31 August 2010

+JMJ+

Reading Challenge the First!



Sign yourself up for the
R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril Challenge . . . V!!!
(Runs from 1 September to 31 October)


As my whole life is already a Reading Challenge, I don't usually see a need to sign up for "official" challenges designed by other people.

But something changed very recently, when I was invited to join the "book club" Reading for Believers and willingly subjected myself to the indignity (LOL!) of having someone else dictate my reading for me. For that has proven to be my best reading-related decision of the last six months. I dithered for weeks before finally buying a copy of our August read, The Liars' Club by Mary Karr; and now, of course, I wish I had started it sooner.

There is an element of grace in letting someone else guide your reading--especially if you are an experienced reader who doesn't need that sort of help. It's like waking up on Christmas morning, opening one of your presents, and finding a gift which you didn't ask for but which is more perfect than anything you could have asked for. We all get to the point at which we can buy our own stuff and don't really need presents. And that is the point at which presents become most meaningful.

Left on my own, I might never have read The Liars' Club--and since it is such a great book, the thought that I would have passed it over for the rest of my life is quite humbling.

And so now I am open to joining online reading challenges! . . . But--barring an invitation out of the blue, as was the case with the ladies at Reading for Believers--only when the other challenges happen to overlap with the ongoing Reading Challenge that is My Life. =P

29 August 2010

+JMJ+

Twelve Things about Clueless

12. This was one of my favourite movies to pop into the video player when I was a teenager way back when. But I didn't notice until very recently that Clueless is also virtually without a plot. The character of Cher Horowitz--whom Alicia Silverstone seems to have been born to play--carries the whole film from beginning to end and does not fumble for one second.

11. Speaking of "way back when," does anyone want to join my 90s Nostalgia Drinking Game? Clueless would have you under the table in about thirty minutes in, thanks to, in part . . .

Cher's opening reference to a Noxema commercial . . . Elton's Cranberries CD . . . Diet Coke in the school cafeteria . . . cell phones with antennae . . . cameras with film . . . Murray's "Da Bomb!" . . . Josh's flannel shirt . . . those big binders for school notes . . . Troll dolls . . . Beavis and Butthead . . . beepers . . . Y necklaces . . . Ren and Stimpy . . . hipster environmentalism . . . Forrest Gump . . . Bosnia in the news . . . and well, Alicia Silverstone herself . . . ad inebrium!

28 August 2010

+JMJ+

Locus Focus: Take Sixteen!




My original plan for this weekend was to return to the Subterranean Setting theme and tell you about another great book which totally gets the underground . . . but then my friend Jillian of Random Ramblings gave me an even better idea.

She has her own meme, Top Ten Picks, which I don't get to join as often as I'd like because I take my time making lists and when I'm finally done she has posted a new topic. But this week, she is writing about her Top Ten Fictional Places--which is so right up my alley--that I was inspired to do my first crossover post. Today, Locus Focus meets Top Ten Picks and goes crazy!


A Tenner:
Fictional Places


(Note that this is a spur-of-the-moment thing only I am really doing. Please feel free link up your own pre-planned Locus Focus; it doesn't have to be a "Tenner" as well.)

27 August 2010

+JMJ+

And My Most Beloved Friend Is . . .


Blue exclamation mark

I was going to announce the winner of my "I Love My Friends" Giveaway with another vlog, but . . . well, you don't want to hear about my technical issues.

So I'm being high-tech in a different way and using the trusty "Spell with Flickr" programme to help me announce the winner.

And the friend I love most at this point in time is . . .
+JMJ+

Under Oath and Then Some

An old friend of mine once asked me what "Amen" means and I told her that we can translate it as, "So be it." I can't say what she thought of that, but it was obviously not what she expected to hear. I think I understand: something like "So be it" sounds like a fist pounding a tabletop in emphasis, and people don't usually associate prayer with pounding.

Well, how about a seal pressing gently into hot wax? That works, too.

