Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Living Hamlet

My sweet, auburn-haired, four-year-old niece, Emma Catherine Grace Thompson, was sexually abused and beaten to death two summers ago. You probably read about this tragic story in the Houston Chronicle or saw a report about it on one of the local television news networks at the time of its occurrence and again this past summer when Emma’s mother, Abigail Young, was tried and convicted of reckless and serious bodily injury to a child by omission. A jury found her boyfriend, Lucas Coe, guilty of super aggravated sexual assault of a child just last week. Needless to say, it has been a cathartic and emotionally draining experience for my whole family. We found precious little comfort in the convictions of the perpetrators of this heinous crime; it was truly a pyrrhic victory at best, for what could gratify the heart other than the return of that adorable child in the flesh? And for that, we must impatiently wait until the Day of Judgment.
For the most part, I have successfully contained the seething rage lurking in the dark corridors of my heart, but Shakespeare summoned it forth these last few weeks when I revisited Hamlet with my AP English IV class at St. Thomas. The bard’s tale of the brooding, philosophical hero hell bent on revenge profoundly moved me, stirring something long dormant in one of the subterranean rooms of my soul. I can truly say with a greater degree of certainty than ever before that I not only understand Hamlet’s maniacal desire for vengeance, but I absolutely empathize with him. I observed firsthand the deleterious effects that a calm, collected, and unyielding rage can wreak upon the human psyche. Frankly, it’s enough to terrorize the soul because it is to stare into the abyss. Those famous soliloquies were no longer merely poetical speeches but ineffable ponderings of a kindred soul whose heart and mind were so similar to my own. There was a very real temptation among many of the men of my family to act upon our baser instincts for revenge, like Hamlet, rather than letting the justice system mete out the appropriate punishment for those ignominious offenders.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Hijacked Solidarity

Solidarity and subsidiarity are twin touchstones of Catholic social teaching. In general, these two principles are complementary and mutually enriching. In terms of the American polity, one thinks of the abolitionist cause and women’s suffrage movement of the nineteenth century as successful examples of what can be achieved by solidarity and subsidiarity. More recently, the late Pope John Paul II championed the Polish solidarity movement in the face of the totalitarian Soviet regime. What these nineteenth and twentieth century events share is a grassroots subsidiarity methodology wedded to great dreams of solidarity.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Surrendering to Love

Tears stung my eyes tonight as I listened to the cathartic testimony of Ms. Immaculée Ilibagiza, a Rwandan genocide survivor. Ms. Ilibagiza held the Acton University audience spellbound with the harrowing account of her desperate struggle to elude discovery, along with seven other women, for 91 days in the cramped bathroom of a Good Samaritan Hutu pastor. Meanwhile, outside the relative safety of this claustrophobic latrine, machete-wielding death squads butchered a million or more of Ms. Ilibagiza’s Tutsi tribe and family, including her parents and two of her brothers. She described in a poignant and unforgettable way how her fear and terror slowly boiled over into rage, only to grudgingly, and ever so slowly, yield to love and forgiveness through frequent and fervent recitations of the Rosary.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Intermittent Blogging

Ironically, though I have more time to write than during the normal work year, I have been doing less writing of late. I attribute the discrepancy in writing output to time constraints and pressure on the writing end (during school) and quality family time on the leisure end (extended vacation). I will try to be more consistent, but I can't make any promises for the rest of the summer. I will stick to the topics I already mentioned in a previous post when I do find time to write. Thanks for your patience.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

On "Lost"

Plot: Oceanic Flight 815 crashes on an island with mysterious properties. The survivors adapt to their environment with grudging acceptance of their situation, but they never give up hope of returning to their former lives and loved ones.

Conflict: Six seasons of conflict with the “Others,” exiled “Others,” Dharma Initiative folk, and the smoke monster, not to mention one another and themselves from time to time.

Characters: Most redeeming aspect of the show by far. Jack, Sawyer, Kate, Sun and Jin, Hurley, Sayid, Ben, John Locke, Desmond Hume, Richard, Jacob, Charlie and Claire. You really fell in love with these people over the course of half a decade. I cried when many died. It was cathartic. I would be lying if I said otherwise.

