Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Winter Light in the Summer

Last night we had the second movie screening in our summer movie series. We watched Winter Light(Nattvardsgästerna) by Ingmar Bergman. I think that it is my favorite Bergman movie, and one of perhaps my all-time favorites.

The starkness of the cinematography brings to the forefront the intense struggle which is happening within the characters.

I was reminded of a quote from Ratzinger's book Introduction to Christianity that floored me the first time I read it.
Fastened to the cross - with the cross fastened to nothing, drifting over the abyss. The situation for the contemporary believer could hardly have been more accurately and impressivley described. Only a loose plank bobbing over the void seems to hold him up, and it looks as if he must eventually sink. Only a loose plank connects him to God, though certainly it connects him inescapably, and in the last analysis he knows that this wood is stronger than the void that seethes beneath him and remains nevertheless the really threatening force in his day-to-day life. (p44)

I think that this movie really captures the heart of this modern difficulty. While it may not end up on the side of belief in the end, its beauty and honesty make Bergman's film a must see.

For those interested and in town, next week we will be taking a break from the subtitles and watching Rushmore. It is something a little lighter but still great and worthy of discussion.

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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Cultural Illiteracy of the Easy Atheists

A good piece.

Feed SUVs and Starve People?

Maybe I shouldn't buy a car now...

" takes 450 pounds of corn to make enough ethanol to fill a 25-gallon gas tank. Four hundred and fifty pounds of corn supplies enough calories to feed a person for one year. The USDA projects that in 2010 the ethanol industry will consume 2.6 billion bushels of corn. A bushel weighs 56 pounds, so a quick calculation yields the result that 2.6 billion bushels of corn could supply enough calories to feed nearly 325 million people for a year."

The Best 5 Second Clip on the Internet

Monday, June 25, 2007

In Google We Trust

As the internets have progressed over the course of the last decade we have found ourselves depending on searching more and more, and who has been a better partner than that great friendly company Google.

My own Google journey began with simple searches, but that quickly escalated. I found that I could add Alerts to keep me up to date. Next came those oh so handy maps to get where I needed to go. Then I started using Google for more of my research by searching books and later even scholarly papers. Next thing you know the list started spiraling out of control, news, video, geography, pictures, blogs, shopping, scheduling, and the list goes on. Some have even gone so far as to create a Church of Google.

Google has it's fingers in almost every aspect of the user realm in the technological sphere of influence. But there was something missing until quite recently. Finally Google has decided to take up the mantle of secular power as well. With the new Google Public Policy blog you can hear the positions of our rising technological overlords in the the political arena.

In their own words:
"We hope this blog will serve as a resource for policymakers around the world -- including legislators, ministers, governors, city councilmembers, regulators, and the staffers who support them -- who are trying to enact sound government policies to foster free expression, promote economic growth, expand access to information, enable innovation, and protect consumers"(link)

Is anyone else a little frightened at this development? Not only do they have most of my information on my servers, but now they are making "recommendations" to my government about how I ought to be treated.

Google Save us!

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Sunday, June 24, 2007


Well we had another great coffee house last night. Thanks to everyone who came out and made it such a good time. There were some good performances and a lot of good fellowship and way too much iced coffee (I think that I am still shaking a little.)

Stay tuned for the rest of the pictures and recordings on the website.


Friday, June 22, 2007

Firstborn children found to have higher intelligence

Doesn't it seem like the main function of scientific studies these days is to simply tell you things you already knew? I have been saying this for years, and now some scientists have taken it upon them selves to prove me right.

Firstborn children found to have higher intelligence:

"Wading into an age-old debate, researchers have found that firstborn children are smarter than their siblings -- and the reason is not genetics, but the way their parents treat them, according to a study published today...

Year after year, more Nobel Prizes go to firstborn scientists and authors. Firstborns garner more than their share of National Merit scholarships and fill American colleges in disproportionate numbers...

The findings suggested that the mechanism behind the birth-order effect is not biological but related to social interactions within families.

He surmised that older children are showered with attention early in life and treated as leaders in the family. They are handed more responsibility after younger siblings are born and live with higher expectations from their parents."

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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Movie Night @ Quincy & Danielson: A Family Movie

Last night we had a great kickoff to the Quincy Summer Movie evenings. We watched a fascinating documentary entitled Danielson: A Family Movie. The documentary has a slightly campy feel to it and at times it does feel like watching the home movies of a large family that could have lived down the street from you. At the same time it really raised some great questions and discussion about Christianity and art.

The overarching impression was from the discussion seemed to be that even though Daniel Smith may have a less than well developed theology, his honest quest for the truth in his art makes him really stand out.