Did you know that the English word devotion comes from a Latin word meaning to consecrate oneself with a vow? That came home to me as I read the posts of other people tagged for the Five Favourite Devotions meme. A devotion is a kind of prayer that demands commitment. A "favourite" devotion can't simply be something you really like--and if you don't believe me, ask someone who has flagellated himself in the street every Holy Week for the past thirty years. Or just trust me when I say he doesn't "like" it.

This is why I like the Filipino word panata more than even the Latinate word devotion. The former still carries the sense that one is swearing a serious oath, without any of the table-pounding connotations that come with the word "oath."

My Top 5 Devotions

1) Mass

This should be every Catholic's "favourite" devotion, if only because Sunday Mass is an obligation. I try my best to make it to Mass on all the other days of the week as well. (No, I don't always succeed . . .)

The best thing about Mass (although many people will disagree with me on this) is that all one really has to do is show up. Jesus and the priest (i.e., Christus et alter Christus) do most of the work. So I go even when I'm cranky, stressed, distracted, or otherwise "not in the mood." As long as my feet can walk to church, my moods can go stuff it.

Sometimes the readings go by in a blur and I go through the motions without registering most of what the celebrant says (which means, according to the Theory of Relativity, that I go by in a blur, too)--but that's not the point. Even when the mind is absent (i.e., the glass is half-empty), the body is fully present (i.e., the glass is half-full): and so the flesh can be willing even when the spirit is weak.

Big prayers like the Mass are like ships onto which the barnacles of smaller devotions can latch. There is no better way to nurture personal piety and devotion than to make a habit of daily Mass. (Try it; you'll see!) Which brings me to the next great devotion that should be on every Catholic's list . . .

26 August 2010

+JMJ+

Character Connection 13



Read about Minny Jackson and other great creations
on this week's round up of characters!


My current read is an excellent novel that I'll probably have several other posts about in the coming weeks. It's another reread, and I think that is why it is so enjoyable. It has been six years since I last tried reading it, which is long enough to make the forgotten scenes seem completely new and the well-loved passages glow with fresh fire. And that is exactly what is happening. I grew up with this book and know some parts of it almost by heart; and yet it is almost as if I am reading it for the very first time.

25 August 2010

+JMJ+

It's Wednesday Night; Where's My Trailer?

Those of you participating in the "I Love My Friends" Giveaway are probably wondering why I haven't live blogged Scream 3 yet, since the contest closes today. Well, there are three (good?) reasons for that . . .

The first is that my family's CPU was in a coma for about a week earlier this month, which meant I didn't get to watch the movie, much less type up my play-by-play. (What? You think Friday Night Movie is completed in a single Friday night? Well, it used to be . . .)

The second is that after we got our CPU back, the keyboard decided it wanted to be retired permanently and refused to type the letters A, S, D, F, J, K and L, and the colon and semi-colon. I had to improvise a special copy-paste system to write up three whole blog posts! But I was in no mood to live blog anything as well.

The third reason is that I've started meeting more tutees after school. Which is good for me, yes, but a little bad for the blog. And since I have to create mock exams and other review materials for them as well, I don't have as much free time as I used to.

Which also kind of explains why my promised performance of the winning "Weird Al" Yankovic song isn't up yet. Here's something else, though, to tide you over until I get my crew together . . .

24 August 2010

+JMJ+

High Schools: "I'm against Them!"

Earlier this month, I was tagged to do the "I'm against it!" meme. Heck, I agitated to be tagged for it. =P Of course, the second I was "in" was the second I realised that I didn't really want to write something for the Catholic blogosphere. But what to write, then?

Today I had my answer, when I came across this video . . .



Okay, so this speech could have been more nuanced.
Look at it this way:
she's an eighteen-year-old girl
from the generation that gave us Emo;
and she probably has post traumatic high school disorder.
We can cut her a break.


