Friday, April 28, 2006

Eye candy for the weary

If you contend with heavy issues on a daily basis, you probably know how it is to reach the point wherein the burden seems to weigh you down. You don't have to be a humanitarian aid worker in Sudan or a war correspondent in Baghdad to experience this kind of burnout.

Sometimes all it takes is "coming up for some air" before plunging into the deep again, or taking time to smell the flowers that have been there all along. Or looking at images like these:

("synchronize your watches...we attack at dawn.")

All photos (plus that witty caption) from Cute Overload

Monkeys with 'human rights'; suicide clinics

(Photo of 1960s Planet of the Apes: Guardian Unlimited)

Amnesty International is shocked that the governing socialists in Spain have put forward legislation to grant great apes 'human rights'. The same government which stripped from unborn human children the right to life and permits destructive research on human embryos, has put forward legislation to grant great apes the rights the rights to life, freedom and to not being tortured, according to a report by Deutsche Presse-Agentur.

The legislation would prohibit the 'enslaving' of gorillas, chimpanzees, orangutans and bonobos.

Full story at LifeSite

Another matter of life and death caught my attention early this week and I figured that after reading something about one's idea of granting human rights to... er, apes, the notion of offering a place (called "clinic") for the purpose of providing people with a venue to kill themselves, would serve as a wake-up call. We're helping people take their own lives and calling it a "service." Then we put animals on the same level as that of human beings and assert that they (the former) are entitled to "human" rights as well. (Isn't it about time someone founded a PETH -- People for the Ethical Treatment of Humans -- to ensure that humans, both born and preborn, are granted the human right to LIFE?)

Ludwig Minelli, founder of Dignitas, an assisted suicide “clinic” in Zurich has announced that he is planning on opening a chain of suicide facilities in Switzerland. So popular has his death service become that at least 42 Britons have gone there to commit suicide.

Under British law, aiding a person’s suicide is a criminal offence punishable by up to 14 years in prison, but there is no way officials can stop anyone from going to Switzerland where laws allow it.

Minelli told Sunday Times Magazine this weekend, “We never say no.”

Full story at LifeSite

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Ditching the screen-staring

Empowering people to take control of technology and not letting technology take control of them so they can live healthier lives!

Founded in 1994, TV-Turnoff Network is dedicated to the belief that we all have the power to determine the role that television plays in our own lives. Rather than waiting for others to make "better" TV, we can turn it off and reclaim time for our families, our friends, and for ourselves.

Find out more at TV-Turnoff Network

Get some insight on sex on TV at MediaWise

Monday, April 24, 2006

Advice for the young at heart

Actually, I just wanted to use the song title for this post's title, but even if you don't consider yourself "young at heart" this could be mighty interesting for you, too!

Everybody could use some advice -- whether it's about money matters, a relationship, the in-laws or a pair of shoes. After all, wisdom takes a lifetime to acquire (come to think of it, a lifetime is not even enough to develop perfect decision-making and to know everything that there is to know about life).

But thank goodness for the advice columnists and the counselors, guidance is not too hard to find. Some of them provide really sensible and comforting counsel, while others...well, let's just say one's life can take a turn for the worst if the advice is heeded.

Manolo is one such person whose advice is always a joy to read -- such light-heartedness and optimism, and he manages to bring to light the hundred other perspectives to consider even if shoes, they are the topic of the conversation. From Manolo's Shoe Blog, the sample here is:

Dear Manolo,

Help me! In May I’m accompanying my boyfriend to the christening of his niece in Denver. This will be the first time I’ll be meeting his very Catholic, very conservative parents.


Manolo says, the Manolo’s friend she is indeed most lucky to be able to visit the beautiful mountains of the Rockies in the springtime. Do not forget to pack the hiking boots so that if things with the family begin to go bad, there is the possibility of the long walk alone through the alpine flowers.

Ha! The Manolo he jokes.

Indeed the Manolo suspects that this family of the boyfriend they are the wonderful peoples, for in the fact, did they not raise the wonderful son? And if he is not the wonderful son, why is the Manolo’s friend going with him to Denver?

Read Manolo's advice in full here

* * * * *

A more serious matter is tackled in "Ask Theophilus." I know a lot of women can relate to this piece of advice!