Technique: Hybrid frame tale with island as the frame and flashbacks, flashforwards, and sideways [quasi-Purgatory] flashes, of particular characters as the individual short stories.

Allusion: Cultural smorgasbord, a veritable pastiche of religious-philosophical-scientific eclecticism,
postmodern mythology that doesn’t ultimately add up to anything coherent or cogent.

Soundtrack: Evocative in just the right way, at just the right time, in just the right proportion.

Special Effects: J.J. Abrams.

Verdict: Lovable characters played by solid actors made the show enjoyable. Bizarro storyline, however, made for a bait-and-switch mythology that promised so much, yet delivered so little. Note to self: You can’t be all things to all people, or you compromise the integrity of your narrative. Pick something and run with it for God’s sake!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

On "Rashomon"

Akira Kurosawa’s “Rashomon” (1950) is a cinematic gem. There is a lot to chew on and mull over after watching this film. I could devote this post to the moral ambiguities of mankind symbolized by the motifs of darkness and light or rain and sunshine; however, I might also choose to consider the minimalist approach to set design or the riveting performances of the actors. And before I get lost in the minutiae, I better not forget to mention the avant-garde use of flashback and its consequent philosophical import relative to the characters’ conflicting perceptions of reality. Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t at least mention the wonderful allegory of the human condition that Kurosawa crafts into this movie.

Monday, May 31, 2010

The Scars of Istanbul Trilogy

The premise of my proposed trilogy is two boys’ tragic loss of identity, family, country, and God and their cathartic reclamation through numerous trials and tribulations. My story is set in sixteenth-century Europe, Africa, and Asia Minor and follows two brothers, the sons of one of Emperor Charles V’s personal bodyguards, who are kidnapped during a coastal raid by Islamic corsairs and sold into bondage in the slave markets of Istanbul. One brother becomes an ambitious janissary, the other a submissive eunuch. Both rise through the ranks of the Ottoman power structure through their unique gifts. Their parallel journeys intersect when they encounter a mysterious woman known only as the Bride. She sets into motion a series of events that will ultimately pit the brothers against one another and will determine the fate of Europe at the Battle of Lepanto.

The tentative titles for the films are as follows:

"The Janissary"
"The Eunuch"
"The Bride"

I hope the trilogy will resemble something close to "300" and "Gladiator" meets "The Mission." I basically want to tell an exciting adventure story with substantive political themes and religious allegory for our own times. I am currently conducting heavy research in preparation for writing the scripts.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Blog Summer Schedule

With school letting out, I am going to tweak my post topics to reflect my newfound leisure time. Here is the revised schedule:
  • Monday- Blogging a movie script! You heard me right. I have a plan for a trilogy of films.
  • Tuesday- Emma tragedy memoir per my father's request
  • Wednesday- Film criticism: Akira Kurosawa theme
  • Thursday- Television notes: Smorgasbord
  • Friday- Blogging a movie script. I figure two deadlines a week will force me to work on it consistently. Actually, I think the blog has really helped me establish regular writing habits better than anything else that I have tried thus far.
  • Saturday- Catholic novel series: reviews of the work of Shusaku Endo and Walker Percy
  • Sunday- Spiritual reflection for the week or commentary on a Catholic news item. 

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Sewanee and Hogwarts

Donning a black robe for the annual graduation exercise at St. Thomas always makes me feel as if I have fallen down the rabbit hole, traveled through some cheesy sci-fi channel time space tunnel, and arrived at either Sewanee in the midst of a thick fog as I make my way to class or Hogwarts as adolescent wizards shuffle through gothic halls to their next class and next opportunity to test their magical mettle. There is something indescribably special about that midnight black raiment that conjures up a charming and unforgettable mystique.

Friday, May 21, 2010

First Two Lines

The meaning of life lies in the whys,
Wise are they who realize life's meaning.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

I Support Everybody Draw Mohammed Day!