If you're having the same trouble with audio on your computer as I am, you can read the entire transcript here:

23 August 2010

+JMJ+

What Has Been in My Mailbox?
(Linked up to The Story Siren . . . along with about 150 200 other bloggers who love books)

If I haven't done this meme in a while, that's because I'm an awful literalist where it is concerned. I only write about new books that came in the mail. Never mind that I can't even be perfectly literal, because I don't have a mailbox.

Anyway, here is the main part of the haul . . .

22 August 2010

+JMJ+

The Maximum Playlist




In my strange mission to write about books without actually turning out any reviews, I return to James Patterson's Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment. So far, the novel has inspired a Reading Diary entry and a spot on a Peter Pan-themed Three-legged List. Now I'm going to make another short list, this time entirely focussed on Patterson's novel, which seems to me to be screaming for a playlist. Why it has turned out to be an exclusively 90s playlist has me slightly bemused; but I know that all the songs fit.

Robbie Williams' Angels was a really obvious choice because of the title and the allusion to beings traditionally depicted with wings. But the connection goes deeper because both the book and the novel explore the theme of freedom, and in particular, its relationship with unconditional love. Angels makes me picture the flock of six flying above a thick carpet of clouds into the setting sun--emphasising not the adventures which are to come, but the closeness of the ties they already have.

I really should get to the next book in the series soon . . .


3 (Other) Songs for
A "Maximum Ride" Playlist

(Notice the way I'm cheating and having four songs?)
+JMJ+

Tutor Tales, Volume 19

You all remember Doctor Nemesis, right? I was quietly ecstatic several weeks ago, when his mother rang me up out of the blue to start tutoring him and his brother, Doctor Decimator, again. This time she wanted them tutored at home rather than at XYZ Tutorial Centre.

I arrived at their house a little early; the boys hadn't returned from their respective schools yet. So I found myself a place in the sprawling downstairs area which was a living room on one end and a dining room on the other end, and waited. Five minutes later, someone ran up to the front door, threw it open, and started to charge into the house. I looked up from my seat; he saw me out of the corner of his eye and turned in my direction. And as our gazes met for the first time since March, he roared: "S***!"

And once more I was reminded of how much I love that boy.

21 August 2010

+JMJ+

Locus Focus: Take Fifteen!



This is your last chance to win two extra entries for the "I Love My Friends" Giveaway!!! Write about a setting and link up a post. It'll be fun. Trust me. ;-)

I was going to burrow underground again this week, but then I thought I write about the "Nature Setting" I had in mind before I changed this month's theme. It fits my requirement of "no walls, no ceilings, no air of civilisation" (which is kind of vague because it is people, not city architecture, which makes a civilisation); but it's also more of a faerie world--closer to J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle-earth than to the wildernesses in James Fenimore Cooper or Gary Paulsen. I hope that's all right . . .

20 August 2010

+JMJ+

Not Quite Cabbages and Kings . . .

. . . but another sort of vegetable and definitely some royalty.


Link up your own post!
Let's celebrate fairy tales and share our love for them!


It's all about pent-up aggression for me these days, so I'm having another face-off between two fairy tales. I hope you all don't mind . . .

19 August 2010

+JMJ+

Word & Question Wednesday Thursday


letter W Ampersand hangman tile blue letter Q
number 3

Yes, yes, it's late again. You'd be late, too, if you had the prompts I drew for myself. (Or maybe not and I'm just making excuses.)

Remember that if you're doing this for the "I Love My Friends" Giveaway, you need to have your poem up (and linked) on 25 August. And since I know that's really funny coming from someone who was two days late and blatantly backdated the post so she'd only be one day late . . . I'll consider all poems that are submitted before the announcement video is filmed. =P

Hey, if someone wants to host this next time, please feel free to volunteer! =)

18 August 2010

+JMJ+

"Weird Al" Yankovic Song Smackdown, Round 4
(Revisit Round 1, Round 2, Round 3A, and Round 3B)

This is it, gang!!! The mini face-offs we've been having were simply practice or today, when we you will be deciding the ultimate "Weird Al" Yankovic Song. But before we proceed . . .

