Review: Between Silk and Cyanide

I’m taking a break from the Tim Powers tour this week to review a book recommended to me by Leah Libresco a couple of weeks ago.  I’d just finished Tim Powers’ Declare, a supernatural spy thriller, and Leah posted about a book about real spies: Leo Marks’ Between Silk and Cyanide: A Codemaker's War, 1941-1945.  It seemed like a natural segue, and I grabbed it on Kindle.And then I opened it up—and was enchanted.  Leo Marks is an excellent story-teller, with a dry, self-deprecating wit; and he’ … [Read more...]

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Today’s Aquinas: the Good vs. the good

We’re blogging through St. Thomas Aquinas’ Compendium Theologiae, sometimes called his Shorter Summa. Find the previous posts here.And now we get to something meaty: the analogy of being.  We say that a statement is the truth when it corresponds with reality; we say that God is the Truth.  We say that an act of generosity or charity is good; we say that God is the Good.  We say that a painting or a person is a "beauty"; we say that God is the Beautiful.  But are we really using the terms in t … [Read more...]

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Of K-Tel Ads and Nat King Cole

I first heard of Nat King Cole when I was a small boy watching cartoons on TV. Or, rather, when I was a small boy wishing that the K-Tel commercial would wind up so that I could back to watching cartoons on TV. You remember those ads? There'd be a crawl of song names going up the screen as snippets of different songs played and the announcer explained how you could get all of these great hits for next to nothing. To this day there are songs that I find instantly recognizable despite never … [Read more...]

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Leo Marks on Deciphering Mangled Codes

‘The road to hell is paved with good intentions’ caused forty-eight hours of purgatory when an F-section agent spelt hell with three ‘l’s.— Leo Marks, Between Silk and Cyanide: A Code Maker's War 1941-45From an outstanding book I'll be reviewing next week. … [Read more...]

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A Little Perspective on Father Serra

Being a California kid, I first became acquainted with Fr. Junipero Serra almost as soon as I got to school. I've visited many of the missions, and many of them many times, especially San Carlos Borromeo in Carmel, California, which was Fr. Serra's home base. And being a resident of the Left Coast, I also here fairly regularly about Fr. Serra's sins, how he dragooned the local Indians* into living at the missions and prevented them from leaving, how he exploited their labor, how he forced … [Read more...]

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A Tour of Tim Powers: The Drawing of the Dark

The third book in Tim Power's body of niftiness is distinctly better than his first two, though he's clearly still maturing as an author. It makes the decisive move: from the future to the historical past, and in particular to the secret history behind the history we know, a field Powers has been mining in various ways ever since.The Drawing of the Dark takes place in the 1520's, and concerns one Brian Duffy, an Irish mercenary and fencing instructor. After a long and successful career (a … [Read more...]

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Today’s Aquinas: God Cannot Be Defined

We’re blogging through St. Thomas Aquinas’ Compendium Theologiae, sometimes called his Shorter Summa. Find the previous posts here.We understand the one God through a glass darkly, by means of many names:A second point is this: since our intellect does not adequately grasp the divine essence in any of the conceptions which the names applied to God signify, the definitions of these terms cannot define what is in God. That is, any definition we might formulate of the divine wisdom would not … [Read more...]

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Catholic Pick-Up Lines

From Daily Theology (a site I'd not previously visited) comes this year's list of 20 Catholic pick-up lines, just in time for Valentine's day.Several of them made me laugh out loud, especially #3: "The Holy Spirit is driving me into the wilderness of your temptations." … [Read more...]

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Howdy, Doofus! Or, an In-Joke is Born

Some years ago, after watching some Harry Potter movie or other, my second son mispronounced the Potterverse unlocking charm, "alohomora", as "Aloha, Moron!" This led to the formulation of a companion charm, "howdeedoofus", pronounced "Howdy, Doofus!". We didn't ascribe a meaning to this charm, just admiring the sound of it, but over time it has come to be a charm against bad jokes.By which I mean: when my elder son makes a bad joke, I will say, "Howdy, Doofus!" This still happens at … [Read more...]

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