Thursday, October 31, 2013

It's the Great Feast of You're Going to Die, Charlie Brown!

So it's Halloween. And the internet is therefore filled with videos of people scaring other people.  Like this one:

Or this one:

I guess it makes sense, all these prank videos. Halloween is supposed to be scary.  But I don't know, it seems kind of easy and lame, doesn't it? Oh look, I dressed in a costume and sat still, or rigged my apartment and then messed with some poor schlub who was dumb enough to actually trust me. Ha ha ha. I showed him. I mean, I'm alone now, and maybe forever, because I do stuff like this to people so that strangers will like me for 30 seconds on YouTube, but I showed him.

I prefer a more mature consideration of the whole Halloween thing.  It's not about "Look, I could work on Punk'd, if MTV even thought that was still cool, which it doesn't." It's about death. Yep, you read that right. Halloween is our weird festival of mortality.  It's the season we choose for a night or a week or whatever your custom to face our own futures, our own sense of vulnerability, our own very real and very realistic terror.

Okay, maybe not everybody.  If you're a kid dressing like an astronaut, okay, we're not dealing with terror. Unless you're afraid of astronauts -- which seriously, is not a bad idea, because they are fricking scary.

But even kids dress like things that terrify them, witches and zombies and monsters. Or they go to houses where they know they might get a little scared on the way to getting candy. When I was a novice all the novices would dress up and stand outside on Halloween; we freaked tons of people out.  I actually caused a parent to run away from her child in his stroller, I scared her so much. Which maybe was a little more than I was going for. And maybe next year I was told I couldn't have a real knife. But whatever.

The weirdest part about Halloween is not only do we undergo these experiences where we're going to be scared, like haunted hayrides and amusement parks and movies and a couple hours of playing Half-Life in the dark. We actuality take on those parts, too.  We become literally the things that terrify us, and try to terrify others.

Think about that. Because seriously, if monsters did exist, probably some of them would be ticked off by our tourism -- oh, look, I can be scary, too. But I bet some of them would be FREAKED OUT. It's like we're putting on their skin, you know? And covering ourselves in hypoallergenic syrupy blood. How creepy is that?

(Answer: Pretty darn creepy.)
(That's Heidi Klum, by the way.  Really.)

Why do I want to be the monster I'd be terrified of in real life? To show it's not so scary? To feel powerful? Because that's just what I wear around the house, don't judge me? Answers will vary.

It's all grist for meditation, is all I'm saying. We're going to die.  Some of us may die horribly.  If the zombies do in fact come, probably most of us. And on this one night we all sort of play with that reality together.

Will it make the real thing easier? Doubtful.

But maybe it makes a little room in our spirits for the possibility that however awful it may seem, it's really not going to be so bad.  There will be laughter as well as tears.

And just like there's a November 1st, when we all go back to wearing our equally strange costumes and doing what we do, albeit perhaps a little more hungover than the day before and with smears of soap-resistant make up, beyond our demise, too, there will be something after.

Hopefully it will have less of this:

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Wearing a Safety Vest Has Never Been So Awesome

So Virgin Airlines has a new safety video.  And it is a music video. And it is a little long but hilarious and awesome. In fact, it is hilawesome.

(One note: it's a little long. I promise, it's worth it to keep going for the life vest and no smoking sections alone.)

Watch Calvin and Hobbes Dance (and it's Great)

I grew up on Calvin and Hobbes. Even today, when I am groggy in the morning I think of Zombie Calvin, warty and delirious.  I dream of a cardboard box that could take me through time and space. And some day -- some day -- I will create my own snowman horror scene. (Maybe the best idea that there has ever been.)

Watterston's comic was filled with humor and also soul. And for me creator Bill Watterston himself is like J.D. Salinger, a total enigma. He stopped writing the comic even as it remained hugely popular. He's never publicly drawn anything since.

And he never wanted Calvin & Hobbes taken to another medium, animated or made into a movie. Which I really get -- have you seen Smurfs? The beauty of the strip lies in what your own imagination brings to it.