Freedom of speech. 'Nuff said! The picture is courtesy of James Snapp, Jr. You can find others like it over at Robert Spencer's site.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010 and Copyright Law

The faculty and administration at St. Thomas High School decided to purchase a subscription to a couple of years ago to deter plagiarism. In most of their classes, students are now required to upload a copy of every major composition and essay to the site in order to ensure its originality by comparison with other works in the database. utilizes software that scans the Internet for matches between student essays and those found elsewhere on the web; furthermore, it also stores a copy of all student essays submitted to the site in its digital record for future cross reference with other student essays.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Catholic New Media: Part 1 of ? (Liturgy)

Over the last few years, there has been an explosion in new media resources for Catholics looking to grow in their faith. It has been a hobby of mine to follow these developments with wonder and alacrity. I would like to share my excitement with you and make some recommendations, if I might, for the uninitiated for whom this may be uncharted territory.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Wu Li and Catholic Multiculturalism

I have to admit that I am not always the biggest fan of multiculturalism. It often seems to spiral out of control into an intolerant ideology based upon a hyper-relativism and a relentless, unyielding egalitarianism. It goes without saying that this brand of multiculturalism is deeply antithetical to the claims of the Christian faith. Now, I'm sure some would counter that Christianity is also an intolerant ideology with its own subjective, relativistic conceptions of truth and morality. I am not interested in rebutting those claims this evening. I would simply reply, "Bah! Humbug!"

Sunday, May 16, 2010

On Till We Have Faces

C.S. Lewis penned a memorable reworking of the Cupid and Psyche myth in his much lauded novel, Till We Have Faces. Orual, Psyche’s older half-sister, is the protagonist and first-person narrator of this mythical autobiography. As a solipsistic narcissist, Orual progressively alienates herself from those whom she loves and who love her. The whole work can be characterized as an ill-conceived lament to the gods about what Orual misperceives to be their manifold injustices against her. She refuses to wake up from this self-imposed spiritual nightmare until the last moments of her life when she finally seems to accept the epiphany of God's face and her own. Deo Gratias!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Sick as a Dog

I am out of commission today.  I woke up this morning with a stuffy nose, a sore throat, and a chipper blasé outlook on life. Check back tomorrow. I will be posting a reflection on C.S. Lewis's Till We Have Faces. See ya then!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Never Again!

Traditionally, Catholics meditate on the life of Mary during the month of May. This post is my May reflection on Our Lady's place of honor in our spiritual lives. I have always had a very special devotion to the Blessed Virgin ever since I was a child. Consequently, this story of a statue of Our Lady of Nagasaki nearly moved me to tears. Let us pray that weapons of mass destruction, such as the atomic bombs dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima, will never again be used to wipe out the lives of so many innocent civilians. Our Lady of Nagasaki, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.   

Thursday, May 13, 2010


After the last few days of heavy reflections, I think some good old fashioned humor is in order to lighten the mood of this blog.

This photcaught my attention since my daughter loves Dora. The caption read “Pimp My Ride Fail.” 

I would like to dedicate this video from The Onion to my lovely wife, Jennifer:

Advocacy Group: Mothers Have Right To Expose Milk-Engorged Breasts In Public

Here is a bit of nerdy English humor for my AP students who were griping last week about the term portmanteau:

The Human Tetris Game Show is quite amusing:

Some of my students brought this one to my attention. Ignorance is a sad thing:

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Fight Club: Neo-Neanderthals Are a Scourge

One of my AP classes selected Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club as a contemporary novel to read and to discuss following the AP Exam. Most of the students were already familiar with the story from the cult classic film of the same name starring Ed Norton, Brad Pitt, and Helena Bonham Carter. The novel and film both explore the psychological and existential struggle for self-definition that modern men experience in a suffocating world of hyper-commercialism, ultra-conformity, and uber-femininity. Unfortunately, while the concerns of the narrator and his split personality (Tyler Durden) about male identity and contemporary American society are all too real, the alternative that he (narrator-Durden) proposes is not an improvement, but a regression to man’s primordial sado-masochistic impulses.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Dante’s Inferno: Against the Reboot

Electronic Art’s Visceral Games Studio recently released an action-adventure game loosely based upon the Inferno portion of Dante Alighieri’s renowned epic poem, Commedia. The popular game is perhaps the most recent example of a successful reboot, the reworking of a classic literary text or formerly popular storyline of recent memory that has fallen on hard times, but still retains the potential to be a commercially viable narrative for a new generation of media consumers. Reboots vary widely in their fidelity to the original vision of the source material; however, their general aim is not as an homage to the author but for commercial gain or a fundamental philosophical and artistic re-envisioning of the story or both.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Paradise Lost: The Oil Spill and the Modern Soul

Water has always been a powerful symbol in human civilization. Other than the air we breathe, there is nothing more essential to our everyday existence. It should not be surprising, then, that pretty much all cultures since the dawn of human history have ascribed great meaning and import to this life-sustaining substance.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

In-Law Invasion!

