Thoughts of a Catholic convert

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Monday, September 22, 2014

Another Jesuit leaving

Jesuit leaves church after firings

In light of recent firings of gays and lesbians from Catholic institutions, Benjamin Brenkert has left the Catholic church after 10 years of pursuing priesthood in the Jesuit order. "I can't be a Jesuit priest because I can't be a member of the Catholic church right now," Brenkert told NCR. "I can't be an openly gay Jesuit discerning priesthood in the Catholic church if LGBT employees are being fired from Catholic institutions."

Brenkert said the last straw for him was when a food pantry worker was fired from St. Francis Xavier Parish in Kansas City, Mo., after her marriage to a woman was mentioned in a local newspaper article. Upon his decision to leave the church, Brenkert wrote an open letter to Pope Francis, explaining both why he was leaving the Jesuits, and what he wants the pope to do in order to save his vocation to the church .....

You can read the whole letter here - Open Letter to Pope Francis: Help Save My Vocation. It begins like this ...

Dear Pope Francis,

In your time as pope, your commitment to poverty has awakened the world to the evils of globalization, capitalism, and materialism. Many now understand poverty to be a structural sin and a social evil. Through your public statements you have sparked the interest of Catholics and non-Catholics, believers and atheists. The world looks to you as a shepherd, a man filled with the joy of the Gospel.

Yet, while you have focused on physical and material poverty, members of my community -- lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgender and queer/questioning men, women and youth -- have been neglected. They remain on the frontiers, the margins, living spiritually poor lives. Some need the voice of cardinals like Walter Kasper to tell them that God loves them. Others know that God loves them, but church leadership rejects them as disordered and disoriented. Your prophetic question "Who am I to judge?" encourages people everywhere to have a nonjudgmental attitude toward members of the LGBTQ community, but being nonjudgmental is not enough, especially when Jesus tells us to be like the Good Samaritan and "go, do likewise." ....

I think what this Jesuit has done is admirable. I have to wonder, though, if Pope Francis will care. He did, after all, agree to the dismissal of another Jesuit, Fr. John Dear, from the Society of Jesus when I assume he could have instead refused (John Dear SJ is leaving the Jesuits and The Jesuits and John Dear). I hope I'm wrong and that the Pope does indeed tell the US Bishops to stop firing gay teachers!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Bishop Blase Cupich

There's been much in the Catholic press about the appointment of Cardinal George's replacement in Chicago, Bishop Blase Cupich. Appointed by Pope Francis, this is seen as an indication by some of the Pope's wish to have a more moderate leadership in the US ... Pope Francis names Spokane bishop to Chicago, dashing conservative hopes

I would argue first that Cupich is *not* at all a liberal, and secondly, I would ask whether it really matters at the end of the day where Cupich stands.

First, an example of Cupich's conservatism is shown in his views of complementarianism and marriage equality. As bishop of Spokane he argued vigorously in 2012 against Referendum 74. Here's a bit of what he wrote in Some Reflections on Referendum 74 ...

[...] If there is anything we have come to appreciate and value more fully in this modern age, it is that men and women are not the same. That is true not only biologically, but on so many other levels. Men and women are not interchangeable. They each bring something of their difference to complement each other. In a marriage union, a mutual sharing of each other’s difference creates life, but it also nourishes that life in a family where sons and daughters learn about gender from the way it is lived by their mothers and fathers. The decision to unhinge marriage from its original grounding in our biological life should not be taken lightly for there are some things enacted law is not capable of changing. Thoughtful consideration should be given to the significant consequences such unhinging will mean for children, families, society and the common good .....

If marriage is only about relationships, why limit unions to two people? Why does the new law include the traditional prohibition of close kinship unions for both opposite and same sex couples? The threat of genetic disorders in children is not an issue for same sex couples. Is it not reasonable to assume that a closely related same sex couple will in time successfully challenge this prohibition as an unreasonable imposition? .... In the coming weeks I will provide through the Inland Register, and our websites ( and materials based on what we believe God has revealed to us about creation, the meaning and value of marriage and family, and the way we are called to live as Christ’s disciples.

