28 February 2010

+JMJ+

Punk Catholic Thought of the Week IV

I have just realised what the Catholic blogosphere desperately needs . . .

A Web comic!!!
A short while ago, a good friend, whom I've met only online but whom I know quite well, sent me a link to one strip which he said reminded him of me . . .

27 February 2010

+JMJ+

As "Women in Horror" Month Comes to a Close . . .

You might remember my friend's casual dismissal of female werewolves. According to him, men can make hot werewolves, but women can't.

My first reaction was determination never to dignify that insult with a response.

My second reaction was to start compiling a list of female werewolves who were so hot that producers had to cast some real beauties to play them. For when have I ever passed up a good opportunity to create a Top 5 list?

My Top 5 Hot Female Werewolves

1. Julie Delpy as Serafine in An American Werewolf in Paris

Appropriately enough, the viewer's first look at the breathtaking Serafine is by the light of the moon . . . though, obviously, not a full moon. She has just climbed to the top of the Eiffel Tower and is clearly about to commit suicide--but the American tourist who has spotted her saves her life in the nick of time.

Most people would be glad to put a werewolf out of his misery, and the rules definitely allow violent force when the person is in werewolf form and endangering lives. But for a werewolf to attempt suicide . . .

If we're serious about saving lives, then such a "final solution" should not be acceptable, even if the price we pay for it is, as the American tourist finds out, having to share the burden of the curse. What separates us from monsters is that we don't eat the hearts of those we love--because we know it's not what sets us free.

Delpy's leading man, Tom Everett Scott, drowns his acting in so much earnestness--which also comes and goes, like a bad accent--that being a werewolf almost improved him. (Really, dude, it's nice that you're so virtuous, but "virtue" has its root in vir--which means man, not puppy.)

26 February 2010

+JMJ+

Twelve Things about Mermaids
(This is another assignment for Atlas TV Guide. Watch out for my review in the April issue . . . and for possible spoilers in this post.)

12. My favourite part of Mermaids used to be the "Catholic clutter." Lonely teenager Charlotte Flax may be Jewish (though in a non-religious family), but she has wanted to be Catholic ever since she was in elementary school and saw another "little girl with ashes on her forehead cross herself and chant Hail Marys at a spelling bee."

I'll be the first to admit, though, that all Charlotte's piety is skin deep. For it's not Faith she seeks.

11. It wasn't until this week's viewing that I realised that Charlotte's Catholic yearnings were probably intended to be played for laughs. Unkind laughs. She is the stereotypical pious and devotional Catholic teenager who says she wants to be a nun and "think pure thoughts all day," but is actually obsessed with boys and sex. What saves it from being offensive is that she isn't really Catholic (while the real nuns in the story are all old-school wonderful)--and the fact that she is played by the young Winona Ryder, who charms her way through a role she wears like a second skin.

25 February 2010

+JMJ+

BSC #3: The Truth about Stacey


Thursday, December 11

Surprise! Today Stacey called an emergency club meeting for lunchtime. That was unexpected for two reasons. First of all, Kristy had said no more club business in school. Second, Kristy calls emergency meetings at the drop of a hat, but no other member has ever called one. Stacey called one though, and it was a good thing she did, because what she told us got the club ready for the final battle in the war against the Baby-sitters Agency.

I read what Mary Anne wrote in our notebook about battles and wars, and I think she was being overly dramatic. However, she was right--it was good that we held that meeting. It started us thinking about some important things . . .

Oh, I just love Stacey McGill! Ann M. Martin's prose may be nothing to write to a fancy Lit journal about, but her character's voice is just great. As I was reading, I could really believe Stacey was talking to me.

She also happens to be the perfect narrator for this month in the BSC chronicles, when a rival group, which calls itself The Baby-Sitters Agency, tries to horn in on the BSC's business. While all the girls have a stake in the club's survival, new girl Stacey is probably more passionate about it than even Kristy, whose "great idea" it was in the first place . . .

24 February 2010

+JMJ+

Writing Diary Entry #15

It would be nice to be one of those Writer Bloggers (Yes, it sounds redundant, but it isn't) who can post a whole list of useful writing tips whenever she publishes something . . . but obviously, that's not my niche.