That's what makes this clip below so amazing. It's not Watterston approved, and yet it feels absolutely true to the Watterston spirit.  I could watch it again.

And I probably will.


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Okay, This Might Actually be the Best Thing Ever

Baby ducks are more the territory of Easter than Halloween -- unless you're going for something like this:

But Viral Viral Videos this weekend put up this great little clip of baby ducks on a slide.  Adorable.

Monday, October 28, 2013

The Best Eucharistic Prayer Ever

Have you ever heard any of the Eucharistic prayers for children? They're actually kind of awesome.  A lot of the mumbo jumbo that can so quickly lose you ("oblation"? Really, translators? Really?) here gets re-set in the simplest terms possible, and in many cases that simplicity translates into great pathos and beauty.

The Children's Mass prayers have yet to be retranslated (thanks be to the Holy Spirit and the Baby Jesus).  Let's hope that trend continues.

Here's Eucharistic Prayer I for Children. Enjoy.
God our Father,
You have brought us here together
So that we can give you thanks and praise
For all the wonderful things that you have done.
We thank you for all that is beautiful in the world
And for the happiness you have given us.
We praise you for daylight
And for your word which lights up our minds.
We praise you for the earth
And all the people who live on it,
And we praise you for our life,
Which comes from you.

We know that you are good.
You love us and do great things for us.
You are always thinking about your people;
You never forget us.
You sent us your Son Jesus,
Who gave his life for us
And came to save us.
He cured sick people;
He cared for those who were poor
And wept with those who were sad.
He forgave sinners
And taught us to forgive each other.
He loved everyone
And showed us how to be kind.
He took children in his arms and blessed them.
All over the world, your people praise you.
So now we pray with the whole Church:
With Francis our Pope, Jose our bishop, and all your people.
In heaven the blessed Virgin Mary,
Her husband Joseph,
The apostles, the martyrs and all the saints
Always sing your praise.
So now we join with them and with the angels
As we say/sing: 
Holy, Holy....
God our Father
You are most holy
And we want to show you that we are grateful.

And so we bring you bread and wine
And ask you to send your Holy Spirit to make these gifts
The body and blood of Jesus your Son.
On the night before he died,
Jesus was having supper with his apostles.
He took bread from the table,
And gave you thanks and praise.
Then he broke the bread,
And gave it to his friends, saying:
Take this, all of you, and eat of it.
For this is my Body,
Which will be given up for you.

When supper was ended,
Jesus took the cup that was filled with wine.
Again he thanked you, gave it to his friends, and said:
Take this, all of you, and drink from it.
This is the cup of blood,
The blood of the new and everlasting covenant.
It will be shed for you and for all
That sins may be forgiven.
Do this in memory of me.

We do now what Jesus told us to do.
We remember his death and resurrection
And we offer you, Father, the bread that gives us life,
And the cup that saves us.
Jesus brings us to you;
Welcome us as you welcome him.

Let us proclaim our faith: 
We proclaim your death, Lord, and profess your resurrection…

Because you love us,
You invite us to come to your table.
Fill with the joy of the Holy Spirit
As we receive the body and blood of your Son.

You never forget any of your children.
And so we ask you to take care of those we love,
Especially X,
And all those who have died.

Remember everyone who is suffering, in pain or sad.
Remember Christians everywhere
And all the other people in the world.
We are filled with wonder and praise
When we see what you do for us
Through Jesus your Son,
And so we sing: 
Through him,
With him, in him...

Friday, October 25, 2013

The Love that Lies in Wait

I'm going to show you a series of portraits taken by photographer Richard Renaldi. As you look about them, think about what sorts of feelings they evoke:

Take your time with the photos. They're quite lovely.

Now, check out the circumstances in which the photos were created.  I guarantee you'll be surprised.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

A Parent's Love

We tend to focus on how a child's struggles impact the child.

