7 Quick Takes (2/14/14)

— 1 —

The coffee shop near my office puts up prompts on their blackboard for patrons to respond to.  This week, they went with, “Share your thoughts about LOVE”

Can you spot which was my contribution?

— 2 —

But I can only take so much sappiness, so I’ll alternate Valentine’s Day-ish takes with unrelated ones.  I grew up on Calvin and Hobbes, so I loved this collection of disturbing snowmen at HuffPo, some of which are clearly homages to the strip.

— 3 —

The next one is about love in a format I love.  Storytelling with Data looked at recent findings (and charts!) on marriage, and reworked the graphics that came with Pew’s report.  I really ought to send this blog flowers or chocolates or something.  The author does a great job of walking you through the findings and explaining how you can make the story clearer by redesigning the graphs. <3

— 4 —

The credit for finding the next story goes to grok, a regular commenter here.  NASA is partnering with science fiction authors for more accurate stories that keep space exploration in the public eye.

The novel is the first in a new series of “NASA-Inspired Works of Fiction,” which grew out of a collaboration between the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and science fiction publisher Tor. The partnership pairs up novelists with NASA scientists and engineers, who help writers develop scientifically plausible story lines and spot-check manuscripts for technical errors.

The plot of Mr. Forstchen’s novel hinges on a multibillion-dollar effort to build a 23,000-mile-high space elevator—a quest threatened by budget cuts and stingy congressmen. Forthcoming novels in the series will explore asteroid mining, wormholes and astrobiology….

It isn’t the first time NASA has ventured into pop culture. NASA has commissioned art work celebrating its accomplishments from luminaries like Norman Rockwell and Andy Warhol. The agency has consulted on Hollywood films, including “Armageddon,” “The Avengers” and “Transformers: Dark of the Moon.” Two years ago, NASA teamed up with hip-hop star will.i.am, who wrote a song about space exploration that was first broadcast on the Mars Curiosity rover and beamed back to earth.

Admittedly, based on that list, these collaborations may not always be for the best, but I still find the cockles of my heart warming.

— 5 —

The New York Times had a charming story about an Italian convent that’s become a secondhand wedding dress showroom.  Brides donate their gowns after their weddings, and the nuns give them to women who pay what they can.  I particularly liked the nun in charge of the project:

Sister Maria Laura is a gift to the brides-to-be. Before she entered monastic life at the age of 28, 20 years ago, she was a designer and seamstress in her family’s tailor store in Lucca, Tuscany. She can tell immediately whether it is possible to alter a bridal dress, and she knows exactly how much work the tailor will need to do.

She is also quite straightforward. “No need to tighten it; you don’t want to look like a sausage on your wedding day,” she might say. “This is just ugly,” she bluntly told two blushing brides one chill January morning.

 As one of the brides says, near the end of the article, there is something very lovely about doing your wedding planning in a place of prayer, rather than a place of business.

— 6 —

I haven’t played Bioshock Infinite, but, whether you have or whether you don’t mind having the plot spoiled, I really recommend Max Gladstone’s meditation on the game and its themes of baptism.  I’ve redacted the characters names in the blockquote below, for those of you avoiding spoilers:

See, baptism is a discontinuity—a tear. At the very least, setting aside all questions of metaphysics, it offers us a narrative break from the past. That distance gives us the strength to appreciate the depths of our mistakes, and the spiritual leverage to mend them and live better. Baptism is not God saying “Hey, you’ve done really well so far, have a nice bath!” We need baptism, say faiths that rely on the sacrament, because we haven’t. Because doing well is impossible. Because we live in a suffering world, because we benefit from that suffering, because we pass it on to others, because almost all of us who can read this blog post (if we’re frank about it) live with our feet on the necks of people we can’t name, running back centuries. And that’s for those of us who did not actively bayonet children during one of the darkest and bloodiest moments of American history! To do meaningful work in the world, to be honest with ourselves, we must wake up. We must embrace a moment of change, a spiritual inflection point. We must acknowledge our role in oppression and work to stop oppressing. (Notice parallels to the stuff I wrote about karma a few weeks back? The concepts of sin and karmic determination approach similar truths from different angles, I think.)

Seen this way, both [Bob] and [Carl] refuse baptism after Wounded Knee. [Bob] recognizes his refusal, and sinks into despair, alcoholism, and gambling until he’s so low he sells his daughter to save his own skin. [Carl] twists the offer of rebirth—he uses the discontinuity of baptism to *justify* his past actions. Obviously God approves of my deeds, or else He would not forgive me. Right?


You may remember Max from the two part Q&A he did with me, to promote his most recent book.

— 7 —

And finally, if you’re alone this Valentine’s Day and seeking a partner, perhaps you’d like to make use of the calling cards of the past?

The Art of Manliness blog has a collection of ways to ask your beloved out via tasteful (or not so tasteful) cards.  But don’t waste one on me.  My interregnum was short, and I’m spoken for again.


This is the eighth day of our Novena to St. Dymphna. You can find the prayers here and a little background on why we’re praying it here.


For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

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