Second, does it make a real difference to Catholics if their bishop holds certain views? Despite the arguments of Cupich and other Washington state bishops, referendum 74 was not only passed, but a group, Catholics for Marriage Equality, held a prayer vigil in support of the referendum ... Catholics defy bishops to pray for gay marriage ... and 63 ex-Catholic priests backed the referendum as well.

I couldn't even tell you the name of my own bishop, much less where he stands on important issues ... I think we can assume he disagrees with me about women's ordination, marriage equality, contraception, divorce, holding bishops accountable for covering up sex abuse because he would not have been made a bishop otherwise ... and his views would have no impact on my beliefs. It's not just me ... Pope Francis faces church divided over doctrine, global poll of Catholics finds. So, I guess I'm just bemused by the furor over Cupich's appointment.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

A photo from my yard ...

The sky is a strange brownish orange today, I guess because of all the forest fires in the area ... Record Drought Hastens Dramatic Spread of California Wildfires. Here's a satellite image from Wikipedia of the fires burning back in May ...

Friday, September 19, 2014

Young Beautiful in a Hurry

Some music for Friday ...

The singer reminds me of another version of Captain Hook ;) ....

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Scottish independence: it isn’t about nationalism

UPDATE: Scotland rejects independence with No vote set for victory ... ;(

Tomorrow the Scots will vote on whether Scotland should be independent of the UK or not. There have been mean-spirited assertions of nationalism against the independence movement. I find this criticism laughable given that those who are against Scottish independence support an empire upon which the sun once never set ...

More Than Scottish Pride: Scotland’s referendum isn’t about nationalism. It’s about a system that failed, and a new generation looking to take a chance on itself.

Robert Bellarmine SJ and the Inquisition

Today is St Robert Bellarmine SJ Day. He's well liked but when I think of him, all I can think of is his position in the Roman Inquisition, which handled the trials of Copernicus, Galileo, and Giordano Bruno, among others ...

Clement VIII, set great store by him. He was made rector of the Roman College in 1592, examiner of bishops in 1598, and cardinal in 1599. Immediately after his appointment as Cardinal, Pope Clement made him a Cardinal Inquisitor, in which capacity he served as one of the judges at the trial of Giordano Bruno, and concurred in the decision which condemned Bruno to be burned at the stake as a heretic. - Wikipedia

There have been recent discussions about the church and Bruno ... an episode of Cosmos about the church's treatment of Bruno sparked a kind of backlash by those who believe the church wasn't really against science but murdered Bruno for his religious rather than scientific views. Here's one discussion of the issues ... Defending Giordano Bruno: A Response from the Co-Writer of “Cosmos”.

Bellarmine is, I think, considered reasonable about the scientific views he investigated ... he suggested disingenuous workarounds that would allow continued scientific study without a resulting auto-de-fé. In a letter, Bellarmine wrote about Galileo's ideas ...

that interpreting heliocentrism as physically real would be "a very dangerous thing, likely not only to irritate all scholastic philosophers and theologians, but also to harm the Holy Faith by rendering Holy Scripture as false." Moreover, while the topic was not inherently a matter of faith, the statements about it in Scripture were so by virtue of who said them—namely, the Holy Spirit. He conceded that if there were conclusive proof, "then one would have to proceed with great care in explaining the Scriptures that appear contrary; and say rather that we do not understand them, than that what is demonstrated is false."

So, the church wasn't necessarily against science per se, and yes there were lots of Jesuit scientists ... the church was instead against anyone proposing views that the church didn't endorse.

However, the idea that this death-dealing thought-police methodology (the Inquisition) can be spun by some as positive because it wasn't inherently anti-science is just mind-boggling to me. And I can't admire anyone, whether they're a saint or not, who would judge a person worthy of burning at the stake, now matter what that person's beliefs were.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Müller on women

An interview with Cardinal Müller, who I find quite disturbing in his past stated beliefs about love and marriage. The interview begins like this ...

