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.