PBS & Piracy

*This post contains NO SPOILERS about Season 3 of Downton Abbey. Don’t worry.

I’d just like to go on the record (along with Lord Grantham himself) to complain about what American fans of British television series have to endure because of the quirks of PBS.  Shortened episodes of Foyle’s War and airing delays of Downton Abbey leave me with mixed feelings towards the Public Broadcasting System.

I love the fact that thanks to Masterpiece Classic, Masterpiece Mystery, et al, we can enjoy the (usually superior) British miniseries and movies, like The 39 Steps, Sherlock, or Zen.

But delaying the airing of Downton Abbey is just crazy.  Gone are the days when we could expect spoilers not to be leaked across oceans.  We live in a different world than the 1990s, when the Europeans could watch our television series and choose to be happily ignorant of things that we had known for months.  And vice versa.  As far as communication is concerned, there is no ocean between the two continents.  As soon as something airs on television, blog posts and Twitter updates abound.

It’s nearly impossible to avoid spoilers regarding major plot lines, especially when things like Wikipedia are updated the second something happens in the world.  And it seems pretty unfair to demand an entire nation of viewers remain tight-lipped about a popular show just because our television network has chosen to hold the shows for several months.

If you don’t want to know anything about the newest season, you have to avoid the internet completely.  Even press releases from ITV aren’t safe.

Or… you can watch Season 3 “early.”  Rather than stumbling upon some spoiler before January, you can watch it in the Fall and be surprised as the drama unfolds.  Is it wrong to watch the episodes of DA when they’re posted on their Facebook page and they’re available for all to see?  What about using sites like expatshield or tunnelbear, which seem to be perfectly legitimate?

Last fall I was reading a caption on a picture of the girls from DA and saw that Lavinia died.  I didn’t even know who Lavinia was at the time, but I knew she wouldn’t get out of Season 2 alive.  It made portions of Season 2 a bit anti-climatic.

And if there’s anything I hate, it’s knowing the end of a story before its time.  I read series of books in order. I watch television series in order.  I like plots unfolding naturally.

Well, readers?  Thoughts?  Is it wrong to watch Season 3 with Downton Abbey’s natives or should we wait and watch it according to the whims of PBS?

Emmanuel

This Christmas seems a little darker than most.

Perhaps it’s just a part of growing older — when you’re a child, Christmas is full of mystery and presents and laughter and presents. Thank God my childhood was a happy one, and so Christmas was a happy day in the middle of a happy life.

As you grow older, your eyes are opened to the fact that not everyone has happy childhoods and not everyone has happy lives. Christmas isn’t always a happy day in the midst of a happy life.

But this doesn’t make Christmas less joyful — or at least it shouldn’t — because joy is not an emotion or a warm fuzzy feeling. That is why we all still lit that pink candle on Gaudete Sunday, a Sunday of joy, despite being a nation in shock and mourning. Joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit, the rejoicing that occurs not because happy things are happening in our lives, but the rejoicing because God exists and, if we’re in the state of grace, dwells within us. We rejoice because The Good exists and we possess it in our souls.

This Christmas, I have dear friends who are suffering. Several are away from their families for Christmas; one has to work the entire day; one is suffering from abuse and depression; one has a son in Afghanistan. There are Christians suffering under occupation, nations ready for war, and our own country on the brink of financial crisis. There are people suffering under debilitating illnesses and cancer. There are those who have no physical homes to go to, those who have no family, those who don’t even believe in the Christ child. And there are families reeling from the loss of the dearest present God has ever given them: their child, their mother, their sister, their brother, because of a lost soul who didn’t value his own life or those innocent lives at Sandy Hook.

Into this darkness, the Christ child comes: regardless of who believes in Him, who listens to Him, or who recognizes Him.

“The Lord himself will give you a sign.
Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Emmanuel.”
(Isaiah 7:14)

This prophecy of Isaiah, dating back to 733 BC, proclaims that the Messiah will be born to a virgin. But God, through the prophet, tells us something else very specific about this Messiah: that he will be called “Emmanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14)

Emmanuel: God with us.

Pope Benedict points out, “Even though Jesus is not actually named Emmanuel, nevertheless He is Emmanuel, as the entire history of the Gospels seeks to demonstrate. This man — they tell us– in His very person is God’s being-with-men.”

Into this dark world, God has come, and He has come in a way He has never come before — He has entered time and space in order to be with us.

He comes not to take us from this dark world, but to dwell in it with us.

When St. Joseph learns of his mission- to take Jesus into his home- he learns of Jesus’ mission too: “you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save his people from their sins.” (Mt 1:21). What does it mean to save us from our sins? Pope Benedict points out that, like the healing of the paralytic lowered through the roof, this saving of our sins might be disappointing at first — “The promising of forgiveness of sins seems both too little and too much: too much, because it trespasses upon God’s exclusive sphere; too little, because there seems to be no thought of Israel’s concrete suffering or its true need for salvation.”