As for you, my dear, you must stop confusing pity with romantic love; that's a disorder in your feelings. Some guys have a soft spot for broken girls. You, I suspect, have a soft spot for broken guys. What a man with broken emotions needs is a counselor, not a wife; what a woman with an extra-soft heart needs is a husband, not a patient. All those novels and movies where the girl marries a damaged guy and then "fixes" him are frauds. The marital relationship is one thing; the therapeutic relationship is another.

Read the advice, the problem and two other matters at Boundless webzine

Ooh baby baby it's a wired world

Gadgetry in the 21st century...

For many workers, an iPod, loaded with favorite music, is a welcome way to block out distractions. But to a boss trying to get an employee's attention, those white ear buds can represent a barrier.

"Sometimes they don't hear their telephones ringing," says Lee Rosen, president of Rosen Law Firm in Raleigh, N.C. "That can be a problem. But all in all, the music adds to their ability to be productive far more than it detracts from it." Because his employees work in cubicles in an open room, many use iPods or play music through their computer to create an isolated environment. He takes the approach that they should do whatever is necessary to get the job done.

Full story at The Christian Science Monitor

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Less than a week to go

If you missed my recent post about it, here it is.

And this is a feature on the 2nd National Pro-Life T-shirt Day that came out in The Washington Times.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

"Perfection" according to magazines

Another great piece from Feminine Genius (cartoon from Neocitrus).

An excerpt:

This article from the Telegraph is so utterly depressing:

The average British woman worries about the size and shape of her body every 15 minutes ... Research among 5,000 women with an average age of 34 found that just two per cent were happy with their body.

I suppose with the constant media glare on glamour and how one looks, what else are women to be thinking of?

Many respondents were dissatisfied with every part of their own appearance - 87 per cent hated their "podgy thighs", 79 per cent were unhappy with their waist, 65 per cent were disappointed with the size and shape of their breasts, the same number were unhappy with their feet (65 per cent), and 59 per cent were unhappy with their face. More than half of those polled were even disappointed with their hands and fingers.

Obviously, a huge part of this is the fault of contemporary fashion. If women weren't expected to show virtually all their flesh (and the actual shape of what little remains hidden) then these minutiae wouldn't matter -- to anyone, least of all women. Try using extra fabric, try buying a size larger, try draping horizontally -- and then for heaven's sake stop obsessing!

The last statement says it all:

Women, you are made for so much more than this.

Read the whole piece here

And here's something from the CBS News archives about the retouching that is done to practically every photo of models on magazine pages -- thanks to technology's magic.

[More cover girl Jamie Lee Curtis] says the fraud is perpetrated by magazine editors who rely too heavily on photo retouching - which gives models and actresses a “digital diet” long after the photo shoot is over.

Kate Betts, former editor-in-chief of Harper’s Bazaar, says most fashion pictures are retouched nowadays. But what can a good retoucher do?

“A good retoucher can basically make the person in the picture look better, enhance the way they look,” says Betts, who was also a former top fashion editor at Vogue. “They can do anything. They can open eyes wider, make them brighter, change the shape, contour the face a lot.”

Read "Re-modeling for Perfection" here

R U fed up yet?

U.S. Representatives Call for Movement on Bill to Pull Abortion Pill

Amelia Wigton
April 13, 2006

Why is RU-486, the abortion pill, still on the market?

This week, a jury in New Jersey awarded $4.5 million in damages to a man who was found to have suffered a heart attack after taking the arthritis drug Vioxx.

In late March, Bausch and Lomb pulled its lens solution from shelves and launched an investigation

to determine why customers contracted a rare fungal infection from using it.

While rapid response has followed these drug complications, at least seven women have died from taking RU-486, and the dangerous drug is still available for purchase.

Concerned Women for America (CWA) has diligently lobbied against RU-486 since its release because it ends the lives of the unborn and poses a grave health threat to the women who take it.

“The FDA has pulled other drugs that have caused fewer deaths and less severe complications than RU-486,” said Wendy Wright, President of CWA. “Why the double-standard for an abortion drug that is now linked to the deaths of seven healthy women and over 800 other reported complications?”