The Thompson household welcomed a mother-in-law, a grandmother-in-law, and two aunts-in-law this afternoon. I am beset by women as the female-to-male ratio mushroomed from 3 to 1 to 7 to 1 in a matter of minutes. Yikes! This is quite a change --some might even say payback (karma can be a bi@#%)-- for someone who grew up in a home with a 6 to 2 male-to-female ratio and works at an all-boys high school. To say the evening was eventful would be quite an understatement.

We enjoyed a wunderbar dinner featuring yummy fettuccine with homemade Alfredo sauce…sorry, I… had to wipe some residual dribble off my chin. Jennifer really outdid herself, as usual. Nothing restores a weary traveler's spirits or makes her feel quite so content as a belly full of rich fettuccine, sumptuous white wine, and decadent carrot cake. 

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Dandelions and Marshmallows

Anna and I just returned from an early evening stroll around the subdivision. Tonight’s entertainment turned out to be dandelions. Anna giggled and giggled when I made Dr. Seuss-style wishes and huffed and puffed and blew all those gentle wisps of pixie dust into the warm breeze that carried them off into the dipping golden sunset. She just couldn’t get enough of those darn dandelions. “Look, daddy, it’s a daannddeelion.” There is something indescribably cute and charming about the innocent tone and wonder of a two year old sounding out a word for the worst time. Dandelions = wishes and wonder.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Pandora and Daddy-Daughter Time

I think is pretty darn spectacular. This musical site is basically a personalized radio station summed up in one word—SWEETNESS! And I stand by all those caps, thank you very much. What other site on the Internet can I turn to for a quick fix when my two and a half year old is shrieking at the top of her lungs? No, hands down, takes the prize for the most innovative approach to tantrum quashing and daddy-daughter time on the Web.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Machiavelli, Augustine, and Centaurs

Therefore, a prince must know how to use wisely the natures of the beast and the man. This policy was taught to princes allegorically by the ancient writers, who described how Achilles and many other ancient princes were given to Chiron the Centaur to be raised and taught under his discipline. This can only mean that, having a half-beast and half-man as a teacher, a prince must know how to employ the nature of the one and the other; and the one without the other cannot endure. (Machiavelli 133-134)
One of my colleagues is teaching Machiavelli’s The Prince for the first time and asked me if I might provide some commentary on this magnum opus. Here goes. Machiavelli is THE veritable bad boy of political philosophy. His name has entered the English lexicon as an eponym synonymous with immorality, deception, and all manner of subterfuge and cunning related to realpolitik. Machiavellianism is rightfully associated with many of these attributes, but it would be an unfair assessment of this thinker to reduce his philosophy solely to these simplistic and overgeneralized bullet points. The reality of the matter is that Machiavelli offers some profound insights on human nature and its implications for the maintenance and management of political power in the City of Man.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

LD Debate: Go for the Jugular for God's Sake!

I thought it was about time for an update on the Lincoln-Douglas debates in my Speech classes. The intra-class tournaments are nearly concluded, and I am beginning to make preparations for the inter-class round between my two classes as well as the final championship round pitting my best team versus Mr. Green’s best team. The boys have done reasonably well in presenting cogent arguments affirming and negating the resolution. In case you weren’t here for the first post on this topic, the resolution is as follows—Resolved: In matters of collecting military intelligence, the ends justify the means.