But obviously, they're not the only ones impacted.  A point made so eloquently in this video made by a British kid of his father finding out he passed Math.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Paying it Forward--The Drive Through Edition

So, in what's shaping up to be Good Deed Wednesday on the blog, here's a great story not too different than the story of the waitress, that you and I could do it today.   

A Waitress Teaches Us All the Right Way to Deal with Shutdowns

Last week Ellen DeGeneres had on her program a waitress from Connecticut who did something pretty neat during the shutdown. Her story is a good reminder to me that there's more options in a situation like that than just posting snarky tweets.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Emmet Costello, SJ, Rest In Peace

When I was in tertianship in Australia in 2008 I lived with a larger-than-life, speed-talking older Australian Jesuit named Emmet Costello.  He'd worked in parishes and high schools, and he seemed to be a friend to queens and princes; he'd speak of recent conversations with major Australian politicians, bishops and billionaires.

While I was there I had the opportunity to interview Emmet on video.  He died last week, and looking back through the videos I was struck by his great faith and relentless focus on love and Jesus.

Below you can find the videos I did with him. They're each between a minute and two minutes. They might take more than one listen to understand; he really does have a great Australian accent.

But may they nourish your spirit as his words did that of many others.

Emmet, RIP.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Who said All Bartenders do is Pour Drinks and Listen?

 I came across this recent video of a bartender at a New York bar getting up to a sing a song near closing. If you can follow the lyrics, it's a pretty moving performance.

(Note: the song has just a little spicy language.)

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Best Home Movie Ever

The Daily Dot has a great link today to this old home video of John and Richard Ramsey in which they offer a sort of DVD commentary of their younger selves. Some absolutely hilarious comments that will make you remember your own childhood very well.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Church, there to Love the World, not Itself

I'm reading a little book these days on the Church written by my former spiritual director, Fr. Adrian Lyons, S.J.  It's interesting, in his lifetime Adrian was probably known to most as a very quiet man -- he was one of the best listeners I've ever met.  He just had a way of being silent that made you feel welcome with whatever you had going on.

But I'm reading this book that he had published just months before he died, THE FIRST THING TO DO IS LIVE, and I must say, I'm finding it pretty dazzling.

The first section is on the Church in the world. Here's his take:
The Christian community's deepest purpose is to show that the Creative Power keeping our universe in existence is overwhelmingly in love with ongoing creation.  Within that grand scheme, we, the creatures of Planet Earth, are passionately cherished despite our tragic flaws. 
And here's what you might call the tail of that scorpion:
Christian communities exist, then, not primarily to communicate God's love for the church, nor even for the totality of those who live well, but for the world in all its grandeur and fallibility. (emphasis mine)
Isn't that something? It's common sense, really, Jesus at his most fundamental. But boy howdy does it get lost in most religious institutions most of the time.

A few pages later he puts it even better:
To act as if the church's main task is to bring the world to see the church's importance is a mistake of Copernican proportions. What is assumed is that the world revolves around the church, or it ought to.  Instead, it is more appropriate to imagine the church as a moon -- offering illumination by reflecting the sun -- revolving around the world God loves so much. 
Tell me that's not the good stuff.

I wish I could tell you you could buy this book on Amazon, but alas, you can't. It can be picked up via this link, however, at a cost of something like $35 American with shipping.

I'll try also to post more of it as I read more. It's really a solid and inspiring read.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Your Life is the Most Beautiful Thing That Could Happen to You

An amazing story for you this morning:  last weekend was the Chicago Marathon. And among its 40000 participants was 38-year-old Venezuelan man Maickel Melamed, who has Muscular Dystrophy.

One thousand people dropped out at some point in the 26.2 mile run. Maickel was not one of them.  He was, in fact, the last to finish, at about 1:30am, more than 16 hours after the Marathon began, and was greeted by 100 people who cheered him to the finish.

