Tue, June 29, 2004

Holocaust survivors hid in caves

National Geographic Adventure magazine features an amazing story about a group of Ukrainian Jews that survived for a year and a half underground. Living in a cave for any length of time is dangerous due to the risk of hypothermia, air and water contamination, malnutrition, and of course getting lost in the dark. It’s surprising how the families handled it and adapted to it. The Ukrainian American Youth Caver Exchange Foundation also has pictures of the cave, called Priest’s Grotto, that was their home for the majority of the time.

Can you imagine living in darkness for almost a year?

They had few candles, so light was limited to three short periods each day. After enough time spent wandering in the dark, they memorized the feel of the cave floor on their bare feet. It was like directions in braille.

All aboard for Kentucky rails-to-trails

Today’s Lexington Herald-Leader had two informative and postive articles about rail-trails in Kentucky. It’s exciting to see people discussing rail-trails and their health benefits.

The first article describes how initial opposition turned into enthusiasm for a rail-trail in Muhlenberg County. I enjoyed hearing Muhlenberg County Judge-Executive Rodney Keith Kirtley, who is quoted in the article, speak at the 2004 Kentucky Rails to Trails Conference. He is a gifted speaker and very optimistic about rail-trails in Kentucky.

From the article:

When Muhlenberg County officials unveiled plans to turn an unused railroad right-of-way into a public walking and biking trail, property owners along the route ran roughshod over the idea.

What a difference a couple of years can make.

The 6-mile trail between Greenville and Central City, which opened in 2002, has become one of the most popular projects the county has ever undertaken, Kirtley said. And, he said, it’s starting to help county residents shed pounds and become more healthy.

Interestingly, Kirtley said, some of the trail’s most vocal critics have become its most ardent supporters.

“The funny thing is that within a month after the trail opened, a lot of the people who had fought it were out there walking,” he said. “The very gentleman who started all the petitions and everything, he bought a bicycle and started riding the trail every day.”

The second article emphasizes the physical fitness problems of rural Kentucky and mentions that rail-trails can provide safe recreation areas:

In many rural counties, finding a place to exercise is a major roadblock.

Many once-quiet country roads are abuzz with traffic today and are too narrow for safe or pleasant walking. Fitness centers outside of town are almost unknown. One of the ironies of the obesity epidemic is that the once-sturdy country farmer — who is more likely today than a generation ago to be overweight, thanks to labor-saving machinery — might have to drive to town to find a place to exercise.

But finding a place in many smaller towns can be tough. Many lack places for indoor exercise or walking, or even commercial programs, such as Weight Watchers. Even when such places or programs are available, many working families might not be able to afford them, officials say.

“For every dollar we spend on ourselves for fitness, we’re paid back threefold in better health,” said Theresa Scott, extension agent in Floyd County, which launches its Get Moving program today. “That’s a good investment, but it can be tough when you’re already making car payments, buying kids’ braces, and all that. One thing we really need is affordable facilities to promote exercise.”

Sounds promising for rail-trails to me.

Fri, June 18, 2004

Orthodox Bumper Stickers

The Onion Dome, a parody/humor site recently held a contest to decide the slogan to use on an Orthodox Bumper Sticker. Here’s some I found amusing:

  • Eastern Orthodox: The only Church with the word “Easter” in its title.
  • You might be orthodox if…
    …you’re 15 and you have Varicose veins!
    …you have rug burns on your forehead for 50 days out of the year.
    …you have the words “consubstantial”, “hypostasis” or “filioque” in your vocabulary.
  • My Church wrote your Bible.
  • Horn Broken, Listen for Anathema
  • You think that’s religious fundamentalism? I’ll show you religious fundamentalism.
  • Orthodoxy — Ancestors you can’t remember are part of our Church
  • Wisdom! Let us attend… to the road!
  • When in doubt, cross yourself.
  • Have you kised your Mother’s Icon today?
  • Your Mother Church — keeping the “Ma” in “dogma.”
  • Orthodoxy: If It Aint’ Broke.…
  • Orthodoxy: Pro-Life, Pro-Christ, Pro-Baklava!
  • Honk if you know what this means: IC XC NIKA
  • Being Saved
  • Universality, Antiquity, Consent
  • Orthodoxy: It’s a very narrow road
  • 51% Atkins-Friendly
  • Not so Close! I may need to do prostrations.
  • Orthodoxy: It’s like Ethnicity without the color!
  • “Uh … smoking, please.” Orthodoxy
  • The Orthodox Church: Not Only Standing for the Truth, But Never Sitting Down Either
  • Orthodoxy: Faithfully maintaining the tradition started at the Tower of Babel.
  • I’m so Orthodox I don’t even change my oil.
  • FILI-NOT-OKAY
  • Orthodox Christianity: Not New, Not Improved
  • Orthodoxy Is My Doxy
  • Orthodoxy: Putting the FUN back in ‘fundamentalism’!
  • In case of rapture, can I have your car?
  • I (heart) Theotokos
  • Fish Sticks have NO BACKBONE!
  • Orthodoxy: Kickin’ it old school since 33 A.D.
  • I’d rather be censing.
  • Eat my antidoron.

Thu, June 17, 2004

Salvation in Now, Voyager

In this week’s installment of the “popcorn blog” project, we’ll examine salvation themes in the movie Now, Voyager (1942). Where last week we looked at salvation as a decisive turning point for almost every character—choosing good when it mattered—in this week’s movie we see ongoing choices—for healing, and for good.

Sadly, the only copy of the film I was able to locate was an ancient videotape that was in pretty bad condition. I could usually hear the sound, but the screen often descended into dancing patterns of lines and scratches. Rewinding and tightening the tape seemed to help, but it was a struggle. The second playing was a bit better, but I feel spoiled by the digital clarity of DVDs. I hope the others participating in the “popcorn blog” fared better. Speaking of others, be sure to read Huw Raphael’s comments (and part 2) about the movie.

The movie revolves around the transformation of Charlotte Vale, and to a lesser extent, Jerry Durrance and his daughter Tina. We first meet Charlotte at her mother’s house because Dr. Jaquith has come to see her. We learn that she was a “late child” and that her mother essentially controls her. Her mother calls her “my ugly duckling.” Charlotte has suffered under her mother and never been allowed to break out and grow up. She carves beautiful boxes in her room, but they are kept locked away. Like Charlotte herself, no one seems to appreciate her work until the doctor—Charlotte’s niece, June, makes fun of Charlotte as well the boxes when the doctor shows off the one he was given. Like Charlotte, the boxes are things of beauty that are hidden and damaged by her mother.

Charlotte’s story goes through these stages:

  • Imprisonment
  • Breaking free
  • Healing
  • Recognizing truth
  • Love

Imprisonment

Charlotte’s mother is clearly controlling of her daughter, a grown adult woman. She picks Charlotte’s clothes, makes her wear “sensible shoes,” and dictates what she must do. When Charlotte dared to seek out love as a twenty year old on a voyage, her mother interfered and found fault with the man so that Charlotte stays alone. Charlotte lives behind locked doors and it seems she never leaves the house. Her family (other than her mother) is concerned about her mental state.

Breaking Free

Without the help of family members and a concerned doctor, Charlotte might never have escaped. She is allowed to go to Cascades, Dr. Jaquith’s “hospital” and starts to find herself. A supportive community is important for Charlotte and it helps her get on her feet. Still, she needs to do the hard work herself and we see her transformation throughout the film. We also see this connection between community and personal action in Orthodoxy.