Perhaps the families in Newtown, or each of us individually, could say the same thing– where is God in this darkness? Why has He come, if we are still suffering? Or has He even come?

“Man is a relational being,” the Pope continues. “And if his first, fundamental relationship is disturbed — his relationship with God — then nothing else can be truly in order. This is where the priority lies in Jesus’ message and ministry: before all else, He wants to point man toward the essence of his malady, and to show him — if you are not truly healed there, then however many good things you may find, you are not truly healed. In this sense, the explanation of Jesus’ name that was offered to Joseph in his dream already contains a fundamental clarification of how man’s salvation has to be understood and hence what the Saviour’s essential task must be.”

This is the light of Christmas — not that there is no longer darkness, but that the light has come to join us in the darkness to save us from ourselves.

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Georges de la Tour’s meditative “The Newborn,” reminds us that this was the only baby born in this world in order to die. Other children come to live; He came to die. The swaddling clothes were a prefigurement of the shroud, the wood of the cradle an anticipation of the wood of the cross.

This mission of Emmanuel is prefigured in the famous Old Testament story of Hananiah, Azariah, and Mishael in the third chapter of Daniel. King Nebuchadnezzar throws the men in the fire because they will not worship his gods. The men tell the king, “If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace; and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king.” The men are delivered– but how? The king sees not three men in the fire, but four — and the fourth’s appearance “is like a son of the gods.”

God could have yanked those men out of the fire. But He doesn’t. Instead He joins them in the fire.

He could deliver us from all suffering – and He does – not by taking it away, but by joining us.

In the Incarnation, God takes on human flesh so that He can suffer. As God, He is immutable — unchangeable — and perfect, and cannot suffer deprivation. And so He takes a complete human nature to Himself, in order that He may suffer with us.

That is the mystery of Christmas. Not that our God has come to wipe away our tears, but to weep with us.

If this Christmas seems darker than most, embrace the light of the Christ child. He knows your needs better than you do; in the darkness, He is already there waiting for you.

It’s finished.

Ten weeks ago, I began teaching Church history.  I remember teaching that first night and being hit with the reality that I was going to have to teach again in two days.  A completely different lesson.  And then the Tuesday after that, and the Thursday after that… for ten weeks.  2000 years.  I thought, “This is going to be a loonnng fall.”

And now it’s over.  We had our last class tonight:  World War II, Pius XII, John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul II, Benedict XVI.

I ended with my testimony of John Paul’s death and Benedict’s election, and then told them to be not afraid.  We studied a lot of grim things over the past ten weeks.  We looked at the ups and the downs.  But you know what?  We looked at the same war, the same battles.  Just with different names.

The world is against the Church, as it’s always been against the Church.  But be not afraid.  NOT because we don’t have anything to be afraid of.  We do.  Anyone who has studied history can tell you there are dark days ahead.

We are told “Be not afraid” because we have the answers to those dark days.  Christ.

I may have teared up as I told them it had been a privilege to be a part of their formation.  And I may have gotten choked up with they gave me hugs.  And I may have teared up when I just read their course evaluations.

They’re a great group of guys, and I was honored to teach them something I’m passionate about… the story of our family.

Even though it means getting my life back… I’m really going to miss them.

My Life is not a Hallmark Movie

First confession: I love Hallmark Christmas movies.  I love when December rolls around because (well, among lots of other reasons!) there is always a cheezy Christmas movie on the Hallmark Channel.  Come January, we’ll be left with the Waltons.  But the month of December, cheezy Christmas movies abound.

They usually feature

1) an actor or actress who found their five minutes of “fame” in something else, like a sitcom the 90s, and then are never heard from again – until now
or
2) an actor or actress who is currently on a sitcom currently, as a minor or reoccurring character, but would like to use this Hallmark masterpiece to catapult themselves into greater fame (or at least pay the bills)
or
3) someone like Florence Henderson who must just be bored and wants to reenter our lives

As for the plots, they usually involve the main character:

1) dating a loser
2) being a workaholic
3) getting fired
4) not believing in Santa Clause/not appreciating Christmas
5) some combination of the above

I know that watching too many of these movies is dangerous, for the same reason watching large amounts of rom-coms is dangerous. You begin to wonder why you’re life isn’t like a movie.

I don’t fit any of those characteristics above and all the problems in my life (not that there are many) are certainly not going to be solved in two hours.  (or 1 hour and 40 minutes, counting commercial time)

The chances of the new guy at work one minute making me so angry I could spit and then the next minute falling madly in love with me are pretty nil.  (Number one, the majority of the people at my workplace are female.)  The chances of some guy running (literally running) into me at the grocery store, the bank, or while shopping for a Christmas tree, and then somehow running (probably literally, again) into me somewhere else … also nil.  I also probably won’t have to work part-time as an elf anytime soon, thus also shooting down the chances of me meeting Mr Right while dressed in a little green dress and a pointed hat.  (I know at least three movies that included this subplot.)