While not everyone maybe ready to rush out and buy Danielson CD's, this movie gives me a lot of hope. It reminds me that there are authentic Christian artists out there, in spite of all the charlatans who make Christianity and authenticity seem incompatible. there
are men and women out there working for the glory of God and being recognized by the culture. Perhaps they are not being recognized in a big flashy way, but none the less the truth of their hope shines through the work and those seeking after the good recognize it.

For some further info check out Daniel Smith's interview on WNYC.

Stay tuned next week for Nattvardsgästerna (Winter Light) by Ingmar Bergman. It is a great film. Make it even better by showing up and sharing your thoughts with us.

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Friday, June 15, 2007

Only In DC...

So I was at a bar the other night and I went to the bathroom, as will happen. Littering the walls was the usual crude bathroom scrawl. I'm normally not terribly attentive, but this time I happened to look over and find the strangest writing:"Is John Edwards still the second best democracy?"

The thing that really puzzles me is how this fits into the well defined genera of bathroom scribbling? If there were some sort of insult, maybe. But who goes to a bar and attempts to engage in political discourse on the stall wall?

What a strange town.


Thursday, June 14, 2007

Cardinal Martino on Amnesty International

I have a confession to make: I've never really liked Amnesty International. Maybe it's because I'm what you would generally call both a realist and a conservative. But in spite of that, I can see that Amnesty is working hard on a very important cause, a cause they believe in. And for that I respected them. Until yesterday.

Zenit reports that the president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Cardinal Renato Martino, who also serves as the Holy See's permanent observer at the UN, is calling on Catholics to withdraw support from Amnesty International since the groups no longer defends the right to life. He said that the recent decision to promote abortion "rights" is a betrayal of Amnesty's identity.

By pushing for the decriminalization of abortion as part of their platform, Amnesty International has disqualified itself as a defender of human rights....If AI is no longer willing to stand up for the most basic human right -- the right to life -- then the very integrity of the organization is called into question.

Amnesty now joins a long list of other international organizations, such as the United Nations Children's Fund, in promoting a so-called right to abortion.

However, the situation is not without hope. "I was head of the Holy See delegation to the Cairo Conference on Population and Development when that issue was settled definitively," Cardinal Martino stated. "Paragraph 8.25 of the Cairo Declaration clearly states, 'In no case should abortion be promoted as a method of family planning … and every attempt should be made to eliminate the need for abortion."

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Monday, June 11, 2007 it's .com

Yep, you heard me right, now quincyhouse is available as, and even*

I know that everyone was holding their breath for just such an occasion. You can begin celebrating that your favorite Brookland hangout is now even easier to find.

*Note: Even though we have a .org domain, the Quincy House is not a non-profit organization. However we are also not a for-profit organization (mostly for lack of achieving any sort of profit, not for lack of desire.)

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Wednesday, June 06, 2007

The Brookland Catholic Mafia

In one of my classes last semester we read about the concept of “netwar.” Contrary to what you might first guess, netwar does not deal with the internet, but instead with networks of people. Whereas conventional warfare is waged by clearly demarcated forces operating under a strict hierarchy, the networks that wage netwar have flat hierarchies and ambiguous membership. Thus, arresting a certain group of people will not destroy a network: interlocking groups will carry on the work, affiliated but unofficial members of the suppressed group will reform it elsewhere and new leadership will emerge. That’s the nature of a network. It’s robust, flexible, diverse and innovative, as a result of a web of ties which connect all sorts of people, with no clear head or even center.

Reading about such social networks, I was immediately struck by how apt this description could be fitted to the world of Catholicism. The Brookland neighborhood of Washington is filled with overlapping circles of Catholics. There are so many Catholic schools, parishes, institutes, orders, men’s and women’s houses, Bible studies, and softball leagues that everybody knows everybody within a degree or two. It’s really a funny thing. Now I must confess, I have been tempted on occasion to bring together all these groups under one great umbrella, for a single purpose (usually undetermined). It would be a formidable group indeed, with connections all over the place and the ability to recruit members from a variety of sectors; it would have lots of energy and talent, if only these could be harnessed in a single direction. But then I realize that part of what makes the Brookland Catholic Mafia - as it has occasionally been called - a great thing is that it is a network, that it's diverse and flexible in a way that no single organization could be.

Switching from the framework of national security to that of ecclesiology, I see that we in fact do have a single purpose which unites us: to glorify Christ Jesus and to make Him known to all men. It is nothing less than the mission of the Church, into which we have all been baptized.

So as much as I'm tempted, I won't make a grand call for a meeting at the Quincy house, like a gathering of Resistance leaders during World War II. I won't ask you to enlist your friends as members in some great coordinating organization. Instead, I share with you two words of exhortation. First, embrace this body, in all its messy confusion, for it is the Body of Christ. Strengthen the bonds of fraternal unity, as you are called and able. Second, invite others to share the life we live. I don't mean inviting someone from another Bible study to come to yours; I mean reaching out to those outside the network and drawing them in to whatever quirky corner of it you inhabit.