Yet I have a few tricks up my sleeve that seem worth sharing, such as:

When in doubt,
make a Top 5 List.

Indeed, you don't even have to wait until you find yourself in doubt. The Top 5 List is a great writing tool.

Yet I never actually used it for anything more than my own amusement until last month, when my Fully Booked Zine editor gave me a week to write about "remarkable women in literature."

23 February 2010

+JMJ+

Tutor Tales, Volume 14


If Doctor Nemesis and Doctor Decimator were ever in a movie . . .

As for their tutor, she is neither Jedi nor Sith;
and George Lucas doesn't understand Werepunk.

Doctor Decimator is so often in his older brother's shadow, even in these Tutor Tales, so I thought I'd give him a little post of his own . . .

22 February 2010

+JMJ+

Punk Catholic Thought of the Week III

Did you know that the only thing you need to have the "moral high ground" (whatever that is) when blogging about other Catholics is a Catholic blog???

I certainly hadn't! Does this mean the Catholic blog with the most Followers has the highest "high ground" of all?

Now what is a Werepunk Catholic to do when she gets a comment like this on her non-Catholic blog:

21 February 2010

+JMJ+

In My Mailbox: A Meme
(Peek into the mailboxes of other Book Bloggers at The Story Siren.)

Getting books in the mail (real books in snail mail) is a big part of Book Blogging. Sometimes one buys them; sometimes one wins them; and sometimes one gets Advanced Review Copies straight from the publisher. It's the logical effect of all the discounts offered by online book retailers, the giveaways and contests hosted by the more social and savvy book bloggers, and the generous PR from publishers who want in on the action.

Being ineligible for most of these freebies, as I live outside the "continental USA," I don't bother entering most of them. Having had, moreover, a horrible experience collecting a package of books from my city's central post office last year (See my indignant article Pro-Smuggling: Because I Have a Brain), I've tended to shy away from even those which are open to international entries. It was an aspect of book blogging which I didn't think would be available to me, for the time being.

What a great surprise it was, then, when this aspect of book blogging came looking for me! Which it did long before I had resigned myself to my new identity as a Book Blogger Who Wishes She Were a Horror Blogger!

So now I publish my first--and ideally, not my last--post about why receiving mail has become fun again. Here's my loot . . .

20 February 2010

+JMJ+

Short Story Saturday, Chapter 2

How about another analogy to start us off?

If a novel is like an eight-course sit-down dinner,
then a short story is like a bento box grabbed on the go.

Never underestimate the compact potential of a bento box!

For when it's good, it's very good . . .

19 February 2010

+JMJ+

Twelve Things about The Greatest Story Ever Told

It's a Friday in Lent: no better time to post these twelve thoughts and impressions about this unapologetically religious movie. (I had to review it for Atlas TV Guide; my article will come out in the March issue.)

12. George Stevens seems to want to be a cinematic painter rather than a movie director: every frame has the composition and balance of a painting--an impression greatly reinforced by the fact that some of the backdrops are paintings. When there is movement, such as in the crowd scenes, all the extras look as graceful and choreographed as a corps de ballet.

11. If not a painting, then a stage production. Everything is lined up for the benefit of the fourth wall . . . and the music is marvelous.

10. Most of the lines are lifted directly from Scripture and those who speak them often seem to be doing really dreamy Mass readings. Yet the best lines are the original ones, like King Herod's admission, "The child of the imagination is the child I fear"--or Pilate's "The Son of God? Which one? Mars? Hercules? Jupiter?"

18 February 2010

+JMJ+

BSC #2: Claudia and the Phantom Phone Calls

"What if we happened to be baby-sitting somewhere and a burglar just happened to try to break in? . . . It could happen, you know, and we should be prepared."

"You're right," said Kristy. "Good baby-sitters should be prepared for anything."

"Maybe," said Stacey, "we could arrange a code we could give each other over the phone that could be a signal for the other person to call the police. Let's say I'm baby-sitting for Jamie Newton and I hear a burglar. Okay. I want to call the police but I don't want the burglar to
hear me calling the police . . . So what I do is call Claudia, for example, and I say, 'Hi, it's Stacey. Have you found my red ribbon?' and that's a signal that I'm in trouble and need Claudia to call the police."

