Wednesday, December 28, 2016

My SFnal Day

Carrie Fisher died this morning. I was 18 when she burst indelibly into my eyes as Princess Leia in Stars Wars. She was not-yet 21.

For dinner tonight I had breen. It's a Narn food I learned about on Babylon 5. G'Kar tells us it is one of those universal mysteries, for every known sentient race has a food just like it. On Earth we call it "swedish meatballs."

As the photo might suggest, I saw Rogue One. That's the tub of popcorn I'm holding. In the end it is a satisfying film, much more satisfying than the last film in the Stars Wars franchise, The Force Awakens. But it takes a while to get there. In fact, midway through the film the litany against fear from Dune entered my mind:
I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.

I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear....
Probably not the best thing to have going through my mind while watching a Star Wars film.

But in the end Rogue One was a satisfying film, with the final word pronounced by Princess Leia herself — hope. Ah, to be 18 again. May Carrie Fisher rest in peace.

It was a nice way to finish the day, even if I didn't finish my popcorn. But that will be very good tomorrow.


"SFnal" means "science fictional," from the abbreviation commonly used by readers of science fiction, "SF."

Monday, November 14, 2016

The Election

I posted the following earlier today at ALPB Forum Online in response to comments on the topic "Election followup." Pastor Zip

I picked up reading long before starting Kindergarten in 1964.

One of my books (which I probably read a couple of hundred times) was a child's biography of President Kennedy, which in addition to lots of pictures told of his ancestry and childhood, schooling, service on PT 109, Congressional and Senate campaigns as a Democrat (running against the Republican Henry Cabot Lodge), marriage to Jackie and their children (who were about my age), and his election as our first Catholic President. I don't recall whether it included his assassination, but I certainly read his story many, many times remembering that and his funeral on TV. Whether it was part of the book or not, I knew at age 4 that his story ended in tragedy.

Even then I knew my parents were not Democrats. They had not supported JFK in '60 and would not have supported him in '64. And these were not unusual perspectives in the West San Fernando Valley of the 1960s. But they taught their young boy to respect the President of the United States and admire his accomplishments and good qualities. Even if you didn't agree with him. Even if you worked to oppose something he wanted to do.

And as I've seen and heard reactions these last few days to the election here, and on the news, and on my Facebook feed, I've thought about that book a lot. Thankfully.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Of Course I Voted

I walked into the polling room at Neighborhood House about quarter to four. The three booths were occupied and, after I checked in, I was told to have seat with a few others folks already there before they called my name. Not a long line by any means, but I had to wait a few minutes before I voted -- and I don't recall waiting that long in this precinct before. I was about the 160th voter, which pretty much fits with recent national elections.

I didn't turn on the TV until 11 pm and quickly noticed (even before I saw any numbers) how 4 of the 5 networks were quite subdued. The next few hours are going to be interesting.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Advertising Algorithms: Still Not Ready

Inspired to action by Bishop Barron's comments on Fleming Rutledge's The Crucifixion, I added the book to my Amazon Wish List a few moments ago. The Rev. Rutledge is a retired Episcopal priest who has long had a reputation as an excellent preacher and orthodox theologian. I had heard her speak at the Center for Catholic and Evangelical Theology's conference "Who Do You Say That I Am? Following and Proclaiming Jesus Today" a few years ago and was suitably impressed. She is both an engaging speaker and serious Christian theologian.

Seeing my interest in this book, as a matter of course Amazon wants me to sell me similar merchandise. The question is, what might be "similar" to 700 page book that was the Academy of Parish Clergy's "Reference Book of the Year" for 2015 and is highly recommended by theologians like Robert Jenson and Stanley Hauerwas. Why, a pick from... Oprah!
I'm guessing the algorithm's categories are "female" and "spirituality." Which takes me back to a saying I learned in my 8th grade computer programming class, GIGO -- "garbage in, garbage out."

- - - - - -

P.S. Turns out today is the anniversary of the senseless shooting death of the young Angels outfielder (and fellow CSUN alum) Lyman Bostock in 1978. The first of the "promoted stories" at the bottom of that page is a photo of a lovely young woman and the headline "37 Shocking Celebrity Cup Sizes You Couldn't Have Guessed." Ahh, those algorithms...

Friday, July 29, 2016

The End of a Long Day

It was quarter-to-five Thursday morning when I walked into a largely empty, but awakening, Stockholm-Arlanda Airport to begin the return journey home to Peoria from 2 weeks in Sweden.