Naturally extroverted, he [Müller] half-jokingly begged that we not talk about women, but rather about Our Lady. Yet he still managed to steer the conversation back to our original topic, chatting about his relationship with women, and especially about the extraordinary affection he bore his mother.

Oh my :( It goes on to list his favorite female writers, none of whom are contemporary, and among them are Hildegard of Bingen and Edith Stein, both champions of extreme complementarianism. And then ...

Müller also found in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith a number of women collaborators whose roles are anything but secondary. He does not hide his esteem for his secretary, Clothilde Mason, and other women colleagues, almost all of whom are married with families. He also says that in appointing women theologians to work at the Congregation, difficulties also arise, because, if they have a family, these women are not prepared to move to Rome. In addition, he alluded that the new International Theological Commission soon to be appointed by the Pope will include a larger number of women than the outgoing Commission: perhaps an increase from two to five or six.

Just to clarify, Pope Francis *told him* to add more women, and even with five or six women instead of just two, we're talking about a group of thirty theologians ... that's like one-sixth being women (if it indeed comes to pass).

With regard to female presence in the life of the Church — which he qualifies as quite different from male presence, even with regard to theological research — the Cardinal recalls a piece Bergoglio wrote on the Jesuits, in which the future Pope stressed that the difference between Catholics and Calvinists lies precisely in the ability of Catholics to take into consideration emotions too — and not solely the intellect — on the path that leads to God.

This is a striking reflection, especially today when Protestant denominations have opened the door for women to serve in ministerial roles, and therefore seem more “feminist” than the Catholic Church. In this respect, Müller emphasized that the presence of women should be recognized in its uniqueness and not as a mere imitation of the male role. For this reason he insists on the need to recall that the Church must primarily be a mother and not an institution; for an institution cannot be loved but a mother can. Moreover the family, the domestic church, is a primary model for the Church and women play a crucial role in it, albeit distinct from the male role.

Wow, he managed to insult both Protestants and women in one fell swoop. "Women as mothers" again .... where's Sigmund Freud when you need him?

The last question was the most pressing. It concerned the conflictual sequence of events concerning American sisters in the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. The Cardinal’s dealings with them have been complex as of late.

Complex? Yeah, that's how most would describe it, I'm sure ;) I won't bother to quote what he said about the nuns ... we all know it by heart now.

It's so depressing that this guy is head of the CDF but not surprising - I think his views of women and family life fit quite well with the pope's, more's the pity.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Dualism and The Light Fantastic

The latest book I've read is The Light Fantastic, which follows the Cold Equations trilogy.

In that trilogy, Data (of Star Trek) was brought back to life, and in the book I've just read, he brings his daughter back to life. The title of the book refers to the fact that much of the story has to do with sentient holograms.

The story is really pretty good and brings in many disparate characters .... Data's daughter is kidnapped by the hologram Professor Moriarty of Sherlock Holmes fame, and Data seeks the help of lounge singer hologram Vic Fontaine and original Star Trek character Harry Mudd in getting her back.

An interesting thing about the story is that almost none of the characters are organic human beings but are androids or holograms, yet they have lives, families, hopes and dreams. just as organics do. It would probably make JPII spin in his grave at the idea that it's consciousness that matters, not the body it's occupying (Veritatis Splendor) ... but I think Keith Ward would approve :)

The Doctor saves the day

No, not *that* Doctor :) This funny version of La donna è mobile has been on my mind today. It's from an episode of Voyager in which the Doctor, a sentient hologram, is daydreaming about giving a performance of that song for the crew, only to be interrupted by a Vulcan succumbing to the madness of pon far. Naturally, the Doctor saves the day :) ...

"Can we know what Jesus was really like? "

What did the apostles believe? What does modern historical research reveal about Jesus? And thus begins another lecture by Keith Ward, Anglican priest and former Regius Professor of Divinity at Oxford University. I've not read this lecture - The beginnings: a Jewish Messianic sect - or seen the video before so it should be interesting :) ...

Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Triumph of Christendom

Watching a Gresham College lecture by Keith Ward. Here's the blurb ... Is the medieval church a child of the Roman Empire? Why did sin and atonement come to play so large a part in medieval theology? How did secular power change the church? ... and he says also that the talk is about Catholicism from the 10th to 14the century, original sin, atonement, purgatory and hell. You can read his lecture too here, but I like to watch the talks because they're usually a bit different, and have more jokes. After having listened to the talk, I like Eastern Orthodoxy much more than Catholicism on original sin, atonement, indulgences, and the hell! And Karl Rahner gets a mention too :) ...

Friday, September 12, 2014

When God Talks Back

I've been reading about the work of Stanford psychological anthropologist T. M. Luhrmann, in part because I saw one of her books, When God Talks Back, mentioned somewhere in my travels. You can read more about the book at the Patheos Book Club.

The book is about Evangelicals, but I was struck by how much her work correlates to Ignatian spirituality and the colloquy form of prayer.

Here is a lecture she gave on the book ....

She also has posts at The New York Times, like this one on CS Lewis ... C. S. Lewis, Evangelical Rock Star ... and this one about the boggle threshold ... Where Reason Ends and Faith Begins

Even more on Scottish independence

A really interesting article from National Geographic, with loks of pics too ... Why Scotland Might Break Away From the United Kingdom. And from a professor at the University of Chicago Law School, ... Let Scotland Go Free

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

This week's movie rental was Captain America: The Winter Soldier ...

a 2014 American superhero film featuring the Marvel Comics character Captain America, produced by Marvel Studios and distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures. It is the sequel to 2011's Captain America: The First Avenger and the ninth installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). The film was directed by Anthony and Joe Russo, with a screenplay by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, who had also worked in The First Avenger. It stars Chris Evans as Captain America, leading an ensemble cast that includes Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Cobie Smulders, Frank Grillo, Emily VanCamp, Hayley Atwell, Robert Redford, and Samuel L. Jackson. In the film, Captain America, the Black Widow, and Falcon join forces to uncover a conspiracy within S.H.I.E.L.D. while facing a mysterious assassin known as the Winter Soldier.

I read a lot of Marvel comics when I was a kid, and though Thor and Conan the Barbarian were my favorite comics, the movie version of Captain America has been my favorite character - Steve Rogers (Captain America) is such a kind, humble, brave, and idealistic person. An example from the film: here Nick Fury shows him Project Insight, a plan to target and kill thousands of potential terrorists before they have a chance to act (shades of Minority Report!). Steve's response is less than enthusiastic ...

See? Idealistic :) From Mother Jones ... "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" Is About Obama's Terror-Suspect Kill List, Say the Film's Directors.

The bad guy (or one of them) in the movie is an actor who plays the Mad Hatter in Once Upon a Time. Here he is as the Winter Soldier ...

And as the Hatter ...

Here's a review of the film from The Boston Globe ... Things get darker for ‘Captain America

And here's a trailer ...

Thomas Reese SJ on the upcoming synod

So the synod for the family ... the one for which the Vatican's surveys showed a majority of Catholics around the world disagreeing with the church's teachings on sex, contraception, divorce, and marriage equality ... the one the Vatican has decided will exist for the sole purpose of doubling down on those failed teachings rather than examining their worth ... it's going to have a few carefully chosen married couples along for the ride, some of whom run NFP groups for the church ... the phrase "stacking the deck" comes to mind, as well as the word "irrelevant" given that it's estimated that only 2 or 3% of Catholics ever even use NFP.

Thomas Reese SJ has a post about this - The makeup of Synod of Bishops on the family is disappointing . Here's a bit of it ...

The list of those attending the Synod of Bishops on the family is a disappointment to those hoping for reform of the Curia and for those who hope that the laity will be heard at the synod .... There are more laypeople among the 38 auditors, including 14 married couples, of whom two are from the United States. Many of the observers are employees of the Catholic church or heads of Catholic organizations, including natural family planning organizations.