There are several important symbols used in the film. When Charlotte meets Jerry for cocktails she wears an elegant dress and wrap. She’s gone from an ugly duckling to a beautiful swan. She suffers some embarrassment that her “wings are borrowed” when Jerry discovers the note pinned to her clothes, but the point is made that they suit her. There’s the added symbol of the butterfly—she’s broken out of her cocoon and is on her own. Early on Dr. Jaquith tells Charlotte that he helps patients by giving them road signs: “Not that way; this way.” We’re reminded of this when Charlotte and Jerry are thrown together as they take an unmarked shortcut road. Immediately after this, Charlotte has to learn to find her own road.

Healing

Salvation is about healing, about restoring relationships and bringing things back into their proper place. Charlotte admits that healing begins for her when Jerry takes an honest interest in her. “You were my first friend and then you fell in love with me and I felt proud.” Her choice isn’t perfect, however. She falls for a married man — “with eyes wide open,” no less — and struggles with the impropriety of that to some extent. This was also something that bothered me while watching the film. I somehow wanted a better, more perfect relationship for her. It’s good to watch how the imperfect leads to something redemptive as she helps Jerry’s child, Tina.

As with her breaking away from her mother’s home, her healing is facilitated by others’ help. Jerry plays an important role in her learning about love. Dora, the nurse, also helps her with her mother. Dr. Jaquith plays a new role as a confidant and helps keep her on the path.

Recognizing Truth

Part of healing is being able to identify and live in reality instead of desiring illusion. The biggest challenge for Charlotte is to go back home and interact with her mother once more. Remarkably, she is able to set good boundaries “I stick to my guns, but don’t fire” and strives to be considerate of her mother, despite the previous years with her. I fully expected a large fight, but instead she “doesn’t want to be disagreeable or unkind.” Despite her mother’s attempts to manipulate and to critique her, Charlotte stays mild. She is no longer afraid. We even catch a glimpse that they may enjoy being together as she arranges flowers. Her mother admits that Charlotte now does what she wants, which is a big step.

Charlotte is also able to make friends with others. She wrestles with marrying Eliot, but they eventually both are able to admit that it truly wouldn’t work out. She doesn’t want to quarrel with her mother and when she finally admits the truth that her mother didn’t want her, her mother is so shocked that she suffers a heart attack and dies.

Love

Throughout her healing process, Charlotte is learning to love. The final chapter of the movie is her meeting and helping Tina work through similar challenges. Instead of closing herself up, Charlotte embraces the pain of not being able to marry—she tells the doctor that it is over with Jerry—and focuses on giving to others. Although her love for Tina is not entirely selfless, her heart goes out to her and she genuinely desires to help her. Jerry even is confused by her giving and doesn’t want her to have to do this, but recognizes that Charlotte’s motherly behavior has made Tina her child.

Charlotte has been healed. When she gives up on marrying Eliot she tells herself “You’ll never have a home of your own, or a child of your own.” By the end of movie, she’s been given the home she lived in all those years and is helping to raise Tina.


Tina asks, “Why are you so good to me?”
Charlotte responds “Because someone was good to me once when I needed it.”

Charlotte’s healing makes it possible for her to love Tina. In Tina we see a minor replaying of Charlotte’s life and a similar transformation. When one is saved, others can be as well.

Wed, June 16, 2004

Popcorn salvation

DrBacchus commented on the “popcorn blog”:

It’s hard to find any half-way decent movie that is not about salvation.…

Strangely, it is the movies that are not about salvation–that is, the movies that have unexpected endings–which are often the more intrigueing ones, and the ones that make you think about your assumptions of what salvation actually is.

Because maybe, just maybe, they are about salvation after all.

This is what makes the “popcorn blog” exciting to me. Although watching movies for specific themes can be disingenuous—DrBacchus warns it might be “a whole lot of hooey”—salvation is a theme that is prevasive. It goes to the heart of how we behave and what motivates us. Aren’t all the great epics about this? And if this project turns out to be a bit “hokey” I’m sure it won’t be the first (or last) time for this blog.

I have to agree with him that movies such as Unbreakable, Unforgiven, and The Shawshank Redemption, can get us to examine salvation, repentance, and forgiveness in ways that traditional Good versus Evil movies do not. It often looks different than we expect.

