Friday, December 30, 2005
Thursday, December 29, 2005
I've just finished the two part saga, Ilium and Olympos, by Dan Simmons, and I must say they are wonderful. Simmons is now cemented in my mind as one of the foremost writers of good science fiction of today. You may remember me going on and on about some of Simmons' other books, in the Hyperion series, and the wonderful and well crafted literary connections present there. Well, the same is true for these two books I just finished, only more so. I wouldn't say it's necessary to have read the Iliad and the Odyssey before reading Ilium, and Olympos, but it certainly would help. (My friend Griffin reports its also not likely necessary for the reading of Simmons' work, but if you want to call yourself a human being you should probably read Homer. I agree.) All the major important parts of Homer that Simmons' writes and plays on are well summarized, but still, if you know and love Homer, you'll get much more out of these books. Oh, and Shakespeare, too. Yes, that's right, ole Billy Shakes' plays play a huge role in these stories as well. And Keats' makes an encore cameo. Poetry and literature form a strong backbone to most of Simmon's work, and this is no exception. You don't have to be an expert in it all to enjoy it, but knowing some of it definitely heightened my enjoyment of the books. Man, Simmons' is good! He's managed to break a major literary convention by totally hijacking someone else's characters (Homer's) and used them for his own purposes, and made me like it. I was totally engrossed in this story that involves ancient battles, futuristic time travel, a heavy dose of quantum physics, literary analysis, robots from Jupiter of some time era, recombinant dinosaurs, Greek gods, and one of the scariest prognostications of where the human race may be headed I've ever read. The characters become beloved, even those you thought you knew, like Odysseus and the fleet-footed Achilles. The first book also features one of the best ending sentences I've ever read and the second one begins with a sentence that totally throws you all off kilter because of its anachronisms (if that even describes what happens). The crafting of the story mimics Homer in many places and to those who know, it's definitely an educated nod in your direction. And it ends well. I mean, by saying that, that it ends. Unlike so many other science fiction and fantasy writers who are irritating me by dragging their story on and on and on and on (staring in Robert Jordan's direction and beginning to wonder about George R. R. Martin), this story comes to a conclusion. It was a satisfying conclusion to me. There was only really one loose-end not tied up, but it was an acceptable one. Several of the puzzling things that occur in the background story of the book were not explained, but I see no reason why they needed to be. None of the characters could possibly have explained them, so it would have been silly to try and write that in. All in all, this two-part story comes highly recommended. It's fun! It takes so many things and so many ideas and throws them all together in one big mess of a pot, and you know what, it works. I'd suggest you read them - these two are not to be missed.
[Later: Ok, I've just gone and read some of the reviews of Olympos on Amazon, particularly the ones that give negative reviews. Now, everyone is entitled to their opinion, but I have to say I disagree with some of their complaints. Most of them revolve around unexplained events and loose ends. Tough, say I. Like I mentioned, there is no character that could have been poised to explain all those "mysteries", so it would have neccesitated a disembodied third person voice not present in all the rest of the story. As to who some of the mysterious characters are - well, they remain mysterious, and that's ok too, in my opinion. I am left wondering who and what some of these people/things were, but it's a pleasant wondering, not a frustrated one. As to the complaints by several reviewers about who the main, most powerful characters actually were, I say they need to re-read the story, cause Simmons did explain that in a very creative way. One reviewer said the story was an "anachronistic devotion to the neoconservative agenda of the misguided "war on terrorism" with all its paraphernalia, including not only violent and racist anti-Islamic bias, but also rejection of all non-Western cultures and values, both latent and open homophobia and French-phobia, and, most bizarrely, sarcastic hatred of women". If you're really seeing all that in this book (I'll admit there were some homophobic remarks made) you need to get out more. The stuff mentioned about anti-Islam was only a fair, speculative, and fictional, line of thought about where radical and militant Muslims would be placed within this story. As for the "War on Terror" remark, wow, I'm no big supporter of the "War", but honestly, I can't possibly see how this book could be considered a "devotion" to it. ANd to the comment about hatred of women, guess this reviewer doesn't know much about how women were treated in the time period, because I thought it was a fair representation, (after all, the Iliad opens with a disagreement about who owns a captured slave woman- Briseis - and who has sexual rights to her) especially since the strength, fortitude, leadership, and courage of many of the primary female characters is not only highlighted, but drives much of the story! Seems to me this reviewer read the book with an agenda. And that's fine, but I'm now not going to give them any more of my time.]