Full story at Concerned Women for America

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Facing the truth

A few nights ago, I watched a talk show on TV that featured guests who put forth various insights on Dan Brown's novel. It was quite interesting to listen to the different ideas. One realization that I had (and the one that struck me the most) as the discussion progressed was that a newspaper columnist -- and advanced in years (and presumably in experience) -- regards the availability of information via the Internet as something undeniably positive because it "democratizes knowledge" (I agree to a certain extent, heavy emphasis on "certain extent"). And this he postured since now, he said, people can get all the information they want about things of God and the Church and choose what to believe in. For him, the so-called "cafeteria Catholicism" is a step in the right direction. For him, "personalizing" one's faith was the key -- never mind if the desire to reach the truth is forgotten, or whether this "personalized faith" is actually based on truth.

This makes me wince, since the truth and the love for it are two things that are very important to me -- whether we're talking about nasty showbiz rumors, the real motivations behind people's saying things like "abortion is perfectly safe" and "FHM is not pornography," the workings of supernatural grace, or the real deal about poor people suspected of some crime and whose faces are splashed on the news even before any trial takes place.

Okay, back to the TV program I was talking about before I got carried away. Good thing another guest later pointed out that with the democratization of knowledge also comes the democratization of garbage. Access to information does not necessarily mean getting to the truth. What do you do with information when it doesn't contain the truth? Or worse, when it presents itself as the truth? And perhaps the worst, when it is mixed with the truth without indicating which is which?

Hopefully, the following gets you on the right track:

“Along with trashing Christianity, Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code is a veritable museum of errors where Renaissance art is concerned,” writes [art history professor Elizabeth] Lev.

Lev’s informative essay focuses on the artist at the centre of Brown’s story, Leonardo Da Vinci, and his renowned work, The Last Supper. She methodically debunks each claim Brown makes about the Renaissance artist’s work and life with historical evidence.

“Art historians have been slow in responding [to The Da Vinci Code], mostly because it is difficult to know where to start,” she says. “The novelist’s imaginative notions of iconography may make for best-selling fiction, but they are wildly at variance with what is known about the life and work of Leonardo.”

She demonstrates Brown’s ignorance through his mistaken interpretation of Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, Virgin on the Rocks, and The Last Supper.

“Brown’s appetite for desecration reaches its pinnacle when he comes to Leonardo’s finest masterpiece, The Last Supper,” she writes.

She calls Brown’s theory that the figure of the Apostle John is really Mary Magdalene “preposterous” and explains how Da Vinci’s soft-featured, long-haired and beardless depiction of John was a typical artistic style used in Renaissance art to depict young men.

Amy Welborn, author of De-coding Da Vinci, also contributes to the Web site. She points out the historical fallacies that Brown puts forth and questions his historical sources. She observes that Brown did not refer to any of the scores of texts, from the mid-1st century to the 4th century, which have survived and which indicate very clearly what early Christians believed. Instead, he refers to Holy Blood, Holy Grail and The Templar Revelation, which do not reflect serious historical scholarship, she says.

The Web site has a page that addresses readers’ questions and promotes a television documentary, titled Jesus Decoded, which also seeks to debunk the myths about the Church put forth by The Da Vinci Code.

Full story, plus additional links, at Catholic News Agency

Then here's an excerpt from an interesting piece (a LifeSite Special Report from last year) called "The Da Vinci Code: Hoodwinking the world" by John Jalsevac:

Why Are Many Readers Taking its Outrageous Claims Seriously?

But if the book is as ludicrous as all that (and it truly is), again it must be asked, why is it selling, and, more importantly, why are readers taking its preposterous claims seriously?

Dan Brown himself presents us with the answer. Twice in the course of the book his characters exclaim “everyone loves a conspiracy.” David Klinghoffer explains that “the best thing about The Da Vinci Code is that the conspiracy is just an awfully neat one. What makes for an outstanding conspiracy? It doesn’t have to be real, as this one is surely not, despite Brown’s inclusion of a preface boldly headlined “FACT.”

Indeed, it is that FACT page that provides the key to the whole question. For the very pulse of a conspiracy theory is that it provides an alternate ‘truth’, any truth, just as long as it isn’t the established one.

Chesterton once said of Christianity that what made it so unique in world history was that it was a myth that just happened to be true. Historically Christ did live, die and resurrect from the dead. Hundreds of witnesses and corresponding written eyewitness accounts attest to this. What Dan Brown is doing in The Da Vinci Code—and what his readers find so attractive about it—is presenting his own myth and attempting the gargantuan (although ultimately impossible) task of legitimizing it with the same sort of historical authenticity that the ‘traditional’ story of Christ has.