For example, one couple from the United States is Jeffrey Heinzen, director of natural family planning in the diocese of La Crosse, Wis., and Alice Heinzen, member of the Natural Family Planning Advisory Board of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The other U.S. couple is Steve and Claudia Schultz, members of the International Catholic Engaged Encounter.

We will have to wait and see whether the auditors will represent to the bishops the views of lay Catholics, but it is hard to argue that they are representative of Catholics at large. Certainly any who think natural family planning is the church's great gift to the laity will not. And those who are church employees could fear losing their jobs if they spoke the truth. At the 1980 synod on the family, the lay participants were remarkable for how totally out of touch they were with the views of average Catholics. I fear this is a rerun .....

The synod will just be a PR device, I guess, to give an impression of progress in the very teeth of a denial of the reality of Catholics' lived lives.

Monday, September 08, 2014


- I'm reading more about Scottish independence, and also about the impending arrival of another British royal baby ... I guess that takes care of the heir and a spare concerns. I find it really hard to understand why anyone would want a monarchy for their country. Perhaps the Scots will do away with that .... Fate of the monarchy unclear in an independent Scotland

- Interview with Sherlock's Benedict Cumberbatch about his upcoming movie on Alan Turing, The Imitation Game

- Misogyny and the Catholic church by Thomas Fox at NCR

- How Movies Trick Your Brain Into Empathizing With Characters

- I don't belong to facebook, but wierdly, I seem to have read a lot of the same books as facebook people ;) ... The 100 Books Facebook Users Love. Here's the list, with the ones I've read bolded. Hmmm - why does Narnia show up multiple times? ....

1. Harry Potter series - J.K. Rowling
2. To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
3. The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
4. The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
5. Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
6. The Holy Bible
7. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
8. The Hunger Games Trilogy - Suzanne Collins
9. The Catcher in the Rye - J.D. Salinger
10. The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald
11. 1984 - George Orwell
12. Little Women - Louisa May Alcott
13. Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
14. The Stand - Stephen King
15. Gone with the Wind - Margaret Mitchell
16. A Wrinkle in Time - Madeleine L'Engle
17. The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood
18. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe - C.S. Lewis
10. The Alchemist - Paulo Coelho
20. Anne of Green Gables - L.M. Montgomery
21. The Chronicles of Narnia - C.S. Lewis
22. The Giver - Lois Lowry
23. The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
24. Ender's Game - Orson Scott Card
25. The Poisonwood Bible - Barbara Kingsolver
26. Lord of the Flies - William Golding
27. The Eye of the World - Robert Jordan
28. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
29. Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
30. Hamlet - William Shakespeare
31. The Little Prince - Antoine de Saint-Exupery
32. Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
33. Fahrenheit 451 - Ray Bradbury
34. Animal Farm - George Orwell
35. The Book of Mormon
36. The Diary of Anne Frank - Anne Frank
37. Dune - Frank Herbert
38. One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
39. The Autobiography of Malcolm X
40. Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
41. The Giving Tree - Shel Silverstein
42. The Fault in Our Stars - John Green
43. On the Road - Jack Kerouac
44. Lamb - Christopher Moore
45. Slaughterhouse Five - Kurt Vonnegut
46. A Prayer for Owen Meany - John Irving
47. Good Omens - Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
48. The Help - Kathryn Stockett
49. The Outsiders - S.E. Hinton
50. American Gods - Neil Gaiman
51. Where the Red Fern Grows - Wilson Rawls
52. Stranger in a Strange Land - Robert Heinlein
53. The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
54. Little House on the Prairie - Laura Ingalls Wilder
55. The Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
56. Pillars of the Earth - Ken Follett
57. The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
58. Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59. A Tale of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
60. Les Miserables - Victor Hugo
61. Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
62. Chronicles of Narnia - C.S. Lewis
63. Night - Elie Wiesel
64. The Dark Tower Series - Stephen King
65. Outlander - Diana Gabaldon
66. The Color Purple - Alice Walker
67. A Thousand Splendid Suns - Khaled Hosseini
68. The Art of War - Sun Tzu
69. Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
70. The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
71. The Perks of Being a Wallflower - Stephen Chbosky
72. The Old Man and the Sea - Ernest Hemingway
73. Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
74. Tuesdays with Morrie - Mitch Albom
75. The Road - Cormac McCarthy
76. Watership Down - Richard Adams
77. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn - Betty Smith
78. Where the Sidewalk Ends - Shel Silverstein
79. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - Stieg Larsson
80. A Song of Ice and Fire - George R. R. Martin
81. Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret - Judy Blume
82. Charlotte's Web - E.B. White
83. The Time Traveler's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
84. Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
85. Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
86. The Shack - William P. Young
87. Watchmen - Alan Moore
88. Interview with the Vampire - Anne Rice
89. The Odyssey - Homer
90. The House of the Spirits - Isabel Allende
91. The Stranger - Albert Camus
92. Call of the Wild - Jack London
93. The Five People You Meet in Heaven - Mitch Albom
94. Siddhartha - Herman Hesse
95. East of Eden - John Steinbeck
96. Matilda - Roald Dahl
97. The Picture of Dorian Gray - Oscar Wilde
98. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance - Robert Pirsig
99. Love in the Time of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
100. Where the Wild Things Are - Maurice Sendak

