Why I Can’t Find My Coffee Mug, Explained

Well, maybe. Walking through doorways robbed my memory, or so says Professor Radvansky in this piece just published in Notre Dame News.

We’ve all experienced it: The frustration of entering a room and forgetting what we were going to do. Or get. Or find. [Read more...]

Happy Birthday Marines!

At Casa del Weathers, steak is on the menu tonight, like it will be in every clime and place where Marines serve. Today, see, is a High Holy Day for Marines like me. On this day, in the Year of Our Lord, 1775, the Continental Congress agreed to form two battalions of Marines. The committee that decided this met at Tun Tavern in Philadelphia, over beers of course, and the Continental Marines were born. [Read more...]

Remember When Wayne & Garth Got Back Stage Passes & Met Alice Cooper?

That’s sort of how I felt after I was Confirmed. The “backstage pass effect”, see, ushered me into the inner sanctum. Once inside, I started getting schooled in surprising ways, much like how Alice Cooper’s knowledge of Milwaukee, and the Algonquin native culture blows away Wayne & Garth. Whoa. And then, after the 15 seconds of an audience I was expecting, I was invited to hang out too? What a feeling! When that happened, that is where all of my preconceived notions about the Church fell away, and left me hitting the floor sort of like the boys here. [Read more...]

Half A Million Thanks!

I was just over at YIMCatholic 1.0 looking for something in the archives, when I noticed a milestone for the blog has been reached on this day: 500,000 page views?! How accurate is that doo-hickey (way down below the Holy Family==>>) ? I really have no idea. But it does gives me a neat snapshot of the world like this, [Read more...]

From Sacred Heart Academy, Your New Rose Queen

Sister Celeste Marie Botellop, Principal of Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy standing with the 2012 Rose Queen, Drew Washington and Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy students at Tournament House. The Pasadena Tournament of Roses named Drew Helen Washington as the 94th Rose Queen today at the Tournament House Tuesday, October 18, 2011. [Read more...]

About This Blog (And Blogger) in 1000 Words or Less

I became a Catholic when I was confirmed at the Easter Vigil in the year of Our Lord, 2008. I was baptized, though, when I was 10 years old in a Non-denominational Christian church located in my hometown. With my family, I attended regularly (pretty much if church was open, we were there!) until I graduated from high school and joined the Marine Corps at the age of 17. [Read more...]

Ziggy Stardust + SRV = An Awesome Near Miss (Music for Mondays)

I’ve always liked David Bowie, even when I couldn’t stand to look at him at times. The Ziggy Stardust look was interesting, no? But man, Space Oddity is great, and so is Suffragette City, We Could Be Heroes, Jean Genie and lots, lots more. Bowie was looking for a new sound in the early 1980′s and he stumbled upon a blues guitarist who caught his ear at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1982. Stevie Ray, needing to eat, signed on with Bowie and cut the album, though later he opted out of touring to promote it.

My second SRV album

The album that resulted was released in 1983 and was called Let’s Dance. When it hit the airwaves, I remember hearing Modern Love on the radio and liking it. I didn’t really get to listen to the whole album, you know, with head phones the size of Mission Control headset, until I was in Cairo in late 1984. When I did, I remember wondering, who the heck is this guitar player? He’s got a great sound!

So Let’s Dance was also my very first Stevie Ray Vaughn album. The first of many. How good was Stevie Ray Vaugh? Six Grammys good. What follows are some of my favorite SRV-heavy tracks from this album and a bonus track from a practice session for the Serious Moonlight Tour that Stevie opted out of. It turned out not to have been a career killing idea. We’ll go in order of each songs appearance on the album.

Modern Love.  Whoa, I thought to myself, who is this cat on guitar? And come to think of it, I think “modern love” stinks too. Though I had never met it personally myself, I preferred the idea of “old fashioned” love. So I liked this tune from the very beginning.

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China Girl. Co-written with Iggy Pop (who recorded it in 1977), it’s a neat little story song that Stevie Ray’s blues guitar style brings up a notch, or two. The original video is a cool little short film too, complete with From Here to Eternity scenes in the surf, etc. I couldn’t find the longer album version though. It’s gone from YouTube forever, I reckon. This one cuts SRV’s solo to almost nothing. Pity.

