Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Movie Notes: The Decoy Bride

My favorite romantic comedies all follow one rule: It wouldn't be terrible to find out you were the hero or heroine.

In other words: the hero and heroine are both good people.

So many romantic comedies rely on the technique of hate-at-first-sight and have the hero and heroine sniping at each other all the way through the first two acts, only to fall for each other at the end, giving into their lust despite their lack of love. You're supposed to believe that these two terrible, terrible people who've been fighting for the past two hours of screen-time are supposed to have a happily-ever-after. I'm sorry: no.

The Good Stuff
But the really brilliant romantic comedies are about good people. Their heroes and heroines are kind and funny and smart and still have enough conflict to drive a three-act structure. This is pretty hard to do and not many screenwriters succeed.

But when they do, it's marvelous.

And yes, it's often done through ridiculous contrivances. The train track accident and coma in While You Were Sleeping. The heart transplant plot in Return to Me.

And the decoy bride plot in, well, The Decoy Bride.

But I'd rather have a ridiculous contrivance and heroes I can root for rather than a commonplace plot and screechy, hateful protagonists. Any day.

Which was why I was delighted to find The Decoy Bride. Perfect hero and heroine? No. But sympathetic and basically decent? Yep. They both grow and change and learn about themselves and each other . . . and none of it is boring because they also have great chemistry and are traipsing around a gorgeous island in the Outer Hebrides following the dictates of a brilliantly ridiculous plot filled with excellent and funny side characters.

I loved it.

And last I checked, it was free on Netflix streaming. My only complaint? Even in a movie set in Scotland they didn't let David Tennant use his native Scottish accent! Such a shame!

But if you're looking for a fun date night movie, queue this one right up. It's lovely.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

ETA: Content warning only for very mild sexuality, i.e., these aren't Christian characters and don't act like it, but they are characters who are careful to abide by the moral framework they do acknowledge. No nudity, but I recommend screening it yourself before showing it to any adolescents - there's at least one scene you might want to fast-forward.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Because it's never a bad time for St. Francis

“The enemy often tries to make us attempt and start many projects so that we will be overwhelmed with too many tasks, and therefore achieve nothing and leave everything unfinished. Sometimes he evens suggests the wish to undertake some excellent work that he foresees we will never accomplish. This is to distract us from the prosecution of some less excellent work that we would have easily completed. He does not care how many plans and beginnings we make, provided nothing is finished. No more than Pharaoh does he wish to prevent ‘the mystical women of Israel’ – that is, Christian souls – from bringing forth male children, provided they are slain before they grow up.
            “On the contrary, as the great St. Jerome says, ‘Among Christians it is not so much the beginning as the end that counts.’ We must not swallow so much food that we cannot digest what we have taken. The spirit of the seducer holds us down to mere starts and keeps us content with a flowery springtime. The Spirit of God makes us consider beginnings only so as to arrive at the end, and makes us rejoice in the flowers of the spring only in expectation of enjoying the fruits of summer and autumn.”
            -St. Francis de Sales, from Finding God’s Will for You

Links: Giveaway, Hiking Blind, Castle, and more!

First off, Michelle over at Liturgical Time is giving away a copy of Matt Redmond's The God of the Mundane. My review is here (TL;DR: I liked it), and you can go here to enter the giveaway!

The Blind Hiker: How one man used technology to conquer the 2,000-mile Appalachian Trail.

Throw Us a Curve, Castle:
I am told that the viewership of Castle skews right to the political right, so here is an idea: Let Beckett have a renewal of her (let’s say) childhood Catholic faith. Let her be the one person on television who is normal, but decides to obey the teachings of the Church. Let Castle wrestle with it . . . and decide she is worth a mass. Let them get married.
A meditation on the shocking idea that maybe we’re actually not just lazy whiners:
There is truth to the accusations that I’m ungrateful, spoiled, and lazy. No false humility here — I really do posses all those attributes to some degree or another. But it was simply not true to say that those faults alone were the cause of my suffering. I was struggling against a terribly difficult physical condition, and my body was running in the red zone for all of my waking hours. In those weeks when I was unaware of the reality of my situation, I worked under the incorrect assumption that my circumstances were normal, and that therefore the problems must come down to spiritual and mental character defects on my part. Not surprisingly, this caused me to be in a state of constant inner turmoil. In fact, it was reminiscent of the hidden angst that simmered silently within me when I was an atheist: whenever you live under false assumptions about reality, you will live in anguish. It may be buried and only pop up occasionally, or it may burst to the surface in explosions of acute despair, but whenever you try to jam a square peg of your perception of reality into the round hole of actual reality, there will always be friction.
The Early Education Racket:
If you are reading this article, your kid probably doesn’t need preschool.
Watching the Star Wars Prequels on Mute: An Experiment:
. . . . George Lucas has never really cared about dialogue; Paglia points out that he has been known to call it “a sound effect, a rhythm, a vocal chorus in the overall soundtrack,” of a film. The script is “a sketchbook” and he’s “not really interested in plots.” And to most of us that surely sounds like madness. But to George Lucas, who considers film to be an entirely visual medium, it’s exactly right.
 By that notion, one could eliminate the most problematic aspect of the prequels and watch them all over again for that visual experience. With the soundtrack playing, preferably, as the appointment of John Williams as the composer of these films was a very deliberate choice on Lucas’ part.
So, what do they look like? Well, here are some impressions from my own viewing….

