Sunday, October 31, 2010

Stephen King

Stephen King
3 Degrees

Third Degree: Stephen King
What tribute series of Halloween posts would be complete without my old neighbor, Stephen King.  I used to live in beautiful Bangor, Maine on the same street as Mr. King.  I never met the man, but his presence is felt all over the town.  He has shared his wealth with the city and made it a better place to be.  My hat is off to Stephen and Tabitha King for their kind hearts and great spirits.  (The ironwork on the gate is very cool too)

Second Degree: The Franciscan Friars at the Bakehouse
Note the funky hours
Brother Kenneth is ready for business.  Upstairs is the chapel.
Nobody lives in Bangor for more than a year without a visit to The Friar's Bakehouse at 21 Central Street, Downtown Bangor, ME.  They sometimes go on mission work, so call before you go.  207-947-3770.  I am SURE that Stephen, Tabitha, and all their kids, neighbors, friends, etc. know this place and have eaten there.  Not going to the Friars' Bakehouse in Bangor would be like not going to Zabar's in New York.  It just ain't done!

For a review of the bakehouse and how the cookies can convert click here.
Read an excellent blog post a la news story about the Bakehouse here.
For a wicked good Sausage Stew recipe click here.

First Degree: Blessed Clemens August Graf von Galen:
The brothers made their way to Rome and met Benedict XVI at the beatification of August Cardinal Grav von Galen.  To find out why this man is a Catholic superhero click here. 

Karol Wojtyla (JP2) was familiar with Cardinal von Galen's writings and possibly a copy of his famous sermon against euthenasia.  No doubt, this helped bouy him up as he fought against the tide of Nazis in Poland.

Do you want your life to combine prayer and copius amounts of cinnamon?

Pining for a simple life in Maine?

Is brown your color? 

God may be calling you to be a Fanciscan Friar or Sister. 

Friday, October 29, 2010

Vincent Price

Ghoul, Gourmet, and Great
The Smoking Killed Him
2 Degrees
Vincent was the voice on the introduction of "Thriller" for Michael Jackson.  Jackson was 1 degree from John Paul.  To read that connection, from the Kevin Bacon post, click here.  
Here's a little gem narrated by Vincent Price.  It's a short by Tim Burton.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Rent is Too Damn High!

3 Degrees
Too damn many!

Degree: Jimmy McMillan

I LOVE THIS GUY!  He's running for governor of New York.

Second Degree: Andrew Cuomo
Andrew Cuomo is also running for governor.  He was in the debate with Jimmy McMillan.  Both Andrew and his dad, Mario Cuomo knew Bill Clinton
"Mario, the rent is too damn high!"

Andrew is perplexed.  He knows the rent is too damned
high, but he doesn't know what to do about it.
First Degree: President Bill Clinton
Click here for Bill Clinton talking about Pope John Paul II's legacy.
"I understand that your rents are too high."

Friday, October 22, 2010

Lizzie Borden

5 Degrees
Fifth Degree: Lizzie Borden is famous for being accused of hatcheting members of her family and leaving their bloody bodies in the parlor and bed.  While she was acquitted of the charges in 1893, speculation still rages about her guilt. This post is not to continue the trial that was held in Taunton in 2009 or put forth any new evidence.  Visit the Fall River Historical Society or the Lizzie Borden B&B to figure that out for yourself.  Our mission here is to connect this New England spinster to John Paul II.
George Robinson

Fourth Degree: George Robinson
Lizzie hired a dream team of lawyers to defend her, among them former Governor George Dexter Robinson.  More trial info here.

Third Degree: James Blaine
James Blaine
George Robinson was from Massachusetts, the first state with public education.  He was dedicated to excellence in public education and served schools well as US Representative and later as Governor. To read about his Governorship click here.  In 1875, when Robinson was still in the Massachusetts State House, US Speaker of the House, James Blaine proposed his amendment to the constitution.  This "Blaine Amendment" would prohibit Federal dollars from funding religious schools.  When Robinson became a US Representative in 1877, Blaine had resigned from the House and become a Senator.  Blaine continued to try to get his amendment passed.  Robinson fought for funding of text books, federal funding of student tuition, and equal funding for rich, poor, black, and white students.  Senator Blaine and Representative Robinson served in the U.S. Congress several years concurrently.

Second Degree: Jeb Bush
Bush I, Bush II, Jeb Bush
Although the Blaine Amendment did not make it into the US Constitution, many states, including Florida, liked it and 36 adopted Blaine amendments of their own.   Below is an excerpt from and article from the Pew Forum on Religion, full story here.   When Jeb Bush was Governor of Florida, he fought to overturn that state's Blaine amendments.  