Perhaps you don't live in Washington. Perhaps this passing description of the Brookland Catholic Mafia means nothing to you. I assure you, there are networks of Catholics around the globe, most of them as ambiguous and confusing as ours, often with no clear head or center or membership. Find yours. But perhaps you're not Catholic at all. To you, I say welcome. The allies found under the banner of Christ are not temporary comrades but brothers in the greatest task mankind has ever known.

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Tuesday, June 05, 2007

A Strangely Usual Experience

Today as I was walking home from the metro station something happened that I suppose may seem quite strange to some people. At least I gathered that from the stares I got from a confused passerby. You see on my route home for the last few months there has been this rusty oddly shaped piece of what must have been some sort of bolt in the same spot on the sidewalk, just siting there staring at me. I have wanted to photograph it ever since I first saw it, and even more so now that I has withstood the test of time for so long without being fastened to anything. Well today I had my camera, and by chance I actually remembered that I had it with me so I stopped to get a picture. Unfortunately my camera was out of batteries, thus I was unsuccessful. Nonetheless there I was standing with a camera in the middle of the sidewalk trying to take a picture of a rusty bolt.

I think it was the well dressed commuter, staring at me from across the street that caused me to pause and wonder how I had come to this point. Upon reflection, this was really just one small occurance in a long fascination that I have with rusted metal. I know that it sounds strange, but let me explain myself.

First of all aesthetically I just really like color. That attraction I can't quite explain, but the rich interplay between red and orange that spring out of a velvet like dark brown background seems both soft and harsh all at once.

However, more than the color what really attracts me to rusted metal is the decay. The way that we encounter pieces of rusted metal in every day life is as a set of man-made forms that have begun to fall apart. Slowly being eaten away, rusty metal is a long slow death that surrounds us. A reminder of our mortality and the passing nature of creation, especially man's creation, is a worthwhile thing in itself. Yet, I do believe that there is more to the beauty of rust than simply a morbid preoccupation. Something special happens when someone takes that decaying form and removes it from the normal context of experience. This removal can be taking a photograph, or placing the object on display, or even just looking intently at the thing. When photographed the thing becomes more than it once was. Rather than simply an object which is moving past it's usefulness, the piece of metal is now an invitation to reflection. And not simply a reflection on decay and impermanence, but more so, a reflection on that uniquely human capacity to discover lasting truths in the passing world. As the beings that create art we are elevating our surroundings to an intangible plane. The capacity for this act is what I find the most beautiful about the rusty bolt lying on the side of Michigan avenue (and also, one of the most promising aspects of the challenges that we face today with the definition of the term "art".)

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New World Record Set in Tempe

Once again Tempe, AZ, is making headlines around the globe. On Saturday Joey "Jaws" Chestnut of San Jose, CA, downed 59 1/2 hotdogs in 12 minutes at the Southwest Regional Hot Dog Eating Championship in Tempe, shattering the previous world record of 53 1/4 dogs, set by Takeru Kobayashi last year. Chestnut will now face Kobayashi at Nathan's Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog-Eating Contest to battle it out for the coveted Mustard Belt.

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Sunday, June 03, 2007

A Challenging Read

A few days ago I finished reading Into the Deep: A Journey through Turbulent Times in Church and Society, by Fr. Thomas DeMan, OP (McKenzie Bridge, OR: River Publications). Fr. Tom was chaplain at the Arizona State Newman Center in the late '70s, where he was friends with my folks; ten or twelve years ago I met him at the University of Washington.

Into the Deep is a quick 162 pages; the challenge comes in its contents. Fr. Tom was ordained the year the Second Vatican Council opened. His memoirs are filled with the joy and excitement of those days, as he tried to build community and lead students to a personal relationship with Jesus. It was under Fr. Tom that the largest retreats in the history of the ASU Newman Center were organized by student leaders.

But Into the Deep also betrays the difficulties that have beset the Western Province of the Dominicans, campus ministry and large sections of the Catholic Church: doctrinal confusion, improper liturgical innovation and general disdain for anything predating the Council.

What makes Into the Deep a difficult read is that the blessings and curses have been thoroughly mixed up. Many Catholics will be intuitively frustrated with sections of the book; the difficult work is carefully thinking through its contents, separating the wheat from the chaff and being able to articulate the difference. I highly recommend the exercise for anyone involved in campus ministry, anyone trying to make the faith tangible and relevant, anyone interested in the state of the Church today.

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Friday, June 01, 2007

They're Here...

"Did you get a blackberry? Aw, too bad we got one!"

On my way to work yesterday and today, I have noticed many such conversations from fresh faced young men and women filled to the brim with enthusiasm and uncertainty. Tis the season for summer interns in DC.

So it goes.