Creating a Sub-Genre by Accident: Georgette Heyer’s The Corinthian:
Georgette Heyer wrote The Corinthian a few months after the tragic death of her brother-in-law, a close friend, in one of the early battles of World War II, and under the terrible fear that her husband would soon be following his brother into battle, and that her own brothers would not survive the war. She worried, too, about other family friends, and feared that the war (with its paper rationing, which limited book sales) would make her finances, always straitened, worse than ever. She could not focus, she told her agent, on the book she was supposed to finish (a detective story that would eventually turn into Envious Casca) and for once, she avoided a professional commitment that would earn her money, for a book she could turn to for pure escape. Partly to avoid the need of doing extensive research, and partly to use a historical period that also faced the prospect of war on the European continent, she turned to a period she had already researched in depth for three previous novels: The Regency.
In the process, she accidentally created a genre: The Corinthian, a piece of improbable froth, is the first of her classic Regency romances, the one that would set the tone for her later works, which in turn would spark multiple other works from authors eager to work in the world she created.

Monday, January 21, 2013

children in church

Tonight I realized that all four of our children were able to help out at church this weekend. Having a church in our home town . . . it does make a difference in how much our children are able to participate in the life of the church and I can't tell you how happy it makes me.

Our host church (the church we rent from) held a work day and Bess and Gamgee were able to go along with Adam to help out. I gather this involved hacking ice plant off the side of a steeply sloping hill and rolling it up like a carpet so it could be carried into the dumpster. Well, that's what it involved for Adam, anyway. I'm pretty sure the kids were mostly involved in running around together and sometimes carrying things. According to them: "lunch was the best part!"

On Sunday, Bess also acolyted, carrying one of the torches in the processional. She's my oldest, and I often think of her as mature - just in comparison with her siblings, you know. But she looked so tiny and adorable holding that torch - taller than her - across from an adult acolyte and standing next to the tall priest reading from the gospel. I also saw her eyes grow wide, and then saw her gulp and smile in delight and look up to meet my gaze as she recognized the gospel reading (the miracle at Cana); it was so cool to see.

And the twins - the twins are convinced that they are the junior members of the Altar Guild. As we rent our space, we have to carry all the different articles for the service into the sanctuary, and Anna and Lucy love to help. They walk very carefully and slowly with the precious things in their hands, and are pretty precious themselves. There were (God be praised!) several (adult) volunteers after the service who wanted training, and so Anna and Lucy weren't able to keep me company "helping" the way they wanted to, and they were so sad. But it was so touching to have their help beforehand and to see their eagerness to "work at church", in their words. And I'm sure they'll get to help many times in the weeks to come, Lord willing.

And I hope "working at church" always brings them such delight, all four of them. And I'm grateful they have the chance now; God is very good.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Links - Annunciation, Scary Lights, and Praying for the President

I love this painting of the Annunciation. (Hat tip to Simcha Fisher.)

Study: Some Eco-Friendly Lightbulbs May Put Health At Risk:
Money saving, compact fluorescent light bulbs emit high levels of ultra violet radiation, according to a new study. Research at Long Island’s Stony Brook found that the bulbs emit rays so strong that they can actually burn skin and skin cells . . . “It can also cause skin cancer in the deadliest for, and that’s melanoma,” said Dr. Rebecca Tung.
"Praying for the President":
President Obama is right to take the Oath on the Bible, but he is wrong to reject its morality. He is divisive to reject the morality of many Americans and most of the globe in a fit of parochial, partisan exclusion.
If President Obama doesn’t want the prayers of good men like Lou Giglio, then he doesn’t want my prayers. And yet the Bible, the morality of the Bible, commands I pray for him anyway. I must love him, I must honor him, and I must ask God to give him wisdom. And so I will pray tonight as I have every night:
“God save our Republic and my President Barack Obama.”

If you've got any good links to add, please do leave them in the comm box!

