Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Star Wars: Episode III

I, the culturally deprived homeschooler, saw Star Wars: Episode III for the first time on Sunday. (Yeah, not much of a Christmas movie, but hey...) I was thoroughly terrified and disturbed. It was one of the scariest and most unsettling movies I have ever seen; scarier and more disturbing than LOTR, Harry Potter, any other Star Wars, Munich, or Crash; and almost as scary as Mystic River, though definitely not as disturbing.

It's just that Anakin’s path to redemption is so clouded; and in Episode III, you totally despair of any hope for him. The Star Wars saga as a whole is probably the most powerful story of redemption that I have ever seen in a movie, but in III, you despair, because even though you know how it turns out, there seems to be no hope. I mean (sorry for any spoilers, if the other 0.0034% of America that didn't see it is reading this), when he killed the kids, I was in shock. Jen can testify to this: when he was walking up to the Temple, I was like "what is he doing?" And then when he walks into the room with the kids I said, "no way. He's not...no way…" I have never seen anything like that, in that respect. And after that, it didn’t get any better. Only when Padme said (in a clich├ęd sort of way) “there is still good in him,” I remembered that he is redeemed and forgiven in the end.

I did like Episode III—a lot. It reminded me that Star Wars isn’t just some over-rated, computer-generated, sci-fi epic, but a story of love and redemption.

You could call it “The Prodigal Father.”

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

More Random Pictures

These pictures were also taken by my dad on his cell phone thingy...



Anne on Christmas Eve



Luke with an expanding ball thing that he got for Christmas



Anne on Christmas day



Me on Christmas trying on a dress that I got for $2 and an evening wrap that I got for Christmas...



...now I just need someone to ask me to the prom...

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Merry Christmas!



by Gerrit Van Honthorst

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Check This Out

Here's the new official website of my all-time favorite (and the world's best) writer, Mark Helprin.

www.markhelprin.com

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Random Pictures

My Dad took these pictures with his new phone/camera/PDA/communicator/phaser/car battery/kitchen sink device. : )



Anne, John, Therese



Me before the dance



Jen before her performance (afterwards she came to the dance)

My Dad on ZENIT

ZENIT - The World Seen From Rome 2005-12-16

Countering the Myth of the Perfect Child


Bioethics Courses Focus on "Neonatal Euthanasia" and Other Problems

ROME, DEC. 16, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Dr. Gerard Brungardt learned an unsettling fact when he came to Italy for an intensive weeklong course on bioethics.

The palliative care specialist from Wichita, Kansas, was surprised to learn that the average Italian woman has 12 sonograms during her pregnancy.

"It indicates our current fear of the non-perfect child," Brungardt said, "for which Dr. Bellieni has coined the term 'handiphobia' -- fear of the handicapped, the risks and realities of in vitro fertilization, embryo adoption, and neonatal/infant euthanasia."

He was referring to Dr. Carlo Bellieni, a neonatologist from Siena and self-described "fetus doctor" who teaches "The Myth of the Perfect Child" course during the week of studies at the Regina Apostolorum athenaeum's School of Bioethics.

A recurring theme in the many anecdotes Bellieni told his class of 80 students was how often parents reduce children to objects.

"We saw in this class how the child is no longer loved unconditionally and respected as a human person," said Dr. Laura Nino, a medical researcher from Houston, Texas, who participated in the course. Rather, the child is sometimes "seen as an object of possession which parents can dispose of when he or she falls short of their expectations," she added.

Amniocentesis

That sense of high expectations in parents can even lead to the death of perfectly healthy children in the womb.

Bellieni cited the example of prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome and the proliferation of the use of amniocentesis. That surgical procedure involves inserting a hollow needle through the abdominal wall into the uterus of a pregnant woman and extracting amniotic fluid, which may be analyzed to determine the sex of the developing fetus, or the presence of disease or genetic defects.

"A healthy fetus dies for every 200 amniocenteses done which, for 35-year-old woman, is about the same risk as having a Down syndrome child," observed Bellieni.

"This means that in order to eliminate one Down syndrome child, we accept the risk of the death of another innocent child as an adverse effect of the amniocentesis," he said.