Last week, Trigger Happy did that preemptive strike thing with Canadian Idiot and won. Despite the fact that Canadian Idiot is one of my personal Top 5 "Weird Al" Yankovic Songs! (Hey, it's a Green Day thing. =P)

All right, now that that is out of the way . . .


VS.

Vote, baby, vote!!!

17 August 2010

+JMJ+

Second Star to the Right and Straight On . . .

J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan was a great read for me last month. Blog-wise, I got a Character Connection post and a Locus Focus post out of it--and the "Neverland Notes" tab for related material, of which there has been a fair amount. For a while, this novel became kind of an epicenter for my thoughts about everything else I read and even some movies I watched. In case anyone was wondering, yes, I file this one under "good reading experience"! =)

By the way, this is the "future post" mentioned in the "I Love My Friends" Giveaway. That means that if your name is drawn, you can win a free copy of Peter Pan and one of the following titles. (I'll update the giveaway post with the links to the editions you can expect to win.)


3 Books to Read
in the Light of
Peter Pan

16 August 2010

+JMJ+

Twelve Things about Yours, Mine and Ours (Remake)

12. One of the filmmakers said he didn't want to do a movie about eighteen white kids. Now, as an Angelina Jolie fan, I would have respected his PC-ness preference . . . if it were not for the fact that the North-Beardsleys were a real family. Wrong call, mate! Make up a fictional family next time, okay?

11. The two opening sequences aren't bad, especially since the viewer is introduced to twenty main characters (the eighteen kids and their two widowed parents) all at once. Every child has a distinct personality quirk. If only the first day of school were this easy for me.

10. "Just because [they] got married, we all have to suffer." I'm kind of cynical about what a twice-married relative of mine calls "ready-made families" being able to get along immediately. But these kids have no baggage and no reason not to get along, so I have no sympathy for their self-entitlement, either. (Written like a true adult. I'm getting old . . .)

9. All families are different, but differences have to be dramatised to the point of farce in these movies. So here we have . . .

15 August 2010

+JMJ+

Punk Catholic Thought of the Week XVI

There is nothing like a public announcement that you have no more to say on a certain issue to inspire you to write at least one more post on the subject. (Maybe even two.)

So it should be no surprise that after saying I have no more Punk Catholic Thoughts worth mentioning . . . I find something new and eminently bloggable:

The popularisation of Theology of the Body is not the panacea for this age's strange ideas of sex; it is just another symptom.

The late Pope John Paul II, acting alone, could never have made Theology of the Body so famous. This popularity is due to someone who has both a personality cult and a money cult. (That means that he has the support of both die-hard fans and media people who know they can make a lot of cash off him.) What we have today would not be possible without a certain C**** W*** and his pornographic approach to theology. (I'm not hiding his identity by the way; it's just that I often spell words like s***, a****** and f*** this way, and it seems appropriate to do the same with his name.)

Now, W*** has been taken to school by better theologians and philosophers than I can ever dream to be, so all that's left to do here is to take a uniquely cheesy approach--with a list!!!


3 Songs for the "Soundtrack"
of Theology of the Body

14 August 2010

+JMJ+

Locus Focus: Take Fourteen!




First of all, thanks to everyone who linked up a Subterranean Setting last week!

Secondly, I'm really sorry that the post and linky are late this week. As I've said elsewhere, I've been having computer woes and they are not going to end soon! =( Still, I'm going to do my best to have semi-regular posts (especially since I'm still full of ideas, even if I can't always get online and share them) and to read all of your own updates. Thanks!

12 August 2010

+JMJ+

Writing Diary, Entry #21

My last Vampire PNR/UF assignment could have been much worse. I could have been assigned the Blood Sample box set and had no apt image on the box to inspire me . . .