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Let’s Dance.  Now we’re cooking! The original album version with all of its jazziness, percussion filled back beats, and, of course, the unfettered SRV blues guitar, for your listening pleasure. Stevie Ray shows he learned a thing or two from producer Nile Rodgers with his guitar playing style here. By this time, I was searching the cassette tape liner notes for the name of the lead guitarist. For the full MTV effect, go check out the little short film on materialism and its dubious benefits here.  Otherwise, stay here and go long!

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Criminal World. On this track, Bowie covers a tune with fairly dark lyrics. Guess what else? He really lets Stevie Ray spread his wings here. Go get ‘em blues man! He really gets going at the fade into the end. That’s ok, because he picks it up on the next song where this one leaves off.

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Cat People (Putting Out Fire). The first hit on the album was actually the first single released in conjunction with a film of the same title in 1982. Remember Nastassja Kinski? I hope she settled down and had a happy marriage and a lot of kids. Don’t ruin the dream with facts, please. Anyway, he re-cut it with Stevie Ray’s take on it. SRV shines here too, and I remember thinking that the drummer is very gifted too.

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Jean Genie. Stevie Ray Vaugh never toured with David Bowie, though that was the original plan after the studio album was cut. For an idea of how the Serious Moonlight Tour would have sounded like with SRV on the lead guitar, check this out. It’s from the practice session recordings leading up to the tour. The visuals here are awful, but the music? Raucous!

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That’s a print! Say a prayer for Stevie Ray’s soul (he died on August 27, 1990 at the age of 35, and today would have been his 57th birthday) and I’ll see you next time.

To Help Make A Movie, Part Deux!

Ian Higgins writes,

Hi Frank, 

I just wanted to personally thank you and all your readers who have so kindly donated and shown their support for our movie “All That Remains”. It has been overwhelming to witness such support in such a short space of time.

It is thanks to the kindness of all those who donated that we now have enough funds in place to film the crucial interviews in Japan. We’ve managed to raise enough funds to fly out to Japan and film the necessary interviews for the documentary aspects of the movie – thanks to everyone who rallied to our cause!

We didn’t reach our total, but we still consider our campaign a huge success and have decided to launch a second campaign – this time with the goal of raising the necessary funds for the drama sequences that will help bring this amazing story of a remarkable man to life with all the emotional power that a film has.

I would also like to add, to all those who chose to contribute anonymously on our previous campaign, remember to please get in touch with us at info@majoroakentertainment.com with your email addresses (that information is not given to us when you donate as anonymous) so we can send you the links to your perks as and when they become available. Your personal details will be treated as strictly confidential.

Thanks again for your kindness and support!

Huzzah! Ian and Dominic can wing it over to Nagasaki now and get some digital film in the flash drives! Very cool. Guess what else?

Frank, Dominic and I also would like to give you a producer credit on the movie. I know it’s not on the perk you purchased (Ed. a cheap one!), but I think as one of the job descriptions of a producer is to help raise funds for a production – that qualifies you.

Warmest regards,
Ian Higgins

Gulp. Know what that means? I’m now no longer just the chief fan boy or über cheerleader, but an honest-to-goodness movie producer now!? I gotta tell you, the Lord works in mysterious ways because I sure didn’t see that title landing beside my name EVER. No way, no how.

But this is a remarkable story that needs to be told, and told again. It never crossed my mind that I would be denominated with a title like producer on my résumé. And it never would have happened without the generosity of giving readers like you. Folks who live out the words penned by St. James (2:14-17) two thousand years ago,

What shall it profit, my brethren, if a man say he hath faith, but hath not works? Shall faith be able to save him? And if a brother or sister be naked, and want daily food: And one of you say to them: Go in peace, be ye warmed and filled; yet give them not those things that are necessary for the body, what shall it profit? So faith also, if it have not works, is dead in itself.

Know what else it means? That’s simple: I need to make some more rain for the project! And I’m a beggar-thy-neighbor type, long on faith and prayer, but short on cash. But God will provide, and of that I am sure. And it looks like I’ve got some new stuff to learn. Maybe Tom Cruise can help.

Takashi Nagai, praying the rosary

Remember that little post I shared with you about how Words Matter? Well they do. As I thanked you for your generosity before, I will thank you for it again and ask that you share the news on this project via Twitter, Facebook, e-mail, etc. Heck, by any means possible. And give, give, and give some more —in any amount!