Bellieni sees a deeper problem lurking behind the overuse of amniocentesis and the widespread tolerance of abortion. That problem touches on interpersonal relations and even self-image, all of which he talks of in almost philosophical language.

"I" of the storm

"Most fundamentally, we cannot say 'I' anymore because saying 'I' would mean that we have found someone who has called us by name and loved us only because we exist, not because of our utility," Bellieni contended.

"This loss of the capacity to say 'I' leads to our loss of the capacity to say 'You' to the fetus," he added. "We do not love ourselves anymore and therefore we cannot love others. We see others, including the fetus, as a means and not as the end they truly are. One of the consequences of this outlook would be neonatal euthanasia."

"The Myth of the Perfect Child" is only one of several bioethics courses offered recently at Regina Apostolorum. The weeklong courses are offered twice each semester, and once during the summer to accommodate non-traditional students working toward degrees in bioethics.

Now in its fifth year, the athenaeum's School of Bioethics boasts 350 students from 30 countries. Lay people -- including politicians and health-care professionals -- study side by side with religious.

One of the invited guest speakers for next April's intensive courses is Dr. Edmund Pellegrino, the new chairman of the President's Council on Bioethics in the United States. More information about the courses is posted at www.upra.org or available via bioethics@upra.com.

Among those who came to Rome this year to deepen their knowledge of science -- and the faith -- was Jennifer Miller of New York.

"Coming from Fordham University," she said, "I saw that scientists get so desensitized that they forget what they are really doing. There is a need to re-humanize science with a focus on human dignity."

ZENIT home

Friday, December 16, 2005

Songs That Should Be in the CL Songbook

First, what is the CL songbook? Well, it's the 'official' songbook of Communion and Liberation. (CL Online) It has songs by everyone from Bob Dylan to Simon and Garfunkel to U2. There are also lots of traditional songs, Catholic hymns, African-American spirituals, and foreign-language songs.

Anyway, these are just some suggestions of mine for the songbook; songs that I think fit very well among the actual selections. They all have a 'CL' message and strike me as fitting additions.

"Hanging by a Moment"-Lifehouse

"Talkin 'bout a Revolution"-Tracy Chapman

"Clarity"-John Mayer

"Something's Missing"-John Mayer

"3x5"-John Mayer

"No Such Thing"-John Mayer

"The Great Divide"-Scott Stapp

"Broken"-Scott Stapp

"We Danced Anyway"-Deena Carter

"With Arms Wide Open"-Creed

"Higher"-Creed

"Crawling in the Dark"-Hoobastank

"This is Your Life"-Switchfoot

"Meant to Live"-Switchfoot

"Dare You to Move"-Switchfoot

"Pride(In the Name of Love)"-U2 (This is not only the 2nd best U2 song of all time, it's one of the few that is not in the songbook.)

"Walk On"-U2 (3rd best; and in case you're wondering, the #1 U2 song of all time is "Beautiful Day," which is in the book.)

"Caruso"-(Traditional Italian)

"Summer of '69"-Bryan Adams

"Better Days"-The Goo Goo Dolls

"Iris"-The Goo Goo Dolls

"The Scarlet Tide"-Alison Krauss

"You Will Be My Ain True Love"-Alison Krauss

"I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow"-Alison Krauss and Union Station

"Carry on Wayward Son"-Kansas

"Meet Virginia"-Train

"Shoulda Been a Cowboy"-Toby Keith (it's all about desire ; )

"Don't Stop Believing"-Journey



If anyone has any more ideas, please share them! Thanks for reading...




"Our voices sing with a reason."

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Family Picture

Here's our family Christmas picture. It turned out pretty well, I think.


.....Mike.....Sarah...John...Joe.....Jen

..........Paul.........Dad.......Mom......Grace

..........Therese.................Anne.....Luke


Saturday, December 03, 2005

945,000,000

I've been doing research for my health paper, and I came upon some statistics. The number above? That's the estimate of how many babies have been killed by abortion since 1920.

By the end of 2006 there will be well over one billion.

Think about it. That's an average of 1 out of every 6 babies.