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Science fiction and the two-in-one state solution

I can't help thinking of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict as I read Star Trek: Titan: Absent Enemies (only $1.99 in kindle :). In this story, the crew of Titan, commanded by Admiral Will Riker, is sent on a peace mission to a planet with a small island land mass that is in contention between two different resident alien species. The armed conflict between the aliens has been going on without respite for many decades and numerous Starfleet peace missions over the years have had no effect, so when Riker and his team beam down to the planet, they don't have high hopes for making a difference, but they're surprised to find the hostilities ended and only one of the alien races extant. Eventually they discover what the remaining aliens don't yet know .... that the missing race has put its whole population out of phase.

"I wonder if you even realize what you have done here," the Vulcan said. "You've happened upon a way for two rival parties to share the same coveted geographical location at the same time. Blood has been shed by countless billions who could not find a way to coexist. But you have taken coexistence to a new level. Or, more precisely, to a new quantum state."

What does it mean to be out of phase? I'll shift from Star Trek to Stargate and let Samantha Carter explain ;) ...

MITCHELL: 'Out of phase' -- what does that mean?

CARTER: It means we may have shifted to an alternate dimension.

MITCHELL: And there are an infinite number of alternate dimensions.

CARTER: No, no, no. That's alternate realities.

MITCHELL: So when the other SG-1 showed up ...

CARTER: Completely different problem. You see, according to M theory that unites the other five Superstring theories there are several spatial dimensions. Eleven, actually, that exist in parallel to our physical realities. Now, these higher dimensions ...

Mitchell waves his hand to stop her.

MITCHELL: No, I'll take your word for it. That was alternate reality, this is alternate dimension. Hell, all I need is a good time travel adventure and I've scored the SG-1 trifecta. Now how's Jackson supposed to help us with this?

CARTER: Well, a similar thing happened to him a few years ago.

Mitchell tries to recall the mission as he sidesteps another officer.

MITCHELL: PX7 377, the crystal skull!

CARTER: You really did read every report from every mission we ever went on, didn't you?

MITCHELL: I was in that hospital a long time and they were all riveting.

Carter smiles.

CARTER: Anyway, Daniel was out of phase and no one could see him except for his grandfather, Nicholas Ballard.

MITCHELL: And because the same thing happened to Ballard in Belize, Jackson should be able to see us because we're all part of the same club.

CARTER: Right.

Mitchell clicks his fingers, pleased.

MITCHELL: Perfect.

Ouch - now my head hurts ;) I don't know how this will all work out in the book I'm reading, but it reminds me of another book, The City & the City by China Miéville. From Wikipedia ...