Tue, June 15, 2004

Firefox 0.9 released

The Mozilla Firefox 0.9 release is out. Read more about it on the Firefox Product page. Read the Release Notes and then go get it.

I was impressed with how it migrated my bookmarks and other data from Mozilla. (It also offered to do it from Internet Explorer.) I just installed it, ran it, and it offered to migrate the data. Very smooth.

I found a few cosmetic polish issues, but this is a very solid release. Definitely something you can use every day. There’s even a nice help system with tips for Internet Explorer users that are converting to Firefox.

Wed, June 09, 2004

Salvation in Casablanca

I’m participating in the “Popcorn blog,” a summer film study project suggested by Huw Raphael. Each week we’ll watch a movie and discuss salvation in it. There’s a list of the others who are also participating in it this week if you want to read additional commentary.

We start our excursion with Casablanca, one of the highest rated and most loved films of all time. The winner of the academy award for best picture for 1942, many of its lines are known even by those who haven’t seen the film. I’ve watched Casablanca several times. This time I watched the DVD Special Edition two disk set based on the 1992 re-release.

It’s late while I’m writing this, but since it was “due” yesterday, I’ll just keep at it and get it done.

Sam: You ever going to bed?
Rick: No!
Sam: Well, I ain’t sleeping neither.

What is attractive about Casablanca is that all the main characters (other than than the obvious villains, the Nazis) are good at heart. When we watch movies we get to participate in the lives of the characters. We get to suffer as they stumble and hurt. When the characters do something noble or courageous, we get to enjoy that feeling.

The primary characters in the film each experience or practice salvation in one way or another. For purposes of discussion, I’ll define salvation as being delivered from evil or destruction. This is often evidenced by the characters recognizing the right thing to do and having the courage to do it.

The plot of Casablanca revolves around a love triangle and a war. Rick, the club owner, has had a brief romance with Ilsa in Paris. We later discover that Ilsa thought her husband Victor Laszlo was dead at the time. She has hurt Rick by breaking up with him by letter and then by reappearing with her husband at his club.

Rick

It’s clear that Rick has been badly hurt by Ilsa and has lost the joy that we see in the flashback to Paris. Perhaps from this hurt, Rick is stuck and cannot act. We never do discover quite why Rick is in Casablanca, but the location seems a sort of self-imposed physical prison; it symbolizes his moral state of exclusive self-interest. His own statements show his only loyalty is to himself: “I’d stick my neck out for nobody.” “The problems of the world aren’t my problem—I’m a saloon keeper.” Capt. Renault says much the same: “Rick is neutral about everything.”

Rick is only saved when he can break out of his wallowing in self-pity and recognize who he is. “I’m a drunkard,” he admits as a joke that hits the truth. Although Ilsa later calls him a coward and weak, by that point we’ve already seen flashes of his true heart.

His confrontation with Ilsa in his drunken state and her condemning him for it outside the Blue Parrot the next day wakes him up to who he wants to be. “I could have told the Rick from Paris, but not the Rick who looked at me with such hatred.” This is his turning point. He helps the couple win at the roulette wheel. He gives the okay for Victor’s instructions to the band to engage in “political speech.” (What a terrific scene.) When his club is closed he tells Karl that all staff will stay on salary.

His nicest act is to not only recognize that Ilsa needs to be with Victor and to help them escape, but to tell Victor about their relationship and that it was over “years ago.” We can tell he has been set free when he admits to Renault “I could use a trip.”

Capt. Renault

As prefect of police, Renault theoretically has power, but serves the Nazis. Until the end, we’re not clear whose side he’s on. He and Rick apparently respect each other and their dialog hints at an apparent game they are playing together (even aside from their bet.) Renault seems to “get” Rick and yet Rick surprises him. “It seems love has triumphed over virtue,” Renault says right before Rick turns the tables and it turns out the virtuous choice is made after all. We heave a sigh of relief when he saves Rick by ordering “Round up the usual suspects.”

