I'm so old, I watched the original 'Star Trek' when it first came out. And few episodes riveted me, or remain with me, as much as "Is There No Truth in Beauty?" The plot centered on an alien ambassador, Kollos, who was profoundly intelligent and benign, but whose appearance drove men mad with terror; he was transported inside an ark of sorts by a lovely blind telepath onto the Enterprise. Spock (being Vulcan) can look upon Kollos using a protective visor—but when he forgets to put it on and sees the Medusan face-to-face, all hell breaks loose. (Highlights below.)
This story haunted me, and not just for the delicious terror of gazing on the forbidden. At one point, Spock (with visor) mind-melds with the formless Kollos, and delivers an astonishing speech to the gaping crewmen on the bridge. It permanently impressed me, at age 11, with a profound sense of how bodies can separate as well as unite us. Thanks to fandom and the Web, I looked it up, and it still knocks me out:
"How compact your bodies are. And what a variety of senses you have. This thing you call... language though - most remarkable. You depend on it, for so very much. But is any one of you really its master? But most of all, the aloneness. You are so alone. You live out your lives in this... shell of flesh. Self-contained. Separate. How lonely you are. How terribly lonely."
As a Catholic schoolgirl, I don't think I ever made a connection to the Old Testament God, the One who appears to Moses as a burning bush.
“Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God. (Exodus 3:5-6)
Nor do I remember thinking of Kollos' observations as a way to imagine how Christ might have experienced His Incarnation.
But I do now, which proves either (a) that Star Trek is awesome no matter how much people may sneer, or (b) in 50 years, this as good I've gotten at theology.
Anyway, back to the Holy Face, the face of Jesus, my Lenten "theme"...what a change from Old Testament to New. We go from a God too beautiful and terrible to look upon, to a God with a human face. And body. For us, infinite consolation and fellowship. For Him, suffering and isolation...along with friendship, joy, anger, pity, all the things we feel. He felt the sun and rain of Galilee on that Face. His mother gazed down on it, his friends recognized and loved it. They looked on it in the dull stillness of death and then, most mysteriously of all, in Resurrection. And then He and the Face were gone.
And now the Face is hidden again, inside one another, where it can still be hard to look without a visor.
Crazy Stable, it's been awhile. The blinding midway of the Interwebs, the Buzzing Feeds and Huffing Pos, the klouts and tweets and trending, can drain the impulse power of the thoughtful blogger. It used to feel fresh and immediate to post several times a week, and the prose felt nice and trim at a dozen grafs or less. Now one feels like a monk in a Scriptorium doing that, and not in a good way.
So naturally, I decided to revive the dormant blog with a Lenten retreat about the Holy Face, and start with Lambchop and Noel Fielding.
I am obsessed with the Holy Face. Well, I am obsessed with the Holy Shroud of Turin, and that leads to a thing for the Holy Face. Hardly original, I know; museums and books overflow with artists' renderings. But it gets me—if Jesus was God, then God had a human face. For someone as theologically impaired as I am, this is hugely compelling. I can't fathom Aquinas, I can't concentrate on the Rosary for more than a few beads...but I can look for a face in the crowd.
So for each day of Lent, I will post something about the Face. I'm easing in with this quote from surrealist comic Noel Fielding; it's a warm-up line he uses in his indescribable stand-up gigs. Delivered in his adorable British accent, (usually after having called his audience "cheeky otters"), it only seems to mean nothing. But it strikes me as touching and profound, a daring declation of human solidarity and vulnerability. (Which stand-up is.) I decided to let Lamb Chop deliver the line because she, too, has a face, and a fine one.
And if everyone's off Travoltifying their name or checking in on Grumpy Cat, I will enjoy hanging out with some hardcore Catholic geekery all by myself. My blog's still ad-free, so I don't have to say things like THEY TOOK A PICTURE OF THIS BLOODY SHEET...AND YOU WON'T BELIEVE WHAT HAPPENED NEXT.
Or you could join me; I guarantee we won't be trending.
'Not So Bad After All,'
Says Co-Author 20 Years Later
[Not the New York Times, May 22, 2013] Trendy claims may sell books, but when it comes to medical advice, boring may be beautiful, according to Brenda L. Becker, the persistently obscure co-author of Week by Week to a Strong Heart. The book, which the perennially unknown medical writer ghost-wrote 20 years ago with Yale University hypertension authority Marvin Moser, MD, remains best known in her mind for its rock-bottom production values (thanks to a shoestring budget by Rodale Book Club, its publisher) and for Moser's insistence on maddeningly cautious medical advice at a time when oat-bran books and Dean Ornish's guru-like prescriptions for meditation and vegetarianism dominated the health best-seller lists and enriched their authors.
Published in 1992, well past the height of the public's first wave of obsession with cholesterol and heart disease and just before the statin era began, "Week by Week" sank out of sight after its brief book-club life span expired—although, Becker recalls, Moser never stopped believing that some day the public would tire of "miracle cures" and flock to their common-sense plan for gradually healthier habits. In the ensuing decades, she admits, she came to dismiss the book as a dated hack job, one that eventually yielded her "somewhere in the low three figures" in royalties. Now, however, upon rereading one of her several author copies (stockpiled once friends began refusing to take the extras, even as gifts), Becker acknowledges that her co-author may have been prophetic in his insistence on affordable, low-tech health interventions and incremental change.