However, his attempt falls flat on its back, for several reasons. The first is that the ‘sources’ from which Brown gleaned his so-called ‘impeccable research’ are largely unheard of texts that no principled or sane academic would ever take seriously. That is to say, the whole thing is pure bunk.

And the second, more important reason that it falls flat on its back is that by the half-way mark any inquisitive reader of the Code can’t help but ask, “Who the heck cares?” For Brown’s views of history are entirely post-modernist in nature; that is he refuses to acknowledge the existence of historical truth altogether. And like any other post-modernist view of history, his opinions are fraught with contradiction.

Full article at LifeSite

** Art: Mona Lisa (c. 1503-1506), by Leonardo Da Vinci
The Last Supper (c. 1495-1498), by Leonardo Da Vinci
The Virgin of the Rocks (c. 1485), by Leonardo Da Vinci

Where is Mary?

Great post at Feminine Genius.

Where is Mary?

by Genevieve S. Kineke

[From the archives. Blessed Triduum, everyone.]

Converts often have a reticence about Mary. After my conversion, Mary fit theologically into the overall picture of the faith for so many reasons. As one Church Father noted, "You cannot have God as your Father without Mary as your mother." Of course. On paper "she works." Now as a person, she's another matter.

Like any person, time has to be invested in the relationship to build a foundation of love, trust, and understanding. This Easter (2002) will be my 18th as a Catholic — call me slow, but the foundation is finally in place. Years of rosaries, meditations, spiritual reading, theological formation, and, most importantly, personal prayer have allowed the relationship to blossom and deepen into a wondrous friendship. The abstract understanding of "new Ark of the Covenant" and "mediatrix of all graces" has warmed into the honest-to-goodness joy of knowing that she is "my mother!"

Therefore, this Holy Week I can't help but wonder beyond all my observance of the profoundly beautiful liturgies that lead to and mark the Passion — where is Mary?! What could she be doing at this intense time as her Son's earthly life comes to its climactic close? How could she be enduring this sword of all swords, piercing her heart and making its attempt to shatter her peace?

Read more

Friday, April 14, 2006

The most significant execution in history

Jesus is raised on the cross. Around him is a distressing scene. Some pass by, and jeer; the chief priests, more scathing and sarcastic, scoff at him; others, indifferent, are mere spectators. There is no reproach in Jesus' eyes -- only pity and compassion. He is offered harsh wine and myrrh. Give strong drink to him who is perishing, and wine to those in bitter distress; let them drink and forget their misfortune, and remember their misery no more. It was the custom to make such humanitarian gestures with condemned men. The drink -- a strong rough wine with some myrrh -- had a numbing effect and made the suffering more bearable.

Our Lord tasted it as a sign of gratitude toward the person who offered it to him, but wished to take no more, so as to drain the chalice of suffering. Why so much suffering? asks St. Augustine. And he replies: Everything he suffered was the price of our ransom. He was not content to suffer a little; he wished to drink the chalice to the dregs without leaving a single drop behind, so that we might learn the greatness of his love and the baseness of sin, so that we may be generous in self-giving, in mortification and in the service of others.

In Conversation with God
Vol. 2 (Lent and Eastertide)

** Artwork: The Crucifixion (1543), by Maerten van Heemscerck

The most significant execution in history, 2

Christ is crucified: our Redemption is accomplished.

Crucifixion was the most cruel and insulting form of execution which was known in ancient times. A Roman citizen could not be crucified. Death followed after a prolonged agony. At times, the executioners hastened the end of the Crucifixion by breaking the legs of the crucified. From apostolic times till today, there have been many who cannot accept a God made man who died on a piece of timber to save us: the drama of the cross continues to be a
scandal for the Jews and folly to the gentiles. There has always been, and there still is today, a temptation to detract from the value of the Cross.

The intimate union of each Christian with his Lord requires a full knowledge of his life, this chapter of the Cross included. Here the Redemption is accomplished; here one finds the key to suffering in the world; here were learn a little about the malice of sin and the love of God for each man. We do not remain indifferent in front of a crucifix.