My life is not a Hallmark movie.

Case in point: I got a vacuum cleaner for my birthday.  Not a diamond ring.

I think that says it all, ladies and gentlemen.  (or “gentleman”… I don’t think I have many male readers.)

When I opened my birthday present (several days early), I freaked out with happiness.  It wasn’t any old vacuum cleaner.  It’s the nicest vacuum cleaner I could ever hope to own.  I vacuumed my apartment and felt like laying down on the carpet immediately afterwards.  No longer was dirt just pushed around.  No longer was there a vague smell like an explosion was imminent.  No longer was I breaking a sweat pushing something the size of a small army tank.

As I vacuumed, my heart full of gratitude, I reflected on the reality of my life – what it is and what it isn’t (I know, I’m a profound vacuumer),  And you know what I realized?

My life isn’t a Hallmark movie.

And I’m glad.

That’s not to say I approach the beginning of the end of my 20s with complete contentment.  But I am extremely grateful.  Even though there are many days when I wish my story was written a little differently, wonder why certain reoccurring subplots can’t disappear, or pray for the addition of a new cast member (preferably a 30 year-old single male, law degree and three-piece-suit negotiable), I know the adventure I am on has a divine Director.  I just pray I’m open and obedient to whatever comes next.

A big thanks to all my supporting cast.  I couldn’t have done this without you.

May the next 28 be as good as the last.

Recent email exchange

So everyone knows that The Hobbit comes out Friday. And most people also know that my birthday is Friday.  Why did I hem and haw about what to do for my birthday?  Hellooo??  If anyone wants to join us, it’s dinner and drinks followed by an evening showing of The Hobbit.  I already have my tickets.

But for the record, Thorin is mine.

This was the recent email exchange between my sister and I:

Me: Forget his piercing dark eyes and his amazing accent.  This has me swooning more than any of that:

“One of the things I find when I look into that book [The Hobbit] is a sense of Tolkien’s Catholicism, his Christianity – not necessarily in a denominational way, but in terms of his chivalric view of the world, his nobility which is expressed through kindness and mercy. It’s present in most of his characters and I find that inspiring.” – Richard Armitage

Jill: wow.  really?  did he really say that?  good grief.

Me: Yeah.  I’m pretty sure we’re going to get married now.

Jill: i would be all for that.

Maybe we could all sing “Far over the misty mountains cold” at family gatherings. Just as long as he didn’t go insane and hide his secret Russian past from us all.

 
 
Update: What was I thinking?  His eyes are blue.  So blue.

The Southern

Someday, I’ll have a real blog where I muse about important topics and current events, and I’ll become really famous for my witty commentary and sharp insight.

For now, I’ll continue to blog about food.  And my awesome town.

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Have I mentioned how much I love my town?  Did you know that we were recently voted the best city ever?  Okay, well, not quite. But if you check out this poll by Travel & Leisure, Nashville comes out on top compared to most other towns.  And we were rated #1 for friendliest people and #1 in People “Over all”, whatever that means.  It’s such a great place.

After Mass downtown today, a group of us went out to brunch to celebrate the feast and Manda’s birthday.  As I drove through downtown, the streets were bustling with people — it was pleasantly warm, so the doors and windows of the honkey tonks were open and the music spilled out onto the streets.  It was like driving through at TV show.

We went to one of the newer restaurants downtown, The Southern.  A fitting place for our southern belle birthday girl!

They gave us a neat high-backed, round booth, so we had our own little spot to ourselves.  Most of the restaurant was sort of “in the round,” and I loved the country chic decor – lots of wood and really great ceiling fans that were connected to each other with big rubber strips.  Hard to explain… but very cool.

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The menus were attached to wooden boards:

IMG_2618And the food was delicious.  Two of my friends got the Southern Fried Egg Sandwich, with bacon, egg, tomato, white cheddar, and avocado.  Manda got shrimp and grits, and Maria and I both got “The Highway,” which was the southern classic fried chicken and waffles.

IMG_2637All washed down with blood orange mimosas.  Our waiter was awesome- very friendly, but not overly so – and even brought Manda a bellini for her birthday.

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One last cool thing about the Southern… the sinks in the bathroom:

IMG_2633How cool is that?  It’s just  slab of marble… but the water drains to the back, where there’s a little ditch.  It was really funky.

It was a wonderful way to spend a Saturday, and we all agreed that we are extremely lucky to have such a great community.  At Mass I saw so many people I knew — it’s such a comfort, and something I may tend to take for granted.  It’s hard to remember the days after first moving here — well, really two whole years — of feeling like I knew no one and feeling very alone at Mass.  I always sat in the back, on the side, and tried to avoid seeing people after Mass because I felt so out of it.  What a change from today, when I sat right up front and knew almost everyone sitting around me.  After Mass we all stood on the steps and talked — Father, other young adults, people I’ve taught in the Catechetical Formation program, people from my bible studies — one big Catholic family.

In one beautiful city.

Happy Feast Day!