What's happening? All I can say is Lord have Mercy on us.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Concert Pictures!

Here are some pictures from our Youth Symphony concert two weeks ago:




Mike, Jen, and me before the concert.




Mike (in the middle) performing in Chamber Players.




Jen (in the middle with the violin)



Me (fourth from the left)



The Youth Symphony performing Jupiter, by Gustav Holst.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Giving Thanks

It's been a while, I know, but I thought I'd take advantage of Thanksgiving break to let you all know what's going on in my life.

Two Sundays ago (the 13th) we had our Youth Symphony concert. It was awesome, and I can't believe that I have only one more semester, which means only one more concert. I love everything about YS, especially the rehearsals, but there's something totally different about a concert and performing in front of a crowd of people. It's just about my favorite thing in the world, because I get to share with so many different people the gift of music, which is one of the greatest gifts; a gift of beauty.

Last Sunday there was an International Mass and Festival Dinner at the Newman Center, and we were honored to have the bishop as a guest and celebrant of the Mass. Besides performing the Bach Double with Jen for the dinner program and talking with the bishop about Bach, Rome, and Vanilla Ice, I had the best baklava ever. Right after the dinner, Jen, Mike, and I ushered at the WSO concert, which is the next best thing after YS.

Yesterday I got the new Scott Stapp CD, and it is great. I highly recommend it, especially if you like Creed, or music with inner meaning and Catholic messages. Go here to listen to some of it.

Today I finished The Seven Storey Mountain, by Thomas Merton, and it was excellent! Read it, read it, read it! It's amazing! There are too many good things to say about it. After that, read The Life You Save May Be Your Own, by Paul Elie. Great books...

Okay, that's about it for now, and I wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving. Every day I am thankful for my faith, my family, my friends, school, Youth Symphony, School of Community, my health, and so much more. I am blessed more than I realize. I am also grateful for the ability to share the beauty of life with everyone around me, and for the beauty that you all show me. Thank you!

God Bless

Friday, November 04, 2005

These Days...

First order of business...I have been accepted into that most prestigious and exalted of colleges, TAC. For those of you who don't know what the heck I'm talking about go here. After my initial leaps of joy and flurry of emails and phone calls, the full realization of how hard I still have to work to actually go there hit me. But I welcome the work and I'm savoring every minute of my senior year.

Tonight we went to a chili dinner and square dance at our church. The chili was really hot, as in spicy, but since the weather was pretty cool, it worked. The dance was hilarious fun, and, as usual, it turned into a sort of "battle of the squares." But everyone caught on really quickly and we all looked like pros. Besides Jen, Joe, Mike, and myself, there were some cool WSU students in our group: Maggie, Amy, Brian, Brandon, and another girl whose name I can't remember. If you're familiar with square dancing you're probably wondering why there's more than eight people. Jen and I and Amy traded places, because there weren't enough people for another whole square. So the entire evening was fabulous, and we've decided that next time we'll do swing dancing....

For any of you who care about my current reading, I've decided to put Don Q on hold for a while, until I finish some scholarship essays at least. Instead I'll be reading The Seven Storey Mountain, by Thomas Merton. At dinner we've been reading parts of Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy. Right now we're in the middle of Kitty and Levin's wedding. It's reminding me of the story Emad told us at School of Community about his brother's wedding a few weeks ago. How they're running everywhere trying to find a shirt, while in Emad's case it was a suit for his dad. But I digress.

I hope you're all doing well!

Life is Beautiful

God Bless

Monday, October 24, 2005

My Favorite Activity

First of all, yes, I did add a picture of myself. I went through a lot of pain in saving, editing, and uploading (I'm a little computer challenged) to get it on here, so I hope you enjoy it.

Okay, my favorite activity. Without question it is Youth Symphony. You may know that I play the violin, and I have been taking lessons for 12 years. As for YS, this is my tenth year in the program. Every Saturday morning during the months of August-March, I've been going to rehearsals, and in those 75 months of around 260 practices to date, I've missed only one full rehearsal (to play for a wedding, in case you're interested). People are impressed when they hear this statistic, but I can't imagine missing a rehearsal. YS is just such an inseperable part of my life, but come March 4, 2006, I will play my last concert with the YS, and that will be a bittersweet day.