Wow. I can't believe I'm reviewing a second Baby-Sitters Club book. This seems so portentious . . . you know?

(Hey, do you suppose this would count as another entry for "Women in Horror" Month?)

17 February 2010

+JMJ+

NSf(Ash)Wednesday

Did you follow me here from Sancta Sanctis?

If so, that might not have been wise.

Here is a video that reflects, with uncanny accuracy, what my transition--nay, my transformation--from Catholic blogger to Something Else Entirely actually means . . .


I had to watch a lot of fan videos before I found this. Even the song totally fits: the title is Midlife Crisis and the band is Faith No More (!!!). Just don't listen too closely to the lyrics, because they're all over the place.

15 February 2010

+JMJ+

Madeleine L'Engle Novel Smackdown, Round 3A
(Revisit Round 1 and Round 2)

Last week, I went to my big bookcase and pulled down the first two novels in this next stage of the face-offs. I gave each one several days' worth of consideration--which is just to say that it took me several days to revisit each familiar story.

I was surprised at how critical I became during my reading: as if my goal were to pick a loser rather than a winner--which is totally contrary to the spirit of bracket smackdowns. Next week, when the next two L'Engle novels go head to head, I'll try to be much nicer.

Now please note that what follow are not reviews. If anything, they are reports.

13 February 2010

+JMJ+

Reading Diary: Great Short Stories of the World

How does one review a short story? Such condensed pools of character, setting, plot and theme seem to dribble through a would-be reviewer's suddenly clumsy fingers--and that's probably as it should be.

If a novel is a drawn-out and intense chess match as worthy of good sport reporting as any of the more athletic competitions, then a short story is a kind of solitary game of arranging the chessmen in pleasing tableaux. Sometimes reviewing a novel is already like telling a short story, so I'm not really clear on how one should review an actual short story. Nonetheless, I plunge in . . .

12 February 2010

+JMJ+

Friday Night Movie Sitcom: Just the Ten of Us, Episode 24



0:05 "Come on, Marie! We don't want to be late for the dance and let the girls from Mary Magdalen start showing their wares!" A good opening line is always gold!
0:32 And Cinderella makes her entrance . . .
0:49 "Thank you! I worked an hour to look this way." It's set up as a joke, but that actually was how long it took to capture the "nice, wholesome Catholic girl" look in the late 1980s.
1:00 "What do Wendy and I look like, a couple of sluts?" In case you're unfamiliar with the show, yes, Cindy is the spacey one.
1:17 You'd think they could have at least put ten body doubles inside that car!
1:42 Meet Marie, the responsible eldest child who dreams of being a nun.
1:45 Meet Cindy, the pretty, slightly (!) ditzy daughter.
1:48 Meet Wendy, the boy-crazy daughter who comes up with all the mad schemes.
1:51 Meet Connie, the artsy, eccentric daughter who writes a lot.
1:54 JR and Sherry are great characters, too, but they don't really have much to do in this episode.
2:09 And have I mentioned the babies Harvey and Melissa?
3:05 What's so strange about it? There were sisters at my prom, too, you know.
3:11 I know exactly what you mean, Marie. =(
4:05 Four girls, four guys . . . Let's see how this unfolds.
4:27 "I know you don't want to dance with me. It's okay. Don't worry about my feelings." A JERK AND A HALF!
4:52 You all saw this coming, right?
6:22 Instead of one party losing a shoe, we had both parties dropping their glasses; and now it's better than Cinderella.
6:47 "Some people think I'm a little square" . . . "They're probably just jealous because you're so . . . spiritual." Ah, yes, that old euphemism for square.
8:09 I think that little wave is just so cute!

11 February 2010

+JMJ+

Amice, Ubi est Trivium Meum?

It has been a week since I first learned about the Trivium and the concept of "tools of learning," but the problems of modern education are already much clearer.

This afternoon at XYZ Tutorial Centre, I heard a frustrated high school student say of his Algebra teacher, "He doesn't know how to teach!"--and the thought which immediately leaped to my mind (though not to my tongue!) was: "The real problem is that you don't know how to learn."

