Monthly Archives: August 2008

Now That’s a Church Festival!

St. Ignatius of Antioch Maronite Catholic Parish runs its Lebanese Festival every year. And every year that cute little kid who’s second from left gets taller. I remember when she was about three, and already eager to dance, and now she’s ten! (Where does the time go?) You can also see some crowd participation.

The food was good, as always. This year, I also made it to 10 AM Mass.

Now, I know a lot of people are really overwhelmed by Eastern stuff. I sympathize. I mean, there are always going to be some things that speak more to our individual souls than other things. All dogs are nice, but I like Irish wolfhounds. I got that honestly; my dad confided in my mom when they married that he really wanted one. But my brother loves salukis and spent years infiltrating the saluki breeding world, striving without success for years to prove himself worthy, and finally forced to rescue an oppressed runt by buying from a shady breeder. (And this was American saluki fanciers. Let’s not even think about infiltrating the Middle Eastern saluki world!)

Obviously, aesthetics and feelings are not the most important thing. But they can be valuable guides to what God wants for us. So I think it’s interesting that I feel pretty much exactly the same about the Maronite Mass as I do the Extraordinary Form of the Latin Rite. And that’s this:

It was interesting, of course, but mostly it was Mass.

I mean, sure a lot of the prayers were different, and so were a lot of the rubrics and gestures. But the basic structure was the same, and I felt that I was just seeing the same Sacrament from another direction. So what if we danced between English, Arabic, and Aramaic? I was not more at home; I was just at home, albeit with the side of the family I didn’t see very often.

Still, I will say that the prayers were exceedingly beautiful. The hymn sequences were simple, but memorable and strong. The priest’s chanting was simple but lovely, and lifted one’s mind to God. I found it very easy to pray and worship.

I encourage folks to visit the Maronite side of the family. :)

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Awwww.

Big hulking tattooed bikers who like sweet little furry animals and hate people who hurt them.

Together, they fight crime!

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The Archbishop of Liverpool?

You read it here first… My mom and dad went to St. Helen’s in Riverside, Ohio for Mass today, and were rather startled to see a mitred head lining up in back. He wasn’t our archbishop, either — but the Archbishop of Liverpool. (Liverpool, England, not Ohio… heh.)

Apparently it wasn’t Archbishop Kelly’s first visit, either. Relatives in the area? Friends with the pastor? Your guess is as good as ours.

Unfortunately, the sound system is very bad, and my mother and father could hardly make out a word the archbishop said. So they couldn’t report on the homily’s quality, or even what it was about. Also, they’re not on the Net or up with church news, so they couldn’t ask the Archbishop any newsworthy questions afterward.

However, they did report that they heard an extremely lame “Taste and See” which was totally new to them. Maybe the music director got hold of that horrible English one….

Anyway, I have now officially scooped Rocco. Not much of a scoop and no useful development of the info, but there you go.

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Two Romance Book Series That Cheered Me Up

“Comfort book” is not what these two series are for me, precisely, but they did make me smile and laugh plenty. (Not for kids, though, that’s for sure.)

Karma Girl and Hot Mama by Jennifer Estep are set in a superhero version of our world. Nearly everybody bears alliterative names, rich playboys have secret identities and Fight Crime, bombs are made out of explodium, and villains have amazing powers. This is a very good concept for a connected romance series, as comics have always been a lot like soap operas in their rivers of plot and character. (And of course, the Marvel superhero Hellcat was once the Marvel love comic heroine Patsy Walker.) However, most superhero romance fanfic is angsty like the X-Men. Estep prefers screwball comedy.

She comes up with some very fun characters. Carmen is a scruffy, quickwitted, and sharp-tongued ordinary human reporter with a well-founded grudge against heroes and “ubervillains” alike. Fiona is a hotheaded fashion designer with the power of fire, a lost love she still grieves for, and an extremely fast metabolism. Her next book will feature a heroine who despises her annoying superpower of luck, and all the wacky happenings it causes.

Her authorial voice (first person superhero) is convincing, and the party of the first book comes off quite differently than the party of the second. It’s also nice to see these ladies have their own ideas about each of the other continuing characters. Best of all, Estep can both take her own world lightly, and believe in it enough to make the reader believe it. I’ve read a lot of self-conscious books by recent authors, and it drives me nuts. Also, the plots were interesting. The second book’s plotline was simpler and moved along a lot more speedily, but the complications of the first book allowed more exploration of the world and the characters.

In the first book, I found myself skipping the sex scenes and some of the love ones, because frankly they didn’t seem well integrated with the much more interesting action plotline. It was difficult to buy that the people going at each other were the same people doing all the chatting and arguing over the past and Fighting Crime. (Although I might be judging this overharshly, because I was sick that day. Also, I apparently skimmed past some very intentionally funny stuff, so maybe I need a reread.) Anyway, in the second book, I did not feel any disconnect of personality.

