The Secret History

I don’t usually read contemporary mainstream fiction, or literary fiction – whatever name it goes by now. I am usually off on oddball excursions. I think the closest I have come to contemporary literature in the last twenty years is Stephen King’s (cue laugh track for some readers, I am sure!) 11/23/63. I guess Michael O’Brien’s Father Elijah: An Apocalypse and the sequel, Sophia House, counts. Goodreads has it categorized as Christian Fiction. I think that is Goodreads being the little libbie site that it is.

Anyway, this author, Donna Tartt, came to my attention via an adaptation of one of her works, The Goldfinch. I was intrigued, but actually was more intrigued by the plot of The Secret History. While one of the jacket blurbs relates it to Charles Dickens, I find the plot of this book (as described online) to be reminiscent of Dostoyevsky.

It will be, at least, a change of pace. It is much closer to concrete reality than what I usually read.

Anybody read her? Thoughts?

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RCIA 2

So last week I started my RCIA classes, having attended two so far. This is a quick, rough sketch of the experience so far. They are very small, last week was me and two other people, this week it climbed to me and three other people. There is supposed to be two other people who are going to miss a few weeks. So the class is a total of six people and the instructor.

I wish the class were larger just for atmosphere. But, considering that it is in the mountains in western North Carolina, six really isn’t that bad!

The teacher is, though rambling at times, quite informative. This is good as I have read quite intensely on the subject for several years now and a more popular, common approach would be hard to sit through.

You are given a block of the Catechism of the Catholic Church to read for the week (last week was a hundred pages!) and then the instructor gives an hour and half talk and about a half hour video. Frankly, I could do without the video. I am rather philosophically minded and am not moved by popular testimony. The presenter in the videos is googly-eyed and goofy so it gives a cultish feel to the presentation. Perhaps it is helpful to the others. Frankly I would prefer going more into hypostasis and other such topics.

I think the Catholicism series by Bishop Barron (and his Pivotal Players) would be better. However, I have seen them already so…

Don’t make it easy! Don’t dumb it down!

These are the resources for the course:

Catechism of the Catholic Church

Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church

Companion to the Catechism of the Catholic Church

The Didache Bible (Midwest Theological Forum)

Daily Roman Missal (Midwest Theological Forum)

The Catechism of the Council of Trent

The Catholic Catechism: A Contemporary Catechism of the Teachings of the Catholic Church, by (the Venerable) Father John A. Hardon, SJ [highly recommended]

Triumph: The Power and the Glory of the Catholic Church, by H. W. Crocker III [an excellent history]

Except for the Didache Bible I already own all of these resources. Although I have never cracked the Daily Roman Missal.

I use my Verbum program for the CCC reading because all the footnotes and annotations and abundant cross-references are a click or mouse hover away and eliminates the need of books two and three. It also means I don’t need a Bible sitting next to me as there is one in the window next to the window with the text of the CCC. Also available is the full context (the complete works actually) of any references to the Church Fathers.

This will be quite challenging in a few weeks as NaNo (Nation Novel Writing Month) is coming up. I missed last year on account of a busted back. This year I’m all in!

RCIA

Right of Christian Initiation of Adults, that is. This has been a long time coming. Six and a half years. I am very excited. If my back was still in perfect shape, I’d do the Snoopy dance!

Basically, it is a course called Basic Catholicism. Anyone can attend for almost any reason. At least at the church I’ll be taking it at. I really don’t know any of the details. Guess I’ll find out this Thursday!

Another Medieval Acquisition

Got this for my birthday a couple weeks ago. I have a growing collection of books from this era. I have become more and more interested in the middle ages because most of the things you hear about the era are wrong. Especially in regards to Church history, but in most other areas as well. The nature and causes of feudalism, the so-called ignorance, technological stagnation, most of it is wrong.

Was it the almost out of control flurry of technological progress that we see today? No. But one has to wonder if what we have today would be possible without what went on before. And it was not stagnation. Especially not the High Middle Ages that saw the start of the universities, the architectural advances as evidenced in the cathedrals, the development of distinct European languages and on and on.

