Diary: Dear Enemy by Jean Webster

You've heard of Daddy-Long-Legs (and read my Reading Diary entry on it), but what about its "sequel" Dear Enemy? And did you know that Jean Webster, whose most famous novel has stayed in print for over 100 years and inspired several stage and film productions, wrote other books that have since been forgotten? In the spirit of last year's Frances Hodgson Burnett reading project, I have decided to give Webster's lesser-known novels a try, starting with the only other one I had heard of before this idea took root.

Dear Judy:

Your letter is here. I have read it twice, and with amazement. Do I understand that Jervis has given you, for a Christmas present, the making over of the John Grier Home into a model institution, and that you have chosen me to disburse the money? Me--I, Sallie McBride, the head of an orphan asylum! My poor people, have you lost your senses, or have you become addicted to the use of opium, and is this the raving of two fevered imaginations? I am exactly as well fitted to take care of one hundred children as to become the curator of a zoo.

And you offer as bait an interesting Scotch doctor? My dear Judy,—likewise my dear Jervis,--I see through you!

This time, Judy Abbot is not writing the letters, but receiving them. Well, some of them. And our faithful, chatty correspondent is her friend and former roommate Sallie McBride, who gets her own fish-out-of-water story when she leaves her rich family to be the administrator of Judy's old orphanage. And you know what? It's a really fun read!

So the question is begging to be asked . . . Why is it, in a world where girls have continued to fall in love with Judy Abbot, Modern American Cinderella, and where their older versions have turned the Working Girl into a uniquely American archetype, hardly anyone remembers one of the original Working Girls in American literature, Sallie McBride?

07 April 2014

+JMJ+

Early Edition: Special Delivery

It was actually not the arrival of "tomorrow's newspaper" that turned our hero Gary Hobson's life upside-down. If you insist on a spatial metaphor, it arguably threw him for a loop; but the real big change of his life came a bit earlier, when his wife threw him out.


This episode opens with the troubled couple sitting in the waiting room of a divorce attorney, reading different newspapers. She's stuck with today's news, which means all the stuff that happened yesterday. He's busy looking over the future so that he knows what to do today. This doesn't prove that they're a poor match, but it does highlight the disconnect between them.

05 April 2014

+JMJ+

"Two or Three" Book Club, Meeting 96

So far in this readalong of The Secret of the Rosary, we've discussed the main reasons for praying the rosary, reviewed the formula prayers which make up its "body," and the imitation of Jesus and Mary which are its very "soul." And amazingly, St. Louis de Montfort isn't finished yet!

Dear reader, I promise you that if you practise this devotion and help to spread it you will learn more from the Rosary than from any spiritual book. And what is more, you will have the happiness of being rewarded by Our Lady in accordance with the promises that she made to Saint Dominic, to Blessed Alan de la Roche and to all those who practise and encourage this devotion which is so dear to her. For the Holy Rosary teaches people about the virtues of Jesus and Mary, and leads them to mental prayer and to imitate Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It teaches them to approach the Sacraments often, to genuinely strive after Christian virtues and to do all kinds of good works, as well as interesting them in the many wonderful indulgences which can be gained through the Rosary.

In the next "decade," he writes about some truly remarkable miracles granted through praying the rosary, so it's worth looking back at the Tenth Rose of this book, in which he anticipates the reactions of the "freethinkers and ultra-critical people of today" (who exist in ours, too!). St. Louis clarifies that there are three kinds of faith with which we believe different stories: divine faith for the Scriptures; human faith for ordinary stories that are backed up by common sense and the trustworthiness of their authors; and pious faith for stories about holy subjects that do not contradict faith, reason or morals. I hope you have your pious faith ready!