He happens to be a smart boy--and indeed, he and a classmate did manage, with nearly no help from their own tutor, to solve the two word problems they had been assigned for homework. He just isn't as adept at using the tools of learning as he ought to be.

10 February 2010

+JMJ+

Wednesday Night Trailer Theme Song: "Doing it the best I can . . ."



There's no time these days to live blog a full length movie . . . but I think I can manage one episode of a sitcom . . . especially if it's an 80s sitcom!

Besides, Just the Ten of Us happens to fit "Women in Horror" Month: three of the actresses had roles in Nightmare on Elm Street movies! One of them is the Heather Langenkamp who played our Nancy!!!

(What do you mean you don't know who Nancy is? Read my Top 5 Horror Heroines and learn!)

09 February 2010

+JMJ+

The Alphabet Assignment: E

My original plan was to go through all the letters of the alphabet in order, hoping that nobody would notice if I skipped Q, X and Z. Then Dylan came up with an E List and I felt inspired to match it. So I guess I'll be wandering randomly around the alphabet from this point . . .

1) Easter Vigil

Hands down, my favourite part of the whole liturgical year! How can one go wrong with a liturgy that begins with a bonfire in the night and ends with all the Holy Water one can carry back home? May it be done beautifully in your own parish!

08 February 2010

+JMJ+

Madeleine L'Engle Novel Smackdown, Round 2
(Revisit Round 1)

The first stage of eliminations was as easy as it was ruthless. I indulged myself with whichever criterion seemed to apply to the pair which happened to be before me, changing the playing field as I pleased.

Yet as we get closer to the Final Four, I find myself taking this task more seriously . . . especially since I've decided I will be rereading those lucky finalists to determine the ultimate winner. (Yes, I plan as I go.)

So let's begin . . .

Round 2

A Swiftly Tilting Planet vs. A House Like a Lotus

This is too easy! The first book has all the gravity of a Cold War Thanksgiving, while the former has all the weight of . . . an Episcopalian Lent. (Okay, an unusually cathartic Episcopalian Lent. Part of the story is even set in Greece, with a visit to Epidauros!) Yes, I know what I'd rather spend several hours of my life with.

Winner: A Swiftly Tilting Planet, because saving the world is always compelling.

07 February 2010

+JMJ+

Punk Catholic Thought of the Week II

Am I the only who thinks it's hilarious that writing an argument against sola Scriptura in a combox and getting the word verification "damprot" is funny?

Of course, it really signifies nothing. The word verification could just as easily have been "failcath."

And that's really all I have to say for this week. (I'm afraid I exhausted my Catholic Punk brilliance on yesterday's Top 5 Horror Heroines post.)

06 February 2010

+JMJ+

February Festivity

If I still cared about being pious in public, I'd be doing something appropriate for February, the month Catholic tradition has dedicated to the Holy Family since the sixteenth century.

At the moment, however, I'm more interested in making a last haphazard stab at Horror Blogger status. That means that what I shall be doing is something appropriate for my first "Women in Horror" Month.

I think that "Women in Horror" is a great theme . . . and yet . . . I can't resist tweaking it a little. After all, Horror is the only genre where religion is real, and I think that I, for whom the best reflection of reality is indeed religion, shouldn't be afraid to say so in a Horror-themed Top 5 List. Let the equation be:

Horror + Woman = Kick Ass Marian Figure

(Didn't I say that my reason for closing Sancta Sanctis down was a desire to stop blogging religiously? I am such a fraud. Just stop reading me. Stop now. I'm not worth it.)

My Top 5 Horror Heroines

1) Emily Rose of The Exorcism of Emily Rose

Now I'm going to be completely predictable and start the list with a young woman whose faith, hope and love proved stronger than the malice of hell.

At the heart of many Horror movies is a mystery--the question of why evil has chosen the targets it has. In one sense, this explanation does not really matter: evil has no method to its madness. The real mystery is why these horrors were allowed by a God Who is supposedly all knowing and all good. Most survivors of Horror plots have to go by faith in what they already know, but the characters in this movie get more of a revelation. That's a good thing, because there is nothing more terrifying than demonic possession.