By now they have fastened Jesus to the wooden cross. The executioners have ruthlessly carried out the sentence. Our Lord, with infinite meekness, has let them have their way.
It was not necessary for him to undergo so much torment. He could have avoided those trials, those humiliations, that ill-usage, that iniquitous judgement, and the shame of the gallows, and the nails and the lance...But he wanted to suffer all this for you and for me. And we, are we not going to respond?

In Conversation with God
Vol. 2 (Lent and Eastertide)

Thursday, April 13, 2006

The Week that changed the world, 2

The custom of meditating on Our Lord's Passion

We will not be able to share in Our Lord's Resurrection unless we unite ourselves with him in his Passion and death. If we are to accompany Christ in his glory at the end of Holy Week, we must first enter into his holocaust and be truly united to him as he lies dead on Calvary. So during these days let us accompany Jesus, in our prayers, along his painful way to Calvary and his death on the cross. As we keep him company let us not forget that we too were protagonists in all those horrors, for Jesus bore the burden of our sins, each and every one of them. We were freed from the hands of the devil and from eternal death at a great price, that of the Blood of Christ.

The custom of meditating on the Passion began in the very earliest days of Christianity. Many of the faithful in Jerusalem had themselves been present as Christ passed through the streets of the city on the eve of the Pasch. They would never forget Jesus' sufferings as he made his way to Calvary. The Evangelists dedicated a good part of their writings to the detailed account of those events. We should read our Lord's Passion constantly, said St. John Chrysostom; what great benefit we will gain by doing so. Even if you are as hard as stone, when you contemplate that He was sarcastically adorned, then ridiculed, beaten and subjected to the final agonies, you will be moved to cast all pride from your soul. How many people have been converted by careful meditation on the Passion!

In our meditation, the Passion of Christ comes out of its cold historical frame and stops being a pious consideration, presenting itself before our eyes as terrible, brutal, savage, bloody...yet full of love. We do well then to contemplate Our Lord's Passion... We picture ourselves as one more among the three who slept at Gethsemane when the Lord hoped that we would accompany him in his infinite loneliness; as one amonst those who heard Peter swear that he did not know Jesus; as one who heard the false testimonies at that travesty of a judgement and saw the Chief Priest make a great show of being shocked at Jesus' words; as one in the thick of the mob that screamed out for his death and saw him hoisted up on the cross on Calvary. We put ourselves among the onlookers and see the disfigured yet noble face of Jesus. Astonishingly, we feel his infinite patience.

The fruits of such meditation
If we are to know and follow Christ we must be moved by his pain and helplessness; we must feel the lashes, the thorns, the insults, the neglect, the degradation.

And this should be not as mere on-lookers, but as protagonists; for it was our sins that led him to Calvary. Therefore It is good for us to try to understand better the meaning of Christ's death. We must get beyond external appearances and cliches. We need to put ourselves really and truly into the scenes which we are re-living; to witness the sorrow of Jesus, his mother's tears, the disciples' flight, the courage of the holy women, the daring of those two Joseph and Nicodemus who ask Pilate for the body of Our Lord.

By meditating on Christ's Passion we will gain countless rewards. Firstly, it will help us to maintain a great aversion to all sin, since He was wounded for our iniquities, he was bruised for our sins...

And we feel that sin cannot be regarded as just a trivial mistake. To sin is to crucify the Son of God, to tear his hands and feet with hammer blows, to make his heart break. A sin, therefore, is so much more than a simple 'human error.' Christ's sufferings will encourage us to avoid all that might be described as bourgeois attitudes, unwillingness and laziness.

If the Lord sometimes lets us suffer illness, pain or contradictions which are especially intense and serious, then it will be of great help and relief to consider the pain which Christ endured in his Passion. He experienced every kind of physical and moral pain since He suffered at the hands of the Gentiles and the Jews, of men and of women -- an example being the maids who accused Peter. He suffered at the hands of princes and their officials, at the hands of the ordinary people too. He suffered at the hands of relatives and friends and acquaintances, on account of Judas who betrayed him and of Peter who denied him. In short, Christ suffered as much as it is possible for man to suffer. Christ suffered at the hands of his friends who abandoned him, He suffered as blasphemies were hurled at him; his honour and self-esteem suffered from all the taunts and jibes; He was even stripped of his clothes, the only possessions he had. In his soul he felt sadness, emptiness and fear; in his body, the wounds and the cruel lashes of the whip.

In Conversation with God
Vol. 2 (Lent and Eastertide)
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