The following is an excerpt from an article about the Blaine Amendments in Florida and Jeb Bush's reaction to them.
George H. W. Bush and Pope JP 2
In June 2008, a church-state watchdog organization and several other groups filed a lawsuit in Florida seeking to remove from the state's November ballot two proposed amendments to the Florida Constitution. The proposed amendments, if passed, would eliminate legal obstacles that currently prevent Florida from funding religious schools. One of the proposed amendments would permit parents to usestate-funded vouchers to send their children to private schools in Florida, including religious schools. The other amendment would repeal a Florida state constitutional provision that prohibits public funding of religious organizations. More than two-thirds of the states have similar constitutional provisions restricting state aid to religious organizations; these state constitutional provisions are collectively known as the Blaine Amendments To read an interview with Governor Jeb Bush on the subject, click here.  

First Degree: President George H.W. Bush

Friday, October 15, 2010

Barak Obama

3 Degrees

Obama and Talabani
No, I'm not going through Benedict for this one.  I think we can all agree that would be too easy.  For this journey to John Paul, we're taking a trip to Iraq!  

Third Degree: President Barak Obama met with the Second Degree: Jalal Talabani, the Kurdish president of Iraq.  This photo was taken April 7, 2009.  The Kurds were a persecuted minority in Iraq under the Saddam Hussein regime.  So to were the Iraqi Christians.  THERE HAVE BEEN CHRISTIANS IN IRAQ FOR 2000 YEARS!  The majority of Christians have been forced from Iraq by the oppression of both Hussein's rule and the current Shiites.  To read more about the persecution of the Assyrian and Chaldean Churches, click here.  It is unclear to me that the Kurds are persecuting the Christians, but there is definitely a crisis for Christendom in Iraq.  

Fun Linguistic Fact:  Don't confuse "Talabani" with "Taliban".  The "Taliban" is a group of Wahhabi Muslims in Afghanistan, their name comes from the Pashto word for "students."  Jalal "Talabani" is a Kurdish man, he speaks Kurdish, not Pashto.  I do not know what his name means in Kurdish, but it is unfortunate that it sounds so similar to "Taliban."  

Mar Delly was named a Cardinal by Pope Benedict in 2007.
Here, the Chaldean Patriarch meets John Paul II
First Degree: Emmanuel Mar Dinkha IV , Patriarch of the Assyrian Church met with Jalal Talabani.  Mar Dinkha and Mar Delly, Patriarch of the Chaldean Church, continue to work tirelessly with Muslim leaders  to bring peace to their people and all the people of Iraq.  

When you view the pictures in the video below, look deeply into the faces.  These are the characteristics of Iraqi people.  They are beautiful features.  The beards can be off-putting to Western eyes, but look past that to the humanity.  When you see Iraqi faces on the news, look past the clothing and the beards and see the same faces.  
To read more about Assyrians click here or here.
To read about Cardinal Emmanuel III Delly of the Chaledean Church click here
To read about Mar Delly and Mar Dinkha meeting in Chicago, click here
To read about Chaldean Culture click here

Currently, the Vatican is hosting a Synod of bishops from the Middle East.  Can you spot anyone mentioned above?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Chilean Miners

2 Degrees

The Holy Father prayed for these men.  He was one of billions who did.  We all waited with rapt attention as a few families got what billions have prayed for.  To have family members returned from death.  May God bless them all.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Roberto Benigni

1 Degree
I love this man.  He's a treasure.  If you haven't seen "Life is Beautiful," you must.  See it in the afternoon, it will be too upsetting before bed.   You will cry like a baby!  Here are Roberto's musings on Graham Norton, the trailer for the movie he wrote, directed, and starred in, and a favorite scene from it.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Sharbat Gula, the Afghan girl

Mr. McCurry
Original picture in the background
6 Degrees

   6th Degree: Sharbat Gula's piercing green eyes appeared on the cover of National Geographic Magazine in June of 1985.  She was 12 years old.  Steve McCurry snapped the picture.  To listen to the NPR clip "Afghan Girl Mystery Solved" click here.  
 To see more of Steve McCurry’s gorgeous photographs click here.  That is also a great link to see the original photo.  I was unable to get permission to post the original photo on the blog.  
To read Steve’s blog click here

Denis Delestrac and photograph subjects
2.    5th Degree: Steve McCurry was featured in the documentary, “The Face of the Human Condition” where he met producer
4th Degree;Denis Delistrac.  Delistrac’s films include “Pax Americana, the Weaponization of Space.” 
a.      Denis Delistrac’s site is odd, either it’s under construction or it’s just minimalist. Click here to see it.
b.     For Denis’ wikepedia page click here.

3.     Among those interviewed in that documentary is  Joseph Cirincione, president of The Ploughshares fund. 
                                                i.      Joseph Cirincione is consistently listed as one of the most influential people in US foreign policy and world nuclear policy.  For The Poughshares website click here.
                                                           ii.      You can get his tweets @Cirincione
                                                        iii.      His blog is available here

4.    3rd Degree: Joseph Cirincione is an advisor to 
2nd Degree:President Barak Obama.  He appeared on The Daily Show.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Joseph Cirincione
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

5.    President Obama met 
First Degree: Pope Benedict XVI  

6.   The last two popes were good friends.  

Monday, October 4, 2010

Lady Gaga

Ms Gaga had a Catholic Education,
so did Benedict XVI

4 Degrees

Degree 4: Lady Gaga performed in the 2008 American Music Awards, the pope was not in attendance.  
Lady Gaga and Pope Benedict XVI
share a love of fashion,
though their aesthetics differ somewhat. 

