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.