Monday, May 3, 2010

On the AP Program

Students across the country began taking their AP exams this morning. This got me thinking about the value of these exams. Earning a score of three or better on an AP test offers three general advantages. First, it is a highly sought after credential for college applications. The lower-tier schools are eager to gain students who have performed well on these tests to pad their marketing brochures and to increase the intellectual diversity and firepower of their student body.  Meanwhile, the elite schools admit only the finest students who have demonstrated excellence not only on standardized tests and extracurriculars but also in college-level courses such as the AP program. In short, it is a prerequisite for admission to the top-tier schools. No matter what the name recognition or status of a school may be, these institutions crave students who exhibit diligence and maturity in a class on par with many introductory level courses in a college. Success in the AP program, then, augurs well for students making them very attractive candidates for admission to the school of their choice.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Pillow Book: Tedium

When you pace up and down aisles for four and a half hours drinking horrid coffee and watching disheveled, fidgety, sniffling adolescents go through that wonderful right of passage known as the SAT, that’s tedium.

When you drive a school bus to an event at the crack of dawn or in the dead of night for hours on end and all the other passengers, including your fellow coaches, are fast asleep, that’s tedium.

When there is nothing else on the television and you find yourself zoning out to either the swing of various irons and dimpled balls or race cars zooming around and around and around oil slicked tracks, that’s tedium.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Pick Your Poison

I have been enjoying my last Friday off from work until summer vacation. You gotta love Round-Up holidays! For those of you unfamiliar with St. Thomas, the school runs an annual fundraiser to generate the financial aid that makes it possible for about a third of the students to afford the steep tuition. The school provides incentives for achieving certain benchmarks, the most coveted of which is Fridays off in April. Every year without fail—knock on wood—the boys have met the challenge. This year they raised $350,000 in just over a month of selling raffle tickets. They never cease to amaze me! You can’t go to STH and not believe in miracles.

Anyway, after Anna’s nap it is customary for her to have a little bit of tv time. Over the course of the last year and a half, I have watched and re-watched countless children’s films and shows. Some are entertaining, others are palatable, and a few are beat-you-over-the-head bad. No matter what the quality of the programming, after viewing it for the umpteenth time everything becomes stale and hackneyed. Every show without fail wears out its welcome.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Song of Roland: Medieval Lessons for Today

Sometimes I feel displaced in time like a fish out of water. This is especially true whenever I read the Song of Roland. My soul stirs and longs for the feel of cold steel in my hands, which is rather amusing since I wouldn’t know what to do with it. I swear I sometimes hear the blast of olifant and feel a surge of adrenaline as I reach for Durendal; of course, then I realize what roused me from my languid stupor was a blaring car horn from someone behind me expressing road rage at the bumper to bumper traffic. Sometimes I even slip into a reverie at Mass and the priest transforms into the Archbishop Turpin leading a charge into an angry horde of malignant jihadists. I quickly come down to earth though when I realize its just scrawny Father Fred up to his usual antics.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Twenty-First Century Anti-Federalist

The recent Tea Party movement in the US has drawn both the ire and acclamation of many Americans. I think it was a stroke of genius to link the contemporary movement with the American revolutionaries because philosophically there is a logical connection between these partisans, even though they are separated in time by more than two hundred and thirty years. The bond that unites these two parties across time is Anti-Federalist sentiment.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Let’s Not Reduce Our Heroes to Lunacy, Please.

I am not sure if it is a trend or just a random coincidence among the recent novels, films and television series that I have been consuming of late, but modern storytellers seem to have developed a penchant for casting heroes out of the realm of idealism and into the realm of realism. Consider the recent reboot of the Batman storyline, or “The Watchmen,” or “The Hurt Locker,” or “The Punisher,” or evenly the disturbingly lovable “Dexter” series. Do we really need or want gritty psychological portraits of our heroes? The end result inevitably reduces these beloved figures to nut jobs and psychopaths. And yes, maybe that’s exactly what they would be in the real world, but they aren’t in the real world. Do we have to conflate and confuse fiction and nonfiction? I know postmodern artists love to blur the lines between heroism and villainy and to deconstruct our traditional values and sensibilities to show us the unseemly side of everything, and granted, there is some value to such enterprises, but is nothing sacred, not even heroes?