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Monday, January 14, 2013

12 12s in 2012 (and favorite projects of 2012)

(The first part of this post is about my 2012 crafting challenge. The second part has the pretty, pretty pictures, if you'd rather just scroll ahead. :) )

Amber asked me how my "12 12s in 2012" craft challenge went. On New Year's Day last year, I wrote:
I'm participating in a crafting challenge this year called "12 12s in 2012". (For those interested, it's hosted on Ravelry in the group "Stash Knitdown".)
The idea is that you make a list of twelve kinds of things that you're going to make twelve of this year.
How'd it go? Well, I managed to complete most of the categories, if you're generous in your definition of "most". Here are my results:

Goals I made: 12 items made from patterns I already have, 12 items made for me, 12 items made for others, 12 knitted items, 12 crocheted items, 12 household items, looked at 12 new craft books
Goals I didn't reach: 12 socks (only made 7),  12 new-to-me-techniques (only learned 6), 12 scrappy projects (only two! But they were both huge afghans, so together they represent a lot of stash used up), 12 Christmas gifts made and ready BEFORE December of 2012! (only did 4).

So, it was a fun challenge. I didn't complete it, but I enjoyed it and I did get a lot done. Here are some of my favorite projects from 2012:

So, for 2013, I have some new, (maybe) more modest goals:

1) Learn colorwork. Specifically, I want to make the fingerless version of Stephannie Tallent's Quatrefoil Mitts, and then I want to progress on to the hilarious "Fightin' Words" mitts.

2) Learn Irish crochet, using my laceweight scraps. My inspiration is the otherworldly, crazy beauty found in the Russian magazine Duplet and the amazing tutorials Máire Treanor has been writing in Interweave Crochet.

3) I also want to use up some of the older yarns in my stash. So I think every other project I start has to be made in an older stash yarn.

What about you? How was your 2012 in crafting? And do you have any goals for 2013?

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Knitted and Crocheted FOs: socks and blanket!

I finished a pair of socks for me - they're knit in Knit Picks Stroll Tonal in Wine-Tasting - but it looks more like Lambic Framboise than wine to me!

I also finished a crocheted blanket for my son. I set out to make each of my kids a full-sized twin (or larger) handmade blanket, and this completes the set. Four blankets! Whew! (The other three can be seen here, here, and here.)

Gamgee picked out both the colors and the pattern for this one. The yarn is Knit Picks Brava Worsted, and the pattern is the Good Cause Afghan from Crochet Today. I had the magazine, but I believe the pattern is free at that link.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Friday, January 11, 2013

Bob Harper's Totally Ripped Core, Revisited

I first reviewed this fitness DVD here, but today I did the long (about 45 minutes) workout on Bob Harper's Totally Ripped Core, again. And I am now just the teensiest bit light-headed.

Gosh, Harper just makes it very clear that the common conception of abdominal crunches being ineffective only exists because every other instructor out there is a wuss. He has you do them fast, without rest, and at a variety of angles and oh my gosh does it hurt.

Also? His plank circuits are vicious enough that you're relieved when you finally get to do stand up and do insane-jumping-around cardio stuff. Only not for long, because the insane-jumping-around cardio stuff is vicious, too.

 But it's so well-designed. None of the pain is injury-inducing pain, just muscles-being-pushed-to-get-stronger pain.* Love this workout.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

*For me. Your mileage might vary. I don't recommend it as a beginner DVD, but if you're familiar with the general rules of good form in exercise and don't have any injuries, it's just going to be a really fun challenge.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Links - Movie Backgrounds, Flying the Nest, Epiphany, and more!

6 Places You'll Recognize from the Background of Every Movie - I think the only one I've ever been to is Agua Dulce. But it's a fun list.  (I'd add the Huntington Library and Gardens to the list, too! That shows up all the time.)

The End Game of Motherhood - if you haven't acquainted yourself with Sandra Taylor's excellent blog, go on over and start with this one.

And, on the same theme, here's Michelle's My Eighteen Year Old Drove Away Today. I'm grateful for these mothers writing so well about stuff I haven't hit yet - makes me hope I might be more ready for it all when the day comes.

Bell and Board - a new discovery! A blog about cooking and eating through the church year. So cool!

"Obfuscatory pseudo-intellection":
I sometimes think that although western culture proudly regards itself as having cast off the shackles of Christianity, it has in fact only sunk into Christian heresy, with the labels switched to confuse the rubes. 
The gift of Epiphany is that all the gifts of Christmas are for us. Us!
"A Simple Way to Create Suspense": this one's for the writers, but I think anyone who consumes media will enjoy learning just how they're manipulated into turning the page. Put this in the "simple, but brilliant" category.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

7 Quick Takes - Epiphany Edition

1. First off, your prayers are requested for Jen, who hosts 7 Quick Takes over at her blog, Conversion Diary. She's been hospitalized pulmonary embolisms, and is expecting, and can use our prayers.

2. This Sunday is the feast of the Epiphany, which celebrates, in the West, the revelation of the gospel to the nations (particularly with the coming of the wise men to visit the infant Jesus), and, in the East, the revelation of the doctrine of the Trinity (particularly as seen at Jesus' baptism).