Seriously, does anyone associate blood samples in test tubes with these sorts of books? The vampires in these stories drink straight from the vein.

On the other hand, the word "sample" reinforces the idea of the set as a "sampler" platter for a reader who isn't sure what to read first (or read next) in the tangled new subgenres of PNR and UF. I might have written about an appetizer platter rather than cocktails, with the same basic premise in mind.

And now for the answers to last week's little quiz.

11 August 2010

+JMJ+

It's "Word & Question" Time Again!


letter W ampersand & Q
number 3

We now have an official W&Q Page with the instructions and links to the poetry posts. If it sounds like something you want to try, remember that new players are always welcome!

For those who are doing this for the latest "I Love My Friends Giveaway" (which is still open for anyone who'd like to enter), remember that you have to submit your poem before the end of the giveaway in order to be earn the three entries!
+JMJ+

Weird Al Yankovic Song Smackdown, Round 3B
(Revisit Round 1, Round 2 and Round 3A)

Last week's mini face-off between I Think I'm a Clone Now and Like a Surgeon ended in a draw!

This week, let's start with a song about people who never leave the house without packing heat or even take their guns to the mall (Oh, the scandal!) and a song about someone with an AK-47, an Uzi, a Smith and Wesson, and much more! (Guess which one of these is in my personal Top 5 "Weird Al" Yankovic Songs. =P)


Canadian Idiot vs. Trigger Happy
vs.

And now let's proceed to the rest of the Smackdown! =D
(You know, the bits in which you don't actually have a say . . .)


Round 3B
The "Found It on Ebay" Four

09 August 2010

+JMJ+

Reading Diary: Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment by James Patterson

Absently, I chose a flickering shape below and focussed on it, watching a small blob become people, take on features, clothing, individuality. It was a group of kids, maybe my age, maybe older. Who couldn't be more unlike me.

Well, so
what? I thought. They were just boring kids, stuck on the ground, doing homework. With bedtimes and a million grown-ups telling them what to do, how to do everything, all the time. Alarm clocks and school and afternoon jobs. Those poor saps. While we were free, free, free. Soaring through the air like rockets. Being cradled by breezes. Doing whatever we wanted, whenever we wanted.

Pretty good, huh? I almost convinced myself.

Summer might have been over for my brothers weeks ago, but I wanted read-aloud time with them to become a real after-dinner tradition. So I picked out a new book--by a new author and from a new series--for our reading.

The Angel Experiment seemed made to order. Camera Man had requested characters "with powers;" the chapters were short; the prose was simple; except for all the violence, it was what concerned parents would call "clean." I was looking forward to reading it again with them, and once more seeing a familiar story through their eyes.

Unfortunately, it just wasn't happening. My brothers weren't so hot about the idea. And they had a way of worming out of reading that is perfectly encapsulated in the line: "Mom! Enbrethiliel is making us stay up and read past our bedtimes, when we have school tomorrow!!!" The little hypocrites. They don't mind negotiating for an extra half hour when there's a Disney movie on.

I was planning to deal with the situation by forbidding the use of the TV in my room . . . but that would be hard to police since they're on their own for a couple of hours after school, when all the grown-ups are working. Then I thought I'd make them work for their TV time: half an hour for every five chapters. Again, difficult to monitor--and I'd risk making reading into a chore. Finally, it occurred to me that one catches more flies with honey than vinegar and that my manipulative little brothers certainly resembled those fat, smug flying bugs . . .

So on Camera Man's birthday two weeks ago, I got him a special present . . .

08 August 2010

+JMJ+

Punk Catholic Thought of the Week
(And The Second Basket of Leftovers)


OR
Would the real Anne Rice please stand up???

I'm being ironic, of course. There has never been a time the real Anne Rice wasn't standing up. But there have always been people who thought they got what was going on with her only to be sucker punched by some new writing that she didn't publish with them in mind but which they took personally, anyway.