Degree 3: Nicole Scherzinger of The Pussycat Dolls, also performed in the 2008 American Music Awards.  
The Pussycat Dolls at the 2008 AMA

Degree 2: Buzz Aldrin
Nicole Scherzinger won Dancing with the Stars in the same season that Buzz Aldrin competed.  
Nicole salutes Buzz as he dances on Dancing With the Stars

When Buzz Aldrin was still in space, Pope Paul VI prayed for him.  Later, they met in person.  
Astronauts of Apollo 11 and their wives in private audience with
Pope Paul VI

First Degree: Pope Paul VI consecrated Karol Woytiwa cardinal. 
June 28, 1967

Friday, October 1, 2010

Bill Gates

3 Degrees
Bill Gates' official picture
from Microsoft Website
Bill Gates
by Matt Groening 
I thought this post was going to be cheery.  Bill Gates has been portrayed on adult cartoons like Family Guy, South Park, and The Simpsons.  I figured that finding a connection to him would mean lots of fun stories and characters.  I found characters, brilliant, interesting, and intriguing characters.  The second degree is just sad.  

Working backwards toward JP2.  Third Degree: Bill Gates was a computer wunderkind in the 60s.  He began Microsoft in 1975 and every reader of this blog is in possession of some kind of microsoft product.  We are all customers of Microsoft to one degree or another.  Mr. Gates has an inquiring mind.  When he read Pushpinder (Push) Singh's manifesto "Why A.I. Failed," he contacted Singh.  Gates said, "I think your observations about the AI field are correct. As you are writing papers about your progress I would appreciate being sent copies. I am still extremely interested in AI."  
Push Singh
To read the manifesto click here
To read Bill Gates' bio on the Microsoft Site click here.

Chris McKinstry
Artificial intelligence was the passion of Second degree: Push Singh.  Push joined the Media Lab at MIT upon graduation.  He worked tirelessly on creating programs and models for artificial intelligence.  

To read about Mr. Singh's memorial service at MIT click here.
To read about his work on AI and his tragic connection to AI scientist, Chris McKinstry click here

Dr. Singh was a Media Lab colleague of Walter Bender.  First degree, Walter Bender met John Paul II at a meeting about technology and spirituality in the late 1990s.   
To read more about Dr. Bender click here
To read what Dr. Bender had to say at that conference with JP2 click here.

Walter Bender and John Paul II
Push Singh was a strikingly handsome man.  At the time of his death he was at the top of his profession.  He had a girlfriend.  He was living what many perceive as a perfect life.  He was also plagued with debilitating back pain.  It appears that the back pain and resulting depression were the reason for his suicide.  

Chris McKinstry did not suffer from back pain, but his lifelong erratic and unusual behavior suggests a strong psychological or psychiatric pathology.  His life ended in suicide as well.  His suicide note and the chat that ensued online can be read in the Wired article here, and linked above.  

Does suicide damn a person?
Only Christ judges the final
disposition of a soul.
Are these two men in hell?

The theme to M*A*S*H said that "Suicide is Painless,"  but that doesn't appear to be true.  The memorials to Push show that the colleagues he left behind are pained by the loss of him.  The youthful dreams that inspired his work on artificial intelligence were not realized, no doubt a longer life would have gotten those dreams closer to reality.  
The Last Judgement, Michelangelo

The Catholic stance on suicide is unchanging and plain.  It is a grave injustice toward Him.  A direct attack on God.  We do not have the right to judge the value of another person's life and decide if it should be lived anymore.  We also do not have that right in our own lives.  For the Catholic Encyclopedia article click here.  

We all know that.  We also know that these two were probably not of sound mind when they perished.  Do you remember the horror film where the teen is in the house and the monster-killer is calling from inside the house and there is no escape?  This is the nightmare of a suicidal person.  In the end, the ONLY one who knows what the state of mind and true condition of a person is at the moment of death is Jesus Christ, Our Lord.  

Suicide must be condemned in the strongest terms.  It is always in the media: a bullying victim, a murder suspect in custody, a spurned lover, a religious fanatic.  We need to stand firm for life so as not to encourage this horrific act.  We must also love and care for the families and loved ones of the dead and pray for the souls of the departed.  

If you or someone you know would like to know more about the ancient church's position on suicide, click here to listen to Father Thomas Hopko, an Orthodox priest and teacher emeritus at St. Vladimir's Seminary.  It's well-worth the listen.  

John Paul, please pray for the souls of Push and Chris and all those who struggle with despair.