Some 22 hours later I exited my third jetliner of the day into a largely empty, going-to-sleep, Peoria International Airport as the voice of Hilary Clinton giving her historic acceptance speech eminated from the monitors still tuned to CNN. My mind immediately went back in time...

Monday, July 04, 2016

The Declaration

Written 240 years ago, the Declaration of Independence is more than stirring words. The Bill of Rights Institute notes,
The declaration contained 3 sections: a general statement of natural rights theory and the purpose of government, a list of grievances against the British King, and the declaration of independence from England. More than 20 years later, the Second, Third, Fourth, and Sixth Amendments to the Constitution would contain prohibitions against the government to prevent the same forms of tyranny as were listed as grievances.
We read it still today not only to recall the nation's founding. For in a presidential election year it is particularly worth re-reading to see how well the nation continues to live by the principles by which she was established. Reposted from last year, 5 years ago, and 7 years ago this day on Pastor Zip's Blog
, and 9 years ago on my other blog.


The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Sing, My Tongue, the Glorious Battle

A Good Friday hymn that continues to grow on me is the ancient Latin hymn Pange lingua, parts of which appear as two different hymns in the Lutheran Book of Worship: Praise the Savior, Now and Ever, an English translation of the Swedish translation (Upp, min tunga, which I learned in the Vadstena Abbey Church through the Society of St. Birgitta) of the Latin, and Sing, My Tongue, in a translation credited in the LBW to "John Mason Neale, alt." Our friend "alt." has apparently worked considerably on Father Neale's original translation, beginning with Fr. Percy Dearmer over 100 years ago.

The original Latin hymn is by the 6th-century Latin poet (and Bishop of Portiers) Venantius Fortunatus. Here's an English translation of the full hymn (we sing five stanzas in LBW, immediately after the Cross is brought in procession to the front of the Church), by Dearmer and Neale:
Sing, my tongue, the glorious battle,
Sing the ending of the fray;
Now above the cross, the trophy,
Sound the loud triumphant lay:
Tell how Christ the world’s Redeemer,
As a victim won the day.

He, our maker, deeply grieving
That the first made Adam fell,
When he ate the fruit forbidden
Whose reward was death and hell,
Marked e’en then this tree the ruin
Of the first tree to dispel.

Tell how, when at length the fullness,
Of th’appointed time was come,
Christ, the Word, was born of woman,
Left for us His heavenly home;
Showed us human life made perfect,
Shone as light amid the gloom.

Lo! He lies an Infant weeping,
Where the narrow manger stands,
While the mother-maid His members
Wraps in mean and lowly bands,
And the swaddling clothes is winding
Round His helpless feet and hands.

Thus, with thirty years accomplished,
Went He forth from Nazareth,
Destined, dedicated, willing,
Wrought His work, and met His death.
Like a lamb He humbly yielded
On the cross His dying breath.

There the nails and spears He suffers,
Vinegar, and gall, and reed;
From His sacred body piercèd
Blood and water both proceed;
Precious flood, which all creation
From the stain of sin hath freed.

Faithful cross, thou sign of triumph,
Now for us the noblest tree,
None in foliage, none in blossom,
None in fruit thy peer may be;
Symbol of the world’s redemption,
For the weight that hung on thee!

Bend thy boughs, O tree of glory!
Thy relaxing sinews bend;
For awhile the ancient rigor
That thy birth bestowed, suspend;
And the King of heavenly beauty
On thy bosom gently tend!

Thou alone wast counted worthy
This world’s ransom to sustain,
That a shipwrecked race forever
Might a port of refuge gain,
With the sacred blood anointed
Of the Lamb of sinners slain.

To the Trinity be glory
Everlasting, as is meet:
Equal to the Father, equal
To the Son, and Paraclete:
God the Three in One, whose praises
All created things repeat.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Primary Election Day 2016

It was about 3:30 in the afternoon when I showed up at my polling place and, lo and behold, there was a line of people! That's not very common in this precinct. Then it turned out two of the seven were at the wrong precinct. On the other hand, one was a first-time voter. A couple more people came in while I was voting.

As is my custom, I asked how many voters had showed up so far. "Fifty-seven," replied the election judge doing the count. Not bad for a primary election in this precinct, I thought. Then again, this is the first time I have voted in a presidential primary where the nomination in both parites was still up for grabs. As Mr. Franklin said, "A republic, if you can keep it."

57? Hmm, that number's gonna pop up again this week!