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My Fifteen Minutes of Fame? I’ve been nominated for the Liebster Award

Liebster Award for up-and-coming blogs

Connie Rossini of Contemplative Homeschool
blog has kindly given me the Liebster Award. It’s given to up-and-coming
bloggers who have fewer than 200 followers.  You modern linguists will already know that “liebster” means “favorite” in German. So, in bestowing this award on me, Connie is proclaiming that my blog is one of her favorites (thank you, Connie!) and suggesting that it might become your favorite, too, if you’ll just give it a try. So welcome to any new readers — please poke around, you’ll find a little bit of a lot of things, and quite a lot about the moral imagination, which seems to be one of my favorite subjects and, also, the subject that attracts the greatest number of readers.

Here are the “rules” for The Liebster Award:
  1. List 11 things about yourself.
  2. Answer the questions that the nominator has posed for you.
  3. Nominate 11 up-and-coming bloggers who have fewer than 200 followers.
  4. Create 11 questions to ask the nominees.
  5. Go to the page of each nominee and tell her about her award.

Here are 11 things about me you probably didn’t know:

  1. I was expelled from kindergarten for being “socially immature.”
  2. I didn’t learn to ride a bike or swim until I was 10 years old.
  3. In first grade, my penmanship was so poor that one of my teachers once said my writing-practice paper looked like it had been walked over by a hen with muddy feet.
  4. I once played the “Henry Fonda” role in an all-woman version of Twelve Angry Men.
  5. I was a National Merit Scholar.
  6. For two summers when I was in junior high, I took part in the Governor’s Program for Gifted Children in Lake Charles, Louisiana.
  7. I once had to walk two miles barefoot through Madrid because the high heels I had left home in proved to be too horrendously painful to wear. (I bought a pair of cheap, ugly, flat shoes before I went home at lunchtime.)
  8. I am probably the only person ever to attempt to write a novel about practicing Catholics in the 29th century at the far edge of our galaxy.
  9. When I was a youngster, some of the things I wanted to be when I grew up included: a diplomat, an interpreter, a world-traveler, a novelist, a commercial artist, a naval intelligence officer, an archaeologist. I’m still working on a couple of those.
  10. For eleven years, two possums used to come into my second-floor apartment every night to eat my cats’ food from their dish in the kitchen, and I discovered this only a couple of months before I moved out of that apartment.
  11. I was baptised and confirmed in the first parish ever to be dedicated to Saint Frances Cabrini. The bishop who confirmed me had been a student in one of the schools Saint Frances Cabrini founded, and he met her when he was a child. I took her name in Confirmation.

The questions Connie gave me are:

1. What is you favorite painting or sculpture?
It’s hard to pick a favorite! I’ve visited many art museums and seen many beautiful works of art — those that impress me most are not always the most famous. For instance, once when I was in the Louvre in Parish, there was a huge crowd, about 6 people deep, trying to get a peep of da Vinci’s La Gioconda (a.k.a. Mona Lisa); I’ve never cared for that painting, but found that right next to it was a very beautiful painting of St John the Baptist (it may have been this one). I’m fortunate to have had ready access to the very wonderful Kimball Art Museum in Fort Worth, where I can see this beautiful painting of a Spanish knight by one of my favorite painters, Diego Velázquez. (I am a sucker for great portraits, and when I lived in Madrid I spent hours ogling Velázquez’s work at the Museo del Prado.) I’ve already written about the sculpture that I’ve found most striking, Nike or Winged Victory.

2. What is your favorite book of the Bible? 
This one is easy: the Gospel of St John, hands down! If the rest of the Bible were to be obliterated (which God forbid), this Gospel could stand in for all the rest. (Of course, without all the rest of the Bible, no one would really understand John’s Gospel, so it’s a good thing you can’t just pluck one book out and ignore the rest.)

3. What was your worst subject in school? Physical education. At least, that’s the only class in which my classmates actually threatened to beat me black and blue for being so lousy at it. To be fair, though, I was actually pretty good at folk dancing, bowling, and calisthenics (if you don’t include push-ups); unfortunately, PE teachers tend to skimp on those units and spend way too much time on things that involve catching or hitting (or kicking) flying objects, which my monocular vision made it very difficult for me to do.