The most striking aspect of YS for me is how 'right' it feels to be there. During the Christmas and summer breaks, I can't help but feel that something's missing, and when those empty Saturday morning come around, I feel lost. Come the end of August, though, and I'm back among the semi-circle of YS students, I breathe a sigh of relief. Everything clicks, and when we start to pull the peices together, I realize that the 6:30 am alarm clocks and the cold, stiff hands (in winter) are worth it.

For a lot of my favorite things about YS you would just have to be there to understand, but here's one that's easily explainable. First, a little background information.

In YS, as in all symphonies, there are the different sections of instruments: 1st Violins, 2nd Violins, Violas, Cellos, Basses, Woodwinds, Brass, and Percussion. There are some common names used by some for certain sections, and they include: "The Divas" (1st violins), "The Diva Wannabees" or "Divas-in-Training (for youth symphonies)" (2nd violins), "Those That Are Often Confused for Violins and So Stick Together" (Violas), "The Constant Practicers" (woodwinds), and "The Hotshots" (brass).

In the top orchestra of my youth symphony program (a.k.a. "The Elite") the viola section started a trend a few semesters back that one member the section brings a snack to share with the rest of the section. Obviously the Divas could not be outdone, so we (yes, I'm a Diva) copied the violas, and started bringing snacks for our section. Not that we don't socialize, but this never fails to bring everyone together, especially the strings, because technically you can't keep the snacks to your section only. In short, we're all in debt to the violas for starting it, because we all get something out of it.

I could list many more things that I love about YS, but if you wait until late this year or early next year, I'll have a complete essay about my entire time in YS for you all to read.

And I know you're all dying to hear how Don Quixote is coming, but I'm saving that for the next post.

God Bless

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Update

So I'm only to chapter 10 in Don Quixote, but I've read two other books since my last post.

The first is The Secret Life of Bees, by Sue Monk Kidd. This is one of my all-time favorite books, and I highly recommend it. Like most of my favorite books, I've read it multiple times (four in this case) and I never get tired of it; in fact, I get more out of it each time. I guess that's the mark of a good book. This one is similar to The Stones of Mourning Creek in that they have the same setting, but The Secret Life of Bees has a more powerful theme of mothers, including the Blessed Mother!

The second one is called Never Let Me Go, by Kazuo Ishiguro. My first reaction upon finishing this book was, "How bizarre," but there is some subtle inner-meaning in it that I can't quite grasp. Basically, the protagonist tells the story of her childhood growing up in a secluded boarding school, and how she got to her life now. I don't want to give too much away, but it has almost a sci-fi feel when you get to page 73 and definitely by page 81 (both in the first edition; Knopf 2005). It's completely fictional, but you're left wondering "what if?" and "what next?" If anyone has read this, I'd love to hear your impressions. I love the style of writing and how the characters are drawn, but I just don't know what to get out of it.

For school I'm reading Othello, for the first time. I'll probably be writing a paper about it concerning the tragic character and such in a few weeks.

Other than that, I'll be writing about my favorite activity soon.

God Bless

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Books

Sorry for the delay; as of late I've been consumed with school, work, violin...and more school.

So without straying too far from that oh so pleasant subject of academics, I'll update you on what I've been reading. This also means that I hope you all will fill me in likewise.

I recently finished Ivanhoe, by Sir Walter Scott. No doubt some of you have read it, and if you haven't, I do recommend it. I also just finished writing a paper titled "Did Ivanhoe Marry the Right Woman?" (I'm sure John remembers it.) Though it's often full of excessive pageantry and flamboyant descriptions of people, clothing, and battles, it's still worth reading for the love story. And the chivalry!

Some non-school books I have read recently are The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay and Wonder Boys, both by Michael Chabon, and The Stones of Mourning Creek, by Diane Les Bequets.