Wife just woke up. I’ll try to finish this latter. To leave a note by saying that I really became interested in finding out the truth about things when I came across a man who is considered (by some) the father of international law Bartolom√© de las Casas.

A Little of This and a Little of That

Someone asked me the other day if I was excited about the new Star Wars movie coming out this winter. Let me repeat my answer.

NO!

No, no, no, no, no. Couldn’t be less interested. In fact, the trailer has been out for several months on my Apple trailers app and I couldn’t care less. Haven’t even felt tempted to look. Look, the new Star Wars movies plain suck (with the exception of the stand alone Rogue One). The tragedy here is the last film cannot salvage the mess. The Last Jedi (the second film in the new trilogy) could have saved the mess made in the first film. The big one being the Mary Sue problem, but also of the poor writing and mischaracterization and the missing Luke Skywalker (that is who I came to see and saw him for five seconds of the first movie and not at all in the second – although the actor Mark Hamill was in the second film a lot, there was no Luke Skywalker).

The second film was a hash. So horrible, that the third would basically have to ignore most of the previous two movies… except for the part of the missing princess (RIP Carrie Fisher) but also of Han Solo (because someone finally gave Harrison Ford his childish wish of whacking his character).

If one need to know how and why these two film suck, watch Mr. Plinkett explain it to you far better than I ever could.

THE LAST JEDI

THE FORCE AWAKENS

Oh no! The wife has woken up! Time to do stuff. See ya!

I’m Back!

Hopefully for good this time. I’m on a four day a week, ten hour a day work schedule, so I should have time to do extracurricular activities like writing (I wish it weren’t a luxury but facts be facts, ma’am) and posting here. It won’t be a lot. Even today I didn’t get done with house stuff until about half an hour ago.

I even batted out a few chords the other day to the tune of AN ALTOGETHER UNSERIOUS BREAKFAST. Only a fragment and I keep those all in a giant mega-file like a guitarist would keep riffs. Keep rolling those fragments and things slowly come together after awhile. I would have wrote more of it at the time, but I was already three hours late for bed and I don’t have a slacker job. Here is the fragment (I have no fear this will be stolen!).

What a strange, strange world I live in. Not your world, no. Your world is as normal as normal gets. Which is to say it is completely Continue reading “I’m Back!”

The Eighth Voyage

So the Eighth Voyage sucked. No, the story didn’t suck, but the voyage for the the story’s protagonist certainly sucked. This was the second story in Stanislaw Lem’s STAR DIARIES.

In it a man is representing Earth as it is about to be included in a sort of federation of planets. A distinguished position representing the very best the galaxy has to offer. But it turns out that man doesn’t belong in such an elite group. It starts off with the man being interviewed by his sponsor. This is the usual run of questions you would expect in a story of this type: What are your specie’s achievements, etc? This doesn’t go well as it turns out we used atomic energy to fry a bunch of people and other such embarrassing gaffs.

Then we are brought out to a galactic senate of sorts where the motion of mankind’s inclusion into the federation of Milky Way planets is debated. As the proceedings progress man’s representative, Ijon Tichy, is feeling most unwelcome.

But things take a drastic turn for the worse as he discovers that his entire race’s existence is a complete accident. It turns out Earth is not a planet that is hospitable to the emergence of life, and that it is a high crime to purposefully or accidentally start life on a planet that doesn’t naturally spawn the emergence of life. It turns out (and at this point Ijon Tichy simply allows himself to slide off his chair and under the table to hide) that life on Earth was started by two drunk cooks from some species who were pouring out the kitchen slop from their spaceship onto the barren Earthly ground. And that the direction of the proceeding evolution of life on Earth was determined by the fact that one of the cooks was sick and sneezed all over the slop pile.

That is just in a simplified nutshell, I did the rollicking story no justice skimming it out like that. Go read it!