Monday, December 19, 2005
I recently came across this posting on a blog I read from time to time. It reminded me of a time when I had to go to a large, non-denomination mega church for a class project. It so happened that one of my group members was a young lady of my age. When we went to the newcomers area, they immediately welcomed us and asked how long we've been married. We laughed nervously and said that we weren't married. (Actually, I said that. They didn't deign to address the woman.) Then they looked at me with concern, obviously thinking "living in sin" and asked when we planned to get married. When I said we had no plans to get married, they almost physically recoiled. I kept going. "To each other. We're friends and classmates, not boyfriend/girlfriend." You could tell this concept had not entered their minds at all. Ben, over at the above linked website, is right in saying that the church doesn't really know how to deal with single people in their mid to late twenties, and anything over that age is really just right out. We need to learn how to do that. We need to learn how to respect people who are putting higher education and formation in a primary position in their life, and will focus on marriage and children later. For those who have managed to do both at one time, damn, you're just a better person than I am and I congratulate you on being able to do that. That's really and truly wonderful. But not everyone has that happen to them, and that's ok too. So, go read that posting I linked too, it's brief and worthwhile.
Friday, December 16, 2005
Tonight I have been invited to dinner by an old high school friend of mine who had a baby recently. She is a single mom working hard to stay afloat and when I ran into her over Thanksgiving at her hostessing job we said we'd try to get reconnected over this winter break so I could see the baby. We're going to Carrabba's, a pretty good Italian restaurant.
Then, tomorrow, I am off to job interview #2 north of here. Because it is a good distance away, they are kindly putting me up for the night, so we can do interviewing tomorrow afternoon and evening and then I can attend services Sunday morning and get a feel for what their worship style is like. I was at job interview #1's worship service last Sunday.
When I return some of my other wandering friends should be back as well so we'll try to get together. Another friend of mine from high school and his wife had their first child and we all want to make our visitation. If you had told me 6 years ago that this particular friend would be the first among us to get married and have a kid I would have called you a fool, but I guess God uses fools to confound the wise, or something like that. Their baby was born last Saturday, so it's fairly fresh.
In some exciting news, the Dirty Frenchman is coming home!! One of my best friends from high school days whom I haven't seen in about 4 years is finally coming home from the Big Apple where he has been living and working for the past years. It will be good to see him indeed!
So, lots of exciting things going on and I'm running on pure extroversion fuel. Time to go get ready for tonight's dinner now.
Tuesday, December 13, 2005
Saturday, December 10, 2005
When other men are zooming down the road in their V8's at 100 mph, I'm cruising in the right hand lane at a comfortable 37.
Some men prefer a fast car, without any leg or head room. I prefer a more spacious environment, capable of having a few friends over.
Some men have spinners, others have loudeners. But I've got a thin layer of dirt and a "My Child is an Honor Student" bumper sticker.
When others are zipping in and out of traffic, I'm in no particular hurry.
Why, you might ask.
Because tonight, I'm Mini-Van Man.
Wednesday, December 07, 2005
The past two days I was busy doing final projects and final exams, and then making sure they were emailed off on time. I've still got two liturgy projects to go, one this friday and one next friday, but that should be no problem.
Today, I had to travel to the diocesan office for a meeting with the priest in charge of seminarians and with the Canon to the Ordinary to talk about completing all the paperwork left to complete and filling in missing gaps and........the big one....DEPLOYMENT.
That's right folks, at the age of 24 I am looking for a real job, finally. And I have several places of interest to look. One prelimenary interview is already scheduled. So, if you find the time, please pray with me about getting a good job where I can learn how to be the best priest I can be. I'll try and keep y'all posted.
It was chilly today, low 70's.
Enjoy winter, Chicago!
Friday, December 02, 2005
Once convention is over, I will remain in FL for my Christmas break. Yes, I know, I am leaving a week early. But, if I did not do this, I would have had to buy three plane tickets instead of two and that's just not feasible. Plus, all my final exams/projects are either papers or take home exams that can be as easily done in FL as in Chicago and then emailed or faxed. So, that's that story.
I realized late in the day today that when I returned in January, several good friends of mine would not be back. The two Westcott House exchange students from England will be returning to their native soil. I will certainly miss Caroline and Rodger - we had many good times together playing American football and whatnot. I'll also dearly miss Rodger's wife Gill, and their precious 18 month old son, John Daniel. JD and I have gotten to be quite good buddies and I'm really gonna miss that kid. We loved to play together and found out that we have a lot in common: we both dislike being cold, we're both fans of books but if we don't like a book, we're not above tossing it across the room, we both like bicycle pumps, we both feel right at home in the Great Orange Throne of Victory and often sit in it in our underwear, and we both know that whenever we walk into a room we are immediately the center of attention. So, safe travels back to England Caroline, Rodger, Gill, and JD. Go with God. And we'll each other again someday. I've got plenty more American tricks to teach you JD, besides high five, and, after all, England and Florida aren't so far apart if you look at it from the right perspective.