It takes real courage and a real sense of purpose to be a Horror heroine. There are times when running into the abandoned house or descending into the basement is just dumb . . . and other times when such actions are the only thing to be done.

04 February 2010

+JMJ+

Thursday Thirteen: Teaching Edition
(Also counted as as "Tutor Tales: Volume 13")


Why not try a new link up, I thought, and one with a lot of numbers because I miss writing them in binary code?

And so this post was born. (The numbers coinciding was pure serendipity.)

1
My adventures in homeschooling took a seedy turn this week, when Fire Storm's mother returned some grading sheets I had made for him, with the same note scribbled in the margins: "Please make these grades higher."

Later, she explained that his marks needed to be as high as possible in order for him to have a shot at getting accepted in a private high school--which was always her plan for him. She hadn't wanted him to be homeschooled for more than a year; she intends to have him back in what she considers a real school . . . and I am a means to that end.

It was like high school all over again, and so I acted accordingly, doing what the administration wanted and hoping that the student body wouldn't end up too screwed.

03 February 2010

+JMJ+

Reading Diary: BSC #1 Kristy's Great Idea

Need a baby-sitter?
Save time! Call:

THE BABY-SITTERS CLUB
KL5-3231

Monday, Wednesday, Friday 5:30--6:00
and reach four experienced baby-sitters.

Kristy Thomas, President
Claudia Kishi, Vice-President
Mary Ann Spier, Secretary
Stacey McGill, Treasurer

Available: weekends, after school, evenings

Would you believe that this is only my second Baby-Sitters Club book? (I was a Sweet Valley girl, remember? When I was a tween, Bantam's marketing engine was much bigger than Scholastic's--and that was a time when Scholastic actually had books with heart rather than the formulaic, lowest common denominator YA it hawks today . . . but I digress!)

So I'm two books in, and yet I think I already love this series. An after-school tutor is really just a glorified baby-sitter, and there is so much about my job that makes me wish I had a club of close friends to talk everything over with. Barring that, I guess I can just escape into Stoneybrook, circa 1986. Thank you, library clearance sales and used bookstores!

02 February 2010

+JMJ+

Team Taylor Tuesday: Album of the Year!


Well, okay . . . Today Was a Fairytale isn't that great. To be totally honest, the performance is something Taylor might already be really embarrassed about, and the lyrics are like White Horse + Happy Ending . . . or Love Story - William Shakespeare. (As for the melody, it's like Fifteen all over again.)

Still, the best part of the set is the oh-so-country arrangement of You Belong with Me, so it's worth watching the video to the very end.

01 February 2010

+JMJ+

Madeleine L'Engle Novel Smackdown, Round 1

We can't just sit down at our typewriters and turn out explosive material.

I took a course in college on Chaucer, one of the most explosive, imaginative, and far-reaching in influence of all writers. And I'll never forget going to the final exam and being asked why Chaucer used certain verbal devices, certain adjectives, why he had certain characters behave in certain ways. And I wrote in a white heat of fury, "I don't think Chaucer had any idea why he did any of these things. That isn't the way people write."

I believe this as strongly now as I did then. Most of what is best in writing isn't done deliberately.


-- Madeleine L'Engle, in her Newbery Award Acceptance Speech

It is difficult to find related, worthwhile things which would fit into brackets of four, eight, sixteen or thirty-two, which is why I haven't done a second Bracket in a while. (These sorts of lists have to be found as well as made.) Then a few nights ago, I happened to notice that I have fifteen L'Engle novels in my personal library, which meant that I only needed one other to get this part of my book collection into a nice, contentious bracket.

Having found that one other as well, I plunged right in . . .

Round 1

The Arm of the Starfish vs. A Swiftly Tilting Planet

An SF Thriller about a scientist who may have discovered how to regenerate people's amputated limbs and whose family has just become the target of greedy villains, or a Time Travel Saga that traces the destiny of a family that has come to carry, more so than others, the fate of the entire world? An icy blonde temptress named Kali or a talking unicorn named Gaudior? Swimming with dolphins or watching a new unicorn hatch from its egg? A Cold War writer flirting with conspiracy theories or a Christian author seemingly fascinated by metempsychosis?

Winner: A Swiftly Tilting Planet, because I still know Patrick's Rune by heart!