Why would I like such a story? Simple. It can be taken two ways (maybe more, but two obvious ones jump out at me). One is from a materialistic evolutionary point of view and that we are merely accidental meat monkeys and a giant mishap of chance occurrences. That is what the story depicts. But this version of looking at the story I call the serious or face value view. It is the leading view of most people who consider themselves in the know. From what I understand of the author, this would be how he meant the story. However, maybe not, and that leads me the second way of looking at the story.

The second way is looking at it as a reductio ad absurdum. Accepting that life on Earth was the result of a series of accidents or chance occurrences (which is really the only other option after you are left with only matter) then even the most absurd event could be the one that led man to be and to where and who he is. If he is small and insignificant because he is in a vast machine by chance and his being or non-being makes no difference whatsoever then even a ridiculous answer such as drunken space cooks throwing slop on the ground is sufficient and makes the evolving animal even more ridiculous.

I don’t really care what the author’s intention was, the story can be read either way and was delightful if appalling!

Spoon Fed Entertainment and the Imagination

I mentioned in my last post that there have been improvements since the early 60’s. One of them was race relations (no, CNN, it is not worse, and it is even better under Trump than Obama) and the other way technology. However, I added that many of us are locked in this technology unable to communicate with our fellow man, and unable to use our imaginations.

I wonder if this has been studied with any seriousness? I assume I am not wrong in this. I am noticing more and more the lack of public examples of reading. I counter that with the caveat that I live in the sticks in eastern North Carolina. Reading requires that you take parts and create in your own mind images and meaning that are conveyed through words by the writer to your mind.

A lot of people simply watch stupid things on YouTube. There is a scene in Mike Judge’s excellent Idiocracy where Luke Wilson’s character, waking up 500 years in the future, awakes in another man’s apartment. This man is a drooling dolt as is everyone in the future and he is sitting in his chair

watching a show about a guy getting his balls repeatedly wracked in various ways. With eyes half open he stares vacantly at the screen laughing moronically every time the guy on the television experiences testicular damage.

Likewise on the big screen now people are spoon fed giant spectacles of thinly cut characters in base stories of good guy versus bad guy. The stories are on comic books on the big screen. These kinds of spectacles started with Star Wars. And I am a big fan of the original films (also a great enemy of the Disney sacrileges!)

Although I find the comic movies to be too stupid to be enjoyed by those over five, there is nothing wrong with enjoying such a spectacle in principle. One wishes they were deeper than a kid’s wading pool…

But something happens to the imagination when it is simply Continue reading “Spoon Fed Entertainment and the Imagination”

The Star Diaries by Stanislaw Lem and Other Stuff

This is one of those finds that happen at a used bookstore, read the blurb on the back and, intrigued, brought it hope to gestate on a shelf for several years.

I fell in love with him on page four. I like things off center, off kilter and plain upside down. Actually, upside down is a little too linear, how about we knock that upside down by 17 degees? To the left…no, the right… yeah, that’s it. Seventeen degrees though? How about just 2 degrees – ah, squim, just spin it!

Anyway, the first story from The Star Diaries is a time travel romp that takes place in a spaceship that is traveling through a series of vortices. Each time it does a version of himself from some future or past time shows up. At first it is only one instance of himself from a few hours or days ahead or behind himself, and this multiplied as he advances through this part of space. The trick is there is a repair that needs to be performed outside the spaceship and it requires two people, but there is only one spacesuit. The conflict comes from him trying, in various incarnations of himself, to convince the other of the predicament they are in. If you can convince yourself in the past to put on the spacesuit before you are aware of the problem, then a future self can also be wearing one. The problem is the man is inherently uncooperative – even with himself! The convolutions are handled extremely well, and it is a purely entertaining romp.

I finished this the other day. Not bad, a little long for the set-up. Really a love story. I had thought it was going to be a baby boomer Democrat’s love story to all things Kennedy. That if he saved Kennedy and returned to the future, that future would be like Disneyland and all groovy and stuff. That is not how things turn out. So I give King a grade on sticking to story (which he has always done for the most part, although one wonders if he can in the TYRANNY THAT IS TRUMP!!!!).

It wasn’t really a democrat or republican thing one way or the other Continue reading “The Star Diaries by Stanislaw Lem and Other Stuff”