Ferrari

The keeper of the Blue Parrot, Ferrari seems to be all about the financial reward. He demonstrates a selflessness—he can’t possibly profit—when he points Victor and Ilsa toward Rick for the papers.

Victor

Victor is the stereotypical super good guy, the hero who will save the world. Yet without Rick’s help, his work wouldn’t be possible. Although he may have doubts about Ilsa’s faithfulness while he was in prison, he is willing to forgive her.

Ilsa

Ilsa chooses to return to her husband when she finds him alive in Paris. She probably thinks that by avoiding seeing Rick again, she can lessen his hurt. I found it interesting that her farewell letter ended with “God bless you.” She wants to do right and tries to be truthful with Rick when she encounters him again. Perhaps recognizing her own emotional turmoil “If you knew how much I loved you — how much I still love you,” she begs Rick to think for her and for all of them.

In the end, Ilsa accepts her duty to her husband and recognizes that some causes are bigger than her individual desires. I believe the WWII generation understood this need to sacrifice for the good of the nation and world. Ilsa also receives Rick’s rejection of her with less apparent pain than when she did it to him. “We’ll always have Paris,” recognizes the good times, as well as what is right, something Rick has finally learned and understood.

Tue, June 08, 2004

Firefox gets a new theme

Steven Garrity announced that the Mozilla Visual Identity Team has been hard at work and that Mozilla Firefox is getting a new theme. Although it’s surprising that Firefox is changing themes at this point in the release cycle—the 0.9 release is anticipated this week—I’m glad that the developers are not afraid to make bold moves like this.

The new theme is called Winstripe and is based on the Pinstripe theme for Firefox on the Mac. Kevin Gerich and Stephen Horlander are the designers of both themes. Kevin Gerich’s screen shot of the theme thrilled me, and now that I’m using it I find it quite elegant and clean. The goal is to have a similar “feel” across platforms while blending in with platform styles. It’s a terrific plan. Winstripe already looks quite good to me despite Steven Horlander’s claim that it’s a 0.1 release at best.

I’ve never been much of a fan of the previous Firefox theme called Qute. To me it seemed, well, too cute, almost cartoonish. While it was clearly well done with gradients and vibrant colors, I found it a bit overpowering. I mentioned earlier that I also hated the throbber. Apparently one of the reasons for the change of themes was that the designer of Qute wanted restricted licensing. That’s bad, especially in an open source program like Firefox.

Winstripe excites me by its simplicity and clarity. Years ago, Matthew Thomas (mpt) pointed out graphics for a similar theme. I’d wished that somebody would make it into a theme and now we have Winstripe.

Despite my pleasure with Winstripe, I don’t find it perfect just yet: Perhaps it’s just that I’m a long time user of Mozilla and before that Netscape, but I miss the tails on the arrows on the back and forward buttons. I’d also like to see the back and forward buttons have a slightly different color, which would help improve recognition. Using the checkmark-in-blue-circle symbol for both Properties (in the bookmarks manager) and General Options is a bit confusing to me. Although it isn’t used that frequently, Windows has a distinct toolbar symbol for Properties—it looks like a hand over a white page. The new throbber is slick, especially on the tabs, but I’d hoped for one that featured the Firefox logo.

In any case, I think the Firefox team made a great choice in switching themes and I’m looking forward to the refinements as Firefox moves toward a 1.0 release.

Mon, June 07, 2004

Thank you, President Reagan

Although it was not unexpected, the news of the death of President Reagan has saddened and energized me more than I expected. Certainly the greatest President of my lifetime, Reagan brought confidence and pride back to the United States. He faced all challenges with principled values, good humor, and optimism. He never doubted the greatness of this country.

I’m a conservative in large part because of Reagan. His optimistic outlook filled the 80s. He inspired us to dream and to hope for a bright future. By taking on the Evil Empire, he brought us to a better world. Thank you, Mr. President. Memory Eternal.