3. One of the best ways to celebrate Epiphany is to light lots and lots of candles. It's a feast of light, in many ways, being a feast of revelation. Jesus is the light that lightens every nation, and in the home, lighting lots of candles is a good way to remember this.

4. But right now it's still Christmas! We celebrated that this week by making gingerbread houses. I actually found a kit that came with the parts for four little cabins, which delighted my four little children to no end:

5. It's also not a bad time to read "Twelfth Night" by Shakespeare. Which has nothing to do with the actual holiday other than the name, but it's a great play, so why not? (And if you want to watch it, this version is very good.)

6. More seriously, if you want some great ideas on celebrating Epiphany, this post by Kerry is one of my favorites. She has instructions on the traditional house blessing, as well as links to appropriate coloring pages for children and for a recipe for Three Kings Cake.

(And just wait till you see all the good ideas in the upcoming book about celebrating the church year in the home! Coming soon. :)  )

7. And . . . Epiphany is our new church's patronal feast day! So we'll have lots to celebrate this Sunday. I'm looking forward to it. (And Lent comes quickly this year - so enjoy the feast while you can!)

More quick takes can be found over here, at Hallie's place. (She's hosting for Jen.)

Church Plant

So, I mentioned that my husband and I are involved in an Anglican church plant, and this is the post where I tell the story behind that, because otherwise I'm not going to be able to write posts about "our church" with any confidence that anyone knows what I'm talking about!

A few years ago, our family left the Episcopal church. I documented our thought process pretty well here on the blog, and you can go search the archives if you're interested in all our reasons. Short version: it was a matter of conscience, and it was really, really hard, because we were leaving a bunch of friends (who were also following the dictates of their consciences) behind.

For the next few years, we attended a really wonderful church that's part of the Anglican Church in North America. Wonderful, wonderful church . . . that was a long drive away from where we live. So, we got to be a part of that church family, but really only on Sundays, because the drive more than doubled on weekdays, due to traffic.

Something new
I'm skipping lots of details here, because I don't want to make the world's longest blog post, but somewhere mid-2012, both the group of us who ended up in ACNA and a group of people still at the church we left ended up feeling called to come back together and plant a new church - an ACNA church - in our home town. The really cool thing is who we all ended up in the same place, with the same call, at the same time. And with the approval (you might even say urging) of both of our bishops.

And lots and lots and lots of other things came together at the same time, including us finding a church willing not just to let us rent space from them, but to really host us and encourage our endeavor. (Instead of seeing us as competition, they really saw that a city of 50,000 people could use as many more churches as the Lord saw fit to plant!).

So now (skipping hours and hours and hours of work and research and prayer), we have a church! We held our first mass on the first Sunday of Advent. We've already had a baptism and some confirmations and a visit from our bishop.

And it's amazing. I'm at church again with many of the dear people from the church we left, and the Lord held us all safely through the weird stresses of leaving the Episcopal Church, and even though we made different decisions then, He brought us back together to worship now. Like I said, I'm skipping a lot of details, but it's just amazing that we're all in the same place again, at this new church. The details are all amazing, too, but they're  not all my story to tell.

But there's an Anglican church in my home town. I get to be a part of it. I just . . . I am overwhelmed at the kindness of the Lord. My kids get to go to church in their home town. They're going to get to grow up, Lord willing, with their lives integrated into the life of the local church. We get to be church people!  I just can't get over it. It's incredible. It's everything we hoped for - everything that seemed like an impossible dream three years ago.

It's so much work, it's so still the beginning of everything, but still . . . it's so good. It's so, so good, and so good of the Lord to let us worship Him together. I'll probably babble on about my church again and again in this blog. I hope you don't mind; it's just been such a long time coming.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Links! - Las Posadas, writing, Tolkien, and more!

A Las Posadas Activity for a Homeschool Group - so cool!

Okay, ignore the graphic at this link. It's the conversation below it that exactly describes how I feel about writing.

Auden and Elvish:
Auden repeatedly challenged the idea that Tolkien’s work was only suitable for children. Tolkien’s world may not be the same as our own, Auden wrote in a 1956 review of the author’s work for the New York Times, but it’s a world “of intelligible law, not mere wish,” that represents our own reality. Moreover, Auden wrote, Tolkien’s moral sensibility was profoundly grownup, especially when it came to theological questions. “The Lord of the Rings,” he wrote, aimed to reconcile “two incompatible notions” we have about God. On the one hand, we envision “a God of Love who creates free beings who can reject his love”; on the other, we picture “a God of absolute Power whom none can withstand.” It’s a story about how, as we gain power, we lose freedom. “Mr. Tolkien is not as great a writer as Milton,” Auden conceded, “but in this matter he has succeeded where Milton failed.”

This decluttering calendar for 2013 looks interesting - and maybe even doable!