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Stuff of Life

The last couple of weeks have been by turns irritable and joyous, chaotic and orderly, grumpy and patient, noisy and calm; heck, this list could go on and on ad nauseam, so I’ll spare you the litany. It’s all reducible, though, to this salient fact: Children are the stuff of life. I say fact because anyone who is a parent can attest to this self-evident proposition. It is frankly undeniable and to do so would be a travesty, even a tragedy, of the first order. I can no longer conceive of a life apart from my wife and little angels, nor would I wish to do so.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

BLT: Manna from Heaven

Today’s blog post title piggybacks off of yesterday’s discussion of biblical literacy. BLTs rank at the top of my list of expectations for Heaven, even to the point of serious comparisons with the manna the Israelites received in the desert. What’s that you say? You think I’m being melodramatic and sacrilegious. How dare you! This is no hyperbole, friend! I am going to be mightily disappointed, and frankly a bit miffed (talk about an eternal bait-and-switch) if I get to Heaven –and, mind you, that’s a pretty big IF to begin with—and there are no BLTs.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Biblical Literacy 101

I have been fiddling around with my B&N nook the last couple of days since I installed the most recent software update, which included a bare bones web browser. Now I know it’s nothing fancy, and it certainly pales in comparison to the iPhone or iPad; however, for those of us who cannot afford the extra monthly fees to carry the internet on our phone or some other high falutin media consumption device, it is a nice add-on feature. The best part for me –and especially for Jennifer—is that I will no longer have to go into the bedroom to surf the web, but I can do so in the comfort of our den with the rest of the family. Hopefully, this will vanquish my frequent disappearances to the bedroom to get my fix for the insatiable news habit I cannot seem to kick.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Pillow Book: Guilty Pleasures

Well, it’s late. I’m bleary-eyed as all get out, and I still have not written my daily post. Crap! Oh wait, it hits me like a ton of bricks. Friday night… perfect time to talk about guilty pleasures. So here goes. I’m gonna roll the scroll down the table and let you add to it if you want. If you like this sorta thing you should check out the archetypal model, Sei Shonagon’s The Pillow Book. Maybe this will be a continuing thread with different topics.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Hello, flowers. Hello, ducks.

Anna and I have been enjoying some quality father-daughter bonding time over the last week. I figure that, aside from doing most of the daily chores around the house, this is probably the best way for me to help out on the home front while Jennifer tends to little Sara’s needs. Besides, Anna seems to be exhibiting all the normal growing pains of a new family dynamic where she is not the only child demanding momma and daddy’s attention. We’ve definitely noticed a slight uptick in behavioral issues and general clinginess. This is neither surprising given the circumstances nor insurmountable with the right handling of the situation.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Need a Good Laugh?

When you start to take yourself too seriously (which for me is pretty much every day), you need a good laugh. Here are three sites that I visit with relative frequency for a hearty chuckle. The last is a video that a student showed me last week. It is hilarious. Do you have any suggestions of your own?

Fail Blog on "America's Next Top Model"

The Onion on "Lost"

Final Season Of 'Lost' Promises To Make Fans More Annoying Than Ever

XKCD on Hell


Sassy Gay Friend on Romeo and Juliet (one of my students showed this to me, very, very funny!)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


Have you ever noticed how certain tastes seem capable of conjuring up blissful memories out of the mysterious ether? Barton and Guestier’s Vouvray wine always does the trick for me. Each delightful sip of this simple vintage transports me to France, and that inevitably leads me to romantic nostalgia. Jennifer and I got engaged in Paris on a lovely old bridge near that ever-charming quintessential Parisian landmark, Notre Dame. The sweetness of this treasured wine with its hints of peach and pear are only rivaled by the sweetness of recalling that magical moment when Jennifer agreed to marry me.

Monday, April 19, 2010

VoiceThread: Substitute Teacher's Dream


I love the VoiceThread software. Basically, you can remotely deliver a lecture to students via a VoiceThread. It’s as easy as uploading some PowerPoint slides to the site and then recording oral notes through a microphone. Presto! You have an automated class, so that substitute teacher can sit back and rest on his or her laurels.

This is the best way to keep students on track if you have to miss a few days of work for sickness, family issues, or some other personal concern. I have included the VoiceThread for tomorrow's AP English class. I am lecturing on the last third of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Taking the Weekend Off

I am taking Friday-Sunday off from the blog to assist Jennifer with Sara and Anna. I will resume blogposts on Monday. Please keep my family in your prayers as we get adjusted to a larger family. Thanks!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Sara Lynn Thompson is here!