Nor is the book as dated as she had feared, Becker adds, although Moser's rather laid-back approach to cholesterol risk has been replaced by aggressive prescribing. (Maybe too aggressive, according to a trickle of new safety signals about statins.) Countless other new medications have been introduced, of course, and some aspects of cardiology, such as understanding of the mechanisms underlying atherosclerosis and metabolic syndrome, have advanced greatly. The obesity epidemic has exploded since the book's publication, along with drastic measures such as Lap-Band procedures. But the book’s premise remains remarkably sound, if spectacularly uncommercial: Common-sense, simple improvements in diet, exercise, and risk-factor control can save your life.
Certainly, the book’s primary author would seem to be a good advertisement for his own advice. Becker, who has not been in touch with Moser for most of the years since its publication, recently “Googled” him, expecting to find a respectful obituary for a clinician and researcher old enough to remember Franklin D. Roosevelt’s death by malignant hypertension—or at least to read news of a retirement crowned with professional laurels. She was astonished to discover that Moser, now 87, is not only still alive and honored with a named award by the American Society of Hypertension, but still actively teaching at Yale. His familiar, George Bush the Elder-sounding voice invites callers to leave a message with easy, Locust-Valley lockjaw authority that Becker remembered well from marathon editing sessions. She recalled that Moser, for all his high-profile schedule as a hypertension talking-head and his relentless presence at prestigious medical meetings, was first and always a compassionate and practical advocate for his patients. And, while Becker ghosted much of the text, he did pen its best line: "I have reversed cardiac arrest with a chest thump on two occasions, once on a tennis court and once on an airplane."
Becker, no spring chicken herself, has recently been put on a high dose of an expensive new statin for her high cholesterol; the drug, she says, has left her with muscle cramps and weakness. Having reread the book and been surprised by its evergreen (if totally unheralded and unremunerated) wisdom, she left a message for Moser and got a prompt callback. His advice: Try a cheaper generic like simvastatin. "It's a little less effective, but take a few milligrams more." His other advice: Let's get somebody to re-issue the book!
Meanwhile, Becker recommends snapping up a rare copy of the original, which can be found on Amazon and other outlets starting at $.01...plus shipping. Do it for yourself, not for her; she hasn't gotten a royalty check since the George H.W. Bush administration.
That great old tune by Felix Unger could be the theme song of the literary moment (rather than, one hopes, a full-fledged movement) known as "Chick Lit." Now, in hopes of luring in the ladies, such Debbie-Downer gal scribblers as Sylvia Plath are getting the lipstick makeover. (Hey, Emily Bronte is now being sold as "Bella and Edward's favorite writer." Don't believe me? Go here.)
It's been awhile since I put off real work by whipping up some book covers; last time, I gave some classics the self-pub treatment (another moment we're totally into). Now it's time to brighten up some prestige-laden sob sisters with the cover treatment that says This book is good. Shoe-shoppin' good.
Let's start with that dour classic that launched a thousand Women's Studies' reading lists.
Overshare memoirs are big with the ladies; just ask Carrie Bradshaw!
More memoirs; let's put the "ditz" in dysfunctional!
Hey, admit it: "Feminist dystopian novel" just doesn't have that fly-off-the-shelves ring, now, does it?
It's such a cute book, she and her sister are, like, always writing to each other about guys and stuff.
Okay, I know. I will rot in hell for this. Happy reading, girls; I'll get the cupcakes, and I'll see you at Book Club!
This little boy is named Derby. He and his twin Loen were born at 24 weeks’ gestational age. Today, they are happy and reasonably healthy 5-year-olds whose story is recounted here.
Forty years ago, the Supreme Court of the United States of America made it legal in all 50 states to kill a child of this age, if he or she is still inside the womb.
About 1,000 children* this size are legally killed each year. Fifty Sandy Hooks a year. Not by guns, but by medical professionals. Since Roe v Wade, that equals 40,000 babies as indisputably alive and human as the one in this photograph, destroyed using techniques too disturbing to describe here.
Why focus on such a tiny percentage of the total number of abortions performed each year since Roe?
One reason is because later-term unborn babies are more immediately recognizable as ourselves, and we are more readily moved to defend that which we recognize.
Another reason is that I cannot wrap my mind around numbers like 54 million, a conservative estimate of the number of missing children since the "right to privacy" denied them their most fundamental human right: the right to live.
To talk about "social justice" but turn away from this truth...how?
"We shall not weary, we shall not rest, until every young woman is given the help she needs to recognize the problem of pregnancy as the gift of life. We shall not weary, we shall not rest, as we stand guard at the entrance gates and the exit gates of life, and at every step along way of life, bearing witness in word and deed to the dignity of the human person—of every human person."--Richard John Neuhaus, 2008
*According to a 1997 survey by the Guttmacher Institute, more than 1,000 babies 24 weeks' gestational age or older are aborted each year in the U.S. According to the CDC, about 1% of all abortions in 2009 took place after 21 weeks' gestation, which would equal at least 7,000 a year. According to another Guttmacher survey, a fetal problem was present in only 2% of such abortions.