I had to deal with some of them on an Interview with the Vampire discussion board soon after she "reverted" to the Church; and I'm seeing a similar disgruntled renunciation on Catholic blogs now that she has "deverted" from it again. Vampires, all of them! My LycanCath soul was disgusted enough when "we" collectively threw Mel Gibson under the bus, but this just takes the cake.

And now you're wondering what this has to do with my latest fragmentorum cofinus . . .

07 August 2010

+JMJ+

Locus Focus: Take Thirteen!



Welcome to our Subterranean Settings Challenge!

Yes, this is another themed weekend for Locus Focus. If you're participating in my new "I Love My Friends" Giveaway, then the post you link up today will earn you another three entries!

As I did last month with Family Homes, I will be writing about all the "runners up" to this first choice of mine; but everyone else can link up whatever else they like. =)

Note that next month's theme will be School Settings! My teacher's soul expects full attendance! =P

06 August 2010

+JMJ+

Character Connection 12



Read about Dashti and other cool characters
in this week's Character Connection.


It is thanks only to memes like this one and my own Locus Focus that I still blog about books these days. Yet I read all the time--and more than usual these days, as I also read whatever my brothers and my tutees have been assigned for school. Doctor Decimator, for instance, has to finish The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman and The Watsons Go to Birmingham--1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis. I am beside myself with glee (although I try not to show it too much).

But for today's Character Connection, I present a character from a book I read on my own . . .

05 August 2010

+JMJ+

Writing Diary, Entry #20
(With a game related to my new "I Love My Friends" Giveaway)

The problem with reviewing books fora bookstore's in-house magazine is that I can't be perfectly honest about what I think of what I've been assigned to read. I have to be fair, too--not just to the books and to my readers, but also to the bookstore paying for the reviews. They hired me to promote the books so that people buy them, not to pan them so that no one ever picks them up.

That is okay when the books are good. (I was so happy about one of them that I even reviewed it for this blog: The Last Station by Jay Parini.) But last week, I had to read a box set of six books of very mixed quality. What was my bluntly honest self to do???

04 August 2010

+JMJ+

"Weird Al" Yankovic Song Smackdown, Round 3A
(Revisit Round 1 and Round 2)

Let's start with another mini-face off, just for fun. Here are two more great parodies that didn't make our smackdown because I had to limit myself to sixteen songs (for my own sanity) . . .


I Think I'm a Clone Now vs. Like a Surgeon

vs.

Ah, 80s princess pop . . .

Get your vote in before I put up Round 3B and I'll make it count as an extra entry for the "I Love My Friends" Giveaway. ;-)

Now for what you've been waiting for since last week . . .


Round 3A
The "Found It on Ebay" Four

02 August 2010

+JMJ+

Tutor Tales, Volume 18

A little under two weeks ago, I was contacted by two very different mothers. One of them got my name from a friend who had decided not to hire me after I told her my rate. (Yes, that one!) The other found me when she googled "Hekasi tutor" and found Tutor Tale, Volume 1.

I had a bad feeling about one and a good feeling about the other. I'll bet you can guess which was inspired by whom.

01 August 2010

+JMJ+

Twelve Things about The Package

12. Have I ever mentioned my strange attraction to the media of the Cold War era? Thrillers, Comedies, Dramas, Cartoons . . . Bring them on!

11. I do admit that nothing dates a movie more than the Cold War does. (Of course, I'm also open to suggestions.)

Maybe I'm just being an 80s Baby again (You think? LOL!), but the Soviet style of Communism seems trapped in the same time warp of fads that claimed the DeLorean.

Today, it's different brands of Communism that worry our days, my "favourite" being radical feminism . . . and nuclear war is still as much a threat as before, but now it comes mostly from Israel. And modern media isn't half as fascinated by these trends, possibly because the two don't feed off each other . . . unless, perhaps, radical feminists are running the Israeli military . . . and even then, who would green light a Thriller about that?