The Thompson family grew by one member this afternoon. Sara Lynn Thompson was born at 2:56 pm at Tomball Regional Hospital. She weighs 7 lb 1 oz and is as cute as apple pie. Yes, apple pie is cute! :)

I will write more about this wonderful news soon, but I am heading back to the hospital to spend the night with Jennifer and Sara. 

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Exiled Love and Salvific Suicide

Hadst thou no poison mixed, no sharp-ground knife,
No sudden mean of death, though ne’er so mean,
But “banishèd” to kill me? “Banishèd”?
O Friar, the damnèd use that word in hell. (3.3.46-50)
Tragic irony hangs in these words, for Romeo’s exchange with Friar Lawrence is an ominous portent of the dreadful events to come. Romeo indeed dies by means of poison, and in so doing, he is "banishèd" not only from the prospect of a fulfilled life with his beloved in this world--which little does he know is within his reach-- but from the embrace of God’s love, too. Both Romeo and Juliet declare that to be “banishèd” from each other’s presence would be a living hell; sadly, both lovers trade a living hell apart from each other for an undying Hell which they can share. The ultimate tragedy, transcending even this incredible woe, however, is the reality that, in their folly, these quintessential models of romantic love have willfully exiled themselves from the true and final source of all love: God.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

On Lincoln-Douglas Debate

We just began our unit on Lincoln-Douglas (LD) debate in Speech class, and I must confess that this is my favorite subject for this course. LD debate is the apex, the acme, the apogee of rhetoric. It demands a full battery of intellectual abilities and rhetorical skills to achieve success. This exercise is the tried and true means of introducing students to dialectical thinking and, God willing, dialectical living.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Jane Eyre and “An Education”

Jennifer and I watched Lone Scherfig’s “An Education” this weekend and found it quite memorable and worthwhile. The inestimable Nick Hornby wrote the thoughtful screenplay, which was an adaptation of what I’m sure was an equally thoughtful memoir of the same name by the British journalist Lynn Barber. Set in London in the early 1960s, the story follows one Jenny Mellor, presumably the fictional stand-in for Barber, and her personal struggles as she finishes up her academic career at an all-girls prep school and aspires to gain admittance to Oxford. The film is an intriguing bildungsroman modeled on Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. The narrative sheds light on the parallel education that young adults often receive in a world apart from the mortar and brick educational institutions, and which, in many ways, is the real force that molds their character.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

On Divine Mercy

What stood out to me about the three readings from Acts, Revelation, and the Gospel of John in today’s Holy Mass was the relationship between the revelation of Christ’s resurrection and the mission of the Church to act as a force for good in the world through corporal and spiritual works of mercy.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

On Graphic Novels

I have been immersing myself in the world of graphic novels over the last few weeks. The experience has been very rewarding as it has afforded me a delightful walk down memory lane. I loved reading comic books in junior high. In fact, the school bus dropped me off in a parking lot right near a comic book shop, so each day I would go in there and peruse the most recent selections until my mother got off work to pick me up. I found the gothic employees with their gloomy apparel, colorful tattoos, and strange piercings nearly as intriguing as the comics, but they always glowered at me since I rarely bought anything with my empty pockets.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Who is Stefani Germanotta?

Who are Robert Zimmerman, Gordon Sumner, Paul Hewson, Brian Warner, Marshall Mathers III, Shawn Carter, Alecia Moore, and Stefani Germanotta? What do they all have in common? At first glance this looks like any other list of randomly selected individuals, but each has created a public persona which has actually supplanted their original identity; this is easily demonstrable from the fact that we didn’t identify them by their given names. In the eyes of the public, Zimmerman is Bob Dylan; Sumner, Sting; Hewson, Bono; Warner, Marilyn Manson; Mathers III, Eminem; Carter, Jay-Z; Moore, Pink; Germanotta, Lady Gaga.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

On Courage

"He knew only that the child was his warrant. He said: If he is not the word of God God never spoke" (McCarthy 5).
My AP students and I just started our study of the final work of the year, Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. I feel this cathartic novel is the perfect conclusion to a high school experience at an all-boys school. First, it brings their literary education full circle as they started high school with a modern survival story (Yann Martel’s Life of Pi) and they end with one. Second, the novel offers a powerful meditation on courage in the face of despair. Third, McCarthy’s muscular prose offers a deeply masculine understanding of love rooted in a father-son relationship. Fourth, the story’s minimalism, symbolism, and setting all serve to remind us of the essentials of life in an increasingly dark world.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Poison or Medicine?