The City & the City takes place in the cities of Besźel and Ul Qoma. These two cities actually occupy much of the same geographical space, but via the volition of their citizens (and the threat of the secret power known as Breach), they are perceived as two different cities. A denizen of one city must dutifully 'unsee' (that is, consciously erase from their mind or fade into the background) the denizens, buildings, and events taking place in the other city – even if they are an inch away. This separation is emphasised by the style of clothing, architecture, gait, and the way denizens of each city generally carry themselves. Residents of the cities are taught from childhood to recognise things belonging to the other city without actually seeing them. Ignoring the separation, even by accident, is called "breaching" – a terrible crime by the citizens of the two cities, even worse than murder.

The twin cities are composed of crosshatched, alter, and total areas. "Total" areas are entirely in one city, the city in which the observer currently resides. "Alter" areas are completely in the other city, and so must be completely avoided and ignored. Between these are areas of "crosshatch". These might be streets, parks or squares where denizens of both cities walk alongside one another, albeit "unseen." Areas that exist in both cities usually go under different names in each one. There is also Copula Hall, "one of the very few" buildings which exists in both cities under the same name. Rather than being cross-hatched, it essentially functions as a border. It is the only way in which one can legally and officially pass from one city to another. Passing through the border passage takes travellers, geographically (or "grosstopically"), to the exact place they started from – only in a different city.

From a physical standpoint, little differentiates the two cities, other than slight differences of architecture, vehicles and styles of dress which citizens and visitors are trained to recognise. Those who do not know about the separation might naturally view the two cities as one. Because of this, an extra power is needed to keep the separation in place: this organisation is known as Breach. When a 'breach' takes place (used here in the sense of 'breaching' the barrier between the two cities), Breach comes to take care of it. Members of the Breach organisation use their powers to take the breacher captive, and bring them to an unknown punishment. "Breachers", as they are called, disappear and are never seen again. Children and tourists, however, are treated more leniently: children may be forgiven for a small breach; if tourists breach, they are bundled out and banned from both cities forever.

Most breaches are taken care of by Breach immediately, but its surveillance capabilities are not absolute. Sometimes Breach must be specifically invoked to investigate a crime that seems to be a clear-cut case of breach, such as a smuggling operation that involves breaching to transport the smuggled goods from one city to the other. To invoke Breach, the police must present their evidence to an Oversight Committee composed of 42 members, 21 from each city. If the evidence presented is convincing enough, the Committee performs whatever other investigation into the matter it deems appropriate to resolve any remaining doubts its members have. If its investigation concludes to its satisfaction that a breach has taken place, then and only then will it invoke Breach. Invoking Breach is a last resort because it is an alien power to which some consider that Besźel and Ul Qoma surrender their sovereignty at their peril.

If only real life conflicts could be peacefully resolved in one of these ways.

Saturday, September 06, 2014

More on Scottish Independence

I'm still reading about the upcoming Scottish Independence vote - A majority of Scots approves of independence for the first time. I did learn about some of the pressing issues, like the opposition to keeping the Trident nuclear weapons programme in Scotland and worries about the welfare of the disabled, from listening to the most recent BBC debate about Scottish independence ....

Friday, September 05, 2014

From Doctor Who to Nero

- Nero and his mom

- Doctor Who neuroscience special: the brain of a Time Lord

- Parolin indicates reform might not be Synod's main focus and says family must be protected from dissolution ... great :(

- UK anti-semitic incidents peaked in July, Jewish charity says

- Eeek! Müller cozies up to the SSPX ... Müller’s first meeting with Fellay

- Judge Posner’s Gay Marriage Opinion Is a Witty, Deeply Moral Masterpiece

- Rethinking Nero. Hmmm - maybe Nero wasn't as bad as we'd previously thought? :) I had some college classes in Roman history and I still remember my teacher riding around the quad in a chariot on Earth Day :) but a lot of how I feel about Nero was formed by reading Claudius the God by Robert Graves ... Nero was Claudius' stepson.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

And some more music

I had this song in my head tonight from a scene in the movie Heat .....