4. Which modern convenience would you find it most difficult to live without?

Eyeglasses from Zenni Optical

If I lived in some pleasant, rural area and had plenty of room for books (although the codex was once considered a “modern” convenience), instead of being stuck on the periphery of a huge metropolitan sprawl, where everything I want to do and everyone I want to visit is 20 or 40 or 60 miles away via a spaghetti soup of freeway, I could live without almost all modern conveniences. Except, perhaps, eyeglasses. I could do without them, too, if I didn’t have to kill my own food. (No, I do not currently kill my own food, but if I lived rurally without mod cons, I might have to.)

5. What is the farthest you have ever been from the place you born? According to this calculator, 5625.89 miles or 9054 kilometers, give or take. That is the distance between Alexandria, Louisiana, my natal spot, and Pompeii, Italy, where I once climbed to the top of Mount Vesuvius, in the company of several dozen high school Latin students. I’ve been grateful ever since to Pliny the Elder for having immortalized that volcano’s most famous eruption.

6. What is your favorite day/season of the liturgical year?
Passion/Palm Sunday symbolPalm/Passion Sunday, which encapsulates beautifully the God Made Man and the human race’s bipolar attitude toward Him. That, or Good Friday, which beautifully expresses that same God’s unwavering and undying love for the wretched creatures whom He patiently wills to become like Him. Shucks, just give me all of Holy Week, while we’re at it, especially if that includes Easter. And by “Easter,” of course, I mean all of Eastertide. Especially if that includes Pentecost.

7. What virtue would you most like to be remembered for practicing? Humility, the foundation of every other virtue. But that’s not very likely. The one I’ve been working on longest (even before I knew what a virtue was) is Wisdom. I’ve probably made a little more progress on that one, but only because I got started sooner and have pursued it with greater zeal. Mea culpa.

8. What one word would your friends use to describe you?
Smart. By which they would mean, “We can ask Lisa anything and she’ll have some sort of answer that sounds like it makes sense. Or if she doesn’t have the answer, she can tell us which book to read or web site to visit to find out.” {sigh} I’ve been known as a walking encyclopedia for more than forty years, malgré moi (when I was 7 or 8, I actually read the World Book Encyclopedia cover to cover). But, as I’ve always said, it’s not what you know or how “smart” you are, it’s what you do with what you’ve got. I’m still working on that.

9. Would you describe yourself the same way?
No, I’d say I’m philosophical, which means “seeking wisdom.” (Are we starting to see a trend here?) Being wise is not the same as being “smart” — there are plenty (too many!) “smart” idiots in the world, and I hope not to be one of them, even though I make plenty of stupid mistakes all the time. But life is a journey, not a resting place, and Truth is a broad and deep country, so I keep questing, higher up and farther in.

10. Do you speak any language other than English?
I speak Spanish well, and French not-so-well. I also read (listed in declining order of proficiency) Latin, Italian, Old French, and a smidgen of German, without being able to speak them. Oh, and I once had a college roommate who told me I spoke Russian in my sleep (maybe I did, I took a year of it my senior year of high school).

11. What is your favorite novel for adults?

Inklings portraits pen and ink

I don’t do well with “favorite” questions. Also, I don’t really distinguish between “novels for adults” and “novels for anybody else.” A good book is a good book. There are too many novels I really like, or have really liked at some time in my life. Here are some that have been my favorites at different times in the past (in no particular order): Where the Red Fern Grows, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass, Tunnel in the Sky, The Daughter of Time
, Love In the Ruins, The End of the Affair, The Inheritors, Dandelion Wine, The Lord of the Rings, Below the Salt, Islandia, The Secret of the Old Clock (Nancy Drew), The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, That Hideous Strength, The Place of the Lion, Otherland
, Time and Again, Alas, Babylon, A Town Like Alice
, Lucky Jim. Most of these are not “great literature,” but they have all been, for me, captivating tales, prompting multiple readings. There are some recurring themes her, which astute readers will discern.

But enough about me. I’ll be pondering who my own nominees will be. If you would like to be considered for the coveted Liebster Award, let me know.

©2013 Lisa A. Nicholas

Please leave your thoughts or comments below!

Another new blog — Sci Fi!