After the race, he had this to say, via NBC Chicago: "My message is: if you dream it, make it happen. Your life is the most beautiful thing that could happen to you. Make the best with that, and share the best of that. We come here to share. We come to make a team. We come here to construct the best world that the children -- our children-- deserve."

Here's a video of this inspiring man crossing the finish line.

Friday, October 11, 2013

We'll Probably Be Alright

A very hopeful (and hilarious) music video from the great Barenaked Ladies.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

A Poem To Take The Mind Off The Crazy

Wedding Cake

Once on a plane
a woman asked me to hold her baby
and disappeared.
I figured it was safe,
our being on a plane and all.
How far could she go?

She returned one hour later
having changed her clothes
and washed her hair.
I didn't recognize her.

By this time the baby
and I had examined
each other's necks.
We had cried a little.
I had a silver bracelet
and a watch.
Gold studs glittered
in the baby's ears.
She wore a tiny white dress
leafed with layers
like a wedding cake.

I did not want
to give her back.

The baby's curls coiled tightly
against her scalp,
another alphabet.
I read new new new.
My mother gets tired.
I'll chew your hand.

The baby left my skirt crumpled,
my lap aching.
Now I'm her secret guardian,
the little nub of dream
that rises slightly
but won't come clear.

As she grows,
as she feels ill at ease,
I'll bob my knee.

What will she forget?
Whom will she marry?
He'd better check with me.
I'll say once she flew
dressed like a cake
between two doilies of cloud.
She could slip the card into a pocket,
pull it out.
Already she knew the small finger
was funnier than the whole arm.

Naomi Shihab Nye

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Want to Know How Applying for Obamacare Compares with Private Insurance? Check This Out

There have certainly been a lot of doom and gloom predictions like this one about the Affordable Care Act. 

But I came across this video last night of John Green, a popular video blogger, trying to apply for Obamacare and private insurance online.  The contrast is pretty fascinating.

What the Brady Bunch Would Be Like Today If They Were Mostly Black and Awesome

Okay so Miley Cyrus is pretty much everywhere right now. And most of the time she's got her tongue out and is doing crazy stuff that I hope my nephews and nieces who love her never ever see.


But Jimmy Fallon -- I know, you'd think I owned stock in his show, but he's doing such great stuff lately -- did a great a capella version of one of her new songs with her and the Roots. The lyrics are still very Miley '13, but you can just about ignore that and just ride this wonderful groove.

A sweet way to start the middle of the week.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Looking for Jesus During the Shutdown

Into this world, this demented inn, in which there is absolutely no room for him at all, Christ has come uninvited. But because he cannot be at home in it, because He is out of place in it, His place is with those others for whom there is no room. His place is with those who do not belong, who are rejected by power because they are regarded as weak, those who are discredited, who are denied the status of persons, who are tortured, bombed, and exterminated. With those for whom there is no room, Christ is present in the world. He is mysteriously present in those for whom there seems to be nothing but the world at its worst…It is in these that He hides Himself, for whom there is no room.                                                
-- Thomas Merton, Raids on the Unspeakable

Monday, October 7, 2013

Prayer of St. Francis

Belated Happy Feast Day!

I know, I'm a couple days late, but over the weekend I returned to this favorite version of the Prayer of St. Francis and thought I'd share it.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Man Who Lives in the Astor Place Cube

This is the Alamo, a sculpture in Lower Manhattan commonly known as the Astor Place Cube. (It's near Astor Place and Cooper Union.)

It was originally (in 1967) a temporary art installation created by artist Tony Rosenthal, who has a thing about cubes. But the people of the area liked it so much, they petitioned the city to keep it.  And it's now just a happy element of this area of the city.

It's been played with any number of ways:

Redecorated by the visual artist Olek;

Covered to look like a cube from the video game "Portal";

And redone as the classic Rubik's Cube. 

But maybe the best thing ever done with the Cube is this new video about the New York City man living inside the Cube. Check it out. (And then go here for the answer to the question you'll be asking.)