As for the Michael Chabon novels, the first one was definitely better, though not spectacular, and the second was downright depressing and boring. 'Adventures' is about two cousins, Josef Kavalier and Sam "Clay" Klayman in Brooklyn during WWII who become rich and famous in the comic book business, which was quickly becoming a popular pastime for children and adults at the time. The book also employs a subplot dealing with magicians, in particular escapists, which sounds outrageous, but works. After a few meandering chapters dealing with the passage of about twelve years, the book picks up near the end with a reunion of Kavalier and Clay. It's a fairly long book, but in general it's worth getting through purely for fun. With that in mind, you may be left with the question "what was I supposed to get out of that?".

Wonder Boys, though in its purely technical aspects is a good novel, was overall an uninteresting story with characters you don't care about and events that are at times contrived and unbelievable. The only good literary aspect of the book was the character of James Leer, a young writer, who is a student of the novel's protagonist and narrator, Grady Tripp; and this is only because he is a sympathetic character, who has fallen under the mostly negative influences of Tripp and Tripp's publisher, Terry Crabtree. This alone isn't enough to redeem the book, however, and the parts of the movie that I've seen aren't much better either.

The Stones of Mourning Creek is one of my favorite books. It is about the friendship between a young white girl and a young black girl in a small Alabama town in the seventies. It's part mystery, part drama, part tragedy, but completely inspiring and poignant. The story is told in a simple yet powerful way, and though this is my eighth time through it, I am still left with an ache in my heart for these girls and their families. This book gives you a new view on the old qualities of friendship, which makes it a must-read.

Well, I'll be starting Don Quixote next, because I thought that I'd better read the book that is widely called "the first novel." I'll be sure to update you all on my progress.

God Bless

Monday, September 19, 2005

Inside Us All

Last Friday I had the priviledge to serve, for the first time at a local soup kitchen that serves a free hot meal to anyone who shows up, 365 days a year. My family has been volunteering there for one evening a month for the past year or so, but various circumstances have prevented me from going with them previously.

What I did to help out (bus tables) is insignificant in comparison to what I observed: people from all classes and all walks of life, whether volunteers or guests, all interacting with one another. A specific moment further highlighted this fact. Across the street from the diner is our diocese cathedral, where an evening wedding was taking place. Through the large windows at the south end of the dining area, the front doors of the cathedral are visible. Exit the newlyweds and their guests, and all the women in the diner run to the window or turn their heads to see the bride, her dress, the bridesmaids, the flowers, and reflect, for just a moment, on their own weddings or on such a day not too far in the future.

Just to see the common reaction of this most diverse group of women--women from every level of the social scale, both rich and poor, young and old, married, widowed, separated, single--was worth the entire evening. Just to be reminded of our common desires and the equal dignity deserved by all. Just to realize that what ultimately unites us is not our possessions or social status, but the longings of our hearts and the feelings we share when we see something as simple as a bride and her beloved. Why is it so hard to see that we are all equal?


"Life can hold you down,
When you're not looking up,
Can't you hear the sound?
Hearts beating out loud,
Although the names change,
Inside we're all the same."

(-Creed "Inside Us All")


God Bless

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

So Far Away...

A recent experience motivated me to write a short post about something we all probably deal with: Long-distance relationships.

Since returning from a summer program at a previously mentioned college where I met many people from all over the country, I've been spending ample time on the internet and such keeping up with a lot of them. Now, I don't have to tell you that it's hard to maintain friendships where you primarily write and talk on the phone--in other words, you never see each other face-to-face, much less visit in person--but I'd like to give you my reasons for why we should make that effort.

There's nothing more important than keeping in touch with people with whom you share common interests, namely, a common faith and beliefs, and similar interests in--and views on--education and life. These are the people in whom we see Christ present on earth, and hopefully who see the same in us. We bring each other closer to our Common Goal, and sharing with them our experiences is vital in not only our social or academic lives, but our spiritual ones as well.

So I declare today, September 14, to be "Contact a Far-Away Friend Day!"


"Can you take me higher,
To a place where blind men see?
Can you take me higher,
To a place with golden streets?"