At the top of this page, underneath the title banner you’ll find a new tab called “My new sci-fi blog, Sancta Futura.” Click it and you will be whisked to the new blog, which will chronicle my venture into the world of writing science fiction (from a Christian point of view) during National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).

They say if you want to build readership these days, you have find a marketing niche and, believe me, there is no smaller niche than Christian science fiction. I think the time has come! What do you think?

Sunday Snippets: Flannery O’Connor and Catholic Social Teaching.

Wow, Sunday again already? I’ve been busy this week getting my new blog, the Catholic Reading Project, up and running. (Well, that and trying to find an assisted living place for my father.) So my contributions to this blog have been rather meager: a post on a reading method that will help you make sense of all different kinds of written works, and one on some books by and about Flannery O’Connor that I recommend. I’ve got plenty of posts in the development stage, though, and will publish them as soon as I get time. Meanwhile, if you are at all interested in Catholic Social Teaching (and, by golly, you should be!), take a look at the new blog and consider joining us!

And, oh yeah, by request, I’ve added a little more info to my online profile, in case you’re interested. If you’d like to know what some other Catholic bloggers have been doing this week, don’t forget to take a look at Sunday Snippets — A Catholic Carnival.

Sunday Snippets–A Catholic Carnival

Sunday Snippets

Those of you who like reading Catholic blogs of whatever sort should take a look at Sunday Snippets — A Catholic Carnival, on the blog This, That, and the Other Thing, by another Catholic book blogger, RAnn. There you’ll find a round-up of the week’s posts from a variety of Catholic bloggers. I’ve already found a new one I like, TV for Catholics.

This past week I posted On Film Adaptations of Beloved Works of Literature and announced that you can now subscribe to this blog on Kindle, but then I collapsed under a terrific head cold. Unfortunately, when I can’t breathe, I can’t think either, so that was all the writing I did for the week. I’m glad to be breathing pretty freely today and back in the saddle!

Found it on Kindle Blogs: Reading Clive Cussler

This is a new feature I’m adding: reviews of blogs that you can subscribe to via Kindle. I’ve been subscribing to the daily Kindle feed of the National Catholic Register for almost as long as I’ve had my Kindle (includes Register columnists’s blogs and news stories that are available for free on their website), but hadn’t really started sampling other blogs via Kindle until recently. Since I can try each one for free for 14 days, I thought I would sample some and, if I like them, cancel my Kindle subscription and just read the blogs online for free.

Clive Cussler
Clive Cussler, maritime
adventurer, prolific author

The first one I’ll mention just called out to me because, as I’ve said before, I enjoy Clive Cussler’s novels, even though they are formulaic (in fact, Cussler apparently just outlines the books, then has various “co-authors” write the actual novels). Anyway, the idea that someone wanted to annotate Cussler’s books just caught my fancy. The blog is called, simply, Reading Clive Cussler, and its author (who calls herself The Thunder Child) is a woman after my own heart. Since each Cussler novel involves some legendary figure, article, or place from the distant past, and many contemporary readers are so poorly versed in history, art, and legend, the Thunder Child is probably performing a useful service in providing annotations on references to things arcane and unusual. I suspect, though, that she simply likes having an excuse to do a little quick research on such things and parsing out which references are based in fact and which are pure fiction.

Here’s a sampling of the things she clears up for Cussler’s readers:

  • From Spartan Gold: Balaclava train station 
  • From Pacific Vortex: the Merchant Marine 
  • From The Chase: Mesozoic Sea 
  • From Trojan Odyssey: Caltech (California Institute of Technology)
  • From Spartan Gold: Napoleon’s Reserve Army

Thunder Child has been adding to this blog with some frequency for about a year, and has only touched on three or four of Cussler’s many dozens of novels. At this rate, she’ll be writing for the rest of her life, if she just keeps working through his bibliography. If she stays with  it, I hope she’ll add an index so that readers can easily pull up all references from a particular title. On the other hand, her blogger profile lists dozens of blogs that she writes, with such varied titles as Interlock: The Jigsaw Puzzle Blog, Collecting Amelia Earhart, The Bible Reader, and The Bug Blog, so I suspect that Cussler does not have her full attention.

Anyway, Reading Clive Cussler is fun to dip into. I’m just a little jealous that someone else got the idea before I did.