Pope Francis is Intent On Blowing Your Mind

The Pope gave another interview which was published early this week. The background is pretty interesting -- the atheist editor in chief of La Republicca wrote the Pope, and asked for an interview.  And the Pope called him out of the blue and agreed.

You're going to hear a lot about this interview, too, as the Pope uses the opportunity to condemn "heads of the Church [who have] often been narcissists, flattered and thrilled by their courtiers." He also calls the attempt to convince others to become Catholic "solemn nonsense" while also telling the writer, who asserts he does not have a soul, "You do not believe in it but you have one."

It's another pretty mind blowing piece, and it's a bit more to the point than the previous. Check it out.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Also While the World Sleeps, This Fabulous Thing Happened

This might be my favorite video of the week. Check it out -- and then feel jealous that you never thought to do it yourself. :)


While DC Sleeps, Human Kindness Prevails

So, after a day in which we might have doubted there was any hope or charity left in the world  (okay, I did, and that's ridiculous, because if you're going to let 535 people in DC determine your perspective, you're really in trouble), I found this story on Mashable.

If you watch the video (which I've also placed below) without reading the story you'll wonder what exactly it is you're watching.

But read the story first and then stick with the video to the end and I think you'll see, it's quite a beautiful witness of human beings caring for one another.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

GOP: "Health Care, Gun Control -- Let's Burn It All Down"

So federal government services were shut down at midnight EST last night. 800000 thousand jobs have been furloughed (i.e no work, no pay); another one million will be forced to continue working without pay until the shutdown is resolved.

And all this, because the House Republicans don't like the Affordable Care Act.

That's right -- the House Republicans shut down the government because they oppose universal health care.  Which for the rest of the world, is the equivalent of crazy talk gibberspeak "huh?"

Seriously, House Republicans, what are you thinking? The bill passed almost four years ago. If you were looking for a mandate to overturn it, you had the 2012 election, in which, oh wait, Obama got reelected -- and pretty handily.  Even the Supreme Court has validated the law as constitutional.  The Supreme Court, for God's sake.

Plus, it's a law to provide universal health care. You're opposing people's right to have health coverage. It's like opposing Disneyland -- in fact it's even weirder, because you can at least imagine someone saying I just don't like giant smiling mice. Who in their right mind would say "I just don't want people to have health care"?

Now, maybe we shouldn't be surprised. I mean, we watched grade schoolers get gunned down almost a year ago and still you guys (and many of your Democrat colleagues) couldn't agree to basic background checks and a ban on assault weapons. All that, despite the fact that over 50% of Americans wanted these measures.

Read that again, boyo, because the last time over 50% of Americans wanted stronger gun laws was in Nineteen Twenty NEVER. But still you didn't pass it.

(Oh, and in case you're counting -- I assume you're not, but we live in hope -- there have quite a few shootings since then.  Including one a few weeks ago at the Navy Yard in your own backyard.  But no, please, protect my right to be mentally ill or pissed off or just plain bored and still be able to purchase an AK-47 for random gunplay. PLEASE.)

You have to wonder, for a party that opposes universal health care, has no problems with the entire population being armed, oh and last week voted to cut food stamps (because nothing signals real concern for the neediest than trying to both stop them from having health care and preventing them from having what they need to stay healthy), what exactly is the master plan?

Personally, I'm thinking a cull. Survival of the fittest, 21st century style, baby. Existence as an obstacle course of bullets and injury avoidance, covered in a fine dressing of enforced self-loathing. The perfect way to wipe out the weakest among us (which by the way includes not only our supposedly "deadbeat poor" but our children and our elderly), oh and totally coincidentally also a disproportionate percentage of the non-white population.

It's definitely an interesting political strategy, especially after the last election.  What are you the party of now, exactly? The well, the white, the wealthy? (Oh, sorry, don't let me forget, the weaponized.)

Does that really work for you? Because it really does seem crazypants atrociously godawful.  And it'd be nice not to be that.


PS Anyone seen a bishop? Because this would be a good moment for someone to show some leadership and say something.