(Creed, "Higher")


God Bless

The Modern Curia

You may have noticed the links to my favorite blogs (on the right), but I cannot recommend one of them enough. It's called "Exhortations from the Rostra," located at

http://themoderncuria.blogspot.com

This blog is run by a group of guys (one of them being my older brother) at a Catholic liberal arts college in Southern California. They discuss and comment on just about anything concerning culture, the world, and ideas. It's truly a thought-provoking site, and I hope you'll stop in and check it out.

For a more complete explanation of the names chosen for the blog (e.g. "Rostra" and "Curia"), look back in the July archives for a post titled "in apology."

And no, they didn't pay me to write this.

God Bless

Friday, September 09, 2005

Vacation

Sorry for the long delay in posting...senior year has been very busy, but it's been wonderful so far.

This past Labor Day weekend our family (minus John) went on the CL (Communion and Liberation-see link on the right) Vacation in Cleburne, Texas. It was a great experience to say the least.

One of the best things that happened wasn't even during the actual vacation, but on the drive down. We had been travelling about 4 hours and were trying to find a rest area to have our picnic lunch. It seemed like there wouldn't be a place for about another hour, so we (well, Dad) pulled off onto this sleepy country road, and parked in some farmer's field. We spread out a blanket and our sandwiches, and had lunch somewhere between Norman and the Oklahoma/Texas border.

Anyway, the punchline is that once we got back on the road, we passed a picnic area only a few miles later. However, I was glad that we had lunch where we did; it was almost like a real road trip.

This experience reminded me of a story my Dad told us a couple of weeks ago about one of his Hospice patients. It was the 1930's and this couple had just gotten married with less than $10 to their name. For their honeymoon, they went, with their parents, on a road trip to different cities along the west coast, working jobs in each one until they had enough money to go on to the next city. One's first reaction might be, "Whoa, I'd never do that!" but once you think about it, that would be one of the best ways to start off your married life. Really working hard and knowing that even though you don't have much and that this job isn't getting you very far, you'll be coming home to the one person who makes you feel rich. I mean, what more could you ask for?

Getting back to our vacation, I should probably explain just what a "CL Vacation" is. Lots of families involved in the movement get together (in this case at a camp-type facility) and do all sorts of things together. My favorite things were meeting new people, singing, and hiking. Although our family (of 11 in this case) shared a cabin with 4 other families, I really enjoyed the weekend, and was reluctant to say goodbye to everyone.

But coming home meant school and college and my new tutoring job! I'm really having a great year, and it's going to be the best 'last year at home.'


A quote to end this monumental post...

"Love conquers all: distance, separation, fear. It is the font of every action."

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Freedom

"Freedom is the most precious gift that Heaven has bestowed upon men."

-Don Quixote

"Freedom is the energy to adhere to the real, to being. It is adhering to something other than yourself that completes you, makes you grow, builds and fulfills your person."

-Fr. Luigi Giussani


Freedom, which must adhere to the good, the true, and the beautiful present among us, is found only in Christ, the source and summit of our lives. Only in abandoning everything to him can we truly be free, and only in searching for the good, the true, and the beautiful in reality and our encounters with others will we find Christ.

Friday, August 19, 2005

The Biggest Event of My Summer

Well, my second post. Exciting. Today is my older brother's last day here. Tomorrow morning he's returning to TAC (Thomas Aquinas College) for his sophomore year. I'm sad for him to be leaving, but more than that I'm jealous. You see, I got back from the TAC High School summer program a couple of weeks ago, and it was the most amazing experience of my life so far.

I spent two weeks on the beautiful Southern California campus, meeting people from all over the country, discussing Sophocles, Aquinas, and Shakespeare, and strengthening my spiritual life. I cannot possibly say enough about the program, or the college, or the people I met.

In short, I fell in love with the TAC community and way of life, and I have never felt so at home as I did there. For all of you who were there with me, I thank you for helping to make it what it was, and I hope you keep me posted on what's going on in your lives!


Image hosted by Photobucket.com


Thursday, August 18, 2005

Hoy Arriesgare

Welcome to The Drama of Existence!

I decided to create this site in order to share with you my experiences of the wonder and beauty of this life. With your help, it is my hope that the reality in which we have found ourselves may be more fully explored and lived. So be sure to check in often!

The greatest risk is not taking one...