Within the infant rind of this weak flower
Poison hath residence and medicine power
For this, being smelt, with that part cheers each part;
Being tasted, stays all senses with the heart.
Two such opposèd kings encamp them still
In man as well as herbs – grace and rude will. (2.3.23-29)
Friar Lawrence’s ruminations on the flower have always struck a chord with me. Being made in the image and likeness of God, man can choose to be poison or to be medicine in the world. In fact, we vacillate between poison and medicine on any given day. We are angelic agents of God’s grace in our finest moments, harbingers of hell in our worst. We daily smell the ambrosia of heavenly virtue and taste the rotten fruit of Eden. We are interminably caught between death and life, charity and selfishness, thy will and my will.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Three Student Commercials: Focus, iPad, PS3

My students presented their commercial projects today in class. Here are three of the better ones.

Jesse Brackeen and Vincent Campagna's Ford Focus Commercial:

Thomas Peltier, Jaren Murphy, and Nicholas Lyos's iPad Commercial:

TJ Martin and Julio Alleman's PS3 Commercial:

Monday, April 5, 2010


The Christmas and Easter seasons always usher in the annual lekvar binge. Lekvar is a fruit jam used in yummy Slovak pastries. Though it can refer to a wide variety of fruits, in my family lekvar is synonymous with a prune-plum filling. This is perhaps the only significant Slovak cultural tradition that has been bequeathed to me, so I take it very seriously.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Easter Reflection

Jesus’ resurrection from the dead is important for three reasons. First, it demonstrates the veracity of his primary and most controversial claim, His divinity, which he proclaims directly and indirectly throughout the Gospels, as in this passage “I am the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6). His rising from the tomb on the third day illuminates his omnipotence, for only the true Son of God could raise himself from the great beyond by his own volition, as well as through the will of the Father and the Holy Spirit.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

On "Andrei Rublev"

Last night was one of those rare movie marathons in which you watch just one film that merits the “marathon” appellation by virtue of its length and scope. Andrei Tarkovsky’s “Andrei Rublev” was crafted in 1966 in the middle of the Cold War, so Tarkovsky had to edit his work to meet the demands of the Soviet censors and the patience of a wider international audience; consequently, most moviegoers saw a drastically cut film, but the Criterion Collection has restored the film to its original glory clocking in at 3 hours and 25 minutes. This epic movie offers the viewer a full cinematic experience touching on the entire range of human emotions from wonder to confusion to dread to despair and back again to wonder.

Friday, April 2, 2010

The Twelfth Station: Jesus Dies on the Cross

I have been blessed with the incredible gift of praying the Stations of the Cross several times during Lent this year. Meditating upon our Lord’s passion always moves me deeply. I feel real terror at the terrible price He paid to atone for my sins, for the truth of the matter is that I put him on that cross.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Postmodern Wisdom?

The title of this post sounds preposterous, right? I mean how could postmodernism-- a term I usually utter with a mix of dread, derision, or befuddlement-- have anything to offer someone of an orthodox Christian persuasion? Well, after wading through J.M. Coetzee’s Waiting for the Barbarians, I have come to the realization that perhaps postmodernism isn’t all bad after all.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

On Queen Mab

O, then I see Queen Mab hath been with you.
She is the fairies’ midwife, and she comes
In shape no bigger than an agate stone
One the forefinger of an alderman,
Drawn with a team of little atomi
Over men’s noses as they lie asleep. (1.4.58-63)
I love Mercutio’s Queen Mab speech. It is quite multilayered. Mercutio lays a clever rhetorical trap for a despondent Romeo who falls right into his snare. Remember that Romeo is reluctant to go the masquerade because of his melancholy disposition over his unrequited love for Rosaline. He pleads to Mercutio “But ‘tis no wit to go. I dreamt a dream tonight” (1.4.51,53). Mercutio responds to his friend’s excuse with a rant about a fairy midwife who fulfills the inner desires of dreamers, as she rides across their sleeping bodies in her miniature fantastical carriage.