But I won’t brow beat you about it either. Shakedowns? We don’t need no stinking shakedowns! Instead, you can keep track of the fundraising progress right here at YIMCatholic. If you have a gander at the right-hand sidebar (up topside), you’ll see I’ve added a little widget showing the All That Remains Phase-2 IndieGoGo page where you can easily share it, see how many shekels are in the jar, how much time is left to give, etc., etc. How neat is that? Here’s an idea: put it on your blog too!

With prayer, action, faith, hope, and love,  I’m sure that Phase-2 of fundraising for this project will be a rousing success. All it will take is the following…

Because I Asked, I Prayed, And You Helped This Pro-Life Cause

Dr. Nagai and his children praying.

Thank you YIMCatholic Readers! On the last day of this past August, I shared a post about helping to make the movie All That Remains. When completed, it will be a docu-drama about the life of Dr. Takashi Nagai, survivor of the aftermath of the atomic bombing of the city of Nagasaki. I called it “rattling the tin cup” for a good cause, and I shared the post with you all. I threw a few shekels in myself and prayed that others would respond too.

When Ian Higgins sent me the information about the project, the fundraising page he had built over at IndieGoGo set a lofty goal of $24,000 dollars and had a whopping $45.00 in the kitty from three kind donors. Did I mention that there is some kind of time limit on this campaign? The clock was ticking down with 14 days remaining and that goal seemed all but impossible.

It still seems like a stretch. But who knows? Well, God knows. And maybe Ian and his brother Dominic can get an extension. But the good news is that 1082 folks read that post (according to Blogger’s internal counter) and 22 of them have contributed $4155 dollars towards the completion of this inspiring project. Isn’t that great? I’m thanking everyone who contributed, as well as everyone who forwarded the post, shared it on Facebook, Tweeted it, and linked to it. Thanks for all your help!

Now, the counters over at IndieGoGo say that 4 days is all that remains (pun intended!) on the fundraising campaign and I’m rattling the tin cup once again and praying for a miracle. Of the 1082 folks who read the post the first time around, 22 contributed in various amounts; from as little as $15 to as much as $1000(!).  Remember me and my calculator? That works out to 2.03% of readers contributing to the cause. Which is about 17.97% shy of the 20% the Pareto Principle would have predicted would have given.

What’s that? You’ve never heard of the Pareto Principle? The 80/20 rule? Basically it means 80% of your sales come from 20% of your clients. Or,

80% of your profits come from 20% of your customers
80% of your complaints come from 20% of your customers
80% of your profits come from 20% of the time you spend
80% of your sales come from 20% of your products
80% of your sales are made by 20% of your sales staff
80% of your comments come from 20% of your readers

I just made that last one one up. Or put another way, as Our Lord said,

The kingdom of heaven is like to leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal, until the whole was leavened.(Matthew 13:33)

I wonder how close the percentage of meal to leaven in the parable is to 80:20?

Here is the link to the fundraising site (Phase 2!) again, as well as the awesome trailer,

All That Remains – Feature film Trailer from Ian & Dominic Higgins on Vimeo.

For those who think that using nuclear weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was justified, Joe Six-Pack, USMC would simply remind you that doing so in the future would not be justified in light of Catholic teaching. See Guadium et Spes (§80),

80. The horror and perversity of war is immensely magnified by the addition of scientific weapons. For acts of war involving these weapons can inflict massive and indiscriminate destruction, thus going far beyond the bounds of legitimate defense. Indeed, if the kind of instruments which can now be found in the armories of the great nations were to be employed to their fullest, an almost total and altogether reciprocal slaughter of each side by the other would follow, not to mention the widespread devastation that would take place in the world and the deadly after effects that would be spawned by the use of weapons of this kind.

Urakami Cathedral, 500 meters
from Ground Zero.

All these considerations compel us to undertake an evaluation of war with an entirely new attitude.(1) The men of our time must realize that they will have to give a somber reckoning of their deeds of war for the course of the future will depend greatly on the decisions they make today.

With these truths in mind, this most holy synod makes its own the condemnations of total war already pronounced by recent popes,(2) and issues the following declaration.

Any act of war aimed indiscriminately at the destruction of entire cities of extensive areas along with their population is a crime against God and man himself. It merits unequivocal and unhesitating condemnation.

Nor was it an open and shut case among many folks involved in the war effort at the time either, not that that matters now. Never Again!

Thanks again to all who have helped out and thanks in advance for those who will! If you can, throw the Brothers Higgins a few shekels, but if you can’t, please share this with others and pray for the successful completion of this important Pro-Life film project.