(Though honestly, I think Estep could do without sex scenes. You can read those in any number of novels, romance or otherwise, and they’re usually unnecessary. Well-written superhero fic is a good deal rarer. But aeh — I understand the genre rules.)

Deanna Raybourn is writing what I’d call mystery-themed romance rather than a romantic mystery series. (No sex scenes, but lots of romance genre prose at moments of romantic tension. Well done, though, and not unoriginal.) I read the second book in the series first; but since the author valiantly refused to spoil book one, there were no ill effects.

The series is set in Victorian England. The heroine, Lady Julia Grey, is very rich and comes from a large, noble, unconventional family. (All very useful resources for a detective.) In the first book, Silent in the Grave, Lady Julia finds out, over her husband’s body, that he had hired an inquiry agent, Nicholas Brisbane, to find out who was sending him death threats. The two end up working together — though not in any tidy fashion — to solve the mystery.

Brisbane is a lot like Sherlock Holmes — but the book finds ways of pointing out, rather amusingly, that this actually makes him a lot like a dark brooding Bronte hero, too. (Doyle was influenced a lot by the old Gothic stuff, so this totally makes sense. But it’s really amusing.)

In the second book, Silent in the Sanctuary, Lady Julia does the traditional cozy mystery thing and comes home for a big Christmas house party at the old family estate. Of course bodies are bound to turn up.

I was not particularly thrilled by some aspects of the unconventional family members. But it was interesting to see how she used these characters to deflect potential criticism of certain un-PC elements of her mysteries. Also, she managed to throw in any number of Victorian mystery tropes that would rightly upset people in any other context. Her witty writing encouraged me to suspend my disbelief through a lot of improbable stuff; but again, one expects wonders and horrors and very strange people in a Victorian mystery.

The only problem is that sometimes her work is invaded by that self-consciousness so many modern writers have.They can’t let you fall into a spell; they have to stop and point out that you’re reading a book that they don’t really believe in. This makes it harder to suspend disbelief than any amount of improbable occurrences. Fortunately, Raybourn only has an occasional touch of this; and I hope to see it vanish in the next book.

Anyway, that’s the two fun series. Not terribly edifying in certain ways, but interesting and funny, with a lot of real thought and feeling in them.

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Levrier Creve-Coeur

The French have a word for it, it seems. They call our shortlived wolfhounds “heartbreak hounds”.

I mentioned before that we recently found out that my family’s Irish wolfhound, Liath, had an inoperable tumor in her innards. Well, her liver has been failing, she’s been less and less able to eat and drink enough to keep her alive, and my parents have had to give her pain pills at more frequent intervals. She’s barely eaten or drunk anything the last few days, and last night my mother was reduced to giving her ice to keep Liath’s tongue from sticking to her mouth and gums. She could barely walk this morning.

So my parents called the veterinarian, and made an appointment to have her put to sleep, after my dad came home from his retirement job.

Liath has always been a very affectionate dog, because she was rescued from a puppy farm. She birthed and had taken from her two litters of puppies before she turned two, and she grew up in a locked pen, expecting nothing to be above her but a blank ceiling. She was very happy to come to my parents, very happy to eat anything given to her, very happy to follow people around the house or play with them outside. It was out in the yard that the squirrels taught her about “up”. She never caught them, but she taught the squirrels and chipmunks to build their nests in another yard.

She loved my parents’ cuckoo clock, and quickly decided it was her job to remind everyone of the daily schedule. She loved to ride in the car, as long as she was sure she would come home again, and going on walks was the big excitement of her day.

So on the last day of her life, in the daily excitement of having my dad come home, Liath got up and ran to meet him. When they went to take her to the vet, she managed to jump into the car.

This is what breaks your heart — did you give up too soon, or could you have spared them a night of pain by going earlier?

And this is why dogs are a little mysterious — how in the world did she even manage to get up again, after being so sick so long?

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I’d also like to apologize for my bad temper the last few weeks. I was mostly in good spirits when I could visit my parents’ house, but anticipatory grief hit me very hard the rest of the time. I know I’ve been a pill. Please forgive me. A dog is not a human, no — but a dog is still something very precious.

As the Smith of Culann complained, once upon a time:

My life is a wilderness, and my household like a desert,
with the loss of my hound!

He guarded my life and my honour,
a valued servant, my hound, taken from me.

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Georgian Cheese-Stuffed Flatbread

From the country of Georgia, via the recipe blogger Milk and Pumpkin.

This looks delicious. I particularly like the little breakfast egg boats.

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Zucchini Pudding? From Egypt??

Courtesy of an interesting Polish cook’s recipe blog, a recipe from Egypt for zucchini pudding.

From the same blogger, cheesy zucchini patties for dinner, from Turkey.

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