©2012 Lisa A. Nicholas

Please leave your thoughts or comments below!

Toxic TV: From Vast Wasteland to Vast Cesspool

toxic TV

Here’s the link to the blog post I tried to link to in my reply to Terry’s comment on “Moral Imagination: Beauty, Truth, and Goodness”Catholic in Brooklyn: TV: From Vast Wasteland to Vast Cesspool. Thanks for writing this post, Catholic in Brooklyn! You’ve saved me a rant of my own.

For the record, I quit watching “television” three years ago; I now watch selected television shows available in streaming video via the internet, because I can choose only shows that I actually want to see (and see them whenever I like), I don’t have commercial interruptions, and I can watch shows that haven’t been on broadcast or cable TV for years. Plus, I get to watch some foreign shows that don’t make it to American TV.

Laughs in the Catholic Blogosphere

Since this is a blog about things I’m reading, I guess it’s okay from time to time to make reference to other blogs that I read occasionally. (I don’t plan to make a habit of this, however.) One that I enjoy from time-to-time is Fr Dwight Longenecker’s Standing on My Head blog, particularly when he is in satirical mode (which is much of the time). One of his recent entries that got me snorting was an announcement that he will henceforth be linking his blog to the website of his new parish, Our Lady of the Rosary in Greenville, SC, and including more parish-relevant posts. That much is just straight news, no funny business intended. However, to let his new parishioners get a taste of what they will have to put up with from their new pastor, he includes the following at the end of his discussion of his new parish:

… The parish has a building project, so the chance to build a new church is an exciting challenge.

I have already designed a very nice contemporary structure which is circular in form with the altar placed down among the people. The church is patterned after the native American teepee so that it reflects the ‘Circle of Life’. Around the altar will be plenty of space to allow for liturgical dance and behind the altar will be the sacred drum space. I believe in proper inculturation and we will be encouraging the young people to play bongo drums of different sizes during Mass to encourage participation by all the people of God.

Already some nuns from New Mexico have expressed interest in coming to take over the parish school in order to transform it into a place of genuine earth healing and reconciliation with the maternal powers which are being raped by the military industrial male chauvinist conspiracy. They are called Sisters of the St Hildegard of Bingen who was known to be a herbalist, healer, musician and mystic.

Episcopal Bishop Mary Cesspool has agreed to be our liturgical advisor and spiritual director.

Then he rather spoils the fun by adding a postscript to his new parishioners that the last few paragraphs are just satire. Well, you can hardly blame him — in many parishes in the American South (still officially “mission country” because of the paucity of Catholics), such things are not necessarily the stuff of Pythonesque fantasy. In fact, one commenter (“Catholic Tide”) notes:

Those last 3 paragraphs were brutal! With the exception of “Bishop Mary Cesspool” I think I have seen every single one of these atrocities at one parish or another over the years. Thank you for the satire… sometimes we need to laugh to keep from crying.

Not everyone appreciates satire, of course — especially those whom it ridicules, at least if they lack a sense of humor and the healthy habit of being self-critical. One such reader (apparently an Episcopalian who resented his oblique reference to the local Episcopal she-bishop) reprimanded him for his “insulting” and “non-sensical” references, and received this reply from another reader, who apparently has a greater appreciation of the purpose and uses of satire:

Bad Jesus, who makes nasty insults, such as,”Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?” I guess those forty days in the desert didn’t do him any good.

The Gargoyle Code by Fr. Dwight Longenecker

Just for the record, Fr Longenecker is a Catholic priest of the Pastoral Provision (i.e., former Anglican/Episcopal priest) who started as  an Evangelical Christian (Mennonite, I think). He’s a fairly prolific writer (not just a blogger), with a number of books in print, including a recent book that updates C. S. Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters, called  The Gargoyle Code. I was surprised to learn that his writing career started with writing apologetics for This Rock magazine, a very fine magazine published by Catholic Answers and currently edited by a former classmate of mine from the University of Dallas, Cherie Peacock. This Rock is well worth subscribing to, as I have done when I had a job and an income (and will do again as soon as I am able); if you are cash-poor or just want to get a taste of the magazine, follow the link in the previous sentence and you can read online (or download) archived issues of This Rock (after following the link, click the This Rock pull-down menu and select the desired date of publication).