P.S. Here’s a bonus earworm from Dweezil and Moon Unit…

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Recognizing Grace in a Manual Transmission

This past week, I’ve been on vacation. Actually, it’s been a “stay-cation,” with me working on little projects around the house. The repairs to our home after the hail damage (from the storms back in April) needed to be managed as well. And then there was my car.

My car had been damaged pretty significantly by the hail storm too. Early in May it was inspected by my insurer, and the body shop scheduled it for repair in the third week of July. They said it would take one full week, and instead, it took three. It also cost them twice as much to repair it as the insurer estimated.

Did I mention my oldest son received his “learners permit” back in July too? And he has been driving under supervision since that time and doing a fine job. That is, until my car came home from the shop. You see, my little car has a 5-speed transmission, which helps it get 40 miles per gallon on the highway. I informed my son that he must learn to drive it.

It’s one of those unilateral “Dad Edicts” that I announce from time to time, as it is my prerogative to do. Anyway, to make a long story short, my son has been re-learning how to drive this week while I am on vacation. School starts next week for him, so now is the time.

What does any of this have to do with grace? Maybe nothing. Or maybe everything.

When talking about grace, I mean what Merriam-Webster marks down as definition #1(a) & (b):

1a: unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification.

1b: a virtue coming from God.

You see, when you live in the world of automation, everything seems easy. And you can start to take for granted that ease, and completely miss out on all the wonderful, and sometimes difficult, things that actually take place in order to accomplish things as simply as shifting gears in a car. Or like drafting this message.

Now as long as I’ve had children, they have known that manual transmissions exist. But my oldest is realizing now how something that I (and his mother) make seem so effortless is actually downright tricky to duplicate.

He has learned how even the most modest of inclines is a fearsome challenge. He has been humbled, and amazed, by the ease with which a car can stall when trying to get started in first gear on level ground. And he’s learned:

How unforgiving the clutch is if you let it out too quickly. How three pedals and a stick shift have to be manipulated, all while steering and keeping track of all these other cars on the road too. He has learned how little patience other drivers have when he inadvertently stalls when at a red light.

These moments were all lost to him when he was a passenger only, or when he was driving our automatic transmission car. It really never crossed his mind that driving a car with a manual transmission is a form of work. It’s not, really, and after he gets the hang of it these tasks will be second nature to him as well.

So, as I’ve been sitting in the passenger seat as his instructor pilot this week, thoughts of recognizing grace have been popping up in my mind. Because if we don’t look for it, we can forget that it is occurring all around us, all the time. We run the risk of being numb to it, just like we forget, or never really even knew, how an automatic transmission works.

Drawing by David Levine

It’s all the fault of Karl Rahner, SJ. I’ve been reading Volume One of his Mission and Grace. In it he says stuff like,

There cannot be any grace which does not imply a quite definite putting into action of nature; nor can there be any human, responsible putting of nature into action, which is not subject to the demands of grace, amounting in concreto, with no avoidance of it while life lasts, to a Yes or No to grace.

Got that? If it sounds kind of highfalutin, pardon Fr. Karl. He probably didn’t recognize that this sounds a lot like shifting gears with a manual transmission. See, without the grace (see definition 3c) of easing out the clutch, there will be a failed action called stalling, and not the beautiful action of going.

But the grace that I am referring to is that which resides in the interactions I have been having with my son while teaching him this new skill. The grace of helping him to see he can do this seemingly impossible task. The grace of giving him encouragement. The grace of expressing my faith in his ability to succeed. The grace of helping him overcome the dejection of failure. The grace of watching him mature before my eyes. The grace of his confidence rising from the rocks of failure.

It reminds me again of what Fr. Karl writes when he says,

The Christian knows that he will constantly be sent by God upon courses which he cannot by himself complete; that tasks will be laid upon him which cannot be finally performed while the fashion of this world remains; that he has always to fight, without, as yet, being able to see final victory, indeed that it would be a danger-signal of the most appalling defeat if he so much as wanted to fight in such fashion as to achieve a once-for-all victory. And yet the Christian does not despair of this world. He works, he keeps on beginning again, he does not give up.

Yes. Recognizing God’s grace is a lot like learning to drive a stick shift. One day soon, I’ll be able to use these experiences to teach my son this higher truth. And I can only hope that recognition and gratitude will be the result.

Um, that’s my seat Cody.

 


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